24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. UREN presented a petition from certain electors in the Sydney area praying that (1) Australia protest to the British and United States governments regarding forthcoming nuclear tests and refuse to participate in tests in the Pacific area, (2) the Minister for Defence be instructed not to negotiate for nuclear bases in Australia and (3) the Minister for External Affairs reconsider his reply to the Acting SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations expressing Australia’s refusal to participate in a “ non-nuclear club “.
Petition received and read.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade a question. Is the Government expecting a direct reply from the European Common Market countries to the proposals put forward on its behalf by the Minister during his recent trip abroad, or is a reply expected when Great Britain’s application for membership is being determined? Does the Government expect to be in possession of the decision of the European Common Market countries in respect of its proposals before the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in September next? Has the Government formulated alternate plans to be adopted if its proposal for preference quotas is rejected and, despite this fact, Great Britain accepts membership in the European Common Market? If so, what are the details?
– The question seems to postulate that there will be one general reaction by the European Common Market countries to the proposal submitted on behalf of Australia by Dr. Westerman to the deputies. That, in fact, will not be how the operation will work out. The negotiation is really between two entities, the countries of the European Common Market on the one hand and the United
Kingdom on the other hand. In response to strong representations made by this Government to the British Government, which the British Government conveyed to the Ministers of the Common Market countries, Australia was accorded an opportunity to state a general case. We hope and trust that there will be further opportunities, as individual items are discussed, for the Australian viewpoint to be submitted again. In the coming months, sectors of trade and principles touching them, items of trade, common agricultural policy and common external tariffs will all be under discussion practically daily. There will be consultations between the United Kingdom and the Common Market countries. There will be daily consultations between the United Kingdom negotiators and representatives of Australia who are posted in Brussels and London. I think it would be more correct to say that decisions will evolve from these discussions rather than that at a single point of time an overall decision will be communicated.
I rather gathered that the latter procedure was in the honorable member’s mind. These matters will evolve progressively. Progress will have been made when the Prime Minister goes overseas, but I have no doubt that when the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, which is scheduled for September, takes place, all matters will not have been brought to a final conclusion. That is the way I see the trend of events and the general time-table.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service tell the House the reason for a dispute that occurred on the Sydney waterfront this morning, as a result of which, 1 understand, a large body of waterside workers ceased work at
II o’clock? An undertaking has been given, I believe, to enter into consultations with employers to-morrow in respect of the dispute. What are the implications of to-day’s stoppage, particularly as the Waterside Workers Federation has given an undertaking to desist from further stoppages for a period of one month?
– It is true that a large number of waterside workers walked off ships in the port of Sydney this morning. I think the dispute arose over the placement of shore labour on a vessel, the question being whether the work should be done by the stevedoring companies or by the union. I understand that the federation has directed the men to return to work at the commencement of the 5 o’clock shift. As to the implications, the first thing I can say is that if it has been agreed that consultations will be held to-morrow morning, I cannot understand why the Sydney branch of the federation did not seek consultations yesterday, and so avoid a strike. The second thing I can say is that arbitration machinery is always available, and that this strike was quite unnecessary. Finally, the Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation seems determined to produce a situation that will make it difficult to carry on negotiations in the right atmosphere about possible changes in the long-service leave legislation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. By way of preface, I remind the Minister that when Mr. Dean Rusk was in Australia he stated that the United States had a long history of opposition to trade restrictions of all sorts, and that it had a deep interest in exploring, with Australia, the kinds of long-term arrangements that would bring order to the marketing of key agricultural products. In view of the effect that trade restrictions have on the export of lead, zinc, wool and other primary products to the United States, I ask the Minister whether he made any specific arrangements with Mr. Dean Rusk to overcome these difficulties. If so, what was the nature of these arrangements?
– Yes, Mr. Speaker, all the items to which the honorable member has referred, and others, were mentioned; but as I have said in the House on quite a number of occasions in the past year, provision has been made within the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to open negotiations between all the countries that are parties to that agreement. All the items to which the honorable member has referred, and many others, have been listed by Australia, and discussions on them have been proceeding during the past year. Varying degrees of progress have been made in the discussions. I know that the honor able member is particularly interested in lead and zinc. A series of discussions has been conducted by what is known as a study group under the aegis of the United Nations, and it is the constant policy of the Commonwealth Government to try to get wider access to the market in the United States of America for lead and zinc. This is well known to the American administration, but over-riding this state of affairs is the fact that the President of the United States has recently submitted to Congress a proposal to confer on him much greater authority in the negotiation of tariff reductions between the United States and other countries. Mr. Dean Rusk, the United States Secretary of State, has great confidence that if this proposal is approved by the Congress, it will operate in a manner beneficial to Australia as well as to other countries. I have taken the liberty to express the view that if Congress provides such an opportunity for the United States to negotiate a reduction of tariff levels, it is much more likely to operate in respect of industrial products than in respect of the basic raw materials.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. In view of the many statements which are being made by leaders of industry, when discussing the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Common Market, that Australia will be forced now to look to markets behind the iron curtain, will the Minister inform the House whether all avenues for the promotion of trade with those Asian countries outside the iron curtain have been exhausted, bearing in mind that 50 per cent, of the Asian people are still free and independent?
– In the first place, may I say that no step has been taken by the Commonwealth Government to encourage or enlarge trade with Communist countries. Trade has been taking place with them but not on the initiative of the Government. On the contrary, the Government has taken the broadest initiative to exploit the opportunities for wider trading with all other Asian countries. The Japanese Trade Agreement is a classic example of this policy, but we have trade treaties also with Ceylon and Malaya. We have had a succession of trade missions to countries extending from the Mediterranean to the Far
East. At present, we have a trade mission in South America. I can assure the honorable member that every opportunity is taken by the Government to see that Australian goods are marketed in every place where we could conceivably be selling them. We are searching for new avenues of trade. We are giving incentives to trade missions, establishing trade commissioner posts, spending money on publicity and subsidizing shipping services.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that employees of the Lakes Creek meatworks at Rockhampton who have become unemployed are being refused social service payments on the ground that they are involved in an industrial dispute when in actual fact they have been stood down by the employer for entirely different reasons? Will the Minister ensure that responsible officers of the Department of Social Services investigate all such cases individually? If the employing company is to be consulted in this connexion to ascertain why men are unemployed, will the Minister issue instructions that the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union is also to be consulted?
– I regret to say that I have no personal knowledge of the circumstances which the honorable member has set out, but it will be my pleasure to make immediate investigations, and if there is anything that I can do to improve the situation I shall do it gladly. At the same time let me point out that if applicants for unemployment benefits comply with the requirements, the benefits are paid automatically. No officer of the department would ever deny anyone his just rights.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Because of the confusion in the minds of some people in Australia about the Commonwealth’s powers of centralization, will he make a statement setting out the actual position?
– I will be very happy to have a word with the Attorney-General about this matter. One cannot make offhand a statement of the kind sought if it is to be of any value, but I certainly will have a statement prepared.
– Will the Minister for Trade inform the House of the total quantity of prawns imported into Australia over the last twelve months? What was the landed cost price per lb. of these prawns? From what country were they imported?
– I must confess that I do not carry the figures in my mind, but I shall endeavour to obtain them and shall make them available to the honorable member.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. In view of the fact that the Government has committed itself to advance many millions of pounds for the construction of beef roads in Queensland, will the Treasurer state whether these funds are being used or will be used for this purpose, or whether the roads are being constructed for defence purposes? Many northerners regard the building of these roads as a stunt by the Government because they believe that the roads are required for defence purposes and not for the transportation of beef.
– I should be very sorry to believe that any significant number of the very fine people who labour in the north of Australia think that this Government is trying to put a stunt over them with its programme for the construction of beef roads. As all honorable members are well aware, the Commonwealth Government, in collaboration with the State governments concerned, has embarked on a programme designed to increase the outturn of beef cattle from areas in Australia where in the past there have been serious losses either because the cattle could not be moved to areas where pasture was available or because they could not be moved in time to the point of despatch. In conjunction with the State governments we have launched ourselves on an extensive programme of beef road construction. The Commonwealth Government has made no stipulation at any stage as to where the roads should be placed in relation to any defence activity. Our sole objective is that the roads should serve the purpose intended, that is, to improve the out-turn of beef cattle.
– 1 preface my question to the Minister for Trade by stating that no doubt he is aware of the Trade Expansion Act, Index No. H.R. 9,900, which has been the subject of a long debate in the United States Congress. No doubt he will be aware also that this act provides for displaced American workers who lose their employment because of the reduction of tariff controls in the United States and because of the possible effect on the American export trade of the European Common Market. This act provides for a government payment-
– Order! The honorable member is now proceeding to give information. I suggest that he ask his question.
– Assuming the Minister knows of this legislation, my question is: Is it not a fact that the recent lifting of import controls caused hardship in many Australian secondary industries and displaced a considerable number of Australian workers? Also, is it not a fact that when Great Britain enters the Common Market Australian export trade will be seriously dislocated? Does the Minister agree that assistance will have to be given on a federal level? Also, is the Minister considering introducing legislation for the protection of Australian workers as well as those secondary and primary industries which are affected by the Common Market? If not, why not?
– I confess that I am not familiar with the act, the number of which the honorable member mentioned, but I have a vivid memory of Opposition members bitterly protesting against import licensing and its operation. The honorable member now suggests that the lifting of import licensing was bad for Australian workers. This, it seems to me, would be an appropriate subject for discussion in caucus in order to sort out the Australian Labour Party’s view on the question of import licensing. The honorable member cannot ask me to anticipate the outcome of the United Kingdom’s Common Market discussions. Whatever that outcome is, no doubt it will be a subject for discussion by the Parliament, and a policy will be formulated from that discussion.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. Recently, a statement appeared in the press that seven pilot farms were to be set up near Katherine to test the economics of improved pasture fattening of cattle. Can the Minister give any more details of this matter? What is expected1 to be the area of these farms, and what credit arrangements are to be made for the settlers? Are the pilot farmers to receive guaranteed prices for what they produce, as was suggested by the Forster committee?
– Following the submission of the report of the Forster committee, the Government considered this particular recommendation for the establishment of pilot farms to test the economics of farming in the Northern Territory. It approved of the establishment of such farms. The details of the proposal, which were the subject-matter of the second part of the honorable member’s question, are at present receiving close study by the Department of Territories, the Treasury and the Northern Territory Administration in order to work out a satisfactory scheme.
– By way of preface to a question addressed to the PostmasterGeneral, I point out that in reply to a question- asked of him on 9th May he stated that there were 93,000 duplex telephone services in operation in Australia. Will the Postmaster-General inform the House whether his department has formulated any plans to avoid inflicting this second-class, costly, unsatisfactory service on applicants who desire an exclusive service? Is he aware that the stock excuse that cable and exchange equipment as well as man-power are in short supply due to defence needs and war causes is no longer valid at this time, seventeen years after the war has ended? Will the honorable gentleman make adequate provision in the 1962-63 Budget estimates for the postal department to supply immediate telephone services to all applicants? Surely he will agree that a policy of compelling people in business and industry to wait years for telephone services belongs to the dark ages.
– As the House well knows, for years now since this Government came to office an increasing amount each year has been allocated for capital works and services in the Post Office. For instance, the amount provided for this purpose in the current financial year is of the order of £45,000,000. As the House knows, too, the demand for telephone services has been steadily increasing and, some years ago, the practice of providing what were called duplex services was adopted to enable the Post Office, within the scope of the available funds, to give services to the greatest possible number of people.
The honorable member has remarked that there are 93,000 duplex services. That means that 93,000 people are getting a service which they would not get if we were to say, “We shall provide no service except an exclusive one “. I point out again, as I have pointed out before, that a duplex service is not provided unless the person already served who will be a party to the duplex service has a very low calling rate. Obviously, in those circumstances the particular pair that serves the first subscriber can carry a second service without harm to either the existing subscriber or the intending one.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade a question. In view of the expressed wish of the Government of the United States of America to liberalize trade - a wish which the Minister mentioned in his answer to an earlier question - can the right honorable gentleman say how the proposed trade expansion act of the United States could benefit Australia’s trade?
– Broadly, the proposal submitted to the United States Congress by President Kennedy is that he be authorized to exercise a wider discretion in negotiating tariff reductions with trading partners of the United States. I think it is made clear that a principal objective is to negotiate tariff reductions mutual to the United States and the countries of the European Common Market. Under the operation of the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, whatever reductions are accorded by any country then extend to the benefit of every country which is a member of Gatt. Therefore, theoretically, Australia would gain by lower tariffs negotiated between the Common Market countries and the United States. If the overwhelming number of the items on which those lower tariffs were negotiated turned out to be industrial items, as I consider they are likely to be, the benefit to Australia of having entry to the United States or to Europe for factory products at somewhat lower tariffs would not, I believe, give Australian industry very great advantage in the end.
Our great interest is to have better access for our food products, our wool and our agricultural items generally, and for basic raw materials like lead and zinc, and also aluminium, which we are at present producing in excess of our requirements and are able to export. These are the items in respect of which, historically, as every one knows, we have had great difficulty in improving the terms of trade, either because the industrial countries of the northern hemisphere pursue policies of price support for their own agriculture which enable them to be self-sufficient, or because, like the United Kingdom, they sell at lower prices or, like the United States, they are unwilling to accept commodities on ordinary terms. In the United States, we are obstructed by quotas on lead and zinc, by high tariffs on wool, and by tariffs or quotas on foods such as butter and cheese.
I accept the bona fides of the United States in this matter. However, I point out, not with any acrimony, but in a reasoned manner, that I do not believe that the benefits which the United States Administration, apparently quite genuinely, believes will accrue to Australia, will extend to us. I hold that belief for the reasons that I have stated.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade a question without notice. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that at present Australia is importing large quantities of vegetable oils from overseas? Also, is he aware that, with proper encouragement of the vegetable-oil industry, we could become self-sufficient in these products and thereby conserve our overseas credit balances? I may add that the growers of linseed, safflower and soya beans are anxious that this industry progress. I ask whether the Minister will inquire into this matter for the purpose of assisting this industry.
– I am aware that vegetable oils such as safflower, linseed, soya bean and peanut, are imported into Australia, maybe in quantities larger than we would wish to see. But I think the honorable member will be aware that the Government has, in response to requests by these industries, asked the Tariff Board to make recommendations appropriate in its judgment to protect them. This has been done by a combination of tariff duties and, for a period, quantitative restrictions - in the days when such restrictions were generally applied and the method has operated to give protection to the producers of Australian vegetable oils. In addition, the officers of the Department of Trade and the Department of Primary Industry have been active in operating between the crushers, who use the linseed, cotton seed and that kind of commodity, and the growers in getting contracts from year to year on what broadly have been satisfactory prices. So the primary producer has been assured of having his produce taken at a known price by the crushers. Having said all of that, may I add that I do not feel that at the present time this situation is entirely satisfactory. I assure the honorable member, and those who are engaged in these industries, that the Government is keeping a close watch to see what further action might properly be taken through the Tariff Board, or otherwise, to encourage the expansion of the vegetable oil producing industry in Australia.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General and by way of illustration I say that a great deal of advertising in television and broadcasting proceeds from the mixed assumption that viewers and listeners have the mental outlook of five-year olds; that they have a liking for crashing stars, gremlin-like characters and blurbing noises; that they are soft touches, and that by and large life is just one big ache. Will the Postmaster-
General request the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to examine advertising standards with a view to getting those responsible for the standards to recognize that at least the Australian community is tolerably intelligent, healthy and honest, and is not made up of hypochondriacs and mugs?
– The question of advertising standards is one to which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has applied itself over a period of years. Conferences have been held with the various licensees and a standard of advertising was laid down which, generally, has to be followed. The control board also regularly monitors programmes, and if it is found that any advertising infringes the standards that have been laid down, offends good taste, or something of the sort, the licensee’s attention is directed to this matter and he is required to effect an improvement. This surveillance, I think, does not go to the extent of the board’s setting out to try to determine just exactly what are the wishes of viewers generally in this matter. Although I agree with the honorable member for Moreton that at times we see or hear very trashy advertising, apparently it must appeal to some viewers, otherwise the advertisers would not use it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. Is the Minister aware of any discussions with or approaches to the Federation of Malaya and to Japan over membership of Seato and, if so, what is the Government’s attitude to this possible increase of membership of Seato?
– I have no knowledge of any such approaches being made. Of course, the Seato council would welcome every Asian country’s joining Seato.
– Can the Minister for Trade inform the House whether the recent trade mission to South-West Asia organized by the Department of Trade in association with the Australian Manufacturers Export Council has succeeded in increasing Australian sales in that area and in attracting greater interest in this country as a source of supply of both primary and secondary goods?
– I am able to say that the trade mission to which the honorable gentleman refers, and each of the other trade missions that have been organized over recent years, have secured new business, and more business, for Australia. I will endeavour to obtain some examples to illustrate the point for the information of the honorable member and of any other honorable member who may be interested.
– Does the Minister for Territories now agree that the arrangement entered into with Territory Rice Limited under which that company secured concessions of 1,500,000 acres of land to develop the rice-growing industry in the north has ended in total failure and has also caused severe financial loss to dozens of creditors both large and small? Is the Government also in agreement with the sale of this company’s trading loss of £1,400,000 to the Rio Tinto interests - a mining concern which will use the loss to offset against profits so as to escape, in part, taxation for which it would normally be liable? Will the Minister now take steps to cancel the original concessions, after protecting the interests of certain shareholders, because of the numerous breaches of the agreement and the shocking mismanagement of the scheme? In view of the expenditure of approximately £250,000 by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Northern Territory Administration on research facilities that have already yielded very promising results will the Government set up its own scheme of settlement in order to put this promising industry on a firm footing and in order, also, to take advantage of the results of the research? Will the Government also cause to be held a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the inauguration of the project?
– I think that the only way in which to deal with the series of questions asked by the honorable member for the Northern Territory - questions which come strangely from seme one who purports to be advancing the interests of the Northern Territory - is ‘o give a correct recital of all the transactions relating to Territory Rice Limited. The position was that the Northern Territory Administration, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, was carrying out rice-growing experiments in the early 1950’s. Those experiments were so encouraging that when a group of American investors who were looking around Australia for opportunities for investment had their attention drawn to them they, on their own judgment and making their own decisions as businessmen, decided to form a company in conjunction with an Australian group of investors. They entered into an agreement with the Government under which increasing areas of land were to be made available to the company as it developed the areas which it already had. The company engaged in rice production, and it made its own decisions about the way it did so.
Looking back over the history of the matter, I think it would be a sober judgment to say that the company made many errors both of engineering and of management. The upshot of this was that the major American backer of the company decided that he had put in enough money and would not put in any more. So Territory Rice Limited had to look to the winding up of its affairs. At that point it was debtor, by a considerable amount, to a wide variety of creditors. The arrangement which it made - and, again, this was an arrangement which the people with interests in the company made - was the formation of a new company. Most of the shareholders in it were the major creditors of Territory Rice Limited. This new company took over the assets of Territory Rice Limited. The main American investor surrendered and made no claim in respect of the major debts due to him, but also took, in consideration of some of the debts due to him, shares in the new company. So the new company is formed of the major creditors of the old company and some of the principals of the old company. The new company has proceeded to realize on the assets of the old company to the best advantage. Governmentally, we have no knowledge of what it may have done about selling what are generally referred to as the book losses of the old company. I have seen something in the newspapers, as the honorable member apparently has, to the effect that the old company has sold its losses for taxation purposes to the Rio Tinto interests. We have no knowledge of that. It has not come under our official notice. If that has been done, it has been done as part of the whole process of realizing the assets of the original Territory Rice Limited.
For the information of the honorable gentleman and of the House I would like to stress that in spite of these events affecting one particular organization, rice experimentation has gone on with very encouraging and promising results. Moreover, four farmers who were previously employees of Territory Rice Limited have become tenants of the new company. They have continued farming as tenants and in this current season they will harvest about 1,000 acres of rice. If their results as tenant farmers are as good this season as they were last season they will be financially successful.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry in a position to inform the House whether the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board is about to retire? If he is, what plans have been made for the appointment of a successor? Can the Minister assure growers that any appointment that is made will be acceptable to wheat-growers and wheat-grower organizations?
– The terms of all members of the Australian Wheat Board, including that of the chairman, expire on 26th October next. Certain appointments, including that of the chairman, which are made by the Government will be made just prior to that date. I think it is generally known and understood that Sir John Teasdale, the present chairman, who is getting on in years, is not seeking reappointment. The appointment of a chairman is a matter for Cabinet decision.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Has the New South Wales Government made excellent progress in the task of reconstructing to highway standard the major portions of the road from Canberra to the coast which lie within the State and which, of course, have been financed partly with Commonwealth money? Can the Minister say when any major works on the development of the section of the road within the Australian Capital Territory will be put in hand?
– I cannot give the honorable member a precise reply to that question, but I will get the information for him.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade a question concerning representations made to him on behalf of the Australian Citrus Growers Federation and the New South Wales Citrus Growers Council. It relates to a proposal by those bodies to send a trade mission abroad to increase the sale of fruit, especially in the United Kingdom and Western European markets. Can the Minister say what type of assistance the Government can offer to the mission?
– The honorable member has been very active in supporting the request of the bodies to which he has referred that financial assistance be given to a mission of citrus fruit-growers to go to Europe in the event, I think, of a large citrus crop being produced in New South Wales. Consideration has been given to this request. It is not possible to accord direct financial assistance towards the expenses of the mission, but the resources of the trade commissioner service in Europe will be available to the mission. It will be given every aid, direct and indirect, including introductions and contacts. Before the mission leaves Australia the resources of the Department of Trade will be made available to it to help in planning the best conduct of its selling operations.
– by leave - After close consideration of the immense importance of the European Common Market negotiations to Australian production and trade, and to the political future of the British Commonwealth, I have decided that, as the head of the Australian Government, I should make a brief visit, during the parliamentary recess, to Great Britain and the United States.
Mr. Macmillan has, in correspondence with me, expressed the hope that I can do this. My colleague, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), whose recent efforts command our admiration and gratitude, is himself convinced that, in this period when the negotiators are beginning to get to grips with the practical issues, on-the-spot discussions by myself are necessary. I hope to do what I can to reinforce and, where appropriate, supplement his own advocacy. What is clear is that we cannot spare any efforts to see that whatever decisions ultimately emerge will not be arrived at without the fullest and clearest understanding of Australia’s case, a case which rises superior to any domestic political differences.
The political implications of an entry by Great Britain into the European Economic Community must be very significant. I would wish to discuss them in London at an early date under circumstances not always easy to achieve during the course of a comparatively brief Prime Ministers’ Conference.
Other great problems confront us, such as the state of affairs in South-East Asia and in New Guinea. These concern, not only us, but our partners in Seato and Anzus - our friends generally.
My Government feels that I should take the opportunity of top-level talks not only with the Government of Great Britain, but also with the President of the United States of America. There will be a Prime Ministers’ Conference in September, a conference of historic significance. My own participation in it will, I have concluded, be rendered more effective by the knowledge I hope to gain in my talks in June. The more these great issues are clarified in our own minds, and those of others, the better should it be for wise and fruitful ultimate conclusions. Certainly, as Prime Minister, I must seek completely to discharge my responsibilities, by all means within my power, to the Parliament and people of Australia.
I now pass to other and important aspects of the great matters to which I have been referring. The first is that it would be a misfortune if, during the September conference, Parliament should be sitting at Canberra. I am not alluding to the problem of pairs, for I know that the Opposition would appreciate the importance of Australia being represented at the conference. But those representing Australia in London should not, if our case is to be presented with singleness of purpose, be distracted by political events in Canberra. We have, therefore, proposed to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that, when the general Budget debate is disposed of, at the end of August, the House should adjourn, not for the customary week, but for four weeks. Adjustments can be made thereafter to ensure that the total period of the Budget session will not be abbreviated.
There is a second matter of some novelty and importance. It is not completely novel, because there is a precedent for it on one occasion. The Common Market problem concerns both sides of this House, and all sections of the Australian community. When the September conference has concluded, and its results are reported to this Parliament, it seems to us to be most important, in a matter which transcends our domestic political differences, that leaders on both sides should have had an opportunity of informing their minds, overseas, on the views and attitude of the negotiators and governments concerned.
I have made it clear to the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), who understand and, I believe, accept what I have said, that a Prime Ministers’ Conference is private, and that interim statements cannot come out of it. But at the same time we have invited the Opposition to send some of its leading members overseas, so that, by consultations of their own choosing, they may acquaint themselves at first hand, with no commitments to us and with no restrictions by us - on the contrary, with every reasonable facility - with the currents of opinion which have such a bearing upon the future of Australia.
I have also informed the Leader of the Opposition that should one or two of the persons chosen by the Opposition desire to make his or their journey during the coming parliamentary recess rather than in September, that will be acceptable to us.
– by leave - The Government has approved a recommendation of the Public Service Board that, subject to the maintenance of the requirements of efficiency for the duties to be performed, wider opportunities should be provided in the Commonwealth Public Service for the permanent appointment of physically handicapped persons. The Public Service Board’s recommendation followed consideration of the results of an inter-departmental investigation and of recommendations by the Boyer Committee of Inquiry into Public Service Recruitment.
In the past, the general rule has been that permanent appointees to the service should be in sound health and likely to remain so until retiring age. Associated with this has been the requirement that permanent officers shall be members of the Superannuation Fund, which provides retirement, invalidity and widows pensions.
For returned soldiers this rule was relaxed. The Public Service Act provides that a returned soldier may be permanently appointed “although he is not free from physical defects due to service in the war “, if the board is satisfied that “ the returned soldier is free from such physical defects as would incapacitate him for the efficient discharge of the duties that he would, on appointment, be required to perform”. Such appointees are not admitted to the Superannuation Fund but are required to contribute to the Provident Account.
Experience in Australia and overseas has shown that, subject to careful selection and placement, many persons who cannot be certified as in sound health and likely to remain so until retiring age are nevertheless able to compete in employment on their own merits. It is now generally agreed that physically handicapped persons should be afforded an equal opportunity with persons in sound health to perform work for which they are qualified.
Accordingly, subject to the overriding requirement to maintain the efficiency of the service, and on the basis of careful selection and placement, the Public Service Board will now consider for permanent appointment to positions for which they are qualified, physically handicapped persons who are not at present eligible. Persons appointed at the lower medical standard will not be admitted to the Superannuation
Fund. They will be required to contribute to the Provident Account. This relaxation accords with the main recommendations of the Boyer committee.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Dairying Industry Bill 1962.
Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill 1962.
Dairy Produce Export Control Bill 1962.
Without requests -
Dairy Produce Export Charge Bill 1962.
– I have receiver a letter from the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The Government’s failure to take steps to safeguard the sale of eggs and egg products to other countries and among the States.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
.- Honorable members will be aware that the poultry industry, and particularly the egg-producing section of it, has not enjoyed, for various reasons, the stability that it would have desired in recent years. Developments in recent months have been the cause of great alarm among producers in all States, and this alarm has been reflected in statements from both producer and marketing organizations. In addition, it has been the principal motivating factor behind the formation of two new organizations, the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities, consisting of all State marketing boards, and the Federal Council of Poultry Farmers of Australia, a national producers’ organization with members in all major producing States and representing the principal producer organizations.
The Opposition believes, and producers believe, that the industry is in a state of emergency, a state in which egg production has become uneconomic, a state in which poultry-farmers, being deprived of a reasonable income, face - to use a phrase that has been used by several leading authorities - a painful period of contraction in the industry. What is meant, of course, is that many poultry-farmers face the loss of their farms, their capital and their livelihood. This is a situation which could have been avoided if appropriate action had been taken by the Commonwealth Government. This situation, which I intend to outline - necessarily briefly in the time available - has been reached despite a remarkable improvement in farming methods and techniques, which has naturally brought with it increased efficiency.
The average poultry-farmer in the Bendigo electorate, to take him as an example, finds that his return per case of 30 dozen eggs has diminished from an average of over f 6 at this time last year to less than £4 at the present time. This £4 is received after Victorian Egg Board charges have been deducted, but the farmer still has to meet feed costs and charges for labour, interest, depreciation, electricity, local authority rates, maintenance and water out of this diminished return. I have with me some egg board receipt dockets which I have obtained from an average farmer. They cover two deliveries, each of ten cases, or 300 dozen eggs, one in April of last year and the other in April of this year. In April, 1961, the return to the producer, after egg board charges had been paid, was £61 2s. 8d., an average of about 4s. Id. a dozen, while this year the return was only £37 2s. 7d., an average of 2s. 3d. a dozen. From this return the producer had to meet all the charges that I mentioned earlier. I remind honorable members that normally this time of the year is a period of high income, because of higher prices, and is expected to make up for leaner periods.
It is estimated conservatively by producers that the city of Bendigo alone, which places great economic reliance on egg production, is losing £10,000 a week in income because of the situation that has developed, as compared with the income that was received in 1961.
As further evidence of sharply reduced returns to egg producers, and of the crisis in the industry, I have a Victorian Department of Agriculture report, which honorable members may peruse if they wish, which is literally hot from the press. It is the final report of the Fourth Victorian Random Sample Laying Test, which was concluded on 8th April last. The significant information given by the test, I think, is that concerning the income per bird over the seventeen-weeks period. The second test, over the period 1958-1960, indicated that an income of £2 ls. 4d. a bird was obtained. A substantial fall was shown in the third test, when the income dropped to £1 lis. 6d. a bird in the period 1959-1961. In the period of the fourth test, which ended on 8th April last, a disastrous fall was shown to £1 3s. 8d. a bird. These figures of course, do not give net returns, as feed costs and the purchase price of day-old chicks were the only costs taken into account. However, these official and carefully compiled figures adequately support those of individual producers. The figures paint a dismal picture, and they show a situation which this Parliament should take immediate action to remedy.
Only a few years ago an average poultryfarmer, being reasonably efficient, could make a living with from 800 to 1,000 birds. Nowadays, after an outlay of at least £8,000, and with a minimum of 2,000 birds, the poultry-farmer struggles to exist. Because of the nature of the industry, constant attention to his flock makes the poultry-farmer’s labours long, and in many cases only the hard-working assistance of his wife and children enables him to remain solvent.
This is the unfortunate picture, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and we look for the causes and the cure. The first apparent cause is the almost complete collapse of our traditional market in Britain. The price obtained in that market for the egg-pulp equivalent of a dozen eggs has fallen from an uneconomic, but better than nothing, figure of 2s. Id. to about ls. 5d. - if the product can be sold. The Victorian Egg Board is so concerned at this and other developments that it took the unprecedented step of printing a special statement, dated 9th April, which tells the story clearly. I quote briefly from it -
It could be said that there is considerable doubt about our ability to even obtain our necessary share of the British market at any price.
The result of this collapse in price has been an increase of pool charges levied by the egg boards, to compensate for losses on overseas markets. The Victorian charges have increased from 8d. to lid. a dozen, which, when added to handling and grading charges, places a heavy burden of ls. 41d. a dozen on producers.
The reasons for our failure to sell our eggs and egg products, or to gain a reasonable price for them, on the British market are twofold. Britain some time ago initiated a drive for self-sufficiency in egg production. To gain increased production an egg price guarantee system was introduced, and this has been a major cause of release of large quantities of British pulp on the home market. This is beyond our control, but the second cause of the deterioration of our overseas marketing is of our own design. Since 1959, Mr. Deputy Speaker, our Australian egg marketing authorities have engaged in cut-throat competition in their struggles to maintain overseas sales. In our major market in Britain the Australian and New South Wales Egg Boards have been undercutting one another, while at this very moment three of our egg marketing authorities have representatives in South-East Asia competing against one another. In one Asian market, Western Australia, because of undercutting by Victoria and New South Wales, was forced to accept a reduction in price from 4s. lOd. a dozen to 2s. 8d. a dozen. Surely this is a ridiculous state of affairs and the Australian Egg Board apparently thinks so, too. I quote from its report for the year ended 30th June, 1961 -
The effect of competition between the two Australian interests in the United Kingdom market has been to reduce the average realizations for Australian frozen eggs shipped overseas to the detriment of Australian egg producers.
Now, the same thing is happening in Asia. The Commonwealth Government has the constitutional power to control all exports from this country, and a strong government would have exercised this power to prevent unnecessary losses to the nation and the producers, and the consequential price rise to the Australian consumers. Failing agreement at the meeting of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities in Adelaide this week, I urge the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to assume and use the power that is vested in him under the Egg Export Control Act.
So much for overseas marketing. In the home market, the various State egg boards set up to administer orderly marketing schemes labour under great difficulties because of our outmoded Constitution. Too often they shoulder the blame for high prices and poor returns to producers when, because of the much-discussed section 92 of the Constitution, their hands are tied. I quote again from the special statement issued by the Victorian Egg Board -
The inflow of interstate, sham interstate and pool evasion eggs continues as producers strive desperately to keep up their net returns, lt means, of course, that a few producers are gaining perhaps 3d. or 4d. a dozen on a market unnecessarily depressed right throughout the Commonwealth by 6d. or even ls. a dozen.
The situation is, indeed, ridiculous. Eggs are transported from State to State to evade the pool charges which make up our overseas losses. This throws an additional burden on the producer who plays the game. Eggs are even transported from Victoria across the border and back again to dodge the fair and equitable levies. Clearly, the answer can lie only in an amendment to section 92 of the Constitution.
Here again the finger can be pointed at the Menzies Government. More than three years have passed since the report of the allparty Constitutional Review Committee was presented to the Government. Members of all three parties on the committee appreciated the need for greater federal power over trading and marketing and yet the Government, despite the concurrence of its own members on the committee, continues to refuse to seek the power.
Stable internal marketing can never come without Commonwealth control and State co-operation. The great need is for a reconstituted Australian Egg Board to control all sales, overseas and local, with the State egg boards acting as agencies within the States. Obviously, the Australian Egg Board could smooth out the inconsistencies between the supply and demand in the various States, and by planned interstate transfers of eggs achieve stability in both returns to the producer and prices to the consumer. I urge the Government to rescue the poultry industry from disorganized marketing and bring sanity to its operations.
I have demonstrated to the House the egg producers’ diminished returns. Unfortunately, there exists no corresponding fall in costs of production. Feed costs - the major contributing factor - are tremendously high. The poultry-farmer pays top price for his feed wheat, the major ingredient in poultry mashes and pellets. In fact, just as the baker pays 16s. Id. a bushel for wheat to produce bread, so, too, does the poultry-farmer pay that price to feed his fowls. Further, the farmer pays for enough wheat to cover a long period in advance, and poultry-farmers look with envy at overseas sales on credit for prices around 3s. a bushel less than the price they pay. They would be less envious if they, too, were able to purchase wheat at a lower price. Surely, means can be found within the framework of the wheat stabilization scheme to give poultry-farmers a better deal, and I suggest that when the scheme comes up for reenactment, the provision of a stock feed price for wheat be earnestly considered.
I have urged three measures to assist the poultry industry. They are, first, Commonwealth control of export marketing; secondly, Commonwealth control of domestic marketing brought about after an amendment to section 92 of the Constitution; and, thirdly, the institution of a stock feed price for wheat. But the last two may take time and the need is urgent. The industry itself desires the urgent application of a subsidy on export sales in an attempt to ease the burden on producers and to assist in selling their excess production overseas. Failing this, there is an alternative which would serve two worthy purposes.
Unfortunately, in the world to-day there are millions who go hungry and millions who starve. As a gesture from the haves to the have-nots, I urge the Government to purchase the surplus egg pulp from the Australian egg boards and to make a gift of this, the most nutritious of foods, to needy nations. By doing so, the Government can clear the decks of surplus pulp and enable the industry to gain a breathing space in which to pursue alternative markets vigorously.
Some may shrug off the industry’s troubles by saying it has over-produced, but the Commonwealth Government has a very real responsibility in this matter and I urge it not to stand idly by while tens of thousands of poultry-farmers are reduced to penury. So far as the Menzies Government is concerned, the poultry industry is the Cinderella of primary industries. I have no doubt that honorable members taking part in this debate from both sides will recognize the state of emergency which exists. Let us then have words to-day and action without fail to-morrow.
has spoken of the problems of the poultry industry and has given some aspects of prices and conditions affecting the industry. From time to time, the honorable member has used the forms of the House to ask me questions on this matter, and I have answered them. However, he has not given solutions that could be applied to the industry’s problems. The honorable member stated that the Commonwealth Government should take charge of the export of all eggs in shell, egg pulp and other poultry products. He knows that in making charges against the Commonwealth Government in that connexion he is not being fair because the responsibility for egg marketing in Australia is in the hands of the State marketing authorities. Each State has an egg marketing board and those boards have complete rights and full authority over intra-state trade. The honorable member knows that the Commonwealth has no control of intrastate marketing; it comes into the picture only when interstate marketing is concerned.
– Then amend the Constitution.
– The honorable member has asked for immediate action, but I point out that section 92 of the Constitution presents a problem. I advocated certain marketing changes during the referendum campaign in 1937 and if the Australian Labour Party had not turned tail as it did in most States, the referendum would have been carried. So my conscience is clear in respect of the marketing referendum in 1937. I went out and organized support for an affirmative vote at that referendum.
– There have been plenty of opportunities since.
– There have been opportunities since, I agree, but the marketing question was mingled with thirteen other proposals. The people were told, in effect, “If you want to adopt one proposal you must accept thirteen others “. The people simply will not accept all that on one platter at the same time. However, I do not want to take up all my time discussing such aspects of this matter.
The honorable member for Bendigo was fair enough to say that all the things he advocated for the egg industry could not be done immediately. When the Commonwealth Government purchased eggs from the State egg boards under the war-time regulations and powers to meet contracts with the United Kingdom Government, the Australian Egg Board, as then constituted, acted as the agent for the Commonwealth Government. To meet the changed marketing conditions which would follow the termination of the contract and to rationalize the marketing of Australian eggs by eliminating needless competition between the State marketing boards, the Australian Egg Board recommended that it be empowered to act as the sole Australian exporter to the United Kingdom.
The view of the Commonwealth Government at the time was that this was a matter on which it should consult the State egg boards. The State boards, through their central organization, the Egg Producers Council, at first opposed this proposal. So the Commonwealth government of the day brought the matter before the State Ministers for Agriculture at the Australian Agricultural Council meeting in January, 1954, to give the State governments an opportunity to express their views. All State governments, except that of New South Wales - the State which accounted for about one-half of the export trade - declared themselves in favour of the Australian Egg Board’s recommendation provided the board was reconstructed to give State egg boards direct representation. New South Wales wished to be free to sell independently. That was and still is the attitude of the New South Wales Government and of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board. The Egg Producers Council, which was the organization speaking for the industry, subsequently confirmed that all State egg boards except the New South Wales board desired centralized marketing by the Australian Egg Board reconstructed to provide for direct State board representation. All State boards except the South Australian board have producer majorities.
This was the background to the reconstruction of the Australian Egg Board and to the introduction of legislation in 1954 to allow any State board freedom to export either on its own behalf or through the Australian Egg Board. Reference to the second-reading speech of the Minister of the day who introduced the legislation indicates that although the Government agreed to the industry’s request, as I have indicated, he questioned the wisdom of it. However, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of the day came down in support of the New South Wales proposal. It is New South Wales which has brought about the division of selling overseas.
When Mr. Nott was New South Wales Minister for Agriculture and I was chairman of the Australian Agricultural Council I spoke to him about this matter. He was sympathetic and deplored the division. He said that he would have another talk with the New South Wales board, which 1 do not doubt he did. I spoke to his successor, Mr. Renshaw. He had the same approach to the matter as did Mr. Nott. Mr. Nott had asked me to try to arrange for the chairman of the Australian Egg Board to call and have a discussion with him. This I did. Then at the subsequent Australian Agricultural Council meeting in Adelaide the matter was discussed again. There was no complaint about the Australian Egg Board or the export sales at the time because prices then were reasonable, but there was complaint about this price cutting of one State against another. What authority have we, as a government, under our present constitutional powers, to remove that deficiency when growers’ representatives on State marketing boards adopt the attitude that they will cut the price one against the other? lt is just too silly for words. How can that help the industry?
During the last election campaign I received a message from Mr. Chandler, the Victorian Minister for Agriculture - I forget whether the message was by telephone or by telegram - asking me to call a meeting of the State egg marketing boards. I replied that it certainly was not practicable or advisable that 1, as the Commonwealth Minister, should call a meeting during an election campaign! I suggested that he call the meeting, which he did. The representatives of the State marketing boards formed the Egg Marketing Council. Every member of every State marketing board is on that council. Do they not have the industry at heart? Can they not face facts and arrange a level of prices so that they can direct the domestic price? How can the Commonwealth Government be involved? The matter does not come within our jurisdiction.
– You could use moral persuasion.
– I have used every persuasion that I have to try to settle this matter to the best advantage. I used my persuasion to encourage the chairman of the Australian Egg Board and the New South Wales representative to go overseas together and to work together. I succeeded. They have gone overseas. Only this morning I received word that arrangements have been completed with the British Egg Marketing Board to regulate local - that is, the British side, which the honorable member has mentioned and over which he said we have no control because it is subsidized - and Australian pulp supply on the United Kingdom market. I do not know whether I am at liberty to mention the exact figure, but the arrangement provides for a tonnage which is more than sufficient to cover Australia’s export total. That arrangement will stand until March, 1963. Of course, the price is to be determined by market conditions but if the supply is regulated so that there is no competition between the United Kingdom and Australia when there is a glut of deliveries, there should be no cause for complaint. If supplies are regulated prices must benefit.
Both representatives are to report to their respective bodies, the New South Wales board and the Australian Egg Board, meeting together. So, the Commonwealth has played its part to the fullest possible extent. These arrangements are unofficial so far as governments are concerned. In other words, it is a commercial transaction but it should prove important to Australian poultry interests, provided that price-cutting between the two Australian boards is eliminated. I hope that they will continue to work together. Further discussions on this arrangement will eventuate when the British Egg Marketing Board representatives are in Australia in August next for the World Poultry Congress. Satisfactory arrangements have been made also with the pulp trade to act as agents for all Australian pulp. The honorable member might be pleased to know that according to this morning’s press the price of pullet eggs in Melbourne rose by lOd. a dozen.
The responsibility rests with the State marketing boards. We accept all responsibility for exports but we acceded to the industry’s request that each State marketing board should have the right, if it so desired, to export. New South Wales always has adopted that attitude, but the division of export selling has not helped the industry in the past. However, we have succeeded in getting the interests together at this stage. I regret that the time allotted to me in this debate has now expired.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) is to be congratulated for directing the attention of the Parliament and of the Government to the parlous condition of the Australian egg industry. I should be the last to say that the condition in which the industry now finds itself is the sole responsibility of this Commonwealth Government, but that Government must shoulder a very great degree of responsibility. It is not a bit of good for the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to endeavour to attribute the responsibility for control measures to some attitude of the Labour Party - in 1937, mark you! I recollect very well the 1937 referendum. Members of the Labour Party were given complete freedom to adopt any attitude they wished and they were at liberty to advise the people to vote “No” or to vote “Yes”. But whatever was done and whatever transpired in 1937 are of very little relevance to the fact that this industry is now in dire distress. It is quite true that, because of its very nature, this is one of the most difficult industries to organize in relation to marketing conditions. After all, the hen is a cantankerous sort of bird. I think everybody knows she has a habit of laying plenty of eggs in spring but very few in winter. Further, so many people are engaged in the industry that we have to depend upon the export markets of the world for the disposal of our surplus production, and, as the export markets are not very good at this juncture, the industry is in great distress. It is also true that over a long period endeavours have been made by certain people engaged in the industry to evolve an organized marketing plan. At the present time a State egg board is established in every States - in fact, there are two such boards in Queensland. The unfortunate fact, however, is that certain sections of the industry have always been utterly disloyal to it and, over the years, the State governments have either neglected or were disinclined to back the State marketing boards by taking disciplinary action against the disloyal sections of the industry. Even to-day, go where you will, you will find that to the great Australian consuming public, the words “ egg board “ and “ egg marketing board “ are anathema. The small merchandising establishments, the delicatessens, the cafes and1 so on, which sell eggs are almost, without exception, centres of propaganda against egg boards and the existing set-up. For this reason, the consumers lay responsibility for high prices, the vagaries of the market and the bad quality eggs that they get from time to time, at the door of the marketing -board of the State in which they reside. Nothing could be further from the truth than the suggestion that these boards are responsible for all these things. Let me explain the position that does exist. In Victoria, for example, all commercial egg-producers are required to register with the Egg Marketing Board. They are also expected to deliver almost their entire output to the board. Yet the Egg Marketing Board in Victoria receives from the commercial producers an average of only ten eggs per hen per year whereas the records disclose that a reasonably efficient eggproducer should be able to deliver a minimum of 12 dozen eggs per hen per year. There is a leakage between what is delivered to the board and what is actually produced by the commercial egg-producers. The leakage, of course, goes to the delicatessens and cafes in the metropolitan areas. Now let me describe what comprises this leakage to the small outlets in the metropolitan areas. First, let me say that the commercial producer sends his very best eggs to the Egg Marketing Board to be graded. Those eggs which he thinks will not be accepted by the board are peddled round the suburban and country areas to the little shops, and when the customers report to these little shops that the eggs they bought from them were not so good, the people who run the little shops say, “ That is the Egg Marketing Board for you”. That is not a common practice with every producer, but it is fairly common. The whole purpose of the egg marketing boards, which is to ensure fair play between the producer and the consumer, is destroyed by that practice. That is one facet of the industry’s problems.
Another and most important facet is that for a long period now, the Commonwealth Government has allowed to continue a system of divided authority in connexion with the export of eggs. Under the overriding Commonwealth legislation, this Government can be given absolute control over the export of eggs to foreign markets. In past years we have seen cut-throat competition, and in 1954 we saw the introduction of a most undesirable practice, a practice to which I expressed opposition, but, as is usual with this Government, it said “ We are merely carrying out the will of the egg producers “. I refer to the permission granted to State egg boards to export eggs. But of what use is it to go back to 1954? What we are concerned with to-day is doing something practical now. I do not deny that this is a difficult industry to organize. It is most difficult in every facet of its operations, from the1 commercial producer right down to the consumer. In particular, the export problems are enormous. These problems will never be solved until the Government takes a definite hold of the industry, I suggest that, immediately this Parliament goes into recess, the Government should direct the top-ranking officers of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to submit a report on the economics of egg production in Australia within a reasonable period. They should be required to furnish a report not only on the economics of commercial egg production, in which thousands of people are engaged, but also on the problems connected with the exportation of eggs. Having obtained the findings of the bureau on these matters the Minister should then take the most appropriate steps to correct the many problems that confront the industry.
– Has that been done before?
– No, it has not. However, I do not want to see done what this Government has done in the past when industries such as the dairy industry, the butter-manufacturing industry and others were in difficulties. I do not want an outside authority to be appointed to make the inquiry and given the opportunity to waste the people’s money for twelve months when, in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, even in the Department of Primary Industry, and in the State departments of agriculture there is accumulated a vast volume of wise reports and findings in connexion with the problems of the industry dating back to its original establishment on a commercial scale in Australia. I suggest that a precis should be made of all these findings and reports so that the whole position can be put concisely before the Minister, thus giving him something upon which to map out a plan designed to alleviate the distress of and avoid the dangers that confront this important industry. The sooner that is done the better.
There is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding in the industry and there is also shocking treachery in it. Sue months ago, I was travelling in a utility truck to Melbourne and, between Canberra and Gundagai, I was hailed by a man on the roadside. I said to him, “What is the trouble? “ He replied, “ Will you give me a lift to Gundagai? “. I said, “ Hop in “. I gave him a lift to Gundagai. On the way, he said to me, “ I am the driver of the truck that was standing near where you picked me up “. It was an enormous truck. I asked, “What have you got on the truck?” He replied, “Eggs”. I said, “ Where are you bringing them from? “ He replied, “ From Adelaide “. I said, “ Where are you taking them to? “ He said, “ To Sydney “. I said, “ What for? “ He then revealed to me that he was taking the eggs to Sydney to avoid paying to the South Australian Egg Board a levy which is imposed for the purpose of equalizing the return to the producer from the export market with the return from the local market. The Minister has the effrontery to say that in 1937 a referendum was held with a view to altering the Constitution, when we all know that two years ago an all-party committee stated in the strongest terms that it was imperative that the Commonwealth Government should be vested with complete authority to deal with this very problem.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has given us an interesting outline of his views of the present problems of the eggproducing industry. I shall not have time to give him all the answers to them. It is true that the poultry farmer has been suffering from a large number of problems for many years. The proposal put forward by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) accuses the Government of failure to take the steps necessary to safeguard the sale of eggs and egg products to other countries and among the States. Therefore, I propose to begin by telling the House of some of the things that this Government and the governments of the respective States have done over the past years because they recognize the problems that confront this industry. Let me say at the outset that there are both constitutional and technical limitations upon the extent to which the Commonwealth can assist the egg industry or any like industry. By the term “like industry “ I mean those conducted by small farmers. I think it was only about two weeks ago that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) received a deputation from a group of small farmers and pointed out to them the factors which limited the authority of the Commonwealth to deal with these matters. He also suggested ways in which the Commonwealth Government could assist, such as by trade promotion overseas and by the provision of subsidies on fertilizers, stock foods and so on.
One of the great difficulties that confront the egg industry in particular in selling its products overseas is caused by the cost structure of the industry within Australia. In that respect, the Commonwealth Government can give little direct assistance, for the full responsibility lies with the respective State governments. The Minister for Primary Industry this afternoon has given us quite a lot of information about the constitution of the Australian Egg Board, the operation of the individual State boards and the way in which the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board refused to co-operate with the Australian Egg Board in the sale of eggs overseas, either eggs in shell or eggs in pulp. I am very glad to say, without at this time determining where the blame actually lies, that the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board is conducting discussions with the Commonwealth to see whether we can have a combined overseas marketing programme for the egg industry.
I remind the honorable member for Bendigo that the Commonwealth Government has been ready at all times to consider, and to assist in the establishment of, an organized scheme for the marketing of eggs as the Government has always been ready to do in respect of other commodities, provided that the majority of the persons engaged in the egg industry agree to such a proposal. I regret to say that, up to the present time, no proposal has been forthcoming for the Commonwealth to consider. I understand that some suggestions were made at the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, and that they did not receive sufficient support to justify the Commonwealth Government in taking notice of them.
At the beginning of my remarks, Sir, I referred to the actions taken by this Government over the years in recognition of the continuing problems of this industry. I now mention, for instance, the assistance given by the present Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz), who was then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade, and who visited many areas in my division of Robertson and conferred with the farmers. I also refer to the work done by my colleague, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis), and that done by Mr. R. C. Wheeler, the previous member for Mitchell. Those gentlemen and I, in association with several other members of the House, had long discussions with the Minister for Primary Industry.
No doubt you, Sir, will recall that, in April, 1954, the Commonwealth Government announced a special grant of £250,000 to assist the egg industry to adjust itself and to overcome the problems caused by the serious fall in export prices in the 1953-54 season. This special grant helped to cushion the effects of the low export returns of that season, and assisted the industry in the difficult transitional period when trading was changing over from intergovernmental contract arrangements to a regular commercial basis.
Immediately after that, we made arrangements for a special research officer attached to the head-quarters of the Liberal Party of Australia to visit a number pf the poultryfarming areas to advise and assist the farmers and to make recommendations to us about any additional ways in which we could help the industry, and especially about proposals to follow the special grant of £250,000. No doubt, a number of honorable members and the Minister will remember the proposals that were made and the consideration that they were given by the various egg boards. Unfortunately, the organizations of the farmers themselves could not come to any majority agreement regarding those proposals and the suggestions that were advanced for the good of the industry to assist it in selling its products overseas.
The third thing that I would like to mention is the fact that the Australian Egg Board itself participates in the campaign conducted by the Overseas Trade Promotion Committee for trade promotion and publicity for our food products in the United Kingdom. I remind the House that this Government contributed £350,000 sterling to that campaign in 1961-62 and that the board itself contributed £134,500 sterling. In addition to the general campaign in the United Kingdom, which brought great benefits, further funds were expended directly on a campaign for the sale of eggs through the medium of specialized trade fairs and advertising in the trade press.
I would like to remind the House, through you, Sir, that the Australian Egg Board co-operated with the Department of Trade in mounting an exhibit at the fair held in Cologne in September, 1961. This fair was one of the world’s largest specialized food fairs. The Government gave the egg board assistance with publicity in a special Australian press supplement for the SingaporeMalaya Australian Food and Wine Festival in February and March of 1962. Furthermore, arrangements were made in March and April of this year, for a representative of the egg industry to accompany the trade mission which recently visited the region which we now call South-West Asia and which we formerly knew as the Persian Gulf area. The Australian Egg Board also participated in the Malta Trade Fair in June, 1961, in an exhibit organized by the Department of Trade.
I shall now mention a personal instance. Two years ago, the present Minister for Repatriation, who, as I have said, was formerly Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade, and 1 formed ourselves into a trade mission to visit Singapore, Malaya and Borneo in an endeavour to promote the sale of Australian food products, including eggs.
These activities illustrate the active measures taken by the Commonwealth Government to promote the sale of eggs and egg products in other countries, the sale of Australian goods abroad, of course, being one of our main responsibilities. The illustrations that I have given, Sir, show how active the Government has been in many ways - through the medium of private members on this side of the Parliament, of research officers in its party organization and of full-scale government programmes. This Government, clearly, has had the problems of the egg industry in mind for many years and has at all times done its best to assist that industry.
May I now direct the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry to a report published in one of to-day’s newspapers, which emanated from Washington and which bears the dateline “ May 15 “. It is in these terms -
The United States is preparing to launch a major diplomatic offensive to preserve its agricultural markets in the European Common Market countries . . .
The Secretary for Agriculture, Mr. Orville Freeman, yesterday told the Newspaper Farm Editors’ Association-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I believe that both the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and the honorable member for
Robertson (Mr. Dean) are ignoring the basic problem of the egg industry and have skated round what is probably the greatest danger that the industry faces. That danger is presented by the current cut-throat competition between the sections of the industry in the various States. The fact is that it pays large-scale producers to transport eggs between the States and to pay the cost of transportation out of a levy. This problem can be overcome only by this Parliament. This is the basic problem, and it is the biggest one which the industry faces to-day.
– How can it be overcome?
– It can be overcome by the very simple means of a revision of the Constitution, by a referendum, in order to give power to a federal organization to control the marketing of eggs through the various State boards or its agents. That is the only way in which this problem can be overcome, and the problem must be faced up to by the Government so that the industry may be placed on a proper footing. I do not think the Opposition is being overcritical in this matter. I think we are all agreed that this is an industry which is facing a very serious problem. I think we are all agreed also that the people within it, who work very hard at their task, are faced with probably the greatest depression that the industry has ever experienced. But I shall deal with that aspect in the near future.
There seems to be agreement that there should be one federal marketing organization overseas. Therefore we should see to it that all the State organizations, including that of New South Wales, join together in ensuring good team-work in selling our egg products overseas. It is good to see that there is some move in that direction. But, before such unity is finally established, some consideration must be given to reconstituting the Australian Egg Board to remedy the complaint by New South Wales - the State which is responsible for 50 per cent, of Australia’s total egg production - that it has not sufficient representation on the board. It has, I think, only two out of the nine representatives. However, as I said earlier, the export position is not of itself the great problem. The great problem is the cutthroat competition between the States. Large producers are transhipping eggs interstate and so evading the levy. This is the start of a vicious circle, because the levy, which is to finance exports, has to be increased on the other producers, particularly the smaller producers, with the result that as time goes on the return to them becomes less and less.
In the long term we shall find it increasingly difficult to depend on the export market. All the countries to which we are selling eggs and egg products are increasing their local production. This is an industry in which it is very easy to increase production provided the necessary raw materials are available. It is happening to-day. As I have said, although our export market is not very good, of itself it is not the basic problem. The big problem is the domestic market. In the last seven months there has been an extraordinary reduction in the return to the industry. The last official figures undoubtedly did not disclose a good position, though it was not terrible. However, during the last few months the return to the industry has fallen very seriously.
I shall give an example from a survey that has been made by experts in the field. It is based on the study made in 1960-61 by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I think it is agreed that in recent times costs of production have not varied greatly, but the variation in prices and therefore in the return to the grower is creating a real problem. The survey shows a net price for eggs in April of approximately 3s. a dozen. It must be admitted that in New South Wales there has been a price increase of 3d. a dozen and, in the last fortnight, a reduction of the levy from lid. to 8d. So it can be said that the return to the New South Wales producer is 42d. compared with 36d. in April. At the same time the Bureau’s study, based on the six most successful farms in New South Wales - keep that in mind - shows that the cost of production has increased to 37. 8d. and this figure does not include any return to management. Incorporating return to management, the figure becomes 47d. So at best the producer is obtaining a return of 42d. a dozen and his cost of production is 47d. a dozen. Undoubtedly, in recent months the industry has been working at a loss. This position cannot be allowed to continue, because the result will be a large-scale movement out of the industry. Then prices will rise and once again there will be a return of farmers to the industry. Then the vicious circle will start all over again.
This is not just a short-term problem. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) put forward a proposal that, as a short-term move, the Commonwealth Government should acquire excess egg pulp in order to assist needy countries. That is one way - a very admirable way - in which the problem could be overcome in the short term, but on a long-term basis we need to go farther. It is very important that there should be a full-scale inquiry by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics into production and consumption - both local and export - and into marketing organizations. The Department of Primary Industry should bring down recommendations to overcome the long-term problems of the industry, because it is one that will be vitally affected by the entry of Great Britain into the European Common Market. Already those who buy our egg products overseas are themselves increasing production. Accordingly, in the long term, the problems of the industry are likely to get ever more serious than they are to-day.
Those are the basic recommendations which we wish to bring before the House. This is a problem which can only be solved, so far as the domestic market is concerned, by the Commonwealth Government taking a progressive step. I feel it is essential that the Commonwealth should look at the constitutional position in order to overcome, either by agreement with the States or referendum, the problem created by big producers transhipping eggs interstate. It is the only way to eliminate this cut-throat competition. Unless the Commonwealth Parliament is prepared to face up to problems such as this and to accept its responsibilities, we shall be placed in a very serious position indeed, particularly in the long term. It is essential that the industry should be placed on a sound footing on a long-term basis. This can be done only if we are prepared to settle down and have an inquiry into all the operations of the industry by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I do not think anybody could really object to that. It is a sound basie programme and it is the only way to overcome the problem. In the meantime I suggest that the Government take the initiative - it must take the initiative - in the matter of constitutional amendment.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We are discussing an industry that admittedly is a difficult one in terms of its structure and of the conditions enjoyed - perhaps I should say not enjoyed - by the people engaged in it. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who speaks with authority on these subjects, went into this matter at some length. My friend from Mitchell (Mr. Armitage), who preceded me, also dealt with various aspects of the industry. It seems to me that the sort of problem facing us here is this: The structure of this industry is such that orderly marketing is difficult. So the approach of the honorable member for Mitchell, and of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) too, is that we should re-establish the industry so that it will fit in with the requirements of orderly marketing. I do not know whether that is a logical approach. I should be more inclined to the view that some re-thinking on this subject might be useful. We might start from the basic assumption that for a good many years now the industry has been controlled, to a greater or less extent, by State government boards. Those boards are closer to the industry than would be a federal organization operated from a central point and, on the evidence of honorable members opposite, they have failed to introduce effective orderly marketing or to bring the egg industry to a condition of security or prosperity. I think that is a fair summary with which nobody could justly disagree. Therefore, it is foolish to propose that because a number of authorities relatively close to the industry have failed to advance the interests of the industry we should substitute an authority which would be further away from the industry. That is a paradoxical proposition.
Indeed, the industry itself is a paradoxical industry. In support of that statement I shall quote from the authority so frequently mentioned by the honorable member for Bendigo - the report of the
Victorian Egg and Egg Pulp Marketing Board. If we were engaged in a political exercise rather than in an exercise which we hope will be of assistance to the egg producers, I would quote with relish the first paragraph of that authority’s report which states -
For the second year in succession, receivals have exceeded those of the previous year, while local sales in shell have remained virtually static . . .
In other words, while sales have not increased production has. The paradoxical fact is that here, in this official report, it is shown that while production has increased each year the price has decreased almost each year. So, if it is argued that the egg producers in bulk are losing money then, each year, they lose a little more money. If, on the other hand, the argument is not that they are losing money, the only other suggestion that can be put forward is that they are making less profit. The egg boards themselves directed attention to this peculiar situation, and in referring to the major problems in the industry the report from which I have already quoted mentions -
Very heavy competition from dealers in interstate and pseudo interstate eggs who more than ever before have been prepared to cut the prices to obtain a greater share of our market.
The honorable member for Mitchell talked about that a great deal and said that the answer to that problem was an amendment of section 92 of the Constitution, which could be achieved either by agreement between the States or as a result of the carrying of a referendum proposal to that end. I point out that, although the honorable member says that that is the obvious answer, the States which themselves could’ act to reach this happy condition, which would lie in the destruction of section 92, just have not acted in that direction. So the proposition seems to be that what the States have refused to do over the years the Commonwealth should now do against the opposition of the States.
– That is right.
– In other words, you follow the line of cutting the industry to suit the requirements of the market.
The second proposition, with which the honorable member for Bendigo would not be unfamiliar, is the problem of the interstate activities. In this connexion the report of the Victorian board states -
Those engaged in these activities do not contribute to traditional losses on seasonal surplusses - inherent in the Industry, nor are they compelled to comply with quality standards in any State.
The report continues -
Not only must the pool contribution of the loyal Producers be increased, but unfair competition from those operators who do not pay pool, has the effect of lowering prices to a point which threatens the survival of the most efficient Producers (often before the non-commercial Producer) and undermines the whole principle of orderly marketing.
On page 10 of this interesting document the board refers to the problem of what are known as “producer agents”. I understand that those agents are recognized and authorized by the board. The report mentions the six forms of infamy indulged in by those producer agents, all of which go to undermine the authority of the board, all of which go to undermine the stability of the industry, and all of which go to create the situation which the producers face to-day.
Here is a board operating in a small State which should have an intimate knowledge of the circumstances in that State and yet cannot deal with the problems of the industry. The honorable member for Bendigo will recall other instances given of actions taken by the board which the board later had to amend or withdraw because they just did not work. So apparently the suggestion from the other side of the House is that since the Victorian board, administering the industry in an area of 88,000 square miles, cannot effectively deal with the problem of agents, that problem should be handed to the Commonwealth Government, which administers an area of about 3,000,000 square miles. I cannot see logic in that proposition. Indeed, it is difficult to find much logic in the whole situation before us. I do not know why there are two egg boards in Queensland*, but no doubt the State has its reasons for this arrangement.
– It has State boards.
– If my vocal friend will forgive me, I want to mention the sort of situation that is mentioned in the report. Because people evade the regulations of the various State Boards by interstate or pseudo interstate trading and by other means, the total contribution to the pool is lower and the charge made on the loyal producers is increased. That charge is made in order to meet losses on exports. This report of the Victorian board points out, as other authorities have pointed out, that this is one of the problems of the industry. When a seasonal surplus exists eggs are exported at a loss and the retail price locally is increased to meet the loss on the exports. The Melbourne “Age” on Monday last published a report of another interesting variation on this theme. Under the headline “Pullet Eggs lOd. a Dozen Dearer” it reported -
Pullet eggs will be lOd. a dozen dearer in grocers’ shops this morning . . .
The chairman of the Egg Board (Mr. G. H. Roadley said yesterday production of pullet eggs was now falling off, and a shortage of this grade was developing.
So we get the other side of the argument. When there is a shortage prices go up and when there is a surplus prices go up. That is the sort of condition which has produced the present situation. I submit in all seriousness that to say that the answer to that sort of situation is control, Australia-wide, in a form which has not been successful when applied by local organizations, is absurd.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The poultry industry has been affected for many years, and to an increasing extent, by the exploitation of section 92 of the Constitution, which deals with interstate trade. It has also been affected in recent years - and if Britain joins the European Common Market will be permanently and drastically affected - by overseas sales. The first problem is a matter which can be cured by the Commonwealth Parliament in cooperation with the Australian electorate. The exploitation flows from the interpretations which have been given of section 92 and the abuse of those interpretations by many egg producers. Section 92 can be amended only as a result of a referendum proposal put to the people by this Parliament, or by either House of this Parliament and approved by a majority of the Australian electorate as well as by a majority of the electorate in a majority of the States. That is the only way in which that problem can be solved.
Despite what the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) said, it cannot be dealt with by reference by the States.
Section 92 of the Constitution prevents this Parliament and the State parliaments infringing the freedom of interstate trade. lt has been held that levies and equalization charges in an industry such as the poultry industry represent an infringement of freedom of interstate trade. This Parliament cannot impose such levies. No State parliament can impose such levies. Even if every member of Parliament in every State House and in both Commonwealth Houses of Parliament were in favour of such levies, those parliaments could not overcome the operation of section 92.
– A suggestion was made that the States could transfer the powers.
– Yes, the honorable member for Deakin made that suggestion. In answer to him, I must point out that the States can only refer to the Commonwealth powers which they themselves have; and since the States cannot impose such taxes they cannot give us power to impose such taxes. The States cannot bring about an alteration of the Constitution. The States, even if they acted unanimously with the support of every member of every State House of Parliament, could not bring about an alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution. They could not promote a referendum. Even if every State were to hold a referendum it would still have no effect. A referendum to alter the Constitution can be held only on a bill which has been passed by this Parliament or by either House of this Parliament. Therefore, if we are to deal with this problem of interstate trade and the exploitation and abuse of section 92 we can deal with it only in this Parliament by asking the people to approve of a bill.
– We tried it in 1946.
– Yes. Earlier, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) referred to the referendum put by the Lyons Government in which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was Attorney-General in 1937. I was just too young to have a vote at that referendum, but like most members of the Labour Party -not all of them - I supported it. In 1946 a referendum was arranged by the Chifley Government in which Dr. Evatt, the immediate past leader of the Opposition in this Parliament, was Attorney-General.
– And the matter was put as an individual question, not as a part of fourteen proposals as the Minister suggested.
– That is right. I thank the honorable member for his interjection. The matter was put to the people at the same time as two other referendum questions. The three questions which were put to referendum concerned social services, industrial powers, and marketing free of section 92. All three proposals were supported by a majority of Australians. The proposal in relation to social services also secured the support of a majority of the electors in a majority of the States; but the proposals in relation to marketing and industrial powers secured a majority in only three of the States and therefore did not affect the Constitution. Three and a half years ago, in October, 1958, Government supporters and Opposition members in this House and another place unanimously recommended that a referendum should be held on marketing. We referred to the plight of the poultry industry to show how necessary it was. Every marketing board in Australia realizes its necessity. Every member of every Parliament realizes its necessity. But until we move in this Parliament - and I am certain there would be no partisan opposition on such a referendum - we cannot cure this position of interstate trafficking in eggs and the exploitation and abuse of section 92 of the Constitution. So on that first point I believe that the suggestion made by the honorable member for Deakin, as he himself will see on further reflection, is no solution. The solution lies in the hands of members of the Federal Parliament and in their hands alone.
Because the Government has taken so long to act on this recommendation we criticize it in this urgency debate. It is not our view that every one of the proposals of the Constitutional Review Committee has to be put at one time in order to have one vote on all of them. What we have said as a party is that we will put every one of these proposals to the people.
They need not necessarily all be put to the people together, but we are committed to putting every one of them, at some time or another, to the people. Furthermore, we have said that if the present Government puts any or all of these proposals to the people we will support every such proposal. We will support the Government in whatever it puts to the people, pursuant to the report of the committee.
The other point on which we criticize the Government is that it has been slow to secure united action in marketing Australian eggs overseas. The Minister said that I supported the variation in 1954 under which New South Wales was allowed to market, overseas, eggs produced in that State separately from the Australian Egg Board which was going to sell eggs overseas as agent for all the other State boards. In fact, I did not oppose the proposal because all the egg boards were in favour of it and all the State governments were in favour of it. I endorsed the provision for extending the representation of New South Wales on the Australian Egg Board. I said that it was anomalous that New South Wales which produced half the eggs for export as well as for local consumption should have only one of the six representatives of the State boards on the Australian Egg Board. Accordingly, a proposal to increase its representation to two out of the six - Tasmania being dropped since it exports no eggs - should be supported. I then said -
Without dissent, so far as I know, the poultryfarmers reiterated their demand for the independent marketing of New South Wales eggs. Whether or not that is a wise policy in the national interest is another matter, but this bill does thoroughly secure the minimum price, packing requirements and so on.
So I did not endorse separate marketing. I had my reservations on that matter, as I always have had. I do not think that Australian overseas marketing is promoted by our publicly scrambling for overseas investment and sales on different State bases. I have thought, always, that it was better to act on a national basis. I did not oppose the proposal in the respect that I have mentioned because this is what the producers were wanting at that time. As regards overseas sales, the plain fact is that this Parliament is solely responsible under the
Constitution. The Government responsible to this Parliament determines on what terms goods, persons and money leave this country. Section 92 does not affect trade and commerce with other countries. It only affects trade and commerce among the States.
-We heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) what we expected to hear - a lecture on the necessity to have a referendum to amend the Constitution. Of course, he said that we should seek to amend section 92; but he did not say whether he would be prepared to back such a proposal if we put it to the people by itself.
– I did.
– Well, there seems to be disagreement among members of the Labour Party.
– I can assure you that not only do I wish it but also it is the policy of the Australian Labour Party.
– When the Labour Party has been asked whether it would support the Government in putting some of the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee to the people by way of a referendum its attitude has been all or nothing. Therefore, I suggest that the Opposition has changed its attitude for the purposes of this debate. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also said that one of the reasons for the proposal regarding the change in the marketing procedure not being accepted at the referendum held in 1946 was that this proposal was put with two other proposals. It was not accepted in sufficient States for it to become law. The point is that if we put a number of proposed amendments to the Constitution before the public at the one time, they will meet the same fate as the referendum in 1946 did.
In commencing this debate, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) criticized the Commonwealth Government for its failure to safeguard sales of eggs and egg pulp both overseas and between the Australian States. I have great respect for the honorable member, but I think he rather vaguely and not too successfully tried to bring the Commonwealth Government into the act. It is clear from what has already been said that, although the Government is always willing to co-operate with primary industries and to assist them, it is not in a position to assist this industry. The honorable member for Bendigo generally gave an interesting dissertation on the egg industry. It is obviously true that some growers are faced with very difficult circumstances, but this situation is not foreign to primary industries. It can be found in many other primary industries.
I do not think that this is a matter of many egg producers crying wolf. Four years ago, in 1958, a large heading in the Sydney “ Sun-Herald “ asserted that egg men were saying they were working for nothing. At that time the Australian egg production was worth about £35,000,000. It is now worth £59,000,000. If egg producers are still working for nothing, some one is making a decent living. Certainly, many people must still be in the industry for its production to be worth £59,000,000.
– Where did you get that?
– I learned that from my research. The honorable member for Bendigo said that we should do three things. He said we should have Commonwealth control of the export market. I do not know how the Commonwealth could do this, but there should certainly be a common selling policy among the States. Two or three representatives of the New South Wales Egg Board have gone overseas. Yet, at a meeting, the Australian Egg Board and the New South Wales Egg Board agreed to co-operate in sending two more representatives overseas, one from the Australian Egg Board and one from the New South Wales Egg Board. I think the egg producers should examine the administrative costs that they must meet when they have so many boards. I have no doubt that some of the producers think that these costs should be examined.
The theme of the speech of the honorable member for Bendigo was that we should have control. But many egg producers do not want any control at all. In 1957, the chairman of the National Poultry Research Council said that the Egg Board was in a hopeless muddle. On 23rd March of this year, Mr. Bosley, of Wyong, New
South Wales, who is apparently an egg producer with a substantial business, said -
Scrap the Egg Board and let the egg producer make his own arrangements with the housewife, shopkeeper and merchant.
It is certainly no fault of the grocers in Australia that the poultry-farmers are not perhaps getting a fair return. Mr. Bosley also said -
I want to be fair to the Egg Board. It is not to blame.
He was referring to the over-production of eggs -
It is we, the producers, who are the fools. We were warned by the chairman of the Egg Board early in the season not to increase the size of flocks. The warning was largely ignored and producers have themselves to thank for their collapse.
That is the opinion of one of the producers. We all agree that the Commonwealth Government and members of the Parliament should do all they can to assist primary producers to become more organized and to get a fair return. We know what the position is with all these primary industries. They are faced with constant rising costs and a constant loss of export markets. The European Common Market has been mentioned in this regard. In addition, other countries are becoming self-sufficient in the production of primary products. But the Government cannot do anything to prevent Great Britain from becoming self-sufficient in egg production. I do not think that the Government can do anything concrete at the moment to assist the egg industry. Opposition members, deep in their hearts, know very well that if a referendum to amend or repeal section 92 of the Constitution were held, we would have no hope of having it accepted. It is all very well to suggest that the Constitution should be reviewed and amended, but history shows that the Australian people are reluctant to see any of their rights taken from them or to give the Commonwealth Government more power.
As I said, I do not know whether many of the egg producers are exaggerating their position. However, it was interesting to read news cuttings taken five or six years ago which show that the problems now facing the industry were facing it in those days; yet we still have many egg producers in Australia. The producers should examine the expenses that arise from the conduct of boards in the various States. As I mentioned earlier, at least four representatives of egg boards are overseas at present. These trips cannot be undertaken without cost. Surely, one man could have done the job that these four men are doing.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to make a personal explanation, because the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) misrepresented the attitude I expressed personally and on behalf of my party concerning a referendum on an amendment to section 92 to deal with marketing. To make my attitude, and that of my party, completely clear, I should like to read two sentences from a resolution passed by the federal conference of the Australian Labour Party, held in Canberra in April of last year. They are -
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Erection of Stage 2 of the Commonwealth Centre, Melbourne.
The proposal provides for the erection, at an estimated cost of £2,195,000, of Block 2, a similar building to the existing Block 1. The two blocks will be joined to form an H plan. The building will be a steel-framed concrete-encased structure with external finishes identical with those of Block 1. It will consist of lower ground floor, ground floor and eleven upper floors. I table preliminary plans of the proposed building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 2nd May (vide page 1829), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The measure before us extends the operation of the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act beyond 30th June of this year. The Opposition supports it. It does so not because it cannot suggest improvements but because it cannot amend it. The Opposition cannot amend this measure because any amendment would require a larger appropriation, and also because it embodies a gold subsidy scheme which has the approval of the International Monetary Fund. A larger subsidy is, in our view, required, but this could not be provided by a simple amendment in this House when the measure is subject to an international agreement.
On 11th December, 1947, the International Monetary Fund released a statement on gold subsidies, which read, in part -
The International Monetary Fund has a responsibility to see that the gold policies of its members do not undermine or threaten to undermine exchange stability. Consequently every member which proposes to introduce new measures to subsidize the production of gold is under obligation to consult with the fund on the specific measures to be introduced.
Then follow certain other statements, and the press release of 11th December, 1947, goes on -
Under Article IV., Section 4 (a)-
Reference is here made to the articles of agreement of the fund - each member of the Fund “ undertakes to collaborate with the Fund to promote exchange stability, to maintainorderly exchange arrangements with other members, and to avoid competitive exchange alterations “. Subsidies on gold production regardless of their form are inconsistent with Article IV., Section 4 (a), if they undermine or threaten to undermine exchange stability. This would be the case, for example, if subsidies were to cast widespread doubt on the uniformity of the monetary value of gold in all member countries.
Subsidies which do not directly affect exchange stability may, nevertheless, contribute directly or indirectly to monetary instability in other countries and hence be of concern to the Fund.
A determination by the Fund that a proposed subsidy is not inconsistent with the foregoing principles will depend upon the circumstances in each case. Moreover, the Fund may find that subsidies which are justified at any one time may, because of changing conditions and changing effects, later prove to be inconsistent with the foregoing principles. In order to carry out its objectives, the Fund will continue to study, and to review with its members, their gold policies and any proposed changes, to determine if they are consonant with the provisions of the Fund Agreement and conducive to a sound international policy regarding gold.
Although the subsidy structure which has developed in this country does appear to be inconsistent with item F-4 in the By-laws, Rules and Regulations of the International Monetary Fund, Twenty-first Issue, which ties the subsidy that may be paid to a figure of 1 per cent., which 1 per cent, shall be taken to include all the charges set forth in that item, the International Monetary Fund has, nevertheless, approved the subsidies which are paid by the Commonwealth Government for the production of gold, probably because those subsidies do not apply to the entire production of gold. The statement of the fund shows no tremendous enthusiasm about it, but in its annual report for 1960 the fund had this to say -
The gold subsidy programs of the Governments of Australia, Canada, Colombia and Fiji, discussed in previous Annual Reports, are still in operation. In May 1959, Australia consulted the Fund with regard to modifications of its gold subsidy program and extension of the program for a period of three years from June 30, 1959. The rates of assistance to gold producers were increased, the maximum rate for large producers rising by 10s. per ounce, to £A.3 5s., and the flat subsidy rate for small producers, i.e. those whose production does not exceed 500 ounces per annum, by 8s. per ounce, to £A.2 8s. The amendment involves no change in the basic structure of the subsidy scheme described in the Fund’s Annual Reports for 1955 and 1958. The Fund deemed the modified system and its extension to be consistent with the objectives of the Fund’s statement of December 11, 1947, on gold subsidies.
Then the report continues with a kind of warning -
Governments frequently feel obliged to grant protection of one kind or another to marginal producers in certain sectors of the economy whose operations threaten to become unprofitable as a result of rising costs. Gold subsidies are one such method of protection. Fund members considering the introduction of subsidy schemes to prevent the reduction of gold output, as well as those desiring to amend existing subsidy programs, have an obligation to consult with the Fund on the measures to be introduced.
However, the Opposition feels that, apart altogether from subsidies, there are means whereby we may assist the gold industry. We can do no better than reiterate the points that we made last year when a similar measure was debated. At that time the Opposition made several proposals to which it is still committed. The first was to alter the present stipulation that a subsidy may be claimed by large producers if their average cost of production exceeds £13 10s., and to substitute for the figure of £13 10s. some lesser amount. This would provide increased assistance. Secondly, the Opposition said that it did not believe that 1,075 oz. was a suitable upper limit, and that the definition of “ small producer “ should be such as to include more producers than the limit of 1,075 oz. allows. The third method which we suggested to assist the industry was to finance development in the manner proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in his policy speech during the last election campaign. This would cost the Commonwealth £500,000, but it would lengthen the life of the industry and preserve the population and the assets of Western Australian goldmining towns.
Fourthly, the Opposition directed attention to Section 12 of the principal act, as amended by act No. 23 of 1956. This deals with the reduction of the subsidy when profits exceed 10 per cent, per annum. It empowers the Treasurer to determine the amount of any capital or net profit to be taken into account for the purposes of subsidy. Anomalies arise in connexion with this. The Western Australian Chamber of Mines in a recent statement declared -
Two adjacent mines with identical plants and installations and treating comparable tonnages of ore could be treated quite differently merely because their theoretical structures are influenced by the age of the mine. The older established mine, most likely to be in need of assistance, is placed at a disadvantage.
The Opposition envisaged the £500,000 subsidy financing a development allowance of 4s. per ton of ore treated for extra development expenditure above a base year to be determined. Fifthly, the Opposition advocated the extension of assistance beyond developmental diamond drilling to exploratory diamond drilling. The Chamber of Mines’ suggestion of a subsidy on a £l-for-£l basis for exploratory diamond drilling we considered should be studied sympathetically by the Government.
The gold industry yields between £13,500,000 and £14,500,000 for Western Australia, and it is becoming an important source of capital development in other mineral industries. Even more importantly perhaps, the gold industry is still a source of a great deal of technical knowledge which can be applied to other mineral industries.
The assistance which the gold industry has received has been used responsibly. I refer the House to the “ Chemical Engineering and Mining Review” of 15th October, 1958 and an article by Dr. J. A. Dunn, Chief Mineral Economist of the Bureau of Mineral Resources of the Commonwealth. He is a man who, on these matters, should be one of the leading advisers to the Commonwealth Government. Dr. Dunn discussed in this article the subsidy and its effect and he wrote -
What of the future?
Much depends on when the United States Government will agree to raise the price above 25 dollars. Until then it will be something of an effort to maintain production at present levels, which certainly could not be maintained without the subsidy.
However, our gold mining companies by rationalization of company administration, plant modernization, and close attention to technique are second to none in making the best out of a fixed price mineral, staggering along under rising costs, even squeezing a few pennies out of exchange advantages by selling gold overseas when the opportunity offers.
When we are confronted with declarations that the dairy industry, or sections of it, are uneconomic, there is instantly an interest, on the part of some sections of the Government, especially the Country Party, to assert that the industry ought not to be considered purely as an economic question. There are wholly dairying communities dependent on the industry, they claim. There are people who, if their livelihood is destroyed by an unsympathetic attitude, will have to lose an immense amount that they have invested in farms and homes in the country.
It is equally true of the gold-mining industry that there are towns and even cities in Western Australia which are entirely dependent on it. The gold-mining industry is a vital source of foreign exchange for this country. There are many homes dependent on it. Towns in Western Australia would become ghost towns with its extinction. We believe that the industry has reacted responsibly to every measure of assistance it has received, as Dr. Dunn states in the article to which I have referred.
While we support this extension of last year’s measure beyond 30th June, we do hope that the extensive review of the needs and the problems of the industry which the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has indicated he will undertake at the end of this year will be undertaken. We believe that when it is undertaken, the kind of proposals we have been making over the past few years will be found by the Government to be the kind of proposals which will sustain this valuable industry.
.- I would not like anybody to think that only the Opposition feels for this gold-mining industry. I am very pleased indeed to see that Government supporters and Opposition, members are in complete agreement on an extension of the subsidy to the gold-mining industry and also are very largely in agreement in our approach to things that should be done in its interests. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) outlined the details of the present scheme in his second-reading speech on this bill, so -there is no need for me to go into those matters. The Treasurer also said that the purpose of the scheme was to provide assistance in the light of increased costs and a fixed world price and so to help to maintain communities in iso’ lated areas which are largely dependent upon the continuing operation of gold mines. I agree with the Treasurer and also with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley).
Since the honorable member has also mentioned the dairy industry, I am pleased to say that I agree with him, too, about the need for maintaining that industry. It is most important that the present status of these communities should be maintained. An extension of assistance to the gold-mining industry is necessary because every indication we have of population, production and, more particularly, of reserves shows a running down of conditions.
As Western Australia, and particularly Kalgoorlie, is the chief area under consideration, let us look at the position there. In 1939, there were 36 mines employing 15,000 men in 21 areas. To-day there are ten mines employing 5,000 men in eight areas. It is too late to help the mines that have closed down, and the remainder are forced more and more to produce from the higher grade sections of their ore reserves. The life-blood of the industry, if I may so describe it, is exploration for new prospects but very little could be done, and not enough is being done, because profits have cut back too much to allow sufficient prospecting allowances.
The subsidy was increased in 1957 and in 1959 after rises in costs, but nominal rises in costs are not the key factor in arriving at the returns of this industry. Costs are regarded as wage increases, the cost of
Stores and the new award for engineers, Which has some influence. These costs have risen by about 2 per cent, in the past three years. On that basis, some increase in subsidy is warranted, but the increase will need to be something more than an appraisal of mere nominal cost increases if justice is to be done to the industry. When the subsidy is reviewed in the Budget session - as the Treasurer implies it will be - provision should be made for prompt reaction to cost increases and a review on a yearly basis instead of leaving it for three years, which is not entirely fair to the industry.
Development is the key factor. As ore is removed, it is necessary to increase depth and lateral extension, to apply newer and different techniques. Filling back becomes more expensive. The industry has reached a stage where greater throughput is necessary to counter the effects of rising costs. If adequate ore reserves are to be maintained - this is essential to the continued life of any mine - increased development is absolutely necessary.
With my colleagues on the Government members’ mining committee I went to Kalgoorlie at the end of March to see the position for myself. The Chamber of Mines there informed us of the trends in the industry which we were able to discuss with many of the people concerned in it. The main trend is that the companies which are not receiving the subsidy are becoming marginal and others are dropping so far behind that soon they will be beyond the range of help unless a more liberal attitude is adopted. I do not intend to discuss full details of the relationship between develop ment work and the establishment of reserves, the rate of ore production and the grade of ore available for treatment. A deputation from the chamber was in Canberra early in April and these matters were explained then to the Treasurer and to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
From the history of the industry I am sure that these aspects have not been appreciated fully in previous considerations of the problems of gold producers, but I feel sure that on this occasion the facts have been clearly presented. Because careful consideration must be given, and is being given, to them, the decision has been made to extend the act now and to review it during the Budget session. I presume that any amendment which is made at that time will have retrospective effect to 1st July of this year, when the present agreement expires, so that the amendment will operate for a full year.
All that I want to do at this stage is to remind the Treasurer that ore reserves have been dwindling in recent years until now they are below what every one concerned with the welfare of the industry cannot help but regard as a dangerously low level. It is generally recognized in the mining industry that ten years’ reserves are necessary if a mine is to be regarded as a reasonable proposition for investors. In twelve years the amount of ore in reserve in the west has decreased by one-third. I am referring now to the four major mines. The reserves at Great Boulder have dropped from 6.4 years to 4 years, at North Kalgoorlie from 9.7 to 6.2 years, and at Lake View Star from 7 to 4.7 years, while Gold Mines of Kalgoorlie has only 2£ years’ reserves in sight. Depletion of reserves which no longer can be exploited economically under the present arrangements means that quantities of ore are by-passed and lost for ever when higher grade ore is mined. In addition, if higher grade ore is hidden by ore of a lower grade, the higher grade ore is never mined. Once it is by-passed the company never returns to it because mines are not reopened on that basis.
In the past ten years 1,270,000 tons of ore, once profitable but now no longer so, have been removed from reserves. If this ore is never recovered there will be a loss of £3,200,000 in export income. I should point out also that three or four times this quantity has not been included in reserves at all because of the reduced footage of development which goes with the extension of operations as the mines go deeper and as each foot becomes more expensive to work.
The honorable member for Fremantle has mentioned the special development allowance of 4s. a ton of ore treated and has claimed’ that as one of the matters contained in the Opposition’s policy at the last election. Let me point out that this was advocated long before last December by people concerned with the welfare of the industry. I, too, commend it as one of the things that we must do to strengthen the industry and particularly those companies operating old mines. The honorable member mentioned section 12 of the act. It is of the utmost urgency and importance that this should be reviewed and that the present discrimination based* on age, not on productivity or on profitability, should be removed. The capital structure and the dividend pattern which follows it should not be the determining factors in deciding eligibility for assistance. I suggest that the present-day value of the assets in use by the companies should be the basis used in calculating subsidy entitlement. If the Treasurer would send one of his officers to Kalgoorlie some good would come of it. An officer of the Department of National Development has been looking at the technical side of the matter but I am sure that if an officer of the Treasury were to examine the specific problem of the capital structure of the companies he would find comparable mines doing comparable work and turning out about the same tonnages of ore, but operating under entirely different conditions because of their theoretical capital structures.
I should like to bring another matter to the attention of the House. I mentioned earlier that exploration for new prospects is the life-blood of mining and that too little is being done in this regard. Gold, in particular, is a commodity which we can always sell. I do not need to remind the Treasurer of its great value as a dollar earner and of the way in which it can increase our overseas earnings. Too little is being done to find new prospects. Potentially profitable mines are lying idle.
This should not be so. I suggest that a grant on a £1 for £1 basis for exploratory diamond drilling would do much to open new fields and to bring some of the old centres to life again. The Treasurer has spoken of supporting any moves for an increase in the world price of gold, but this is a very fragile reed on which to” depend. However, his declared intention to look further into the case for more liberal assistance to the gold-mining industry encourages me to believe that we shall be able to do more than we arc doing at present for an industry which has played such an important role in the story of Australia’s development and which can continue to maintain large centres of population and provide large sums as export earnings at absurdly low cost compared to many other projects to which the Government gives ready approval.
.- Unfortunately for the gold-mining industry, particularly in Western Australia, if we on this side of the House moved to amend this bill in such a way as to increase the subsidy, to assist in the great developmental work in the mines, to broaden the scope of the subsidy to include those people other than the original producers treating tailing dumps, or to provide for assistance to be given to prospectors in such a way as to increase activity in the field, we would be ruled out of order because an increase in expenditure would be involved. That being so, I shall support the bill in its present form because, if it is not supported and if it is not passed, the gold-mining industry will be denied even the meagre assistance which the bill now gives it.
The bill provides only for the extension of the present provisions of the act for a further three years. It will not give any additional assistance in any direction. I am sure that the people who depend on the industry, both directly and indirectly, will be very disappointed that the Government has not seen fit to introduce a measure including at least some of the benefits which I have mentioned. In my maiden speech in this chamber I addressed myself very extensively to the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act and pointed out how employment would be lost, population would dwindle, the value of housing and property would decline and whole towns would eventually disappear from the mining fields if the gold-mining industry were allowed to continue to decline. I do not intend to cover that ground again this evening, nor do I intend to cover the ground so ably traversed by my colleague, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). I merely direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that a very serious situation can, and will, obtain in Australia, in Western Australia in particular, if the industry is allowed to fade away. I emphasize that this would have very serious consequences to not only those actually engaged in goldmining but also those who are indirectly dependent upon the gold-mining industry. I point out that in Western Australia alone there are about 30,000 people who can be said to be directly dependent upon the goldmining industry and there are many more who are indirectly dependent upon it. Surely it must be terrifying to the majority of the people resident in the gold-mining towns who own not only their homes but all that is in them and everything on the land upon which they stand, to think that this industry could fade out, for it would mean the loss not only of their employment but also of all their assets.
For 100 years now the gold-mining industry has played a very important part as an income-earner for Australia. During the gold-rush days of the 1850’s, it earned more income than any other industry. In the ten-year period from 1851 to 1860, almost 25,000,000 ounces of gold were produced, and in the period 1901 to 1910 the production of gold amounted to 33,500,000 ounces. To-day, unfortunately, we are in a very different position in that only slightly over 1,000,000 ounces of gold is being produced in a year. That represents less than one-half of the yearly recovery between 1851 and 1860 and less than onethird of that for the 1901-1910 period. Nevertheless I am confident that the goldmining industry will continue to play a very big part as an income-earner for Australia if the price of gold is increased - and surely it must be accepted that it will be increased eventually. But until that does happen, we must see to it that sufficient assistance is given to the industry to ensure that it will not decline, that the population of the various gold-mining districts shall be maintained and that the number of people employed in the industry shall be kept at a high level so that, when the price of gold is increased, as I believe it must surely be eventually, we shall have on the mining-fields not ghost towns but towns supporting the present level of population so that an immediate start may be made upon bringing the industry back to the thriving condition which it enjoyed a few years ago.
I agree that the assistance we are extending at least has kept the marginal mines alive, but at its present level it will do nothing to stimulate the industry. Indeed, it has not been able to hold the gold-mining industry at the level at which it stood when the legislation was first enacted. We on this side want the industry to be given a chance to return to the thriving condition which it enjoyed a few years ago. We want to see more mines operating; we want to see employment increasing, not decreasing as it is at present, and we want to see the mining fields and towns flourish, not fade away. But the meagre assistance granted under the act which we are amending, and which apparently the Government is prepared only to extend for a further period, will never bring about that condition. All we can hope it will do will be to delay the closing of marginal mines. The assistance proposed is, of course, of some help, but if is not enough to allow the mines to improve to the position where they can carry on by their own efforts without having to rely on a subsidy from the Government.
As the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) has said, during the past ten years, 1,270,000 tons of ore which it would have been profitable to treat some years ago has been by-passed because, due to increasing costs and the fact that the price of gold has not been increased, its treatment is no longer profitable. If the gold is not recovered - and it will never be recovered unless something is done quickly to enable the mines in the area to continue working - it will mean that £3,200,000 of export income will be lost to Australia. By merely extending the present provisions of the act and making no attempt to improve the assistance to the industry, I say that the Government is showing either a complete lack of knowledge of the industry and its difficulties and potential value or, if it has that knowledge, a complete disregard for the industry itself and the people who are dependent upon it.
Unlike the honorable member for McMillan, I cannot appreciate the concluding remarks of the second-reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in which he said -
Consideration of the proposals put forward for amendment of the act could not be completed in the limited time available prior to the close of the present sittings of the Parliament.
I know that the Treasurer met representatives of the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia in March of this year. But that was not the first time the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia had put up submissions to this Government. In June of last year, when the Treasurer was in Kalgoorlie, the Chamber of Mines also made submissions to him. Nor was that the first time such submissions had been ma’de. On that occasion, the Chamber of Mines said to the Treasurer -
A development allowance is requested for those mines not eligible for assistance under the Act.
That is a point which the Opposition is making on this occasion, and which it has made before. The Chamber of Mines went on to say -
It is again suggested-
It is again suggested! Therefore June, 1961, could not have been the first time upon which this submission was put to the Government - _ that an allowance be made of 4s. per ton ot ore treated for extra development expenditure above a base year or years to be determined.
The chamber said further-
The probable cost of such an allowance to the Federal Government is estimated at approximately £500,000 per annum. For such a relatively small amount the life of the industry would be materially lengthened, and population and assets would be preserved in mining towns and centres such as Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
It is essential for continuity of mining operations that sufficient development be carried out to maintain ore reserves.
That is quite correct. Once a mine ceases to develop and simply works the ore bodies that have been opened up, you can say that is the end of that mine. The mines must continue to develop, they must continue to drive, cross-cut, put in winzes, rises, and so on. Once they stop doing that, that is the end of them. The Chamber of Mines also said -
With continually increasing costs against a fixed price for gold, mines are finding greater difficulties each year in financing adequate development work.
This circumstance has been and is being worsened in an endeavour to counter rising costs by increasing all production to maximum capacity of mine plant and equipment.
A spiral is thus created whereby additional development is required to chase greater production - thus again adding to the cost structure.
Again, due to increases in costs, substantial tonnages of ore have been deleted from reserves as uneconomical to mine. These tonnages have to be replaced by extra development. We request a subsidy on fi for £1 basis for exploratory diamond drilling - as distinct from normal development diamond drilling as defined in the Act.
I repeat that these representations were made in June of last year, so that the Government has had at least ten months in which to consider them. Just how long will it take the Government to arrive at a decision? Or has it already arrived at a decision, and does this bill represent its final say on the matter? Again, does this bill mean that the submissions made by the Chamber of Mines in June, 1961, were pigeon-holed and forgotten and that they are now being given further consideration only because the Chamber of Mines has approached the Government once more?
I do not appreciate the concluding remarks in the second-reading speech made by the Treasurer. I am not convinced that the Government will definitely consider the matter of further assistance when the Budget for the financial year 1962-63 is presented. The Treasurer said -
I wish to state in conclusion that the extension of the operation of the existing subsidy provisions without change does not necessarily represent the Government’s final position in the matter of assistance to the gold-mining industry.
Therefore, there is a doubt. The right honorable gentleman said that this did not necessarily represent the Government’s final position. Why use the word “ necessarily “ if there was no doubt that the Government would review the position later? The right honorable gentleman later said -
Consideration of the proposals put forward for amendment of the act could not be completed in the limited time available prior to the close of the present sittings of the Parliament. This consideration is still proceeding and the Government hopes to be in a position to indicate its decision by the time the Budget for 1962-63 is introduced.
He did not say that the Government would be in a position to intimate its decision. He said only that it hoped to be in a position to do so. By the time the next Budget is presented, fourteen months will have elapsed since the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia made its submissions in June, 1961, which were practically the same as those which it had made on the previous occasion. Therefore, the Treasurer’s remarks do not make it definite - in my opinion, anyway - that the matter will be further considered or that a further amending bill will be introduced. We have to remember that when the present bill is passed - and passed it must be, so that at least the provisions of the existing act will be extended - the matter may not be considered again for another three years. That is the term for which this bill will extend the provisions of the existing act.
Let us just consider what the “ Kalgoorlie Miner” newspaper had to say about the position. This newspaper normally supports Liberal governments, both State and Federal, in al] their moods. Therefore, its criticism of the Government in this matter is very serious. Under the heading, “ Gold Subsidy Decision Disappoints “, the “ Kalgoorlie Miner “, in the leading article in its issue of 2nd May last, stated -
The Federal Government has extended the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act for another three years without changing the current level of subsidies. This decision is a disappointment to the industry which is faced with creeping inflation and continually rising costs. The Government, however, is adamant despite the Chamber of Mines deputation’s appeal to the Prime Minister late in March for extra help and special mine development loans. Even if the Government cannot grant those requests, it might have shown some realism towards the industry’s problems by adjusting the subsidies to the increased cost of living or some such standards which shows the effects of higher costs.
As it now stands, the subsidy payments amount to only £65,000 a year - a very small outlay for maintaining a vital industry. It is specious for the Government to retreat behind the terms of the International Monetary Fund. Other countries have found means of escaping from the demands of that authority. The drain upon America’s gold reserves shows that the world still wants gold, yet the Australian Government seems determined that there will be no additional production even though it could assist our balance of payments and provide additional employment.
The contributions made by the industry to the general prosperity of Australia as a whole, have no doubt been stressed on many occasions but the
Government persists in taking a limited view although it can support an inefficient industry, such as dairying, to the tune of many millions of pounds annually . . .
Western Australia is not receiving a fair deal over the gold subsidy and some general opposition should be organised from all sources within the State. As it is, millions of pounds of wealth lies unrecovered in the ground. Gold is a saleable commodity and it should be mined.
Those are the views of the “ Kalgoorlie Miner “, which, as I have said, normally supports Liberal governments.
I wish now to direct the attention of honorable members to some remarks made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his second-reading speech on the Goldmining Industry Assistance Bill 1954. The right honorable gentleman said -
The importance of the gold-mining industry to Australia needs little emphasis. The annual value of gold output is in the region of £17,000,000. Not only does the industry make a significant contribution to the national income, but it produces a commodity which has a direct effect on the balance of payments. Except for a minor quantity of gold which is used for industrial purposes, all the gold produced in Australia and the territories represents an addition, in one form or another, to our international reserves. Moreover, there are large areas in Australia, particularly in Western Australia, which are almost entirely dependent on goldmining. Any significant decline in gold-mining activity could lead to the depopulation of these areas and a widespread loss of housing and other utilities which have been developed over the years in the areas concerned.
He then added -
The Government believes that for a number of reasons it would not be in the national interest for these areas to languish.
I completely agree with the right honorable gentleman. But, unfortunately, the decline in the industry and in the population of the gold-fields towns and the loss of housing and other utilities continue, as has been the case since the measure which became the Goldmining Industry Assistance Act 1954 was introduced. I suggest, Sir, that these matters show that the act, in its present form, does not go far enough and is too narrow in scope to halt the decline in the industry. The decline which has continued since 1954 although the act has been amended shows that the act is not sufficiently effective. If the Government still stands behind the statement made by the Prime Minister in 1954 to the effect that it would not be in the national interest to allow the gold-mining areas to languish, it will have to go a great deal beyond simply extending the time for which the provisions of the existing act are to operate.
To prove that there has been a steady decline in deep mining and prospecting activity, I want to present a few figures obtained from reports of the Western Australian Mines Department. Western Australia produces 77 per cent, of the total gold output of Australasia. Let me point out, however, that it is estimated that the subsidy will amount to £600,000 in 1961- 62, and the amount is reducing each year. The subsidy is not as big now as it was in 1957-58. Let us compare the subsidy given to the gold-mining industry with the bounty given to the dairy industry, which all the newspapers throughout the Commonwealth have described as being the most inefficient industry in Australia. That industry is to get a bounty of £13,500,000 annually, and the gold-mining industry is to get very little more than £500,000.
The report of the Dairy Industry Committee of Enquiry shows that between the financial year 1953-54 and the financial year 1957-58 exports of butter and cheese realized £131,000,000, or an average of about £26,000,000 a year. Over the same period, however, the bounty on butter and cheese totalled £135,000,000, or £4,000,000 more than the export returns. In 1960, the gold-mining industry contributed £16,950,000 to the Australian economy in export earnings, but received a subsidy of only about £700,000. I point out to honorable members that of the £16,950,000 export income earned by the gold-mining industry in 1960, Western Australia earned £13,593,200. The gold-mining industry in that State pays out more than £6,000,000 a year in salaries and wages, and expends more than £4,000,000 a year on equipment, stores and rail freights. As I said earlier, at least 30,000 people in Western Australia are directly dependent on the industry.
Surely such an industry is worth fostering and is entitled to more assistance than the gold-mining industry is getting at the present time when it is going through a difficult period. Yet, we find the Treasurer uncertain whether this bill is the Government’s final word. He is not prepared to say definitely whether something more than was granted in 1954 will be provided for when the Budget is introduced later this year. Also, as the act now stands, there is no provision for subsidy on the treatment of tailings unless they are treated by the original producer. If the subsidy were extended to include treatment of tailings whether by the original producer or by some other person, to my knowledge, it would mean quite a considerable boost to many outback places in Western Australia. Most of the mines have closed down and in many cases the original producer has long since departed.
If the Government members’ mining committee had been interested enough to go into outback areas in Western Australia its members would have seen thousands and thousands of tons of tailings waiting to be treated, but at present prices this would not be economically sound without assistance. But, if the tailings were treated, it would bring quite a number of people into those areas. They would be employed in those areas and, of course, what must be remembered in the gold-mining industry and in the gold-mining fields is that if people work in the mines, on tailings or on some other work, it is quite normal to find them out prospecting for other minerals in the district.
We on this side of the House are very conscious of the need to extend the subsidy to cover the working of tailings by any one. We realize, too, the need for assistance in development, and we fully appreciate the necessity to increase activity in prospecting. The Government, however, appears to be rather uninterested and to me seems to be adopting a fairly negative attitude. A perusal of “ Hansard “ over the years shows that arguments over assistance in regard to development and in regard to the working of tailings have been put forward by Opposition members on almost every debate on this legislation. Surely the Government must, before this, have realized that those arguments were based on very firm ground. Yet we have the Treasurer saying in his second-reading speech that the time has been too limited for the Government to do anything to widen the provisions of the act at this stage and therefore it is just extending the time.
It has been previously shown that the gold-mining industry adds some 35,000,000 dollars a year to our overseas balances. Clearly Australia would be in a much sorrier position if it were not for this industry. The words of the Prime Minister, “We cannot allow the industry to languish “, have never been retracted; they have never been disputed, and they have been supported by Government members. Yet they have not been followed up with action.
I said I would quote some figures to show that there has been a decline in the industry, but as my time must nearly have expired, I shall refer only to the employment situation since 1947. Between 1946 and 1954 the number of men employed fell by 1,521 and since 1954 there has been a further decrease of 1,136. So, since 1947, there has been a total decrease of 2,677. Between 1959 and 1960 there was a decrease of 281. Thus, even though this act was introduced in 1954 in an attempt to prevent the industry from languishing, we find that since 1954 there has been a decrease of 1,136 in the number of men in the industry. I also wish to point out that the report of the Department of Mines shows that in 1949 there were 25 mines and plants employing more than twenty men each and nine employing fewer than twenty men. By 1954 the number had fallen to nineteen large mines and in 1960 there were only fifteen employing more than twenty men. These include Gold Mines of Kalgoorlie with which several companies have amalgamated.
I have already said that prospecting activity has diminished. In 1952 there were 439 more parcels put through State batteries than in 1960. There was a decrease of 45,322 tons of ore in 1960 compared with 1952, and a decrease of 29,482 ounces of gold.
The next point I want to make relates to development work. The Opposition says that the mines should be given some assistance, not for the development of the mines but to ensure that the ore bodies that they have, although low grade, shall be mined and not by-passed and so lost to us forever. The amount of development being conducted now by the main mines of Western Australia is considerably higher than in earlier years. For instance, the total amount of development work in 1960 amounted to 311,349 feet, which was more than twice the amount carried out in 1951. This is in the main mines only. Much of the extra work may be attributed to diamond drilling which, at 180,570 feet, is double the footage of 1951. Assistance in development would mean that companies not receiving the subsidy could open up many bodies of ore that at present are uneconomic. They could open up and treat bodies of 2 pennyweight dirt and this would mean that the life of a mine would be extended for quite a considerable time. But, under existing conditions they cannot mine these low-grade ore bodies and, of course, this has lessened the life of the mine.
In conclusion I say that if this Government is honest and sincere and believes in the remarks of the Prime Minister in 1954 that we cannot allow this industry to languish, then it has failed by providing on this occasion simply that the present provisions of the legislation shall be extended. No provision is made to give mining companies further assistance to enable them to continue their industry, increase employment, and so increase the number of ounces . of gold that are mined.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
.- I commend the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) upon his forceful advocacy, before the suspension of the sitting, of the need for greater assistance to the goldmining industry. The bill under discussion covers a very important part of Australia’s production activity. Not only is gold mining of national significance because of its effect on this country’s overseas reserves, but also the industry’s prosperity or lack of it is of tremendous importance to whole districts and localities which depend solely on gold production. This bill which extends the provisions of the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act for a further period of three years meets with the approval - but only limited approval - of the Opposition. We believe that this bill will not meet the needs of the industry fully.
At present, the act extends financial assistance to the industry in two ways. In one way it assists large producers; and in the other way it assists small producers. The large producers are defined in the act as producers producing in excess of 500 fine ounces of gold per annum, although those who reach a production of not more than 1,075 ounces per annum may elect to be treated as small producers. The bounty or subsidy payable to large producers is determined by a formula which takes into account the cost of production, the amount of profit made and the cost of capital equipment. The amount of subsidy paid to the large producers varies according to these circumstances whereas for the small producer, there is a flat rate of bounty of £2 8s. per ounce which has no relation to the cost of production, profit, if any, or the amount of capital invested in a particular concern.
In introducing the bill, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) gave some very interesting information. He indicated that between 25 per cent, and 30 per cent, of gold production throughout Australia is subsidized under this legislation. When we consider that not so very long ago, Australia was one of the biggest producers of gold in the world, we can appreciate the change that has taken place over the years. To-day, of all the gold produced in Australia - and there are still some parts of Australia where substantial properties are mined - more than 25 per cent, is produced by persons or concerns that need the assistance of the bounty prescribed under this legislation.
My electorate of Bendigo, of course, is one of the areas to which countless citizens of all colours, creeds and occupations emigrated in the great gold rush days. Later, as the fever abated and established mines delved the deep earth, the City of Bendigo became known as the golden city. It still is, but rather is it the city of golden sunshine, for high production costs and the fixed world price for gold have proved the mines uneconomic for the time being. I say for the time being, Mr. Speaker, because I believe that a future extension of this legislation could, along with other circumstances, set the wheels into motion again.
An examination of the annual statements made under the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act for the last two years shows that the total subsidies paid have decreased in that period by approximately £140,000. In the year ended 30th June, 1960, the small producers received £53,030 while large producers received £785,352, a total of over £838,000. In the last financial year, small producers received £53,775 and large producers received £644,882, a total of over £698,000. This reduction in subsidy would seem to open the way for an extension of the scheme.
When this legislation was first introduced in 1954 and, later, in 1959 when it was further extended, the Ministers who guided the measures through the House offered three reasons for its implementation and extension: First, they offered the fact that increased production costs were rising to meet the official world price. Secondly, it was stated that the gold-mining industry earns a significant amount of overseas exchange. The third reason was that employment in the gold-mining centres should be maintained. As these reasons applied then, so they apply now, only with greater significance.
Production costs have continued to rise since the inception of the legislation. Although several increases in bounty have met the situation, a case could effectively be made for yet a further increase. In fact, the gold-mining industry is probably the only industry which has had wholly to absorb the full brunt of the inflationary spiral. The price which Australia has received for gold in the world market has remained virtually unchanged since the early post-war period. Unquestionably, this has had an adverse effect, not only upon the gold-mining industry, but, because we are a gold exporter, upon the whole nation.
The United States of America, of course, holds the key to a future rise in price. For all these years she has maintained the price at 35 dollars an ounce. It has been suggested by various economic authorities that a price nearing 100 dollars a fine ounce would be more realistic. Certainly Australia and a large part of the world would benefit from such a price. However, for two reasons, one economic and the other political, it does not suit the United States to increase the price. Although, of late, she has exported gold to bridge the gap between her trade surplus and her expenditures abroad for military and economic aid and long-term investment, America, for many years, has been the ultimate purchaser of most of the world’s gold output. Accordingly, she would, as the principal purchaser, bear the brunt of any price rise.
That is the economic reason. It is interesting to note that on 26th April the United States Treasury held gold stock worth 16,495,000,000 dollars - no doubt sufficient reason for the fantastic security precautions at Fort Knox, that nation’s principal gold storage centre.
Opposed to America’s prospective added expenditure for gold if the world prices lifted is the obvious fact that, along with South Africa, the country which would derive the most benefit would be the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - Russia. An estimate of Russia’s holdings in gold at home and in banks elsewhere reaches near the 10 billion dollars mark. Although an accurate estimate cannot be made, an increase in price to 100 dollars an ounce would present Russia with an additional 20 billion dollars in terms of purchasing power - a gift that President Kennedy has no desire to make. This, then, is the second reason - the political reason.
Although in recent months Australia’s overseas reserves have achieved a healthier look, the onrushing prospect of diminished overseas earnings and the possible result of Britain’s prospective entry into the European Economic Community should make us ever anxious to increase our overseas funds so that if an international squeeze does affect us we shall have some reserves to enable us to purchase the essential machinery and raw material required for a continuation of production and employment. So the second reason that I mention is still sustained.
I quoted earlier the third reason mentioned by the Minister who guided through Parliament the previous extension of the legislation in 1959 - the maintenance of employment in gold-mining areas. In 1962 this has a deeper significance for, with about 100,000 unemployed, we need not only a continuation but also an expansion of activities and employment.
The re-establishment or expansion of the industry in the Bendigo district at Maldon, Eaglehawk, Castlemaine, Malmsbury, Chewton and other centres would provide an economic stimulant which the district badly need’s. I believe that the extension of this legislation in two respects could provide that stimulant - a stimulant which other past or present gold- mining areas would welcome. It is certain that an extension of the bounty to gold recovered from gold mine dumps and tailings would contribute greatly to an economic revival in these areas. At present the bounty is confined solely to gold recovered from ore produced in direct mining operations. An operator mines the ore and extracts the gold and unless he performs both operations, whether he be a large or a small producer, he cannot secure benefits under this act. The person who is engaged in recovering gold from dumps and tailings does not, and cannot, qualify under the act as it stands to-day. There appears to me to be no valid reason for this exclusion, and I believe that action should be taken to amend the act.
Mr. Speaker, the Victorian midlands, of which my electorate forms a part, has produced gold worth literally hundreds of millions of pounds since its discovery. An auriferous reef stretching from Bendigo, Eaglehawk and Malmsbury in the east to Ararat, Stawell and Ballarat in the west has been a prolific bearer of gold and has been mined extensively. Nowadays, in every direction, there are dumps and tailings which have been left after the original operations. Many are sources of potential wealth. It is true that a very few individuals from time to time in recent years have used chemical processes to extract the fine gold from the dumps or have taken the rock from the tailings, crushed it and extracted the gold; but without the bounty, the commercial prospects have been unsatisfactory.
In my electorate of Bendigo, not so long ago, hundreds of mines dotted the landscape. To-day only one mine operates successfully and that is the Wattle Gully Mine at Chewton. It contributes nearly half of Victoria’s total gold production each year. To do so, it needs and receives assistance under the act. Other mines would resume production if the operations of the act were extended still further, and I come to the second great need - a development subsidy. It can be truly said that development is the lifeblood of a mine, and no one can deny that the cost of development has risen remarkably in recent years. Indeed, this is borne out by alterations to the formula originally set down to ascertain, under the act, the cost of production. In 1954 sub-section (4.) of section 10 set £3 10s. as the figure representing the cost of development per ounce produced, and in 1957 this was amended to £5 5s. Since 1957, of course, there has been a continuous rise in development costs.
Last year, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) urged, and in fact proposed, as Labour’s policy in the last election that £500,000 a year for a number of years be made available for developmental purposes. The implementation of this policy would allow producers to open up and mine lowgrade ore bodies which, in other circumstances, they would be forced to leave untouched. This suggestion could be integrated with a Chamber of Mines proposal that a subsidy of 4s. per ton of ore treated be paid to encourage the development of existing mines. It could, of course, provide the means by which mines which have fallen into disuse, might be re-opened and so play their part in increased production. In Victoria, the production of gold over recent years has steadily declined, despite the subsidies paid under the act. The latest report of the Victorian Department of Mines bears this out. Similarly, production has fallen in the major producing State of Western Australia. My colleague, the member for Kalgoorlie effectively established this fact earlier in the debate.
We have seen in recent months the introduction of emergency economic measures designed to stimulate the economy. One of the great tragedies of the Government’s misguided economic policies of 1960-61 was their effect on country communities. Because of the abnormal concentration of industry in the capital cities in normal times, employment is never adequate in country towns and provincial cities. When the credit squeeze and its accompanying measures dried up employment opportunities, the situation became desperate. Even now, greater effort is needed to give country people their rightful opportunity to be employed in the community of their choosing. Without exception, gold mines in Australia are situated around provincial cities, in or near country towns, or in outback areas, so that there exists an opportunity for the Government to give country communities a much needed boost.
I support the bill as it stands, but urge a continued pressure for an increase in the price of gold, the extension of the act to cover the extraction of gold from mine dumps and tailings, the introduction of a development subsidy, and a rise in the subsidy to cover cost increases since the last adjustment in 1959.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 2014), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of the bill is to approve the signing and acceptance of Australia of the International Wheat Agreement 1962. I think I should say initially that the Opposition is strongly in favour of international agreements for the marketing of primary products. It is in favour generally of international agreements to solve most of the great problems that affect the welfare of the human race.
Those who are dependent in the economic sense on the wheat industry for their general welfare, to the extent that the industry is protected by the International Wheat Agreement, are very largely indebted to a great Australian public servant, Sir Edwin McCarthy. My memory takes me back over a considerable period, and from memory I can affirm that the first International Wheat Agreement was introduced in the Parliament about 1934, but the parties to it failed to ratify it. Subsequently, in 1948, a measure was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government, in which I was the Minister concerned, for the purpose of ratifying an International Wheat Agreement. Although this Parliament ratified the agreement, the United States Congress unfortunately failed to do so. Consequently, there was no international wheat agreement in 1948.
In 1949, we tried again and succeeded, with the result that for the first time in history, the wheat exporting countries - five of them on that occasion I think - the importing countries, the world’s wheat-growers and the world’s wheat consumers, enjoyed a measure of protection. That agreement ran for a period of four years. It operated so successfully, and so efficient was the organization that controlled it, that I do not think any difficult disputation arose on any occasion. The result was that in 1953, when the agreement expired, this Government, which succeeded the Labour Government, brought down a measure to extend the operation of the 1948 agreement, with some modifications, for another period of three years. Unfortunately, on that occasion Great Britain, which was a major purchasing country, failed to ratify the agreement and become a party to it. As Great Britain was the largest importing country concerned in the earlier agreement, the new agreement was considerably weakened.
In 1956 this Parliament ratified a further extension of the International Wheat Agreement for three years, and again in 1959 for a further three years. Now in 1962 we have a proposal for another extension. From 1948 until the time when the agreement we are now considering expires, a major section of the world’s wheat exporting countries, and a great majority of the world’s wheat consuming countries, have operated and will operate under the cover of the International Wheat Agreement.
The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is present in the House at the moment, and I think I should make this comment. The Minister has always played an important part in debates on these measures, and last week he introduced the bill before us and gave it his blessing. I should point out, however, that in 1948, when I introduced the legislation to give effect to the first International Wheat Agreement, the newspapers of this country widely reported the remarks of the right honorable gentleman. They used such phrases as “ a sharp attack on the wheat pact “ and “ on the road to socialism “. I do not make these remarks in any spirit of hostility, but I point out that it is interesting to note how, with the turn of the wheel of fortune, the right honorable gentleman who in 1948 criticized a measure similar to this one, calling it a step on the road to socialism, last week appeared here in the same role as that in which I appeared in 1948 and asked the Parliament to give its blessing to the bill that is now before us. If I were a nark I might say that this is a step on the road to capitalism, but, Sir, whether or not it is a re-enactment of legislation that constituted a step on the road to socialism, I accept it as something that is inherently good.
When we examine the legislation and the agreement which it proposes to ratify, we find that a record number of wheatsupplying countries are involved. I think only five producing countries were involved in the first agreement of 1948. Even in the third agreement the number showed only a slight increase. On this occasion, however, the following major wheat-producing countries are participants: Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - for the first time - and the United States of America. A substantial number of wheat importing countries are also parties to the agreement, as purchasers of wheat from the producing countries. On this occasion we find that they number 31, and it is interesting to note the quantities of wheat that they are committed to take. Some of them are very large wheat purchasers. The largest purchaser is the United Kingdom. While we are not told the amounts that will be exported by individual producing countries, or imported by individual purchasing countries, in bushels or tons, we are given the percentage undertakings, as they are called, in Annex A to the agreement, of the various importing countries. The figures are encouraging, and they augur well for the future. Those of us who favour international agreements, particularly agreements of this nature which involve consumers and producers and have a wide coverage, hope the day will dawn when such agreements will cover the complete world production of the particular products involved.
Taking a glance at Annex A to the agreement, we find that Ceylon has committed itself to take 80 per cent, of its ordinary normal purchases of wheat. Cuba has undertaken to take 90 per cent. It appears that when negotiating agreements of this kind, this Government does not balk at trading with Cuba, which is a Communist country, or even, indeed, with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I do not criticize the Government for that. This kind of trading may be a means of inducing a happier state of affairs internationally and a better understanding between the various countries in the future. The Federal Republic of Germany has committed itself to take 87½ per cent. of its normal wheat purchases, and Ireland 90 per cent. Strangely enough, and, I think, commendably enough, the only participating country - and it is a very small one - that is committed to take 100 per cent. of normal requirements is the Vatican City. I would suggest that in this respect the Vatican City is setting a very desirable example to the other wheatpurchasing countries. We find that the United Kingdom is committed to take 90 per cent. of its normal commercial requirements. Other figures are given for each of the importing countries.
The actual agreement is quite extensive and is in rather technical terms. However, it does set out in general how the minimum and maximum prices are determined. It provides, as did the original agreement, a maximum price above which wheat shall not be sold, as well as a minimum price. It is always nice, of course, to get as much as one can for one’s product, but I would suggest that a reasonably good job has been done in this agreement, and that a good measure of tolerance has been shown both by the importing and exporting countries. The maximum price laid down in the agreement is 18s. 4d. a bushel f.o.b. Manitoba. The prices are given in dollars, but when the appropriate calculations are made we find that the maximum is 18s. 4d. a bushel and the minimum 14s. 6d. a bushel. According to the Minister, there is an increase of12½ cents, equivalent to about 14d. in Australian currency, on the rate under the previous international agreement. The International Wheat Agreement of 1962 defines its objectives, and I believe that I should put them on record in “ Hansard “ for the benefit of the general public who will not have access to this document. Article 1 sets out that the objectives are -
Surely that is a most desirable objective.
Article 1 then continues -
Article 2 contains the definitions, and the first deals with the Advisory Committee on Price Equivalents.
– We have read all this, you know. We are not broadcasting the proceedings to-night.
– If the Minister for Air is in a hurry, I am not. I am not a prima donna of the air as he is.
– I am simply interested in what the honorable member thinks about the International Wheat Agreement; we know what it contains.
– If the Minister wants me to explain it, I am willing to oblige. Article 2 deals with the “ Balance of Commitment “, and it goes on to give the definition of a bushel and the definition of certified seed wheat. It explains that “C. & f.” means cost and freight.
– What is the definition of a bushel of wheat?
– Article 2 (d) states - “ Bushel “ means sixty pounds avoirdupois or 27.2155 . . kilogrammes;
The honorable member will note that as this is an international agreement, the definition gives the weight in kilogrammes as well as in avoirdupois. The article then gives the definition of the International Wheat Council which was established by the International Wheat Agreement 1949. I played some part in its establishment, and it continued in being by Article 25. The agreement explains that a crop year means a period from 1st August to 31st July. I do not want to bore the House with further details, but will content myself by saying that there are 37 articles. I have not time to explain all of them. The most important of them provide for maximum and minimum prices. Some of the articles allow an importing country to escape from its commitments in certain circumstances.
In the event of a drought, for example, an exporting country also may be relieved of its obligations. A committee is set up under another article to settle disputations or arguments that may arise. It is interesting to note in this connexion that there has been very little disputation, so far as I know, among any of the nations concerned in these agreements. This is an outstanding example of the practical working of an international agreement. National interests are submerged and under this agreement 31 great wheat-importing countries have been able to reach agreement with ten great wheat-exporting countries. Practically all of them made sure that they did not commit their wheat-growers to the terms of the agreement without previously consulting the wheat-growers.
– Are any standards set down?
– No, but the wheat is to be f.a.q.
– Is this an example of international socialism?
– In this case, I would disagree with my friend, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen); and in answer to the honorable member for Yarra I would say that it is a practical example, or a near example, of international socialism. Producers and consumers are in accord, not only on the home front but also on the entire international front. I do not resent what the Minister for Trade said in 1949 when he was in Opposition and I was a member of the Labour Cabinet. It is magnificent to see the Minister’s conversion to the adoption - with some modifications and improvements - of something which was a dangerous form of administration, according to his viewpoint, in 1949.
– The worst objection he had was that you were then in office.
– That is a natural objection. The Australian Labour Party made the first move in Australia - and indeed internationally - towards an international wheat agreement. Having done that successfully through this Parliament, we support this measure without any reservations because through this measure the Government proposes to continue that type of international agreement. Just as the International Sugar Agreement is in operation-
– It is not.
– If the honorable member wants me to put it his way, I say that just as an international sugar agreement was working satisfactorily, and just as it was the brain child of a Labour government, so I hope there will be many more examples of this sort of agreement which will tend to dampen down the trade rivalries of the nations and bring us closer to the goal that mankind deserves - international amity and peace.
.- There is not very much in the speech of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to which one can reply because he spent the majority of his time reading from a book. He commenced by telling us that the Opposition is in favour of the measure so, as we are in favour of it as well, I shall not take very long to complete my remarks. I hope that honorable members who follow me in the debate will take a leaf from my book.
The honorable member for Lalor tried to make some play of the fact that in 1948 the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who was leading the debate for the then Opposition, was reported in the newspapers, so we are told by the honorable member, as having made a sharp attack on this agreement. Obviously in 1948 conditions were very different from what they are now. In fact, it was bad business to enter into an international wheat agreement in 1948. The price was far too low. I forget what the free market value was, but it was about 19s. 6d. a bushel. Thanks to the honorable member for Lalor and his colleagues, we signed the agreement and had to accept about 13s. a bushel, apart from the few free sales abroad which we were allowed. As the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who represents the Riverina electorate, can inform the
House, the wheat-growers lost many millions of pounds. It was for exactly the same reason that the United Kingdom did not sign the agreement in 1953. The United Kingdom thought it was bad business to sign because it knew of the enormous surpluses of wheat in the world and considered that it would be able to buy on the free market cheaper than it could under the agreement.
With the effluxion of time, both buyers and sellers have decided that in the interests of orderly marketing it is wise to come together and to agree on a reasonable price. The honorable member for Lalor holds up the agreement as a shining example of international socialism. I do not know whether my understanding of the word is wrong, but I thought that socialism meant State control of the means of production. If you come to my farm - or any one else’s for that matter - and tell me that the State is controlling the means of production you will be kicked off the property very smartly.
– You have it wrong because the Chifley Government provided for freehold soldier settlement.
– All I can say is that we still do not have freehold soldier settlement in New South Wales. The Chifley Government was in power when the War Service Land Settlement Act became law so New South Wales did not follow the lead that was followed by the Bolte Government in Victoria and by the governments of every other State. However, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that you will not allow me to carry on a discussion about soldier settlement when I should be discussing the International Wheat Agreement, but let me tell the honorable member for Lalor that New South Wales is the one State which does not have freehold soldier settlement, and while the Labour Party is in power in New South Wales it never will have freehold soldier settlement.
Now let me return to the International Wheat Agreement. The bill before the House seeks to ratify a new agreement. The second-reading speech of the Minister for Trade contained two sections. The first dealt with the ratification of the agreement as such and the second, which I am sure honorable members found to be much more interesting, dealt with our future in relation to the production, marketing and sale of wheat. The provisions relating to ratification of the agreement are merely machinery provisions. The new improved features include an increase in the price range. Both the minimum and the maximum prices have been increased by 12i cents, but it must be noted that the minimum price, even after the increases, is still ls. Id. less than the estimated cost of production in Australia. Do not let us forget that Australia probably produces the cheapest wheat in the world. If the sale price on the world market is ls. Id. a bushel less than the production cost of the world’s cheapest producer, what hope have the farmers of producing wheat at a profit? The cost of producing wheat in most of the northern hemisphere countries is very much higher than it is in Australia.
In addition, there has been an increase in purchase commitments. As the honorable member for Lalor pointed out, nearly all the major buyers have agreed to increase their commitments. The United Kingdom proposes to increase her purchase commitment from 80 per cent, to 90 per cent., Japan from 50 per cent, to 85 per cent, and Germany from 70 per cent, to 87i per cent.
The third feature is that new countries are joining the agreement. Russia has shown an interest for the first time. If all participating countries sign, we shall have 95 per cent, of the world’s wheat trade covered by the agreement. The increased price reflects increases in the cost of production as well as a greater buoyancy in the trade. Much more wheat was sold last year than in previous years. The increased price also reflects the fact that production was slightly lower than previously. This year for the first time for some years the prospects are that the surplus stocks of wheat in the world will be reduced.
It is interesting to note that the Minister, when introducing the bill, referred to the basic price in these terms -
This basic price, however, when applied to Australian f.a.q. wheat, would be subject to a quality discount which varies from time to time according to the market.
It is true that this year we have been very successful in selling our wheat. Nearly all the surpluses in the world are now held by the United States and Canada. That wheat is nearly all hard wheat. The soft wheats are grown mainly in Europe. Our wheat is very similar to the European product. Europe had a bad season last year and because of heavy rain and flooding many farmers could not sow their crops, so we have been able to reduce our stocks almost to nil. At the end of the last pool we had 24,000,000 bushels on hand but at the end of the current 25th pool we shall have even less than that, so we can say that we have virtually no stocks on hand. However, the United States has over 1,400,000,000 bushels of hard wheat on hand and Canada has over 500,000.000 bushels. We still must try to improve the quality of our wheat because, as the Minister has said, there is a quality discount. At present we are deducting one farthing a bushel for research. Undoubtedly this research will improve the quality of our wheat.
The main complaint I have in relation to the way in which the wheat industry is organized is that we have not an overall authority. Each State is in charge of its own production. The wheat is produced and then is handed to the Australian Wheat Board which is in charge of sales. It is a great pity that there is not some authority which could co-operate closely with the States because in the past we have known of some people being in favour of improving the quality of our wheat and of others who have said that in no circumstances must we segregate our wheat according to its quality because the removal of better quality wheat would leave us with a poorer f.a.q. wheat. There is a market for hard wheat and a market for soft wheat, but we shall find it terribly difficult to find a market for what we call f.a.q., or fair average quality, wheat which could have a protein content varying from 6 per cent, to 16 per cent. I understand that in a shipment of Australian wheat which arrived in South Africa not so long ago it was discovered that there were bags containing up to twelve different types. When we compare wheat of that kind with the high quality product from Manitoba in Canada, where all the wheat in a bag is identical, it is obvious that we must do something about this problem. I dare say the, honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will agree with me when I say that because I know be has had a great deal of experience on both the growing and marketing sides. I think he will agree, too, that we must also aim at improving the fertility of our wheat lands, because in that way we can improve the protein content of the wheat we grow. About four years ago two very good reports on this industry were produced. One related to production and the other dealt with marketing. Although they were excellent reports, we have not yet seen any signs of their being implemented.
This afternoon at question-time the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) announced that the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Sir John Teasdale, would not be seeking reappointment when his period of office expires next October. As one who has been critical of one aspect of Sir John’s handling of wheat marketing, I want to pay tribute to the work he has done because I think that in the field of overseas sales Sir John is undoubtedly the most outstanding person in Australia. I have been critical of the fact that we have not moved towards a system of segregation, and I hope that when the next chairman is appointed he will work in close collaboration with the States with a view to devising means of overcoming this great problem. After a speech I made in the House recently, I received a letter from the new Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of South Australia informing me that he favoured some form of segregation. I remind honorable members that in South Australia the industry has already introduced a system of segregation which is based on separating the varieties. Under that system certain varieties are classed as semi-hard and certain others as semi-soft. As honorable members will realize, that is a very rough and ready method of segregating wheat. There are much better methods than that. For instance, I have spoken here of the Zeleny test by which, within 30 seconds, a person with some knowledge of wheat can make a very accurate assessment of its protein content. Undoubtedly, if we wanted to segregate wheat, we could do it by a test along those lines. Unfortunately, until a farmer is paid more for producing high quality wheat, he will not bother about improving his wheat. After all, why should any grower try to produce wheat with a high protein content when he can receive more for wheat with a low protein content? At one time the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) gave me a bag of wheat and I planted some of it with a view to producing higher quality wheat on my property. I did attain a protein content of over 13.2 per cent., which I know is not high when compared with wheat from the area of the honorable member for Gwydir which has a protein content as high as 17 or 18 per cent. However, it was an improvement for my area.
– What about the yield?
– I did not plant enough to test the yield. All I can say is that I sent it to Kimpton’s mills in Victoria and received a letter back from the proprietors saying that they would throw their hats in the air if they could always get wheat of that quality. It was not available in Victoria.
I realize that what I am saying is getting rather wide of the International Wheat Agreement and accordingly I shall now refer to the second part of the speech delivered by the Minister for Trade in which he said that the International Wheat Agreement promises nothing like a complete solution of the world’s wheat problems. I think honorable members will realize that that is true. Even though honorable members opposite may say that this agreement is an example of international socialism, it certainly is not working very satisfactorily.
Let me deal now with the ingredients of these problems. The first is enormous production resulting from the payment of subsidies and bounties in the highly industrialized countries of the northern hemisphere - particularly in America and Canada - although this is also true of European countries. This results in uneconomic prices. We cannot sell wheat at those prices, nor can the growers of those countries without the aid of bounties and subsidies. Then we have the system under which the cost at which we can grow wheat makes absolutely no difference in our search for markets in the United States of America. Even if we produced wheat for nothing, we would not be allowed to sell one bushel of it in the United States. Another ingredient of the problem is the minimum price which, as I pointed out, is below the cost of production of 85 per cent, of the world’s production. Indeed, it is probably below the cost of production of the whole of the world’s production because our price has now moved up and our cost of production is ls. Id. above the minimum cost set out in the International Wheat Agreement.
– The wheatgrowers must be prosperous.
– I only wish they were. I think that temporarily they might be improving their position somewhat by exhausting their soil fertility - perhaps by wearing out their machinery and not replacing it - but I have yet to see the wheatgrower who can afford to drive around in a Bentley. Fifteen per cent, of the world’s wheat production is traded internationally at prices not more than from one-half to onethird of the price paid for the other 85 per cent. The fourth ingredient is the dumping, from the United States in particular, of artificially produced surpluses - those to which I referred as being produced because of high subsidies and bounties. Only recently, under Public Law Number 480, the United States of America sold to Pakistan the equivalent of 341,000,000 dollars worth of wheat in one deal. That was done by the exercise of various subterfuges. Perhaps “ subterfuges “ is the wrong word to use, but the Americans accepted payment in local currency. While perhaps that deal was of some assistance to Pakistan, such deals could cut the ground from under countries like Australia which are seeking markets in that area for their wheat. Then, we have the situation in which we have an enormous surplus of wheat in North America and terrific hunger in the Middle East and Far East. Indeed, I think it would be true to say that from 50 per cent, to 60 per cent, of the world’s population goes to bed hungry every night. It is good to know that the Minister has been trying very hard to get some outside international aid in meeting these problems. It is of no use merely to go along from day to day as has been done in the past, making international wheat agreements which are more or less the same as previous agreements. If we are to overcome these problems, there must be some world thinking on the subject.
The Minister for Primary Industry told us that a cereals group had been set up under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and that from this group had emerged the French plan which is very similar to the plan submitted by the Minister. We do not know how long it will be before the plan is put into operation, but it does seem to me that if we are to have any sanity in wheat production it is essential that we have some agreement under which countries such as ours which rely very largely on primary production will have a right to expect that the price for their wheat abroad will move up from its present level. After all, we have seen the terms of trade constantly move against us since 1953. So we have a right to expect that the international buyers, particularly the United Kingdom and the countries of the continent of Europe, will pay for our wheat more than they pay now, and that they will make some contribution towards the feeding of these hungry people.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I support the bill.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to take Up one or two of the points mentioned by the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn). As he has said, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), in his second-reading speech, suggested that the International Wheat Agreement, 1962, offers nothing like a complete solution to the world wheat problem. The Minister went on to mention some of the difficulties that he saw in the wheat situation, and he seemed to pin a great deal of hope on a new scheme which, he said, arises out of French initiative. Describing the principles of that scheme, he said -
The basic idea of the French initiative is that ways can be found to take account simultaneously of the need for fairer and more equitable prices and also of the difficulties raised by the Common Market, as well as the problem of surpluses and the scope for helping hungry people in the underdeveloped countries.
In other words, he points to the fact that at present the world wheat situation is bedevilled by a number of imponderables, one being the effects of the Common Market proposals and another the question of surpluses.
This situation to a great extent arises from the fact that the main exporters of wheat are primarily dependent on exports of primary products and the main importers of wheat tend to be industrialized countries. I think that is to some extent borne out by the schedule of the votes of importing countries contained in Annex C to the International Wheat Agreement, 1962. I take it that the votes have been weighted largely according to the imports of the various countries. The voting powers of the three countries with the greatest voting power are as follows: - Federal Republic of Germany, 139; Japan, 154; and the United Kingdom, 339. Those three countries between them account for more than 60 per cent, of the voting rights of importing countries, and for the most part are industrialized.
I take it, also, that the votes of the exporting countries, which are shown in Annex B, are determined by the quantities which the various countries export. The three major exporting countries, Argentina, Australia and Canada, between them account for almost one-half of the voting rights of exporting countries. For the most part, with the possible exception of Canada, those three countries depend principally on primary products for their export earnings. I do not mean that they depend wholly and solely on wheat. But they are in the category of countries whose export trade and, therefore, whose importing capacity, are based ultimately on the prices of primary products.
The Minister said, also, that he has become increasingly convinced in recent years that this problem of world prices can be solved only if we get some overall worldwide commodity arrangements. In other words, he says that one of the difficulties facing the primary-producing countries as exporters, as distinct from their problems as importers, is that primary products are subject to price fluctuations and also to fluctuations of output owing to seasonal circumstances, these fluctuations in output tending to cause considerable variation in prices unless there are international commodity agreements of this kind.
On the other hand, countries whose export trade is in industrial products usually can fix their prices according to what they regard as the economic cost of production. I think that it would be better for the world as a whole if we could negotiate firm price agreements for primary products in the way in which industrial countries tend to be able to negotiate firm price agreements for the manufactured goods which they export. That is a good objective to work for.
But surely the situation existing in 1962 is scarcely a novel one4 even though we are in the midst of all these perplexing problems which the Minister mentioned - the problems of the European Common Market situation, of the question of surpluses and of the need to help hungry people. The hungry people mostly are people who depend on primary products of a kind different from the commodity with which we are concerned here - in some instances cotton and coffee, and in some of the Asian countries rubber and tin, to take a few examples. The difficulty of those people, also, lies in the problem of getting firm prices for the commodities which they sell. I merely suggest that this problem is scarcely a novel one in 1962. It was evident before the Second World War. Certainly, the war suspended a lot of the international commodity agreements that had previously existed. However, it is now seventeen years since the war ceased and, apart from the International Wheat Agreement and one ot two other agreements, the world as yet has not gone very far towards solving the problem of assuring firm prices to those countries which depend on primary products for their export trade.
I would have thought that at “this stage the Minister would have given us a little more information about the French proposals. He has given us what he calls the main lines of those proposals, but I suggest that the main lines, as he describes them, tend to be a little contradictory of one another. Describing these proposals, the Minister stated -
In the first instance the prices paid by industrial countries for their imports of primary products should be fair and adequate.
In other words, the Minister believes that one side of the problem is the need to raise the prices of commodities such as wheat progressively to fair and adequate levels. He turned then to the other side of the problem and said -
In the second instance the vast potential for food production of the Western countries should be employed constructively to help the hungry millions in the less-developed countries.
I suggest that there is at least a little antithesis between the suggestion about the raising of the prices of primary products on the one hand and the suggestion about helping to ease the plight of the hungry millions on the other, because one literally does not match the other. I suggest that the main reason why the hungry are hungry is that they cannot afford to buy food.
Will this duality in the situation be resolved by the French proposals? I would be interested to hear from the Minister for Trade how he proposes to reconcile one side with the other. Does he envisage that the raising of prices by the industrialized countries will somehow provide a pool of some kind and that surpluses will be distributed free? 1 do not know whether that is the proposal, but this seems to me to be typical of the generalizations that at the moment are being made by this Minister in particular as solutions to Australia’s problems. As usual, they are only acknowledgments that problems which should have been evident for many years do exist. But he has not given honorable members the details of what the solution is to be. He suggests that there is to be a meeting of an organization that he calls the Cereals Group of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. This is what the Minister said -
As a result of the French initiative at the Ministerial meetings of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, a Cereals Group was set up. This is the first of a proposed series ot such groups whose job it will be to develop world-wide solutions for the problems of the major commodities.
Presumably the Minister referred not only to cereals but also to other raw materials which affect the position of the primary producing areas. He claimed at one stage that he had been advocating this sort of thing for a good number of years in world councils. Grasping at a straw, he would have us believe that French initiative has now taken up the idea that be has been pointing to for quite a long time. But he should have been a little more frank with the House about these proposals. He referred to the main lines of the French proposals, and I shall repeat what he said because I think it ought to be absorbed” by honorable members. He said that in the first instance the prices paid by industrial countries for their imports of primary products should be gradually raised. What does the Minister mean by “ gradually “, and how high does he think the elevator ought to go? I should think that the answers to these questions are relevant to the argument.
Then came the almost contradictory second leg of the main proposal. He said that in the second instance the vast potential for food production of the Western countries should be employed constructively to help the hungry millions in the lessdeveloped countries.
What does that mean literally? Perhaps some members of the Country Party who intend to participate in this debate will enlighten Opposition members on what is meant by the second proposal and how it can be reconciled with the first.
Sometimes there seems to be a feeling in this House that a city member who is only a consumer of bread - bread cannot be made without flour and flour cannot be made without wheat - who intervenes in a debate like this one, is speaking outside the province of the things on which he is supposed to be knowledgable. I hope that this is not the attitude, but sometimes I feel that, when an honorable member rises to speak, there are others who heave a sigh and say, “ Here goes another half hour “. Of course, this simply indicates how badly this Government does its business. It tries to rush significant measures through in a short space of time.
It seemed to me that on this occasion the Minister did not use this speech to extol the International Wheat Agreement. He intimated that it offered nothing like a solution of the wheat problem and then went on to point out the difficulties of the wheat situation, as he saw it, and to point to these French proposals as the bright star on the horizon. Well, I suggest that the skeleton has no flesh on it and that at least this House is entitled to be a little more enlightened on how the French proposals are to blossom via the Cereals Group into a proposition that will do justice to the Australian wheat producer, whom the Minister thinks is not getting enough for his product, as well as solving the problem of the hungry, whose problem is that they have not enough money in their pockets and surely will not find their position simplified if the price of wheat is increased.
For many years now we on this side of the House have suggested that the great problem which perplexes the world is that something like two-thirds of its people are inadequately fed, and unsatisfactorily housed; their economies are primitive in the sense that there are too many people living off the land and there is no means of absorbing the surplus population. Something like 2,000,000,000 people in the world live in that kind of situation. However, Australia is thrown into a tailspin, as it were, about something which has not yet eventuated, which if it does eventuate will affect our markets in areas where there are some 200,000,000 people. Occasionally one can see a glimmer of light even in a statement falling from the lips of the Minister himself - an admission that perhaps Australia’s future destiny, so far as exports of primary products are concerned, lies in satisfying the needs of the 2,000,000,000 people who live close to our doors, rather than those of the 200,000,000 people who live in Europe. I am not informed enough to know what the freight charge is on a bushel of wheat from Fremantle to France.
– The ship-owners once had it up to -7s
– What would it be per bushel?
– About 2s. a bushel.
– There surely would be a significant reduction in the charge for shipping wheat a few thousand miles less. I repeat my point that although the Minister has suggested that there should be a gradual rise in the price of primary products, he has not intimated how high the rise should be. Might not the equivalent of a gradual rise so far as wheat is concerned be achieved by shipping it a lesser distance to say, Indonesia, Burma, Malaya, instead of France? At least we would be getting somewhere in helping to overcome this problem of feeding the hungry people. But that is only the beginning, because basically the problem of feeding the hungry people, if it is not to be done out of charity - I do not think the hungry people want to have the job done by charity - has to be faced on the basis of greater and greater technical assistance to the countries concerned to enable them to industrialize. When this is done they will have purchasing power generated by wages, which perhaps will enable them to shift from a diet of fish and rice to a variety of cereals, or to wheat in the form of flour.
I would have been interested to hear the Minister explain in a little more detail the basic idea of the French initiative. I do not think it is contained in the few lines in his speech. In my view, the two proposals are pulling in opposite directions. I think that raising the price of the product is not helping to solve the problem of the hungry people.
A lot of other matters are contained in the Minister’s speech which, perhaps, also could have been developed more fully than they were. It was good to hear the Minister say -
However, in the foreseeable future, it is clear that surpluses of basic foodstuffs such as wheat would be commercial surpluses and not surplus to human needs.
Of course, the problem again, as my colleague from Wills (Mr. Bryant) suggested last night, is how to divert a commercial surplus to satisfy a human need. There is no doubt that the commercial surplus does exist. There is n06 any doubt that the human need exists. Surely the problem ought to be to try to relate the human need and the commercial surplus. Surely the present position is a travesty.
There has been a lot of talk here about our recent visitor from the United States, Mr. Dean Rusk. At least one can get adequate statistics about expenditure in the United States which, perhaps, are not available with respect to the great country of Russia. Every year the United States budget involves an expenditure of 51 billion dollars. That is roughly £24,000,000,000 Australian, which is more than three times the total annual production of the whole Australian economy. Those figures enable us to see the position in proper perspective. I suggest that the military expenditure of the Soviet Union is of the same order as that of the United States. At the same time as these large expenditures are being generated, we talk in this House of the problem of disposing of commercial surpluses and of raising the price of the product while there are human needs to be satisfied. It seems to me that we elevate the price side of the matter and ignore altogether the human aspect of it. I make no apology, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for having said these few things here this evening.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) spent quite fifteen minutes puzzling over the problem of the so-called French plan. I assure him that he has no need to worry about this plan. The implications of the French plan were well enough understood by those who participated in the discussions in the Cereals Group to induce them to reject the plan out of hand and to postpone the discussions to a date to be fixed, some time in the future. Of course, the general conception of this plan is quite breath-taking to someone who is unfamiliar with the subject of international commodity agreements. That is quite natural. It took fifteen years for the world to get around to negotiating the first International Wheat Agreement.
The first proposals for an international wheat agreement were put forward in 1933 by the parties corresponding to those which are now on this side of the House. We did not finally achieve that agreement until 1949. The version of the international agreement now under consideration is an improvement on the previous one. It embraces more of the commercial wheat entering world trade and it involves a slightly higher price bracket. It also represents a vast improvement on the situation that existed prior to the introduction of any agreement because it gives us, even with its faults, some degree of insurance against price fluctuations in world markets. That insurance backs up the wheat stabilization scheme.
The price range has always been a difficulty of the International Wheat Agreement. It is a difficulty at the present time. It must be understood that the figures which are selected for the price range are based upon world prices; and world prices are artificially depressed by the huge surpluses which have been generated largely through subsidization by the industrial countries of the world. The United States of America, for example, will have surpluses of wheat worth £500,000,000 over the next five years. The effect of that tremendous stock of wheat on world prices is to depress them and produce a completely unrealistic figure on which to base an international agreement such as this. The only way to have the price range lifted to more equitable or realistic levels is to find the means of removing these surpluses from the world scene. That can be done by increasing consumption, if we can find a better way of distribution to people who cannot pay the commercial prices.
Previous speakers have pointed out that more than half the world’s people go to bed hungry now. It has been estimated that two-thirds of the world’s people are either starving or badly nourished - receiving the wrong kinds of foodstuffs. Yet the volume of aid which is being given to those people represents only one-half of 1 per cent, of the gross national product of the rich countries - industrial countries - of the world. If that aid which goes to the poorer, under-developed countries by way of capital, technical assistance and foodstuffs were to be doubled, all our problems of commodity surpluses of foodstuffs would disappear from the scene overnight.
It has been calculated that the underdeveloped countries can receive a third of their aid in the form of foodstuffs. If they were to receive double the present amount of aid made available in the shape of foodstuffs, principally wheat, they would be able to develop themselves and raise their standards of living. That is the way to remove this huge surplus of wheat from the world - for the rich countries, in the interests of the world at large, to increase the amount of aid given to under-developed countries. It would be a very wise step. Not only would they achieve political stability in Asia and Africa - areas of the world which now are going through what is called a population explosion and which have enormous problems to surmount - but they would create a demand for the capital goods and equipment produced by the industrial countries. So, they would get their money back. Furthermore, they would be able to economize on their expenditure for defence. One of the greatest threats to world peace at present is this political instability brought about by the lack of progress in the underdeveloped regions of the world.
The problem of surpluses on the one hand and starvation on the other hand was recognized some 30 years ago and a solution was then forecast by the Australian High Commissioner in London, Lord Bruce, and his economic adviser, Mr. F. L. McDougall. In the early ‘thirties they studied this problem and wondered how cheap foodstuffs could be moved into the under-developed and needy areas. Finally, in 1935, Lord Bruce gave an historic and momentous speech to the League of Nations Assembly. It had such a pronounced effect on the assembly that Lord Bruce was able to telegraph to a colleague after the meeting in these terms -
We have this day lighted such a candle by God’s grace, in Geneva, as we trust shall never be put out
Those were true words.
– What year was that?
– 1935. The League of Nations immediately set about studying the problems of world nutrition and the problems associated with the production of foodstuffs. Then the war intervened. McDougall went to Washington to take part in the preliminary negotiations which eventually resulted in the achievement of the International Wheat Agreement. While he was in America he prepared what became known as the McDougall Memorandum. The memorandum set out a way to move food from stocks in the wealthier producing countries to the under-developed countries and resulted in the calling of the Hot Springs Conference in Virginia in 1943 by the President of the United States at that time, President Roosevelt. The conference at Hot Springs created the Food and Agriculture Organization, which has since become one of the principal agencies of the United Nations.
I do not want to delay the House by telling any more of this story, but I believe it is quite an interesting piece of history. Australians were the first to appreciate the significance of food surpluses in a world in which many millions of people were starving, and Australians were the first to propose a remedy.
Since the creation of the Food and Agriculture Organization, several different proposals have been put forward. Some have suggested clearing houses and others have advanced other schemes. Each proposal has been discussed and each has been rejected, because the richer nations, which would have to bear the cost of establishing these institutions, were not ready to bring them into being. However, lately we have had a proposal put up by the French. It is a by-product of the Common Market discussions in Europe and it has had more support already than previous proposals had.
– It is the policy of the Government.
– As my colleague from Indi says, it has long been the policy of the Government to achieve some form of world stabilization scheme for primary products, especially for wheat. The” French proposal promises to do precisely that. The French, as I understand it, hope to bring about a levelling of commercial prices for wheat and to make available large stocks of wheat for disposal at giveaway prices to the underdeveloped countries on an equitable multilateral basis. The wheat would go to places where it was needed most and where it could best be used. This does not often happen under bilateral schemes of disposal which are adopted by nations for particular purposes of foreign policy. Under the French proposal, we would have a co-ordinating authority and the surplus wheat would be disposed of as and where it could be used to the best advantage.
The immediate effect of the proposal for Australia would be an increase in price, probably of the order of one-third. That would represent a substantial measure of equity for Australian producers who have long been labouring under a completely false world-price system. But it would have other implications. If we were to adopt this French plan, we would be dealing not only with wheat but also with all the other foodstuffs, because they are interlocked. We would move from wheat to coarse grains and to animal products. It is in the sphere of animal products that the greatest world shortage exists at present. Perhaps when we give thought to the French plan we will realize that it can be, and I hope will be, far more comprehensive than it appears to be at first sight. If the rich nations are wise enough to adopt it, I am convinced that it would have far-reaching and beneficial effects. It should be adopted within the next few years.
One implication of the French plan that should not be overlooked is that it would offer tangible proof of the superiority of the Western system of free enterprise over the Communist system. We would be able to show that, through co-operation, we can achieve the best use of our natural resources and the most efficient distribution of our products. We would in fact be doing more to bring the cold war to an end than all talk of ideologies, atom bombs and disarmament could ever do. We would, by co-operating to increase the consumption of foodstuffs in the underdeveloped countries of the world, really be moving towards an end of the cold war. In fact, the candle which was lit in 1935 by Bruce would become a torch of freedom.
.- The first International Wheat Agreement, which was negotiated in 1949, was the subject of one of several measures put on the statutebook by a Labour government-
– What do you know about wheat?
– Who said that?
– I did.
– What do I know about wheat? Well, 1 was born on a wheat farm in Victoria, and I helped to grow wheat all through the difficult days, not in times like the present, which might be called mollycoddled times, but in the difficult days of the 1930’s. We sold the wheat grown on our farms for ls. 6d. a bushel. What do I know about wheat? I could take up the next two hours in telling this House what I know about wheat. I was helping to grow wheat long before this wonderful agreement came into being. However, I will not go back over the whole story.
– Hear, hear!
– I have told it several times in this Parliament, and the honorable member for Mallee knows all about it. My father was a wheat-grower for 30 years.
– I have seen the old farm.
– Yes, the old farm is up in the Wimmera, where my brother is carrying on now.
– Order! The honorable member will confine his remarks to the bill which is before us, and not tell us his life story.
– I helped my father on that farm, and that is where I learned about wheat. It was one of the members of your own party, Mr. Deputy Speaker, who asked me what I knew about wheat, and I have the right to reply to him.
This piece of legislation introduces a socialist element into the economy of this country. That is a fact, no matter how honorable members opposite try to ridicule the statement. The first wheat agreement was introduced for the purpose of regularizing wheat sales and bringing stability to one of the most unstable industries of the Commonwealth, lt had been a most unstable industry ever since federation. The agreement was negotiated to give some hope and encouragement to the hard-working wheatfarmers of this country, who had worked for years without very much reward. It ushered in a new order for wheat-growing and the wheat industry, and, indeed, for the whole economy of Australia, as my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), pointed out in an excellent speech. After the Labour Government left office, this Government wisely and properly ratified fresh agreements term after term, and the legislation before us to-night carries the agreement on for another three years to 1965. The agreement we are now considering was arrived at following a conference of 48 countries, including for the first time, in recent years at any rate, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. These participating countries account for about 95 per cent, of the total world production of wheat.
The Opposition and the Government are definitely running on a single-track line in their consideration of the wheat industry. This Government adopted our legislation covering the International Wheat Agreement, and we, of course, have agreed to extensions of the agreement through the years. On this subject we are, perhaps, as close together as we ever get on any subject. But there are some aspects of the matter that I think should be emphasized. The particular advantage of the new agreement is that both the maximum and minimum prices for wheat have been lifted. In 1959, when a new agreement was entered into, the minimum price was lowered. Now it has been increased, as has the maximum. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has told us, the maximum is now 18s. 4d. a bushel, and the minimum is 14s. 6d. a bushel. All our wheat will be sold at prices within that range, as will the wheat of the other producing countries.
There are nine wheat exporting countries, Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Mexico - I have seen the wheat-growing areas in Mexico from the air, and it was a surprise to me that such large quantities of wheat are grown in that comparatively dry country - Spain, Sweden and the United States of America. There are 34 countries importing wheat. I shall not go through them all, but some of them are within the European Economic Community. Belgium and Luxembourg are importers of wheat, as are the Federal Republic of Germany and the Netherlands. This is a very important point for Australia, and will remain important in the two or three years immediately ahead of us. The Minister referred to the European Economic Community and its effect upon our wheat industry. He said that under the new agreement countries outside that community are not precluded from selling to countries within it at prices above the maximum, if both parties agree to such prices. This is most significant for Australia, because we would not be prevented by the agreement from attempting to negotiate a higher price for the wheat that we might sell to present or future members of the European Economic Community. This, of course, is a most satisfactory provision. The Minister went on to say:
An agreement which stipulates a minimum price and which does not cover the cost of 85 per cent of the wheat produced in the world cannot by any stretch of imagination be described as a satisfactory solution of the world wheat problem.
With that we all agree. The Minister went on -
The crux of this problem is that countries like Australia exporting to the United Kingdom, the biggest single import market for wheat, have had to sell there under conditions of cut-throat competition at so-called world prices far below the price received by the vast majority of the world’s wheat producers.
The Minister also said -
This situation in which the export prices to our producers are determined by the mechanism of so-called world prices needs to be altered radically. I have become increasingly convinced in recent years that this problem can be solved only if we get some overall world-wide commodity arrangements.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports stressed that point, and I will not over-emphasize it. But the British Government has, in my opinion, made a very helpful move in trying to bring about the kind of situation that is desired. As the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) said, a Cereals Group has been set up within the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade organization to handle this problem. The Minister said -
This is the first of a proposed series of such groups whose job it will be to develop world-wide solutions for the problems of the major commodities. The Cereals Group, consisting of the major wheat-exporting countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, and the countries of the European Economic Community, held its first meeting in February of this year. The meeting clarified major issues and the attitudes to those issues of the various countries represented.
Major issues were clarified and the decks were cleared to find a solution to the problem of disposing of commodities like wheat. The Minister made this important statement towards the end of his second-reading speech -
While we are hopeful that a world-wide scheme will be adopted to deal with the world’s wheat problem, we must have proper safeguards for our important wheat trade with the United Kingdom incorporated in any arrangement for Britain’s association with the European Economic Community. British and Australian officials are currently working in London in close consultation for the purpose of arriving at adequate and equitable arrangements.
It is heartening to know we are pursuing that line on a day-by-day basis. It would appear that when Great Britain joins the European Economic Community, our wheat industry may not be hit as badly as we fear. Attention has been given to this matter at an important time. With the Cereals Group operating within the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade - which includes member countries of the European Common Market in it - I think our cause will be watched and, I hope and trust protected.
Before this international system for the marketing of wheat was introduced under an agreement, the wheat industry was in a chaotic and hopeless position. It was a nightmare for wheat-farmers. We were in the hands of the banks - not in our hundreds but in thousands. The banks told us exactly what we could grow in the 1930’s, how much manure we could use and what to spend in almost every field of industry.
– They were the real dictators.
– They dictated to the grass roots of the industry. A handful of farmers were not in the hands of the banks, but they were only a small minority. I remember agents coming to the farm to see my father at wheat harvest time. Sometimes two or three would call in a day. “ We are offering ls. 6id. a bushel to-day “. Another would say, “ We are offering ls. 6$d.”. But we did not know whether to-morrow’s price would be ls. 7d. or ls. 5d. In that atmosphere of insecurity, the farmers had to decide whether to sell their wheat to-day or whether to wait a few days. It was an impossible situation. Nobody could see beyond the next day.
In 1928, my father sold 200 bags of wheat at 6s. 6d. a bushel and thought he was made, but the next year, he was selling at 4s. In 1931, he sold wheat at 2s. 6d. and in 1932 it was down to ls. 6d. a bushel. In the harvest period he was besieged by agents who even went into the paddocks to ask him to sell at the price they offered that day. Sometimes he would sell at ls. 6d. on Tuesday and on Wednesday the price1 would be ls. 8d. He did not know whether to sell all the wheat he had bagged on that day or whether to sell only portion of it.
I mention this to emphasize the chaos in the industry and the insecurity of the1 farmers in those dreadful years before the Second World War. The banks practically owned the farms. They took them over when the farmers could not meet their interest payments. My father was paying £200 a year in interest and his wheat harvest in 1932 returned to him exactly that amount. What hope had he to carry on for the rest of the year until the next harvest was ready? If a farmer could not pay his interest, the banks took over. They had a lien on the crop, the horses, the cows and the farm. Gradually they told us what to do with our own farms. They even wanted the little bit we earned from butter made from the few cows we milked. That was when we jacked up.
In those days the farmers were scared of the banks. If they saw the bank manager in the street of a country town, they would cross to the other side to avoid him.
– Some people still do so. Mr. DUTHIE.- Honorable members may smile, but conditions were more frightening in those days. The farmers were under the dictatorship of the banks.
The International Wheat Agreement that the Labour Government introduced in 1949 rescued the industry from that insecurity and hopelessness. We know that it was not a complete answer, but the farmers would never give up the agreement that has been operating now for thirteen years. A new climate has been introduced into the wheat industry by this measure. The final paragraph of the Minister’s second-reading speech is amazing. The Minister said -
The Government recommends the acceptance of the International Wheat Agreement as a very real improvement, compared with unrestrained cutthroat competition where prices may be determined by the seller backed by the wealthiest government or the seller going bankrupt.
In 1949 when the Labour Government introduced the agreement through enabling legislation, there was much criticism from the Opposition of that day. Many leading wheat-growers and administrators outside the Parliament opposed the agreement tooth and nail. Yet now, the present Minister for Trade, who is a member of the Australian Country Party, admits that the International Wheat Agreement has wiped out the old, vicious, cut-throat competition.
This is a form of socialism of the finest and best type. It proves that no economy can be run on an entirely capitalist basis. We find through the economy that there are great chunks of socialism. Without it, there would be a breakdown of the economy. We want to see more government-owned and government-run sections of the community where we can help the producers. That is socialism. We make no bones about saying we agree with it and want to see it extended where necessary.
Since 1956, 4,300 more wheat-growers have been registered in Australia. That is a splendid indication of the security that has been brought to the farmers through this agreement. Of course, many of these additional wheat-growers are soldier settlers, but the increase is significant. The “ Year Book “ gives the relevant figures to 1961 so that in five years, 4,300 more wheatgrowers with more than twenty acres under crop have registered.
Exports of wheat from Australia are shown at page 903 of the “ Year Book “.
In 1959-60 we exported 91,252,000 bushels of wheat valued at £77,500,000. It is interesting to learn that the principal importing countries are the United Kingdom, which imports 14.3 per cent of the wheat available for export, India and Pakistan, which import 12.1 per cent., Japan, which imports 7.3 per cent, and Germany, which imports 7.2 per cent. It is significant that the United Kingdom, which shortly will enter the European Common Market, imports 14.3 per cent, of the wheat available for export. Australia is the third largest exporting country. Two years ago we exported 102,400,000 bushels of wheat which was equivalent to 8.2 per cent, of the total world exports.
The Minister mentioned the hungry people in the world. I am glad he did so because, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has said, we can be so caught up with material things such as prices and markets that we tend to overlook the dire need of millions of people for the basic necessaries of life, of which flour and wheat and, in the eastern countries, rice, form a very important part. We should be able to increase our exports of wheat to Asian people but we shall have to teach many of them to eat food derived from wheat. It will not be easy to change a rice-eating area such as South-East Asia to a wheat-eating area. It will be a slow process but it has commenced and is meeting with some success. For example, Japan is importing an increasing amount of our wheat.
The relationship between a humanitarian approach to the needs of men and women in many countries, and surpluses of wheat, is a very important matter which is receiving attention in the leading wheat circles of the world. Two years ago Russia made a gift of 50,000 tons of wheat to India. To my knowledge Australia has not yet given one bushel of wheat to any needy country. If you want to win an increasing belief in your ideology, that is the way to do it. Many Indians must have been impressed with the Russian system which permitted that country to make a gift of 50,000 tons of wheat in a difficult year. We must consider this angle very carefully. Let me make a suggestion: Each wheat-producing country should give a percentage of its surplus each year, worked out according to population or production, to a common pool from which wheat and flour would be transferred to the needy nations in order of priority. The Australian Government could give the growers at least the cost of production for the surplus thus donated to the common pool. We have talked about this for years but nothing has been done, and nothing will be done until the wheat-producing countries are prepared to make some sacrifice for the hungry people of the world. I advance my suggestion as a possible solution of the hunger problem which is so prevalent in so many countries. The percentage of wheat donated by each country need not be large and, spread over Australian wheatgrowers, the sacrifice would not be very great. In any case, it need not be a sacrifice because the Government should be prepared to subsidize the growers to the extent of the cost of production or a little more for the gift wheat.
The countries which have so many millions of starving people cannot afford to pay the price that we want for our wheat so the wheat must be a gift on an international scale. This matter could be handled easily through the International Wheat Agreement with the co-operation of wheat-producing countries. A gesture like this would combat communism and would show that the Western nations not only are prepared to talk this kind of humanity but are prepared as well to make a sacrifice for this kind of humanity, just as the Russians did when they made the gift to India of 50,000 tons of wheat. That is the way to gain converts to your ideology. You will not do it by talking from platforms but you will do it by giving practical evidence of your attitude, your beliefs and your ideology. That is the only way to combat the ideology of a country which claims that it can give supplies of food to starving people whereas the Western nations cannot or will not do so. Our opponents make a gift of wheat whereas the Western nations charge for it!
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock).
Order! I think the honorable member is getting away from the bill.
– Thank you for your generosity, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I conclude on that note.
.- When the debate commenced this evening I did not intend to participate in it, but after listening to some honorable members opposite I felt duty bound to do so. At the outset, let me pay a tribute to the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board. As most honorable members know, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) stated this afternoon in reply to a question that the chairman would be retiring in the very near future. We, as Australians, owe a great deal to Sir John Teasdale for the magnificent work which he has done for the wheat industry. I, as an individual, and particularly as a wheat-grower, should like to pay a tribute to him.
I think it was the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) who said that a Labour Government had introduced the first International Wheat Agreement. It is true that the Labour Party was in office at the time of ratification but surely it does not claim credit for the agreement itself.
The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) referred to the segregation of wheat. Although this may not appear to be connected directly with the International Wheat Agreement, it is one aspect of wheat production which Australia must consider. I do not think any wheat-growers are particularly interested in the segregation of wheat because of the problems attached to it, but when one considers that to-day we are operating in a very competitive world and that sometimes purchasers want high gluten wheat, sometimes low gluten wheat, sometimes hard wheat and sometimes soft wheat, one feels that soon we shall have no alternative but to adopt some form of segregation.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) spoke at some length on the bill. He admitted frankly that he did not know a great deal about it, but said that as a consumer of flour, and therefore a consumer of wheat, he wanted to contribute to the debate. What amazed me was his statement that too much emphasis had been placed on the price of wheat and not enough attention given to the amount of wheat consumed in the underfed countries. It is quite easy to see that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports does not represent an area in which the people depend upon primary production for their living. If he did, he would realize that world market prices of all primary products have deteriorated while, as is well-known, our cost structure has increased. When arriving at any agreement, we must always keep in mind the price we are to receive for our products, because price is really important. I do not think the honorable member for Melbourne Ports would think of going back to his electorate and suggesting that the workers should be expected to do more work and forget about payment for it. And, after all, that is an apt analogy. I know that he would not do that, just as I know that very few honorable members would ask the primary producer to produce more and to forget about the price he is to be paid for the extra production.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports also asked many questions about the French proposal. I think that the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) has adequately answered them for him. Within the last week or so, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) why Tasmania is not allowed to have a representative on the Australian Wheat Board. I am sorry that the honorable member for Wilmot is not in the chamber at the moment. When we look at the quantity of wheat produced in Tasmania, the reason why Tasmania has not a representative on the Australian Wheat Board becomes obvious. The statistics disclose that for the year 1961-62, Tasmania produced only 400,000 bushels of wheat. I might agree with his suggestion that Tasmania should be represented on the board if he were prepared to agree to granting other States representation on a pro rata production basis. If that system were adopted, Victoria would have something like 100 representatives on the board. Having said that, 1 believe there is no need for me to say anything more about Tasmania’s representation on the Australian Wheat Board. The honorable member must not forget that Tasmania enjoys concessional freight rates for the transportation of wheat. All in all, I do not think Tasmania is badly treated and this request for representation on the Australian Wheat Board is really ridiculous.
There is very little one can add to what has been said by previous speakers about the International Wheat Agreement. The bill really does nothing more than give legislative sanction to the renewal of the existing agreement, but I think it well that we should give some consideration to the objectives of the agreement. They are -
That more or less answers the point made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports-
Those objectives should be kept in mind by any person who might be discussing the International Wheat Agreement.
The only other matter to which I should like to refer before I resume my seat and allow the House to pass this measure is the effect this bill will have on the flour-milling industry. I have studied the agreement, and although it does mention wheat-flour, I find that the agreement places no emphasis upon the need to encourage the sales of flour. That is quite understandable because, after all, an international agreement could not seek to promote the sales of flour in the interests of any one country. But what does concern me is the fact that over the years there has been a definite drop in the production of flour in Australia. For instance, in 1951-52, a total of 36,531 bushels of grain were gristed into flour. In 1952-53, the figure increased to 40,263. It dropped to 35,246 in 1953-54, and to 30,359 in 1954-55. In 1955-56, 30,876 bushels of wheat were gristed into flour, and by 1956- 57 the figure had increased to 34,712 bushels. It dropped again in 1957-58 to 21,283 bushels and to 20,705 bushels in 1958-59. By 1959-60, it was 24,818 bushels and in 1960-61 it was only 30,467 bushels as compared with 36,531 bushels in 1951- 52. This fall may not seem very important to many honorable members, but it is to be regretted. Those who have listened to me on previous occasions will know that this is not the first time upon which I have expressed concern about the flour-milling industry. There are a number of flour mills in my area, and I am sure that what I have to say will be supported by all those honorable members in this chamber who represent wheat-growing electorates. As I see the position, unless we can increase our exports of flour, many mills will be forced to close down. Honorable members opposite are always referring to unemployment here and unemployment there, suggesting that the unemployment figures are increasing, when actually they are decreasing, but I have yet to hear one honorable member opposite state a case for the flour-milling industry. The position of the industry affects not only country electorates where wheat is grown but also those metropolitan electorates in which mills are situated, because these mills employ many hundreds of people. If this drift in the flour-milling industry is allowed to continue, I visualize a great number of people being thrown out of employment. That is bad enough, but when mills find it necessary to work three shifts a day for a short busy period and then to drop back to two shifts and then to one - some of them even to close down temporarily - as orders become fewer, their operation becomes uneconomic. Here I pay tribute to the flour mills which do try to keep their employees engaged. But they cannot do it indefinitely. So I appeal to those who can perhaps assist in promoting sales of flour to do all they possibly can towards that end.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, perhaps I should at the outset have endorsed the remarks made by some earlier speakers, and I do so now in closing. In particular, I congratulate the Minister for Trade on the introduction of this measure and especially on his secondreading speech. I do not agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who said that the Minister did not enlarge enough on this point and on that point. I believe that in the circumstances the Minister enlarged very well on all that was involved.
I give the bill my wholehearted support.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, it must be very clear to all that the Australian Country Party supports this bill. The leader of the Country Party introduced the measure and speakers from that party, from the other Liberal party and from the Opposition all have supported it. So there is no need for me to make a long speech about it.
I have often heard interjectors say to an honorable member who has just risen to speak on a matter, “ How about incorporating your speech in ‘ Hansard ‘?” I have often thought that that was a very good idea, and I intend to put it into effect this evening in a somewhat different way. If people want to know what I think about the International Wheat Agreement, I advise them to look at the speeches that I made when this subject was debated in 1949, 1953, 1956 and 1959. After all, the speeches made by some earlier speakers in me debate on the measure now before us were much the same as those which they made on measures of this kind in the years that I have mentioned. Similarly, any speech that 1 would make on the measure before us this evening would be much the same as the speeches I made on previous measures of this kind. The only difference now is that the maximum and minimum prices provided for have been increased by approximately I4d. a bushel and that some additional countries have become parties to the International Wheat Agreement. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has now become a party to the agreement. 1 want very briefly to comment on what has been said by other honorable members. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) both described the agreement which this bill will ratify as international socialism at its best. Why, it is the very opposite to socialism! Everybody knows that socialism robs people of initiative, but this agreement gives people an incentive. It gives the wheat-grower a better deal and therefore an incentive to produce. That is quite the opposite of socialism. I am surprised at persons like the honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Wilmot trying to make out that this bill will give effect to an agreement that represents socialism. After all, the people who produce the wheat in this country arc in a free nation. They produce the grade and variety that they wish to produce. The agreement which this bill will ratify only helps them to market their product satisfactorily.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) made a technical speech about the relief of the starving people of the world. Everybody will agree that we should do everything we can for the starving people of the world. But the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I think, missed the point. He considered that prices received for the wheat marketed overseas by Australian wheat-growers should not be increased, because an increase in price might detract from the ability of the world to supply the requirements of needy people for this very important foodstuff. However, that is not so. The point is that the wheat-grower should be called on to provide foodstuffs for the starving people of the world only in his capacity as a taxpayer in a country which supplies wheat to feed starving people. We have been told that gifts of wheat should be made to feed starving people in other countries, but such gifts should be made by the community and not by the producers. Therefore, the wheatgrower should be called on to make a contribution only inasmuch as he is a taxpayer of the community which makes the gift. He should make no greater contribution.
The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) talked about the high prices paid some time ago for what is known as free wheat - that is, wheat which is outside the International Wheat Agreement - compared with wheat covered by the agreement, the price of which was much lower. That situation existed, it is true, but I suggest to the House that the price of free wheat would not have been so high had the agreement not existed.
– Oh, no!
– My colleague says, “ Oh, no! “, but that was the case. Many countries had to buy wheat covered by the agreement, and the other countries which could not buy wheat covered by the agreement were forced to pay high prices for wheat which was outside the agreement because it was marketed by countries that were not signatories to the agreement as exporting countries.
I compliment the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King), who on many occasions recently in this House has so well put the case for the flour mills and for the employees of those mills in his electorate. I believe that he deserves the highest praise for his consistent advocacy in the interests of the mills and those engaged in them. Flour mills are very important to country towns like Warracknabeal and Rupanyup in his electorate, because they provide employment for considerable numbers of men whose efforts add considerably to the real wealth of those towns. If the flour mills in country towns can continue their operations, it will be better for the community generally, because there is a great need for decentralization. On the subject of decentralization, I suggest that everybody in the country areas of Victoria should fight against the Melbourne bakers who are trying to sell their bread in country towns and to put country bakeries out of business.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member get back to the bill.
– Finally, I want to deal with one other matter which was mentioned, not by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, but by the honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Wilmot, to whose remarks the honorable member for Wimmera replied. They said that the introduction of the International Wheat Agreement Bill 1949 by the Australian Labour Party ushered in a new era for primary producers and that the number of wheat-growers has increased as a consequence. I have not gone into the figures, and I do not know whether the number of wheat-growers has increased. But, if it has, the reason is not the International Wheat Agreement but the stabilization plan. If the price of wheat is stabilized, more farmers will grow wheat. If we had not a scheme of stabilization and orderly marketing, we could not participate in the International Wheat Agreement. So the basis of the whole thing is orderly marketing and if the number of wheat-growers has increased, the reason is that more farmers are trying to take advantage of the benefits of stabilization of the industry.
It is not correct to say that the Australian Labour Party or any other party ushered in the International Wheat Agreement by introducing legislation in this Parliament. The agreement was not developed in Australia by the brains of the Labour Party or of any other party. The agreement was first signed, and was then ratified by legislation in this Parliament. The measure now before us, in effect, merely provides for the extension of the agreement.
In conclusion, I suggest, again that anybody who wants to know my views on this matter turn up “ Hansard “ and read the speeches that I have made on this subject in the past. I recommend that course to anybody who looks for some words of mine on this subject.
.- Mr. Speaker, this bill is based on the firm foundations of the measure introduced by the present honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in 1949.
– That measure merely ratified the International Wheat Agreement.
– Let us not hedge about that. It will not minimize in any way the creditable record of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). Let this Parliament remember with gratitude that it was the Parliament of 1949 which ratified the International Wheat Agreement. Here to-night this Parliament seeks to continue orderly marketing in the wheat industry. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has emphasized the virtue of orderly marketing, but I deplore the fact that the honorable member has not seen fit to support orderly marketing in quite a number of other primary industries.
– Name one.
– If the honorable member would think along similar lines in respect of a reserve price for wool, then we should be marching forward in unison. But, Mr. Speaker, orderly marketing is a most important matter.
– Order! It is not in the bill.
– This measure follows the lines of legislation that was introduced in 1949 by the honorable member for Lalor. I should not have risen in my place had it not been for the attitude of the honorable member for Mallee, who attempted to deprecate the splendid work of the honorable member for Lalor, a man who has worked unceasingly to try to establish firm, sound marketing of wheat. The honorable member for Mallee went on to say that we ought to be doing something for the starving people. That is quite sound; it is valid; and it strikes a very responsive note in the hearts of every honorable member who sits on this side of the House. It is most desirable, and I myself have asked the Minister for Trade that the credits which were given to Communist China to enable it to buy wheat be extended to the other Asian countries. It is a matter of treating human beings everywhere as human beings without regard to their nationality. If there are hungry people, we have a duty and a responsibility to care for them. Consequently, I should like to see this legislation broadened eventually and extended to take into consideration those particular features. I believe that in the long run, with the problems of the European Common Market confronting us, we shall be obliged to take this action.
The other matter that I want to refer to relates to comments made by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King), who discussed the flour industry, although I do not think it is specifically referred to in this measure. He said that no honorable member has put up a case for the flour industry. It is not for me to take anything from the honorable member for Wimmera, or from any honorable member who has spoken for the flour industry, but again let it never be forgotten that this Government has sat idly by while flour mill after flour mill has closed throughout the country districts of Australia and the monopolies in the capital cities have continued to aggregate the manufacture of flour in those centres. Recently in Millthorpe in the electorate of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England) a flour mill closed down, and a similar situation obtains throughout the central west of New South Wales. I should like to see the Government active in these matters.
Instead of giving only lip service to decentralization I should like to see it actively maintaining country industries. If this measure could be extended in the manner I have suggested it would please me and many people in country districts.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Rayon Yarn Bounty Bill 1962.
States Grants (Universities) Bill 1962.
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- This is the first occasion that I have spoken on the adjournment of the House in this session, and I do so with a measure of reluctance.
– It has taken you a good while to get your breath back.
– At least I have some breath in my body, unlike the honorable member for Wills, who has only wind. I want to apologize to the Opposition to-night.
– Yes, to every member of it. For some five or six weeks now I have harboured unkind thoughts about most Opposition members. The House will recall that some five or six weeks ago the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) gave notice of a motion in this House, which I shall cite -
That in view of the increasing pressure of Communist infiltration, subversion and guerrilla aggression in South-East Asia, this House is of opinion that, in order to strengthen the security of Australia and South-East Asian countries who may desire assistance -
Australia should confer with South-East Asian nations on the advisability of establishing a planning head-quarters to guarantee the security of South-East Asia.
Sir, I shall not weary the House by citing the other two paragraphs.
– Order! The honorable member should not canvass a matter that is on the notice-paper. He is referring to an order of the day on the notice-paper.
– Very well, Sir. I am now going to refer to certain action that was taken in this chamber. When the motion of the honorable member for Chisholm was due for discussion, the Leader of the Opposition, instead of permitting that discussion, introduced what he was pleased to call an urgency matter relating to the Constitution. Sir, I thought at first blush that this was merely a move on the part of the Leader of the Opposition to stifle discussion on the motion of the honorable member for Chisholm. That was my opinion at the time, but I have had an opportunity of reflecting upon the matter and I want to say to you, Sir, and through you to the members of the Opposition, that I have been in error. I thought the honorable member for Chisholm had a respectable point of view concerning affairs in South-East Asia. He served this country with great distinction and gallantry in two world wars, and I thought, the poor soul that he is, that he had a “ thing “ about events in South-East Asia. I thought also that he had an overwhelming obsession about the security of this country. Sir, apparently he has been in error. The last few days have produced for the consideration of this country the sight of a cauldron of crisis throughout South-East Asia, but here, five or six weeks ago, the honorable member for Chisholm was seeking to direct the mind of this House to a consideration of these great events. My honorable friend will forgive me for saying that not only have I been in error, but apparently he too has been in error. We were in error in imagining that the Leader of the Opposition sought to stifle consideration of this important topic. Such was not the case. The Leader of the Opposition set out to direct the attention of the House to a consideration of things relating to the Constitution. 1 thought that this was a rude thing to do. As I say, I have been in error because I have reflected on what the honorable gentleman had to say in his policy speech. Pertaining to what the honorable member for Chisholm purported to say in his motion, this is what the Leader of the Opposition said in his policy speech -
Elaborating on what I said in this speech the Labour Party wishes to see a replanning of Seato-
That is the South-East Asia Treaty Organization - on a cultural, educational, medical and technical assistance basis.
So the honorable member for Chisholm has been in error. I have been in error. We were wrong in imagining that the Leader of the Opposition sought to stifle discussion on a matter that was of crucial and overwhelming importance to this country. What the Leader of the Opposition sought to do, in effect, was to direct the attention of the House to a more ethereal pursuit - a more cultural pursuit - than the consideration of the defence of this country. Defence involves a mechanistic and materialistic point of view and those considerations are to be wrapped up and dumped in the ash-can. So the honorable member for Chisholm was wrong.
To-day, the House has been ringing with stories about great distress and great upsets in the ranks of the Australian Labour Party. These stories are quite untrue. There is no quarrel about the leadership of the Labour Party. None at all! There is no division of opinion about whether or not this country should be armed with nuclear weapons. But I am in the happy position that I have a first-class leak from the Labour Parly caucus. To-day, caucus directed its attention to furthering the cultural movement in Australia. As an example of their genuineness in this matter, Opposition members split the caucus up into a series of cultural committees 1 shall give the names of the chairmen of them.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) was appointed chairman of the committee dealing with eurythmics and folk dancing. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), a very close friend of mine, was appointed chairman of the committee dealing with soprano singing. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) was appointed chairman of the circuses and performing animals committee. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Don Cameron) was appointed chairman of the committee on domestic art and home decor. The honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) was appointed chairman of the elocution and prose appreciation committee. What position was given to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue)? He was appointed chairman of the horological studies and Gaelic committee.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was appointed chairman of the committee on crystal-gazing and how to fail successfully. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) with his great penchant for things literary, was created chairman-in-charge of books - banned - Chatterley type. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) who fluffs his feathers so meticulously and regularly was appointed chairman of the committee dealing with the taming and training of sulky cockatoos. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) was appointed chairman of the committee dealing with Noel Coward type lyrics with catty overtones. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was placed in charge of the committee on the art of wining and dining. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) was placed in charge of the percussion or beat-your-own-drum committee. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) was made chairman of the committee dealing with economics in easy lessons and advanced ludo. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) became chairman of the committee on peaceful coexistence in trade unions, and how to run a coin evening. My very close and very dear friend, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was appointed chairman of the committee on surrealism, gentle manners and cactus cultivation. This is the thing proper.
– Tell us how you got the Communist preferences.
– Why don’t you go and powder your nose?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is rather a shame that the opportunity which honorable members of this House have to rest should be delayed for five minutes, much less ten minutes, by a speech such as we have just heard from the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). We understand his difficulty. Evidently he has become delirious from wondering how the Communist preferences will go next time. I think that we should leave him in that situation.
I want to direct the attention of the Government to a recent industrial judgment by the High Court of Australia in what is known as the Tramways case. I shall not criticize the judgment, but I point out that it could easily bring about a state of chaos in industrial relations between the trade unions and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. This judgment arose out of a case in which the chief conciliation commissioner dealt with an application from the tramways union in relation to the handling of one-man buses. The High Court, in looking at this question, decided that the point at issue was whether an award and an order of variation made by the senior commissioner of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was beyond his jurisdiction. A paragraph of the High Court’s judgment reads as follows: -
The working conditions of the service are governed by an award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission called the Tramway Employees (Melbourne) Interim Award 1958 as amended. It contained a wage rate for a “one man bus operator “ but otherwise did not deal with the subject. The basis of jurisdiction for that award was an industrial dispute arising from a log of claims for wages and conditions of employment by the Australian Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employees Association served upon tramway and bus authorities in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. No one denies that an interstate dispute arose out of the service of the log in relation to the subject which the log covered; but it did not cover the question of the use of one man buses at Footscray or indeed at any place. In this situation the Association on 14th March 1962 filed in the Principal Registry of the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission an application for a variation of the award.
The judgment of the High Court, for all time, sets a limitation on the function of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which I think I can safely say has not operated since the conclusion of hostilities in the Second World War. The High Court has laid down that, for the future, an order of variation introducing in an award a new restriction or obligation - I emphasize those two last words - needs for its jurisdictional support a relation to the original industrial dispute extending beyond one State which is sufficient to bring it within its scope.
Until this judgment was handed down it was a principle accepted by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that when an application which had been filed to vary an award arising from an interstate log of claims had relation to the particular matter covered by the award there was no occasion to question the court’s jurisdiction. The decision reduces the possibility of a union bringing to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration a matter that is restricted to one State and, therefore, is not an interstate dispute, although the union’s award may cover three, four or all the States. There is great danger in this. I warn the Government that this decision lays down the principle that a union wanting to vary a federal award, as it applies to a State, may find itself outside the jurisdiction of the court. The Government should amend the arbitration legislation to make it possible for a union with State branches covered by a federal award to file a log of claims in the federal court, although the matter in dispute at the time may relate to only one State. The decision means that the Chief Conciliation Commissioner in the future cannot settle a dispute on a State level, although the industry concerned Is covered by a federal award.
I warn the Government that if the act is not amended to correct this situation, there will be dislocation throughout Australia in the operation of federal awards. In addition, the only way that the unions will be able to obtain relief will be to split up and go back to State jurisdiction. I do not quibble with the decision of the High Court; it lays down a principle. What I am calling upon the Government to do is to take cognizance of the effect of the decision and at the earliest possible moment to amend the arbitration legislation so that industrial peace can be maintained throughout the country.
I have had considerable experience in dealing with industrial matters. I appeared before the court yesterday to deal with a matter, but it was almost impossible to have the matter heard by the court. My only let-out was that at this time the court is hearing a log of claims, and I was able to link the dispute with this log. If the dispute had arisen after an award following the log had been made, the court would have had no jurisdiction to hear it. It is stupid to say that a dispute affecting a single State can be brought before the court whilst an interstate log exists, because the dispute can be joined with the log, but cannot be brought before the court after the log has been finalized and an award made. What has happened to the union concerned in this case could happen to every other union that has a federal award.
I ask the Government to treat this matter as one of utmost urgency. It is so important that an amendment to the legislation should have been introduced before the end of this sessional period. To me, this is one of the most important principles laid down by the High Court, because it concerns the jurisdictional power of the Arbitration Commission. Unless the weakness so created is corrected, those of us who are responsible for industrial peace will no longer be able to guarantee peace in a State where a dispute arises after a federal log has been finalized and an award made. In my view, it is silly to say that yesterday the court had jurisdiction because I could join the dispute to a log that was being heard, but that after the log has been finalized, the court has no jurisdiction because I could not join the dispute to a log.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am glad that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) is in the House because I want to raise a matter that comes within his jurisdiction. I am not a rifleman and have had no experience of rifle clubs, but I speak to-night on behalf of all rifle clubs throughout Australia and not merely those in Tasmania.
I understand that after 1965, when the present subsidy to rifle clubs will end, the cost of ammunition to rifle clubs will rise to £30 per 1,000 rounds. On behalf of the rifle clubs, I wish to oppose this move and to give some information to the Minister and the House. The rifle club movement at present has 35,000 active members. Of these, 72 per cent, are within the military age group; 18 per cent, are under military age; and 10 per cent, are above military age. Taking into account the new members and those who retire, the turn-over of trained riflemen is approximately 8,000 per annum. In accordance with its decision to withdraw gradually over a period of five years its support of rifle clubs, the Government has reduced the subsidy on ammunition so that individual members pay £10 per 1,000 rounds. Prior to this change of policy, the price was £2 10s. per 1,000 rounds.
The rifle club movement has already established the fact that it is capable of administering and conducting its own affairs without costly governmental administrative staffs. All it seeks now is the continued use of rifle ranges, the right to continue to purchase or hire certain government stores - parts for rifles, cleaning materials, tents and cooking facilities for annual prize meetings - and a continuous supply of .303 ammunition at a cost within the reach of the average youth or young working man.
At the end of the five-year period - that is, after 1965 - it is estimated that the price of ammunition to rifle clubs will be not less than £30 per 1,000 rounds. This figure does not include the cost of storage, freight and distribution. The movement will not lose many of its members if the price of ammunition does not exceed £15 per 1,000 rounds. But as the price exceeds that amount, so will the strength of the rifle clubs diminish. The movement should not become just an exclusive sport for the wealthy. I make this appeal on behalf of all the young working men who could never afford to take up rifle club activities or continue in them if the cost of ammunition reached £30 per 1,000 rounds. Those who should be encouraged and retained are the young men, both of military age and under military age, who together make up 90 per cent, of the present strength of rifle clubs.
It is estimated that rifle clubs use approximately 10,000,000 rounds of ammunition a year. To stabilize the cost of ammunition to clubs, a subsidy of £15 per 1,000 rounds would cost the Government not more than £150,000 a year. Surely this is a small enough amount to pay to keep the rifle club movement going as an active organization throughout Australia. The skill developed in using a .303 rifle is a basic skill common to all small arms. It is the training in this basic skill that wastes so much time when, in an emergency, it is necessary to enlist and train civilians for military service.
– That is not true.
– Of course, it is not true.
– Whoever told you this story does not know what he is talking about.
– I have this information on the highest authority. If the honorable member knows so much about it, why does “he not get up in this House and talk about it? Why does not the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) get up and support the movement? If the university professor knows so much about it, why does he not get up?
– Order! If the honorable member is addressing the Chair, I can tell him that I was a stretcher-bearer.
– No doubt you had to be trained in the use of small arms, Mr Speaker, I believe the Government has a chance, if it wishes to be reasonably sympathetic to the movement, to enable thousands of keen young men to continue to acquire the skills that are so valuable to our security.
Apart from the cost of the individual equipment, each club member must pay certain club fees. A Saturday afternoon’s shooting now costs each man about 10s. If the price of ammunition is increased to £30 a thousand rounds it will cost him 18s. to £1 each afternoon. This would include marker’s and target fees. At present the rifleman pays 2.4d. per round of ammunition. At £15 a thousand, which is the figure I am suggesting, and which has been suggested by the movement, he would pay 3.6d. per round. At £30 a thousand he would have to pay 7.2d. per round.
I do not know much about rifle shooting as such, but I can assure the Minister that I take a very keen Interest in this movement in my electorate and in my State. I give a shield each year to be competed for by members of rifle clubs at the Easter shoot. I have tried to support the movement over several years and I have not heard any honorable members on the other side, who are so voluble at the moment, getting up in this .House and supporting the movement. It is left to me, who could not hit a target at 5 yards, let alone 500 yards, to support this wonderful body of men, who display very close fellowship, in their battle to keep costs of ammunition down. The Minister, I hope-
– You know as much about it as the Minister does.
– I think the honorable member for McMillan raised a very debatable point when he said that I know as much about it as the Minister does. I do not care how much you insult me, but I must say I would consider that an insulting remark if I were the Minister.
However, I leave it at that. I hope that the Minister will consider the very fair and reasonable proposition I have put forward in an attempt to maintain the strength of the rifle club movement throughout Australia.
.- There is a matter that 1 want to raise, and as the motion for the adjournment gives me the only opportunity to do so before the end of this sessional period, I must raise it now. It might be more appropriate if I raised the matter by way of a question to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) at question time, but if I mention it now I can give all necessary explanations. Such explanations are not permitted at questiontime, and you, Sir, are commendably zealous to see that the Standing Orders are adhered to at such times.
I want to refer to the costs incurred by the different States when their Premiers or Ministers, and the staffs they maintain, attend meetings, such as Premiers’ Conferences, in Canberra, or occasionally in Sydney or Melbourne. Mention has frequently been made of the cost to the country of members of this Parliament travelling from Western Australian electorates to Canberra. I raise the question of the costs incurred by Western Australia in having the Premier of that State, or his
Ministers and their staffs, attending conferences here in Canberra. In many Australiawide organizations it is the custom, when conferences are held, to pool travelling costs and to have them shared equally by representatives from the various States. I think it would be reasonable, when State Premiers or Ministers attend conferences with Commonwealth Ministers or the Prime Minister to have the costs borne equally by the various States and by the Commonwealth. This would relieve Western Australia of a very substantial burden, which is quite out of proportion to the burden carried by the eastern States, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. I agree that the cost to South Australia would be a good deal heavier than those of the three States I have mentioned.
I believe it is reasonable to suggest that these costs should be borne equally by the States. However, if this is not possible, then I suggest that such ‘ meetings as Premiers’ Conferences, Loan Council meetings, and ministerial conferences could be held in Perth. I am mindful of the fact that at one time a meeting of the Federal Cabinet was held in Perth. I am going back many years, of course. The meeting was held in about 1930, at a time when Western Australia was vigorously campaigning to secede from the Commonwealth. The eastern States considered Western Australia so valuable that they spent a considerable sum of money in campaigning against the secession movement. As I say, they went to the extent of holding a meeting of the Federal Cabinet in Perth during the time when the secession movement was at its strongest.
– Who won?
– The secessionists won, but they were beaten by the law. I ask that my suggestion be seriously considered. This is an appropriate year in which to agree to it. I ask the Prime Minister to consider holding a conference such as the Premiers’ Conference or a meeting of the Australian Loan Council in Perth, or at least a meeting of the Federal Cabinet, during the time when the Commonwealth Games are held. There will be quite a wide range of dates from which to choose for such meetings. I remind the House and the Prime Minister that Perth will come into the sporting picture from 10th November. The paraplegics games will start on 10th November and last until 17th November. The Commonwealth Games will begin on 22nd November and continue until early December. Those two periods would be appropriate for a meeting of the Federal Cabinet or a meeting of the Commonwealth and State Ministers. 1 remind you, Mr. Speaker, that there was a time when it was convenient for this House to adjourn to allow honorable members to attend the Melbourne Cup.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing wrong with it, but if we can arrange the business of the country to enable honorable members to see a national spectacle in Melbourne, surely we can make arrangements to enable Ministers and honorable members, if they wish, to see something in Perth that will take place in Australia only once over a long period. At the same time, it would give Western Australia and Australia generally additional prestige in our visitors’ eyes and show them that Western Australia is a part, and a valuable part, of Australia.
– We might take the Parliament to Perth.
– We would be happy to see the Commonwealth Parliament in Perth. It would at least save honorable members from Western Australia some time and inconvenience in travelling to Canberra.
My proposition is twofold. I consider that the burden of costs on Western Australia arising from the long distance that State Ministers have to travel to attend conferences in Canberra should be shared by the States and the Commonwealth. If it is not convenient to hold a Premiers’ Conference in Perth, Western Australia at least deserves consideration as the venue for a top-level meeting of Ministers. I know that the Australian Agricultural Council is to meet in Perth shortly. It may not be practicable to hold a Premiers’ Conference or a meeting of the Australian Loan Council this year in Perth, but perhaps a meeting of the Commonwealth Cabinet could be held at the time of the Commonwealth Games.
.- I feel constrained’ to rise on behalf of my
Queensland colleagues and the people of Queensland to direct attention to the performance of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) to-night. Before 9th December last, when the general election was held, the people of Queensland were conscious that they had poor representation in this House. They were dissatisfied with the performance of some of their representatives in this chamber and on election day they were careful to remove certain sitting members of the Parliament from their places here.
– They were not so careful in selecting new ones to come in.
– They carefully selected “ out “ the honorable member for Lilley and the honorable member for Bowman, and’ they handled appropriately the humorless member for Petrie who was then Minister for Supply.
As a new member of this House from Queensland, I have listened to the representations made by the honorable member for Moreton. Never once since I have been here has he referred in this chamber to the troubles that are besetting Queensland to-day with a rising cost of living, increased unemployment, mass take-overs of our industries and the lack of support from this Commonwealth Government. To-night the honorable member really capped his previous performances. On examination of the electoral figures for Moreton, I had wondered why it appeared that the inner executive of the Communist Party very carefully gave their preferences to the honorable member for Moreton but let the rank and file members of the Communist Party vote the usual ticket. I have now come to the firm conclusion that they did so to leave the honorable member for Moreton in this Parliament so that his electorate would remain unrepresented and he would take up the time of this House on such idiotic frivolities as he introduced to-night. He must have fitted the preparation of them into intervals between his law studies. That was his contribution in this chamber during this sessional period. As he spoke he glared at people in a ferocious manner as he thought of something funny to say.
I ask the honorable member: What about the high level of unemployment in his elec torate? When will he rise in this House to demand something for Queensland? When will he give it better representation? I grant that he has the intelligence to be able to realize that the people of Queensland have been dissatisfied with the representation they were getting. One would have hoped that he would realize this and take an interest in national events while giving his own State some representation.
I feel constrained to dissociate the Queensland members on this side of the House from the actions and the attitude of the honorable member for Moreton. I hope that his great little speech to-night is published fully and distributed widely among the people of Moreton.
– The electors of Queensland will also be interested in the attitude adopted by the Australian Labour Party not so long ago when a discussion on defence took place in this House. The members of the Labour Party ran away from it as hard as they could run.
– The same old theme!
– Unfortunately, the theme is getting more and more serious and the Opposition is getting more frivolous. Electors all over Australia will not forget it. However, to-night I do not want to get into an argument; I want to ask the Government a question. The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Holyoake, announced at a press conference after a Cabinet meeting to-day, I understand, that New Zealand had been asked to send troops to Thailand. It may have been a token force; I do not know.
I also do not know whether the request came from Thailand or from the South-East Asia Treaty Organization; but if a request of that nature has been made to New Zealand I cannot conceive for one moment that a similar request has not been made to Australia. If such a request has been made, I ask the Government to announce it, even though it may not yet have decided to accede to the request or not. I think it is much better for such matters to be announced clearly to the public rather than to leave them to rumour, which is often wrong.
.- I wish to refer to social service payments. First,
I shall deal with the payment of allowances to wives whose husbands are in prison. The necessity for these payments occurs frequently throughout Australia. Women have come to me because their husbands had been committed to prison even on civil matters because they were unable to pay the penalties imposed by the court. In the majority of cases to-day this happens because they have been out of work or their income has been reduced. Because of this situation I took the opportunity to raise the matter with the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) who advised me that after six months such women may obtain a widow’s pension. I was aware of that. He also said that they could obtain an allowance in the interim. My experience has been to the contrary. In one case which 1 recollect very vividly the woman had two children and was expecting a third in a few months. Her husband had been committed to prison for six months because he was unable to pay the monetary penalty with was imposed following conviction on a civil charge. The woman was without any income. Admittedly, she could have thrown herself upon the benevolence of various charitable institutions, particularly those run by church organizations.
– What about State welfare?
– I am making this speech and I shall come to that matter in a moment. Income from those sources is relatively small. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) mentioned State assistance. That assistance is available but in this case it amounted to only £3 a week. 1 have made inquiries and have drawn on my experience gained in my previous employment. I have learned of the suffering and the inconvenience that people in similar circumstances have to endure. In many instances it is not the man committed to prison who has the severest penalty inflicted upon him. It is the wife and family who have to suffer the shortages, the wants and the reduced meals and who have to comfort the children who do not understand why they cannot obtain food when they want it. This is not a Dickensian story; it is a story of to-day. No adequate provision is made for the unfortunate women to whom I have referred.
I know instances of women of weak moral fibre who have turned to prostitution. Admittedly they have come from a low order of society, but I know from my experience in the police force before coming to this House that these things happen because of pressures brought about by lack of sustenance. Some women weaken and go the wrong way but those of stronger moral fibre try to make ends meet. The position is pitiful. Obviously, the people who are suffering most are the women and children who have been forced into this predicament.
Surely the Government can consider paying the widow’s pension to these women at an early date instead of compelling them to wait the mandatory period of six months, lt is rather anomalous that if these women were single they would obtain the employment benefit immediately, and for six weeks before their confinement and six weeks after they would receive the sickness benefit. This anomalous situation calls for criticism. A single woman can obtain sustenance almost immediately but the married woman who has a family must wait for a statutory period of six months and endure all the problems associated with a lack of income.
Meagre sustenance is granted also to age and invalid pensioners. Many times I have gone to poor tenements and have seen age and invalid pensioners sitting in depressing surroundings hopelessly staring at the four bare walls of the room in which they live. They receive £5 5s. a week and, in some cases, receive the supplementary rent allowance of 10s. But they are living only from week to week. Many of them are paying £3 or £4 a week for the mere occupancy of a room. They receive no food for the exorbitant rental that they pay to mean grasping landlords. These people are compelled to give up the simplest pleasures of life. Why should they be compelled to give up their occasional smoke and drink? They made their contribution to the development of this country. They worked in their younger days and gave their all. They are entitled to an occasional smoke and a drink, and certainly to regular meals each day.
It is all very well to say that they may enter an institution or a benevolent home where they will be looked after, but they want their independence and do not wish to enter these homes. That is why we see these poor dejected individuals forlornly dragging themselves around the streets of the major cities, living a hopeless life and wondering what the next day will bring. The Government should take the bit of initiative firmly in its teeth and grant increased pensions to these people.
Other pensioners, perhaps because of heart disease, require a supply of oxygen on the premises. Oxygen is a life-giving commodity for them. At any time they might have an attack and without oxygen their life would be snuffed out almost immediately. But the Government makes no . provision under the medical benefits scheme to assist these people to purchase or to keep on hand a supply of oxygen to meet such emergencies. Surely out of humanitarian instincts the Government should realize the predicament in which these people are placed. We must be sensitive to the needs of the pensioners. Some of us are more fortunate than are others. Some of us are able to set aside a certain amount of money upon which to live in our- retirement. That places us on a standard of living much higher than that of the pensioners. But there are many other people, possibly some within this House because fortunes in life change, who will be living on the pension in their old age and who will wish that they had taken the initiative when they had the opportunity to do so. The Government now has an excellent opportunity to take some positive steps to ameliorate the conditions of the people who are dependent upon social services for their livelihood. In the vast majority of cases - in 99.9 per cent, of the cases - these people do not accept social service payments because they want them or because it is their ambition in life to receive them. They accept them because they have no other income. They are living on this depressed standard and it is imperative that we who are in a position to assist them should do so.
There are other physically afflicted people to whom a telephone would be a great advantage in the home in times of emergency, but, because of the increased rental charges imposed under this Government, this is beyond their means. Here is another excellent opportunity for the Government to help pensioners. It should make telephones available at reduced rental and installation charges.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have great pleasure in supporting the advocacy of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) in relation to rifle clubs. I thought he put up a very strong case, but I did not appreciate his statement that honorable members on this side of the House had not advocated the betterment of rifle clubs.
– I said the Liberal Party, not the Australian Country Party.
– You did not mean the Australian Country Party? I am glad the honorable member has mentioned that.
– Order! If the honorable member will address the Chair, we will get home a little earlier.
– I desire to point out that members of the Australian Country Party have continually advocated in this House better conditions for rifle clubs. Many members of our party are very closely associated with rifle clubs. Let me say that the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) is a vice-president of the National Rifle Association of New South Wales. He is a past champion of the Coonabarabran Rifle Club and has frequently competed in the King’s Prize Shoot at Liverpool, New South Wales. The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) is also a vice-president of the National Rifle Association of New South Wales. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), from Western Australia, is an active member of a rifle club and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) is a vice-president of No. 1 North Western Rifle Club Union of Victoria.
– I am a Victorian Rifle Association gold medal winner.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) tells me he in a Victorian Rifle Association gold medal winner. Many other members of our party are associated with rifle clubs and the few
I have mentioned will give the House an idea of how closely we are associated with these clubs. As for myself, I have been almost too modest to mention that 1 am president of No. 1 North Western Rifle Club Union of Victoria.
I did not rise to criticize the honorable member for Wilmot; I rose to praise him. I am glad that he has dissociated our party from the criticism he offered. The question he raised requires some attention, and it is good that he brought it up to-night. The honorable member for Lawson, the honorable member for Lyne and I have spoken on this subject on many occasions. I believe that rifle clubs are very necessary. I remind honorable members that the longrange gun did not make the revolver obsolete. All the bombs, all the atomic weapons and every other agent used for destruction in times of war must be backed up by the infantry. Lord Montgomery said only recently that even with all the great inventions of modern warfare the infantry must move in and hold a position after these weapons have been used. What better training could be given in the use of rifles than that given by rifle clubs?
The honorable member for Wilmot said that the price of ammunition was becoming too high for certain members of rifle clubs to purchase it. After all, riflemen generally are not wealthy men. He has advocated that the price of ammunition be made as cheap as possible so that rifle clubs may serve these men who seek an afternoon’s sport on Saturdays and thus educate them in the use of the rifle in case they are needed to protect this country. The honorable member for Wilmot has referred to the price of .303 ammunition. 1 remind honorable members that the standard Army rifle has now been changed to the FN .30. I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) for how long the supply of .303 ammunition will last, and whether it is the intention of the Department of the Army to provide rifle clubs with the FN rifle not as a gift but as cheaply as possible. I have appreciated very much the Minister’s response to my advocacy that the rifle range at Williamstown in Victoria be retained for King’s Prize and other shoots in which men from all over Victoria compete. I made that request at a time when certain people in the area were trying to grasp the rifle range land for housing. The Minister gave me the assurance that this property would continue to be used as a rifle range. On numerous occasions I have put certain things to the Minister on behalf of rifle clubs, and I thank him most sincerely tonight for his response to my representations.
My main purpose in rising to-night to support the honorable member for Wilmot, who is now supporting speeches that we made on earlier occasions, is to ascertain for how long supplies of .303 ammunition will last. How much is there of it? Again, if it is kept for a long time, will it remain in good enough condition for use by rifle clubs? I do not think it will. Further, what move does the Department of the Army or the Government propose to make to ensure that rifle clubs will be maintained in this country for the good of the country and for its protection, perhaps, in case of war?
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.41 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
High schools -
Administration - Port Moresby, Rabaul,
Mission - Nil.
Secondary schools -
Administration - Sogeri, Keravat.
Mission- Ulapia, Vunapope.
Junior high schools -
Administration - Iarowari, Kerema, Bugandi, Tusbab, Utu, Dregerhafen (girls’ school).
Mission - Sideia, Maiwara, Kambubu, Banz, Vuvu, Kieta, Patu (girls’), Yule Island (two schools).
Post primary schools - There are seventeen Administration and eighteen mission postprimary schools situated throughout the Territory.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following information: -
The causes of death were -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
The details requested by the honourable member are set out in the attached schedule.
No particulars are shown under the heading “ interest payable on loan funds “, as the allocation for each of the years covered in this review was not made from loan funds.
The amount allocated from revenue as shown in column (c) comprises £344,889,676 appropriated out of revenue and £9,931,994 from war service homes receipts.
In addition to the total number of 204,235 homes provided under the War Services Homes Act as shown in column (g), the War Service Homes Division had taken over 1,921 homes under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement up to 30th June, 1961. The total liability taken over by the division from the States in respect of these homes is £4,608,258. This is not included in the reflected under Repayments of Principal and Payfunds allocated as shown in columns (a) and (c). ments of Interest respectively in columns (e) and Repayments by the purchasers of these homes are (f).
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers: -
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
g asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. The numbers of persons among permanent and long-term arrivals in Australia in the ten years to 1961 who gave their occupation as “ medical practitioner “ are as follows: -
These figures include persons coming to Australia on long-term visits, some not intending to practise here, and some with Australian qualifications returning after more than a year abroad. They do not, therefore, indicate the number of doctors with overseas qualifications coming to Australia to settle. Similarly, migration statistics cannot give any indication of the numbers with foreign qualifications who would be eligible to practise in Australia, and the number who would not be eligible.
My department has recently sought information about the number of persons who have graduated in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and have subsequently been admitted to practise in Australia. Details from all States have not yet been received, but it may be of interest that, between 1952 and 1961, 483 such persons were admitted to practise in Victoria, 198 in South Australia, 260 in Western Australia, 24 in the Northern Territory, and 27 in the Australian Capital Territory. In Queensland, 140 United Kingdom graduates were admitted to practise between 1957 and 1961.
Details for the other States will be provided when they are received.
The right to practise medicine in Australia is governed by the legislation of the States, the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth being confined to its own territories. Before any person is permitted to practise he must satisfy the appropriate authority in his State of residence or intended residence that his qualifications meet requirements. These vary from State to State; however, the question of establishing uniform conditions throughout Australia is being studied by the respective Slate and Federal authorities.
Recognition in Australia of qualifications obtained overseas is generally dependent on reciprocal recognition of Australian qualifications in the country concerned. As a general rule, only British and certain Commonwealth qualifications are recognized for registration without some further test. This may, for example, take the form of a special examination, or some further study at an Australian university may be required. Service in certain areas, including Papua-New Guinea, may be allowed as a prelude to full registration.
Because requirements vary from State to State, and since the right to practise depends on the recognition of qualifications by the appropriate authority, intending migrants wishing to practise medicine are advised to establish what their status will be before coming to Australia.
ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
As at 30th April, 1962 -
t asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
How many films have been prepared for circulation in Australia and the territories in each of the following languages: - (a) Motu, (b) Pidgin,
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
In Motu: Coffee Nursery; Coffee Plantation; Enemy in the House (Malaria); Grow Good Coconuts; Make Good Copra; Territory Magazine; A Woman Called Gima; Village Coffee Factory.
In Pidgin: Coffee Nursery; Coffee Plantation; Enemy in the House (Malaria); Grow Good Coconuts; Make Good Copra; Territory Magazine; A Woman Called Gima; Village Coffee Factory.
In French: Australian Food Parade; Australian Landscape Painters; Australian National University; Australian Week-End Below the High Plain; Canberra To-day and To-morrow; Christmas in Australia; Australian Colour Diary No. 7; Down in the Forest; Escape the City; Newcastle, Industrial City; Paper Run; passport to Progress; A Story in Sand; The Way We Live; This Land, Australia; Valley of the Yarra.
In German: Australian Food Parade; Australian National University; Blue Mould in Tobacco; Canberra To-day and To-morrow; The Jackaroo; The Way We Live; This Land, Australia.
In Italian: Football Time; New Guinea Patrol; Political Development in Papua and New Guinea; This Land, Australia; Training Champions; Wirritt Wirritt.
In Thai: Asian Students in Australia; Australia, Friend and Neighbour; Down in the
Forest; Escape the City; A Man and His Dog; Training Champions. In Dutch: Australian Food Parade; Australian National University; This Land, Australia; The Power Makers; The Way We Live.
In Japanese: Australian Week-End; Below the High Plain; Escape the City; Paper Run.
In Spanish: An Approach to Art Teaching; Australian Week-End.
In Portuguese: Australian Week-End.
In Russian: An Approach to Art Teaching.
In Esperanto: This Land, Australia. 2. (a) Eight, (b) eight, (c) three, (d) nil.
m asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies: -
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– It is not possible to provide detailed answers to all these questions. The following statistics and comments may, however, be of assistance: -
For the years 1949-50 and 1960-61 the statistics at present available generally relate to wage and salary earners only. Such information as is available is set out in the following paragraphs. Particulars of wage and salary earners for 1939 have been shown for purposes of comparison. -
d asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. The statistical compilations regularly prepared by the Commonwealth Employment Service do not provide statistics which would enable answers to be furnished to all these questions. However, a special examination of the records of those registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service in February last indicated that about 12i per cent, of al) persons then registered had been registered for employment for six months or more. 4 and 5. The honorable member’s questions seem to be based on a misunderstanding of the position. The Commonwealth Employment Service does not cancel the registrations of persons who have sought its assistance to obtain employment unless those persons are placed in employment by it, have obtained employment by their own efforts or have ceased to seek its assistance to obtain employment.
son asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - l.(a) and (b). The numbers of persons registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service in Australia and the per centages which they represented of the estimated work-force were -
The statistics of persons registered are of those who claimed when registering that they were not employed and who were recorded as unplaced at the dates shown. The figures include those referred to employers with a view to engagement and those who, since registering, may have obtained employment without notifying the Commonwealth Employment Service. Recipients of unemployment benefit are also included.
m asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice - 1. (a) What countries have ratified the 1951 International Labour Organization Convention No. 100 concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value?
Was the Australian delegate instructed to vote against the resolution; if so, why?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) As at 31st December, 1961, the following countries had ratified I.L.O. Convention No. 100: - Albania, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Byelorussia, (Nationalist) China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Gabon, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Rumania, Syria, Ukraine, United Arab Republic, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Yugoslavia. It would be very unwise to infer that in all those countries men and women do in fact receive equal remuneration for work of equal value.
Being of the opinion that the legal and factual differences in wages and salaries for men and women, which still exists in many countries, constitutes a serious obstacle to real equality of women in the economic field,
Believing that for the purpose of removing this discrimination against women effective measures should be taken on national and international levels,
Requests the Economic and Social Council to adopt the following resolution: -
The Economic and Social Council
Having examined the report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its sixteenth session.
Sharing its opinion that the legal and factual inequality between men and women in questions concerning wages and salaries, still existing in many countries, constitutes a serious obstacle to the achievement of real equality of men and women in the economic field, and that effective measures on national and international levels should be taken to remove this discrimination against women,
Emphasizing in this connexion particularly the responsibilities of Governments for the removal of discrimination against women in the question of wages and salaries and for the consistent application of the principle of equal pay for equal work,
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Expenditure on press and radio advertising is shown as a separate item under the heading “ Services and Amenities for Waterside Workers “. Other specific items deal with particular amenities. The expenditure on amenities can therefore be quickly calculated.
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Why has the air service by Qantas Empire Airways Limited between Australia and South Africa recently been reduced from one aircraft per week to one aircraft per fortnight?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following information: -
Commencing in September, 1952, Qantas inaugurated a once fortnightly service between Australia and South Africa. In November, 1957, South African Airways commenced operating a once fortnightly service on this route which, together with the Qantas operation, provided a weekly service.
In agreement wilh South African Airways Qantas increased its service to once weekly as from 1st July, 1961, with South African Airways retaining its frequency at once fortnightly. Experience showed the additional traffic which was anticipated with the increased frequency did not materialize and it was found uneconomic to continue. Therefore Qantas withdrew its additional frequency as from March, 1962, and the overall frequency of the services to South Africa then reverted to a once fortnightly operation by both Qantas and South African Airways, thereby providing a weekly service between the two airlines.
The question of service frequency is constantly under review and should the traffic at any time warrant an increase the weekly frequency by Qantas could be re-introduced.
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers: -
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers: -
The expansion of the company’s Boeing services has unavoidably led to a reduction in utilization of the less economic Super Constellations. However, all the eight Super Constellations owned by the company are operationally serviceable and over the last year Q.E.A. used the equivalent of about five of these aircraft at optimum utilization. Forward planning for the next year envisages a level of flying equivalent to about four aircraft. In consequence of the reduced Super Constellation utilization, the company has been unable to avoid some staff reductions, but the number involved was minimised by taking advantage of normal wastage and retirements. Actual retrenchments in 1961 and 1962 have been ten pilots, eleven flight engineers and 54 ground staff. The number of flight engineers was influenced by the fact that Super Constellation aircraft carry two flight engineers whereas Boeing and Electra aircraft carry only one. 2 and 3. As stated, projected utilization of these aircraft over the next twelve months allows for the equivalent of four aircraft. The company as part of its normal business activity is continually seeking further use for these aircraft but, in the highly competitive field in which it operates, the demand is for flying with the more modern jet aircraft with which Q.E.A. has been so successful in the last two years. The company is also in constant touch with the used aircraft market and would be quick to close any sale arrangement which was offering on satisfactory terms. Because so many airlines in the world are similarly placed to Qantas and have substantial numbers of piston engined aircraft for sale the market for such aircraft is glutted at present and sales are difficult to accomplish at reasonable rates.
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
What is the (a) number and (b) classification of employees retrenched from Qantas Empire Airways Limited over each of the last five years?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s question: -
The number and classification of staff retrenched over the last five years is as follows: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has he any plans to remove the severe restrictions imposed on the physically handicapped in respect of their entry into the Public Service?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
I direct the honorable member’s attention to my statement on this matter made in the House to-day.
son asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
b asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When does the Government expect to conclude its consideration of the Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Joint Committee on Constitutional Review and make its intentions known to the Parliament?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
As the honorable member will be aware from the debate in the House on 12th April last, the Attorney-General is still giving a great deal of attention to this report (see “Hansard” of 1 2th April, page 1637). Until this examination is completed no announcement of the Government’s intentions can bc made.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) “Daily Telegraph”, “The Sun”, “Daily Mirror”, “Newcastle Herald”, “Newcastle Sun”, “ Sun Herald “, “ Sunday Telegraph “, “ Sunday Mirror”, (b) “Sydney Morning Herald”, “Australian Financial Review “, “ Australian Financial Times “, “ Jobson’s Digest “. (c) None, but the circulation of “ Century “ was provided by the publisher.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Where a company has been taken over or absorbed by another company, are losses incurred in the preceding seven years deductible for taxation purposes by the acquiring company from profits which it may make in subsequent years, provided 25 per cent, of the shareholders of the first company in the year the loss was incurred are still beneficially interested in the enlarged organization?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
No. A company is not entitled to an income tax deduction for a loss incurred by another company. There is, however, nothing in the law to prevent the recoupment of past losses by a public company from subsequent trading profits made by that company even though the ownership of the share capital may have changed. In the case of a private company, a loss incurred in one income year is deductible from the income of a subsequent year only if, at the end of the year for which the deduction is claimed, shares of the company carrying not less than 25 per cent, of the voting power are beneficially held by persons who beneficially held shares carrying not less than that percentage of the voting power at the end of the income year in which the loss was incurred.
Water Resources Council.
s. - On 5th April, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) asked what progress had been made towards the establishment of a water resources council.
On 20th February, 1962, 1 wrote to all the Premiers referring to the statement made in my policy speech before the last federal elections that I would take up with them the idea of establishing a water resources council so that the highest level of basic information on our Australian resources could be secured and made available. I suggested that if this proposal were generally acceptable to the Premiers the Commonwealth would be prepared to convene a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers under the chairmanship of the Minister for National Development with a view to establishing permanent arrangements to ensure consultation and collaboration between Commonwealth and State authorities in relation to the investigation and measurement of water resources. I also suggested that if the idea of a ministerial conference were acceptable to the Premiers that it might be advisable for a meeting of Commonwealth and State officers to take place prior to the meeting of Ministers.
I am happy to say that all Premiers have now replied expressing concurrence in my suggestions. Accordingly an early move will be made to convene a meeting of officers and as soon as practicable thereafter a meeting of Ministers.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 May 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19620516_reps_24_hor35/>.