23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Social Services consider the establishment of a fund to assist pensioners in necessitous circumstances to meet the exorbitant rents that will undoubtedly be imposed on them after the lifting of rent control in Victoria? I suggest that if such a fund were established it could be administered through the local government authorities and the benevolent societies. I further suggest that action of this nature would save many pensioners from the stark tragedy of being evicted from their homes, thus becoming homeless, hungry, hopeless and innocent victims of inflation.
– I can only deplore the fact that the economic consequences of this age of ease and affluence have been visited on the aged people who are required to pay rates and rents; but the honorable member will know that the Commonwealth Government has no control over rates or rents, nor has it any direct contact with the local government authorities in the six States. There are no funds available to me for the purpose he suggests, nor can I imagine any Commonwealth Government making funds available for such a purpose.
– My question also is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. Is the Minister aware that form S.A.4 is one of the documents which must be filled in when an application is made for an age or invalid pension? The claimant is required to have the form completed by a friend who has known him for a long period of time, preferably twenty years in the case of an applicant for an age pension and five years in the case of an applicant for an invalid pension. To my own knowledge, this requirement sometimes causes a good deal of embarrassment to applicants for age or invalid pensions, and I wonder whether the Minister would consider obtaining in some other way the information that is required.
– I appreciate the interest of the honorable member for Fawkner in this particular matter. The form S.A.4 is for a declaration by a person who has known the applicant for an age pension for some twenty years, or the applicant for an invalid pension for some five years. I am happy to say that the Department of Social Services can get that kind of information, and verify residence, in other ways, and the form S.A.4 is now redundant. It is no longer necessary that that form be completed. Unfortunately, and unhappily, thousands of these forms are still in post offices all over the Commonwealth but, as I say, they are no longer necessary and, as soon as the current supply is exhausted, no more forms of the kind will be printed.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Has his department made any investigation into either the possibility or desirability of adding fluoride to the water supply in Canberra? If such investigation has been made, can the Minister say whether the opinion formed from it favours the fluoridation of water or opposes it? May I say that I have a letter from the Council of the Parents and Citizens Associations of the Australian Capital Territory stating that it does not demand fluoridation but seeks information and claims that it has been trying since 1957 to get a constructive answer from the Department of Health.
– The department has a good deal of information about the question of fluoridation in general, but has not undertaken any specific investigation into the necessity for or advisability of the fluoridation of the Canberra water supply.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. Can you tell me when the Standing Orders Committee of this House last met, and can you also tell me whether it is a fact that in recent years the House of Commons has been active in connexion with the possible revision of its Standing -Orders and has appointed a select committee for that purpose?
– The last meeting of the Standing Orders Committee was held in 1954. It is correct to say that a select committee of the House of Commons was appointed in 1959, and it reported to the House of Commons on the question of procedure.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether he will give me the names of the eight men who have been dismissed from the Army? As these names have been, or are about to be gazetted, there is no more mystery about the matter. Will he also tell us which of the legal lights, the Prime Minister himself, or the AttorneyGeneral, will defend him in the action to be brought by these men?
– The answer to the first question is, “ No “. I know nothing about the second matter.
– With a view to clarifying the general details of the medical health scheme, will the Minister for Health consider issuing a pamphlet or handy booklet embracing every instruction which may already have been issued setting out m basic English, not departmentalese, the general purpose of the scheme? Will he also give thought to setting out clearly in printed form the application of the special accounts conditions, which defy interpretation by the average -subscriber?
Dr. -DONALD CAMERON. - The department issued some time ago a series of pamphlets similar to those issued by my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, dealing with the various aspects of the benefits available under the medical health scheme. These pamphlets are now in process of being revised. One on pharmaceutical ‘benefits has been revised and has been widely issued. It is available in chemists’ shops all over Australia and, I think, in doctors’ waiting rooms. As to special accounts, I do not know that a great deal would be gained -by issuing a pamphlet explaining this rather technical procedure.
However, the procedure is made perfectly plain to the benefit organizations, which are the bodies concerned with handling it, so that they can thoroughly understand what has to be done.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of .the difficult .financial circumstances of many retired Commonwealth officers who are now superannuated, especially those at :the lower end of the scale? Is he mindful that, although many of the superannuitants on the lower end of the scale also receive the age pension, or part thereof, some of them are excluded from the benefit of the .pensioner medical service and from eligibility for municipality rate rebates? In view of the prosperous state of the nation, and, notably, the very prosperous state of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, with assets of about £70;000,000-
– Order! I think the honorable member is giving information. Question time should be used for the asking of questions.
– My question is: Will the Prime Minister give immediate consideration to providing for these Commonwealth superannuitants relief at least as generous as that announced this week by the New South Wales State Cabinet for State superannuitants?
– The honorable member’s speech will be taken into account when we are considering the finances for next year.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. The Minister will recall, Sir, that last session I asked !him whether the Australian Broadcasting -Commission proposed to issue a publication superior to the slick, cheap-jack “ T.V. News “, and containing some of the features of the former “ A.B.C. Weekly “. Is it a -fact that “ T.V. News “ gives little detail of radio programmes? For example, it lists a programme feature as “ Welsh Music “, without any indication of whether it is choral or orchestral music, “Men of Harlech “ on the bagpipes, or otherwise.
-Order! I think the honorable member is giving information.
– Is it also a fact that this publication gives no background articles of interest to radio listeners? Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission proposes to do anything about this situation?
– I have referred several times in this House to the reasons for the amalgamation of the previous “A.B.C. Weekly” and the present “T.V. Times “, the reasons being largely based on financial considerations. It is the intention of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, provided the necessary authority is obtained, to explore the possibilities of issuing, in addition to “ T.V. Times “, a journal along the lines of the British Broadcasting Corporation production, “The Listener”. I cannot say at this stage when, or even whether, such a proposal will be proceeded with, but I can assure the honorable member that the information contained in “ T.V. Times “ is sufficient to allow all broadcast viewers to have particulars of the programmes which are available on the Australian Broadcasting Commission circuit.
– My question is .directed to the Minister :f or Health. Has .the honorable .gentlemans .attention be.en .directed ,to :a report that a drug sold in Australia under the trade name “ Imferon “ as .an injection for the treatment of anaemia and rheumatoid arthritis )? the :same. drug ?which the English branch .of the British Medical Association has stated may cause .cancer.? If it .is the same drug, what action, if any, is proposed concerning its .sale .in this country? -Dr. DONALD (CAMERON.- This matter has come to my notice, and .investigations are being made into it. ‘I should point out to the honorable gentleman that there are very few drugs which have not some toxic property, and most drugs have to be used with caution.
– My question .is to ‘the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the present shortage .Qf tomatoes in Australia, and the reluctance of processors to buy from growers during the repent glut of supplies, will the Minister give his assurance that he will endeavour to prevent any lifting of duty on imported tomato paste and pulp?
– As the honorable member has indicated in his question, there appears to be a shortage o.f tomatoes to meet the needs of .the market at the present time, more particularly in N.ew South Wales, and possibly also in Victoria, but my department is at present investigating the availability of supplies. However, there will he some supplies available from .Queensland which might or might not meet the requirements of the market. I assure the honorable member that before any decision is taken by the Department pf Customs and Excise, which determines whether .concessional rates should b.e applied, my department will advise that department .pf the availability of supplies and so give the needed protection to the Austraiian producer.
-ml ask ?the ;Prime Minister: Is it a fact that members of his Liberal Party Government are subject to direction and control <by organizations not answerable to Parliament?
– Order! As the matter raised by the honorable member is outside ;the control of the Prime ‘Minister, the question is out of order.
-To whom should I address the question?
– The answer is “No”, anyhow.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. In moving abo.ut financial circles in Sydney - I admit .it is not a place where I should be - I have learned that short-term securities, particularly in the form of seasonal notes, are being used by businessmen, stockbrokers and speculators, as large notes of currency, and are thus defeating the main purposes for which they were intended, that is, to reduce liquidity and inflationary pressures. If this is so, then these notes do little more than feather the nests of those who receive commission for issuing them. Will the Treasurer have a Treasury Department investigation into this matter to ascertain how much trading is taking place in these notes and the effect of such trading in relation to inflation?
– I regret that I cannot accept the honorable member’s interpretation of the economic consequences of the transactions to which he refers. The effect of issuing seasonal notes is to reduce liquidity and to provide the Commonwealth Government with funds which would otherwise have to be supplied by the issue of treasury-bills. The issue of treasury-bills would, itself, clearly have some effect on the volume of money in circulation. The seasonal notes which, I think, in the aggregate amounted at the peak of issue to some £48,000,000, have been a very useful additional innovation in the field of monetary restraint and have helped to serve the purpose we had in mind of ironing out fluctuations in periods of peak liquidity as against those when funds are not so flush.
– But these notes are being used as currency.
– I suppose bonds can be used as currency in one sense, in that they can be turned over from one person to another. There is nothing remarkable about that. The essential thing is that seasonal notes have produced funds for the Government out of the general monetary system and have made it unnecessary to raise a comparable amount of money by the issue of treasury-bills.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. My question a few moments ago-
– Order! The honorable member is not in order because he is referring to a decision just given by the Chair.
– I just want to clarify a point.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Can the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization inform the House of the progress being made in rainmaking experiments being carried out by the organization? What stage has been reached in the experiments, and would it be possible to extend the scope of this work to areas in Australia which are experiencing drought or semi-drought conditions?
– If the honorable member wishes, I will obtain information for him about the stage which the experiments have reached. I must point out to him, of course, that no rainmaking procedures are of any use unless clouds are already present, charged with moisture.
– My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Defence. In view of the fact that the military version of the rotodyne, now in general production, has proved to be a miracle aerial work horse, can the Minister indicate whether or not this modern development of the helicopter principle is to become part of our service equipment?
– All I can tell the honorable member in reply to his question is that the Army and Air Force authorities are well up to date on developments of this aircraft, and that that particular type and others are constantly under review.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is a fact that the Premier of South Australia interviewed him recently about a proposal advanced by the South Australian Government for the building of a dam on the River Murray near its confluence with the River Darling, at a cost of £9,000,000, so as to guarantee to South Australia a sufficiency of water to meet the current and future needs of its expanding primary and secondary industries? As the matter is one of the greatest urgency, will the Commonwealth Government assure the people of South Australia that the money required will be made available, and that the Commonwealth Government will do everything else necessary to ensure that the proposed dam is built as soon as possible?
– I venture to think that the honorable member has been a little precipitate in asking this question. It is quite true that the Premier of South Australia, who has a deep and proper interest, as the honorable member has, in the water supply of South Australia, discussed with me quite recently a proposal, of which I then heard for the first time, to build a dam, either at site A or site B on the Murray, the site not being determined at the moment. In point of fact, the scheme itself had been investigated only quite recently. I think the material that was then before us had been worked out over the previous ten days or fortnight. So the honorable member will see that the matter has not, by any means, reached a stage at which anybody is going either to approve of the proposal or enter into anticipatory financial obligations. But I was very interested in what the Premier had to say.
My colleague, the Minister for National Development, and Dr. Loder of the River Murray Commission, were present at the discussion. In point of fact, a preliminary look is being taken at this matter, though my own belief is that before any proposal of this kind reaches the point of action the River Murray Commission is the body which ought to investigate it because three States are concerned with the waters of the Murray. We are not directly concerned in the waters of the Murray, but we are not infrequently concerned in paying something.
– Do you think it is a feasible proposition?
– I do not know. I have not a clue. Neither has anybody else, yet.
– Has the Minister for Health received any suggestions from the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia which would indicate that pharmacists are experiencing any difficulty in operating the newly amended national health scheme?
– The new arrangements for the supply of pharmaceutical benefits have now been operating for almost four weeks. So far, I have received no complaints from the guild or, indeed, any complaints of substance from individual pharmacists or doctors.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Interior. Is the honorable gentleman aware that at the ungodly hour of eleven o’clock last Tuesday night, officers of the Department of the Interior served notices to quit on people who are affected by the resumption of property which is to take place in Redfern to make way for the mail sorting exchange? If the honorable gentleman is aware of this fact, will he ensure that this outrageous method of serving notices, which involves getting people out of bed, is stamped out in the future?
– I am interested to hear the information which is contained in the honorable member’s question. To the best of my knowledge, that information is not correct. As the honorable member will know, the Department of the Interior acquired this Redfern property some ten years ago. It is a slum area, and it was acquired to provide space for a mail exchange. The process of obtaining vacant possession of these premises has been very complicated, and the problem of arranging for the removal of the tenants so that the building may proceed has occupied our attention for a long time.
A decision was made recently to serve notices to quit on the tenants, and I have been told that this must be done by personal service. In the present situation it is very difficult to serve these people personally, but I have been told that on no occasion has service been effected later than 9.41 p.m. On Monday night last one notice was served at 9.41 p.m. because the occupant was not at home prior to that time. On Tuesday night the last notice was served at 6.40 p.m., and on Wednesday night the last one was served at 7.45 p.m. At no time has service been effected at 11 p.m. or later, as has been alleged.
– Can the Minister for Trade inform the House whether the proposed national export convention which is to be held in Canberra this year will include representatives of all branches of Australian industry, including primary, manufacturing, import and export organizations?
– Yes, the national export convention which will be. held in Canberra in May will embrace all Australian industry, export interests and local manufacturers. Indeed, the State governments are co-operating, and I believe that State Ministers, and, perhaps some Premiers may attend the convention. This convention is sponsored by the Department of Trade and the Government. The proposal originated with the Export Development Council, and is designed to be the first step in stimulating what we hope will be a widespread and enduring awareness, throughout. Australia o£ the necessity to increase our exports wherever possible. The convention in Canberra will launch the campaign. It will be followed later in the year by State conventions in- each of the capital cities. Retail stores and other traders will display Australian goods which are capable of export, and I believe that this will operate for the good of the Australian economy over a long term.
– - I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether it is a fact that when visiting Sydney he and his wife have been accommodated in a flat in Marton Hall, Margaret-street, Sydney, which is rented or leased by a steamship company trading, under the name of Howard Smith Limited?
– Order! I think the honorable member is out of order. He is giving information.
– He is just being dirty.
– I am not. I just want to ask a question.
– -Order,! I ask the honorable member not to. follow that line of questioning.
– If so, was any charge-
– Order! I have asked’ the honorable member not to follow that line of questioning. He is not in order.
– You. have- not heard myquestion yet.
– Order! I have heard enough of the question to rule that it isout of order.
– May I ask, for the sake of my guidance and education, in what way the question infringes the Standing Orders?
– That would not be in order. I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– Mr. Speaker, I am asking you-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform me of the steps that have been taken, or are being taken, by the Government to speed up the introduction of television to country areas, particularly those areas which did’ not have a sufficiently large population quota to warrant their inclusion in the present stage? Is it a- fact that there is, a. possibility of a switch from very high frequencies, to ultra high1 frequencies for country television- stations? Will he consider, making a. statement to the House on this matter?
– The Government’s policy for the provision of television in country areas has not changed materially in recent months. As the honorable member knows, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is at present hearing a number of applications for thirteen television licences in country areas. Those hearings are still proceeding. They have certainly taken longer than was expected, because of the great volume- of evidence put. before the board. However, I am asking the board to see whether the inquiry can be speeded up, so that a determination on what has been termed phase three of the television programme may be made shortly. As I have stated previously, when that has been done, we shall proceed with the further extension of television to country areas. It should say that the present inquirieswill serve the purpose of eliciting many facts- and elucidating many problems- that are common to both the third and fourth phases, so that the inquiry into the. fourth phase should-, not be nearly so long as the: present- inquiry.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman aware of the basis of assessment used by the Department of Social Services in determining the value of a tenanted portion of a pensioner’s home when the pensioner supplements his meagre income by sharing the home with others in return for a payment towards the general upkeep, of the property? If the Prime Minister is not aware, of the details of the method of assessment used, by this department, will, he have the method, examined by the Crown law officers with a view to determining the legal rights of pensioners? I have in mind particularly a case which was dealt with by the Minister for Social Services in a letter addressed to me on 4th January. It is the case of a pensioner living at 7 Union.-road,. Auburn.
Mr-., MENZD2S.*- This is- a matter, on which. I am not informed, but which clearly is within, the. jurisdiction of. my colleague, the Minister foc Social. Services.
– Will: the Minister for Teritories inform the House of the facts regarding the’ eruption- of a. volcano on an island’ adjacent to New Guinea? Were- any people- evacuated from the area? Was much damage done- to the- villages in the vicinity?
– As the House knows, a large part of New Guinea is in a- volcanic region,, and we maintain a staff of VUcanologists to watch the situation. Among the active volcanoes that are well known in the Territory is one on the island of Manam, opposite Bogia. Last December there were indications of unusual activity there. Those indications developed in January and were intensified in February. As a result of the intensification of those indications and the unusual activity in February, the vulcanologists subjected the island to much closer observation- than usual. Following fairly exactly the predictions which they made, in the middle of this month a major eruption took place. The major eruption was not unexpected; it was the kind of activity which” the vulcanologists had predicted. As a> result there was a- vulcanologist on1 the spot- and’ the- Native Affairs officers and other persons concerned’ had1 the situation well in hand. There is a standing plan for the evacuation of people from Manam Island if ever the occasion warrants it.
The published reports of this occurrence were very much over-dramatized. There was a major eruption - there is no doubt about that - but there was never any panic, there was never any alarm, there was no evacuation of population, nor has any damage of any kind been- reported. I think the only further comment I would add is that it- is- a bit disappointing, that in the reporting of. the- spouting of the volcano, which is.- a rather majestic phenomenon, the press should follow the same methods they use in reporting the spouting of politicians. They get a* good story and make sure that the facts do not spoil it.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General- What experimental work’ has- been carried’ out by the technical staff of the Postmaster-General’s Department in an endeavour to assist telephone users to solve the problem of twisted telephone cords?’ As attachments to assist in this regard are now available commercially does the department approve of their use by private subscribers?
-From time to time the department has been’ asked, by various business organizations to approve of certain types of attachment to the telephone in order to avoid’ the common occurrence of the twisting of the telephone cord. It is an offence against the Post and Telegraph Regulations to make any. attachment to a telephone which is not approved by the department and for various reasons, some associated with maintenance and some with security, no attachment is approved by the Post Office without very careful’ consideration. Until recently the department had not approved of any such attachment, but not long- ago it approved of two types of attachment which are available for purchase outside the department. If the honorable member is interested I shall be glad to give him the names of the firms that provide these two types of attachment. In addition to that, as a result of investigation into this matter by- departmental’ engineers, a type of coiled retractable cord has now been- designed which will be available probably within the next few months, as part of the standard equipment issued with telephones.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. In reply to a question asked earlier, the Minister stated that the Department of Social Services had decided no longer to require applicants for age and invalid pensions to submit form S.A.4. I should like to ask the Minister, first, whether he has made any public announcement of this decision, apart from mentioning it in this chamber, in order to indicate when the use of this form is to be discontinued, because many people have no idea that this is to be done. If public notice of this change has not been given, will the Minister ensure that, in future, a statement is made to the press or to the Parliament outlining proposed changes of this kind so that the people may know about them. The second part of my question relates to the Minister’s statement that because so many copies of form S.A.4 were available in post offices the form was being used. I should like to state, at this juncture, that I very much appreciate what the department and various governments and ministers have done over the last twenty years in improving the forms used and making them easier for applicants to understand. I should like to ask the Minister whether he or the department-
– Order! I think that the honorable member is drifting into a second-reading speech.
– No, I am just asking a second question.
– The honorable member is entitled to ask only one question.
– I meant to say, Mr. Speaker, that I was asking the second part of my question. I ask it for the benefit of the community generally. When an applicant for an age or invalid pension obtains an application form from a post office, he is at present supplied on behalf of the Department of Social Services with a long statement setting out what he is entitled to. That statement will now be out of date. Can the Minister arrange for a supplementary statement to be handed out with the application form and the current explanatory statement?
– No useful purpose would be served at this stage by my making a public statement on this matter. Form S.A.4 is still part of the set of forms provided when a person obtains from a post office the forms needed for an application for an age or an invalid pension. There is no practicable way by which I could withdraw these forms from the sets held in the post offices to-day. As I said in reply to the question addressed to me by the honorable member for Fawkner, form S.A.4 is now redundant. It is no longer necessary for an applicant to complete it. When the supplies of this form at present held in the various post offices are exhausted, the form will not be re-issued. When that stage is reached will be the time when a public statement on the matter might be of some use.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Is it true, as has been claimed by the Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, that the import situation is explosive now that almost all imports have been freed from licensing?
– Of course, this is a matter of opinion, but I immediately deny that the situation is explosive in the sense implied in the comment made by the Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia. The director, apparently, took a month - February - in which imports were high, and multiplied the figure for that month by twelve in order to produce what he has claimed to be the true expectation for the year. Imports - and, for that matter, exports - do not run to a monthly regularity in that sense. The Government expects, of course, that an increase in imports will flow from the relaxation of import licensing and that, as I have said in this House, there will be an initial hump of imports in the first phase of freedom. But, with advice, the Government has very, very carefully calculated its estimate of the manageability of the expected volume of imports, and its impact on the balance-of-payments situation and on the Government’s capacity to protect Australian industry. As a result of these calculations, the Government is confident.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Trade. It concerns the reported decision of the Government to lift all restrictions on imports of timber from low-wage countries as from 1st April. I ask the Minister: Is he aware, from representations made by the Tasmanian Timber Association and others, of the great concern and the great uncertainty felt in the important Tasmanian timber industry? In the interests of stability in the industry, will the Government consider the imposition of a temporary tariff and further investigation into the whole matter of a protective tariff for this important Tasmanian industry?
– I can assure the honorable member that the timber industry understands very clearly that the Government relies for the normal protection of the timber industry and other Australian industries upon a customs tariff at an appropriate level which will be decided by the Government, having regard to the advice of the Australian Tariff Board tendered after investigation. At a comparatively recent date, there was a very full investigation by the Tariff Board into the circumstances of the Australian timber industry, and the Government acted on the advice of the board. In the process of relaxing import licensing, a certain decision was reached - I am sure it was inlast November - and an announcement was made about a certain licensing procedure which would continue until 1st April and about the circumstances that would exist after that date. Therefore, from 1st April, the timber industry will operate in the normal way under a protective customs duty, decided by the Government and approved by the Parliament after an investigation by the Tariff Board.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the Australian National University.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Meat Export Control Act 1935- 1953, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to establish a cattle and beef research trust account, and for purposes connected therewith.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the collection of levy under the Cattle Slaughter Levy Act 1960.
Parliament: Limitation of Speeches - Commonwealth Relationships - Civilian Widows - Sales Tax on Motor Vehicles - Superannuation - Commonwealth Scholarships - Lord Howe Island - Postal Charges - Sydney General Post Office Clock - Unemployment - Pensioner Medical Service - Redfern Mail Exchange - Aid for Deserted Wives - United Nations Organization - Aborigines - Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.
– I think the House will have been a bit shocked by the realization that its Standing Orders Committee has not met since 1954. Sir, there are many things which could be considered; I want to refer to only one, and that is the inordinate length of speeches in this House. I think honorable members will agree with me that we speak for far too long. That is bad for the prestige of the House. We are all guilty of this. It involves a lot of tedious repetition and many speeches are so boring to the House that very often there are only seven, eight or nine members in the chamber. Certainly, the speeches are boring in many respects to the listeners when we may be on the air.
The quality of debates in this House would be very much improved if speeches were short. The House of Commons realizes this. I have been having a look at the reports of the House of Commons debates. Honorable members will be able to find the times occupied for speeches in the House of Commons “ Hansard “. I have looked at the last debate on 2nd March. I find it was introduced by two half-hour speeches and that, following the second-reading speeches, there were twelve speakers, occupying 170 minutes - an average of fourteen minutes a speech. This could be done here, and is done in the House of .Commons with advantage, .but the House of Commons is not satisfied even with this arrangement. I have in my hand the report of the Select Committee on Procedure of the House of .Commons, which reported to the House only last year and stated-“-
We do, however, consider that many speeches could be made shorter to the advantage of all Members. In this connexion we hope that the House will receive a lead from the front benches on both sides, and that Members on both sides of the House will continue to show their approval of a frontbencher who can compress his points well within the compass of half an hour.
The committee went on to suggest a very sensible provision - that, at the end of a debate, some time be allotted for short speeches not exceeding five minutes in length. I know there has to be some flexibility in this matter. I know that in the House of ‘Commons, where there are no standing orders in regard to time, those members who are particularly interested in a subject and occasionally have something special to say, are conceded by the House the grace of time to say it. I know there should be flexibility. I do not think it is beyond the wit of man to devise a system which will repress the unconscionable loquacity of members and, at the same. time, give .to each member from time to time the privilege of expressing himself at reasonable length on a matter in which he is particularly interested. I believe it would be possible. I would myself be willing to put a suggestion before the Standing Orders Committee; not necessarily the best suggestion, but a concrete suggestion for consideration. I believe the Standing Orders Committee should meet; it should prepare a concrete plan for this, and do it .without delay. I do not intend to give you the satisfaction, ‘Mr. Speaker, of saying, “The honorable member’s time has expired “.
– The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) will not get any support or sympathy from the Opposition for .the proposal to shorten speeches in this Parliament. What the .honorable gentleman really wants to do is shorten speeches and help the Government to shorten the sittings of Parliament. There is very little time allotted to backbench members under the Standing Orders to-day for the .discussion of .matters other than the proposals brought .down by .the Government. We felt it imperative that we should ask every member pf the Australian Labour Party in .this House to speak on the noconfidence motion which was presented by the Opposition, and about forty members spake. Qf course, ;the case could have been put by twelve honorable members and we would .have sat for a very short space of time. We put up forty members and .the Government put up forty-six. That, to the honorable member for Mackellar, was too -much.
The proceedings of this Parliament are broadcast to the nation, and the people outside are entitled to hear the arguments advanced by honorable members - some with .particular reference to their own localities and others dealing with problems of the country broadly; but if honorable members are not to be allowed to speak their minds, and have the limited time available to them reduced, then this Parliament will lose prestige with the people. Before the Parliament was increased in size, the times allotted honorable members in this chamber were much longer than they are to-day. The time allotted in the Senate today, for example, is what the time allotted to members of the House of Representatives used to be. We have already had one amendment to the Standing Orders which limits the opportunity of honorable members to speak on government bills and other matters and the Opposition is not going to assist the honorable member to get a meeting of the Standing Orders -Committee if he wants to inspire another one. We are not going to support any proposal to curtail our members’ rights at any time.
I was at the meeting of the Standing Orders Committee in 1954. We did bring down a proposal. The Government did not put the suggested amendments of that committee to the Parliament at any stage since. There was what we considered an abuse of the powers of Speakership and certain action was taken by the Government to remedy a custom which we felt to be disadvantageous to .all members of the Parliament. Beyond one decision by the Prime
Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself, and a motion moved in this House to deal with that particular situation, no action has been taken to give effect to the recommendations of the last Standing Orders Committee. Perhaps the honorable member for Mackellar should, get. a copy of those recommendations. If all he wants to do is to shorten me speaking time of members, he might -find in those recommendations some other and worthwhile propositions which he could advocate in his party room and see whether they could be adopted. The honorable member, I am reminded, is not a member of the Standing Orders Committee. If his party has not sufficient confidence in him to put him on the Standing Orders Committee, he cannot expect the Opposition to help him in his campaign -for a limitation of the time during which honorable ‘members might speak.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has entirely misrepresented what I said. I did not say at any time that I thought the Parliament should meet less, and I did not imply it. I did not say at any time that I thought fewer honorable members should speak, and I implied exactly the opposite. I believe that by shortening the time allowed to individual speakers we shall enable more members to speak and get a more effective debate without in any way shortening the time during which Parliament meets. In many ways the Leader of the Opposition should have supported what I said, for the reasons that he has. given.
.- The public announcement this week by the Prime Minister of South Africa that he intended to use his numbers in the Parliament to turn -South Africa into a republic is a timely warning to us to have a look at the whole question .of Commonwealth relationships, and also the position of the constitutional monarchy. Honorable members may recall that the late Sir Stafford Cripps of the British Labour Party publicly stated that it - was essential to the coming of socialism that the ‘British Empire should be liquidated. He went on to indicate that this was what was being done in India, Burma, Ceylon and other places. Honorable members may recall also that as a result of the bringing down, first in Great Britain, of the Statute of Westminster, this was made possible. Indeed, members will recall that in this House in 1942 the then Commonwealth Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs brought in a bill to ratify the Statute of Westminster as it applied to Australia, giving the Australian Parliament the power to enable this country to secede, if at any time it so desired, from the British Empire.
The idea has grown up that -it is quite all right to ‘have a republic so long as you have a monarch as the titular head of the republic. I want to spend a couple of moments in directing the attention of the House and of the Australian people to some very important facts relating to the British throne, which I feel are not generally recognized. History tells us - we learned it at school - that Magna Carta took from the monarch all powers. That, of course, is not correct. The only power that Magna Carta took from the monarch was the power personally to interfere with the rights and privileges of subjects. At no time did Magna Carta take from the monarch the power personally to intercede for and on behalf of the rights, privileges, and liberties of the subject. That to-day is a vitally important power.
We all remember the .fundamental principles that we were taught at school about the constitution of parliament. Theoretically, parliament is an institution which represents the will of the people. The ministry represents the crown or the monarch. Theoretically, parliament controls the ministry or the executive and advises the monarch on the methods by which the people wish to be governed. The important point, which is not generally recognized, is that the position of the monarch is not just that of titular head of the nation. It is not just a question of his being a symbol of unity or symbol of devotion. There are very real and practical grounds for the retention of the British constitutional monarchy and in the few minutes available to me I shall touch upon them.
First and foremost, we know that the monarch has prerogative powers. The entire range of those powers is not known and no constitutional authority, either dead or living, has ever been able to define them ! accurately. But it is important for us to understand those of them that are known. We know that the monarch can appoint and dismiss ministers. We know that the monarch can call parliament together at various times and can also dissolve parliament. We know that the monarch can give assent to legislation or refuse assent to legislation. Those are the well-known powers. Under what we so conveniently call a convention of the constitution, which in other words is a gentlemen’s agreement, the monarch generally accepts the advice of the ministers in relation to any matter.
But parliament is not the only mechanism by which the people of a nation may convey to the monarch their will and desire on any particular issue, and that point is generally forgotten. Parliament is but one of the mechanisms available to the people to indicate to the monarch the manner and method in which they wish to be governed and by which they wish to be bound. The point I wish to make is this: Very often we find that the monarch has a doubt as to the validity of a particular piece of legislation or as to whether or not it correctly represents the will of the people. What then is the position of the monarch? Countless volumes have been written and countless controversies raised over what the monarch must do in such a case. The position may be simply described in this way: The monarch must abide by the decision of the ministers.
If the monarch decides for some reason or other - this has happened - not to abide by the decision of his ministers, there is, of course, an interplay of political emotionalism. It is said that the monarch is destroying this and destroying that, interfering with the rights and will of the people, and so forth. Many years ago I coined a phrase, which I now repeat. The reserve or prerogative powers of the monarch are the brakes by which his or her subjects may, at any time they choose, halt and overhaul the machinery of government and of parliament. That is a very important right and privilege that belongs to all people who have taken the oath of allegiance to the monarch. It is, indeed, part of the contract of the coronation oath.
To sum up: Keeping the subject devoid of emotionalism and so forth, we must never forget that the real, solid, practical value of the British constitutional monarchy to us in this country is that the people have the right to decide by whom and how they shall be governed. Parliament is one of the mechanisms by which the people may inform the monarch of their desires in this matter, but it is not the only one. The point I really want to make is that the monarch, being clothed with the authority to govern, also has the power to ask of the people how they wish to be governed. That is a very important point. I have not heard it mentioned in the Parliament nor have I seen it mentioned in the press. I think it is a question that must engage our attention and I reiterate that the monarch, being empowered to govern, also has the power to seek the will of the governed. Normally, that takes place through a dissolution, but it is not necessary at any time for the monarch to dissolve parliament in order to ascertain the will of the governed. At some later stage, when the opportunity arises, I propose to deal with the Statute of Westminster and the devastating and destructive effect that it has had on the whole system of Commonwealth relations.
.- To-day is Grievance Day and I am glad that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) is in the chamber because I desire to deprecate his attitude towards a most fair and reasonable claim submitted to him during the latter part of last year by the Association of Civilian Widows. The civilian widows are the victims of a dual tragedy. First, they have suffered the loss of their husbands, which is a purely personal tragedy and particular to each widow. Secondly, they are victims of an inhumane regulation which restricts the amount that they may earn.
It may be said that a mother’s place is in the home, and that she should not be in the labour market, for employment would be a distraction from and a deterrent to the sublime task of rearing children left in her care by an unkind fate. I refer particularly to the widow with children, for whom this is a matter of stark economic necessity. The amount provided by the community is utterly inadequate and as a consequence the widows, driven by desperation, are obliged to seek means to meet their needs and the needs of their children.
Although all too frequently they are physically unfit to perform two tasks - one caring for the home and the other earning a living - they must attempt to do so. The avenues of employment available to widows are limited. The distance from the home to the job often imposes a severe limitation on their chances of obtaining suitable employment, but their opportunities are even more limited by the arbitrary ceiling placed upon their right to earn. The employer being aware of this quite naturally gives preference, in most instances, to single or married women. The widow employee on her part becomes reluctant and resentful when she reaches the point where every penny she earns means a penny off the pension. So we see that the imposition of the present limit creates a hardship for the civilian widow - a hardship which may have escaped the notice of the Minister.
The point at issue between the civilian widows and the Minister was the subject of a deputation to the Minister last year. The deputation was introduced by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) who is to the Minister as a red rag is to a bull. The deputation was probably doomed to failure from the moment the Minister set eyes upon the honorable member for East Sydney. And so it came to pass that the widows, having taken counsel amongst themselves, came into the presence of Pharaoh’s Minister for Mercy and Social Services and did ask of him that they might be permitted to earn in excess of three score and ten shillings from Sabbath to Sabbath. And they did say unto him that great was the misery and the suffering amongst them because of the manner in which they were treated in the land. And they did say also that Pharaoh himself had proclaimed from his palace the great prosperity which reigned in the land and that therefore they might be permitted to add to Pharaoh’s prosperity by earning in excess of three score and ten shillings from Sabbath to Sabbath.
But Pharaoh’s Minister for Mercy and Social Services hardened his heart and spake unto them, saying, “ Ye widows; when thy husbands died, did not the pattern of thy lives change? “ And they replied, “ Yea, that is so, as well we know to our great cost “. But Pharaoh’s Minister, hardening his heart still further, said unto them, “ Then thou must accept the altered pattern of thy lives “. But the widows, being women of great spirit and courage, as well they must be, yield not the victory to Pharaoh’s Minister, for is it not written that a time shall come when those that are on high shall be thrown down and justice shall be done in the land?
Mr. Deputy Speaker, the widows of this country submitted a most fair and reasonable proposition in a most civil and courteous manner, and they were refused. I do not know by what strange process a negative answer emerged from the Minister’s mind. It was a British government that prohibited in India the cruel practice of suttee - the custom of burning alive the widows along with the bodies of their husbands. This was a most infamous and barbarous practice, but we in Australia surely are almost as cruel in a less spectacular manner; we do not burn the widows, we merely half starve them. The widows did not seek charity. They sought the right to work a little longer and the right to earn a little more in order that they could live without a feeling of dependence and in order that they could proclaim their independence.
In view of the proclaimed prosperity, which the widows are permitted to watch but not to share, was it too much to ask that they should be allowed to earn a little more and so make their contribution to their own welfare and to the welfare of Australia, which Pharaoh and his Ministers profess so much to admire?
.- Last year, the Parliament passed a bill to correct an anomaly which arose from the sale of station wagon motor vehicles. At that time, I regretted that I was unable to be present during the debate; I was absent doing a job for the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). I am now glad in some ways that I was away, because I have had time to make some inquiries about the matter. The position was that some of the smaller manufacturers, if I may so describe them, were putting out what was called an estate van, which was treated as a commercial vehicle attracting sales tax at the rate of 16i per cent. The purchaser of one of these vehicles could obtain, from the very same firm from which he bought the vehicle, certain parts, which were sold as a packaged unit, enabling him to convert the vehicle into a station wagon or station car. This involved merely the addition of door handles, window winders and the like.
In- Western Australia vehicles of this kind have been sold in both country and metropolitan areas. Figures that I have before me show that in a recent period of several months, out of a total of 281 such vehicles 139 were sold in the country, while metropolitan sales accounted for 142. The smaller manufacturers, as I have described them, had only about five per cent, of the market. One of the bigger firms, which commanded approximately 90 per cent, of the market, being afraid of possible competition from another big manufacturer, decided to jump on the band wagon. The Government looked like losing some millions of pounds in sales tax on motor vehicles. To give honorable members some idea of the position, the latest figures show that of 2.1,000 station wagons 17,000 were, sold by one firm, the other 4,000 being spread over the smaller manufacturers. If these 17,000 had been sold, as estate vans, minus the door handles and other fittings, the loss of revenue to the Government would have been considerable. I agree that something had to be done to protect the revenue. I do not agree, however, with the Government’s blanket proposal to impose a sales tax of 30 per cent, on all vehicles of this kind.
When the little Budget was introduced in 1956 the Prime Minister made a speech, in the course of which he made the following remarks, which appear at page 788 of “Hansard” for 14th March, 1956:-
We are well aware of the benefits which will ultimately flow from this great industry-
He was- speaking of the motor vehicle industry - but we are convinced that proper counterinflationary action requires that some temporary restraint should be laid upon it. Commercial motor vehicles and motor cycles now carry a sales tax rate, of 124 per cent. There is a powerful case for imposing as small an additional burden upon commercial motor vehicles as possible.
The sales tax on commercial motor vehicles, including motor cycles, was then increased, from 12i per cent, to 16J per cent-., while the tax- on passenger vehicles rose from l6f per cent, to 30 per cent.
I have given honorable members figures showing the number of station wagons, or estate vans, sold, in the country and in the metropolitan areas. The purchasers of vehicles in the metropolitan area would include many small primary producers situated just outside the city proper, such as poultry farmers, small orchardists and market gardeners. These people are continually fighting rising costs. We have been, told several times in this House during the last couple of weeks that our economy displays an inflationary trend and that costs must be kept down. Consequently I appeal to the Government to have another look at this matter when preparing its next Budget, and to give legitimate primary producers some consideration.
I feel - and this is. also the opinion of competent authorities - that the day of the utility vehicle has passed. I refer to the utility as. we know it to-day, the one that carries eight or ten cwt. The utility of the future will- carry 18 cwt. or a ton. Other commercial vehicles will be three, four, five and seven-ton trucks, and even larger vehicles. All these vehicles will be too large for the small producers I have spoken of, and most of them are looking towards the station wagon, which can serve a very useful purpose for the small primary producers and small businessmen, such as self-employed carpenters and plumbers.
The Government should seriously consider this matter. It is urging us to cut costs in order to- increase productivity, but at the same time, because of this blanket sales tax proposal, the small men are being pushed further and further towards the wall and will ultimately be crushed.
– But the Government’s policy is to impose indirect taxation.
– I would not worry very much about that aspect of the matter, my dear friend. You have not been here very long, but if you study history, you will find what people of your political colour have done in the past. However, that is not material. It does not matter who made mistakes in the past. If a mistake, has been made, let us correct it now. If the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) is sincere, he will support my proposition.
I suggest that, in certain cases, a rebate of sales tax should be given on station wagons. The distributors of motor vehicles are not in business for love; they are out to make money, just as everybody else is. That includes, incidentally, those who support the Labour Party, as I said last night. The distributors want to make as much money as they can, so I do not suggest a scheme under which concessions could be given to persons not entitled to them. The suggestion that I make has reference to a scheme that can be policed. I know that those concerned with the collection of sales tax could administer this scheme, but only if they were told to do so. They will not impose further work upon themselves ‘if they can escape it - and I do not blame them.
I suggest that the Government should reduce the sales tax on these vehicles from 30 per cent, to 161 per cent., but only for purchasers who are genuinely entitled to the concession. Let the purchaser, in the first instance, pay the full price, including the 30 per cent, sales tax. Let him then make an application to the taxation authorities for a refund of the difference between sales tax at -30 per cent, and at 161 per cent. The claim form could be similar to that which is used at present when .sales tax concessions are sought for limbless soldiers, shire councils and other local authorities, or similar to that which operates with respect to customs duty, in the case of persons bringing in articles from overseas. Applicants may obtain a refund of customs duty or sales tax on, say, a motor vehicle if they agree not to sell the vehicle in question for two years, or until it has travelled 25,000 miles.
This system would provide a double safeguard. A man who was trying to get away with something would not be game enough to lodge an application for a refund with the Taxation Branch. Further, the Taxation Branch would have a check on the occupations of people making claims, and this might be useful to the taxation authorities. If there were any evidence at all of an individual trying to put it over the Government, to use a colloquialism, that individual Gould be hit as hard as possible. We could provide for penalties such as those that were imposed for breaches of the sales tax legislation when the tax was first introduced in 1930, in -the -days .of the ‘Scullin Government, as a means of getting us out of our financial difficulties.
– Order! The honorable member’s .time has expired.
.- I express my great disappointment that at a time such as this, when honorable members have an opportunity to state their grievances in respect of a variety of matters, there should be only one Minister in the House. It occurs to me that at such a time the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself might well be present. I also want to register my bitter disapproval of the off-hand, arrogant answer that the Prime Minister gave to a question I asked earlier to-day in respect of Commonwealth superannuitants. The Prime Minister’s answer to me and also to the superannuitants, because it can be interpreted in that way, was to the effect that they will get relief in due course, which means that when the Budget is being prepared perhaps some cognizance will be taken of their plight, and that any relief that is afforded them will not be given until about November, at the earliest.
That is the kind of off-hand answer that the Prime Minister has given on other occasions when honorable members have asked for urgent relief to be given to people who are in desperate need of assistance. Commonwealth superannuitants, particularly those on the lower pension scales, are to-day in desperate need of help. What must they think when all this talk goes on in the National Parliament about the abounding prosperity in our community! Surely they must think that the prosperity that is referred to is the prosperity that parliamentarians have given themselves and denied to Commonwealth superannuitants. I am not trying to make political capital out of this point.
– Of course not!
Mr. -REYNOLDS.- I voted for a reasonable increase of parliamentary salary, and no more. I thought I was entitled to that and I accepted it without qualms. But I have qualms about the position of other people in the community, people who are sorely distressed and in need, people who are being deprived of justice. In reply to a question on the subject, the answer is given that some time in the future they will be looked after. I suggest that we would not be nearly so tardy in looking after ourselves as we are in helping these unfortunate people.
The subject about which I want to speak is one that I have raised in this House a number of times and concerns a matter for which the Prime Minister is personally responsible. I refer to Commonwealth scholarships. We were all very glad that the Commonwealth Parliament gave effect to a number of the recommendations contained in the report of the Murray committee. The Commonwealth Government has given substantial aid to the universities of Australia, and it is to be applauded for having done so, but it was never expected that such aid would be given at the expense of direct aid to our young students. There are many bitterly disappointed parents and students in the Commonwealth to-day. The students are those who spent at least five years in secondary schooling in qualifying to go on to higher education, in the expectation that the Commonwealth Government, supposedly so anxious to develop Australia and encourage people to undertake higher education, would assist them, only to find, when the time came for assistance, that they were denied Commonwealth scholarships.
In 1955, 2,974 Commonwealth scholarships were allotted. As a matter of fact, the same number was allotted in 1952, but for the purposes of comparison, the figures that have been made available to me go back only as far as 1955. To-day, although the number of students successful at the leaving certificate examination has multiplied almost two times since 1955, the number of scholarships is still only approximately 3,000 for the whole of the Commonwealth. In some States, such as New South Wales, the leaving certificate is not sufficient for entry to a university. It is also necessary for students to pass at a standard so as to matriculate. In 1955, 39.8 per cent, of those who matriculated received Commonwealth scholarships. By 1959, the proportion had declined to a meagre 25 per cent. The percentage has been progressively declining, from 38.6 per cent, in 1956, to 32 per cent, in 1957, to 28 per cent, in 1958, and to 25.2 per cent, in 1959. The number of scholarships has not been increased this year, although 26,000 students will sit for the leaving certificate. What a loss there will be, not only for the parents who have striven to keep youngsters at school for at least five years of secondary education, but also for the young students who aspire to higher education. What a colossal loss, too, for this nation! These boys and girls could do so much for the cultural life of the community, as well as for its social life and, if we must put it in that way, for its economic and material needs. Because of the complacency and static attitude of the Commonwealth Government, we are to be denied scientists, technologists and technicians which this young nation, in its early stage of development, craves. The Government gave about 3,000 scholarships in 1952, and in 1960, although the school population of leavingcertificate age has multiplied over two times, it will still give only about 3,000 scholarships.
– The Government has ignored the report of the Murray committee so far as scholarships are concerned.
– It certainly has. Feeling is very strong about this matter in the community. People, irrespective of their political allegiance, are demanding that the Commonwealth not only should help in the matter of Commonwealth scholarships but also should come to the aid of the States to establish a decent education system for the whole of Australia. The States are doing their level best and are making available for education record proportions of their budgets. In New South Wales, 55 per cent, of the tax revenue goes to the Department of Education, despite all the other responsibilities that the State Government must undertake. In the last ten years, New South Wales has spent £410,000,000 on education. So, we cannot blame the States for the plight of education.
In Sydney, in May next, there will be a nation-wide conference of representatives of all kinds of organizations which, apparently, have indicated their willingness to band together for the purpose of trying to persuade the Commonwealth Government to recognize its responsibilities in this most important matter. Let us look at the position of education in other countries. I have here a publication entitled “ Report of the First Official U.S. Education Mission to the U.S.S.R.” I have not time to discuss all the interesting matters that are referred to in the report, but one does not need to agree with the political and social objectives of the Russians to applaud what they are doing in the field of education. I shall read just one sentence from this report prepared by official U.S. observers who went to Russia and were not in any way biased. It is as follows: -
The one fact that most Impressed us in the U.S.S.R. was the extent to which the Nation is committed to education as a means of national advancement.
We hear people say that the Russians are down-trodden, have low living standards, and so on; but apparently the Russians are aware of the terrific potential of education at all levels.
I again make a plea to the Commonwealth Government to increase the number of Commonwealth scholarships. I hope that the Prime Minister reads what I have said, since he is not here to listen to it. He should know that a large number of people in Australia, of all shades of political opinion, earnestly hope that the situation I have described will be promptly corrected. I think it was the first speaker from the Government side this morning who referred to the sovereignty of the people. How can we call ourselves a sovereign people when a demand for more Commonwealth scholarships, that comes from a very large number of Australians, is ignored by the Government?
– I know that the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay) is a comparatively new member, and I know that he is not particularly well informed about the general ramifications of social services. Because of those two things, I regret very much that he intruded in this debate to make a personal attack upon me particularly with regard to what he called my treatment of the civilian widows. I have now been Minister for Social Services longer than any other Minister for Social Services, and I am particularly proud of the fact that not only during my term, but while the present Government has been in office, the general circumstances of civilian widows have been improved immeasurably. I know that the honorable member is not in a position to know these things, and it is my manifest duty to inform him, when he makes such grievous blunders.
Might I be permitted to remind the honorable member for St. George that when a previous socialist government was in office the A class widow received, in terms of the general rate pension, no more than £2 7s. 6d. a week. That was the pension obtainable under a socialist government. But no sooner was this Government elected than there were progressive increases from £2 7s. 6d. to £2 15s., to £3 5s., to £3 12s. 6d., to £3 15s., to £4 5s., and to £4 12s. 6d., and the pension now stands at £5 a week. Whatever else may be said, there have been progressive increases in the rate payable to civilian widows during this Government’s term. The figures I have quoted refer to the A class widows, but the rates for other classes of widows have been increased commensurately.
That is not all. It is my duty to inform the honorable member for St. George that when a socialist government was in office the class A widow - that is the widow with a dependent child or dependent children - received a pension of £2 7s. 6d. a week. That was the amount paid to a widow with one child. If she had two, three, four, five, six, or any number of children above one, that fact did not increase her general rate pension of £2 7s. 6d. a week by a single penny. In effect, the socialist government said to the civilian widow, “ It is none of our business if you have more than one child. The additional children are no responsibility of a socialist government and the general rate pension will remain fixed at the rate applicable to a widow with one child “. To-day every “ A “ class widow receives an additional payment of 10s. per week for every child after the first. So it will be seen that there were material improvements there under this Government.
I come now to the means test, which was the matter that exercised the mind of the honorable member for St. George, although, confessedly, he knows very little about the means test as it is applied to widows.
– Nobody is interested in that!
– I am informing the honorable member for St. George and replying to the allegations he made against me personally, and against this Government. The permissible income of the civilian widow under a socialist government was £1 10s. a week. If she earned anything in excess of £1 10s. a week, the socialist government held it against her pension of £2 7s. 6d. a week. But as soon as this Government was elected, that situation was improved immeasurably and the permissible income to-day is £3 10s. a week. In addition to that - and I must say these things, unkind as they may seem to the honorable member for St. George - the provision relating to additional permissible income where there are dependent children under sixteen years of age, was liberalized in 1951 and under that liberalization the Government no longer took into account child allowances and child endowment, and in 1952 the additional permissible income was increased by 5s. to 10s. a week with respect to such dependent child. So it will be seen that there have been major changes.
Then, in 1954, income from property was disregarded in the application of the property means test. That was a major change which was of material advantage to widows in all categories. Similarly, in 1955, the ceiling limits of widows’ pensions, plus war pensions, were abolished, and again there was material advantage to all categories of widows.
I shall refer just briefly to the property means test. Under a socialist government, the property limit beyond which no pension was payable was £1,000. If a widow had £1,000, then, regardless of the number of children she had, the socialist government disqualified her from receiving one penny by way of widow’s pension. Immediately this Government was elected, there was a transformation and the property limit moved up progressively from £1,000 to £1,250, to £1,500, then to £1,750, until to-day it stands at- £2,250. So there again it will be seen that this Government has given favorable consideration to all these matters from year to year. It is a senseless allegation to say of me that I have no consideration for the civilian widow. It is also a senseless allegation for the honorable member for St. George, or any one else, to suggest that this Government has no sympathy for the civilian widows.
I have met deputations introduced by not only the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) but also other honorable members of this House from time to time throughout the- year, in each successive year, and I have had no difficulty in explaining to the civilian widows how this Government, consistent with the resources that are available to it from the taxation levied on our people, tries to meet the circumstances of the civilian widows within the limits of an annual budget-. So I do wish, that the honorable member for St. George would inform himself on these matters before making these stupid, senseless and unfounded allegations.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– To what matter does the honorable member wish to refer?
– I rise to reply to the Minister for Social Services and to object to the way in which he replied to what I had said.
– Order! The honorable member must first obtain permission to do so.
– I am surprised that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who has been speaking morning, noon and night, should seek to deny the back-benchers in this House the privilege of bringing to the notice of honorable members the sufferings of the people in my electorate and in nearby electorates. I have one grievance - it is more than a grievance now; it has become a running sore - and I rise to condemn the Government for its attitude towards the people of Lord Howe Island, which is part of the West Sydney electorate. For ten years now, the people of Lord Howe Island have been pleading with Ministers for Civil Aviation - the present occupant of that position is Senator Paltridge - for the construction of an airstrip- on the island. There have been two or three occupants of the office of Minister for Civil Aviation during those ten years and not one of them has visited Lord Howe Island with a view to seeing for himself the plight of the people there. Two weeks ago the New South Wales Minister for Health and the member for King in the New South Wales Parliament visited Lord Howe- Island, using to get there the only transport at present available. Because, the wind was blowing the wrong way, they were forced to stay there for five days longer than they, had intended to stay. If we had an all-weather airstrip there, aircraft could operate to and: from Lord Howe Island without the interruptions to the service that at present occur, and the island would not be subjected to the bad treatment which it now receives in respect of communications with the mainland.
I’ remind the House that the people of Lord Howe Island pay income tax and other taxes at the same level as other persons in the Commonwealth. The Government is spending about £10,000,000 a year on Canberra, but it does not think fit to arrange a ministerial visit to Lord Howe Island in order to see how the people there are faring. The shipping company which formerly served. Lord Howe Island has discontinued its service because it is not profitable, and now a tug boat, or something of the sort, which is about 40 yearsold, is the only shipping, link with the mainland.
As a result- of the. lack of suitable and regular transport, many- people who would otherwise visit Lord Howe Island- do not go. there. Naturally, this is a serious matter, since the only livelihood, of many ofthe people on Lord Howe Island - and, they include people born in Australia - depends on the guest houses that they conduct for visitors. Despite the- seriousness of the problems of the Lord Howe Islanders, the Government has not thought fit to investigate these problems. The Commonwealth has nineteen men working at radar installations on the island, but despite this reason to take a direct interest in the- affairs of the island it does nothing to- help the islanders’ generally. I hope that in the very near future- the Minister will visit Lord Howe Island in order to see the position there.
Another grievance of mine is the recent increase of postal charges by the Government. I receive telegram after telegram from people about this matter. When I go home at week-ends I tell them that they are wasting their time sending me telegrams or asking me to raise the subject of these charges in the House. The- fact is that the Government has increased’ the charges. The last- disclosed annual profit’ of the- Post master-General’s Department was about £6,000,000- and it is expected that the next disclosed annual profit will be about £12,000,000, yet the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) told me in this House that the department has not enough money to replace the General Post Office clock in Sydney, which was removed during the war because it was considered to be a hazard in the event of a bombing raid on Sydney.
Sydney is the second largest city in the British. Commonwealth of Nations, and it is the only city in that Commonwealth which- has not a clock in a prominent position on the outside of its General Post Office building. Every day there are people, including new Australians, looking up to the place where the clock used to be and where a clock is. normally to be. seen in other cities, but all they, see is an empty space. It is said that replacement of the clock would cost £200,000 and that the foundations are not fit to carry the clock. If the foundations are not strong enough to carry, the clock, what would be wrong with putting some sort of clock on a part of the building- where that problem would not arise? To-day when anybody in Martin Place asks where he can see the time, you have to tell him to look above the men’s lavatory in the middle of- the street in order to find the clock that people normally expect to find on a general post, office building. A clock, in such an important thoroughfare as Martin Place, where the G-.P.O. stands, should not be put in such. a. humiliating position- as the. top of a. gentlemen’s- convenience.. When people, whether men or women, ask where to see the time, one has to tell them, “ The clock is on top of the men’s, lavatory,” This is the. treatment that the Postmaster-General’s is. giving to the second largest city in the British Commonwealth of- Nations. He says that he cannot afford to re-erect the clock,, but L hope- that when he gets this- other £10,000,000 or £12,00.0,000, in profit from the operations of the Post Office he will do something about that clock.
Now I’ have something to say about the unemployment position in West Sydney. It is a.- disgrace that officers in branches of the Commonwealth Employment Office have to insist that applicants for work go to place after place seeking employment when often there, is no hope of employment at these places. The unemployed have to follow this procedure before they can obtain unemployment benefit. Why do not these federal officers find the jobs? They also tell applicants to see their federal member about a job. There are 70,000 or 80,000 unemployed in this country at present, and perhaps 30,000 of them are in Sydney alone, yet applicants are told to see their federal member. When they apply for sickness benefit or unemployment benefit, they have to go one week before they are eligible to receive it. They have to produce all the evidence about the place to support their claims for the benefit. That is the position of the unemployed at present.
Now I should like to spend a few minutes on the subject of pensions, charges for prescriptions under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, and similar matters. I wish to get information on these questions so that I shall be able to tell the people where they stand. But the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) cannot tell us what the new system of prescription charges is. He does not understand the system. The whole procedure was devised, not by him, but by a committee. The New South Wales Minister for Health is bogged down with inquiries and complaints regarding the new system, but he knows nothing about it either. People ask the chemists about the system, they ask their doctors, and they find that it is all a mystery to everybody. Mystery or not, however, the patient still has to pay 5s., and sometimes 15s., for a prescription that is issued under the “ free “ medicine scheme. If ever there was hypocrisy on the part of a government, this is it. The Government tells the pensioner who receives £4 15s. a week that he may earn another £3 10s. a week without affecting the pension, but if the pensioner earns more than £2 a week extra he loses the right to a medical card for free medical treatment.
On top of these injustices, we see in Sydney to-day the spectacle of this iniquitous Commonwealth Government throwing 300 people out into the street in Redfern in order that it may build a mail handling exchange on the sites of their houses. There are many other places in Sydney which are marked down for destruction, and where people will be deprived of their homes. It may be too late to change the Redfern proposals, but
I say that if the Commonwealth Government, a State government or a semigovernmental authority proposes to resume land on which people’s homes are situated there should be written into the agreement a provision that alternative accommodation shall be supplied for those who are to lose their homes. It is a standing disgrace that this Commonwealth Government will not shoulder its responsibility to see that these people in Redfern are properly housed. The Government claims that housing them is a State matter. It is always saying that this, that and the other are State matters. The simple truth is that the only hope for the people generally is for the electors to vote the present Government out of office at the first opportunity and put a Labour government in power.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) is at a distinct advantage, compared with the great majority of people in this House, in that he is able to trace where he comes from. He possesses a lively sense of humour - and how it was revealed this morning! From his speech we would be led to believe that the two crucial and vital issues to be considered by the Government of this country and by this Parliament at this point of time are, first, a visit by the Ministry to Lord Howe Island, and secondly, the provision of a town hall clock in Sydney.
– No, a post office clock.
– I thank my friend for the correction.. The honorable member for West Sydney developed the theme that there must be a post office clock in Sydney. With the greatest goodwill, I would say to him that a visit of the Ministry to Lord Howe Island and the provision of a post office clock in Sydney are two things which should be considered with a proper sense of proportion and which will. I hope, be appropriately placed on a priority list.
I want to raise two matters this afternoon. The first concerns the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) in a primary sense, and, in a secondary sense, this Parliament and the taxpayers of Australia. I refer to the number of deserted wives in the community and the fact that this number is increasing. I also want to refer to the very difficult position in which many of these unfortunate women are placed. When I say to the House that at the moment the people of Australia - the taxpayers of Australia - are finding the wherewithal to support some 9,302 deserted wives, some indication of the problem is readily apparent. I have always taken the view - I do not apologize for it - that I cannot imagine two things more contemptible in their nature than a man who will walk out of his home and leave his wife - particularly where there are young children - and not leave a bob in the home for the care of the children, to pay the rent, provide food, and so forth. As a consequence, the Government - the people, in the final analysis - is brought to the point where it must come to the aid of these people. I could not imagine that anyone would argue about the need to assist them, and I believe that such assistance is very willingly given; but the principle which one can discern in all this may, I think, be referred to in this way: Why should the taxpayers of this country be called upon to fulfil obligations that are so contemptibly ignored by those people who desert their wives and families? This is a growing problem, and it is one to which I would hope the Minister for Social Services, together with the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) would devote - if 1 can say so without wishing to offend them - more vigorous attention than the matter has been given in the past.
I believe that the other day the AttorneyGeneral said there was in his mind grave doubts as to whether this Parliament would have the power to enter into the field of maintenance laws. That, no doubt, is perfectly true, but surely an appeal to the States to pass legislation similar in character to tighten up the maintenance laws is very necessary at this point of time. The cost to the taxpayers is between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 a year. Even if the 9,302 deserted wives were not deserted in the sense that they had to appeal to the Government and to the community to assist them - if their husbands were found - that amount would not necessarily vanish, but it would dwindle appreciably to a point where it could be regarded as a far more tolerable burden than it is at the moment.
– Does that amount include what the States spend on them?
– No, it does not; although the States are required to and do in many respects assist these people. It is a dreadful circumstance that people can jettison their responsibilities in this callous fashion. Apparently, no sanction exists which can be imposed. Meanwhile this problem is growing in intensity. Apart from statistics, look at the human problem it represents. However, I imagine that if there were more stringent maintenance laws and more uniformity in those laws throughout the Commonwealth, this problem would diminish to more appreciable proportions.
The second matter to which I refer on this occasion is one which I have raised on two occasions previously in this House. I do not think it can be described as a parish pump issue. It concerns the dismissal, some fourteen months ago of a United Nations Organization political officer by the name of Povl Bang-Jensen. Honorable members will recall that towards the end of last year I referred to the death - the apparent suicide - of Povl Bang-Jensen. Extraordinary circumstances surrounded that gentleman’s disappearance, the finding of his body and the disposal of his body. If I may recapitulate the relevant facts, Jensen was the responsible officer to whom came a number of Hungarian refugees who supplied him with information that enabled the greater part of the report on the Hungarian uprising to be prepared. Some 81 Hungarians were involved. Jensen was asked, initially, and then secondly he was directed, to reveal the names of his informants. He did not do so. The reason why he refused to reveal the names of his informants was simply that he had given his word to the people concerned that he would not reveal their names because reprisals- could possibly, and no doubt would, be taken against their families in Hungary. I put it to every other honorable gentleman in this House: If you entered into a contract of that nature, would you be prepared to break your word, break faith with those who had given the information? I should imagine it is the sort of issue upon which every person in this House would say, “ No. Fair enough. I have given my word and therefore I will not reveal the source of my information”.
But then Jensen was dismissed from his position as a political officer of the United
Nations Organization; and I have endeavoured on several occasions to find out whether in fact his refusal to reveal the source of his information, which enabled the compilation of the report on the Hungarian uprising, was the reason for his dismissal. Then one came to the final chapter in his life a few months ago when his body was found and it was suggested that he had committed suicide. Maybe he did commit suicide, but I think the evidence - at least the circumstantial evidence - is very solidly mounted to suggest that if he died by his own hand, at least he was spiritually assassinated. And I am tempted to suggest that until such time as the Jensen affair is satisfactorily explained! many people’s faith in the United Nations Organization will have been broken. If an international organization purports to mete out justice and determine the settlement of disputes on the basis of justice, then in the settlement of disputes concerning its own officials it must also be prepared to act in a similar manner.
.- On the two points raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), I am inclined to find myself in some agreement. I do not know much about the details of the case which he has just .presented relating to a member of the United Nations Organization’s staff. If it is a case of political persecution, which it appears to have been, I am very strongly against it.
I refer again to the subject of deserted wives. I am sorry .that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), having tangled his sporran and punctured his bagpipes, trudged from the House before we had an opportunity to put our points to him. He took up the time of honorable members here and then did not wait to listen to what we. had to say. I have a case which I regard as complementary to the position of deserted wives. At this moment I am moved to speak on behalf of the 50,000 or so fullblooded aborigines and the 25,000 or so part-aborigines in Australia.
In a case which I have come across recently in an organization to which I belong, a young girl aged sixteen years has a baby. As she does not want to surrender her rights in respect of the child, she pays 35s. a week to a home in Melbourne for the child’s maintenance, and she pays 30s. a week to a hostel with which I am connected. It costs approximately £2 10s. a week to maintain her. Therefore, we cannot reduce our charges any more. With the rate of pay that -she is able to command, she has only some 3s. or 4s. from her income for personal expenditure such as fares. An approach to the Department of Social Services shows that in this particular instance there is no coverage whatsoever.
– What about the father?
– I agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). There is a job to be done by the public authorities in these matters to pursue the husband or father. In the interim, we have a social duty. I speak, in this instance, as a socialist interested in the social side of .the political philosophy that I espouse. We have. a. social duty to see that these burdens and hardships are removed from the people. The aboriginal people are in a singularly .disadvantageous position all over the Commonwealth. I propose to remind honorable. members of some of these disabilities and some -of the difficulties that often arise in attempting to overcome them.
A few weeks ago, we held a national convention on the whole subject in Sydney. There were present people from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. They were all gathered there to see what could be done about it- to discuss the question, and to get the details “fixed in their minds. People such as myself are the first to admit that it is ‘possible to base one’s attitude on wrong opinions. We had quite a number of aboriginal people there, some of full blood and some of mixed blood. It was the first occasion in many people’s memory on which aborigines ‘had stood up and spoken for themselves. This is a very good thing. (In Australia, .the aborigine suffers ‘from three sorts of discrimination - legislative, administrative and social. In all ‘States except Victoria and Tasmania there is legislation that -discriminates against the aborigines. I say that it discriminates against them but it may well have been designed, in the first instance, as legislation for their protection. ‘I -believe ‘that we -have gone past the stage of paternalism and I put the point to honorable members of this House, and to the administrators of the country, that it ought to be possible for Australia, with its administrative resources and with the knowledge that has been gained running the community over the last half century or so, to treat every aboriginal as an individual, not as a member of a race.
There are only some 50,000 full blooded aborigines in Australia and there are some 25,000 who regard themselves as part aboriginal - making a total of 75,000. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) conducts a department through which I think he said are provided benefits for about 2,000,000 people. He acts as if they were all his own and as if the money comes from his own pocket most of the time. There are 500,000 age pensioners. There is an elaborate file concerning every one of them, and they can get immediate attention if they want it. Perhaps the Department of Social Services or the Repatriation Department may be the hope of the side when it comes to dealing with aborigines. The discriminatory legislation that I have mentioned refers to aborigines by their race and it should be removed from the statute-books of Australia. We should attempt to move into the field and treat them as individual human beings.
Yesterday, two news items appeared in a Melbourne newspaper which I thought should give us some concern. The first referred to the report of the Aborigines’ Welfare Board in Victoria, which is the wealthiest State in what is supposed to be the fourth or fifth wealthiest nation in the world. We have only a handful of aborigines. Only 200 houses are required to solve the housing problem for them in Victoria. But we might term the discrimination against aborigines in Victoria both administrative and social. The Victorian Government, through its housing commission, expends approximately £4,000 per house provided for ordinary folk, but only £1,100 or £1,500 per house provided for aborigines. These are facts. I have looked at them myself. The provision of £1,000,000 by the Victorian Government would help the board to solve almost completely the aborigine housing position in Victoria.
As far as the ability of the aborigines to look after their houses is concerned, I believe that the time has come when we must risk their damaging their homes. It is better to have broken windows than for us to continue to break hearts.
The other question that came up in the newspaper yesterday was the matter of the liquor laws in the Northern Territory. Another aborigine has gone to gaol! Unfortunately, in the States of Australia and in the Northern Territory, liquor has become the badge of citizenship. I do not happen to be one who indulges ordinarily in alcoholic beverages, but I have a great deal of sympathy for, and understanding of people who like that sort of thing. In New South Wales, the aborigine may not drink alcoholic beverages unless he gets an exemption. In Queensland, the most rigorous laws prevail. In South Australia and Western Australia, they are very restrictive, too. In the Northern Territory the law in this respect applies to full-bloods only. Perhaps in the Northern Territory there is a lesson for the rest of Australia. In the Territory, anybody with any European blood is exempt from these laws and is not considered as an aborigine; the aborigines are free citizens the same as anybody else. But in the four States that I have mentioned, if persons have aboriginal blood, they are suspect. There are only some 16,000 aborigines in the Northern Territory.
One of the newspaper reports that I have mentioned concerned John Tobey Hall, a full-blooded aborigine without citizenship rights. He was found guilty of supplying liquor. His sentence of six months’ imprisonment was reduced to a fine of £20. This man is prevented from drinking, not because he cannot hold his liquor, but because he is a full-blooded aborigine. We should remove discriminatory legislation and treat aborigines as individual human beings. If Hall can be proved to be incapable of handling liquor, he should be dealt with personally; some administrative arrangement should be made about it.
There are some questions that I think honorable members should keep in their minds as they go around the country. There is the question of social discrimination. Last year, I visited the north-west of Western Australia. I was going to bring this matter to the notice of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne), who was in the chamber a moment ago. At the time of my visit, Dr. Ralph Bunche was being excluded from the tennis club in Forrest Hills. There were cartoons in the Western Australian papers showing what a backward, degraded, poverty-stricken people the Americans must be to indulge in such a thing. When I was in Broome, I was informed that the local tennis club will not admit to membership any person of coloured blood, whether of aborigine or other non-European descent. Scattered throughout Australia there are these instances of social discrimination, which are a blot upon our lives. We, as public citizens, should take every opportunity to speak against them and use all our resources to discourage people from acting in that way.
We are all horrified at the position in South Africa, but we have our own tiny points of South African behaviour scattered throughout our continent. Therefore, we have an important mission, not only to the individual aborigine but to the people of the world at large to say, at least, that we will not tolerate this kind of thing in our midst. I know some aborigines in Victoria who live happily and healthily side by side with white people.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Unlike the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) I do not believe it possible to say anything meaningful in a minute and a half. I therefore content myself by giving notice that on next Wednesday night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I shall open up the important subject of the reform of the Arbitration Commission.
– In the one and a quarter minutes at my disposal I would like to refer once again to the iniquity of the present operation of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. If ever this Parliament made a mistake in the field of legislation it was in respect of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which was approved by this House about three years ago. It failed to recognize the misery and privation of a large section of the population who, because of their economic circumstances, will be unable ever to buy a house of their own.
I know that it is the policy of parties on both sides of the House to provide for home ownership as far as is humanly possible. There is a section of the community that will never be able to attain that desired state of affairs. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which was instituted in 1945, provides that certain sums of money shall be payable to the States yearly out of the loan revenue of the Commonwealth for the purpose of housing. Initially, the scheme worked fairly well because the housing commissions received reasonable amounts of money which were immediately channelled into houses for rental purposes for the lower income groups in the community.
– The agreement provided that the States should be given all the money that they required.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 291.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. Speaker, the presentation of this bill marks an historic occasion for the national capital, and, therefore, for the nation. The Canberra University College was established by ordinance in December, 1929. The Australian National University was established under the Australian National University Act 1946-1947, in which provision was made in two sections, not directly for the incorporation of the Canberra University College, but giving power under university statute to incorporate the Canberra University College. Therefore, although the Canberra University College was not chosen to be the body from which the National University would spring the possibility was obviously contemplated at that time that when the Australian National University came into full operation, and when the college became sufficiently advanced in its own development, the two bodies might become associated in one.
The Australian National University legislation was in the charge of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Mr. Dedman, and I take this opportunity to say to the House that his name will always be honorably associated with that achievement. He said upon the introduction of the bill that the Government had had the help and advice of the council of the college. He referred to the fact that the college had always looked forward to the creation of a university and that it had held very steadfastly to its ideas for many years. Referring to his own bill to create the Australian National University, he said -
It will not be long now before they see their ideas translated into action.
Well, perhaps it has been a little longer than might have been expected, but in the meantime there has been quite remarkable growth in both bodies.
I have the feeling that at that time the notion of eventual association was clearly in the minds of people on what I will call both sides, but in more recent years the National University, or its representatives, and the college, or its representatives, developed some opposition to association, feeling that it might be an error to bring them together. But a decision had to be made. The matter was quite urgent. During the whole of the time that the college has existed, the University of Melbourne has been responsible for the granting of degrees and for the general oversight of the work of the college in the relevant faculties. The Council of the University of Melbourne some little time ago indicated that it did not feel that it was practical to continue that association for very much longer. In point of fact, the original terminal date of the association was the end of 1959.
I myself had a number of discussions with representatives of both the university and the college because this is a matter which has deeply interested me and, in any event, my department embraces the activities of the Australian National University. Finally, when the Government was about to come to a decision I indicated that it would be desirable if the University of Melbourne could grant an extension of one year, thereby giving us a new and final deadline - the end of 1960. My request was considered by the Council of the University of Melbourne and the council acceded to it. That means that the new organization in Canberra must be ready to operate by the end of this calendar year so that the new academic year 1961 will be conducted within the scope and on the terms of the proposed act.
I should say, on behalf of the Government and of all those concerned, that there is a very profound appreciation of the work that has been accepted by the University of Melbourne. The Canberra University College and the Australian National University will always be profoundly indebted to it. I acknowledge that debt with great pleasure.
When the ultimate decision was taken that there should be association and nol a development of the college into a separate entity, thereby providing two universities in Canberra, I asked the representatives of the college and of the university to get together and to work out the broad outline and, as far as possible, the details of an association which, in their view, would work satisfactorily. I am very happy to say that from the time when they were asked to do that, every attitude of hostility to the change seemed to me to disappear. They sat down together; the worked together; they rose to the highest standards of their occupation, and in the result they were able to produce to me the terms of their agreement, and two or three points of disagreement, some weeks before the date that I had asked them to observe.
Before I go on to describe the scheme, I think that I should say that we thought it desirable to reinforce our minds by reference to the chairman of the famous Murray committee, by reference to the committee’s report, and by reference to the newly constituted Universities Commission under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Martin. From those sources we obtained marked confirmation of the idea that there should be an association and that there should not be a continued separation of the university and the college.
Perhaps I should indicate quite briefly the principal reasons for our conclusion that the two bodies ought to be associated: The first is that if the Canberra University
College were to become a university of itself, as, say, the Canberra University, it would become and remain a second-rate university unless it were able to do all those things which a university of standing normally expects to do. In other words, it would not be able to confine itself to first degrees or even to the degree of master. It would have to look forward to research work, post-graduate work, and the further it proceeded into that field, which is a legitimate university field, the more would its work tend to overlap some of the work being done in the present Australian National University. Duplication of that kind is not to be readily contemplated in a comparatively small city.
In the second place, we thought it would be very difficult to justify the existence of two separate universities in Canberra, considering its population, at a time when the pressure for second and third universities in great centres of population is mounting every day. There is a tremendous amount of university development going on in Australia now, and I can assure honorable members that the pressure for it is beyond all belief. It might interest honorable members if I told them that the investigations of the Universities Commission so far have shown that even the estimate made by the Murray Committee of the future undergraduate population in Australia - an estimate which the committee thought was liberal, and which I am bound to say I too thought was liberal - has been quite falsified already. The numbers coming forward are greater than anybody three years ago imagined would be the case.
In point of fact, it is a great thing from the point of view of Australia to be able to say that by the end of another eight or nine years, on the present estimate of increased population and increased demand for university training, there will be in Australia, if we can meet the demand, more undergraduates per 1,000 of population than in the United States, Canada, Great Britain or New Zealand. I am sure that honorable members will agree that that is all to the good. It means, however, that there is a. tremendous demand in the big centres, and in other centres perhaps less big but still very important. In those circumstances the existence of two separate universities in Canberra would be very hard to defend.
In the third place, Sir, we felt that there would be a great advantage in associating a body in which most of the students are undergraduates with a body in which all the students, readers and professors are graduates of a high order- This will give to the undergraduates the benefit of an association, even if only occasionally, with eminent specialists in their branches of knowledge or study. To take a simple example, how many times have we heard a great physicist say proudly, “ I worked under Rutherford “7 I am perfectly certain that this association will have a splendid effect both ways. The presence of an undergraduate body under the broad cover of the one institution will have a stimulating effect on those who are engaging in research, and the impact on the undergraduates of men of distinction and of great intellect is bound to be strong and memorable.
Those were reasons which commended themselves to us, but I thought it desirable to go back to Sir Keith Murray himself and to the Universities Commission. Le*, me remind the House of what the Murra) Committee said in its famous report. I shall quote this one passage -
It should be possible, in our view, to devise a form of constitution giving to the College all the independence in operation which both the National University and the College desire, and yet making it possible for students at the College to receive degrees of the National University and for common services to be organized and maintained without unnecessary duplication.
That was not a definite statement, but, so to speak, it gave a broad hint of the way in which the mind of the committee was running. When I saw Sir Keith Murray in England last year, I put to him the problem that I had been looking at. I indicated how my mind was running and I invited him to challenge what I had in mind, if he thought proper. So far from challenging it, he said that he felt that the case for integration of these bodies was complete. I then referred the matter to the Australian Universities Commission to get its independent and expert opinion. The commission wrote to me setting out its unanimous view. It said -
The Commission has considered this problem, with a knowledge of the facts and views recently put before Cabinet, and has unanimously concluded that some form of association is both desirable and practicable. Further, Commissioners believe that if the concept of association is accepted it can be more easily achieved now than later. . . . Before reaching its decision to recommend in favour of association, the Commission gave some thought to the means by which this could be achieved. It seems to the Commission essential that there should be one institution, to be called the Australian National University, and that it should have one Council, with a Vice-Chancellor as its chief executive officer.
Then, Sir, we made our decision. We put the matter to the two bodies and, as I have said, they responded with remarkable promptitude and with extreme goodwill. They worked out a plan of association, and we have accepted it. They had one point of difference, to which I shall refer, which was of some materiality, and there were other quite minor points of difference, but on the whole the two bodies agreed on a structure.
It may be thought to be a little topheavy. It may be thought, for example, that the council is a little too large. It may well be that that is so, but I ask honorable members, in considering the balancing of various interests in the administrative structure, to bear in mind that it has not been easy to get the Canberra University College to give up its vision of a separate existence as a separate university, or, for that matter, to get the Australian National University to accept a position in which its degrees could be given as first degrees or as Master’s degrees, its degrees being given at present only in the higher reaches of scholarship and science.
Under these circumstances, I did not feel disposed - nor would the House, I am sure - to haggle about some details on which the two bodies had agreed, merely because I thought that, to use a modern phrase, they could have been more stream-lined. On the whole, I think it is a good scheme. I am sure that it will work. It will work all the better at the beginning if there is an atmosphere of goodwill
There was one point of difference to which I said I would refer. It relates to the awarding of the degree of doctor in the Australian National University - the degree of Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Science. The present National University attaches supreme importance to the principle that the standards on which those degrees are awarded should be of the highest, and that, those standards should be maintained so that world recognition and prestige will attach to the degrees. That, of course, is completely right. The National University believed, therefore, that there ought to be a control from its side of the university over the standards for doctoral degrees. The Canberra University College representatives, on the other hand, felt that that might suggest that doctorates in faculties not at present embraced by the National University would be beyond their power, and that this would inhibit the recruitment of men of the first quality to their teaching staff. The answer that we make - and I am happy to say that it is acceptable to both sides - is that, under the statute, for ten years the degree of doctor shall be based on standards laid down by the modern replacement of the present Australian National University, that is, the Institute of Advanced Studies, and that after ten years the whole matter shall be dealt with - no doubt by university statute - by the council, which, by that time, will have settled down and will have found its feet. By that time the members of the council will have achieved a common understanding of what is best for the institution as a whole. I am happy to say that that ten-year period is acceptable to both of the interests, if I may so describe them.
I should just like to say that although there is this association, it is not to be understood that undergraduates going to this university and going for their first or second degree will be, in some way, inhibited from proceeding to higher degrees. It mav very well be that in the undergraduate body - I will describe it more precisely in a moment - there will be faculties which are not in the present Australian National University and that in those faculties provision will be made for research and further teaching and, of course, for higher degrees. I do not want it to be thought for one moment that this new body is to be divided into the sheep and the goats - the sheep being those who browse on the higher pastures of research and the goats being those who, as some of us have had the experience of doing, struggle through and take a first degree. That will not be the position at all.
– Like the inner and outer Cabinets.
– Yes, like the inner and outer Cabinets^ - except there are no goats in either of those pastures! I advise the honorable member not to tempt me on this question.
One other matter that was put up at the time when we were looking at whatever differences there might be was the question whether some of the members to be appointed to the council by the GovernorGeneral in Council should be appointed after consultation with certain specified bodies such as the Academy of Science, the Humanities Council and so on.
– Including the Social Sciences Research Council.
– Yes, all of them are in the same premises - that building with which we are now familiar. I indicated that I did not think very highly of those provisions which find their way occasionally into statutes under which, when a nomination is to be made to a body of this kind by the Governor-General in Council, he is placed by statute under some restriction or some obligation to other bodies. For myself, I am bound to say that so long as I have anything to do with this matter it will be a great pleasure to consult such bodies because they can contribute a great deal in this field. I have no doubt that that would become the regular practice, but I did not think it was desirable to put it as an inhibiting element in statute. I have had representations from one or two other bodies claiming that they ought to be allowed to nominate or to be consulted, and to them I made the same answer.
I shall summarize pretty briefly, what the scheme is. The government of the university is to be vested in a council of 38 persons. As I said before, this is larger than we first expected. It had been hoped to make it about 30. But still, on examination, if honorable members look at the constitution of the council in the bill, they will see that there has been a genuine attempt to give a balanced administrative authority.
T may say also that, although this is not in the act itself, as honorable members know there is already a provision for a convocation with certain functions. Although it is not necessary for us to legislate in this measure about that matter I did venture to say to them that I hoped that the new council would consider the possibility of adding to the convocation, as members of it, mem bers of the Federal Parliament who happened to be university graduates. I think there is a bit of merit in that. It would give more honorable members than could hope to have it at present, fairly close contact with what goes on. Whether that suggestion will be agreeable or not I do lot know, but it is not a statutory provision and it does not arise in this bill.
Apart from these matters, Sir, what has been done, in the broad, is to take the present research sections and constitute them - that zone inside the university - as an Institute of Advanced Studies and the rest of it as a School of General Studies. This is merely to distinguish between what has gone on in one and what has gone on in the other.
By having these two separate bodies each with its own professorial boards but under the council and the general administration of the vice-chancellor and with contact at all levels to produce co-operation, it is felt by both of the parties to this matter, and certainly by the Government and myself, that we will develop a harmonious institution without, in any way, threatening what is vital in this matter - the high standard of those research degrees which it has been the main object, or one of the main objects, of the Australian National University to produce. That is really its second object, the first being, of course, to conduct research and1 to add to the general store of knowledge.
As for the bill itself, it is not unduly long, and it is, in large measure, almost entirely - I would hope entirely - selfexplanatory. But what I have said will perhaps assist honorable members when they read the bill. When they do I am sure that they will agree very warmly that this is not to be regarded merely as a marriage of convenience or a marriage under threat. It is to be regarded as fulfilling what was the ultimate ambition regarding this university - to make it an all-embracing university, one that will give the highest possible advantages in instruction and in reading to those who come as undergraduates and at the same time make an honorable name in the world of learning and so bring great credit to this country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Adermann, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Meat Export Control Act 1935-1953 so as to extend the present charter of the Australian Meat Board in order to enable the board to engage in the promotion of meat sales within Australia and to define the purposes for which and the manner in which moneys accumulated during the war-time period of Commonwealth meat control and under the meat contracts with the United Kingdom Government in the early post-war period may be used. Under the existing legislation the Australian Meat Board has authority to expend funds on meat publicity and promotion activities only in overseas countries.
The need for the expenditure of money on meat sales promotion within Australia became very evident last year when the Australian fat lamb industry was having a very difficult time, due to a combination of unfavorable seasonal conditions in important lamb-producing areas, and a substantial fall in fat lamb prices resulting from a severe price recession in the United Kingdom, which is the main world market for lamb. In order to alleviate the situation the industry urged the introduction of a national sales promotion plan to cover the peak lamb production period. With the financial support of meat industry organizations in New South Wales, a lamb promotion campaign was inaugurated in that State. The idea was that it would be in the nature of a pilot plan on which a national sales promotion scheme might be based. However, the development of promotion on a national basis had to be deferred because the Australian Meat Board, which strongly supported the proposal in principle, was inhibited by its charter from providing the financial backing required for such a scheme.
The New South Wales pilot scheme has been rated as very successful and is re garded as having provided a guide to what might be achieved in the sales promotion field on the whole Australian domestic meat market with an all-out effort. Indications are that the export outlook for lamb is such that further action may well be required next season to promote the sale of lamb throughout Australia. The present bill aims at ensuring that the Australian Meat Board may, if it considers it necessary or desirable, engage in promotion activities designed to increase domestic consumption of lamb or any other class of meat when overseas markets for the product concerned are depressed.
Moneys accumulated during the period of Commonwealth meat control and under the meat contracts with the United Kingdom Government in the early post-war period have been held by the Australian Meat Board for many years in a trust account known as the Meat Industry Advancement Trust Account. The government of the day decided in 1947 that these moneys would be held under the trusteeship of the board and would be available to be utilized for the benefit of the Australian meat industry on projects approved by the Minister for the purpose. No formal steps were taken at the time to define the statutory existence and the purposes of the account, but with ministerial approval portion of the moneys has been expended on projects for the benefit of the industry. As the moneys remaining in the trust account are legally held to be government funds, it is considered desirable that the purposes for which they may be used be defined by statute.
Under this bill, the account hitherto known as the Meat Industry Advancement Trust Account is, in effect, continued in existence as the Meat Industry Advancement Fund under the administration of the Australian Meat Board. The bill provides that the moneys in the advancement fund may be applied with the approval of the Minister to defray the whole or part of any expenses incurred in connexion with any experiment, act or thing, which in the opinion of the board is likely to lead to the improvement of the quality of Australian meat, or its promotion in Australia or elsewhere. This provision is in line with the original conception of the purposes for which the moneys were placed in the trust of the board. This is virtually a machinery measure and no change of policy is involved.
Other amendments provided for in the bill delete from the Meat Export Control Act 1935-1953 reference to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia by substituting the words “ Reserve Bank of Australia “. They, also, may be regarded as machinery amendments. The opportunity has been taken in the bill to provide for the repeal of the Meat Export Control Act 1955. That act, which became inoperative on 6th November, 1958, provided that certain members of the Australian Meat Board should cease to hold office in the event of the board’s structure being altered before that date. That did not occur, mainly because the federal primary producer organizations representing meat producer interests were unable to agree on a formula for the reconstitution of the board.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Adermann, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for intensified research activities in relation to the scientific, technical and economic problems of the beef industry. Funds will be raised by a levy on cattle slaughterings and the Government will provide a matching contribution on a £l-for-£l basis to meet expenditure on new research work.
The beef industry now becomes the fifth important primary industry to put forward a plan to finance research into its problems. Similar arrangements, designed to meet the particular circumstances in each case, already operate in respect of the wool, wheat, dairying and tobacco industries. The introduction of this legislation marks an important step towards ensuring the future welfare of the Australian beef industry, since it opens the way to a concerted attack on vital problems which have been retarding the progress of this industry.
The importance of the beef industry in our economy is well known. However, a long-term view must be taken of beef production in the Commonwealth, not only to meet the demands of our increasing population but also to provide increased export earnings. Beef is already of course a sur>stantial export earner, but it still has an undoubted potential to play a still more important role in the financing of the rising import requirements necessary for the continuation of the rapid development achieved in the post-war period in this country.
The output of beef has risen considerably in recent years. Total beef and veal production increased from 606,000 tons in 1949-50, to 908,000 tons in 1958-59, with a consequent increase in the surplus available for export. Moreover, opportunities for increased beef production clearly exist in Australia, and particularly in our northern areas. However, there are many problems still to be overcome. For instance, two great scourges of the industry, namely, cattle tick and pleuro-pneumonia, demand intensified and co-ordinated effort. In addition, further research is essential in such matters as pasture improvement and the improvement of beef quality through breeding and stock management. It is clear that research can influence improvement in our production methods in many ways and so help Australian producers to protect their competitive position against producers in other exporting countries in the years to come.
While the paramount need for beef research relates to cattle production, there is also need for research into handling and transport problems and the other measures necessary to assist the development of the chilled beef export trade. In general, the primary objective of the present proposals is to expand beef production and to improve the quality of the beef marketed within Australia and overseas. Our competitive position on world markets should be improved and the Australian consumer should also benefit as a result.
This bill is the outcome of negotiations with primary producer organizations that have been proceeding for a considerable time. The general principles of the scheme were originally submitted by the Graziers Federal Council of Australia. The plan has also been approved by the Australian Agricultural Council.
The finance to be contributed by the industry will be collected by way of a statutory levy, which will be imposed on all cattle slaughtered for human consumption over 200 lb. dressed weight, or 220 lb. in the case of a carcass with the skin on. Independent investigations by my department and by industry organizations indicate that this is the only practical and equitable way of raising the finance. The consensus of opinion is that the levy will be reflected in the price paid by meat operators for livestock rather than in the operators’ prices to retail butchers. In practice, the levy will represent a further charge which operators will take into account along with other intermediate charges when fixing their cattle buying schedules. In theory, therefore, the incidence of the levy will be borne by the producer, but competition amongst buyers is, of course, the main determinator of price levels.
The maximum rate of levy will be 2s. per beast. It is proposed that the levy shall apply from 1st July, 1960 and that the operative rate will be prescribed by regulation on the recommendation of the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee referred to in the bill.
The bill provides for the establishment of an account to be known as the Cattle and Beef Research Trust Account, into which will be paid the proceeds from the levy. In addition, the account will receive a matching contribution from the Government on the basis of £1 for £1 with the beef industry in respect of expenditure from the trust account. In a normal year, a levy of 2s. per head would provide an industry contribution of about £320,000.
For the purposes of administering the trust account, the legislation provides for the establishment of the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee. It will consist of four representatives from the Graziers Federal Council of Australia, two representatives from the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, and one representative from the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation. In addition, the committee will include the chairman of the Australian Meat Board, one representative of the Australian Agricultural Council, one representative from Australian universities concerned with meat research, one representative of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and one representative of the Department of Primary Industry. This was the basis of representation agreed to by the Australian Agricultural Council. The chairman of the committee will be elected by the members of the committee. It will be noted that there will be a majority of producer representatives on the committee. That is the system the producers want, and it is only reasonable that they should control the expenditure of the funds.
Requests have been received from interests associated with the processing, wholesaling and retailing of beef that they be permitted to nominate representatives to the committee. The Government has decided, however, that the composition of the committee mentioned in the bill is adequate and that it is representative of the interests associated with the supply of the finance and the co-ordination and conduct of the research undertakings.
The main function of the committee will be to formulate plans with respect to the projects on which the trust funds may be expended. As the proposals provide for an expanded programme of research, the committee will have regard to current research activities and it will supplement them to the best advantage. Expenditure from the trust account will be incurred only after recommendations by the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee and after the approval of such recommendations by the Minister for Primary Industry.
Specific reference is made to the purposes of the trust account. Moneys from the account are to be used for scientific, economic or technical research in connexion with matters related directly or indirectly to the raising of cattle or the production or distribution of beef and other products of the slaughter of cattle; the training of persons for the purposes of such research; the publication of information; and the application of the results of research - that is to say, in extension work. In addition, the committee will be empowered to engage consultants to advise in its work as may be necessary. Provision is made in the bill for the Australian Meat Board to carry out the administrative arrangements and thereby avoid unnecessary overhead charges.
As I have already mentioned, the bill is the outcome of negotiations in the Australian Agricultural Council and with meat producer organizations. It gives expression to the wishes of the producers that research in their industry should increase, and to their conviction that the industry itself should supply funds for its own future welfare. They appreciate that the burden of any additional charges borne by them ultimately will be outweighed by the benefits that will accrue to the industry from the additional research undertaken. This relates particularly to the general recognition that the long-term welfare of the beef export industry will depend on its ability to command satisfactory prices in overseas markets in competition with other supplying countries. Quality is the key word.
The original industry proposals applied only to beef. During the discussions with the producer organizations, reference was made to the non-inclusion of mutton and lamb in the scheme, although no actual proposals had been submitted to the Government in that connexion. Consideration could be given, of course, to widening the research plan at some time in the future if satisfactory industry proposals were forthcoming. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That, in this Resolution, unless the contrary intention appears - “ abattoir “ include any place where cattle are slaughtered; “calf” mean a bovine animal the dressed weight of the carcase of which does not exceed -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Adermann and Sir Garfield Barwick do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose ofthis bill is to impose a levy upon the slaughter of cattle for human consumption. The money so collected will be used to finance the scheme for an expanded programme of beef research which I have outlined in my second-reading speech on the Cattle and Beef Research Bill 1960.
Honorable members will note that the actual rate of levy to be imposed will be prescribed by regulation after recommendation to the Minister for Primary Industry by the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee. The legislation provides that the prescribed rate must not exceed 2s. per head. It will be payable on all cattle slaughtered for human consumption over 200 lb. dressed weight, or 220 lb. in the case of a carcass having the skin on. The Levy will be payable by the person who owns the cattle at the time when the slaughter takes place. Persons who slaughter ten head or less per month will be exempted from the levy.
I commend the bill to honorable members as a necessary complement to the Cattle and Beef Research Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Adermann, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide the machinery necessary for the collection of the levy imposed by the Cattle Slaughter Levy Bill 1960. The bill enables the Commonwealth to recover the amount of the levy from a proprietor of an abattoir at which cattle owned by another stock owner are killed for slaughter. In formulating the provisions the Government has had in mind constantly the vital necessity of both meeting the requirements of efficiency and safeguarding the legitimate interests of the proprietor of the killing establishment and the owner of the stock.
Both this bill and the Cattle Slaughter Levy Bill 1960 need to be read in conjunction with the Cattle and Beef Research Bill 1960. I have already referred in more detail to the research scheme with which they are concerned in my second-reading speech on the Cattle and Beef Research Bill 1960. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
.- I move -
That this House registers its strongest disapproval of the Government’s refusal to protect wool-growers against “ pies “ or rings which operate to the detriment of wool-growers and its continuing failure after ten years in office to protect the community generally from the restrictive practices of which such “ pies “ and rings are typical.
Inevitably, I cannot say in half an hour all that I should like to say on this very wide subject. However, I shall endeavour to condense from my own observations and experience, and shall express also the viewpoints of members of the Australian Labour Party. In effect, we are submitting a motion of censure against the Government and we think that this course is justified, having regard to the Government’s apathy and its inability or failure to make any attempt to deal with the problem of restrictive trade practices, particularly in relation to the great Australian wool industry.
First, let us have a look at what this industry means to Australia. We shall examine the problem not exclusively from the point of view of the wool-grower. We shall devote some attention to the great importance of wool to the Australian economy as a whole and its impact on the welfare of every man, woman and child in this community. The wool industry is our greatest exporting industry. Until recently half of our income from exports was derived from wool. As the result of the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, including the introduction of myxomatosis and better methods of farming, and the application of science to agriculture, the volume of wool produced in Australia has increased from about 3,500,000 bales ten years ago to just on 5,000.000 bales in this wool-selling season. To illustrate the economic importance of the industry, let me say that a calculation 1 have made indicates that a rise or fall of Id. per lb. in the price of wool means £7,000,000 to the Australian economy.
Reports in to-day’s press state that prices at the Sydney wool sales are up 2i per cent, on previous sales. Taking 60d. per lb. as the average price ruling before this rise, that 21 per cent, represents approximately Hd. per lb., or £10,500,000 to the Australian economy, to say nothing of its impact on wool-growers’ incomes. That is assuming, of course, that that lid. per lb. increase operated throughout the whole year. Unfortunately, however, although the report of an occasional rise of 2i per cent, conveys to those people who do not analyse the situation thoroughly that the increased price is likely to last, this is not the case. It is overlooked, for instance, that about three weeks or a month ago the Melbourne “Herald”, I think it was, reported that wool prices were 7i per cent, to 10 per cent, down on the opening prices of the season. If those reduced prices had ruled for the whole of the season, one can imagine the impact on the whole of the country’s economy. The other point I should make is that bur wool exports amount to 90 per cent, of our total production. Our domestic consumption is roughly 10 per cent, of the crop. So, we are faced with a major problem and a very grave responsibility to ensure that, by the application of every protective device that a government can devise, no organizations, commercial or otherwise, can monkey with the price that the growers should receive for their product.
For about three years - a period during which wool prices started to decline - members of the Labour Party in this Parliament directed the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the responsible Ministers to our belief that influences were at work, operating what were known as pies, rings, international cartels or national cartels. Perhaps to cover all operations of that type, I should say individuals and organizations operating in a manner deleterious to the wool-growers and to the nation as a whole. What did we get from the Government of the day? It denied our assertion and said there was no evidence to support it. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who was then the Minister for Primary Industry, said that such a suggestion was a figment of my imagination. The honorable member for Hume (Mr.
Anderson) to-day asked rae whether I was serious in proposing this motion. I shall quote what he said in a debate, which I think I initiated, in 1957, to show how naive and innocent he is, or perhaps how he is acting in concert with these influences, although I think that is the last thing of which I could accuse him. The debate to which I refer took place on 17th October, 1957. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) had spoken about the operations of people who wanted to influence prices, and the honorable member for Hume said this -
The honorable member for Darling talked about selling wool. He said that under this Government that is the Menzies Government - the purchase of wool was falling into the hands of fewer buyers and that prices were being forced down. That is nonsense. Does the honorable member not know that brokers are paid commission on the values of sales? Does he think they would try to bring prices down and so get a lower commission? This illustrates the foggy Labour thinking that goes on the whole time. The wool sales are conducted by free auction and any possibility of lot splitting is very carefully watched by brokers and producers. The price of wool is not affected.
That is what the honorable member for Hume said. He was either entirely innocent or blind; I do not know which. We knew at that time of the nefarious, though, of course, quite legal, practices which were being adopted against the wool-growers and the nation generally. He was as innocent as the New South Wales manager of Goldsbrough Mort and Company Limited, a prominent firm of wool-brokers, in regard to the activities of wool-buying rings. In his report, Mr. Justice Cook referred to the statements made by Mr. Docker, the New South Wales manager of Goldsbrough Mort and Company Limited, in these terms -
Mr. Docker . . . gave his views concerning lot transfers, which he said had been a practice of the wool trade during the whole of his experience. He pointed out that in his early experience many Australian mills made their purchases through one buyer, or several buyers, who represented them in the auction room, because, generally speaking, these firms did not do such a volume of business as to justify the employment of their own buyers. This type of lot transfer is, however, one which I have already described as not being reasonably subject to criticism. Speaking of the true pie transaction, as distinct from this type of lot transferring, he expressed the opinion that the operation of pies was an evil. Whilst he knew that pies had always existed to some extent in the wool trade, he “ was amazed at some of the evidence which had been presented to the Commission of the continuing nature of pie arrangements “.
The honorable gentleman, therefore, has not to accept my statement alone for evidence of the operation of these evil things. I hope that in due course he will apologize to the honorable member for Darling and also for his comment about what he called “ foggy Labour thinking “. I knew that pies operated in the wool trade as far back as 1945.
– What did you do about it?
– The honorable member asks what we did. At that time we had just emerged from a war. It was known that a surplus of 10,000,000 bales of wool was held by the United Kingdom Government. Of this, more than 6,000,000 bales had been contributed by Australian wool-growers under contract, through their Government, to the United Kingdom. South Africa and New Zealand had also made contributions. The world was confronted with an accretion of 10,000,000 bales of wool, with the incoming clip to be collected from the wool-growers. The Australian Labour Government of the day and the governments of the United Kingdom, New Zealand and South Africa realized that something had to be done, and a conference was held in London to determine how best the market could be protected from an immense collapse. I make a long story short by saying that the Labour Government of the day, on a report from the delegates who went to London decided to become a party to a selling organization of the four partner governments in order to protect the nation from the effects of a collapse of wool prices and to ensure a reasonable return to the woolgrowers for their labour. During the time that it operated, this prevented any effective pie activities by Australian or other buyers. That is the answer to the honorable member’s question.
– That is nonsense.
– lt is not nonsense; you prove that it is nonsense. That the position was as I have described it can be seen in the document “ Report and Recommenda tions of Conference held in London, AprilMay, 1945 “.
– He has not seen that document.
– He probably has not, but I would not blame him for that. Perhaps very few people have seen it. Australia sent to London the late Mr. J. F. Murphy, Mr. Justice W. F. L. Owen, Mr. N. W. Yeo, Mr. F. E. Hitchins and other representatives of the Government and of wool-broking interests. They were very capable men. From a committee formed of all the natrons at the conference there came a recommendation to the Australian Labour Government. Before that, a very expert committee examined the following alternative methods of marketing: -
After an examination of the respective merits of these three suggested schemes, the committee made the following declaration: -
The committee considered the following possible disadvantages of an auction system: -
the operation of “pies” or buyers’ rings;
fluctuations in price;
some inequalities in prices to individual growers.
Pies, therefore, were known at that time. The dangers involved in their operations were known. They have been operating in Australia ever since the Joint Organization finished, and certain people have entered into a conspiracy to hide their operations for as long a period as possible. The Government has remained inactive and, one might say, almost uninterested.
After the termination of the operations of J.O., the growers of this country, impressed by the protective screen that it had afforded them, came to the Labour government of the day, through representatives of their organizations, and said, “ J.O. is worth continuing. What has the Government got to say about it? “ I pointed out that the growers had indicated that there was no unanimity amongst their organizations, and I said, “ Go away and try to get unanimity amongst your organizations. If you do get it, you will get a sympathetic hearing from the Labour Government.” Time went on, and our Government was dismissed. In due course, the organizations reached unanimity, and they aproached my successor, if I remember rightly, who is now the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). That honorable gentleman did a good job. He sent a delegation to London to confer with the United Kingdom authorities and representatives of the South African and New Zealand governments. Those three governments agreed to the continuation of the war-time wool disposals scheme.
Then what happened? Wool prices skyrocketed, and some inflation was engendered. The Minister had introduced in this House a bill to provide for a deduction of 7i per cent, from the incomes of woolgrowers to obtain the reserve finance necessary for a wool disposals scheme, which was to operate, of course, only if the growers approved such a scheme by a poll. The Labour Party supported that proposition. Then the Minister’s colleague, the Treasurer at that time, brought in his 1950-51 Budget, before the growers’ poll had been taken, and announced that in order to counter inflation the Government was going to take 20 per cent, of the gross proceeds of every wool-grower in Australia for that year.
– No, no! That was simply a pre-payment of tax.
– The honorable member says it was a pre-payment of tax, but the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), in an analysis of the effects of the Government’s action at that time, admitted that the growers who had to make this so-called pre-payment of tax had already paid provisional tax for the current year. Putting it at its best, the growers would have to lose the interest on the money that was taken from them. Those are the facts, and honorable members of the Country Party can shake their heads as much as they like. At the same time, the Country Party Treasurer said, “There are other interests in Australia making excessive profits at this period, and my Government will consider draining off those excess profits “, but the Government never did so.
Let me get back to the point. The conservative elements amongst the woolgrowers of this country, some of them being more interested in banks, newspapers, coalmines and other enterprises than in wool, went amongst the growers and told them that if they agreed at a poll to a continuation of the scheme they would, in the future, be caught for the 20 per cent, tax deduction, plus a 7i per cent, deduction to provide the operating expenses of the scheme, making a total deduction of 27i per cent, from their current year’s income. The Labour Party fought that 20 per cent, tax deduction tooth and nail, but it was unsuccessful. That deduction turned the tide. I do not believe that the Country Party Treasurer designed that deduction for any purpose other than to give to those who were opposed to the continuance of the scheme a lever which they could use to have the scheme defeated at the poll. It was the silliest action the Government ever took. Why did the Government not tax the other people whom the Treasurer admitted were making unusual profits, just as the wool-growers were?
– The Labour Government withheld money from the growers.
– We withheld nothing. The Treasurer at that time said that other people were getting too much, but the Government did nothing about it. The joke about that 20 per cent, deduction was that when the Government obtained £114,000,000 from the growers, it proceeded very quickly to spend the money. The deduction was of no use at all, therefore, in easing the inflationary tendences. When the New Zealand Government took similar action, it put the money away in a trust fund and did not touch it during the period when the inflationary trend was dangerous. This Government, however, proceeded merrily to spend it. However, I want to be fair, and I must say that there is just one mitigating circumstance. By spending the money itself, the Government ensured that it was spent in a more practical way, perhaps, than if some other members of the community had used it. But the contention that the deduction of this money would counter the inflationary trend was complete nonsense. It merely served to kill any suggestion of continuing the wool disposals scheme.
At a later stage the Labour Party directed attention to what had happened to the wool market during the previous few years, but the Government denied that pies existed, despite the fact that there was all the evidence in the world concerning their operation. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) deserved some credit at this time, because representatives of some of the organizations came to him, and he said the same things to them as I had said in 1948. He told them to go away and achieve unanimity. They have not yet done so, although the situation is vastly more critical to-day than it was at that earlier time. In 1948, when we told the organizations to reach unanimity, the price considered by the growers to be a fair reserve price was 24d. per lb., while the actual price being obtained was 40d. to 44d. per lb., and the pressure on the grower and the national economy was not of such a wicked nature as it is now.
Now let me turn to Mr. Justice Cook’s report.
– Hear, hear!
– You will not be “ Hear, hear-ing “ so much when I am finished, because you are one of those who denied that these pies operated.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– If you would like me to quote your statements, I will do so. You said that a system such as your own Government endeavoured to bring into operation would be socialism in the extreme.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– Of course you did. In any case, the members of the Country Party who are trying to interject can fight it out amongst themselves. The New South Wales Labour Government, being aware of the situation, appointed Mr. Justice Cook to investigate the operation of pies and restrictive trade methods. It was necessary, first, to determine what a pie is. Mr. Justice Cook, in his report to the New South Wales Government, said -
The existence of arrangements between buyers concerning the purchase of wool is, and has been for many years, a common feature of our woolselling system.
And the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) said such things could not happen! Mr. Justice Cook went on -
The exact terms and conditions of these various arrangements may differ in detail, but it has been established that they all possess one common feature, namely that in general parties to such an arrangement’ refrain from outbidding each other in an effort to secure lots of wool which they are all desirous of acquiring, in return for which forbearance each member is entitled to claim some of such lots from the member who succeeds in obtaining them. Throughout the inquiry these arrangements have been described as pies.
Mr. Justice Cook said at a later stage in his report -
Each firm was required to supply (to the commission) figures as to the quantities of wool purchased by it at auction–
Each firm was also required to supply certain other information. His Honour said, later in the report -
Wm. Haughton & Company gave the following details about its pie arrangements: -
A pie, in respect of Merino pieces, with two other Buyers who could claim on Haughton.
Another pie, in respect of Merino pieces, with another Buyer upon whom Haughton claimed.
A pie, in respect of cross-bred pieces, with Lempriere and F. W. Hughes, under which Haughton and Hughes could claim on Lempriere.
A further pie, in respect of cross-bred pieces, with F. W. Hughes and Gedge, both of which Companies could claim on Haughton (d) A pie, in respect of cross-bred fleece wools, with F. W. Hughes, under which Hughes could claim on Haughton.
Then we come to the very big woolbuyers. Louis Dreyfus, an old firm, used to fiddle round with the wheat-growers’ wheat, but thank God, the wheat-growers to-day sell as a unit, not as 60.000 individuals. The 90,000 wool-growers, however, who are selling as individuals, are the victims of these iniquitous trade practices. Dreyfus, the third largest buyer, has two pies. Mr. Justice Cook’s report states -
It does not claim on the other members of these pies, but they claim on it. One is a pie for combing wools with McGregor, Kreglinger and Prevost, the second, fourth and fifth largest buyers. The other is a pie for carding wools with these three last-mentioned buyers and also with Henry B. Smith, F. W. Hughes and Roland Smith. After the conclusion of each day’s auction, the other parties to the arrangement have the right to make a claim upon the firm in respect of any lot purchased by the firm at the auction. Mr. Justice
Cook has a lot more to say about them, but his report in connexion with Dewavrin states - a lot which is transferred by the company, or to the company, is transferred in its entirety. The company never split a lot and did not want others to do it.
In its evidence, the Dewavrin company stated -
When the running total of our or their share in the arrangement is higher than the other party, this other party gets the transfer of the lot. Running totals are carried on from day to day and week to week but are stopped at the end of the season.
In an arrangement whereby people claim on us we do not object to these members overbidding us on some lots if they feel they must have that particular lot. Conversely, in an arrangement whereby we claim on other people, we expect these people to accept our overbidding them if we need a particular lot, but in either case this overbidding seldom happens.
Then there is reference to Kreglingers, Pre.vost and Mitsubishi. The witness for the Japanese firm of Mitsubishi said -
If one of the above firms are bidding (i.e., the firms named as members of its pies) then the others refrain unless the price goes beyond him, then another firm will take over bidding if within his limit.
And so it goes on right through the show. For instance, this question was put to one witness by Mr. Justice Cook -
The arrangements of course obviously, in your view, benefit you because you have kept them on for many years7
The answer was, “ Yes “. His Honour then asked -
The way they benefit your Company is that, in your view, it enables you to keep out competition on particular lots which you otherwise would have?
The answer to that was -
That - and it permits you to take wool which goes at your price which you might otherwise miss.
When we analyse the appendix to the report, we find the astonishing fact that the biggest men in Australia, with the exception of one, are in all six of these pies. McGregor missed out in one of these pie arrangements. In No. 1 pie, there are 26 members, including Kreglinger and McGregor. No. 2 pie includes the Japanese firm of Mitsubishi and McGregor. In No. 3 pie we find McGregor again. Dreyfus and McGregor are in the next one. McGregor missed out in the next one. In the last there are McGregor and Toulemonde. The numbers in these pies, respectively, are, 26, 15, 25, 21, 16 and 7.
The McGregor referred to is Sir William McGregor. He did a magnificent job during the war and has interests all over the wool world. He is a buyer, seller, dealer, broker and futures man. He is everything! All these people operate privately behind the scenes at the expense of the economy of Australia, and at the expense of the wool-growers of this country. It behoves the Government to make some definite threats to do something in this instance. I appreciate the difficulties of getting unanimity on the matter, but we must not forget that during World War I., when the buyers of the world were adopting these tactics, William Morris Hughes, who was then Prime Minister, received a memorandum from Sir John Higgins indicating that the price of wool was below the cost of production. He promptly clapped on a regulation under the Customs Act. That regulation declared that no wool could be exported from Australia at a figure below the cost of production. From that moment onward, the wool-buyers sparked up, just as they did on every occasion when the Joint Organization was operating and wool failed to bring the reserve price.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired. Does any honorable member second the motion?
– I second the motion.
– I am afraid that the pie presented by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is a woolly one, containing no meat and being rather half-baked. He did say that this motion was to be treated as a censure of the Government. If he really meant that, I suggest quite kindly to him that the motion is entirely misplaced. The inquiry into the matter of pies was initiated by the New South Wales Labour Government. Therefore, I suggest to him that he censure the government which initiated the inquiry and to which the report was presented. The only thing upon which I can agree with the honorable member for Lalor in this instance is the value of the wool industry. This Government has recognized the importance of the industry by its assistance in research projects, and I remind him that the Commonwealth Government has provided a subsidy in the ratio of 4s. to 2s. on every bale of wool. I repeat that we recognize the importance and value of the wool industry to our economy, as an export commodity and in many other ways to the community.
The honorable member for Lalor; at the beginning of his speech, waved his arms and stated that his remarks referred to international cartels and all the rest of the monopolistic controls. He did not confine himself to pies. If he takes the very report from which he has quoted, and no doubt upon which he bases his case to-day, he will see that he is confused as to what a pie really is. That confusion arises from his use of a variety of terms in describing what is really group buying. For instance, he made liberal use of the word “ cartel “ and referred to cartels and pies in a way which suggested that he considered the two were synonomous. The generally accepted meaning of the word “ cartel “ is a combination to control or monopolize the production, distribution and price of a commodity. In this connexion, it is significant to note that the word “ cartel “ is not used at any time by Mr. Justice Cook in his report. It is also significant to note that Mr. Justice Cook’s comment as to whether a pie constitutes a monopoly was -
I do not consider, nor’ has anybody submitted that a pie amounts to a- monopoly of the trade in wool, or an attempt or combination to monopolise such trade. There are many pies, and there is competition between them. I do not consider that pies possess the characteristics of a monopoly nor of a combination to monopolise trade.
– Who wrote that for you?
– Mr. Justice Cook wrote that. Those words are contained in his recommendations. I mention them to emphasize the fact that in Mr. Justice Cook’s opinion pie means group buying. I want to disabuse the minds of honorable members opposite. The fact is that there has been no cartel or international monopoly, or local monopoly operating in connexion with the sale of our wool. So far as the sale of wool is concerned, the auction system has been adopted by the growers for a number of years. The system began to operate immediately after the- First World War and was suspended during the period of the reappraisal scheme in the days of the Second World War.
It commenced to operate again in 1946, when the honorable member for Lalor was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The honorable member has said that the Labour Government, of which he was a member, took certain action overseas in connexion with the sale of wool. Actually, all that it did was to create what was, in effect, a reserve price plan for the sale of surplus wool, which had no effect at all on pies. It did not prevent pies from operating, nor could it do so.
The honorable member referred to the action of this Government, during the period of the Korean War, in. regard to the sale of wool and the introduction of the wool sales deduction. I remind the honorable member and the House that not one extra penny was taken from the wool-growers as a result of that legislative action. We must face the facts of this matter. The increased, income from wool at that time was an unearned increment, to a great degree consequent on the outbreak of war in Korea. As such, the Government considered that it was desirable to introduce legislation to provide for the pre-payment of tax by wool-growers, in order to correct the inflationary trend resulting from the high prices being received for wool. The amounts paid by the woolgrowers were, of course, credited to them.
If the position is as bad as the honorable member for Lalor suggests it is, censure should be directed at the New South Wales Labour Government, although I am not suggesting that the deterioration in the position is due even to that government. Let us consider the facts. The honorable member says that the Opposition calls for an inquiry. There has been an inquiry, first, in relation to the sale, or the non-sale, of wool at the Goulburn selling centre, which was dealt with in a separate report; and in the second place, as to whether pies were operating and whether, if that was so, this practice was detrimental to the industry. I have already referred to the distinction between pies and cartels. Mr. Justice Cook’s report was presented to the New South Wales Ministry for Agriculture in November last, and certain recommendations were made to the New South Wales Government.
I remind the honorable member for Lalor and other honorable members opposite that the sale of wool under the auction system is a matter for State legislation and State governments. It has nothing to do with the Commonwealth. In fact, the Commonwealth has no connexion with the sale of wool, although, of course, it has an interest in export marketing, which is a different matter. The New South Wales Labour Government received Mr. Justice Cook’s report in November and has had from then until now to consider it. In February last, the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture brought the report along to the Australian Agricultural Council.
– And you shelved it for a year.
– It is a pity that the honorable member for Werriwa was not shelved after his “ Meet the Press “ interview on television recently. The New South Wales Minister for Agriculture raised the matter at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council and said that his purpose was to enable other States to give preliminary consideration to the need for possible uniform action. His submission contained the following passage: -
In order to provide a basis for suggested legislative action, counsel assisting the Commissioner prepared a draft of proposed legislation which if implemented by this State-
Meaning New South Wales - would make it an offence for wool buyers to participate in “ cartels “ and “ pies “. The Commissioner in his recommendation suggests that there should be detailed discussions between producers, brokers, and wool buyers, so as to define and separate the various intricacies involved in the selling of wool. Nevertheless, he further goes on to recommend: “ I should make it clear that this does not in any way modify or condition my main recommendation for the legislative creation of sanctions against true pie transactions, the need for such sanctions having been demonstrated by the evidence. “ Of some significance in a close examination of these reports are the number of references given by witnesses expressing “ amazement “ at some of the matters which were exposed in the course of this inquiry. Up to the present stage, neither the Minister nor the Government of this State has yet had an opportunity to closely examine the recommendations made in these reports, but in the Minister’s opinion it is highly desirable that even at this early stage they should be brought under the notice of other Ministers. I am accordingly forwarding this brief.
As not all State Ministers for Agriculture had had the opportunity to study Mr. Justice Cook’s report, further consideration of the matter was not then possible. However, all State Ministers have had their attention directed to the report of the New South Wales wool inquiry.
I wish now to refer to the statement of the honorable member for Lalor in regard to the lack of unanimity amongst the various organizations associated with the wool-growing industry. Let me refer to the comments of various organizations concerning Mr. Justice Cook’s report. The Graziers Association of New South Wales stated that the only way to prevent pies from operating was by means of legislation. It went on to say that discussions with all sections of the trade were necessary, so that sales would be conducted under conditions which would not be inimical to wool-growers. The Farmers and Settlers Association welcomed the suggestion that legislation should be introduced, but was of the opinion that legislation could raise drafting and policing problems. The association wished to study the manner in which controls would be policed. The Australian Wool-growers Council was keen to avoid legislation, stating that it would prefer to control the operation of pies by means of co-operation amongst the various sections of the trade. It was of the opinion that legislation might “ boomerang “ and have an adverse effect on the industry generally. The Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, which is the only organization that really wants action in the matter, has urged all parliamentary representatives to support action against pie-buying and other irregularities. It believes that uniform legislation should be introduced in all States to make pies illegal.
To summarize the position, it seems that wool-growers want to stop pies from operating, but that, except for the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, they are cautious about what should be done, first, because of the problems associated with the drafting and policing of suitable legislation, and, secondly, because of the possibility that such legislation might “ boomerang “ against growers. Increased co-operation within the trade, and a tightening of wool-selling regulations, have been mentioned as alternatives to legislation.
The honorable member for Lalor has said that there has always been a lack of unanimity in this connexion, but I point out that the Commonwealth Government has tried to achieve unanimity. The wool-growers, unlike the wheat-growers, the apple and pear growers, and the growers of other primary commodities, have no overall selling organization. The wool-growers, of their own accord, have chosen to adhere to the auction system and to remain free to sell their product as they desire. Even those who want to see an alteration, or an improvement, in wool-selling methods, want to retain the auction system.
– With a reserve price.
– That is what I say. They want an alteration in the conditions. They still want a reserve price plan, and they want to retain the auction system at base. Of course, we have asked them to make up their minds and decide where they are going, not only on this matter, but on other matters affecting the welfare of the industry. We have initiated conferences on two occasions at least. Just recently the two main organizations had a conference. Each maintained its own attitude. After a full-blooded discussion their delegates agreed to report back to the organizations, because they did not have authority, as delegates, to commit those bodies to any decision beyond what the annual meetings of the organizations had authorized. So they are reporting back and are still conferring. Let us hope that these conferences will bring some finality in this matter.
The Commonwealth is appreciative of the need for these things. But let us look at what has happened in regard to State legislation. Mr. Justice Cook mentioned in his report the provisions of section 45 of the Auctioneers, Stock and Station, Real Estate and Business Agents Act 1941, as amended, which is a New South Wales act. The relevant part of that section reads -
Any person who induces or attempts to induce any other person to abstain from bidding at a sale by auction of cattle or farm produce either generally or for any particular lot, by means of a promise, express or implied, that he will if he is the successful bidder for the cattle or farm produce -
So there is provision in the State legislation to deal with this problem. That legislation can be amended if it does not meet the purpose.
– The law in Victoria is not worth two bob anyway.
– If the honorable member is suggesting that State legislation governing sales made under the auspices of the State governments is not worth two bob, what is going to be the effect of implementing any legislation suggested by Mr. Justice Cook or anybody else? According to the honorable member for Lalor, it will not be worth two bob.
– We want a marketing system; that is what we want. That is the solution, not legislation.
– The honorable member for Lalor has attacked the Government for what has happened - for something which is not our responsibility. Marketing is definitely the responsibility of the States. You will have noticed, Sir, that the honorable gentleman omitted to make one contribution to a solution of the problem or one suggestion as to how the Com monwealth could act, other than byinterjection just now. He made no suggestion as to where the Commonwealth has failed. He sought to censure the Government, but made no alternative suggestion regarding what should be done.
Having regard to what we have done in the field of research, to the conferences I have called, and to all the other steps that the Commonwealth Government has taken to try to better this position, and having regard also to the excellent work done overseas by my colleague, the Minister for Trade, in relation to the sale of all our commodities under international trade agreements and the like, I say that the Government should be commended for its activities in relation to this industry. I also say that if an attempt is made to bring in a better system for the marketing of wool - and there is need for something better, because we cannot leave this industry at the mercy of any speculator, whosoever he might be- the Commonwealth will be right in the picture. That will be the case whether the scheme adopted is that suggested by one of the wool-growers’ organizations or the system of an overall selling organization - which would be even better, to my mind. In any event, the Commonwealth will be right in the picture, determined to do the best it can for this great industry.
.- I support the motion moved by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). It is not very frequently that the wool-growers find an industrial trade unionist attempting to attend to their affairs.
– It is a good thing that they are finding it this time.
– It is a good thing. I feel that in this instance the affairs of the wool-growers are also our affairs, because of their impact on the economy of the nation, and therefore on the welfare of the community in general. So, we concern ourselves with those affairs - and much more forcibly, too, at times, than the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), who has just concluded putting the case for the Government. He indulged in the old tactics that seem to be a feature of the participation by Government supporters and members in debate - the old tactics of attacking the New South Wales Labour Government.
– I did not.
– The Minister did attack the New South Wales Government. Whether he did so obliquely or otherwise is immaterial to me. The fact is that the Minister made a weak and ineffectual attempt to prove that the remedy for the present position lies with the New South Wales Government.
The motion seeks to express disapproval of the inactivity of the Government in connexion not only with pies or rings, but also with restrictive trade practices generally. We do not say that pies are an attempt to monopolize the wool trade. It is suggested by us, however, that pies constitute a restrictive trade practice. The Government believes that restrictive trade practices are those practices which interfere with free private enterprise. That belief is implied in the statement made on page 6 of the printed copy of the Governor-General’s Speech, as follows: -
The development of tendencies to monopoly and restrictive practices in commerce and industry has engaged the attention of the Government which will give consideration to legislation to protect and strengthen free enterprise against such a development.
Reference was also made to restrictive trade practices earlier in the Governor-General’s Speech. We claim that the practices about which we are speaking are restrictive practices which warrant our consideration because of their impact on the community generally. We need not produce here any evidence to prove the existence of pies and monopolies. Mr. Justice Cook, in his report, shows beyond all shadow of doubt that pies are in operation, and he says that a pie is an evil thing. If it were not for the effect that pies could have on the selling price of wool, and consequently upon the economy, I would not feel inclined to raise my voice about them at all.
I want to say to the wool-growers, the primary producers, and those who control our exports generally, that we have some rights in the matter. It has been stated that a rise of Id. per lb. in the price of wool over a whole year gives the wool industry an extra £7,000,000 in respect of its exports alone. That is a mighty big thing so far as we are concerned. We point to the fact that in the case of apples and pears, which were mentioned by the Minister, and in the case of dairy produce, meat, wheat and all important primary products, it has been found highly desirable that organized marketing should be the order of the day. It has been found highly desirable that organized marketing should be the order of the day, and we, as a party, recognize that and approve of it.
– It is only done with the consent of the industries.
– The honorable member says it is only done with the consent of the industries. When an industry earns practically 50 per cent, or more - 90 per cent, was suggested, although I do not think it is so great - of our export income, I say quite frankly that the interests of the national economy must take precedence over the viewpoint of those who happen to control the particular industry for the time being. I make no bones about that; and that is why I feel that the marketing of this commodity, which is most important to the community, should not be controlled by an authority representative of only the wool-growers. They have their rights in the matter; and let me say that not all of them are doing as well as many people think they are doing. I have travelled the length and breadth of Victoria and I know that many of them are very poor men, comparatively. Because of the possible effect upon the economy, there must be a control exercised, because the interests of all the other sections of the community, which the Government should protect, must be taken into consideration. I use the word “ control “ advisedly, although I know Government supporters do not like that word. In the organization of marketing where this industry is concerned not only have the producers representation but also the consumers, the Government and other sections of the community, because of the importance of the industry to the economy of Australia.
Whilst the motion before the Chair refers particularly to wool, it does not refer to wool only. It refers also to the necessity to protect the community generally from restrictive practices of which pies and rings are typical. That need not lead us into an academic argument about what constitutes a pie. A pie is a group of buyers who have a common interest to affect the market. Other people might call it a racket; and there is no doubt that is what it is. Mr. Justice Cook calls it an evil. In any case the Minister has indicated that the Government proposes to do nothing about it at the moment; and the woolgrowers should note that fact.
As I have said, restrictive trade practices are many and varied. Monopolies, for instance, would come under the heading of such practices; and they are mentioned, too, in the Governor-General’s Speech. We have monopolies operating to-day in Victoria. If any master baker in that State felt that he could run his business at a satisfactory profit on a lower price for bread, his flour supply would be cut off -very promptly. Honorable members opposite will say that that is a matter for the State Government. We know that if any retail tobacconist attempted to sell tobacco, assuming that he could do so, at less than the fixed prices, he would very shortly have no tobacco to sell. By the simple process of holding a meeting among themselves the master hairdressers in Victoria raised the price of a haircut to 6s.
Honorable members opposite should have a look at the Carlton and United Brewery if they want an example of restrictive trade practices. That organization has a tight control over liquor supplies in Victoria. We know what profits it makes. If any hotel out of 50 per cent, of the hotels in that State dared to stock a bottle of rival beer it would be put out of business. A rival brewery started in Richmond a few years ago, and it produced a brew which I am assured is very good. But then another thing happened. The Carlton and United Brewery cornered all the bottles and the other brewery had no bottles to put their beer into. We know that beer must have some sort of container, and I am not talking about human containers. However, the rival company itself then indulged in restrictive trade practices by cornering all the hops in Tasmania, and forced the Carlton and United Brewery to give it access to bottle supplies in return for supplies of hops. These practices do go on to-day, and their purpose is to raise prices and exploit the public.
Honorable members opposite say that such practices have nothing to do with this Government. But does not this Government accept some responsibility in respect of inflation? It accepts responsibility for inflation to the extent that it will intervene before the Arbitration Commission in order to have the workers’ wages pegged. If it is not the Government’s responsibility, it is only because of the fact that the Government will not seek the power to carry out its responsibility. If the correction of the inflationary trend is not the Government’s responsibility in one direction, I say it is not its responsibility in another direction. But if the Government makes inflation its responsibility in one respect, it should make inflation its responsibility in other respects.
Take the hardwood mills, for instance. If the timber yards in Victoria issued to the building trade timber at less than the price fixed by the hardwood millers, they would simply find that they had no timber to sell. Somebody suggested the same thing with regard to sales of television sets. I have had experience in that direction. I bought a television set. It was an Astor, and the firm from which I bought it was Sir Arthur Warner’s organization. I bought it at wholesale rates from the factory, and paid cash, too. I shall tell honorable members something about the poor old retailer, and how pies work in that industry. It was not many days before the local retailer who is attached to Sir Arthur Warner’s chain of organizations came around and told me that he thought he was entitled to £40. He had had nothing to do with the deal, but he wanted £40. I told him that I had the television set and as I had a receipt for it that was all there was to the matter. The wholesalers, Astor Radio - Sir Arthur Warner’s crowd - anticipating that my good1 lady would be out, sent a van a couple of days later to pick up the set because, they said, it had been reported that the set was not functioning properly. They were going to take it away because I would not pay out £40 of blood money to the pirates who are engaged in selling television sets to the people of Melbourne. These are the sort of trade practices which the Government says do not concern it because it has not the power to deal with them; that it is a State matter. Certainly the Victorian Government, in which Sir Arthur Warner is a Minister, is a conservative government.
I have strayed a little from the subject of wool, but I hope and trust that those who are here representing the woolgrowers will bring the debate back to the subject of wool and the primary producers so that those honorable members will be able to say, “Here is an opportunity. We feel that you are right. We feel that you should have a reserve price or a floor price, or whatever you might call it.” Admittedly, the price of wool is not very low at the present moment. These honorable members might say, “ We feel that it is the responsibility of the Government to indicate that it accepts the proposition that the marketing of wool should be placed on a properly organized basis and be subject to a controlling authority which has in mind not only the interests of the national economy as a whole but those of the various sections of the community that may be affected’ by any variations in the national economy “.
Mr. FAIRBAIRN (Farrer) [4.171.- The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay) finished with a masterpiece of understatement when he said he had strayed a little from the subject of wool. I listened very closely and I thought that only on two occasions did I hear the word “ pie “ mentioned. Woolgrowers as a whole, I think, will be most interested in the speech of the honorable member for Darebin. I jotted down a couple of notes as he spoke. He said that marketing should be controlled and, later on, he repeated that statement.
The wool-growers have the old-fashioned Liberal idea that the wool belongs to them and that it is for them to say how it shall be marketed. In this matter, they welcome government co-operation but they regard wool as their property and they want to be able to say how it will be marketed. When the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) submitted his motion, he spoke for 30 minutes. It seemed to me that, for the first 25 minutes, he roamed all over the subject of what had happened in the wool industry since 1945, and it was not until the final five minutes of his speech, when some one passed him a note, that he realized that he had not mentioned pies at all. He then took up Mr. Justice Cook’s report and read freely from it, occasionally attracting an interjection. The interesting thing about the speech of the honorable member for Lalor was that he did not suggest what the Government should do.
In the short time at my disposal I want to try to bring this debate back to the terms of the motion that was introduced by the honorable member for Lalor, but I do not want to follow him into what happened in 1945. I want to speak about the motion and about pies. I want to deal with three points which, I hope, I shall make clear by the time I have finished. The first point is that the States could take immediate action to stop pies in the wool industry. Secondly, the Opposition has referred obliquely to the enormous damage that it says is being done by pies to the price of wool and to the wool industry generally. I think the honorable member for Lalor referred to a conspiracy, and to illegal iniquitous trade practices and the like. I hope to show that he was really making a mountain out of a molehill. Thirdly, I want to show that already action is in train in New South Wales and, in fact, throughout the Commonwealth, in the trade itself, which I hope will make any legislation unnecessary.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) and I, in our positions as secretary and chairman respectively of the Government members’ wool committee, have studied the report of Mr. Justice Cook very fully. I think it can be said to be a good and interesting report. This is probably the first occasion on which the practice of having pies in the wool industry has been subjected to a full-scale legal examination. Despite the fact that there was a certain amount of publicity, and a stirring up of public opinion in the community at the time, as a result of the ban on wool sales at Goulburn, I feel that the report is soundly based. It is probably as accurate a report on this very difficult and very involved subject as it would be possible to make. There is no doubt in my mind or, I would think, in the minds of honorable members throughout the House, that pies are a bad thing and should be eliminated. I think that that is common ground between the Government and the Opposition. If it were not for the fact that pies do tend to depress wool prices, it is obvious that the number of pies would not be increasing. But let us try to find out the total effect of these pies on the price of wool.
Both New South Wales and Victoria have legislation on their statute-books which could be used to stop pies to-morrow if they wanted to use it. I do not know the position in South Australia, but I understand that it is similar to that in those States. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) has read quite fully the legislation in New South Wales which could be used. All that is necessary is for the New South Wales Labour Government to state by a notice in its “ Gazette “ that the legislation prohibiting lot splitting shall apply to wool as well as to cattle and sheep. That could be done to-morrow, if the State Government wanted to do it. I believe that the Victorian Government intended to do this; although it announced that action would be taken, the necessary notice has never been gazetted. There we have immediate proof that, if the New South Wales Government believed this should be done, it could do it immediately. That would over come all the legal difficulties that would be likely to be entailed if the Commonwealth Government took action on a Commonwealth basis. We know that there would be very strong legal argument on whether or not the Commonwealth has constitutional power in this field. No doubt the case would finish up in the High Court or in the Privy Council and there would be a delay of months, or even years, before a final decision was reached. Yet, to-morrow the New South Wales Government could take action, if it wished to do so.
What we want is not an immediate vituperative witch hunt against the buyers. After all, we have to work with them and we want to iron out the correct method of eliminating pies, if necessary without legislation. I hope that it can be done without legislation. It certainly should not be done in the heat of the moment. I do not know whether it was Confucius or Dale Carnegie who said that if you want to gather honey you should not kick over the beehive. In the past, the buyers have been excellent supporters of the wool industry. On many occasions they have gone out of their way to do things they have been asked to do. Recently, they were asked to extend the wool-selling season over twelve months, and they immediately agreed to do so. They are honest people, and I am sure that if they co-operated with the governments concerned, an agreement would be reached which would eliminate pies. I do not feel that it is necessary to legislate against pies. If agreement were reached, the buyers themselves would adequately police the operation of the agreement. Of course, the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria have, in the last resort, the power to force the buyers to abandon these pies.
Let us look at the result of the operation of the pies. I have said that the Opposition was attempting to make a mountain out of molehill, and this will be evident when I read at some length from the report of Mr. Justice Cook of the New South Wales Supreme Court who conducted an inquiry into the operation of pies. I do not want to abridge the report because I would be accused of omitting the parts which were not favorable to my argument and reading only those which were.
– Why not seek leave to have it incorporated in “ Hansard “?
– So that the honorable member for Macquarie may understand my argument, I shall read relevant portions of the report which deal with two occasions on which an analysis was made of pie transactions. The first was the case of Dreyfus. The report states -
The next actual case, for which detailed figures were obtained and analysed, concerned purchases by Dreyfus. . . . The analysis of these transactions shows that out of thirteen lots in respect of which claims were made (whether successful or not)~
In three cases there was no effect, or no apparent effect, on the price which the grower could have expected if the pie had not operated. In two of these cases there was no apparent advantage to the claimant, or to Dreyfus in relation to limits.
In four cases the probable lowest price which would have been received if the pie had not operated, would have been the same as, or one-farthing per lb. higher than, the price actually paid. (This, depends on whether Dreyfus or the claimant was the first to make the “ critical bid “ and assumes that neither was prepared to bid above its saleroom limit.)
In six cases there was a clear price advan tage, either to the claimant or to Dreyfus, in relation to their limits, the advantage ranging from onefarthing to one penny three-farthings per lb.
In those six cases there was a clear price disadvantage to the grower, ranging from one-farthing to twopence per lb.
These figures indicate that in seven out of thirteen cases there was no alteration in prices because of the operation of pies, and over the total thirteen cases the price was reduced by Hd. per lb. because of pies. The report continues -
Kreglinger’s (and Fernau’s) pie transactions at these same two sales were also investigated. . . Taking the 121 lots in respect of which claims (whether successful or unsuccessful) were made, and in respect of which the identity and limit of the claimant could be established, the analysis shows -
In thirty-one cases there was no effect, or no apparent effect, on the price which the grower could have expected if the pie had not operated. In twentyfive of these cases there was no apparent advantage to the successful claimant - or if unsuccessful, to the buyer - in relation to his limits.
In sixty-one cases the probable lowest price, if the pie had not operated, would have been the same as, or onefarthing per lb. higher than, the price actually paid. This again would de pend upon which of the two interested bidders would first make the “ critical bid “, it being assumed that neither would bid over his saleroom limit.
In twenty-nine cases there was a clear advantage to the successful claimant - or if unsuccessful, to the actual buyer - in relation to his limits. The advantage ranged from one-farthing to threepence and one-farthing per lb.
In those twenty-nine cases there was a clear price disadvantage to the grower, ranging from one-halfpenny to threepence and one-halfpenny per lb. If, in addition to these twenty-nine clear cases, regard be had to the possible disadvantage to him in some, at any rate, of the sixty-one cases mentioned in (b) then a picture can be obtained of the clear - and possible - disadvantages to growers in respect of these pie transactions. The number of cases of possible disadvantage which would become clear disadvantages will be determined by the two factors, previously mentioned, namely which buyer made the “ critical bid “ and whether or not a buyer against whom the “ critical bid “ was made, would or would not exceed his limit.
Once again, in 92 cases out of 121, pies made no difference to the price, while the over-all reduction in price caused by pies was id. per lb.
Let us put this matter in its right perspective. Appendix B to this report reveals that only 12 per cent, of the wool which was acquired by wool-buyers in New South Wales and Queensland was acquired through lot splitting or transfer of lots.
– That is overall throughout New South Wales and Queensland.
– I am corrected by the honorable member. The point is that 88 per cent, of the wool was bought free from the operation of pies and 12 per cent, was bought under the pie system. If 12 per cent., which is about one-eighth, was affected by pies, and if the price paid for the lots was reduced by one-halfpenny per lb., it is not hard to see that the total reduction as a result of the operation of pies was about one-sixteenth of one penny per lb. spread over the total wool clip. I am sorry that I have not a blackboard here so that honorable members would be able to follow me a little more closely. I think that the figures which I have quoted place the matter in its proper perspective.
Here is Labour’s new look for the primary producer! Here is Labour’s new policy which will make the primary producer fabulously wealthy! As I have indicated from my reading of extracts from Mr. Justice Cook’s report, which is a soundlybased and well-reasoned document, the complete abolition of pies would mean that the price of wool throughout Australia would be increased by one-sixteenth of one penny per lb. If one takes the average bale of wool at between 300 lbs. and 320 lbs., there would be an increase in price of about ls. 8d. a bale - an infinitesimal amount. I do not claim that pies should not be curtailed. I think that they should be and thai they will be, but they are not the bonanza which honorable members opposite would have us believe ‘them to be.
There is no doubt that we shall not increase the price of wool by attacking the wool-buyers. We can do it only by spending vastly increased sums of money on research and promotion. If honorable members opposite want to see a rise in the price of wool, they should tackle organizations which are not supporting the Australian Wool Bureau in its request for increased funds for promotion, instead of wasting their own, and the House’s, time with a motion such as we have before us. It is absolutely essential that the Australian Wool Bureau should obtain increased funds. I am glad to learn that the Graziers Federal Council has approved of funds being made available to the bureau, but there are organizations in the primary industries which expect it to achieve wonderful results but are not prepared to give it any additional finance. We must also increase our research into improved methods of manufacturing woollen goods. If we directed our attention towards promotion and research, we would obtain far better results than by seeking to abolish the pies.
In conclusion, let me repeat my three points: First, the Opposition is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill in this matter; secondly, the States can take the necessary action if the need to do so exists, and thirdly, action already is being taken which I hope will make legislation unnecessary.
.- I support the motion, which seeks to direct the attention of the people, first, to the Go vernment’s refusal to protect wool-growers against pies and rings which operate to their detriment, and secondly, to the Government’s continuing failure, after ten years in office, to protect the community generally from restrictive trade practices, such as pies. The prime object of honorable members on this side of the House in bringing this matter forward is to endeavour to protect the wool-growers of Australia from exploitation by the purchasing interests and to ensure a fair return to them. A fair return to the producers assists, not only the producers - the men who actually grow the wool - but also those who work in the industry in the various districts of Australia, and the people in the towns which depend upon the industry. The major source of employment in those towns and the major support for business and industry in those towns is the wool industry.
– How does the honorable member think the Commonwealth can do anything to assist?
– I shall deal with that aspect as I go along. The point I make now is that pies affect not only the woolgrowers, but also other people in the woolgrowing districts and, indeed, Australia generally, because wool is our most important export commodity. Anything that is done to reduce the amount of money that becomes available as the result of our sales of wool affects employment and the general prosperity of all sections of the community. It is for that reason that I say that the Government should interest itself in this problem, not only on behalf of the woolgrowers, but also on behalf of the people dependent on the wool industry both directly and indirectly.
I was astounded to hear the speech of the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn). He dealt with the matter very lightly indeed, but he must be very embarrassed in his electorate by the complaints of the wool-growers about pies formed by wool-buyers. He said that this matter could be dealt with by the States. He did not say by one State, but by the States. I say that it cannot be dealt with effectively by the States, but only by the Commonwealth. It would be useless for the New South Wales Government to bring down legislation to deal with pies and other restrictive practices in relation to wool sales unless similar legislation were brought down by the other State Governments, because there are wool-buying centres in Queensland and in other States. Any action taken by New South Wales would have no effect upon wool sales in other States. The practice that operates in New South Wales to the detriment of wool prices operates also in other States. This is, therefore, a matter with which the Commonwealth Government should deal.
I understand that the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) is considering ways and means to deal with restrictive trade practices in this country. I have been in this Parliament for over 25 years, and even before I came here I remember appeals being made to the people to give the Parliament wider powers to deal with such problems federally. They could be dealt with effectively if the States agreed to give the necessary powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. The States can now deal with all aspects of the problems but the Commonwealth can deal with only a few aspects. The Commonwealth would be able to deal with all aspects if the necessary powers were handed over by the States. It should not take years, but only weeks, for the States to agree to do that. I believe that if the States were approached on this matter they would be prepared to hand over such powers to the Commonwealth. As to a referendum, the Labour Party has stressed the need time and time again for a referendum seeking additional powers for the Commonwealth, not only in connexion with this matter, but in connexion with all restrictive practices - and there are many of them - which are detrimental to the people.
Yesterday, during a debate on the wheat industry, we saw that the wheat-growers have a much more suitable method of disposing of their products than have the wool-growers. The latter act independently, and are being, as it were, taken for a ride by many of the buying interests to-day. The honorable member for Farrer said that the buyers are fine fellows and that if they are appealed to, they will do the right thing and cut out the pie system. I know a number of them personally. They are very fine fellows, but at the same time they are hard-headed business people who are trying to get our primary products at as low a price as they possibly can. They are out to make as high a profit as they possibly can. There is such a thing as the forward selling of wool. I know of instances where some of the larger buyers have undertaken in advance to sell wool at a certain price, and then have depressed the market in order to buy the wool at a price below that at which they had undertaken to supply it. I understand that they made substantial profits of up to lOd. a lb., in addition to receiving the commission to which they were entitled.
The New South Wales Government was forced into taking action by the dictatorial attitude that was adopted by the woolbuyers in boycotting the Goulburn sales. The Goulburn sales are being carried on again now. Out of the inquiry into the boycott conducted by Mr. Justice Cook came much valuable information, but I think there is much more information which he was not able to get. During the time I have been in the Parliament, I have been associated with people in all sections of the wool industry. Many buyers told me that they were not game to give evidence before the commission presided over by Mr. Justice Cook because it would have meant that they would be penalized and handicapped in their future operations in the wool industry.
There are about 160 buyers operating in the industry to-day, but about six of them buy 50 per cent, of the wool that is sold in Sydney at the present time. The smaller buyers - because of the actions of this Government, which I shall deal with later - have to obtain finance from the larger buyers, and they have had to split their commissions with those larger buyers. The smaller buyers have orders to fulfil, but, because of the pie system, they are unable to go into the market as free agents, as they did in the past, and pay a fair market price. They have to enter into an arrangement with some of the big buyers, who monopolise the market. They agree to pay the bigger buyers a half of their commission, which, I understand, amounts to about 25s. a bale, and they are required to pay something for the finance which has been provided. The smaller buyers can operate only in a humble way because of the ramifications of the activities of the few big buyers. One buyer who had been operating for over twenty years - he is still a comparatively young man - told me that he had to withdraw from the market because it was impossible for him to carry on, in view of the way in which the market was monopolized by a few big buyers. He is only one of a number of buyers who have had to withdraw from the market.
Wool, as we know, is sold at the price which the buyer is prepared to pay. The prices put on a product by a buyer and a seller are always entirely different. I venture to say that if a boot manufacturer offered his product for sale at the price which people would like to pay, he would very soon go broke. In most cases, manufacturers fix the price which they charge on a basis which will give them a fair and just profit in addition to the cost of production, although I am afraid many of them fix their prices at a level above that. In the wool industry, however, the buyer fixes the price. The price of everything that the wool-grower requires to carry on his operations is fixed by the supplier, but for his own product he has to take what the buyer is prepared to give. Mr. Justice Cook’s report states a number of facts which cannot be denied. A previous speaker tried to suggest that the matter of pies operating in the industry, in effect, did not matter much at all. Mr. Justice Cook came to the conclusion that- “ Pies “ were a negation of the basic principles of a free auction system.
They deprived the market of the stimulus of free, unrestricted bidding.
Their inherent purpose was to enable wool to be bought more cheaply. “Pies” resulted in some portion of the clip being sold for less than would otherwise be paid for it.
Those are specific statements which show that there was no doubt left in the mind of His Honour, whatever may have been said in relation to certain buying transactions which he had investigated. The overall opinion was that these pies were detrimental to the industry. Mr. Justice Cook further said - “ Pies “ cannot be regarded as benefiting growers. There is, in fact, a limitation of competition. Accordingly, I find that . . . there are many combinations for limiting or excluding competition in the trade of wool.
He added -
Every “ pie “ constituted a combination with intent to restrain trade in wool.
On those statements there is no doubt of the opinion held by His Honour. The New South Wales Government realized that it could not act effectively in the wool industry because the pies operate Australiawide, and referred the matter to the Commonwealth Government. I think the Commonwealth Government should be prepared to take some action to deal with the restraint of trade and protect our major wool-growers. To many growers the wool industry is unstable because of the fluctuating price. One year it is up, the next it is down. Consequently, a man’s financial commitments are uncertain and from time to time he is faced with very serious difficulties. If a poll were taken to ascertain the views of all the wool-growers of Australia, an overwhelming majority of them would be in favour of some definite action to set up a stabilized marketing scheme.
In the latest issue of “ Muster “ - the organ of the Graziers Association of New South Wales - dated Tuesday, 22nd March, a report appears of some of the proceedings at the association’s recent conference. I shall refer to several portions of it. A motion was proposed by Mr. Bremner, who lives at Condobolin in my electorate and is a counsellor of the Graziers Association, in favour of the introduction of an auction reserve price arrangement for wool marketing. He stated several reasons why this should be done. He was supported by Mr. Le Lievre, of Cobar, who said that graziers would be happier with a reserve price for wool.
The mover pointed out that the amount of wool offered and the number of selling days were fixed. I think that recently some arrangement has been made to improve that situation, but one problem facing the wool industry was that too much of one class of wool was offered over a limited period and this had some effect on the price. Mr. Bremner said -
It leaves us at the mercy of the speculative buyer.
He felt that some specific action should be taken to remedy that position. A slightly different point of view was expressed by Mr. O’Brien, of Quambone, who moved, as an amendment, that -
In view of the violent fluctuations under the auction system, which are unsatisfactory to both manufacturers and producers, an appraisement system be adopted for the disposal of wool.
That was seconded by Mr. Bucknell, a council member from Coonamble whom I have known for many years. He said that the scheme was the only way he could see to deal with the futures question. Four delegates to that conference, two of whom were councillors of the Graziers Association, expressed those opinions. Many members of the Graziers Association and of other organizations covering wool-growers have said that a majority of the growers would favour a scheme such as that outlined here. I am confident that the members of the Graziers Association would agree to it and this would be clearly demonstrated if the matter were put to a vote of all its members and not left to the decision of a few who may have other interests to serve besides the production of wool. Mr. Bremner said -
It is no longer a “fair dinkum” auction. The days of the smaller independent buyer, buying on a commission, are finished.
He said that for that reason there should be a change from the present system. He considered that the Commonwealth Government should do something about this, and thought that one practical way in which it could help the growers would be to bring the parties together and take a referendum of the growers. He believed that they would endorse the plan to go ahead with some specialized system of marketing similar to that in operation at the conclusion of the war. This would give the growers security over a long period.
The Government is responsible, in many ways, for the wool industry suffering the ill-effects of a fall in price. Speaking at the Graziers Association conference Mr. Bremner said -
One typical example of a short-term effect was in 1957, when the London bank rate was raised from 4 per cent, to 8 per cent This had an immediate effect on buying firms which finance through London.
They wanted our wool but were temporarily restricted by finance, and we continued to sell full catalogues at best offer.
As I have emphasized in this House before, when the bank rate was increased in England, Professor Sir Douglas Copland said that we should have reduced the bank rate here in order to make more money freely available to assist the buying of wool in Australia. But the opposite to that was done. Through this Government, interest rates in Australia were increased’ from 5 per cent, to 8 per cent. That made it difficult for buyers to obtain money. Many small buyers could not get the finance they required at the time and had to pull out of the market. Large buyers were operating and made their pies more effective. The small buyers had to obtain finance through the large operators, for which they had to pay substantial interest. Consequently, the small buyers became subservient to the large buyers. The Government was a party to bringing about that situation. I drew attention to the position at the time, and before it became known publicly, but the Government allowed it to continue. It has been pointed out since then that the Government should have made money more freely available and that interest rates should have been reduced instead of increased, as they were at the time.
I believe that this Government has not helped the wool-growers in that it has not tried to bring about a scheme of orderly marketing of their product at a reasonable price over a period. This should be done in the interests of the wool-growers of Australia generally. I believe that the Government has acted to the detriment of the woolgrowers, because it has not reduced interest rates. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia should be used to make money available for short terms to the wool-buyers. This would result in more buyers operating in Australia. Buyers from other countries have told me-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Governor-General made it quite clear in his Speech that the Government is concerned about the growth of practices which may be impeding free competition in the business world and that it proposes to look into the matter and to search for remedies.
– Are you really serious about that?
– Perfectly serious. I have been engaged on it for some time. Honorable members will know, of course, that the matter is necessarily fraught with great difficulties. In the first place, not every practice which may hamper competition is bad. There must be found some criterion as to which practice is to be put out of bounds and which not. Probably, in the long run, one will come down on the side of the public interest. Those practices which are injurious to the public interest ought to be made illegal and proper machinery ought to be devised for the policing of the law, that being, very often, one of the weaknesses in statutes which attempt to control these practices which, by one means or another, reduce the effectiveness of a free-enterprise economy. This Government believes in a free-enterprise economy and proposes to protect it by suitable means within its powers. It proposes to explore to the uttermost limits the powers which the Commonwealth has. However, I do not propose to take up the time of the House now in enlarging on any of these difficulties or in speaking about what remedies may be found, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I have listened to this debate because I have, as the House knows, a particular interest in this matter, much of the exploratory work, no doubt, being likely to fall on my shoulders. But I say, with very great respect, that I have not heard anything which has led me to any conclusion. The debate has been confined largely to these pies, and Opposition members have asked, “Why does not the Commonwealth do something about these pies? “ I want to say a couple of things about that. The Opposition has picked, I suppose, the best example it could take if it were attempting to show how futile is any suggestion that the Commonwealth should at present do anything about these pies.
Let me make my points about that in this way. The States, when they have power, many times find that it is inconvenient to exercise their power singly because business will be driven away from them. That cannot be said about wool. We have here a commodity which cannot be pushed out of a State because that State passes an effective law against lot-splitting or agreements such as are described as pies. Such a law could not make the slightest difference to the trade in wool of one State vis-a-vis another. So here we have a commodity and a practice with which one State can deal without in any way doing itself harm. That is the first thing that I want to say.
The second thing that I want to say is that three States have very admirable laws which enable them to deal with lotsplitting. These are very good laws and they are apt to cover operations such as occur in these pies.
– Those laws are well circumvented in Victoria, as the Minister will see if he goes into the stock markets.
– They have not been made applicable in Victoria. I shall come to that in a moment. These laws which are designed to stop lotsplitting and which, I should think, are effective to do so, await only the scratch of a pen in all three States to become effective in respective of wool. You would have, of course, no constitutional arguments and no doubts about it. You would have very simple and direct procedures. These statutes havebeen there for a very considerable time - the one in New South Wales since 1941. I have brought to the House with me the relevant volume of the New South Wales Statutes in order that I may read to honorable members portion of the act in question describing the offence which it creates. This will show the House how the offence fits the pie like a glove. It is tailor-made for it. The New South Wales Auctioneers, Stock and Station, Real Estate and Business Agents Act 1941- 1957, states -
Any person who induces or attempts to induce any other person to abstain from bidding at a sale by auction of cattle or farm produce either generally or for any particular lot, by means of a promise, express or implied, that he will if he is the successful bidder for the cattle or farm produce -
give such other person the right to elect to take over as purchaser through the auctioneer all or any of the said cattle or farm produce at the auction price; or
agree to decide by tossing or the drawing of lots or other method who is to become the owner of all or any of the said cattle or farm produce, shall be liable for a first offence to a penalty ….
If you take Mr. Justice Cook’s description of a pie and put it beside that statute, you will see that that statute is tailor-made for the pie.
Each of the three States with statutes of this kind took power to extend its statute to cover wool by proclamation - by a scratch of the pen - but they have not so extended their statutes. In New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, the three States which have these laws, there have been Labour Governments during the period over which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who raised this matter, says he has known that pies have been operating. We have had a Labour Government in New South Wales for a long time, and we had the Cain Government in Victoria and the Hawke Government in Western Australia.
– All with writer’s cramp.
– That is right; all with writer’s cramp. But there is worse than that. You can test the sincerity of the motion now before the House quite easily, and I shall come to that later in relation to what has happened. Here, you have a secure method of doing what is required. The States can act severally without any difficulty whatever. To say the least of it, there may be some difficulty about Commonwealth power. I do not want to go into that except to say that, as to this matter, there must be some difference of opinion in some respects. But, here, you have State statutes as to which there may be no question, and they can be enforced in respect of wool without damage being done to any State. That is not always true of all commodities.
– Most of the wool from a State which took action would go to other States.
– The honorable member has had his say. I suggest that he now keep quiet. The big thing - and the thing that I have learned since I came to the House this afternoon - indicates why this motion has been timed as it has been and, I think, accounts for it. The honorable member for Lalor has said that the Australian Labour Party had known of these pies throughout the whole period. We know, of course, that however much State and Federal organizations of the party differ they can co-operate when they want to achieve some things - as we have noticed recently. There is no difficulty then. Yet these people who now weep crocodile tears for the wool-growers have remained mum although in possession of the infor mation and of statutory power to put down the practice. They have done nothing. In the light of that, what does the House think of the motion now before it? We know, of course, that a by-election is in the offing.
The Governor-General has told us that the Government is contemplating what it can do with respect to restrictive practices and monopolies. Does the House think that this motion has been proposed really in order to protect the wool-growers or does it think that somebody in some State is thought to be fooled? I hope that those who are listening to me and who listened to the honorable member for Lalor will remember this one fact: For years, the honorable member has known of these practices. He says they are dreadful and are costing money. I do not know whether or not they are, but he says they are.
– You know that when Labour was in office there was an effective marketing organization.
– There was not in 1955. You knew in 1955 when Hawke was in office in Western Australia. You knew when Cain was in office in Victoria and when Cahill was in office in New South Wales. In each State, the Labour Government had an act that was effective and tailor-made for the job, but we have had to wait until now to hear from the honorable member for Lalor on this matter.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am somewhat surprised to find myself participating in the discussion at this juncture. One would have expected the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) - the Government’s legal Minister - to spend a little more time enlightening the House and the people about the legal position not only of the State governments but also of the Commonwealth Government. Instead, he failed to grapple with the problem. The honorable gentleman read the terms of a provision taken from a statute which was enacted in Victoria in 1936. I have had a look at the legal position from the stand-point of the States, too, and I want to tell the Attorney-General, first and foremost, that there is no legislation of the kind which he has mentioned in New South Wales, Queensland. South Australia and Tasmania. In addition to that, Western Australia conceived the legislation to which he has referred. It was passed some time back and is known as the Sales by Auction Act 1937. So far as it relates to wool, the act provides that it shall not come into operation until a date to be fixed by proclamation. No date has yet been so fixed.
It is obvious that the lack of action on the part of the State governments is due to the fact that they are afraid that the growers in their own States could be adversely affected. Why was Mr. Justice Cook appointed a royal commission to go into this question of pies? The reason was that the wool-buyers had decided to boycott the wool sales in Goulburn, New South Wales. I would not be surprised if we found that the Victorian act to which the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has referred is a dead letter because the Victorian Government knows what the implications would be and how it would adversely affect the wool-growers in Victoria.
This matter should be dealt with on a national basis. The wool-growers of Australia demand it. There is a campaign in Victoria now to demand that some action be taken in the light of the findings of Mr. Justice Cook. It is idle twaddle for the Attorney-General to spend six minutes reading a section of a Victorian act and then simply to sit down. He has told the House that he has this matter in hand. This Government has had many matters in hand since 1949, but they have never seen the light of day. Why was reference to restrictive trade practices and monopolies left to the very last paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech if the Government was not just pushing it aside? This piece of legislation should have been one of the first brought down by the Government, in the light of Mr. Justice Cook’s findings in New South Wales.
I support the motion that has been moved by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). We on this side of the House are conscious of what it means, not only in relation to the wool-growers but also to those who are employed in the wool industry and those who have businesses and commercial undertakings in woolproducing districts. Above all, as the honorable member for Lalor has pointed out, the price of wool has a very important effect on the national income and, therefore, upon the interests of the community. A rise or fall of Id. per lb. in the price of wool means £7,000,000 to the national income.
It is true that lot splitting takes place in the sale of wool. That is apart from the pies. The practice of pies has developed since the first sale in October, 1921, when the Hughes Government, after the First World War, decided that wool could not be exported under 8d. per lb. The pieswere a reaction by buyers from overseas, and the practice has grown. It was accentuated by the threatened boycott of the Goulburn sales. Numbers of firms and1 individuals buying for overseas interests do not operate in the auction rooms in Australia but buy through wool brokers. Subsequently the broker transfers to each of his clients the wool he has purchased on their behalf. Australian manufacturers do not maintain a direct buying organization. They buy according to a normal buyingprogramme, but where a buyer has orders for different markets which are selling simultaneously, he might request a buying broker to negotiate a purchase and transfer the lot after the sale.
Pies operate where transfers of lots take place as the result of a pre-arranged agreement between buyers to apportion these purchases. In effect, these arrangements con.situte a buying ring and they are known in the trade as a pie. The practice of pieing has a detrimental effect on the wool auction market and the grower gets a lower price for his wool than he would otherwise because when the members of a pie operate they have a cash limit. As there is lack of competition, wool is bought at a lower price than it would be if the buyers operated independently.
As the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has said, large buyers are operating on the wool market in Australia, and the small man is being pushed aside. The honorable member referred also tothe effect of the rise in the British interest rate. All these things have had a cumulative effect. The prosperity of Australia depends largely on the prices we can secure for our wool, and it is up to this Government to do everything it can to ensure that the wool-growers and the community get a fair crack of the whip when wool is offered at public auction. During the First World War, auctions were suspended and an acquisition scheme was put into operation, but from October, 1920, when the auctions were resumed, this new method of lot splitting was put into practice and overseas buyers resorted to pies. The wool brokers and the commission buying houses replaced the individual buyers. The overseas buyers had found that they were making competition for each other and it was to their mutual advantage to come to an agreement.
To-day, buyers who want large quantities of wool inevitably find there is pressure on them to join a pie or a ring. Commission buying became firmly established after October, 1920, and pies became the order of the day. The buyers found they had a better opportunity to fill clients’ orders promptly and to buy wool cheaply. After the Second World War, the buyers again resorted to pies, and that is the position to-day. Commission buying houses still handle the greater part of our overseas exports. It would be difficult to ascertain just what legitimate divisions take place and what quantity of wool is divided by virtue of membership of a pie. An investigation into the practice of pies would indicate that the splitting or transferring of lots tends to suppress competition and so defeats the basic objective of the auction selling system.
The Attorney-General has said that this Government believes in free enterprise, and will do everything possible to protect it, but what does the Minister for Primary Industry say the Government proposes to do with regard to pies? Nothing! Here is our greatest industry, upon which the prosperity not only of the grazier, but of the whole community is dependent in large measure. But no action will be taken by the Government to protect free enterprise and to ensure that the Australian people, and particularly the men who grow the wool, get a fair price, a free-enterprise, public-auction price, and not a pie or prearranged price.
– What action would you take?
– I shall deal with that in a minute. That is why I am on my feet.
This artificially limited competition can create a cumulative depressing effect on the market, to the detriment of the community as a whole. The practice of splitting and transferring lots is wrong in principle, but there is a fear in the minds of some growers that any interference with pies may lead to buyers adopting other measures that would have a detrimental effect on the market. Just as propaganda was poured into the ears of growers at the time of the referendum on the post-Joint Organization set-up, for which propaganda they fell, propaganda is again being poured out. It is said that if there is interference with pies the buyers will resort to some other practice and may even go so far as to get the governments of their countries to impose import restrictions which will adversely affect the market. It is said that some retaliatory measures may be taken.
The onus is on this Government, which is the national government, to protect our vital industries. It has been suggested that if the brokers insisted on payment from the buyers to whom the wool was knocked down the added difficulties consequent upon the necessity to re-invoice and collect payment for purchases divided with other buyers might tend to restrict the practice of pie-ing. It has been suggested that instead of lot splitting being a direct transfer from the buyer to a particular individual, it should be made necessary, under legislation, for the buyer to re-invoice. That would mean only the employment of a couple of extra clerks, so there is no excuse for not taking this course. The wool-buyers operate pies not only to enable them to buy cheaply, but also to fill their orders promptly within their buying limits. Pie-ing has reduced the number of bidders at auction although a great number of bidders remains. This position is not confined to the major woolselling centres, but applies also in the smaller selling centres where the buyers, who are usually brokers, buy on the same principle as that of the lot splitter and pie member.
Mr. Justice Cook, a free and independent person, made an unbiased report on this problem. In it he said that pies were the very negation of the basic principles of free enterprise because they restricted competition. This Government has a hide to talk about protecting free enterprise. Woolgrowers are almost unanimous in their desire to retain the free-auction system. Woolgrowers, especially the small growers, are almost unanimous in wanting to get back to the floor price system that was operating during World War II. When all is said and done, the floor price is the minimum and not the maximum price. On no occasion in the past has the minimum price become the maximum. The growers, therefore, look forward to the day when this Government will deal with the problem of pies, return to the floor price system, fail into line with New Zealand and South Africa, and give the growers some measure of security which they do not have at the moment. As well as giving security to wool-growers, we want to build up our overseas balances. The interests of the community and protection of the national income demand that the Government take some action to prevent restraint of trade through the restrictive practices of pies.
Mr. MACKINNON (Corangamite) 15.221. - The debate was initiated by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in an attempt to pass some form of criticism on the Federal Government for not taking action to deal with the system of pies in the wool trade. Whether justified or not, the honorable member’s action at least opens up a subject of great interest not only to this House but also to Australia generally. Having read the Cook report, which presumably forms the basis of this debate, I should like to pay Mr. Justice Cook a very distinct compliment on the thorough, impartial and, I believe, effective manner in which he conducted his inquiry, particularly in view of the fact that the inquiry arose from a very serious difference over the wool-buyers’ banning of the Goulburn sales. The inquiry could have been turned into what I would call a heresy hunt if it had not been controlled and maintained on such a high level by Mr. Justice Cook.
I think it is quite obvious to all who have listened to this debate that, while the intentions of the honorable member for Lalor might be good, his arguments, at least, were poor. Not one specific suggestion has been made which would give the woolgrower or the public generally the least idea that something could be done in a tangible way about this problem. Not one positive suggestion has been brought forward. In fact, the only suggestion I have heard so far came from a slightly irresponsible member of the Opposition, the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay), and it might strike a note of warning for those wool-growers who might believe that Opposition members are their champions. He expressed the rather alarming theory that the whole of the wool industry should be controlled. I think that people engaged in the industry will realize that when the honorable member for Darebin refers to control he means Labour control. That, I suggest, is probably the most important suggestion to come from the Opposition during this discussion.
Pies are no new arrangement. It is no exaggeration to say that I have known of pies in the wool industry for 35 years, but I think Mr. Justice Cook has clearly brought out in his report that the pie has developed over the years into a very complicated and effective method of dealing with the buying side of the wool industry. Its growth has been assisted by the increased number of lots being offered, the need to get through lots quickly in the wool selling season and the need to provide larger lots. By that I mean the need to make greater numbers of bales in each lot, not only by the grower having his clip classed in that way but also by the selling broker bringing similar wools together into larger lots. On a previous discussion of this nature, I suggested to the honorable member for Lalor that if we were going to a sheep sale together and knew that we both wanted the same line of breeding ewes, and also knew approximately what we intended to pay, it is highly unlikely that we would bid against each other. That is one thing, but there can be no doubt that the principle of pie operation completely contravenes the spirit of legislation concerning the auction system of selling. As has been pointed out by other honorable members, this legislation has not always been applied to wool, but pies certainly contravene the spirit of an auction sale.
After a particularly lucid, and I thought reasonably simple, explanation of the legal position by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), I was rather surprised to learn that the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) apparently did not understand what he had said. This means only that the arguments of the honorable member for Kennedy, while they certainly had plenty of force, lacked a lot of logic. On the legal position, Mr. Justice Cook brought out fairly clearly that the existing New South Wales legislation was sufficient to deal with this problem. On page 12 of his report, when dealing with the introduction of legislation, he said -
Probably much the same result could be achieved if a proclamation were issued under sub-section (2) of section 44 of the Auctioneers, Stock and Station, Real Estate and Business Agents Act 1941.
This means that the section could be proclaimed to include wool within the definition of “ produce “ and so make the legislation apply effectively to wool. Similarly, the Victorian act, by a very simple amendment, could include wool in addition to “ livestock “. I have no doubt that legislative authority could be made available, where it does not exist, within State authority and I believe that the honorable member for Lalor, who has been a member of this Parliament for very many years and who has a wide knowledge of State and Federal legislation, would know that the power to deal with this problem is directly within the ambit of State jurisdiction.
I think that the discussion so far has neglected to appreciate the commission’s finding on pies. The first finding is that pies are a negation of the free auction principle. I think every one is agreed on that. The second finding is that they restrict free bidding. There is no doubt about that. The third finding is that they are intended to effect purchases at prices under free market levels. I do not think that there is any question about that, either. Finally, they result in at least portion of catalogues being offered under the price that would be obtained if no pies were operating. These conclusions are set out on page 10 of the report and are of some importance. We then should try to determine whether the system is actually detrimental overall. On this, Mr. Justice Cook said -
I agree that it cannot be stated positively that pies in fact have caused a diminution in the national income. In order to make a finding on such an issue there would be involved of necessity a comparison between what in fact is received from the sale of the wool clip under pie conditions and what would be received- or, as a matter of proper inference, be likely to be received - under “ non-pie “ conditions.
We have definite indications that pies do lower prices, but Mr. Justice Cook was not prepared in his report to state specifically that they are detrimental to the national income. Similarly, the effect of pies on the overall wool price, which is a problem that concerns the wool-grower more than any other factor, must not be over-emphasized. The general level of world prices, as opposed to temporary fluctuations within a current series of sales, depends on many factors. These factors include the availability of finance for wool purchases.
We need think only of the time a few years ago when, due to economic aid in Europe, a number of countries such as France and Italy were able to make substantial purchases of Australian wool, but when their money ran out the price of the type of wool in which they specialized suffered severely. More recently, the question arose of the finance available to Japan, through its central government, for the purchase of Australian wool.
The second factor concerns the activity of woollen and worsted manufacturers throughout the world. Nothing that pies do can affect this activity. A third factor is the public demand for manufactured woollen articles through the retail system. This is a matter that affects all of us here, as well as ordinary persons throughout the world, because the stability of prosperity makes finance available for people to buy more woollen goods, if they want them. A fourth, and I think more important, factor at the moment is the activity of the manufacturers of synthetics. It is quite obvious that the operation of pies can have little or no direct bearing on the factors I have mentioned. These factors determine the general wool price, and in its favour the pie system has the advantage, I believe, of preventing violent fluctuations upwards. These fluctuations could do lasting harm to the general wool trade. It may be said that, in 1950-51, at the time of the Korean war, pies were operating. But I think it should be said that the American buying agencies which boosted wool prices at that time broke every rule known to auction purchasing. They bid against each other and were prepared to knock out any other buyers. While pies were operating at that time, they were completely under the domination of this vast American buying power.
The report of the commissioner indicates the desirability of introducing suitable legislation to restrain the activities of pies. I do not think that any one would question the wisdom of that type of legislation. Mr. Justice Cook pointed to the fact that it was within the sovereign power of the State of New South Wales to introduce legislation on the lines that he suggested. But the policing of that type, of legislation, I believe, presents some very serious problems and- such policing could bring detrimental results, to the wool trade generally. One of the few, points at which the activity of a pie can.be identified is the actual point of delivery of the wool from the broker. Mr. Justice. Cook, in his report, mentions the difficulty’ of separating a genuine brokerage client from a customer who is taking a part’ of a lot purchased through a pie.
It is generally accepted, I think, that pies operate against the seller’s interest, at least in the general run of sales,, particularly in a period of fluctuating demand in which the buyers’ limits are affected. A legislative programme within the sphere of activity of the States would not present any great drafting difficulties. The supervision and enforcement of such legislation would be much more difficult, and the responsibility placed on the selling brokers would not be effective if pie buyers wished to circumvent the legal restrictions. It would not be beyond the powers or the legal rights of organizations of buyers to form a buying organization overseas, sending out one or two people to do the purchasing for a whole group of customers, comprising different firms and even different countries. The problem is, therefore, not quite as simple as it might appear. I believe, in fact, that legislation introduced to impose sanctions could bring about a much tighter organization of buying interests, which could act both as buyer and shipping agent for vast numbers of clients.
These considerations bring me to the belief that while it- would obviously be possible in theory to impose effective sanctions, this might not bring the required result, but might react against the auction selling system. I suggest that growers have available to them a worthwhile safeguard at the present time, to which they should give serious consideration. I suggest they might consider giving moral as well as financial support to. the wool-buying co-operative company that has been formed in Goulburn by Mr. P. J. Osborne, a wellknown resident of the Bungendore district.
Following on the unfortunate circumstances associated with, the ban on Goulburn as a wool-selling centre, Mr. Osborne, showing commendable initiative, set up a company. Its transactions have been quite considerable. I believe, in fact, that companies operating in this way could overcome two of the difficulties facing the wool trade to-day - first, the existence of pies, and, secondly, the clamour that is heard from so many people to get away from the auction system and to adopt some form, of appraisement system or reserve price system. The company I have mentioned operates from Goulburn but has been buying wool all over Australia. In its limited sphere of activities, governed by its financial capacity, it has already bought in. Perth £100,000 worth of wool, in Brisbane £150,000, in Geelong £60,000, in. Sydney £310,000 and in Goulburn and Newcastle £60,000.
I suggest that growers throughout Australia should not allow themselves to be bulldozed into taking action prejudicial to their- own industry, but that they should stick to the principle of free enterprise and devise their own. method’ of: dealing with these problems. I believe this is within their capacity, and while not wishing to put in a particular plug for Mr. Paddy Osborne, let me say that I admire what he has done. I hope his enterprise, goes on from strength to strength, and I hope, moreover, that it will receive general support from> growers, not only in New South Wales but throughout the Commonwealth.
Mr. Speaker, the arguments of the Opposition have been pretty limited and very nebulous. Opposition supporters have not- put forward anything that could be called a practical solution - something that we can introduce straight away. They have confined themselves to trying to transfer the responsibilities of the States to the Federal Government. They refuse to acknowledge that the State governments can take effective action any time they wish to do so. For these reasons the Opposition’s arguments fall to the ground. It is somewhat unfortunate that the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) did not have sufficient opportunity to make the legal position slightly clearer to those who were unable to appreciate his simple arguments.
.- This debate has taken the lid off the restrictive trade practices that have been carried on in our great wool industry. For that reason alone it is a worthwhile debate.
I fully support the motion of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). The Labour Party has done its best to keep this Parliament and the nation informed of what is going on behind the scenes in wool marketing. What we have seen, and what we have been informed of, we do not like. It is about time the Government’s platitudes were put into practical politics, and it is about time the Government did something more active than talking about the problem.
– How do you put a platitude into practical politics?
– I leave that to you.
– I thought you would.
– The Liberals claim they can do everything. In this day and age, restrictive trade practices are as obvious as the declining vote for the Liberal Party. In the electrical industry, there are many cases of restrictive trade practices. The ice cream industry has fixed the price of its products throughout the country. The kitchen sink manufacturers comprise the latest group that I have heard of that has entered the field. There are three organizations selling kitchen sinks in Canberra, and they all sell their sinks for the same price.
It is noteworthy that when prices are fixed, they are always fixed high, and never fixed low. The old-fashioned free enterprise system is crumbling. It is being crushed by monopolies formed by rings of manufacturers getting together and agreeing to charge specified prices for their products. “ Restrictive trade practices “ is too mild a term for the wicked machinations of the people who, behind the scenes, and acting contrary to the interests of the public, are cornering markets and fixing prices. We do not have government control of prices. Private enterprise, following the American pattern, is controlling prices in order to keep them permanently high, and thus eliminating the old-fashioned competition that this Government claims it stands for.
In all fields of enterprise to-day there is a tendency towards economic totalitarianism. It is the stone crusher of unbridled, ruthless capitalism, which is crushing out small businessmen remorselessly year by year. But this Government does nothing about it. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) agrees that pies are operating. Some other honorable members on the opposite side of the House are not so clear about it, or not so emphatic. For their benefit I would like to mention some of the findings of Mr. Justice Cook, which show that what is going on is not in the best interests of the growers or of the nation. Mr. Justice Cook forwarded a supplementary report to the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales on 30th October, 1959. I have had the privilege of reading it. He says -
The existence of arrangements between buyers concerning the purchase of wool is, and has been for many years, a common feature of our wool selling system.
As the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has said, it goes back to the end of the First World War. His Honour further said -
These various arrangements … all possess one common feature, namely that in general parties to such an arrangement refrain from outbidding each other in an effort to secure lots of wool which they are all desirous of acquiring, in return for which forbearance each member is entitled to claim some of such lots from the member who succeeds in obtaining them.
A salient feature emerges from the evidence taken by Mr. Justice Cook from five big buying firms. Notice the Australian names of these firms. They are Dreyfus, Dewavrin, Kreglingers, Prevost and Mitsubishi. According to Mr. Justice Cook’s report, there are two main features connected with this matter. It reads -
In some pies there is one firm which is always the active bidder in competition with buyers who are not members of the pie, and if successful claims can be made on this particular firm by the other pie members. The Dreyfus pies are examples of this type of pie, also the Dewavrin pie.
Mr. Justice Cook referred to these as oneway pies. He goes on to say -
In other pies any member may bid, in which case the other pie members refrain from overbidding him. Claims are then made on the member who is successful. The Mitsubishi pie is an example. These may be described as reciprocal pies.
They have even got polite names for those taking part in this subterfuge. From the evidence given at the hearing, it has been shown to be the general rule that a pie member who has a right to claim on another pie member will not outbid that pie member unless he specially requires a particular lot. Mr. Justice Cook says -
It is clear, however, that outbidding does not occur very frequently - it is very rare - because, if a pie member were consistently to continue to bid in competition with another pie member then the pie arrangement with him would be terminated. All buyer witnesses agreed upon this point.
In Appendix A of his very valuable report, Mr. Justice Cook indicates the interlocking and widespread nature of the pie arrangements. There are six leading buyers. For instance, Kreglinger has pie arrangements with 24 other firms, Kanematsu - another Japanese firm - has pie arrangements with fourteen other firms, Prevost has them with 25 other firms, Dreyfus has them with six other firms, Dewavrin has them with nineteen other firms and McGregor - we actually get a Scottish name amongst them - has pie arrangements with sixteen other firms. There are approximately 56 buying firms operating at Australian wool sales under pie arrangements.
In Appendix B of his report, Mr. Justice Cook sets out figures relating to the activities of twenty buyers during the 1957-58 season. He has tabulated the information under various heads, these being “ Acquired ex auction “, “ Purchased as highest bidder at auction “, “ Acquired by lot splitting or transfer of lots “, “ Transferred to other buyers “, and “ Net transfers “. Here let me give examples to illustrate how the pies operate. For instance, Kreglinger bought, in round figures, 75,000 bales at auction. Of this quantity, the buyer lost 9,900 bales as a result of claims made upon it by members of its pies. Mr. Justice Cook says this about that transaction -
But Kreglinger also made claims, from time to time, on members of their pies and as a result acquired 30,800 bales. In other words they had a nett gain, as a result of their pie transactions, of 20,900 bales. … Thus they became the owners, as a result of their own purchase at auction and of their pie dealings, of 96,000 bales.
The conclusions to be drawn from a study of Appendix B of Mr. Justice Cook’s supplementary report show that pie transactions constitute over 50 per cent, of the purchases of the northern clip, and 56 buyers are connected in this interlocking pie arrangement. It is a tremendous organization. There are very few indeed who are not included in these behind-the-scenes arrangements. Some people doubt whether the effect has been serious. Others do not think that the effects are serious. We think that they are. Where do we find a true analysis of the conflicting ideas about pie transactions? I should like to put before the House the comments of a few men who came before Mr. Justice Cook. The report states -
Mr. Campbell, president of the Australian Council of Wool Buyers, was asked whether he thought, if pies were prohibited, that growers would suffer. He said he thought they might; he would not say growers overall would suffer and he did not think growers overall suffered now. He also stated, “ Some individual growers undoubtely do, because obviously if wool is going to be bought below the limits of two buyers who do not compete with one another, he cannot get the same price as if they did compete to the utmost. On the other hand, if competition is completely free and people bid up, and outbid one another, the tendency will be for some growers on some days to get excellent prices, but when the major buyers fill their orders they will either have them renewed, at lower limits probably, or cancelled altogether. On the other hand people on lower limits will come in and buy cheaper.” He said he meant by this that it really depended on “ the luck of the draw “. He agreed that “ the luck of the draw “ also determined the price which the grower was to get in many other respects.
Mr. Justice Cook went on to say ;
The specific case was put to Mr. Campbell of a pie of five of the biggest buyers in this State who were buying 20 per cent of the wool. Asked, assuming they were members of the one pie, and they were all “ on “ the wool, whether that pie would tend to decrease bidding in the room he said, “ If you get’ five of the biggest buyers I will agree, but it would not necessarily tend to decrease the result of the price “. However, when asked whether there was any doubt that the tendency of pie buying was that the men with the big limits got wool cheaply he said, “Yes, that is true”.
Mr. Justice Cook took specific cases of pie buying by two firms with a view to ascertaining what would have happened if there were no pie arrangements, and he contrasted that with what in fact did result from the pie arrangements. I submit that is the only true test.
– We have read the report. The passages you have read have been read three times to-day.
Mr.DUTHIE.- That is wonderful! I am emphasizing what the report says. Honorable members opposite do not like this because they are doing nothing to correct this evil. There were on sale nineteen lots totalling 84 bales. These were subject to pie claims by Sandersons. In the case of. five lots totalling twelve bales, the pie arrangement had no effect. That is to say, the price received by the grower was what he would have received if the pies had not existed. In the case of nine lots totalling 36 bales, there was a clear loss to the grower of from one farthing to2½d. per lb. because of pie arrangements, and in the case of a further five lots there was a possible loss to the grower of one farthing per lb. At 2d. per lb. a grower would lose £2 10s. a bale.
Another specific case was mentioned. It referred to the Sydney sale on 25th February, 1958, and to the sale at Brisbane during the next week. It related to purchases by Dreyfus. In six cases, the advantage to the firm buying under pie arrangements at those sales meant a clear loss to the grower of from one farthing to 2d. per lb. At the same sales, Kreglinger’s pie transactions were investigated by officers of the Auditor-General’s Department who discovered that in 31 out of 121 cases examined pie arrangements had no effect on the price the grower received but in 29 cases the loss to the grower was anything between one farthing and3½d per lb.
The final summing up as to the effect of pies on the industry is provided by Mr. Lamerand who was co-manager for Dewavrin from 1934 to 1948. From 1948 to 1951, he was sole attorney and general manager in Australia for the same firm and, from 1951 to 1955, when he voluntarily retired on a pension, he was the company’s chief buyer. He was a man of vast knowledge and experience and he gave evidence on this matter. He was asked by Mr. Justice Cook -
As far as this practice of pie buying is con cerned, in your opinion, what effect has it on the market?
His answer was -
It has a depressing effect on the market.
He was then asked -
Have you any doubt as to that?
His answer was -
The third question put to him was -
I suppose it also means this, does it not, that asa result of it the grower may well get a pricefor his wool which is less than he would get if there were no pies?
His answer was -
I am satisfied that is so.
The brokers are against the pie system. Mr. Woodward, of the Sydney Wool Selling Brokers Association, is against it. Mr. de Vos, of the Graziers Association, has said, “We want pies prevented”.
Mr. Justice Cook, in summing up, stated at page 10 of his report-
The pie system is steam-rolling competitions and there mustbe an interstate attack on it. Its disadvantages outweigh the advantages-. The problem cannot be tackled successfully by one State alone. All States must handle the matter in the same way, if we are to deal with it on a national scale. A ban in one State would be useless. Aft international ban would be best of all.
One of the tragedies of the wool industry is the lack of unity amongst the woolgrowers themselves. They have several’ organizations, some of which compete with each’ other rather than co-operate. For instance, there are the Australian Wool Growers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. It is ridiculous that an industry which is so vital toAustralia should be split in this way. The Australian Wool Growers Council wants the so-called free auction system to continue, while the Australian Wool and” Meat Producers Federation wants a reserve price system. The council represents the biggest wool-growers in Australia and the federation represents the smaller growers. If real justice is to be enjoyed by woolgrowers, of whom there are 90,000, and if the necessary corrective legislation is to be placed on the statute-book, certain steps are essential. First, the wool-growers must achieve unity. There are too many spokesmen. There is too much of the big man -versus the little man and too much dictation by the brokers and overseas financial louses.
The wheat-growers provide a good example of what should be done. The 60,000 wheat-growers are united in the Australian “Wheat Growers Federation. They have a stabilization plan which is the envy of the world, a plan which Labour introduced and which this Government has continued. It has given security and stability to an industry which, for decades, was reeling from the effects of boom and bust, indecision and banker dictation. The dairying industry also is organized into a single entity. We have the Apple and Pear Board to control the marketing of apples and pears. Yet, the wool industry is split into various pieces. No wonder the speculators can control the industry by the way in which they handle the buying of wool!
I believe that the wool men must decide what they want, something they do not know at the moment. The fairest way to find out what the growers want is to conduct a poll of growers, at which they would be asked whether they wanted, first, a true free auction system without pie restrictions; secondly, the present restricted free auction system; and thirdly, a reserve price system, with stabilization, and a free auction as its base. The result of the poll could determine what the Government should do in respect of the wool industry. I think that we should have a national marketing plan, guided by the Commonwealth Government and operated from the auction system on a reserve price basis. The wool industry should be controlled by the Government and growers in co-operation instead of it being controlled, as it is now, by grasping, interlocking speculators. The woolgrower is no longer in control of the industry, and neither is the Government. The outside speculators control it.
These matters all point to the fact that all of us, Labour and Liberal supporters alike, have to get together, in conjunction with the State governments, to solve this problem. Only in that way, and with a poll of growers instituted by the Government, shall we get common sense in this insane situation. We need to have the wool-growers united as a single force. They must know where they are going and what they want. I have great pleasure in supporting the proposal because it has brought the problems of this important industry before the Parliament, and has enabled a detailed discussion of them from both sides of the House.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Speaker, I had the great advantage this afternoon of listening to the speech of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) in reply to the attack made on the Government in relation to the subject of wool pies. I am bound to say that his speech, though brief, was so devastating that nothing remains to be said on that matter. He exposed the Opposition’s move as a piece of arrant political humbug. So, my colleague having successfully destroyed this attack, there is no reason why I should trample on the graves of the attackers.
But, Sir, the motion put forward by my friend the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) went beyond wool pies. It extended into the area of restrictive practices. About that also my colleague had something to say. Restrictive practices are, I imagine, attacked in the case of wool because it is said that they tend to reduce prices. In every other respect that I can think of, however, they are attacked because it is said that they increase prices and therefore increase profits, and therefore produce what the distinguished Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was good enough to describe, a few times at least, as a “profit inflation “.
– That is right.
– That is right! I am very glad that he is here, because I regard his words with great interest. Several times he has made it clear that this is a profit inflation. Therefore, I imagine that my distinguished friend will agree that this is just one phase of the attack, which the Opposition is going through the motions of making, on the subject of alleged excess profits and how to deal with them. Pies, coupled with the honorable name of General Motors-Holden’s Limited, represent the two ends of the scale. Now Sir-
– What about Sir William MacGregor?
– I have never heard oi Sir William MacGregor.
– You have heard of Sir William Angliss, though.
– Yes, I have, and how green with envy you have been ever since. I hate to use the word “ green “ because it may wake up troubles on the Opposition side and that, if I may say so to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), is the last thing I would want to do. Now, Sir, the Attorney-General has already said something about the difficulties that are involved in an attack on the problems of improper, harmful price agreements. I do not desire to add anything to what he said on that matter, but there are those, of course, who after a period of 59 years of this Parliament’s existence, profess to find that the problem is quite simple. No Government from this side of politics or from the other has ever found it simple; but I am happy to say that, reinforced as we are in this Government by the services, as Attorney-General, of the most distinguished constitutional lawyer at the Australian Bar, we are, in all earnestness, concentrating our minds on what can be done either in the general or in the particular.
The general treatment of this matter is not, of course, very easy because, as everybody knows, and as the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review recognized, the powers of the Commonwealth are sketchy; but the powers of the States within their own domain are clear, and the committee devoted a good deal of thought to producing its own solution of this matter. Now, I am not at all disposed to brush all that to one side. I think that the report on that matter is of great interest. I have read it two or three times. It is of great interest, but it does not solve the problem because, first of all, you have to determine whether you are going to seek to deal with these matters by clear Commonwealth law of control or whether you are going to seek to deal with them by co-operation between the Commonwealth acting within its powers and the States acting within theirs. And obviously this is not a matter about which at this stage we can do very much.
The Opposition professes to say - and I understand its attitude of mind - “ Well, here is the recommendation. All you have to do is put it forward. The people will approve of it and then the whole constitutional structure will be changed.” I do not want to be unduly melancholy about this matter; but I should like to remind all honorable members of the House that for a long time it was thought that the answer to this kind of problem was to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to legislate with respect to monopolies - a nice, round, mouth-filling phrase. But that phrase is understood by the Opposition in a quite different sense from that in which we would understand it. The Opposition is entirely in favour of monopolies so long as they are government monopolies. We, on the contrary, have always been disturbed about any monopolistic tendencies in the ordinary, and what ought to be competitive, business world.
I hope I will not be told that if I only had the right attitude of mind the Constitution could be altered to-morrow. I remind the honorable gentlemen opposite - as they have reminded us and others - that the Constitutional Review Committee’s report points out that five times in the history of the Commonwealth attempts have been made to secure power over monopolies for the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and five times the proposals have been rejected. I quite agree that on the last occasion, in 1944, the proposal found itself one of fourteen points which the then AttorneyGeneral was optimistic enough to think would be adopted in toto and which the people were pessimistic enough to reject in toto.
But, Sir, the constitutional problem is not a very easy one, and among the things that we all have to consider is whether we will travel faster and fare better by having cooperative action with the State governments and the State parliaments, than by trusting all to the chances of a constitutional amendment - one of 22 comparatively major constitutional amendments to which the attention of the Parliament is directed by the report that has been referred to so frequently in this debate.
There are, of course, some heads of power belonging to the Commonwealth under which, subject to the wind and weather of section 92 and those other prohibitive sections of the Constitution, we might be able to do something. I can assure the House that we have been concentrating our minds on this very matter. When it was said in the Governor-General’s Speech that we were closely investigating these matters, that is exactly what we meant. What is more, we mean to achieve as much result as we can within the limits of our power in reference to this matter at the earliest possible moment.
The whole House need have no exaggerated fears on those matters. But, Sir, as I said when I stood up - and I notice that the inexorable hand of the clock goes round and I have used up half of my time - this is one facet of the campaign which the new Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has launched with customary spirit and gaiety - profiteering - profit inflation. Therefore, I would like to say just a few words about this alleged case; because there is no better answer to a rhetorical case than a few simple, well-vouched facts. The honorable gentleman said in the general, and his colleague, the member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), said to-day in the particular in another connexion, that all these things are part of a profit inflation. In other words, these things represent that the present state of affairs in Australia, the inflation that is going on - the inflation which they used to describe a few years ago as a bogy - is due to extravagant profit making, whether it is made by rings or whether it is made in the ordinary course of business. Therefore, I would like to say, if I can be heard over the unkindly interruptions of my distinguished and very old friend, the honorable member for Lalor, that this talk about profit inflation is the greatest rubbish in the world. And, of course, if that falls to the ground all this becomes a mere skirmish directed to the non-wool-growing constituencies of Australia, which I gathered was the case this afternoon.
Now, Sir, a few facts. The last concluded financial year is 1958-59, and I hope I will not be contradicted on that. The national income in 1958-59 was £5,000,000,000. It was £5,021,000,000; but call it £5,000,000,000. Wages and salaries in Australia represented, out of that, £3,046,000,000. In other words, something well over -60 per cent, of the national income. Remember that; wages and salaries represented £3,046.,000,000. Company income, meaning by that the gross profit before taxation, was £630,000,000, and bank profits £28,000,000. So that the total profits of companies of all sorts, public and private and banks was £658,000.000. Out of that income, tax on companies and the banks amounted to £220,000,000, and that left £438,000,000. I produce these figures with reasonable slowness, because they are of great significance. Out of the £438,000,000, net dividends and profits sent abroad - and I emphasize that because the greatest friend that they have over there is General Motors-Holden’s Limited, and they generalize from General Motors-Holden’s Limited which, if I remember correctly, they had the great honour of establishing in this country - were £43,000,000. See how the figures are coming down. Dividends paid to Australian residents were £160,000,000.
So, out of that £658,000,000, taxation accounted for £220,000,000, and dividends, both sent overseas and left in Australia, amounted to £203,000,000, perceptibly less than the tax on these companies. Then, as we go down the line, that leaves us with undistributed profits of £235,000,000. We started with £658,000,000. Those undistributed profits of £235,000,000, going into the reserves of companies, have provided for their development. They have been ploughed back into the business. And when one of these enterprises, which we can abuse much too lightly in this country, ploughs back so high a percentage of its profits into its business, it means a new factory and extensions and more employment, more stability of employment and more security. I wonder how my distinguished friends opposite would like to go and tell the employees of one of these companies that they do not believe the company should have any capacity for financing its future development and future employment-
– Why don’t you go back to your muttons?
– If I did go back to my muttons, I would go directly to the honorable member. Of this remaining total of £235,000,000, residents accounted for £201,000,000. In other words, residents had the equity in this undistributed profit to the extent of £201,000,000; ;and these overseas monsters which are getting command of Australia had £43,000,000- £201,000,000 here and £43,000,000 overseas.
Now, Sir, I will just put that in summary. Of the total company profits - and this is all behind this motion, the object of the exercise - this is the case that the Australian Labour Party under new and garnished leadership thinks it has - of the total company profits earned in Australia, one-third comes to the Government as income tax for expenditure on the general social and other services of the country, 35 per cent, goes back into enterprises for development, for capital investment, future employment and for expansion of our industrial capacity, and near enough to 31 per cent, is paid out in terms of dividends. Now, Sir, those, ‘I think, are very interesting figures, and I refer to them because I believe that the Opposition has put this sorry little motion forward to-day as part and parcel of its general campaign on profits.
The only other thing I want to say is this - and I have three minutes in which to say it: We have occasionally been told from the other side of the House that if we did our duty we would impose an excess profits tax. And even the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who dies hard, as we all know in the last fortnight, keeps referring to this. May I remind him and may I remind the House that there have been quite a few attempts made to devise an equitable and just system of excess profits tax on companies which would not grievously handicap the new company established by some enterprising Australian starting from scratch. The late John Curtin had to abandon it. The late Mr. Chifley had to abandon it and, indeed, he was very frank about the matter because in 1947, in this very place, he said -
In ordinary peace-time circumstances this tax operates inequitably.
This is the excess profits tax -
It penalizes new industries by preventing the building up of reserves and consequently favours old established industries which have had the opportunity of building reserves in the past.
Sir, I quote that, and I would like to have said more about it; but I quote it for the purpose of showing that if the Labour Party in this place wants to put itself forward as the party which will pro tect the old established business and as the enemy of new enterprises, which must develop a rate of profit in order to develop a new industry, it ought to say so.
– It is not a matter of profit inflation but of price manipulation.
– I do not need to tell the honorable member anything about wool pies. The Attorney-General left him, this afternoon, without even the crust of a pie to bite on.
– In an effective speech this afternoon, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) moved a motion and so that the House and the nation will understand the matter being debated I shall read it -
That this House registers its strongest disapproval of the Government’s refusal to protect wool-growers against “ pies “ or rings which operate to the detriment of wool-growers and its continuing failure after ten years in office to protect the community generally from the restrictive practices of which such “ pies “ and rings are typical.
I must say that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has paid the House a compliment by entering into the debate and, indeed, he has indicated a lack of confidence in his colleagues who previously addressed themselves to this subject by displacing in this debate one of the most prominent members of the Country Party, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen). The Prime Minister, in the course of his remarks, made a number of airy statements, as he invariably does on occasions such as this when he finds it more convenient to discuss something which is quite apart from the issue before the House. This evening, he made that abundantly clear to the House and to the nation. He said that the Government, on this occasion, had nothing to answer. He said that the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) had made a devastating reply. There was nothing further to be said. He went on to discuss some matters in respect of the Constitutional Committee’s report but again, as usual, he had nothing positive to say. He gave no indication of the Government’s intention. The right honorable gentleman gave no indication whether he intends to proceed, or will allow the matter to remain as it has remained since the committee submitted its report to the Parliament.
The Prime Minister, in dealing with constitutional questions, has made it clear that the Commonwealth cannot attend to all these matters and that the States cannot deal with them. What he failed to say was that he is prepared to take action - constitutionally - or that he has attempted, at any point of time, to work in co-operation with the States of the Commonwealth to reach an agreement on any of the points which may be at stake. The Prime Minister has evaded the real issues in this matter. He has not debated the matters before the House at all. He said that a few simple facts are all that honorable members require. The Government, of course, is not prepared to act on any of those simple facts. The Prime Minister, in building up this great bogy of constitutional difficulties knows, as the AttorneyGeneral must know, that the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia and the Commonwealth Government have power to take precisely the same action in selling wool overseas as they have taken in the past in respect of our international agreements in regard to wheat, lead, sugar or any other commodity when a deal has been made overseas on an international basis.
The Opposition has brought this matter before the House for consideration in its desire for something positive to be done to correct the present situation. Prices go up, then down, and then they zig-zag, because of the irregular market. Because the Opposition believes that this state of affairs ought to be changed, we have submitted this motion to the House. We believe that this represents a reasonable approach to the subject. I think it would have been better for the Prime Minister, better for his Ministers and better for the Parliament, and it would have been reassuring to the wool-growers and the people, if the Government had approached this matter in a practical, constructive way and attempted to work out some sort of proposal to meet the situation.
Consequently, I am pleased to support the motion that was proposed so ably by the champion of the primary producers of this country, the honorable member for Lalor, who has done so much for them. 1 am proud to support a motion which is a challenge to the Government to take action to protect the wool-growers and to restrain those engaged in pernicious restrictive trading practices in Australia. If the time ever existed when action ought to be taken, that time is now.
The Prime Minister, in his speech this evening, seemed to be dealing with the cold hash that was left over from the AddressinReply debate. He had something he wanted to say to complete a previous speech and he interposed his remarks this evening merely for that purpose. Of course, in the usual style of the Prime Minister, the facts of the situation mean nothing at all. The manner in which he speaks makes his remarks appear to be vital. I intend to accept his challenge concerning the GovernorGeneral’s reference to inflation. The Leader (Mr. Calwell) and Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and other members of the Opposition have spoken on the subject of profit inflation or, as the mass of the people outside would prefer to call it, plain profiteering. This is a matter that the Prime Minister is not prepared to deal with in any manner at all.
One of the authorities whom I bring to the House this evening to support the attitude of the Opposition is none other than Mr. G. B. S. Falkiner, president of the New South Wales Sheep Breeders Association and the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders. Mr. Falkiner undoubtedly is a friend of many of the members on the Government side of the House. That is quite understandable. He made a statement on this subject, in these terms -
To see the position clearly, it is, however, necessary to bear in mind that wages paid to station and farm employees are quite a small item in the cost of running a property to-day. Sixty to eighty per cent, of operating costs are completely out of the growers’ hands, as they consist of such items as freight and increased prices for fencing and building material, agricultural machinery, stock medicines and other general supplies, and steep rises in repair bills (governed by tradesmen’s wages) and shire and other rates.
On the subject of import licensing, he stated -
The recent very considerable relaxation of import licensing will have little effect, as few of the items required by primary producers were subject to restriction.
Consequently, the premises upon which this Government has built its policy to meet inflation are disputed by one who, I would imagine, in the ordinary course of events, is a year-in and year-out supporter of the Government. Mr. Falkiner continued -
One thing is certain - if the costs of wool production continue to rise, a large number of small settlers will undoubtedly be ruined.
On behalf of those people, I address myself to this matter to-night. It is a serious, urgent and important matter which ought to be considered in a reasonable fashion by the Parliament. Instead of disputation on what has happened in the past, we should be trying to lay down a policy which will overcome the serious problems besetting the people of Australia. The motion which we have proposed deals not only with the wool industry, but also with restrictive trading practices. Surely this Government could follow the splendid lead which has been given by the United Kingdom Government in legislating for the setting-up of a commission to investigate and report upon restrictive trading practices. The Commonwealth Government should take positive steps immediately, first, to introduce a bill relating to restrictive trade practices, secondly, to establish a commission, such as has been established in the United Kingdom, to investigate and report upon all aspects of restrictive trading in Australia, and on such other matters as are detrimental to the people generally and, in keeping with the central issue which we are now considering, to fix a reserve price for our wool which is legal and proper. The Government should enter into an agreement with the Governments of New Zealand and South Africa so that its plans on behalf of the wool-growers and of the people of Australia can be implemented.
I stand firmly on the side of Mr. Falkiner in his reference to other costs. Let us consider them. It is all very wei for the Prime Minister to point to one great enterprise and say, “You are always criticizing it “, but, Mr. Speaker, what is our duty here? Are we to uphold the profiteer in this country? Surely the central theme of our approach to these problems should be to curb the activities of those who are making inordinate profits. This Government has failed to protect Australia’s interests in regard to lead and zinc quotas. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has constantly espoused the cause of justice for Australian producers of those essential metals. What has the Government done in relation to the tariff which the United States imposed on our wool? The President of the United States wrote to the Prime Minister of Australia the kind of letter which one of us might get from a Minister to one of his constituents. Then there is the other big factor in costs which is restrictive trading in its truest sense - the monopoly in iron and steel.
These burdens bear heavily, not only upon the wool-growers, but also upon all sections of the community. The Government sat idly by and refused to act while Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and its ally, Australian Iron and Steel Limited, increased very substantially on two occasions the price of iron and steel to the consumers of Australia.
Let me refer now to General MotorsHolden’s Limited. Does it help the wheatgrower, the wool-grower and other farmers to know that General Motors-Holden’s Limited is making such enormous, almost immoral, profits while they are obliged to pay a high price for their trucks or utilities? Mr. Falkiner referred in his statement to fertilizers and chemicals. Then there is the matter of electrical appliances. The Government has taken no action to put an end to restrictive trading practices in this industry. The commission which was appointed by the United Kingdom Government dealt very thoroughly on one occasion with a group of industries which was engaged in the manufacture of electrical appliances. It found beyond any shadow of doubt that there was a world-wide cartel, a monopoly, which was making electric light globes which would last a much shorter time than they had lasted previously, so that the people would be compelled to buy more and, of course, the cartel’s profits rose.
Honorable members may ask, “ What can be done to remedy the situation? Surely, there must be some flaw in this reserve price system or action would have been taken on other occasions.” I agree wholeheartedly with the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) who said that there should be a reconciliation among those organizations which, seek to speak for the wool-growers of this country. But although there may be a difference of opinion among them, surely the Commonwealth Government should give a lead to the industry and encourage the various organizations- to reconcile- their differences so’ that they may speak with a united voice.
I have a cutting from, the “ Wheat and Wool Grower “ of 10th. July, 1359, which, sets, out the great advantages which have come to the New Zealand growers as the result’ of a plan which came into operation, I understand, in 1951. The article concludes in these terms -
The chairman of the New Zealand Wool Commission; Mr. G. A. Duncan, said recently, “We are well satisfied with our system and would not change it “.
Obviously the- system has been of tremendous value to the industry. Surely that expression of opinion ought to be respected in Australia, especially when it is known that pies operate in this country. Mr. Justice Cook of the New South Wales Supreme Court, acting on behalf of the Government of New South Wales, has submitted a report on the operations of pies which illuminates the problem clearly and positively. In the light of that report, this Government should take some action to remedy the position. The “Wheat and Wool Grower “, of 29th May, 1959, contains a statement to the effect that South Africa is happy with its reserve price scheme which has operated to the best advantage of the wool-growers. The “ Canberra Times “, of 19th March, 1958, carried a report in these terms -
Statistics had shown that since the introduction of the South African, wool stabilization scheme, prices had been higher in South Africa than in Australia, the South African Wool Board magazine, Die Wolboer, said yesterday.
The. statements to which I have directed the attention, of the House have been made by people who have profited by the reserve price scheme. In the interests of not only the wool-growers but the nation generally, there should be an assured price to the grower and stability in this industry. It should not be subjected to the vagaries of the present market in which prices- can skyrocket on one occasion and be depressed on another when the people engaged in this pernicious system of pies want to apply themselves as they have done recently.
If we are to face up to our responsibilities, the Government should take action on behalf of the wool-growers, the manufacturers and the community because this is a matter which, in the end, affects the nation. If Australia obtains more for her wool’ clip, obviously more money will be available to, the Treasury from taxation, and- more money will flow to local government authorities in rates and other charges. In addition, there will be more money to afford employment for a greater number of people, more- money for investment and, generally, more money in circulation. These are obvious truths.
This afternoon the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) made a wellreasoned speech about the activities of Wool Export. (Goulburn) Limited, which is a fine example of what can be done when spirited bidding takes place and when the industry receives some stimulation. Mr. Osborne, chairman of directors of the company, is reported in “ Muster “, of 22nd March, 1960, as follows: -
Mr: Osborne said the company had prevented the operation of “ pies “ in some markets and made such operations difficult in others. “ We can make it hard for other operators to split lots,” Mr. Osborne- said. “ We cannot alter the price of wool generally, but we can hold up the price of lines of wool on the day.”
Surely the lead which has been given by Wool Export (Goulburn) Limited ought to be translated into action by the Commonwealth Government: The value of this organization to the wool-growers- is clear. We have been told in this debate that every fall of Id-, in wool prices means a loss of £7,000,000’ to the wool-growers and therefore to Australia. Even if we are disinterested in the welfare of the wool-growers, surely self-interest should dictate that we should be loyal to the nation. We should see that the wool-grower receives for his clip the price to which he is justly entitled. Honorable members have already heard the report read, and I do not propose to go through) it again. However, I would suggest to the Parliament that this report ought to form the basis of action to be taken by the Commonwealth Government. I know that it will stimulate the New South Wales Government into action, and I congratulate that government on what it has done to turn the spotlight of public opinion on to one of the most nefarious practices in the history of this country.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired:
.- This motion was moved by my friend, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). The only good thing about his speech in support of the motion was his reference to me. When I met him in the corridor outside the chamber before he moved the motion, I said, “Are you seriously going on with it?”. Apparently he thought I was rather naive, and that I was suggesting that he should not proceed with it because he had not got a case to present, but I made the remark because I was appalled by his chamelion-like attitude. Let me say for the benefit of those who do not know him that the honorable member is a pledged socialist, a monopolist. Socialists are usually called “ Reds “. However, despite the fact that he is a socialist, he has moved a motion which attacks the Government for what is alleged to be its failure to oppose monopolists and to support private enterprise. It was because the motion was framed in that way that I challenged the honorable member in the corridor and asked whether he intended to go on with it. It is extraordinary to me how Labour so often talks with two voices.
The honorable member for Lalor chided me with a speech I made in 1957. It was a very good speech. I read it through recently. I said in that speech that I did not think the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) had been correct in saying that wool prices had been forced down by irregular marketing. I admit that when I made inquiries before making that speech I was told that there was no hanky-panky in the auction system, but apparently my information was wrong, because the existence of pies had been disclosed then. The honorable member for Lalor knew that pies were in operation while he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but he allowed them to go on. He knew that these practices were rife then, but during the whole of his administration of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture he allowed them to go. Now, because he thinks the political situation warrants it, he has brought forward this extraordinary motion, which, unfortunately for him, has acted something like a boomerang.
I objected to the statement made by the honorable member for Darling, in the speech that he made in 1957, that five leading buyers were buying all the wool and creating a monopoly. The socialist can think only in terms of monopolies. Mr. Justice Cook’s report discloses that of the twenty wool-buying firms, the five leading firms - he mentioned the names - purchased an average of 100,000 bales each at a sale in New South Wales of 1,300,000 bales, and that the remaining fifteen buyers averaged 50,000 bales each. That shows the inaccuracy of the statement by the honorable member for Darling that there was a small monopoly of five buyers. The figures do not support his statement. Mr. Justice Cook’s finding was that there was not a monopoly. He stated that he did not consider, nor had any party submitted, that a pie amounted to monopoly in the trade of wool. The Opposition has made an attack on the Government for not doing anything to prevent a monopoly in wool-buying, but Mr. Justice Cook found’ that there was no monopoly.
The effect of pies on wool selling is not serious. As an honorable member experienced in wool marketing said to-day, the pie system is something that has been going on for some time - without my knowledge, I may add - but it does not seriously affect the price of wool. That is shown by an examination of the turn-over. Mr. Justice Cook’s report shows that, with a turn-over of 1,300,000 bales of wool at a sale, only 27,000 bales were affected by pies. Therefore, the contention of the Opposition that pies are gravely affecting the wool-growers is not true. I do not want it to be thought that I support pies. They are completely against my faith. As honorable members know, I am a man who sticks up for private enterprise, which I am still prepared to call capitalism. I defend the private enterprise system because I believe that private enterprise depends on the efficiency of the marketing system. The operation of the law of supply and demand is the most effective barometer of trade. If either supply or demand changes, you know immediately what the market will do. Trade restrictions and monopolies offend against the system of private enterprise, and therefore we are strongly opposed to them.
Let me refer again to the Labour Party’s extraordinary practice of talking with two voices. The commission presided over by
Mr. Justice Cook was appointed after the wool-buyers had imposed a ban on the wool sales at Goulburn. When the ban was imposed, the New South Wales Government - a Labour Government - immediately appointed a royal commission. It wanted to make the ban ineffective. To use what I may call Labour language, it scabbed on the wool-buyers - it blacklegged. If a trade union puts on a ban, any one who breaks it is called a blackleg, but the New South Wales Labour Government was doing that.
– That is the most absurd statement I have ever heard.
– If you work it out, you will see that what I have said is correct. Mr. Justice Cook said in his report that the State Labour Government could legislate against pies, and the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) also put the legal position to us magnificently today. All that the State Government had to do was to have sub-section 2, section 44 of the Auctioneers, Stock and Station, Real Estate and Business Agents Act of 1941 proclaimed by the Governor of the State. Wool would then be included in the list of farm produce contained in that act, so, any pie operating in the wool sales would constitute a criminal action. This Government has been attacked for not taking action, but, as the Attorney-General made absolutely clear, the State Government could legislate against pies if it so desired.
The honorable member for Darling said that such legislation would not be effective, because the wool-growers would send their wool to another State for sale. That was an extraordinary statement. If the woolgrowers sent their wool to Sydney to be sold and the State Government said, “We will protect you from pies and from other restrictive trade practices “, then, according to the honorable member for Darling, the wool-growers would send their wool to, say, Victoria. Can honorable members work that one out? The argument is that if a government takes action to protect the wool-growers from the effects of the operation of pies, they will send their wool to another market. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) mentioned floor prices. I should like to know how a floor-price system could be effective against pies.
The point I want to make is that we on this side say that pies are a restriction of trade and, therefore, offend against the system of private enterprise. They do not have a serious effect on the wool market, but we must get rid of them. Labour’s philosophy is a philosophy of the restriction of trade. Labour wants State monopolies. Every honorable member opposite is a pledged socialist. They all ask for restrictions. Only to-day the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked for import restrictions on timber. Would not that be a restriction of trade? This Government, in its fight against inflation, proposes to lift import restrictions, but Labour opposes that course. Would not the lifting of import restrictions free trade, not restrict it?
As I have said, Labour should not talk with two voices. The speaker to follow me in this debate is the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney). He comes from the south coast of New South Wales, where he represents a mining electorate. The miners have their traditional method of labour organization in mining of imposing dargs, but their political masters say it is not right for the wool-buyers to have pies. Perhaps when the honorable member for Cunningham speaks he will defend the principle of the darg.
There is a continual attack by members of the Opposition on business. When the prices of similar goods produced by ordinary business undertakings are the same that is often a normal circumstance and there is nothing vicious. Where price fixation operates to the detriment of trade we are opposed to it. But we support private enterprise when there are reasons for equal prices. Take the case of the fares of Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett.AustralianNationalAirways: Is there anything wrong with these two airlines charging the same fares? Of course, members of the Opposition, representing a monopoly system of government, are continuously attacking high profits and the result of profitable undertakings.
Why do they do so? It is because they approach our way of life with a doctrinaire principle that they must attack profits. The reason is quite simple because profit is the incentive which creates the conditions that raise the standard of living. This is one of the functions of private enterprise. Honorable members opposite attack profits and deny the incentive system. They deny incentive pay but there is a big difference, to my way of thinking, between pies and a man making a profit under the incentive system. Why should he not receive it and why should not this system be allowed, in turn, to raise the standard of living? In discussing this question honorable members opposite often attack General MotorsHolden’s Limited for its high profits. I do not defend this company at all; indeed I have attacked it several times. But there are some features about profit-making which must be considered. First of all there is the turn-over. A company might make a small profit but have a large turn-over. General Motors-Holden’s profits have always been compared by Labour with its issued capital. It has shareholders’ funds of more than £60,000,000. What has been the effect of General Motors-Holden’s profits upon the Australian economy? Many cars are now being built in Australia with Australian materials using Australian labour.
Where profits are being made more people will be attracted to get a share of them. That is the normal process of incentive, which is the normal process of the private enterprise system. This creates better standards of living. Because General Motors-Holden’s has been successful, dozens of cars are now being made either wholly or partly in Australia.
In spite of this, members of the Opposition go on attacking the very goose that lays the golden egg. They make profits an offensive word just as they smear the capitalist system. They suggest that the making of profits is an .ugly, evil -usurous way of life. If people heed them, in time there will be no incentive and no profits and when that happens socialism will have arrived. There are matters which we must consider very carefully because they effect the Australian way of life.
This motion has proved to be a squib. It is a boomerang. I believe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the AttorneyGeneral were perfectly correct in saying that it was moved purely for the purposes of party politics in view of the fact that two by-elections are now being fought. It is a surprising thing to find a party associated with socialism starting to criticize monopolies. It seems to me that it is talking with two voices.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has moved, on behalf of the Opposition -
That this House registers its strongest disapproval of the Government’s refusal to protect woolgrowers against ‘” pies “ or rings which operate to the detriment of wool-growers and its continuing failure after ten years in office to protect the community generally from the restrictive practives of which such “ pies “ and rings are typical.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) devoted the greater part of his speech to explaining away his forthright utterances five years ago that pies did not exist and would not cause any harm if they did. Pies came into existence for the first time after the war when the Joint Organization system of selling our wool overseas came to an end. In 1955, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) pointed out to the House the damage that pies were doing to our national income. The honorable member for Hume followed him, and I will quote his forthright words. He said -
The honorable member for Darling said that under this Government purchases of wool were falling into the hands df fewer buyers and that prices were being forced down. That is nonsense.
The honorable member now has to explain away why he said that. I do not propose to devote any more time to his comments, because his judgment was so obviously astray five years ago. I do not think it has improved in the five years that we have known him since then.
The magnitude of this menace has come to the notice of us all since Mr. Justice Cook, of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales, reported on the whole issue three months ago. He stated -
Pies . . . restrict competition in the market.
They deprive the market of the stimulus of free unrestricted bidding.
Their inherent purpose is to enable wool to be bought somewhat more cheaply than otherwise.
They result in some portion of the clip being sold for less than would otherwise be paid for it, and it has not been established that there is a compensating factor.
Pie arrangements have not only existed for many years but their numbers have increased and the evidence is that as soon as a buyer reaches the position when he becomes a serious competitor he is absorbed into a pie.
His Honour therefore held that pie arrangements are detrimental to the public. To adopt the federal Attorney-General’s definition this afternoon, something that is detrimental to the public is something bad - something that should be stopped. What is being done by Australian governments to stop them? The extent of pies can be shown from the tables in His Honour’s report and his comments on those tables. It appears that more than one-fifth of the wool transactions by the principal buyers in Australia - and His Honour believes they are typical of all buyers - are subject to pies.
Therefore, this is an important problem. It has become- a problem since the war, only since the Joint Organization wound up somewhere about 1951 or 1952. The first speaker this afternoon on the Government side was the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). He fulfilled a role which one is surprised that an Australian Country Party man should fulfil. He was saying, in effect, “ I have done nothing and I have not. encouraged the States to do anything to prevent the middleman from exploiting the- wool-growers and, through them, the nation”. Of course, he has only held his present office for just over a year. That saved him from- some embarrassment because his immediate predecessor in the portfolio was. the Minister for Labour and National Service- (Mr. McMahon). Again and again this matter was. brought to his notice and as frequently he dismissed it. I will quote the phrases that were used. The honorable member for Lalor who has proposed this motion, mentioned the matter of pies to him- for the first time on 11th March, 1958. The Minister replied -
I feel sure that this is a figment of the honorable gentleman’s imagination. I have no evidence and I have never heard it suggested, that buyers’ rings of any kind are operating in the Australian wool market. I feel reasonably confident that if they had been operating, that fact would have been brought to the attention of the Government, the department, or myself.
On 26th March, 1958, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) asked the present Minister for Labour and National Service,, who was. then Minister for Primary Industry, a further question. I surmise that the Minister was not surprised to hear the question, because, in his answer, he said - . . subsequent to a question being asked by the member for Lalor two weeks ago, I had com prehensive inquiries made by the Department or Primary Industry about the matter, and 1 am informed that there is no evidence to support the conclusion that a buyers’ cartel is operating, in this country.
Then, on 17th September, of that year, th* Minister gave this answer to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns> -
For at least four months, some of the best officers in my department have been making an investigation as to whether a cartel was operating. . . .
From the inquiries that I have made, I cannot find reliable evidence - indeed, I cannot find any sort of evidence - from which I could conclude that a cartel is permanently operating in Australia . . . Not for one moment am I prepared to say that what are called pies do not operate. They probably do operate, but if they do they are of very short duration. There are some people, including those high up in the wool industry, who think that the operation of a pie can avoid violent’ fluctuations in the market.
We therefore find the responsible Minister at that time thinking that pies were of short duration and were of no significance and that, in fact, in the opinion of the big growers, either they were a good thing or they did no harm. Now, of course, we find that they are a big factor in the industry. They are becoming a bigger factor, they are doing harm, and they are going to cause more harm unless something is done about them.
So far,, two other Ministers have spoken on this motion - the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Attorney-General (Si: Garfield Barwick). They spoke in their familiar roles as apologists for the companies which fix prices in Australia. The Prime Minister left the question of pies to the Attorney-General, to whose brief and glib explanation I shall return shortly. The Prime Minister turned to those dialectic niceties by means of which he seeks to avoid real issues or postpone the unpleasant.nes of having to make a decision. The seeming inconsistency he pointed to was that on one hand we were complaining that pies reduced prices and were therefore bad. and that on the other hand we also complained that other restrictive practices increased prices and were therefore bad. That is a very attractive proposition when it is first enunciated, but it is a very superficial one. Both forms of restrictive practice - the pie which reduces the price to the woolgrower, and the restrictive industrial, trade or commercial practice which increases the price to the Australian consumer - alike are devices which reduce the net incomes of Australians.
The Australian Labour Party has never objected to the profitable sale overseas of tha products of this country, whether industrial, primary or processed. In fact, we say that profits earned overseas by individual Australians benefit all Australians and that losses made overseas by individual Australians burden all Australians. Both of the restrictive practices which I have mentioned mean that Australians get fewer goods for their money and that other people exploit them.
The Attorney-General sought, as he usually does, to establish that pies are a matter for the State governments. He said that no matter fitted so clearly within State powers and that three States - New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia - had acts under which pies could be dealt with by a scratch of the pen. I must confess that his enunciation was very impressive, but it does not agree with the enunciation given by Mr. Justice Cook. The AttorneyGeneral seemed to abuse the New South Wales Government for having inquired into a matter and discovered the existence of something which the gentleman who was Minister for Primary Industry in the Commonwealth during the relevant period said did not exist or, if it did exist, was of no consequence.
– That is not true. That is a lie, and you know it is.
– Well, Sir, the honorable member is telling an untruth.
– The Minister is an expert in the subject of lies.
– Order! The Minister will withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Mr. Justice Cook recommended legislation along the lines of a draft which was submitted to him and dealt with by all the numerous counsel who appeared before him. He then went on to say -
Probably much the same result could be achieved if a proclamation were issued under sub-section
of section 44 of the Auctioneers, Stock and Station, Real Estate and Business Agents Act, 1941-
That was the sub-section to which the Attorney-General referred - but it would then be necessary to provide somewhat more detailed provisions for the protection of true brokerage transactions and for the machinery necessary for the recognition and protection of such brokerage transactions than is provided under the provisions of such lastmentioned act.
– That is right.
– Of course he is right. The Attorney-General suppressed that passage and made a suggestion which was not borne out by the findings of Mr. Justice Cook. His Honour said that there could be the alternative which the Attorney-General mentioned, but that there should be preliminary negotiations with the State Government by the brokers, buyers and graziers on the form of associated amendments.
Since then, Sir, the State Government suggested to the Australian Agricultural Council, upon which the Commonwealth and all the States are represented, that the members of the council should consult together on the implementing of such legislation. The plain fact is that, if any of the acts of the three States which we have been told have acts suitable for the purpose were implemented by a scratch of the pen in their present form, most brokers, buyers and graziers who were carrying on perfectly legitimate trading in wool would do so in breach of the law. We should not penalize people who are operating to the advantage of the industry and to the advantage of the country, and wool-growing and wool-selling are much more complicated processes than are the processes which are already covered by the three State acts concerned. The Attorney-General’s explanation of those acts was very facile, and it would seem very persuasive to those who had not read MrJustice Cook’s report or who did not understand the operations of wool-selling. But a tot of people would have been breaking the law while doing no harm to the country if that scratch of the pen had been put to the three State acts in their present form.
All that the present Minister for Primary Industry has done is to preside over a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council at which this report by Mr. Justice
Cook was brought up. The Minister told the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), who asked a question on the subject on 9th March, that the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture had presented a copy of the report at the recent meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in Hobart, and he added - . . but because several of the State Ministers had not even seen it up to that time, no resolution was taken. However, the Ministers did indicate that they would take it home and have a good look at it.
They will be able to have a very good look at it indeed, Sir, because the council will not, in the normal course, meet for another year, and the Minister did not foreshadow any earlier meeting. The Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industry presides over the council because he is in the best position to co-ordinate legislation and administration in respect of matters concerning primary industry. If it is left to the States, who is to move first?
These are not matters which are automatically or exclusively State matters. This Parliament has, and has always had, power to legislate with respect to trade and commerce between the States and with other countries. A great deal of wool selling goes on between the States. All the wool that is sold at Albury goes to Melbourne. Very often, it is purchased by Victorian buyers. Automatically, in most cases of wool sold at Albury, an interstate transaction is involved; not a transaction, therefore, that the New South Wales Government can deal with by itself or the Victorian Government can deal with by itself or, in most cases, one in which the Victorian and New South Wales Governments can deal with in combination, but a matter with which this Parliament can deal. These are matters with which this Government will never voluntarily deal while it is in power. It will never provide the opportunity to deal with them unless the Parliament passes this resolution, as it should.
We have to wait until this Government passes legislation on interstate or overseas matters. Would not the sensible thing be for all the parliaments to agree to a common administrative and legislative programme to deal with this matter, which we know is hurting our largest primary export industry and thus is hurting us all?
The general subject of restrictive practices is very important in relation to inflation itself. The position has been particularly well stated by “ Muster “, the official organ of the Graziers Association of New South Wales. In an editorial last week, that journal pointed out that wage increases were part of the inflationary trouble in Australia, and it added -
What we feel on this side of the House is that it is high time Australia, as one of the large industrial countries of the world, introduced restrictive practices legislation. The United States of America did so by the Clayton Act of 1914. In the U.S.A. there is a federal system but it is one in which it is easier to pass such legislation for two reasons. In that country, within one continent, there are 48 States but in Australia, a continent of the same size, there are only six States. It is automatic in the U.S.A. that most transactions are interstate and, therefore, federal matters, but in Australia fewer come within that category. The other reason is that in the U.S.A., a great many companies are engaged in any manufacturing project. In Australia there are few. The big industries in Australia are in one or two, or at the most three hands. Steel, chemicals, motor manufacturing, sugar - all our basic industries - are in few hands and therefore they are more subject to restrictive trade practices or monopolies.
I have cited the position in the U.S.A. under the Clayton Act since 1914. In Canada, since 1952 there has been a Restrictive Trade Practices Commission. In the United Kingdom, since 1956 there has been a Restrictive Practices Court, and New Zealand has had a similar jurisdiction since 1958. Similar legislation has been enacted throughout the countries of western Europe. Only Australia, under the Menzies Government, tails the field as it does in so many other fields. In 1958, the Constitutional Review Committee unanimously recommended a method of dealing with this matter. It gave detailed reasons at the end of last year to the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister. As in so many matters, they have postponed this agonizing decision .on something that Australia needs. Most countries have made proper provision to check restrictive practices, but Australia will apparently not do so until a Labour government takes office at the end -of next year.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) concluded his remarks by stating that it was time Australia did something about restrictive trade practices. That was an odd statement for him to make. There has, of course, been an Australian Industries Preservation Act on the statute-book for, I think, more than 50 years. Labour governments have been in office from time to time during that period. I am not aware of any amendment to the Australian Industries Preservation Act - and it is the .appropriate act to deal with restrictive trade practices - that has been initiated by the Labour Party. Of course, as my friend the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has said, the debate on this matter, which has been produced on the occasion of two byelections, has been initiated for political purposes, -to make it appear that the Labour Party is the guardian of the Australian people and that the Government is neglecting them.
Of course, the oddity is that this debate occurs within a few days of the Government announcing, through the GovernorGeneral’s Speech at the opening of Parliament, that this is a matter which the Government proposes to review. That is something that was not done by Labour in all its years of opportunity; so there is nothing but politics in the observation of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to which I have referred.
So much has been said so powerfully from this side -of the House that I feel I can add nothing to the debate except to direct attention to one aspect of the matter, as I have done before. It is this: Here is an .Australian industry, which happens to be our greatest .industry. Those who conduct .it have great experience and have scored immense success. The wool industry is recognized as the one industry .in which Australia is the world leader. There is a circumstance associated with the industry about which complaint is made. Does the Labour “Party suggest that this is an occasion on which the Government should consult -the industry and ask the industry if there is anything it would wish the Government to do? No, of course not! That is not the way of the socialists. The way of the socialists, who are always dictators at heart, is to decide that they know much “better than the wool industry what ‘is good for -it. They know much better than the medical profession what is good -for medicine in Australia. They know better than those engaged in any business at all. This is the socialists at work. It is the sort of approach that Labour .made to similar matters throughout its most recent eight years of office - never consulting industry but always stepping in if the Government had enough power.
The Labour Party’s attitude has been: If the Government can exercise control, a Labour government can cure everything. The result of its application of that doctrine over a .period of eight years was to have the people of Australia throw the Labour Government out of office, and for ten years - a record period of time - the people have repeatedly said they want no more of Labour. More than anything else, they want no more of Labour for that particular reason. They do not want this magnificently successful free enterprise country to fall again into the clutches of the doctrinaire socialists, the small dictators, the people who do not consult those of experience but take over and control their affairs.
– Did this Government ask the trade unions for their views?
– Of course, this Government has a record of consulting every section of the community and the honorable member for Barton knows that very well indeed. For three months, the report upon which the Opposition bases its case has been in the hands of the New South Wales Labour Government. It has done nothing. The. Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) made it crystal clear this afternoon that the New South Wales Labour Government merely had to issue a proclamation and the operation of a particular law designed to control obnoxious practices in the auction system would be applicable to wool. The State Labour Government has not done that and, more importantly, the Australian wool industry has not asked the State Labour Government to do that. That is the critical point. Here is a debate in which there is a discussion as to whether a State Labour government could do something or whether the Menzies Federal Government could do something. Surely that is not the issue. Surely the issue is as to whether the Australian wool-growing industry wants a government to do something.
Mr. -Calwell. - Or whether the woolgrowing industry should be protected against the manipulation of the market.
– The Leader of the Opposition interjects. Of course, he claims that he knows much better .than does the wool industry itself when the wool industry needs protecting.
– You have penal clauses for the workers but not for the manipulators.
– The truth of the matter is that the wool industry is not so bereft of leadership and knowledge that it does not know what goes on in this matter. I know from my contacts with the wool industry that it is a little uncertain as to whether, on balance, it would be better to forbid completely the pie system. That is not my judgment. I am saying that that is the judgment, as it has been represented to me, of the Australian Wool-growers Council, the senior body representing the major wool-growing sector in Australia. It is possible, theoretically, that a group of buyers may exercise their opportunities under an auction system to damage the values at auction. At .the same time the wool-growers :believe - I do not purport to have a judgment on this matter myself - that there are some .circumstances in which a group of buyers, being able to co-operate in bidding, will actually strengthen the market.
Mr. -Pollard. - Oh, yes! Who are they and where >are they?
– Of course, the honorable member for Lalor knows better than the great wool-growers. I do not claim that I do.
– You name them.
– I have recounted a view that is, as I have said, held within the Australian Wool-growers Council. I believe that the council would prefer to approach this matter, at least in the first place, on the basis of a discussion with the broking houses which, in the auction room, are the agents of the wool-growers and operate on behalf of the wool-growers. They are paid by the wool-growers and I believe that they are ready to be beholden to the views of those who pay them and whose wool they are handling. If it was all so simple as the Labour socialists say, the Australian Woolgrowers Council would, long before now, have gone to Labour governments in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia and said, “ You have legislation. We want you to declare it and apply it to wool “.
When the live-stock industry of Victoria felt, in the 1930’s, that lot splitting was damaging the value of live-stock at auction, it went to the Victorian government of the day, which was led by a Country Party Premier, and asked that legislation be passed to prevent lot splitting, and the legislation was promptly passed. But the legislation was not made applicable to wool, because it was found, on consultation, that the organized wool-growers at that time preferred that the legislation be not made applicable to wool. However, the legislation was so drafted that, in the graphic terms used this afternoon by the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick), it needs no more than a scratch of the pen for the legislation to be made applicable to wool.
– It would be very injurious to the wool industry if the scratch of a pen were made.
– Is that what you are saying? Mr. Allan Fraser. - Yes.
– You at least are disputing the whole of the Labour Parry’s thesis.
– No. My point has already been made clear to-night by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– What nonsense! What ridiculous nonsense.’ -His whole theory is that this should be done, as he would prefer it to be done, federally. Here is a situation in which the existence of special legislation makes it crystal clear that there is a power within the control of State Parliaments. There is actually legislation in three States. The Australian Agricultural Council is the normal clearing house in these matters. My colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) saw that there was in the Australian Agricultural Council a discussion based upon the report which is the basis of this debate. But the Australian Agricultural Council, composed of representatives of governments from both the Labour and non-Labour sides of politics, decided not to take any precipitate action. I think it may well be that in the fullness of time some action may be taken in this regard by the State Governments.
I am pretty familiar with the auction system. I know that it is a system that invites buyers to get together and limit values. Of course it is. But those of us who have a personal interest in the auction system, whether it relates to live-stock or wool, watch this situation pretty closely. I know that there is a widespread belief that a pen of bullocks may make a better price if two or three small butchers can combine to buy the pen, than if the pen is so big as to put all of the small butchers out of court and is left merely to a limited number of big buyers. That is one school of thought. Those who depend for their living on the sale of their products at auction have their own views and they watch this matter very closely.
– You could not apply that argument to pies in the wool industry.
– It is applied.
– Where are these small buyers who have to join together?
– The honorable member, who represents a wool-growing district, clearly does not understand the Australian textile trade. Otherwise, he would know very well indeed that the Australian textile trade, from scouring right through, requires the blending of different types of wool, which results in the blending of sma.U quantities of various types. I shall not take up my time or the time of the Parliament to educate him. As the honorable member for Eden-Monaro represents a wool-growing district, I am quite surprised that he displays such a profound ignorance of the Australian wool-growing industry.
On the general subject of monopolies, my Government has said that this is a matter to which it proposes to devote its attention, but it has not said that every monopoly is bad. Indeed, the Labour Party would be the first to agree that that could not be said. My own party has been responsible for initiating in the Australian public scene the proposition of monopolistic sale of primary products - organized marketing - so convincingly that in due course every political party in Australia embraced the policy and it now exists on the statute-book. Of course, the Labour Party believes in monopoly of labour in the composition of trade unions, in transport, and in the establishment of the Australian Overseas Transport Association, the shipping group that carries the whole of Australia’s shipments overseas, because an amendment of the Australian Industries Preservation Act - the anti-monopoly act, if one likes to so describe it - for the purpose was introduced by the Scullin Labour Government and passed by the Federal Parliament. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has, by law, a monopoly right in the refining of sugar in this country, to the general agreement of all concerned and to the great advantage of the important sugar industry. Of course, we quite agree that monopoly can be employed and manipulated to the disadvantage of the public interest. This is the kind of thing which my Government, declaring that it is conscious of this situation, now says that it proposes to explore very carefully indeed.
The one real point that I rose to make was that this debate demonstrates again the consistency of Labour in its attitude to Australian primary, manufacturing, or any other industry. It is the antithesis of our attitude to industry. We believe that in so far as government has to intervene in the normal processes of industrial activity, it ought to intervene only after consultation with those who have invested their capital, their labour and their experience in it. The Labour socialists, of course, believe the reverse. Give them power, and give them constitutional control and statute control, and they will say, “ To blazes with those who have created the industry. We socialists in power will take over and run it as we see fit.”
.- The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who has unexpectedly participated in this debate, claimed that the policy of the Government is to intervene only after consultation with those concerned in a particular industry - in this instance, the wool-growers. The position is that the Government has lamentably failed to follow up its consultations with the wool-growers. The conditions that exist within their ranks are such that they are not prepared to agree to any standardized marketing of wool, and the same position obtains with those engaged in other industrial activity. A pressure group operating amongst the wool-growers is not prepared to have the present system of open auction altered, for reasons that are clear.
About 90 per cent, of the wool-growers are only small men; but we have another section of growers who are wealthy, influential people. Their interests are not confined to wool but range over many branches of enterprise, including coal, shipping and manufacturing. They exercise a powerful influence because of their collective great wealth, and they are concerned to see that the present system of wool marketing is not altered. Their efforts have been directed to this end for some time now. This same group sought to interfere, and did interfere effectively, by setting up a “ No “ committee to bring about the destruction of a joint organization that existed some years ago. This committee included seven members who held between them 25 directorates in firms connected with wool brokering, pastoral activities, banks, trusteeship, insurance and other commercial activities, including newspapers, coal and sugar. They made more money out of their investments in the other fields than they did out of their wool interests. They are now holding the remainder of the wool-growers to ransom by keeping the wool-growers’ organizations disorganized. This gives the Government excuse after excuse to stand back and do nothing to foster this national asset.
But interest in wool is not the exclusive prerogative of these few people. Wool production, like any other national resource, is the property of the people and every member of the community is affected by anything that happens to the wool industry. The price at which wool is sold overseas has its effect on the national economy. Wool production is not the concern of the Godchosen few at all. They may have legal and technical rights of ownership, but wool is the concern of every person, including those in the electorate of Cunningham. After all, the wool cheque is an important feature of our economy. The sale of wool accounts for 40 per cent, of the total value of our exports, and any fundamental alteration to the wool industry affecting the value accruing to the country from the sale of wool affects every man, woman and child. We the people have every right to see that there is no monkeying and tampering with the sensitive machinery of wool marketing. Wool is probably the most sensitive line that this country or any other country markets.
We have been told in this debate that a. fluctuation of Id. per lb. in the price of wool means a difference of £7,000,000 a year in the income from the sale of wool. That is a large sum of money. The price of wool has been jumping up and down the scale for some years now, and we should all understand that a difference of ls. or so in the price can make an enormous difference to us. It can affect the economic life of every person in the community. Therefore, the Parliament and the people should pause to look at what is happening in the wool industry. In introducing this subject, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) exposed rather completely the state of affairs that has been caused by the operations of speculative buying organizations, which have had almost unfettered control and which have been able to determine the price of wool. The Government is not prepared to attack the problem. The legal lights have given their views, and to-night we had the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) doing a shimmy-shake around the table. But no one will stand up and say what the Government intends to do. The Government intends to remain inactive, and the present state of affairs will deteriorate. This is not accidental; it is a deliberate policy.
The issue that arises here is clearly stated in “Hansard” of 11th March, 1958. On that date, the honorable member for Lalor asked the then Minister for Primary Industry, who is now the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) and who has been interjecting in this debate from the table in a flamboyant and discreditable manner, the following question: -
In view of the recent serious decline in the price of wool and its impact on the Australian economy and the primary, producers concerned, will the Minister have an inquiry instituted to. ascertain to what extent buyers’ rings - either rings of local buyers acting on behalf of foreign interests or foreign buyer rings - are operating?
In his reply, the Minister said -
I- feel sure that this is a figment of the honorable gentleman’s imagination. I have no evidence, and I have never heard it suggested, that buyers’ rings of any kind are operating in the Australian wool market.
He then went on to complete his answer. Apparently the Minister had no knowledge of these activities. If he did have such knowledge, he was deceiving the Parliament in his answer. But as a responsible Minister he should have had the knowledge, and I suggest that he did have the knowledge because Mr. Justice Cook, in his report submitted as a result of his inquiry into the wool industry, made clear that organized pies, which depressed the price of wool because their members decided before the sale-what the price would be, were operating as far back as the period of the 1914-18 war. This is nothing new; yet other honorable members opposite joined the Minister in alleging that the Opposition was speaking with tongue in cheek when it suggested that these pies existed.
However, we have succeeded in bringing this state of affairs into the open and many people now know about it. It is proper that we should have done this. The Prime Minister saw fit to sneer at this debate to-night, but the fact is that our motion forced him into the House to join in it. It also brought the Minister for Trade into the House. He pushed aside one of his own supporters who had intended to speak. There we have another pie - the pie of ministerial conceit and ministerial prerogative. But he is a responsible Minister and he has now taken part in the debate. Labour has hit the Government hard with this motion. Many honorable members on the other side of the House occupy their seats because the small wool-growers have given them their votes. But it is doubtful whether these members will be able to retain their places in the Parliament when the facts adduced in this debate become known to the electors.
Orderly marketing is an essential feature of modern life, and as wool holds a predominant place in our economy, orderly marketing of this product is more important than the orderly marketing of most other commodities. It must be protected. The need for protection has been clearly stated by Mr. Justice Cook in his report. I shall quote a summary of his conclusions to remind honorable members opposite of the true situation. Mr. Justice Cook said -
I have found that pie arrangements are a negation of the principle of a free auction system because they involve a restriction of free competition.
Free enterprise is the flag that this Government hoists to the masthead and holds there when it suits it to do so. Free enterprise, as we know - and as honorable members know too, in their hearts - is a sham and a fraud under modern commercial conditions. Later in his report, Mr. Justice Cook had this to say -
This restriction of free competition benefits buyers with large limits. It benefits those with smaller limits. Clearly it can be said that pie arrangements benefit the purchasers under the existing conditions under which our wool is sold. But what of the benefit to the producers, bearing in mind that the benefit to the producers, by way of the proceeds of the wool clip, is the measure of the benefit to the public generally?
That is the point I made earlier. The price received for wool is always a matter of concern to every member of the community. His Honour continued1 -
Unless I am left with “ a comfortable satisfaction “ that as against the diminution in benefits to some growers there is an offsetting compensating benefit in some way to other growers, then I feel bound to come to the conclusion that the restrictive influences of pies on the operation of the free auction system constitute a detriment to the public. The evidence does not establish such an offsetting compensating benefit.
So the situation is clearly revealed. Pies represent an organized effort by speculators to tickle the public purse at the expense of the wool-growers of this country. This is a fact, not a figment. Pies have been operating for years, and His Honour could find in them no compensating benefit to the wool-growers, to the people of Australia or to our national economy. This represents a complete vindication of Labour’s constantly stated attitude in regard to this matter.
The report of Mr. Justice Cook reveals details of transactions carried out almost daily at wool auctions throughout Australia. It lists as participants in the innumerable pie groups most of the leading wool-buying agencies. Some people may think that those who make up these pies are the small tinpot chiselling buyers. They are not. They are the biggest wool-buying interests in Australia, including buyers such as William Haughton, F. W. Hughes, Dreyfus, Kreglingers, Prevost, Mitsubishi, McGregor, Biggen and Ayrton, W. and D.. Hill, John Henderson and others. The scope of the activities of these pies is very wide. It does not cover just one or two transactions. Pies constitute a piece of commercial machinery which is constantly used to affect the price of wool. The extent of the pies is revealed in another section of His Honour’s report. A questionnaire was sent by the commission to the seventeen largest buyers, and Mr. Justice Cook said in his report -
The answers to the questionnaire by the seventeen largest Buyers show that each and every one of them is a member of one or more pies. An Exhibit has been tendered which was compiled from these answers and it shows the membership of the pies, of which the six largest buyers are members.
It is obvious, therefore, that these pie arrangements have been by no means insignificant. The entire Australian wool clip has constantly been under attack by these people, who, by means of the rings they set up, were able to depress the price of our wool. To that extent they were affecting the economy of Australia and robbing every person in the community - not only the wool-growers, but also every one else in the country. His Honour went on -
It will be seen from the Appendix that one firm - Felt and Textiles - although it is not one of the seventeen largest buyers, has pie arrangements with four of the six largest Buyers. The answers to the questionnaire show that this firm is also a member of pies with three other of the seventeen largest Buyers.
It becomes clear that manufacturing interests concerned with the use of wool were also involved. So we have the whole sorry story, a revelation of the undercover activities of certain comercial interests. Their activities in the wool industry stand nakedly revealed for any one to see who wishes to see.
Another portion of Mr. Justice Cook’s report is very significant. Mr. Campbell,
President of the- Australian Council of Woolbuyers, gave evidence before the commission, and Mr. Justice Cook had this to say, among other things, with1 regard to his testimony -
However, when asked whether there was any doubt that the tendency of pie buying was that the men with the big limits- got wool cheaply he said: “ Yes, that is. true “.
There is a complete admission, from an authority on the matter, that buyers- with big limits were able to get cheap wool. The report continued -
Asked about a buyer who had a low limit; he said that obviously such a person was going to get wool cheaper through being- in a pie; at any rate he had a chance of getting wool cheaper in a pie.
In. other words, if he was not in a pie, if he was not big enough to be invited to join a pie, he was left entirely outside. He did not get the perks and the plums; they were left, to the others.
– Even the Japs got into it.
– Yes, the Japs weremixed up in it, just as they are mixed up in various other activities in this country concerned with marketing and selling. I* need mention only Peko Mines NL as one example. Later in his report, Mr. Justice Cook said -
Further, Mr. Campbell has stated clearly, and’ I am satisfied,, that the tendency of pie buying is to enable buyers with the big limits to get wool cheaply. If there were a free auction system, with no pies operating, the buyers with the large’ limits would, in order to fill their orders, at least have to meet the competition of all interested in the particular lots and they would at least have to make- the highest bid, in each case, in order to secure the lots they need. Under pie arangements this is not necessary.
So we find that Ned Kelly is not dead. He still exists in the form of the smart, snide business operator who promotes these buying organizations, who graces the best clubs in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities, and- who is tickling the national peter by tampering with the prices we should get for our wool. The wool producers should, note’ this well; and’ hasten to take action to eliminate these organizations that are. exploiting them and other sections of the community, and which, in order to preserve their own interests, try to prevent the wool-growers’ organizations from achieving unanimity with regard to an orderly marketing system.
The Opposition’s motion is concerned with restrictive trade practices. The need to prevent such practices was felt by nation after nation after World War II. These restrictive practices are a natural corollary of the formation of cartels, combines and monopolies, which has resulted in certain people being able to accumulate great wealth. In the United States of America it was found necessary to introduce legislation to deal with the problem many years ago. In the post-war period the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, Japan, France, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands all brought in various forms of legislation to deal with restrictive trade practices, but the Government of this country has not even dipped its pen in the ink, and apparently has no intention of doing so. We all heard the statements to-night by the Prime Minister and by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), which suggested that until they were forced into taking action by those concerned with the production of wool, they would do nothing about it. In other words, these racketeers and boodlers in the buying organizations are to be given a free hand. In short, monopoly in its worst forms is to be permitted to run rampant throughout the country, and the wool industry is to be subject to the machinations of monopolistic interests lacking in honesty and decency.
This situation exists not only in the wool industry. Similar practices are to be found in the meat industry. Restrictive trade practices are evident in respect of many other commodities. In the electrical industry a combine exists. Electric lamps can be sold only at specified prices. The same applies to electric cables. The experience of municipal authorities throughout Australia shows that when quotations are called for the supply of electric cables, about eight or ten wholesale houses quote the same price. This represents a pie of another type, but it is an example of the kind of thing the Opposition has in mind in proposing the motion now before the House. Similar conditions exist in the timber industry, calling for action by this Government.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– There is one thing I should like to get on record at the outset.
– Only one?
– One thing at the outset. It is that I do not think any wool-grower in this country likes the operation of pies or the way in which they have tended at times to depress the market, as is suggested in the royal commission’s report. But we should get the matter into perspective. The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) has exaggerated it out of all proportion. If honorable members did not hear the speech by my friend, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) who put the matter in its proper perspective, I think they would do well to read the report of it.
One fact for which we are indebted to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has arisen out of this debate. It is that a change of Id. per lb. in the price of wool means £7,000,000 to the Australian economy. Every honorable member, and I hope every person in Australia, should keep those figures firmly in mind because they illustrate the great importance of wool to this country and demonstrate clearly how relatively small market changes can make great differences to economic conditions in this country. I repeat, we are indebted to the honorable member for Lalor for emphasizing this fact.
As to the rest of the debate, it has shown how very sadly honorable members opposite have let down the honorable member for Lalor. I do not think any honorable member opposite other than the honorable member for Lalor has the technical knowledge and experience necessary to qualify him to speak with authority on the matters which are the subject of the motion that the honorable member for Lalor has submitted. This has been clearly demonstrated by the honorable member for Cunningham to-night.
– It was a very good speech.
– I should like to get a few thousand copies of the honorable member’s speech for distribution amongst many of the very small woolgrowers who live in my electorate.
In his speech, the honorable member for Cunningham said quite clearly that wool does not belong to the growers. He said that it belonged more to people of the type to be found in his own electorate and that because of this the Government should step in and do what it likes with the wool irrespective of what the growers want and irrespective of how the growers would like to dispose of their product. There is a philosophy behind this statement which could have far reaching social effects. There is a philosophy behind it which is fundamental, and which shows quite clearly the difference between honorable members on this side and honorable members of the Opposition.
Having heard the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) I am not surprised that he did not act as he did a short while ago in another debate - that is, follow the Prime Minister. From his performance tonight, it was abundantly clear that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would have done far better, just as he did in the debate on the motion for the adoption for the Address-in-Reply, which has just concluded. It was patent that the honorable member for Werriwa had not done his homework on this matter. Very often he speaks on subjects of which he has a far greater knowledge than I have, but on this occasion I know a little more than he does. He hid his mistakes with relation to facts and his lack of knowledge in an easy and facile manner. He began by referring to something about which he did not know the facts. He said that the pies began to operate after the Joint Organization arrangement ended at the conclusion of the last world war. There is ample documentary evidence in the papers of this Parliament to establish that pies have existed since World War I.
– Of course they have!
– I am glad the honorable member agrees with me.
– He said they got into action.
– He said the pies started after the J. O. system had ceased to operate. I remind him that the evidence submitted before the Cook royal commission established that one company - Kreglingers - had entered into pie arrangements shortly after the 1914-18 war, and in 1932, on the authority of the Prime Minister of this country, a report was submitted by the Commonwealth Wool Inquiry Committee. On page 40 of that com mittee’s report there is reference to lotsplitting and pies, together with a description of pies and how they work to the detriment of the wool-growers in this country. It is quite useless for any one to argue that pies are new in Australia, and it is quite useless to argue they have not operated for a very long time.
But that does not mean to say that at this stage we should get the matter out of perspective. I repeat that it was quite clear that the honorable member for Werriwa had not done his homework in connexion with this matter and probably that is one of the reasons why he was not game to follow the Prime Minister in this particular debate.
It is worth while looking at the true position in connexion with this matter. On the statute-book of New South Wales there is an act which prevents people from entering into illicit unions of one kind or another which would tend to suppress free competition at auctions for the various types of farm produce. When that act was passed originally, wool was specifically excluded, as it was under similar legislation in two or three other States. At a later stage, the New South Wales act was amended to include wool, but that amendment has not been proclaimed as yet. How does that test the sincerity of the Opposition in bringing this matter forward? Either the honorable member for Werriwa, or an earlier speaker during the debate, made a point of the fact that pies were depressing the market. If Labour supporters wanted action to outlaw pies, if they wanted something done to make them illegal, all that was required was the proclamation of the amendment to the New South Wales statute. Immediately upon the proclamation of that amendment, pies would become illegal. This was the position when the royal commission was appointed to examine the Goulburn wool marketing and, incidentally - because it was only incidentally - to examine the question of rings or pies.
The second part of the Cook report relating to pies has been available to the New South Wales Government since early in November last year but, as yet, the New South Wales Government has dona nothing about it. How, then, can honorable members opposite charge this Government, in whose jurisdiction the problem does not lie because of legal and constitutional grounds, with inaction? Quite clearly their friends from the same political party in New South Wales could have, and I believe should have, acted in this matter, and I hope still that they will. I hope also that the other States will act after the matter has been discussed further. If the New South Wales Government believed this matter was one of great urgency, surely the first .thing it would have done would be to distribute copies of the royal commission’s report to the various Ministers who would be attending the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council held last February. The fact of the matter is that the report was not distributed to those Ministers until they arrived at the meeting of the Agricultural Council. No adequate discussion of the matter could have taken place because the New South Wales Minister responsible for the appointment of the commission, and for the report, did not submit copies of that report to the Ministers from the other States.
Again the honorable member for Werriwa had his facts quite wrong because he said that as the matter was not discussed last February it could not be discussed foi another twelve months. Even though he has no intimate knowledge of primary industries, he should know that the Agricultural Council meets twice a year. He should also know that if any Minister feels a matter is one of urgency it is possible for him to suggest to the other Ministers that they have a special meeting. For instance, a special meeting was held in the spring of last year to discuss the fruit fly menace. If the New South Wales Minister believed that this matter of .pies was one of great urgency, he could ask for a special meeting of the Agricultural Council to discuss the problem. He has done nothing of the kind. It must :be remembered that he is the Minister ‘responsible for the royal commission which was set up by his government, and not by this Government. Surely since that is so one would have expected more action from the New South Wales Government.
Wool auctions in Australia are held in every State -entirely under State statutes, and any changes in the auction system, as the laws and the Constitution stand at present, must be made by State governments. The
Attorney-General, who spoke before the suspension for dinner, made this point quite clear. Quite -frankly I sympathize with the State governments, which are charged with doing something in this matter, because obviously the policing of wool sales would be extremely difficult. It has been suggested that wool-brokers should invoice wool only to the original buyer. But that process would have to be followed through long after the wool had gone out of store, because there would be nothing to stop the original buyer of the wool having it split up where lt is double-dumped and all that sort of thing. There would have to be policing outside the store, and there would have to be jurisdiction over a commodity after it had been sold. That, again, is something which involves difficult principles and something on which it is not easy to give a quick judgment.
In regard to the difficulty of policing, I sympathize with the State governments which are charged constitutionally with looking into and solving this problem. It is by no means an easy one to solve. However, it is worthwhile to look at the attitude of growers on this matter. There are some who believe that the problem could be overcome by legislation, whilst others consider that it could be overcome by changes in the wool-selling regulations, which are drawn up by the brokers and the buyers and are the rules under which wool is actually sold. It may be that there is a body of growers who believe that changes of these regulations would be more effective in the control of pies and rings than any legislative action would be. It remains to be seen how the thing works out. However, so far there has been no joint and united request to the Commonwealth by the State governments or the growers’ organizations to act in this matter at present. It is known that quite clearly it is something which is under the jurisdiction of the States.
It was said that no one State could act alone in the matter, because, if legislation were introduced in say New South Wales, growers from some remote place in that State could send their wool to Melbourne, Brisbane, Geelong, or -even Perth. Perhaps one might think that that would be a good thing if it would get more people to go to Western Australia. But that is entirely unrealistic. One ;of the problems that the wool firms have at present is to find adequate storage space when the clip comes into store. That space has been established at very great expense in several areas throughout .Australia, and to say that you can suddenly divert a large part of the clip away from one -selling centre to another is so much nonsense. There is nowhere to put it, and the railways would get pretty fired of having hundreds and .even thousands of bales of wool lying about on their tracks. That is probably what would bappen if that sort .of thing were tried.
– We have not suggested that.
– It was suggested .by one honorable member who spoke, I think, after you had left the chamber. The honorable member may check it in “ Hansard “ in the morning. The truth of this whole matter is that pies and rings are a very small part of the problem facing the wool industry at present. The paucity of thinking on the part of members of the Opposition is exhibited by the fact that they have made no mention of other problems confronting the industry at present. Indeed, several of them had so little to say on the subject that this afternoon the report of Mr. Justice Cook was read out three times.
– -And good stuff it is, too.
– It is good stuff, but we had heard it before and read it ourselves. No mention has been made by the Opposition of the effect that overseas economic forces have on the wool industry. The Opposition has tried to imply that any state -of price depression on the market is due almost entirely to rings and pies. Quite clearly it is easier for a pie to operate at a time when there .is no great demand for wool, and harder for it to operate when the world wants wool and demand is Keen. But it should be pointed out that falls in the price of -wool have very closely followed falls in consumption in the major wool-consuming countries. -I wish to cite only two - the United Kingdom and France. In the January-June period of 1.957 consumption in the United Kingdom was .259i000,000 lb. on .a clean basis and in ‘France was 156,000,000 lb. on a clean basis. After 18 months, consumption had fallen to about 220,000,000 lb. in the United Kingdom and 114,000,000 lb. in France - significant falls in two of the major consuming countries. That same -trend can be seen in all the countries whose names 1 have on the list I hold in my hand.
If honorable members want to hear of further .indicators of this sort of thing I have here a table of employment figures in the textile industry in the West Riding of the United Kingdom. In the period that 1 “have mentioned, -before the fall in consumption, about 220 people were unemployed in the textile industry in the West Riding. In eighteen months unemployment had increased to ‘3,247 .people.
Shortly after this we come to the period when we had the real trough in Australian wool prices, in January and February of last year. There is a time lag in all these things, as honorable gentlemen will appreciate. That the price has recovered and has been satisfactory over the last selling season is reflected by the fact that in the last ten months unemployment in the West Riding textile industry has been at the not too unsatisfactory level of about 300. If there have been unemployment fluctuations df from 200 or 300 to 3,500 in the textile industry in one part of the United .Kingdom, can we reasonably expect such fluctuations *to’ have no effect on the prices we get for our product?
If honorable members like to have a complete picture -I can tell them that the average .price ‘we got for wool over the same period fell from between 60d. and 65d. to . an all-time low of 46d. in the JulyDecember period of 1958. Since that time, as honorable members know, prices have recovered .in .Australia, but these overseas economic conditions .have a very .great effect on .the return we get for our product, and to try to .suggest that pies are a major contributing factor in the level of wool prices is just so much nonsense.
All this tends to show up a certain eventuality inside the industry which does not bode any good for the industry in the years to come. Over the last -ten years it has not .mattered very .much if the industry’s organization has not been as effective or united as it might be, because although costs have been rising the industry has on the whole had the advantage, except for a period of 12 or 14 months ago, of very satisfactory prices, and has been able to carry high costs. But there is every indication that over the next decade the wool industry will not enjoy the extremely satisfactory prices that it has had over the last decade, and there may be some economic hardship in high cost areas throughout Australia.
At present, especially if wool is going to face a period of difficulty, this most important industry should be united. Quite patently, at present it is not united. I agree with the point made by an honorable member opposite that if the wool industry is not united it is more difficult for any Government, no matter of what political colour, to do the best it can for the industry; one group says this, and another group says that, and unless the Government rides rough-shod over the industry instead of letting it make up its own mind about things - something which is not in our philosophy although it is in the philosphy of the Opposition - it is very difficult for the Government to act. But if the industry is united, and can place its views before the Government on a firm and concerted basis, it is much easier for the Government to act on behalf of the industry, and the industry will be much better off in consequence.
talked for twenty minutes, and he dodged the whole issue. Every honorable member on the Government side has dodged the issue of where they stand on the question of the restoration of the war-time Joint Organization scheme inaugurated by the Curtin Government, which proved of great benefit to the wool-growers of this country.
– If that was the whole issue, why was it not mentioned in the motion?
– Apparently, the honorable member did not understand the terms of the motion. Of course, that is not surprising. The motion says -
That this House registers its strongest disapproval of the Government’s refusal to protect wool-growers against “ pies “ or rings which operate to the detriment of wool-growers and its continuing failure after ten years in office to protect the community generally from the restrictive practices of which such “ pies “ and rings are typical.
That means what it says. It means that the Government is a failure, that the Government has been allowing the wool-growers of this country to be fleeced by pies and rangs; and the graziers and squatters who sit in the Liberal Party and the small-time farmers who constitute the membership of the Country Party and who misrepresent the real farmers of Australia have done nothing except attack the New South Wales Government for what it allegedly failed to do on the report presented by Mr. Justice Cook, of the Industrial Commission of that State, after he had made an inquiry into the activities of those rings in New South Wales. No State Government can handle this problem on its own. It has to be a Commonwealth matter, and what we are advocating is what the present Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) himself put forward in 1951.
The only real cure for this situation is the formation of a body, such as the Joint Organization which operated in the war period, identical with or similar to that which was suggested by the Minister for Trade in 1951, and which was rejected by a poll of wool-growers when they took fright at the 25 per cent, tax deduction in the 1950-51 Budget introduced by the then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, who was the then leader of the Country Party. The then deputy leader of the Country Party, who is now the Minister for Trade, could not persuade the wool-growers to agree to a scheme that we believed was eminently sound, because the leader of his party frightened them off with his tax slug. What honorable members opposite will not recognize is that 73 per cent, of the woolgrowers of Australia are little men; they are growers who own from 500 to 1,000 sheep. There are only twelve men in this country with 100,000 sheep or more; and a very large number of the wool-growers of Australia are also wheat-growers. I have been talking to a number of these people lately, and they have told me that it is impossible to produce wool at a profit at less than 56d. per lb.; and the current price for wool is only 59d. per lb., whilst last year the average price was 46d. per lb. So, most of the wool-growers of Australia were producing at a loss or a near loss.
I do not know how younger men coming into the industry to-day are able to carry on when land that was worth £40 an acre a few years ago is worth three or four times that value to-day. There are quite a number of wool-growers who have wheat farms and dairy farms; they are mixed farmers, and this Government has done nothing to protect those little people from Sir James McGregor, whom the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has never heard of before.
– It was Sir George the States and the Commonwealth on any McGregor.
– He was a McGregor whom the Prime Minister had never heard of; but it so happened that he was a McGregor whom the Prime Minister had knighted. Of course, he does good work for these pies; and the great majority of wool-growers around Australia want some action taken for their protection and are looking to the Government to take that action. But it will do nothing about it. The wool-growers of Australia want a continuation of the auction system, plus a reserve price. How many honorable members on the Government side of the House are prepared to say that that is what the wool-growers want? We have not heard about it from one of them to-night.
– Have you heard the Australian Workers Union say it?
– I have not heard any member of the Country Party or the Liberal Party say that he supports that principle, although every one of them, by nodding assent, admits that what I say about the attitude of the small wool-growers is right. We are looking to honorable members on the Government benches who hold those views to put pressure on the Government to do something about the matter. And that is the purpose of our motion - to force action to help the wool-growers. But it is not only to help the wool-growers; we want action taken to prevent these restrictive practices from operating generally. Perhaps that can only be done by an amendment of the Constitution. On that issue the Prime Minister ran away from the position entirely.
A committee appointed by his Government examined the Constitution, took evidence and deliberated for three years; and it presented a report which, as every honorable member knows, was of great importance to the future of this, country. But to-day the Government cannot make up its mind what it wants to do about the matter. It is hoping, Micawber-like, for something to turn up and help it solve the problems of inflation. It is hoping that perhaps the States, or perhaps the States and the Commonwealth in combination will do something; but that is a vain hope. There has never been adequate co-operation between issue, except the Financial Agreement, in the whole history of federation. If what the Leader of the Country Party says about the state of the economy is true - that it is balanced on a razor’s edge - effective action should be taken and taken promptly. We have offered co-operation, and the Government wants co-operation, to secure the amendment of the Constitution required to give effect to the committee’s recommendations.
The Prime Minister to-night derided the idea of an excess profits tax, but let me remind the House that, on 6th October, 1950, approaching ten years ago, the right honorable gentleman, in a broadcast, said this - and the language is unequivocal and cannot be misrepresented or distorted by anybody; not even by his friends -
As, in a period of inflation and rising prices, profits tend to rise … we propose to present to. Parliament a bill to impose an excess profits tax.
To-night, he said that in 1947 Mr. Chifley produced reasons why there could not be an excess profits tax. If the Prime Minister knew that in 1947, why did he promise to produce an excess profits tax three years later, in 1950? We think that an excess profits tax, or a capital gains tax or some tax that will take a lot of the ill-gained profits from people who are manipulating the economy of Australia is desirable in the public interest and ought to be put into operation immediately. In 1942 - this was during the debate on the Income Tax (Wartime Arrangements) Bill of that year - when the present Prime Minister was sitting in Opposition, he had this to say -
I should say that in the first place it seems to me that in Australia there are certain things which constitutionally and from a governmental point of view are very desirable. The first is that there should be a new constitution.
The right honorable gentleman referred, not to a series of amendments to an old and existing constitution - not to some sweeping changes - but to a new constitution. He continued -
I have arrived at that conclusion after years of experience in both State and federal politics.
With eleven more years of experience in Federal and State politics behind him, he says,. “ Let us consult with the States and see if we cannot do something about the restrictive trade practices and the problems affecting the economy “. Perhaps a better way for him to state the case would be for him to say, “ Let us see if we can avoid doing anything”.
We do not need to emphasize this to convince the average Australian that restrictive trade practices are operating in this country to an extraordinary degree and that they have operated throughout the Commonwealth over the last ten years. There was an example of it the night before last. The major oil companies and the distributors of petrol met and decided that, as from the very, next morning, no petrol stations anywhere in Australia were to indulge in the practice prevailing in recent times of making gifts to those who buy their petrol. The decision was taken at 8 or 9 o’clock one night and it went into operation immediately all around Australia. This shows that there is the closest collaboration and association between the oil companies and the retailers. That practice is not restricted to the selling of petrol. It operates in respect of other things, such as television sets. It operates where some people, perhaps try to sell at a price which they think is reasonable but most of the distributors say to them, “ If you wish to sell at that price, we will see that you no longer get supplies “. There is an example in something that happened the other day concerning the firm of Goodwins Ltd.. which retails television sets. It has offices in Sydney and Melbourne, and it is therefore not a smalltime company. This retailer- was- selling television sets on hire purchase, without charging any interest at all until quite recently. The: manufacturers of the sets combined to pressurize the company into charging something, by way of interest. It was told that, if this was not done, further sets would; not be supplied. It is common knowledge that this kind of thing is happening throughout the trade. The firm of Goodwins offered to charge interest on debts outstanding on the goods it had sold at the prevailing bank interest rate - not at the rates generally charged on hirepurchase transactions. The bank interest rate, of course, is much lower than the rates charged by hire-purchase companies. Two firms agreed to supply Goodwins Ltd. with television sets on those conditions, but under pressure from the other manufacturers, Goodwins were eventually denied the right to have any sets supplied to them. Now we find that a position has developed which is to the detriment of Australia. Goodwins have sent representatives to Japan to negotiate the purchase of sets in that country, which certainly will be sold at a lower price than the Australian manufactured sets are being sold, taking into consideration the charge for the article plus the hire-purchase charges. This will be done at the expense of employees in the trade throughout Australia. We say that the Government has to face all these issues. To-day, it is evading everything. The Prime Minister never once referred to pies. He never touched the main portion of the motion.
– He said that the Attorney-General had devastated you.
– He made a silly claim. The Attorney-General could only last for six minutes in trying to justify his position in regard to pies.
– It was long enough.
– Of course it was long enough to satisfy the Treasurer, who is interjecting, but apparently he was not so satisfied after all because he had to get the Prime Minister to come in at the glamour hour, and he had to get the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), who tried to prove to the Parliament and to the listening public that the Government has a case.
– In desperation, they sent for the Treasurer.
– And now the Treasurer wants either to come into the debate or merely to interject.
– I would like to go home.
– I would not mind if the Treasurer decided to go home permanently. I think that would not be a bad idea for his own health and for the health of the economy. But this is the position: A motion has been moved by the Opposition and every point put forward has been proved up to the hilt. Every Government supporter has run away from the issue in speech after speech, and has tried to fool those who voted for him into believing that the Government is really honest in its protestations that it wants to protect the interests of the primary producers of Australia. But the primary producers are beginning to see through the Australian Country Party at last. I remind the honorable gentlemen who hold these country seats that when the wool and the wheat seats swing we will have Labour government, and on every piece of available evidence a lot of the pleasant faces that are in the Parliament to-night will be missing after the next election.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have listened with a good deal of interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), for this reason: He implied that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) took part in this debate because .they considered the matter to be important. But obviously, Sir, the right honorable gentleman himself did not consider it important because I have never heard such a disconnected or more hastily thought up collection of disparates - I will not call them ideas - in my life. I think that the only reason the right honorable gentleman spoke in this debate was because he felt that as the Prime Minister had spoken, he ought to speak. The Prime Minister considered this subject important enough to take part in the debate, but the Leader of the Opposition did not do so until he was forced and dragged into it.
I have had a great deal of difficulty in trying to understand precisely why the Opposition has been criticizing the Government in this censure motion, so called. Honorable members opposite started by referring to Mr. Justice Cook’s report and stating that, as a result of that report, this Government should be criticized because it had done nothing about the pie activities that were revealed in the report. Then the Attorney-General entered the debate and delivered what every fair-minded member of this House regarded as a devastating reply to that particular argument. Consequently, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) came into the chamber towards the end of the debate, tacitly admitted that what I have said was true, and said that the Opposition had criticized the Government all along the line because we had not introduced some sort of reserve price scheme - that we had not meddled around with the system of selling wool. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has told us that the wool-growers want a reserveprice selling system. He has said that because the wool-growers want such a scheme. This Government should implement it. I would say, Sir, that neither he nor any other member of his party has any real knowledge of what the growers’ organizations of this country are saying and thinking, if he believes that they are unanimous in the view that we should change the present system to a reserve price scheme. There are three major wool-growing organizations in this country. They are the Australian Wool-growers Council, the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and - last but not least - the Australian Primary Producers Union. The Australian Primary Producers Union and the Australian Woolgrowers Council have decided that, for the time being anyway, they do not want a reserve price for wool. As the Minister for Trade said earlier to-night, we on this side of the House have sufficient confidence in ‘the intelligence, veracity and foresight of the wool-growers to believe that they are capable of knowing what is best for their own industry.
I regard Mr. Justice -Cook’s report, on which a major part of -to-day’s debate has turned, as extremely valuable. It is amazing that an investigation into the system of selling our major product has not been undertaken previously. I want to make it clear that I am completely and absolutely opposed to pies and their operations and, as I understand it, that is the attitude of every honorable member on this side of the chamber. I certainly would support any action designed to eliminate pies, but I accept the unanswerable statement of the Attorney-General that this matter comes within the province of the States and, what is more, that unlike many matters which are properly and constitutionally within the province of the States, action to eliminate pies can be implemented effectively, as he has said, with a scratch of the pen, if the States wish to do so.
I deplore the Opposition’s motion on two principal grounds. In the first place, I believe that the Opposition is completely and absolutely hypocritical. I do not believe that a single member of the Opposition has any thought for the prosperity or the future of the wool-growers. I agree that if pies can be eliminated more competition will result in wool auctions. In fact, that is what should be done. But when has the Labour Party in Australia advocated competition? To the doctrinaire socialist “ competition is a dirty word. It is obnoxious to them. I do not believe all this nonsense about Labour’s opposition to restrictive trade practices. The second reason why I deplore the Opposition’s motion is because it distorts the whole matter of wool prices and the general position of the wool industry. The Opposition has tried to convey to the House, through hours and hours of indifferent oratory during this afternoon and this evening, that all the problems of the wool industry would be solved if the Government would do something about these pies. Of course, this is nonsense because, as my friend the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) has said, it puts the whole matter completely out of perspective.
Mr. Justice Cook had very narrow terms of reference. He had to inquire into the operation of pies, and forward selling. He had no terms of reference which allowed him to inquire into the effect of pies on fluctuations in wool prices, although he did say a little about that matter in his report. He certainly had no terms of reference to permit him to inquire into the fluctuation of wool prices generally. He has stated in his report that these pies exist and that, to some extent, they are detrimental to the growers, but he has made very little attempt to estimate their quantitative effect. Surely if you claim that you can solve the problems of the wool industry by eliminating these pies, as honorable members opposite have done, you should make some attempt to ascertain how important the pies are in their effect on the price paid for wool at auction. I wish to devote a few minutes to that aspect.
Mr. Justice Cook has made some mention of this subject in his second report which indicates that an analysis was made of the books of three different buyers, or groups of buyers, to ascertain the effects of these pies. The first of these analyses relates to nineteen lots of 84 bales which were bought by Lempriere and transferred to Sanderson under a pie arrangement. In the case of five lots totalling twelve bales, limits placed on the lots by the respective firms in the sale rooms were identical with the price which was paid, so that the pie had no effect on the price. In the case of nine lots, totalling 36 bales, there was a clear loss to the grower of from id. to 2)d. per lb. because of the pie arrangement. In the case of the remaining five lots, totalling 36 bales also, there was a possible loss to the grower of id. per lb., depending on which of the two buyers first reached a critical price. The bidding proceeds in minimum bids of id., so that a buyer can obtain a lot at a price id. per lb. below his limit, even though the other buyer may have the same limit. If we average out these losses, we find that the effect of the Lempriere-Sanderson pie arrangement in relation to these nineteen lots was a reduction of an estimated .638d. per lb. in the price paid to the grower.
The report also details an arrangement between Dreyfus, Prevost and McGregor relating to thirteen lots which were sold in Sydney and Brisbane in February, 1958. The average depressive effect of the pie arrangement was .422d. per lb. An analysis of the purchase of 121 lots by Kreglinger is also given in the report. In this case the average depressive effect was .31 Id. per lb.
One of the difficulties in estimating precisely the effect of pies on prices is that, although we know from the report that at least one-quarter of all wool purchases are subject to restrictive competition, unfortunately we cannot estimate the upper limit. However, if we assume that onehalf of all wool purchases are affected by pies, the average depressive effect over the whole clip would be between . 16d. and 32d. per lb. on the basis of the three analyses which are contained in the report. A more realistic way of stating this might be to say that pies reduced the price received by about1d. per lb. for every third or sixth bale sold, considering only the upper and lower limits I have just mentioned.
I am not suggesting that these small fractions of one penny are not worth discussing, because the addition of one penny to the average price per lb. of the Australian wool clip would put an extra £6,000,000 or £6,250,000 into the growers’ pockets. In that respect, I dispute the figure of £7,000,000 which Opposition members have mentioned quite frequently during the debate. I am not suggesting that these small fractions are not important, but when you think of sums of money of that kind you see the whole question of pies in perspective. Another consideration, of course, is that wool sales are held in a large number of centres at roughly the same time. Let us assume that the buyers’ combinations throughout the whole of Australia had succeeded in depressing prices by, on the average, one-fifth of a penny per1b. below the free auction level, and that Australia supplies half the world’s wool. The elimination of pies in Australia would not then lead to a rise in local prices of one-fifth of a penny per lb., because the price rise here would lead to a diversion of orders from Bradford, Japan, &c, to other centres such as South Africa and South America until the average effect on prices in Australia and elsewhere would be considerably lower than one-fifth of a penny per lb. It would be, say, one-tenth of a penny per lb. That is the figure that I have arrived at. Here I acknowledge the assistance of Mr. Gruen, an economist at the Australian National University, who has been doing a lot of work on the subject. The price of Australian wool sold at auction is affected by pies to the extent of approximately onetenth of a penny per lb. on a liberal estimate.
– That is pure speculation.
– It is not pure speculation. That figure is arrived at as the result of a reasoned argument, which you would realize, if you had taken the trouble to listen, is based on actual figures given in the Cook report from which you yourself quoted this afternoon.
That figure is the measure of the importance of the motion which the Opposition has moved. The Opposition has moved what is virtually a censure motion, and has taken up the time of the House for the whole of this afternoon and this evening, in relation to a matter which affected the price of wool by only one-tenth of a penny per lb., or . 2 per cent. at the prices ruling in the year in which Mr. Justice Cook made his investigation. Other factors produced a fluctuation in wool prices between the 1958- 59 season and the 1959-60 season of no less than 25 per cent., and atother times during the last eight or nine years they have produced a fluctuation of up to 63 per cent. The Opposition has taken up the time of this House for virtually the whole of one day to criticize this Government for doing nothing about a practice which, on the evidence of Mr. Justice Cook himself, has affected the price of wool by onetenth of a penny per lb. That is sheer hypocrisy.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 577) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so. resolved in the negative.
Knighthoods - Newspapers and Political: Parties - Housing in New South Wales - War Service Homes - Honours.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I should like to refer to the policy of this Government in respect of the conferring of knighthoods. It has now reached a point where some of the appointments are a mockery of this, outmoded and mediaeval system. The Federal Labour Party is strongly opposed to this policy and I believe that this view is shared by the great majority of the Australian people.
I have always been mystified as to how the appointments are made. Do the nominees have to fill in an application form and have it witnessed by a justice of the peace? Are the names of the budding knights then put into a hat and drawn out. On what grounds are the nominations made? Must the nominees be supporters of the LiberalAustralian Country Party? As a matter of interest L shall read an extract on this subject from- an; editorial which appeared in; the Sydney “Daily Mirror”. It states-.
In1 recent’ years- the conferring of-‘ titles on Australians, has’- in very many: instances, had little true relationship to service to the- community.
The list of. recipients, of Commonwealth, honours since the war shows a preponderance of politicians, public servants; judges; and officers of the armed forces.
And, because no Commonwealth honour is conferred upon an Australian citizen without the recommendation,, or approval, of. the Prime Minister, it is easy to see how the system can lend itself to the abuse of political patronage.
Doubtless many worthy Australians have been honoured, with knighthoods. But it is equally true to say that in other instances the public has been baffled to know on what grounds titles were- bestowed.
It is also demonstrably true that many Australians who have devoted lifetimes of service (often unostenstatiously) to their country have been passed over.
As that, editorial referred particularly to politicians and public servants let us examine, the. position - Sir Neil O’sullivan, Sir Percy Spender, Sir Arthur Fadden, Sir Josiah Francis, Sir Eric Harrison, Sir Walter Cooper, Sir Alister McMullin, Sir Philip McBride, Dame Annabelle Rankin and last, but not least, Lord Casey.
Speaking of Lord Casey, may I say that when he does eventually depart for England, it will certainly be a day of rejoicing for the. wedge-tailed eagles because they will once more have the freedom of the sky in Australia. Of course, the Australian Ambassador to Washington is now on the waiting list. His title will sound nice; - Sir Howard Pinhead Beale. I suggest that one man- in this Parliament does deserve a knighthood for his contributions to the preservation of world peace, and he should be Sir Willie Wentworth. I feel that that, man’ does deserve a knighthood for the work that he has done in this Parliament..
Now let us look at public servants who have received knighthoods. Sir Roland Wilson, Sir William Dunk, Sir Alan Watt, Sir Arthur Tange, Sir Allen Brown, Sir John Crawford, Sir Patrick McGovern, Sir Giles Chippindall, Sir Richard Boyer, Sir Kenneth Bailey and Sir Tasman Heyes.
If; as the Government suggests, these people in the Public Service were knighted because of their service to the Commonwealth, that, in my opinion, is a reflection on the remaining departmental heads who are just- plain misters. 1 turn to the newspaper field. Here we find Sir John Williams, managing director of the Melbourne “ Herald and Weekly Times1” which controls the Melbourne “ Sun-News Pictorial “, the Melbourne “Herald”, the Brisbane “Courier-Mail”, the Brisbane “Telegraph” and HSV television station in Melbourne. I suppose it is only a coincidence that these newspapers happen to be supporters of the Government. Next there is Sir Frank Packer, managing director of the Sydney “Daily Telegraph “, the “ Sunday Telegraph “ and TCN television station in Sydney. I believe that the appointment of Sir Frank Packer was an outrageous example of patronage. Every newspaperman at Canberra and every parliamentarian in this House knows, deep down, that Packer received his knighthood in recognition of his services to the Liberal and Australian Country Parties through his newspapers and television station.
Let me illustrate the bias of Channel 9 TCN in Sydney against the Labour Party. Prior to the last Sydney municipal elections, Channel 9 invited Civic Reform candidates for Lord Mayor, Mr. George Smith, and Alderman Kyle to “ Meet the Press “. Everything went off beautifully. No emharassing questions were asked. The only thing missing on the session was a nice cup of tea with buttered scones. This interview was specifically designed to present the Civic Reform candidates in a favorable light to the viewers, but the Labour candidate, Lord Mayor Jensen, was not even invited to appear on a “ Meet the Press “ session, simply because of bias against the Labour Party.
It was interesting to see, prior to the last Parramatta by-election that Channel 9 invited the selected Liberal candidate, Gar the Star, to “ Meet the Press “. I think the half-hour session was actually taken up with Gar telling some rib-tickling jokes of his experiences in the courts. But I noticed that the Labour candidate, Mr. Mahoney, the then mayor of that beautiful city, Parramatta, was not invited to present the case on behalf of Labour until the Labour Party rang up and actually told the station management that it thought, in fairness to both sides, that it. should let the Labour candidate present his case. Very grudg ingly the station allowed him ten minutes at the tail end of a session.
It is very noticeable that whenever a Labour leader, is invited for an interview to meet the press on Channel 9, the panel immediately sets about asking the most personal and embarrassing questions designed to belittle the Labour Party.
I should like to refer to the “ Daily Telegraph “, the self -named “ Paper you can trust “. That would be the joke of the century. The Canberra political journalist for this newspaper usually writes a weekly article and’ practically every one of them refers to the Labour Party in a very deprecating manner. On rare occasions a little mild criticism of the Liberal Party appears, to imply fairness to both sides, but it is strikingly significant that although this journalist was fully aware of secret meetings which were being held at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in Sydney by a rebel group of New South Wales Liberal members of this Parliament who were plotting to overthrow the oppressive Victorian strangle-hold on this Government, no mention was made of it.
Finally, let me say this: Despite the efforts of the “Daily Telegraph” to destroy the Labour Party, this great party will still be functioning when the Packers have passed to the Great Beyond.
.- Mr. Speaker, I very much dislike addressing the House during the debate on the motion for the adjournment, as the hour is late,, but I shall be very brief. Last evening, I had occasion to chide the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) for his exuberance in attacking this Government’s policy on war service homes. I suggested to him that he would do better to expend his energies in trying to improve the lag in housing in New South Wales, which was the worst in the Commonwealth. I was then taken to task by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr; Whitlam). Frequently, recently, we have had occasion to correct erroneous statements made by that honorable gentleman. He attacked me and said that my statement about the housing, lag in New South Wales was completely wrong. As his authority, he used the reports of the New South Wales Housing Commission, the Victorian Housing Commission and the South Australian Housing Trust.
I have not the report of the New South Wales Housing Commission from which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted figures, but I have the report for the year before. The honorable member said that, last financial year, 13,504 persons applied to the New South Wales Housing Commission for accommodation, that the number of applicants in Victoria was 12,972, and that the number in South Australia was 10,134. He gave those figures as representing the housing demand. I point out that I referred to the housing lag. The report of the New South Wales Housing Commission for 1957-58 indicates that there were some 14,000 applications in New South Wales in that year. It states, on the same page, that 25,000 houses were still required, and the number required in the year 1958-59, to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred, would have been the same. I have the report of the Victorian Housing Commission for that year, from which the honorable member quoted some of his figures. It indicates that there were 12,972 new applications in 1958-59, as he said, but it states, also, that 7,700 earlier applications had lapsed for various reasons. The honorable member could have mentioned that. Continuing, the report immediately points out that, at 30th June, 1959, the shortage of Housing Commission homes in Victoria totalled 16,000 dwellings. So, my figures were correct. My point was that New South Wales was lagging behind Victoria, although Victoria had a greater percentage increase in population.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition used per capita figures to cloud the real meaning of the statistics. Indeed, he occupied the whole of the ten minutes during which he addressed the House in the debate on the motion for the adjournment last evening in trying to befog the minds of honorable members. I repeat that what I said was right: New South Wales is lagging behind Victoria in this matter.
Every time the honorable member makes a point, I go to the Parliamentary Library and check his statements. Honorable members would be surprised to know how often I find that his hit-or-miss methods have led him into inaccuracy. It may interest him to learn that my experience is that one who wishes to succeed in leadership must be like Caesar’s wife. Therefore, he should not try to paint an incorrect picture when he tries to make a point in this House.
The only other point that I wish to make concerns the honorable member for Reid, who, last evening, as I have said, chided this Government on its record in relation to war service homes. Throughout the history of the war service homes scheme, which began after World War I., £365,000,000 has been spent, of which the Menzies Government has spent £312,000,000, or 85 per cent., on the construction of 136,000 homes. This is a magnificent performance, and the honorable member for Reid was very foolish to attack it.
.- Mr. Speaker, I want, briefly, to support the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) in the matter which he has raised this evening. I think it is of sufficient importance to warrant attention by the Government. I should like to make particular reference to one or two aspects of the matter. First, everybody knows the history of what was known as Lloyd George’s war chest, in respect of which there was a scale of charges for imperial honours for anybody who was interested. People who wanted what were regarded as the more important honours paid a higher figure than was paid by people who were content with lesser honours. I am not sure that Lloyd George was the only one who hit on this method of augmenting party funds. When I see published periodically lists of the names of people who have been recommended for imperial honours, I wonder whether such a fund does not exist in Australia to enable people to pay for the particular honours that they wish to have conferred on them.
– Now then, Somerville.
– The Minister makes a terrific protest. No doubt, he is getting his honours on time payment and has not yet paid in enough to get him the honour that he wants.
Let us now examine the procedure. No doubt, many members of the public are misled by what occurs in relation to the granting of imperial honours. The list begins in this way, “ Her Majesty the Queen has been pleased to confer honours upon . . . “. Her Majesty may be the actual instrument for the conferring of the honours, but the recommendations, in respect of Australians, come from the Prime Minister of this country or the Premiers of the respective States. Judging by some of the recommendations made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), I am of the opinion that he has been misleading Her Majesty. That is a most serious thing for any Prime Minister of this country to do. When honours are announced, the reasons for which they are conferred are published. Those reasons are submitted to the Queen by the Prime Minister in respect of honours conferred on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Government. Many of the people upon whom imperial honours are conferred would be completely unknown to the Queen, and she would have to depend on the recommendations made by the Australian Prime Minister. I assume that the Prime Minister naturally would take full responsibility for the recommendations that he makes, because it would be unfair for Her Majesty to have to take the responsibility for the conferring of honours upon some of the people to whom they are given.
Another thing that interests me is that, from time to time, when honours lists are published in the press, one reads that a person who has received an honour has expressed great surprise at its being conferred on him, and has said that he learned for the first time from the press that the honour was to be conferred on him. Surely a person’s wishes in the matter would have to be consulted a considerable time ahead, and the receipt books would have to be checked in order to ascertain whether he had paid in the necessary amount and, accordingly, was financial in the fund. This would have to be done before he could receive the honour.
I do not suggest that all imperial honours are conferred in this way. I merely say that, judging by some of the names that haveappeared in the honours lists, I believe that this Government has learnedsomething from thesystem adoptedby theLloyd George Administration in the United King dom in World War I., and is conferring imperial honours in the same way as they were then bestowed.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 32
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following answer to a question was circulated: -
What has been the expenditure on - (a) free drugs, (b) medical services, (c) hospitalization, and (d) administration in each year since the inauguration of the Commonwealth Health Scheme?
The amounts expended by the Commonwealth were -
House adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 March 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600324_reps_23_hor26/>.