25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. HANSEN presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Commonwealth Government (1) instruct its representative at the United Nations to condemn the French Government’s proposal to test nuclear weapons in the Pacific, (2) again protest directly to the French Government with a view to cancellation of the tests and (3) use all appropriate means at its disposal to obtain an extension of the treaty to cover underground tests.
Petition received and read.
A similar petition was presented by Mr. Whitlam.
– I address a question to the Acting Minister for Immigration. Has the Minister for Immigration failed to renew Australia’s immigration agreement with Italy? If so, what are the reasons for Italy’s disinclination to co-operate? Are they related to the periodical unemployment and shortage of suitable housing experienced in the past by many Italian migrants?
– My colleague, the Minister for Immigration, is now in Europe where he has been having, and probably will continue to have, discussions with the Italian authorities on this matter. In aland of full employment, excellent conditions and good housing the factors which the honorable member mentioned in the latter part of his question can hardly be expected to apply.
– Is the Minister for Air aware that on Tuesday, 27th April, at approximately 8.30 p.m., the impact of a sonic boom was felt in the Woy Woy district of New South Wales? As these booms are likely to frighten elderly, sick and young people, can the Minister tell us what protective measures are taken to ensure that aircraft do not cause sonic booms over populated areas?
– First of all, let me say that I am very sorry to hear of any damage that may have been caused or any unhappiness that may have been felt by any constituents of the honorable member for Robertson in the way he has outlined. I will examine the information he has given in order to find out exactly what occurred. As I informed the honorable member for Newcastle some weeks ago, most of the exercises which result in sonic booms are carried out 30 to 40 miles off the coast and at a height of well over 30,000 feet. In those circumstances, the sonic booms would not normally be heard in Woy Woy. However, in certain conditions of wind, cloud and turbulence sonic booms will be heard in the area. That cannot be avoided. The honorable member’s constituents may then think the aircraft responsible is pretty close when actually it is many miles away. 1 would like to say to those constituents, however, that I hope they realise that Australia is one of the few nations having aircraft capable of supersonic speeds and that they will come to regard the sound of them as the sound of freedom, because the aircraft making the sound will be protecting them from other sounds that might prove much more damaging and deafening. The Air Force is fully aware of the damage that may be caused by these booms and takes steps, as far as it is possible to do so, to carry out its exercises at safe distances from inhabited areas. Unfortunately there are occasions on which these noises are heard and I trust that people hearing them will realise that they are inevitable.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Does the right honorable gentleman agree that a serious omission occurred when the framers of our Constitution failed to envisage the creation of a new State out of a Territory of the Commonwealth, although provision was made in section 124 for the creation of new States consisting of parts of existing States? If he does, will he have a proposal put to the people of Australia at the forthcoming referendum in order to have this omission rectified, so that the Northern Territory may become, in the not too distant future, the seventh State of the Commonwealth?
– The honorable member will realize not only that this is a controversial matter, on which I think I understand his view, but also that it is a matter of policy with which I would not be disposed to deal at question time.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry, as the Minister in charge of the Fisheries Branch of the Production Division of the Department of Primary Industry, consult his State ministerial colleagues in Victoria and New South Wales to prevent the sale in those States of low grade Victorian scallops which are frequently labelled “ Tasmanian scallops “ and are in this way ruining the very high reputation enjoyed by Tasmanian scallops? Is the Minister aware that some merchants have exported an inferior quality scallop to France, with a resultant poor impression on the market in that country? Can the Commonwealth exercise powers to ensure that exported products of this kind are of a high grade, so that new markets may be secured and protected?
– I have heard that scallops have at times been marketed as Tasmanian scallops when they have in fact come from Victoria. I thought this was simply faulty identification and not an attempt to indicate higher quality. If the honorable member suggests that a certain discoloration is a sign of inferiority, I can tell him that it is rather a result of mishandling of the product. I think the method of handling can be improved, and I understand that the Tasmanian Government, through its Health Department, is formulating new regulations covering the handling of scallops. As for discussing this matter with the State Ministers concerned, I will ascertain whether they wish it to be placed on the agenda for the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers to be held in September. The export of scallops is governed by regulations. I am sure that the inspectors would insist on exports to France and Belgium complying with the regulations prescribed. However, I will look further into the matter for the honorable member.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Is it correct to assume from remarks made last night by the right honorable gentleman at the dinner in honour of His Excellency, the Governor-General, that the Prime Minister again intends to search the United Kingdom for someone prepared to accept appointment to the position ‘ of Governor-General? If so, why is the right honorable gentleman, who has occupied with some distinction for a record term the highest political office in Australia, not prepared to appoint a fellow Australian to the highest Vice-Regal position?
– I was not aware that I had made any reference whatever to this matter last night. The only man who dealt with my undoubted qualifications for the post was the Leader of the Opposition, who made a very good and understandable speech on the matter. I made no reference to where a new Governor-General should come from and I make none now.
– I ask the Minister for Territories a question. In view of the uncertainty that exists among members of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea Public Service because of statements made by various people about hastening the move towards independence for the Territory, will the Minister say whether any form of compensation is being considered to safeguard the future of members of the Service should independence or loss of position eventuate?
– I appreciate that the honorable member has just returned from a visit to the Territory. No doubt he has heard expressions of concern from members of the Public Service there. A scheme for compensation of the kind referred to by the honorable member is under consideration by the Government. Representatives of the Public Service of the Territory interviewed me in Canberra on this matter earlier in the year. I hope to have the scheme completed by this week or early next week.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that on Sunday last, in Brisbane, H.M.A.S. “ Mildura “, the only naval vessel in Brisbane, was, without authority. released from its moorings in the Brisbane River and drifted downstream, fouling hawsers on the way and finally becoming embedded temporarily on a mud bank? Will the Minister say whether the takeover of Brisbane’s sole line of naval defence was effected by agents of a hostile foreign power or by exuberant teenagers filled with a spirit of adventure? Will the Minister inform the House of the security arrangements, if any, adopted by the Navy with regard to fighting ships of this great Service stationed in Brisbane? Finally, will the Minister assure me that the people of Brisbane, who place great faith in the silent Service, will not in future be humiliated by the knowledge that the only naval vessel in that great port can be taken over by a person or persons unknown?
– First, I say to the honorable member and to the people of Brisbane if they are concerned that, at the present time, nine units of the Australian combat fleet are guarding them and the rest of Australia in places where they ought to be in view of the current situation. The vessel involved in the incident referred to by the honorable member was not a fighting vessel of the Navy. It was a ship that is up for disposal and is awaiting take over by the Department of Supply. It had been anchored at the naval wharf, but was moved to another wharf to allow an American submarine to berth at the naval wharf. It was in a security area, entry to which normally was through a locked gate. The police are investigating the matter in an effort to determine how the vessel came to be released. However, as I have said, it is not an operational vessel. It has been stripped of all equipment and is awaiting disposal.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. It has been reported - I understand the report emanated from Djakarta - that Australian authorities at Lae are insisting on excessive luggage and health checks of passengers and crew members flying to West Irian, particularly by Garuda Indonesian Airways. Is the Minister in a position to say whether the Australian authorities are demanding any checks for Indonesian services that are different from those required for our own air services?
– When I heard of this allegation, I approached the Minister for Civil Aviation, who is in another place, and asked him whether there was any truth in it. He informed me that he had, immediately on learning of the allegation, called for an inquiry and that his officers have been unable to discover any incident of any sort. So, to the best of my knowledge and to the best of the Minister’s knowledge, the requirements for Indonesians travelling by Garuda Indonesian Airways are exactly the same as the requirements placed on any other persons who come into this country.
Mr. WHITLAM__ I ask the Minister for National Development: Have the proposals of the Queensland Government for Commonwealth participation in projects to develop the north met with the same fate as the proposals of the Western Australian Government?
– The answer is: “ No, this matter is being looked at by the Government “.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer and refers to the reduction of 1 per cent in the statutory reserve deposit ratio requirement of the trading banks. The fact that 40 per cent of the funds so released will be attracted to the term loan fund component has been widely welcomed and appreciated. As the proportion of the term loan component going to agriculture, grazing and dairying has been decreasing over the past 18 months, can the Treasurer say whether any advice is being offered to change the direction of lending, especially in view of current rural conditions?
– I appreciate the honorable gentleman’s commendation of the fact that 40 per cent, of the funds released from the statutory reserve deposit will become available for the term loan fund. His question, however, contained one error of fact. He said that the proportion of the term loan funds going into rural lending has been decreasing. In point of fact, it has increased over the last 12 months. It rose from 30 per cent in January 1964 to 38 per cent in January 1965. The trend would appear to be in the right direction.
I can assure the honorable gentleman that we do impress upon the banking system the importance of keeping lending to rural industries at a high level.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I direct attention to the long period of time - a matter of years now - during which certain Commonwealth public servants recalled to the Public Service after losing more than a year through invalidity have been denied the aggregation of service in assessing long service leave entitlement. Can the Treasurer say with any degree of certainty that the proposed amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act dealing with this matter will be presented before the House goes into recess for the winter?
– 1 am not able to give an answer to the question offhand. I will examine the present position and see that the honorable gentleman is advised about it as promptly as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Has it been agreed at the international level that a new world sugar agreement be negotiated? Will conferences for this purpose take place at an early date, and will Australia ask for a more realistic world price for sugar?
– Steps are in train for the convening of a conference with a view to getting another, and a better, international agreement on sugar between all the producing and exporting countries and the principal importing countries. The honorable member can take it for granted that this tremendously important industry will be well looked after, to the extent that it is possible for us to do so, in these negotiations. The world price for sugar is very low at present and it is largely because the price is so low that the conference is to be convened.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to give the House details of the dispute between the two Commonwealth countries, Pakistan and India, and of the fighting taking place in the Rann of Kutch? Can he state who is responsible for the aggression and what action the Australian Government has taken, such as offering to act as mediator or in some other manner, to assist in bringing about a settlement? If Australia is not taking any action, does .this indicate that once again we are leaving it to the United Kingdom Government to attempt peace talks? Does it also indicate lack of diplomatic activity by the Australian Government?
– The United Kingdom Government has, as the honorable knows, been exercising every possible influence to secure a settlement of this dispute. We have been strongly supporting the activity, on the diplomatic front, of the United Kingdom.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Health whether, in this health conscious age, when an increasing variety of drugs in tablet and capsule form is coming on to the market, any legislation exists which requires manufacturers to brand each tablet or capsule with an identifying mark to provide a safeguard against accidental poisoning and to aid in identification of the tablets when they are out of their original containers. If there is no such legislation can the Minister say what steps the Government can take to ensure the safeguard to which I refer?
– There is no Commonwealth legislation covering this matter, and to my knowledge there is no State legislation either; but the matter has been the subject of consideration for some appreciable time, because it is realised that a problem does exist. However, it is found that the general size of capsules and tablets does not allow for the marking of names and, due to the number of tablets and capsules concerned, even the marking of symbols would be so complex that it would not be practicable. Certain manufacturers have themselves introduced a system whereby they colour tablets and capsules in some instances, but there are insufficient colours to go round the number of varieties that would be involved.. So I am afraid I cannot hold out any hope that there is a solution to the problem in this particular field. However, in another field consideration is being given at present by the National Health and Medical Research Council to the question of labelling the containers for various drugs, and this matter will be further considered at the next meeting of the Council next month.
– Does the Prime Minister recall that yesterday the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked him whether the Australian troops being provided to South Vietnam were being provided under the South East Asia Treaty Organisation or not? Does he further recall that he said he would deal with this matter in his speech yesterday but did not do so? Will he say now whether the troops are being provided under S.E.A.T.O. and, if not, why not?
– We regard ourselves as honouring a S.E.A.T.O. obligation. There has been some discussion about whether decisions of S.E.A.T.O. ought to be unanimous. Honorable members who are interested in these matters will remember that there has been some discussion. But we have taken the view, and have stated it in this place more than once, that the obligations under S.E.A.T.O. are several as well as joint. Therefore, in doing what we have done, we have acted as required under S.E.A.T.O. on the request of the Government of South Vietnam and we regard ourselves as performing a S.E.A.T.O. exercise.
– 1 ask the Prime Minister: Would it be found practicable to investigate a report coming from a Tibetan monk, who escaped from Tibet to Nepal, claiming that 40,000 Tibetan monks are in Communistrun concentration camps in Tibet? If it is not possible for the Department of External Affairs to use United Nations agencies to investigate this report, could an appropriate reference be made to the International Red Cross?
– I think the first thing for me to do is to find out from the Department of External Affairs whether there are means of investigating this report and, indeed, whether the Department has any facts in relation to it. When I have ascertained that, I will, of course, convey the information to the House and then decide whether any further step might be taken.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has it been brought to the Minister’s attention that aliens in the United States of America are liable for service in the armed forces, if called upon, immediately on arrival in that country? ls it also a fact that, following the decision to send an Australian battalion to South Vietnam, the rate of conscription for service abroad by Australian youths is to be doubled? If so, is it intended to amend the law in accordance with the recommendations of the Citizenship Convention this year to provide for military service by aliens of eligible age similar to that applying to Australians? If not, why not?
– As to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question, I have been informed, and 1 have asked for a check to be made, as to the procedure and the policies in force in the United States. I have been informed that if an alien is called up for service, refuses to serve, and subsequently leaves the United States, he is not permitted to re-enter that country. There are certain other provisions that, in effect, provide an inducement for the alien who is called up to serve in the United States armed forces. But there is no compulsion upon him to do so. This is the advice I have received, and I have asked that it be checked.
– I received information to the contrary.
– Did you? Well, the honorable member is usually wrong. I have asked that my advice be checked. As to the second point raised by the honorable gentleman relating to the actual call-up, at the moment we have no intention of increasing the announced numbers of people to be called up for service in the Army. We feel that the numbers that have been called up recently will, for the time being, be sufficient. Of course, this matter is constantly kept under the attention of the Government and, should the necessity arise, it will be immediately considered. I want to make one other comment to the honorable gentleman. It is one that was made by my colleague, the Minister for the Army, when this matter was originally being debated. When we are thinking of the problem of call-ups of various classifications, it is not our intention to have the old system of national service training that is universal training for all. What we are anxious to do here is to have an efficient array. Consequently, the standard of recruits, of whatever kind they might be, has to be kept at the highest level. The administrative and language difficulties also have to be considered. These considerations, amongst others, must be kept in mind when we are looking at the various classifications who might subsequently be called up, but who, at the present time, are having their service temporarily deferred.
– With the prospect of a change in the Government of New South Wales, will the Prime Minister renew the proposals made by him to that State aimed at solving the Sydney-Dubbo airline stalemate which has caused and is causing great hardship to the people of the Dubbo district?
– In the happy event to which the honorable member refers, I have no doubt that our communications will be quite prompt.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that the means test on pharmaceutical and medical benefits as applicable to pensioners is causing great hardship? Will the honorable gentleman make a recommendation during the next Budget discussions that this means test should be abolished?
– The honorable member will be aware that from time to time the Government looks at the problems of social services. I have no doubt that during the deliberations prior to the determination of the next Budget consideration will be given to the matter he has raised in the House this afternoon.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. It arises from the question just asked by the honorable member for Warringah. Would the Minister recommend to the National Health and Medical Research Council, which is to meet next month to consider the matter of labelling, that it ask chemists to cease tha dangerous practice of removing the manufacturer’s label indicating what is inside a bottle - a label which is perhaps marked “Poison” - and substituting a little sticker with the chemist’s own name on it, on which are typed, say, the words “ One tablet “ and the name of the patient, so that nobody thereafter ever knows what was in the bottle?
– There is no legislation of any sort covering this matter, but, as I have indicated, the matter is under consideration at the present time. The points that the honorable member has mentioned are some of those that are being considered. This concerns not only the National Health and Medical Research Council but also the Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Pharmaceutical Association, which must be in agreement on these matters. I can assure the honorable member that the points he has mentioned will receive consideration.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I point out that in a statement made in Washington during his recent trip to discuss the restriction of the dollar flow to Australia, the Treasurer said -
The decision by the Commonwealth Government to undertake still further substantial commitments in defending South East Asia can be useful in crystallising opinion in the Johnson Administration.
I ask: How was the decision to send a battalion of Australian troops useful in crystallising opinion in the Johnson Administration?
– I would like the honorable gentleman to give me the source of the statement.
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– It does not represent any statement, expressed with precision, that I made there. In the course of my visit, the proposed despatch by Australia of this battalion became known. Of course, it had been known to me long before I went to the United States of America, because it had been decided in principle by the Government some considerable time ago. I pointed out in discussions there that, amongst the problems which faced Australia in the period ahead, such as the possibility of drought and declining values for some of our export commodities, was a rising defence bill, having regard to the defence programme announced by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence some time ago. In no sense, however, was Australia’s despatch of the battalion introduced as a matter of negotiation. Indeed, any suggestion that this was raised either by myself or by the United States Government in that connection would, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, be an insult to the countries concerned.
M’r. TURNER. - My question is addressed to you, Mr. Speaker. After consulting the Clerk, I gave notice, for the fifth sitting Thursday on which general business has precedence on the notice paper after 23rd April 1964, of a motion relating to the desirability of establishing a common market between Australia and New Zealand. Sir, I wish to ask you whether my calculations are correct and whether I am right in supposing that this means Thursday of next week.
– I am unable at this stage to check the honorable member’s calculations. I shall have a look at the position and let him know as soon as I can.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Navy. I ask: What tenders for the construction of naval vessels have been called during the last 12 months? How many of these tenders have been let to Australian shipyards? Is it correct, as was stated by a speaker at the Southport convention of the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party of Australia, that Queensland’s naval defence forces consist of a World War II minesweeper that has not moved under its own steam for years-
– lt moved last Sunday.
– Did it do so under its own steam? Is it true that Queensland’s naval defence forces consist of a World War II minesweeper that has not moved under its own steam for years, a general purpose vessel armed with .303 rifles and a work boat the size of a Brisbane ferry?
– The honorable member will recall that the Prime Minister, in his statement on the defence programme, announced that some patrol vessels were to be constructed. Tenders for these will be called shortly from Australian shipyards. In the last two years, no tenders for the construction of vessels have been called overseas and all shipbuilding for the Australian Navy has been done in Australian yards, which, for the moment, are working to capacity on their present contracts. As to the second part of the question, all sorts of statements are made at all kinds of political conferences all over Australia. I am very pleased to say that I am not responsible for any of those statements.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. Can he inform the House of the progress made in the search for phosphate in Australia and in the surrounding islands?
– The search for phosphate in Australia is gaining momentum and is producing quite interesting results. A number of companies have shown interest in the search and have been allocated prospecting areas by the Western Australian and the South Australian Governments. The Bureau of Mineral Resources is undertaking an expanded programme and is making available for that programme all the geologists that it can provide both for the processing of data and for drilling. The deposit located by the Bureau at Rum Jungle has been further drilled and has been shown to consist of some 4 million tons of relatively low grade deposits containing about 15 per cent, of phosphate. This would not be suitable for commercial use generally, but it may be suitable for use locally. Drilling is being undertaken also in the Amadeus Basin, where a very small quantity of high grade phosphate has been located. I have been informed recently that on the southern tip of Papua behind one of the harbours - I think it is Mullins Harbour - phosphate has been found. The Bureau of Mineral Resources will this year undertake quite extensive drilling at Christmas Island to determine the full extent of the deposits there. In addition, as the honorable member knows, we have obtained the services of two Americans who will be in this country very shortly. One is an expert in searching for phosphate on land and the other is an expert in searching for it on the continental shelf.
– I wish to ask the Acting Minister for Immigration a question. Why did P. and O. Orient Lines decide to withdraw preference in bookings for migrants from Great Britain, which has been granted to the Commonwealth ever since 1947, when this arrangement was first made?
– The position with respect to immigrants and their transport to Australia has varied considerably over the years. At present, about 50 per cent, are being transported by air. Arrangements have been made with a number of shipping companies, including P. and O. Orient Lines, for passages by ship for the remainder. The main thing is to ensure that all berths in these vessels that come to Australia are filled, either by passengers who pay full fare or by immigrants who come to Australia under the assisted passage scheme. For the coming year beginning on 1st July and ending on 30th June 1966 the arrangement will be that the P. and O. Orient Lines will offer space for the carriage of assisted passengers as vacancies occur. This arrangement is on an ad hoc basis for a year. I understand that before the end of this year more vessels will be available for the transport of migrants to Australia by sea. In a changing situation it has become impracticable to make arrangements for longer than the coming year.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In a report in today’s “ Canberra Times “ there appears the statement that the Prime Minister did not reply to a request for an interview made yesterday by Dr. Robin Gollan of the Australian National University who was the organiser of a group of citizens protesting about the sending of Australian troops to Vietnam. What are the facts of this matter?
– I seem to have had a rather curious experience because I did not even know that a demonstration was on. Most of these demonstrations seem to me to be rather fatuous things, but apparently they are part of the extramural activities of certain university people. I did not know that there was a thing on. I certainly did not have a request to receive anybody, I understand that the demonstration was at 2 o’clock. Am I rightly informed?
– A bit before then.
– All I know is that this morning I read in my copy of the “ Canberra Times “ the statement that I had been so rude as not to answer. That is the first that I had heard of it, so naturally I inquired and found that the letter asking me to see the deputation was, in fact, opened by my secretary at 7.30 o’clock last night, by which time, I imagine, the demonstration was over.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Does he recollect that on the appointment of the Vernon Committee to inquire into the Australian economy he stated that the Committee’s report would be a matter of some urgency? Does he recollect that on more than one occasion in 1963 this House was told that the report would be submitted in 1963? Does he recollect that on more than one occasion in 1964 this House was informed that the report would be submitted in 1964? He recollects, of course, that the other day he was asked when the report would be submitted and he said that it would be early in May. I wish to know whether the report will be submitted sufficiently early for members of Parliament to discuss its contents during this session.
– Each time I have been invited to make an estimate I have not made one for myself but have inquired from the Committee. Therefore, I have been the conveyor of the Committee’s own judgment. The last statement that I made was that we expected to receive the report early in May. The honorable member will be delighted to know that 1 received it today. Therefore, I congratulate him on his memory and myself on the achievement.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question which is supplementary to the one asked by the honorable member for Moreton. While the Prime Minister is having inquiries made into the accuracy of the reports on the plight of the monks held by the Chinese conquerors of Tibet, will he also inquire into the plight of refugees from Tibet at present in India and ascertain whether we, as a nation, can give some tangible help to a group at present held to be suffering greatly but about whom very little is known?
– All I can say is that 1 will have some inquiry made into that aspect of the matter.
– I have just been reminded by my colleague, the Treasurer, of something apropos of the report of the Vernon Committee. I think I indicated at one stage that there would be the general report and then a second volume containing a lot of appendices, or whatever they might be. In my previous answer I was referring to the first report, the general report.
– We have to wait another couple of years, do we?
– I do not know. Does the honorable member suppose that I am holding up the second volume? How silly can you be? I want to see all the report as soon as possible because, unlike the honorable member, I am always willing to learn.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation: Whose interests does the International Air Transport Association, or I.A.T.A., represent? Does it represent the interests of the airways companies, of the international export and import cartels or of the people who use the airways? Is the Minister aware that, of all the points of embarkation in the world, Hong Kong has been selected by l.A.T.A. to grill and humiliate travellers in the matter of baggage checking? In view of the fact that Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. has been singled out and condemned by many tourists for its part in this skulduggery, and as great financial damage could result to that airline, will the Minister cause to be made an inquiry which will result in uniform treatment of passengers throughout the world, instead of people having to witness fellow passengers discarding belongings on the floor of the Hong Kong airport and being financially embarrassed when called upon to pay excess charges in respect of their belongings?
– I will refer the honorable gentleman’s question to the Minister for Civil Aviation, who is in another place, and see that he receives a reply as soon as possible. As he knows, and as is obvious, the matters that be has mentioned are not within my knowledge. If he would care to give me any further information along the lines of his question, I would be only too happy to pass that on to my colleague.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House that I am today notifying the Secretary-General of the United Nations that Australia will accede to his request for continuation of an Australian police element in the United Nations force in Cyprus.
The House will recall that, in response to a request last year from the SecretaryGeneral and with the active co-operation of the State Governments, Australia provided 40 Australian police to the United Nations force in Cyprus. They arrived in Cyprus on 25th May 1964 and will have completed their 12 months engagement by 24th May 1965. Thus the Government’s decision to accede to the SecretaryGeneral’s request for continuation of an Australian police element will require that the present members of the element be brought back to Australia and a new contingent sent to Cyprus in their place. The Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) has begun the necessary negotiations with State Governments to this end, and it is hoped that all the many administrative arrangements can be made in time to have the new contingent in place on Cyprus on 25th May or as soon thereafter as possible.
This second contingent, like the first, will be engaged in police duties which experience has shown to be more suitably carried out by a civil policeman than by a soldier. Thus they will perform liaison functions between the United Nations force and the Cyprus police and local authorities. They will undertake joint patrols with Cyprus police. They will establish joint checking posts and police posts to control and protect civilians. They will assist in the investigation of incidents and will undertake special investigations as necessary. In doing all this they will be an integral part of the United Nations force under the command of General Thimmaya, which is composed of 6,000 troops from seven countries and 170 police from five countries.
The function of the United Nations force in Cyprus, as laid down by the Security Council, is “ in the interests of preserving international peace and security, to use its best efforts to prevent a recurrence of fighting and, as necessary, to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions”.
The value of the police in helping to discharge this function has been proved by experience; and the Australian Government has been assured by the United Nations that without the police the United Nations force in Cyprus would have experienced many more difficulties. The present members of the Australian police element have served with distinction and have been a credit to Australia. They have received compliments on their work from several sources both in general and for specific tasks, some of which have been undertaken in difficult and trying circumstances. I am sure the second contingent will live up to the standard of achievement set by the present members of the element.
Continuation of the Australian police element, the cost of whose salaries and allowas -.’.w Mid transport to and from Cyprus will continue to be borne by the Australian Government, like the 412,000 dollars which Australia has contributed towards the cost of the United Nations force in Cyprus, is the outcome of the Government’s belief that the United Nations, within the limits of its power and its resources, has an im portant role to play in maintaining international peace and security. Although Australia is not directly involved in the Cyprus problem, the Government believes that Australia, as a supporter of the peacekeeping Tole of the United Nations and as a fellow Commonwealth country with Cyprus, should continue to contribute to the United Nations force in Cyprus.
I present the following paper -
Cyprus - United Nations Police Force- Continued Australian Participation - Ministerial Statement, 5th May 1965- and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I present the following report -
Territory of Papua and New Guinea - Economic Development - Report of Mission from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
I ask for leave to make a statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honorable members will recall that the Government invited the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to arrange for a mission of experts to undertake a comprehensive survey of the economy of Papua and New Guinea. A team of 10 experts, including economists and specialists in agriculture, livestock, transport, education, health and other fields carried out the survey in 1963, and its 500 page report was presented to the Government in October last year. Printed copies of the report are expected to be received later this month. From the limited supply of advance mimeographed copies available at present a number have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
The Mission was asked- to make a general review of the economic potentialities of Papua and New Guinea and to make recommendations to assist the Government in preparing a development programme designed to promote economic growth and raise standards of living. It was asked in particular to assess the resources of the Territory and the scope for their development, to suggest measures to expand the economy, to examine the effect of current economic, fiscal and administrative policies and measures on the development of the economy and to recommend in broad outline an appropriate allocation of resources likely to be available for investment. The Government is greatly indebted to the Mission for its thorough review of the resources of the Territory and for its valuable analysis of the prospects for economic growth. The report is ‘based on a comprehensive study of the Papua and New Guinea economy and will be of great benefit to the Commonwealth Government in its consideration of future policies.
The mission has recommended a five year development programme which places major emphasis on stimulating the productive potential of the Territory and on advancing the native people through education, vocational training and the acceptance of greater responsibility. The Government endorses these objectives which are vital if the movement of the Territory’s two million people towards self government is to be paralleled by steady progress towards economic self dependence.
The Mission’s main proposals for increased production relate to the primary industries of the Territory. The specific programmes recommended envisage a doubling of total existing plantings of coconuts, cocoa, rubber and tea and a tenfold increase in cattle numbers to 300,000 within ten years. A trebling of forestry production over five years is also envisaged. Export earnings from the production of the main agricultural commodities and forest products are expected to double within five years. Increases in production under the Mission’s programmes are to be achieved partly by investment from overseas and by expatriate settlers and partly by Papuan and New Guinea farmers. The Government accepts these programmes as a working basis for planning in the Territory. Numerous proposals and suggestions have been put forward by the Mission for the development of manufacturing industry, tourism, mining, power supplies, transport and communications. These are accepted by the Government as valuable guides for policy and action.
In the field of education the Government endorses the Mission’s view that expansion at the secondary, technical and higher levels deserves high priority so that increasing numbers of the native people can participate effectively in the economic advancement of the Territory. Education policy has been preparing the way for this for many years. The Government, along with the Mission, recognises that the rate of expansion of such activities as curative health services, primary education, public utilities and general government services, should be related to the capacity of the Territory’s population to contribute towards them. It also recognises the soundness of concentrating additional expenditures on increasing production from agriculture, livestock and forestry and on accelerating the advancement of the native people through training and education. In recent years a growing proportion of additional expenditure has been spent on these activities.
The Mission’s report expresses the view that the goal of economic self dependence cannot be reached for at least several decades even with the substantial economic growth which its production programmes envisage. It recognises that there will need to be increasing aid from outside, primarily from Australia, in the form of skilled manpower and funds. At the same time, economic expansion will require the native people to play an increasingly important role in development. For example, people in the villages will be able to do much by co-operating in building rural primary schools, houses, medical aid posts and health centres. Moreover, economic development over the next few years will require a substantial increase in the number of administrative, professional, technical and managerial personnel both in the Public Service and in private enterprise. Much is being done to accelerate the education and training of native people in the necessary skills. This process will take time and meanwhile to achieve the required progress in the immediate future there will need to be a concentrated effort in recruiting increased numbers of professional and technical personnel from Australia for service in the Territory. It is estimated that in addition to the present local and overseas strength of the Territory Public Service, to whose work the Territory already owes so much, about 2,000 more officers will be needed from outside the Territory, including about 500 qualified agricultural, livestock and forestry officers and 500 teachers for Administration secondary schools.
The International Bank Mission suggests that a service patterned on the British Voluntary Service Overseas scheme and the United States Peace Corps should be established to enlist people with special skills who wish to serve in the Territory for short terms. The Papua and New Guinea Administration in the normal course already offers employment for terms as short as two years and volunteers already work with the Christian missions in the Territory. However, the Government is examining the possibilities of the Mission’s suggestion in conjunction with a review of present arrangements and facilities for Australians to serve abroad in South East Asian and other developing countries.
The task of economic expansion places a heavy responsibility on Australia to provide the bulk of the skilled people and the money that will be needed from outside the Territory. The Commonwealth grant to the Territory during the financial year ended 30th June, 1965, is £28 million in a total Territory budget of about £45 million, and the Commonwealth Government recognises that the development of the economy now envisaged will involve increased Commonwealth financial assistance over the years immediately ahead. The Government will also give its full support for the provision of the necessary human and physical resources. It will also explore the possibilities of aid from international agencies.
The Government has accepted the Mission’s strong recommendation that developmental credit should be made readily available in the Territory to encourage rapid expansion of private enterprise and in particular to finance small scale native agriculturalists. The requirements in particular fields are being examined and specific proposals for a development credit organisation suited to Territory conditions will be drawn up for the Government’s consideration.
The Government has already done and is doing much to give effect to its policies directed to the accelerated development of the Territory. It has financed a rising level of Government investment. It has strengthened the Administration and has provided substantial tax incentives for pioneer industries. It has also announced a programme for university and higher technical education. Much has already been achieved in the very directions in which the Mission believes effort and expenditure should be concentrated. The Government looks forward confidently to further important advances - to new private investment from within and outside the Territory, to a rising tempo of activity by the Government and private enterprise, and to a rapidly growing participation by the native people.
Further advances of this kind are vital. The progress being achieved in the Territory in political development calls for a parallel move in the economic field. It is not the Government’s view that self-determination must wait until the Territory has a fully viable economy, but the present degree of economic dependence is extreme. If we had been hoping that the Mission’s study would show us a way of moving immediately towards reducing the gap to reasonable proportions, we would be disappointed. There is no escape from the reality that the only prospect of moving towards self sufficiency in the longer term is to increase economic dependence in the short term. There is no need to over-stress the contradiction between these economic realities and talk of early political independence, but this contradiction does have a significance that must be faced.
The Government places a high value on this report of the Mission from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The report has been the subject of close and serious attention by the Government, and it will provide a constant reference in the Government’s consideration of economic policies in the Territory. The Government’s acceptance of the Mission’s programmes for increased production in the Territory as a work basis for planning does not mean that the Government is committing itself to a series of cut and dried programmes or that it necessarily accepts all the Mission’s views. Moreover there will be no question of imposing decisions on the Territory without regard to the views of the people’s elected representatives, and as decisions are made on particular questions views expressed in the Territory House of Assembly on those questions will be taken into account.
– Will the House of Assembly be debating this report?
– It will be presented to the House of Assembly. Regard will also be paid to the opinions of people and organisations directly interested in the economic development of Papua and New Guinea.
It is the Commonwealth Government’s policy to encourage the rapid but sound expansion of the Territory economy on the basis of close and continuing partnership between Australia and the Territory. The Government is backing that expansion, but success will depend also on the strong support of people in the Territory, and Papuans and New Guineans will increasingly need to work for and accept responsibility for their own economic, social and political advancement.
I present the following paper -
Territory of Papua and New Guinea - Economic Development - Report of Mission from International Bank for Reconstruction and Development - Ministerial Statement, 5th May 1965 - and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
– Will the Minister give the House an opportunity to debate the other report on New Guinea that he has received and distributed privately, the Currie report? Perhaps we could debate the two reports al the same time.
– This will be a matter for the Leader of the House when arranging the business of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1st April (vide page 550), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– There being no objection, this course will be followed.
.- -These three measures that it is proposed to debate together represent a collection of legislative enactments designed to make effective, or more effective than hitherto, egg marketing organisations already in existence. I have never had any personal association with the egg producing industry, although politically I have had considerable association with it. I think the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) will agree that problems connected with the marketing of eggs have given Ministers, State and Commonwealth, great trouble.
The humble hen is a cantankerous sort of bird. She does not lay eggs just when you want her to. She gets very enthusiastic in the spring and cools off in the winter. This means that the Australian poultry farmer must keep enough fowls on hand to fulfil all winter requirements, and the end result is large surpluses which have to be exported at prices below local prices.
One might almost say that the humble egg is an essential requirement in the diet of all people. Its food value is worth while. Authorities say that eggs should be included in the basic diets of young and old - that they should be used in every hospital and used extensively. Weight for weight, egg yolk contains 10 times as much vitamin A and almost twice as much vitamin B as does milk. Eggs are an essential factor in sustaining life in Australia. They are palatable, enjoyable and not difficult to produce. The whole problem, as far as egg producers are concerned, has been to market profitably and at the same time to satisfy members of the public that they are getting a good article at a reasonable price.
The measures now before the House do not do anything about creating marketing authorities but I hope - I think the Government hopes also - that this legislation will contribute the missing link that has for so long been absent and which has so very largely been responsible for the chaos that has existed in the marketing of eggs. This legislation has been brought down because at long last the Government has been able to obtain the co-operation of every State Government. This has been possible only because there was a change of government recently in South Australia. The Playford Government, which was recently defeated in South Australia, was always opposed *.o giving assistance for a Commonwealthwide egg marketing scheme. That government has been supplanted by a Labour Administration, which believes in organised marketing of primary products. Now all of the States are lined up. It is ironical and worth noting that whereas in the case of wheat the States were brought into line within three years of the cessation of hostilities, it has taken this Government 15 long years to get agreement with the States on egg marketing. I do not know whether the Government tried as hard as it should have to obtain agreement. However, agreement has been reached and I hope the majority of egg producers will be pleased.
I do not want any misconceptions to arise in the public mind that this legislation which the Opposition is supporting is an attempt to jack up egg prices. This legislation will not of itself do that. I think the Minister for Primary Industry will agree with me. The legislation, however, will enable an equalisation to be effected of incomes from the home and export markets, as is done in the marketing of wheat, butter and dried fruits. This is eminently desirable. The man who wolfs the home market at a higher price and does not take any share of the export market losses, is not playing the game. It is obvious that not every producer can sell all of his eggs on the local market. It is reasonable that, in an organised industry, losses sustained on the export market should be shared equitably among all producers. It is hoped that this legislation which I have referred to as the missing link in our egg marketing legislation will provide the machinery to bring about equalisation.
We have had an equalisation scheme in respect of butter for years and there has never been any complaint from the public. The dairy producers are happy with the scheme. A similar state of affairs obtains with respect to wheat. But when we turn to eggs we find a long history of misery in the States. About 30 years ago in Victoria the first Egg Marketing Board was brought into being under State legislation. From its inception troubles arose. Egg producers were required to register their flocks. Eggs were supposed to be delivered to the Board but, owing to anomalies in the Commonwealth Constitution, it was found that an egg producer in Victoria need only tell the Board that his eggs were going to New South Wales and he escaped levy payment towards an equalisation fund which the Board was attempting to establish. That situation has persisted. In addition we have the situation of disloyal egg producers marketing their products through delicatessens and other small shops cheaper than the normal Egg Board prices. In Victoria those small shops bought eggs direct, from the producer - illegally at first and, later, under an egg producer’s licence. If you went into one of these small shops and asked for a dozen Egg Board eggs invariably - not always - the shopkeeper would say: “ I do not have any Egg Board eggs “. The customer might ask: “ Why not? “ The shopkeeper would reply: “ I would not market Egg Board eggs. They are too dear. I have fresh eggs straight from the farm.” Those eggs were eggs that should have been delivered to the Egg Board. The shopkeeper was able to sell them at less the price of Egg Board eggs because his supplier did not pay any equalisation levies to the egg marketing authority. This situation made conditions exceptionally difficult for egg producers.
In 1934, during an election campaign, a friend of mine who was a commercial egg producer sought my views about the Egg Marketing Board. I said: “I am for it”. He said: “That is right. So am I.” He showed me details of his sales of eggs through the Victorian Egg Board compared with sales to a wholesale merchant in Melbourne. Deliveries were identical in each week but whereas, in the case of eggs delivered to the Egg Board, gradings were accurate, in the case of eggs sold to the wholesaler far more eggs had been graded as broken or stained than was actually the case. The manner in which the Egg Board graded his eggs meant at least an extra ls. a dozen to the producer. This is one of the things the egg producer had suffered.
People who buy their eggs from a retailer who is supplied direct by an egg producer and who believe that in so doing they get a better article are deluding themselves. For a long time many producers sold only their best eggs to the Egg Board, and marketed through the little shops in the suburbs those eggs that were cracked, stained or otherwise of inferior quality. Consumers who complain of getting poor quality eggs usually blame the Egg Board but, frequently, those eggs have never passed through the Board. It is to bc hoped that this legislation will overcome this problem.
I recall that in 1947 the Labour Government, realising that wartime powers were about to expire, and that the very profitable contracts between the United Kingdom Government and the Commonwealth were petering out, tied up the Commonwealth end of the egg export marketing business. It brought down the Egg Export Control Act of 1 947. That was all right, as far as export was concerned. An authority was set up wilh substantial majority representation of the primary producers and with a charter of powers to be used by it. The authority controlled export levies, qualities and markets, and arranged shipping. I think overall its wo-k has been most satisfactory.
Let us look at some of the machinery that is being created by these measures. In recent times, the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia was set up. Some people have opposed it. The Council is the pioneer of the plan that has now been put before us by the Minister. Some people have said that the Council is not truly representative, but the fact is that it consists of representatives of every one of the State Egg Boards; and all the State Boards, with the possible exception of Victoria, have a substantial representation of producers. It could be said that overall the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities is about as representative an authority as could be found quickly enough to give effect to the Bills that are now before us.
The Poultry Industry Levy Bill defines a hen. Most people know what a hen is, but it must be defined in law. The Bill contains the following definition - “ hen “ means a female domesticated fowl that is not less than six months old.
I do not know how the age of a hen canbe determined. The age of a sheep or a horse can be approximately determined by the teeth and that of a cow by its horns. Perhaps some members of the Australian Country Party can tell me how to determine the age of a domesticated fowl. However, I assume that some regulation will be drafted to provide for the recording of the date of removal of chicks from the incubator and that some means will be devised to keep a check on the fowls that reach the age of six months.
– In other words, it will be a birth certificate.
– A birth certificate, certainly. The Bill defines “ levy “ as the levy imposed by this measure and “ Council “ as the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia. The Bill gives power for a levy to be imposed. It is, I think, estimated to be 7s. per annum, or 3£d. per fortnight per fowl. This will be levied by the Commonwealth and the proceeds will go into a trust fund, which is to be created. The revenue will flow by arrangement directly to the respective State Governments or to their Egg Boards and will then be distributed equitably to the various egg producers covered by the Boards. No particular rate is mentioned in the Bill, but the Bill does provide that the rate shall not exceed the rate last recommended by the Council to the Minister. How that will be calculated is a matter we will have to discuss during the Committee stage. The Bill also provides that the levy will not apply to any flock of fewer than 20 hens. I suppose ‘that means 20 eligible hens.
– That is right.
– That means that the householder who keeps 20 hens to provide for the family requirements will be exempt. That is a fairly reasonable allowance. However, possibly in the not far distant future, the health authorities may prohibit the keeping of fowls in the suburban areas of the cities. I would be very sorry to see any interference with people who keep a few fowls, but there can be no dispute that fowls kept in these circumstances are not very hygienic and that their residences harbour rats and other vermin. However, in this situation, I think 20 is a reasonable figure.
The Bill provides that certain specified classes of hens may be excluded from the levy. I take it that this provision refers to fancy hens and other types of hens that are not engaged in producing eggs for the consumers. Unless some provision is made to exempt these hens from the levy, difficulties may arise. Another problem, which is causing concern to some people in the poultry industry, is created by the fact that many fowls are raised for the broiler trade. It would appear to me to be unfair to impose the levy on these fowls, and authority is granted to exclude poultry of this type from the levy. The possibility of misinterpretation of the. purposes of the Bills is removed by the provision that agreement may be reached for the respective State Boards to cease the equalisation levies they have in operation.
– What about hatchery hens that are kept by the owners of incubators?
– I take it that they will be exempt. Provision is made to deal with that situation. I think the suggested levy is 3id. or about 7s. per hen per year.
– The guarantee is that the levy will not exceed that amount for the first 12 months.
– I do not think a limit is mentioned in the Bills.
– That is unfortunate, because opponents of the proposal will point out that no maximum limit is set in the Bills. I suggest that the Minister should consider including a maximum. It could be that irresponsibility could result in an impossible levy being imposed in some circumstances, and that would be utterly wrong. On the other hand, if a maximum were set, it might be found that the fund would not remain solvent and producers could not be dealt with as generously as we would like.
– The levy is imposed on the recommendation of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities, which must reach a unanimous decision. This is really the producers levying themselves.
– The Minister says that the levy will be recommended by the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities. But I am not too sure, however responsible the Council may be, that it is the authority that should have the official say. I know that the Minister has the final word. This is the only protection that is given, and I believe that a ceiling should be provided in the Bills. In the Lalor electorate exists the largest egg producing organisation in the southern hemisphere. That particular establishment is responsible for a good deal of the problems that exist in the egg industry in Victoria. Its proprietors have always fought sternly and effectively against the right of the Victorian Egg and Egg Pulp Marketing Board to impose levies for equalisation purposes. They have been able legally to avoid the payment of levies by simply sending their eggs into New South Wales. Whereas in some circumstances they ought to be paying a levy of 4d., 5d. or 6d. a dozen, or whatever is required to deal fairly with their fellows in the industry, they are dodging this responsibility by the simple device of protecting themselves under section 92 of the Constitution.
As far back as 1956 this Government appointed a committee, representative of all members of this Parliament, to report upon the need to bring the Commonwealth Constitution up to date in the light of the time that has elapsed since it was first formulated. Those who comprised the Constitutional Review Committee recommended that action be taken, through a referendum, to deal with this difficulty that has so plagued the organised marketing of primary products in Australia for many years. Unfortunately no action has been taken by the Government. However, to get back lo the industry at Werribee and similar instrumentalities, some years ago I was travelling by motor car from Canberra to Victoria. On a hill overlooking Gundagai a huge semitrailer was drawn up. The driver, who was out of the trailer, hailed me and asked me to give him a lift into Gundagai. I said: “I will be delighted. What’s the matter? “ He said: “ I have run out of petrol “. When he got into the car I said: “What is on the trailer?” He replied: “Eggs”. I said: “ Where are you bringing them from? “ The answer was: “Adelaide”. I said: “Where are you taking them to? “ He said: “ Sydney “. Just fancy, hawking eggs from Adelaide in Sydney, with all the expense involved, to avoid paying to the Egg Board of South Australia a levy designed to equalise returns fairly as far as the local market is concerned. That sort of thing has been going on for a long, long time.
To make matters worse, we have a wide variety of egg producers’ organisations, many of them at daggers drawn, fighting each other and claiming that they are the true representatives of the egg producers. You get nonsense being peddled such as I shall read to the Parliament. This statement was issued by the President of an organisation calling itself the Poultry Farmers’ Protection League. It reads -
The obvious lesson from the above-
He is referring to the board problems - is that by introducing further controls and extended administration through C.E.M.A.-
That is the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities - we are all, excepting south Queensland for the time being, committing ourselves to higher costs and lower returns.
That is pure speculation. After all, the returns will be fair to everybody. The article continues -
In seeking to amend our egg marketing methods, it would be appropriate to heed and devise our marketing methods to conform wilh the wisdom expressed by Dean Alfange when he wrote “ My Breed “.
Dean Alfange, whoever he was, wrote something called “ My Breed “ and I quote from it - 1 do not choose to be a common man, it is my right to be uncommon - if I can. I seek opportunity - not security. I do not wish to be kept citizen humbled and dulled by having the State look after me. I want to take the calculated risk, to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. If I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence, the thrill of fulfilment to the stale calm of Utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat, it is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid, to think and to act for myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say, “this I have done.”
That is the sort of nonsense that is being peddled amongst egg producers to try to induce them to fight these particular measures with all their might. But these measures are not designed to deprive men of their freedom. They are designed simply to see that common decency prevails between man and man, and that one man is protected against the predatory instincts of his fellow man. They are designed to do exactly what is being done under the great wheat stabilisation scheme, the butter stabilisation scheme, the sugar stabilisation scheme and other such schemes. Nevertheless you get that sort of tripe peddled, and people are asked to accept it.
I think that the average primary producer in this country values his freedom as much as most men do, but he is not unconscious of the fact that arrayed against him in the markets of the world are the monopolies, and that in spite of his preventive activities he is confronted always with price fixation and the member-robbing activities of those who supply him with his requirements. I have mentioned the Werribee concern and how this vast organisation has never borne its fair share of export losses by helping to equalise the local price. The Opposition is interested in this matter not only because it believes in the proposals. My colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), who represents the greatest egg producing area in New South Wales, will have something to say later about these measures. My valued colleague, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton), represents the greatest producing area in Victoria and he too will have something to say. On the one hand those two gentlemen represent what I might term the pro people and on the other I represent politically the antis. However, I am not prepared to bow to their will on measures of this kind, do what they may to me.
– The honorable member is doing the right and proper thing.
– I would hope so.
– You are not crowing, are you?
– No, I am not crowing I suggest that these measures will lend themselves to substantial elucidation and further explanation during the committee stage. I should like to mention in passing that I think that the Australian Egg Export Control Board has done a splendid job. The Act establishing the Board was first passed - I handled the Bill in this House - in 1947. It has been amended several times and was last amended in 1954. Within the ambit of its powers the Board has the right to buy from the respective egg boards, and the right to control exports on behalf of this great industry. Notwithstanding that some freedom might be filched from those represented by the Poultry Farmers’ Protection League, the Board has the right to see that the export trade is conducted in a manner that will be conducive to an appreciation in the export countries in which we market of the quality of Australian eggs. I hope that as time goes on the export market will improve. If it improves to the extent that the export price goes higher than the local price the mechanics of measures of this sort could be similarly used to equalise prices in order that everybody will get a share of the amount available. We hope that that will be done, but I am doubtful of it. On the other hand, in the interim, this is a measure that will ensure that there is a fair deal between man and man as far as the net return for eggs is concerned. It is not a measure - and I emphasise this point - to deliberately jack up prices to the public. It is not necessary that prices should rise at all. If they do rise, it will not be because of this measure. I leave my remarks at that for the time being.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I also rise to support this Bill. I would like to point out to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that no longer in his electorate is the largest poultry organisation in the southern hemisphere. I think it has shifted to New South Wales. Half of it is in the electorate of the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) and the other half is in the electorate of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam).
– J meant an individual enterprise.
– This organisation is run by one person. He has a fair bit of country. I believe that this measure will give stability to the poultry industry at a time when it is greatly needed. This Government has given a form of leadership to the industry that has been required for quite a while. I believe that this Bill will go a long way towards helping the industry to organise and become more cooperative between States and, in short, put the order back into orderly marketing that the industry has favoured for many years.
The egg industry is an important industry. It is worth some £67 million per annum to those engaged in it. Not only are poultry farmers involved in it but also stock feed companies, chemical companies and equipment manufacturers are concerned with, and affected by, the prosperity of the industry. In addition, some of our other agricultural industries, such as the wheat industry and the meat industry are affected indirectly by the prosperity of the poultry industry because the by-products of those industries are used to feed the poultry for either egg or poultry meat production. All consumers are affected by these matters. As the honorable member for Lalor said, this legislation is not designed at all to affect the price of eggs to the consumer but is rather to give stability to the industry which, in turn, will be of benefit, I believe, to the consumer on the local market.
There is a great need for this legislation. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said in his second reading speech that the egg industry is facing difficult times and that there has been a breakdown in the marketing of eggs on the Australian market. This has been caused largely by the loss of overseas markets which started some seven or eight years ago when Australia lost its market in Great Britain. Since then, we managed to gain markets in Germany but these have disappeared because the Germans themselves, like the British, built up their home production. We gained markets in the Mediterranean area but we are having increasing difficulty in selling eggs there because of the surplus of eggs in Europe. We have since opened up markets in Aden and the Persian Gulf region but we are also in danger of losing them because of surpluses in other countries. Our only safe area for the export of eggs as such at the moment are the islands in the Pacific area which are, quite naturally, the closest markets to Australia
The loss ot overseas markets, the loss of sales, and the necessity to sell eggs or egg by-products at a far lower price than is obtainable on the home market have meant, as the honorable gentleman from Lalor said, that higher levies have been placed on egg producers to meet these losses and to have them equalised. In turn, these higher levies have led to interstate trade by large concerns, as has been mentioned by the honorable member for Lalor, who related that he had picked up a driver who was carting eggs from South Australia to Sydney and whose vehicle had run out of petrol. There has been a great traffic of eggs between States under the protection of section 92 of the Constitution. The people who have been able to trade legally under section 92 have led in turn to a greater surplus on the New South Wales market in particular, which in turn has led to a higher levy, which has led to higher losses and the need to export more eggs. In addition, there are the illegal traders who, as the honorable member for Lalor mentioned, sell intrastate. These traders get up to all sorts of tricks when they pretend to sell eggs interstate but in fact dump them on local markets or illegally sell them within their own States. I think these facts all point to the need for this legislation.
In simple terms, the history of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board is indicative of what is happening in this field in Australia today. In 1927 the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board was first set up in the metropolitan area of Sydney. It controlled the marketing of eggs in the metropolitan area. After a few years, people from country areas started to invade the Sydney market, lt took until 1940 before New South Wales was able to get a board that covered the whole State. Today, it is from the interstate areas that problems are arising with regard to surpluses and the difficulties of the various egg boards. The egg industry is subject to violent fluctuations. The main cause of this situation is that, as against most other animal industries, the poultry industry has a very quick turnover. The bird has a very short life cycle. It only takes six months for a bird to come into production and she is in production for possibly 1 8 months after she starts. This is unlike the case in our other industries such as the wool industry where there is a longer life cycle. Because of this, in the poultry industry there are violent fluctuations and people can lift the number of birds very rapidly if conditions look like improving.
This legislation, as the honorable member for Lalor mentioned, is implementing th? State Acts which are already in existence. The proposal has been brought to the Government by the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia which comprises al] State egg boards including ‘he two egg marketing authorities in Queensland. These State egg boards prepared the plan which was referred to their State Governments. These egg boards operate under State Acts, and this Bill has now come before this Parliament as the South Australian Government has recently agreed to the legislation. There are great protections in the fact that C.E.M.A. will be giving advice to the Minister for Primary Industry on prices and matters of exemption. C.E.M.A. itself operates in a way in which each authority has one vote. No decision can be taken by C.E.M.A. unless the vote is unanimous. Any board can get out of C.E.M.A. by giving notice in accordance with its constitution, as any member of it can. So, I believe there is great merit in the method that is being adopted and that has been designed by the industry for itself.
The purpose of the legislation is to alter the form of the tax or levy from the basis of the egg to the bird. This measure W bring in the people who at the moment are abusing the industry or making profit at the expense of the legitimate and genuine farmers who are trading through the boards. The people affected by this are those who sell through the boards at the moment and who are forced to pay higher levies because of interstate trade that I have mentioned. Those who do not sell through boards at the moment and who are profiting at the expense of their colleagues in the industry will have to pay the tax and, consequently, they will be affected. This will reduce, and should reduce, the amount that the legitimate farmer pays. Other people who will be affected initially by the legislates are the breeders and hatchery men, but I believe that they will be affected only to the extent of their sales of eggs on the commercial market. The scheme will not have any effect on birds which are used purely for breeding purposes.
The legislation will cover those who are now tax evaders. They will have to bear their full responsibilities as members of the industry. I have no sympathy for them. I think it would be a good thing for the industry if all taking part in it contributed towards and bore responsibility for th” cost involved. Either we are going to have orderly marketing or we are not. If we have chaos, a lot of people will be very badly affected. At the moment, the industry is in a fairly precarious position. For the information of honorable members, I shall quote a resolution which was carried at a meeting of the Australian Egg Board on 16th March. This is a Commonwealth instrumentality on which there are members of all the State boards. The resolution was as follows -
That the Minister for Primary Industry be informed thai the financial situation of the State Egg Boards is rapidly deteriorating to such an extent that it is impossible for them to carry on without the immediate introduction of the C.E.M.A. legislation. It would be unfortunate if the system of orderly marketing should collapse within a few months of the introduction of the C.E.M.A, legislation. As it is estimated that a drastic reduction of egg prices (in some States up to 2s. per dozen) ‘ is imminent under the present conditions, we request that the Federal Government give urgent consideration to accepting the responsibility for the immediate implementation of the C.E.M.A. legislation.
This resolution was carried by experts in the industry, representatives from each State board, lt gives some indication of the present state of the poultry industry and of the chaos that will occur, unless some form of stability is given. C.E.M.A., according to its own constitution, has been set up to foster co-operative action by the State egg boards, to formulate and implement plans for cooperative action amongst the State egg marketing authorities, to try to fix uniform or fairly close prices between the States, and to obtain and tabulate for the information of the industry production and marketing reports, both local and overseas, and other statistical information. All of that is very valuable information which is greatly needed at the present time. Already, quite apart from this legislation, some effect has been felt by the industry in that there has been good co-operation between the States and the State marketing authorities - something which has not been known in this industry for many years past. We are now getting, or we should get very shortly, standard grades of eggs throughout Australia. This will enable the industry to obtain statistical information that can be properly collated and by means of which proper comparisons can be made.
I believe that there is an urgent need for this legislation, because eggs are now flooding on to the Sydney market from inter state. The chairman of the New South Wales Egg Board has stated that some 30 per cent, of local sales are being lost to interstate traders at the moment. Let us examine the quantities of eggs produced by the various States. New South Wales produces 51 per cent, of the total mainland production, Victoria 22 per cent., South Australia 7.8 per cent., Queensland 11.2 per cent, and Western Australia 7.5 per cent. Of the total mainland production of 111 million dozen eggs a year, local consumption takes 85.3 million dozen in the form of shell eggs whilst 12.5 million dozen are broken up into pulp and used for the manufacture of other food products. Approximately 88 per cent, of the total production is consumed on the local market.
New South Wales is exporting by far the greater proportion of the eggs exported from Australia. I think only about one-sixth of our total exports are in the form of whole eggs. Of that proportion, New South Wales exports some 50 per cent. As to by-products, New South Wales is manufacturing and exporting some 68 per cent., which is a far greater proportion than would seem to be indicated by production figures. This proves that the New South Wales section of the industry is being affected by the operations of people in other States, in particular by the South Australian farmers. The loss of markets for whole eggs has created a need to find markets for egg products, and New South Wales is the only State that is really set up to manufacture by-products other than egg pulp. The future development of the industry could well be along the lines of the disposal of egg products.
I hope that this legislation and the operations of C.E.M.A. will lead to greater co-operation between the New South Wales Egg Board and the Australian Egg Board. I know there are certain difficulties to be overcome, and I do not want to enter into an argument as to who is right and who is wrong, but it is to be hoped that there will be greater co-operation between the two exporting organisations not only in the sale of whole eggs and pulp but also in th the sale of by-products.
As I have said, the objective of this legislation is to implement and give force to the State Acts. Objections have been raised to the legislation and there has been a call by some organisations for a poll of farmers before the legislation is implemented. I do not believe that such a poll is necessary. To support that, I refer to the fact that during the two or three years in which the C.E.M.A. plan has been before us, each State egg board has had elections. In October of last year, the New South Wales board had its election, at which 10 candidates stood. Five producer members were elected. Not one of the 10 candidates opposed the C.E.M.A. plan. One candidate who was ultimately elected - Mr. Carter - was luke-warm in his policy statement, but he did not oppose the plan. These facts give some indication of the support which the C.E.M.A. plan has had from the New South Wales poultry farmers. In Victoria, only one member of the State egg board has been elected since the plan was drafted. He favoured the plan, as also did his opponent. In Queensland, five producer members have been elected to the State board since the plan was drawn up. Each actively supported it. I do not know whether the defeated candidates opposed the plan.
– They did not oppose it.
– They did not oppose it as the honorable member points out.
Each board can be removed from office on the petition of, I think, 10 per cent, of the producers. No such petition has been presented. By and large, the egg industry has supported the plan, apart from the Australian Poultry Farmers Association and one or two other organisations which have crept in. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) read a magnificent quotation from a statement by the Poultry Farmers Protection League. The A.P.F.A. is split on the issue. In the current issue of the “ Poultry Farmer “, there is a letter from the Thirlmere branch. Thirlmere is in the Macarthur electorate and is one of the largest poultry producing areas outside the metropolitan area of Sydney. The A.P.F.A. branch there is, I believe, fairly strong and it thoroughly opposes the action of the executive in calling for a plebiscite and delay to this legislation.
– It is not necessary.
– The delay? I could not agree more. Other objections have been raised by interstate traders, but, as 1 said before, I have no sympathy for them. They should bear their responsibility and pay their share of the costs of the industry.
This legislation is only a start. I hope it will bring order to the industry and will lead to greater co-operation between the States and, on the question of exports, between the various exporting authorities, particularly the main ones, the New South Wales Egg Board and the Australian Egg Board. All in the industry should pay equally so that all will bear their share of responsibility. The plan formulated by the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia has given rise to this legislation. I hope that this plan will lead to improvement of the quality of eggs produced throughout Australia, and that, out of this plan, ultimately will come better arrangements for support for research in the industry. This is needed by the industry. I make one plea concerning exemptions: I ask C.E.M.A. and the Minister for Primary Industry to consider exempting from the payment of levy birds used for research in the poultry industry. Admittedly, most research organisations produce eggs that go on to the market. But the research organisations, such as State departments and the universities, are not profit making organisations. They work for the benefit of the industry. At present, birds used for research are subject to levy, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria. I believe that in Queensland a certain proportion of the levy is remitted, although I am not too sure of the situation there.
In conclusion, Sir, I remind the House that the Minister, in his second reading speech, said that this plan had been devised by the industry, that its success depends on the industry, that it will place the affairs of the industry in its own hands and that it will enforce State legislation. I point out that until now there has been no objection to that State legislation. I support the Bills.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the House is debating the Poultry Industry Levy Bill, which has been introduced at the request of the industry, that request having been made through the principal producer body - the Council of
Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia, which is commonly known as C.E.M.A. The Council hopes that this measure and the associated legislation will bring stability to the poultry industry in Australia. Associated with this Bill are the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Bill, which will provide the machinery for the collection of the levy to bc imposed, and the Poultry Industry Assistance Bill, which provides for the creation of a Poultry Industry Trust Fund and for the payment into this Fund of amounts equal to the sums collected under the terms of the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Bill.
Let me first deal with C.E.M.A., the formation of which was a triumph for certain people who realised the chaos that faced the poultry industry in this country. I should like to pay particular tribute to Colonel McArthur, who, I understand, is the nominee of the Victorian Government on the Victorian Egg and Egg Pulp Marketing Board. His very fine chairmanship was of great value in the formative days of C.E.M.A. I believe that, but for his capacity and ability, the whole proposal could have broken down. It is right and proper that we recognise the work done by Colonel McArthur and his associates. We in Tasmania are very grateful to our representative, Mr. W. M. Patrick, who has done a great deal of valuable work. He has served on the Technical Sub-committee of C.E.M.A. and has done a tremendous amount in the interests of stability in the industry.
The formation of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities was a direct outcome of a meeting between the various State Ministers for Agriculture and the Chairmen of the State egg marketing boards in Sydney in 1961. I do not think there is any need for me to traverse the various problems that faced the industry at that time. The main point, I think, is that some 30 per cent, of the producers were not subject to the levies then imposed by the State boards. Another factor that caused a lot of trouble and chaos was the fact that the States were competing with each other in export markets and there was considerable interstate dumping of eggs by certain producers who did not sell their eggs through their own State boards. Indeed, the industry was in a considerable dilemma.
The purpose of the meeting in 1961 was to seek help for the industry from the Commonwealth. The industry, after its case had been heard by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and the Australian Agricultural Council, of which the Minister is Chairman, was told in effect to put its own house in order first and then to submit a plan that would be acceptable in the first instance to the Governments of the six States, because this was necessary before legislation could be introduced. As a consequence, C.E.M.A. was formed. It is responsible to the Minister through the Australian Agricultural Council, and it has been recognised as the official voice of the Australian egg industry. There is every justification for this recognition as every member of every State egg marketing board is a member of C.E.M.A. and most of its members are producers who are elected to their respective State boards by the producers in their respective States. A number of these producer members are hatcherymen and have interests in the broiler industry as well as in egg production. So the broiler aspect of the industry also is represented by C.E.M.A. to this extent. Indeed, Sir, it can be said that the Council is truly representative of the whole poultry industry.
So representatives of the industry were told to get to work. I pay tribute to Colonel McArthur, the Chairman of C.E.M.A., for his work. I understand that, on several occasions, the whole proposal almost broke down. However, after a great deal of work by many people, the Council has been able to come up with a plan which is designed to pool on a national basis instead of on a State basis the loss in financial returns sustained by the industry through surplus production. This plan was submitted to the egg boards in the various States and was approved by all of them in May last year. It was then approved by all State Governments, through their Ministers for Agriculture, last August, with the exception of the South Australian Government, the attitude of which was believed to have been based on political considerations. However, I do not think there is any need for me to go into that matter now.
It is interesting to note that the levy originally proposed was to be 7s. 9d. per year per adult hen, with the exception of the first 20 birds. The South Australian Government insisted on exemption for the first 50 birds. This would have excluded a further 1 million birds and raised the levy to 8s. 9d. per year per adult hen, a figure that would have made the scheme financially impracticable for producers. However, the new Government recently elected in South Australia agreed to the plan, but wanted the levy reduced. All credit is due to the South Australian Labour Government for agreeing to the plan. A reduction of the levy has now been agreed on, and the rate will be 7s., with exemption for the first 20 birds as originally planned.
The rate of 7s. per adult hen was not just a stab in the dark. C.E.M.A. set out 14 classes of costs that were to be covered by the levy. These include -
The experts on the Technical SubCommittee of C.E.M.A. worked out that all the costs listed would require a levy of 7s. per adult hen. So this figure was not just a stab in the dark. It was arrived at only after a great deal of research and much thought by the members of the Sub-Committee.
The C.E.M.A. plan requires all States to keep egg prices reasonably uniform. Thus, it will no longer be profitable, it is hoped, for producers in one State to trade in another State. I shall deal later with the position in Tasmania and some of the fears that we in that State have. The plan requires that all owners of hens pay their fair share towards meeting export losses through over-production. The C.E.M.A. will enter into a Commonwealth wide sales promotion campaign on a uniform basis. It has been estimated that a levy of a small amount - even one farthing a dozen - will yield between £80,000 and £90,000 throughout the Commonwealth for sales promotion. This plan will ensure also the grading of eggs in uniform sizes and qualities which, a., the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said, will enable the consumer to receive a better product.
It has been estimated that at present contributions in respect of fowls are not pa’.d on at least 30 to 33 per cent, of the eggs produced. Some producers now evade their financial responsibility for the cost of orderly marketing. It is only fair that the loss resulting from the export of egg surpluses should be borne by all who share in the profits from the industry. The C.E.M.A. will provide for this. As I said earlier, the Council will remove destructive interstate competition. In this context I shall refer later to the position in Tasmania. I must point out that the Council will not control over-production. It has never been stated that the Council would do so. This can be controlled only by economic conditions, quotas or licensing. Among the benefits which will accrue to Tasmania from this legislation is the removal, to some extent, of the ever present threat of the dumping of cheap eggs in that State. Dumping occurred as late as September last year when Tasmania had to drop the price of eggs by 1 s. 6d. a dozen to meet competition from Victorian eggs brought into Tasmania. Dumping in Tasmania has been made possible by the introduction of the roll on, roll off ferries “ Princess of Tasmania “ and “ Bass Trader “, which have enabled freight rates to be reduced to such an extent that it is economically possible to bring eggs into Tasmania at a reasonable figure.
When eggs came in from Victoria last September producers in Tasmania were forced to reduce the price of their eggs overnight by ls. 6d. a dozen. I remind honorable members that dumping reduces the quantity of locally produced eggs sold and thereby adds to the surplus to be pulped. This depresses the returns to producers still further. The proposed scheme will benefit Tasmania because the sales promotion campaign will be on a Commonwealth wide basis. Tasmanians often feel that they are handicapped in Commonwealth schemes, but in this instance the money that Tasmanians contribute will enable them to benefit from the Commonwealth wide sales promotion. Tasmania is a small State and possibly would not have the funds to launch such a scheme, but because of this legislation it will benefit from the Commonwealth wide campaign which is to be launched. Another important point about the scheme is that producers will pay their share in the interests of stability of the industry.
The consumers not only in Tasmania but - all over Australia will benefit from this scheme because of the establishment of greater price stability. There will be no violent fluctuations in the price of eggs such as we find today. It is important for the housewife when making out her budget within her husband’s wages to know that prices are going to be reasonably stable from week to week or month to month. It must be difficult for people to budget, particularly those who are elderly and live on the pension or on superannuation, when they find that eggs which have been priced at 4s. a dozen have suddenly risen to 6s. or 7s. 6d. a dozen. They could be denied this product, simply because of the violent price fluctuation and their inability to afford this item. Price stability is very important, particularly to pensioners and those on superannuation. In addition, consumers will be assured of a properly inspected and graded egg, instead of the cheap and nasty product that is so often offered for sale now.
I wish to refer now particularly to Tasmania. I remind the Minister for Primary Industry that in the preliminary discussions members of C.E.M.A. realised that because of the particular circumstances in Tasmania special consideration would have to be given to that State. It was decided that a refund would be made to Tasmania if that State collected more in fees than was necessary to finance the scheme in that State. We realise that we must contribute to the fund. I pointed out earlier the basis on which the levy of 7s. was calculated. We in Tasmania realise that it is only right and proper that if we are to participate in a scheme which operates throughout the Commonwealth we must pay some charges within the 7s. I think that is only fair. But it must be recognised that a small State like Tasmania might pay more in fowl levy than it recoups on its export pulp, on which there are losses. I understand that all other States agreed when setting up C.E.M.A. that if this should occur Tasmania should receive special consideration to rectify the matter. I remind honorable members that in an average year our export surplus pulp amounts to about 100,000 lb. and that the Tasmanian Egg Board has done a very good job in making contracts for the sale of most of that pulp in Tasmania.
I pay tribute to companies such as the manufacturers of Ovaltine in Devonport who have assisted this primary industry by taking supplies of egg pulp, sometimes at a price higher than they would be required to pay in other States. That company has purchased the local pulp at that time in order to assist the primary producers in its own State. When a secondary industry assists a primary industry that is associated with it, it brings with it harmony and assists in the economic development of the State as a whole. I pay tribute also to our friends in Victoria. The Victorian Egg Board has been very good to us and a friendly and satisfactory arrangement has existed between Tasmania and the Victorian Egg Board for many years. The Victorian Board has been taking our surplus egg pulp and disposing of it in Victoria while sending its pasteurised local product to the United Kingdom. I have already mentioned that we do not have very much surplus egg pulp in Tasmania. It would be uneconomical for the Tasmanian Egg Board to establish a pasteurising plant, which I understand could only be done at a huge cost, to deal with only a small surplus. So the Victorians very kindly take our surplus egg pulp and dispose of it locally and send the pasteurised egg pulp to the United Kingdom. This has been of great assistance to Tasmania.
I have looked through the Bill but can find no specific reference to the special consideration that we seek. I mention this to the Minister now as it may forestall an amendment which could be moved in another place to enable a reference to Tasmania to be specifically written into the legislation. Rather than that procedure the matter could be solved quite easily. When the Honey Marketing Bill was before the House a couple of years ago Tasmania sought from the Minister an assurance that some of the levy contributed by Tasmanians would be returned to Tasmania. We realise, in the first instance, that none of this legislation could come before Parliament unless the six States had unanimously agreed to the scheme. A couple of years ago we realised that there was a need to establish the Honey Marketing Board to stabilise the honey industry and we agreed to its establishment, despite the fact that.it would mean that we would be required to pay a levy and that Tasmania exported only a few tons of leatherwood - the best honey in the world. At that time we asked for a return of the levy to Tasmanian producers and the Minister indicated in his second reading speech that this would be done. It was a kind of gentleman’s agreement. In the present instance we simply ask the Minister, when he replies to the debate, to tell us that the levy will be refunded to Tasmanians. I know from some minutes from which I intend to quote that this matter has been discussed by C.E.M.A. and agreed upon, but I should like the assurance of the Minister that this course will be followed. He is probably aware of the agreement on this point because he is in charge of the organisation through the Australian Agricultural Council. Nevertheless, I refer to the allocation of funds, which is mentioned at page 5 of the minutes of the meeting of the Technical Sub-Committee of the Council held at the Belvedere Hotel in Sydney on Wednesday, 11th March 1964. The relevant minute reads -
In reply to a question by Mr. Fairbairn as to what reimbursement Tasmania could expect to receive from the levy having regard to the fact that Tasmania is not normally an exporting State, Mr. Giles made reference to Paragraph 3 of the explanatory sheet to indicate that the Minister may authorise the payment of fund money to the States in such amounts as he determines after talcing into account recommendations by C.E.M.A.
Mr. Hedges pointed out that C.E.M.A. has already committed itself on the matter of the reallocation of funds to Tasmania.
In another place an amendment could be made to include this matter specifically in the legislation, but I think it would be satisfactory - I know it would be satisfactory to the people in Tasmania who have received letters to this effect from the people who look after this industry - if we received an assurance from the Minister, when closing the debate, that the agreement that has been reached by C.E.M.A. to cater for the particular conditions appertaining in Tasmania will be carried out.
Another good feature from the consumers’ point of view is that sales promotion and advertising will not be nullified by bad quality eggs being offered to the public. The establishment of C.E.M.A. should result in a good product being available to the people of Australia, and that, together with an intensified sales campaign, should help the industry as well as the consumers. I wish to refer again to the matter of interstate dumping. Tasmanian producers look upon C.E.M.A. as an insurance against dumping. We hope that this object will be achieved by including in the plan a provision to keep egg prices within reasonable uniformity and to make it no longer profitable to trade interstate. However, some of our people consider that more safeguards must be provided.
In Tasmania we have always had a plan of the type of the C.E.M.A. plan. In 1958 a levy of 4s. per hen per year was imposed. Last year that levy was increased to 8s. per hen per year. There is no doubt that a levy per hen is far more satisfactory than a levy on eggs. Now, under the C.E.M.A. plan, in which Tasmania will become a partner, the Tasmanian Egg Marketing Board will impose a levy of only 4s. per hen per year to cover handling charges, the cost of grading and administrative charges associated with the Board. Producers in other States will not now pay the pool charges to cover export losses; they will pay only handling charges. Therefore, it will be possible for large operators to evade the State handling charges. I point out that a large operator in Victoria will pay the 7s. per hen Commonwealth levy; but it will be possible for him, by bypassing Melbourne for example, to avoid paying State handling charges.
Tasmania is to get 3d. a dozen price differential under C.E.M.A.; but we still fear interstate dumping because of various factors. One is the lower cost of the transport of eggs to Tasmania as a result of the introduction of the roll-on roll-off ferries. If it is possible for producers in Victoria to bring eggs over to Tasmania within that margin of 3d. a dozen, they will benefit. The second factor is the higher costs that we have to meet. For example, most of our poultry feed comes from Victoria. We have to pay an additional £7 to £8 a ton for poultry feed. That makes our poultry feed dearer than Victoria’s. In addition, the chickens that we import are £4 a hundred dearer in Tasmania than on the mainland. This fear of dumping is always present because interstate operators will have to pay only the 7s. levy. They will be able to evade paying handling charges, say, in Melbourne. They will be able to send eggs to Tasmania and get the benefit of the price differential of 3d. a dozen. At the same time producers in Victoria will receive the benefit of lower production costs. Tasmanian production costs and returns to the producers are higher for the two reasons that I have mentioned.
The Tasmanian Commercial Poultry Producers Association passed a resolution when the matter of this legislation came before it. I will read the resolution because we have been asked to bring it before the Parliament, lt reads as follows -
That as C.E.M.A. is relying on a hen levy to subsidise losses on export eggs and pulp, it is recommended that all State boards should also use a hen tax or levy to finance administration and grading charges.
The Secretary of the Association, Mrs. L. Turnbull, in the letter in which that resolution is set out, says-
We would urge that the Board should press for this system to be adopted by all mainland boards. The Association considers this is the only effective means to control interstate dumping and enable the boards concerned to collect funds from all producers. As this system has been adopted by C.E.M.A. as the most practical, it would therefore be logical for State boards to use the same system in financing their own operations.
This would be a wonderful thing. Producers in Tasmania will pay the 7s. Commonwealth levy and also 4s. per hen per year for State handling charges. If every producer in Australia paid the 7s. levy and also a hen tax for his State handling charges, that would be fair and just taxation of all producers and there would be no evasion. But, when producers in every one of the five mainland States still pay for handling charges on the basis of the eggs that go through the egg boards, it is possible to evade responsibility for those charges. Honestly, I do not think this proposal would ever be adopted by some of the States on the mainland. It is the ideal. We have this system in Tasmania, but Tasmania is a very enlightened State in agriculture and has a very fine Minister for Agriculture. I do not think the system of having a State hen tax in order to ensure a fair collection of the moneys and a fair distribution of the responsibilities of the producers will be accepted.
We are anxious that every one - even if he is not interested in introducing or cannot introduce a State hen tax - should have a look at the legislation that was passed at the end of last year by the New South Wales Parliament. The regulations under that legislation were supposed to have been gazetted just before Easter. They probably have been gazetted by now. They were held up just before Easter by an unfortunate happening; but they are probably in the hands of the printer now.
– That unfortunate happening was called an election.
– There was a strike in the New South Wales Government Printing Office. That was what held up the gazettal of the regulations. The New South Wales Government has introduced legislation under which eggs from other States must be inspected and graded according to the New South Wales standards. That is a very good provision, lt is aimed primarily at ensuring that eggs which come into New South Wales from another State, and which cannot be stopped under section 92 of the Constitution, can be inspected and graded in order to make sure that the quality of the eggs that the consumers receive is good. If people bring eggs into New South Wales over long distances, they can evade the State charges in their own States, but under its legislation the New South Wales Government is able to call for the eggs to be inspected and graded and to impose an extra charge on them. This extra charge, as eggs come over the border, will be an additional charge on the person who endeavours to dump eggs in another State.
I know that the Tasmanian Egg Board has sent for a copy of the legislation and has studied it. If it were adopted in all States the unscrupulous interstate dumper would be caught. First, he would be up for the 7s- a hen under the Commonwealth legislation, and when he evaded handling charges in his own State and tried to dispose of the eggs over the border he would be caught with the inspection and grading charges in the State where he tried to dump the eggs. We feel that this would make it uneconomic for him to engage in this practice.
One of the main features of C.E.M.A. is that it will endeavour to arrive at a uniform price for eggs. This, coupled with the additional charges as eggs go interstate, would make it not worthwhile for people to engage
In dumping. In Tasmania we have to consider the aspects of the New South Wales legislation because, as I said, we are up against a problem and we still fear dumping. We look upon C.E.M.A. as an insurance, but we will have to look at the New South Wales legislation to see whether it can be copied in Tasmania, because our costs of production of eggs are higher than those in any other State. The fact that we get a 3d. a dozen differential in the price of eggs could benefit Victoria because of the cheaper freight rates now applying because of the introduction of the ferries.
The Labour Party commends the Bill and supports it. We sincerely hope that although it is only a start in the organised marketing of eggs it will be a success, because we believe this is the answer to many of the problems affecting the marketing of primary produce. We already have wheat boards and a wheat stabilisation plan, We have a plan affecting the butter industry, and various other agreements have been determined, including one relating to honey.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- -Briefly, because of my great belief in organised marketing and in schemes with an ingredient of stabilisation, I support the Bill. 1 will not go over arguments that have been put forward already this afternoon, but I intend to touch on one or two points which are a source of worry to me personally and, might 1 add, to the many egg producers who live in my electorate. I hope, with the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies), that this scheme has some success. I certainly would not support it if I did not believe that this would be so. I am acutely conscious of the phrase used by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) in the second reading speech when he spoke of “ a measure of stability “ which can come to the poultry industry from this Bill. I believe this accurately sums up the type of action that has been taken, although I believe that the action was a little hurried because of the particularly chaotic conditions which evidently exist in some States.
Of course, in South Australia other factors come into the picture. I will not go back in history to deal with the stormy passage of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities over the last two years, but later I intend to touch on one or two aspects of that particular problem. I agree with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) when he described the difficulties that have occurred over the years. I support him, as I support the other honorable members who have spoken, in his references to illegal practices, including that of carting trailer loads of eggs over the border and back again in order to sell on the local market. These practices are apparent to us all as being not in the best interests of efficiency in industry, particularly when they relate to a perishable commodity.
I point out, because I happen to believe in it, that there is very real value to this country in the operation of section 92 of the Constitution. I believe that section 92, which enables free trade between the States, is of great advantage to some of the smaller States. I would not go along with anything which attempted to penalise any section of any State which wished to carry on free trade over the boundaries which exist within Australia. I think most honorable members would agree with my contentions in this regard.
Another point which I trust has not been overlooked is the importance of traditional markets to the poultry industry generally. Whilst I agree with the C.E.M.A. plan and hope that it will enable levies to be collected, I am equally certain that interstate buyers will continue to operate in the traditional markets in other States with which they have been used to dealing. All three speakers who preceded me mentioned that more people will be forced into paying levy and administration charges to their own State egg boards. With this I have no complaint. On the other hand I do not think I can agree entirely with the honorable member for Braddon that a great advantage will be gained from changing the levy based on eggs to a levy based on the number of laying hens. It seems to me that there are many instances - although 1 know the honorable member used the argument the other way around - when it would be much easier to retain identity and, indeed, a knowledge of the source of production if one could examine the supply of eggs reaching a country store or if one could track down eggs reaching a city market. The opposite may be quite simple in the electorate of Braddon, which I do not know intimately. It may be an electorate where one can account for the number of poultry and can levy charges accordingly. However, probably in Western Australia, and certainly in the Angas electorate, there are many farms, including those in mallee areas, which are extraordinarily difficult to contact. My point is that South Australia has many backyard poultry farmers and it will be very much harder to conduct proper inspections and impose levies so that the scheme will be equalised over a wider range of people.
I know that the intention is to impose a maximum of 7s. a head of poultry for the ensuing year for the C.E.M.A. side of the operation. This is a creditable and reasonable charge. On the other hand I am not so convinced that this will not lead - in many cases because of the orderly nature of the scheme and the stabilising of prices on the markets - to a greater production in Australia in the next few years. If it does, perhaps it will not matter; but I will come to that point later.
– Why does the honorable member think it will be a maximum levy of 7s.?
– What makes the honorable member think it will not be? That is the figure I have heard and if it is so I am suggesting there could be an increase in production. If there is an increase in production we will indeed find a greater surplus existing, and if a greater surplus exists we will in turn have to find further export markets, on the one hand, or a greatly increased home population to ensure a higher level of consumption on the other hand.
– What about dumping?
– I will get to that in a moment too. The South Australian position seems to have been bandied about in connection with this matter and I might say in passing that I do not believe all that has been said about it. If we have a greater surplus and have to find a wider export market, then I suggest that the levy must increase in the following year. If we envisage a big increase in production there will be a correspondingly big increase in the levy. This is an industry with relatively high returns on the local market and relatively low returns on the export market.
Let us have a look at the possible markets available to Australia either for eggs or for processed egg products. The situation is that clearly - and this is one of the really worrying features of this C.E.M.A. scheme - there are no further export markets available for Australian surplus egg production. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. BridgesMaxwell) touched on this point in dealing with the historic markets of the Australian poultry industry, but he did not touch on the situation at the present time. The picture, as I see it, is that there is a temporary firming of prices on the United Kingdom market and this is helping considerably for the time being in respect of our export returns. There are also available at present small markets in South East Asia, but it is quite obvious that these markets will exist for very little longer. Any emerging nation is invariably faced with an acute balance of payments problem and is then loath to use up its foreign exchange on the purchase of eggs, particularly if its population has been used to subsisting at a lower level still in years gone by. It is true that this industry is an easy one to gear up by comparison with, perhaps, the fruit growing industry or the beef cattle or milking cattle industry. It takes years to reach efficient production in industries such as those, while this is not so in the case of the poultry industry.
During a visit to Ceylon some years ago I met a geneticist named Dr. Amarasinghe, who, almost singlehanded, succeeded in raising egg production in Ceylon from a level 40 per cent, below requirements to a level 10 per cent, above requirements in the space of about two and a quarter years. Certainly he had thought out his plan before the start of that two and a quarter years period, but he managed to achieve those results in that time. I mention this because it is well to remember that any markets that we think we have for this export commodity in South East Asia will obviously be only short term markets. The honorable member for Braddon noticed this kind of trend in New Guinea recently. There is no need for emerging countries such as those of South East Asia to import eggs or egg products in the future. Many forms of aid are given to these countries, through the United Nations, by countries like Australia. Frequently this aid takes the form of helping them to bring their production up to the required level. As a matter of fact, a very well known expert in the poultry field, Mr. McArdle, of South Australia, is working towards this end in India at the present time. Although the large population of India makes the problem in that country greater than it is in Ceylon, increased production is bound to be achieved. In time, because of the very nature of the poultry industry, we will find that no further export markets will exist.
I hope the position is not as serious, in many ways, as I make out, considering the facts that frequently emerge when you look at consumption figures for the individual States. The honorable member for Robertson said that State acts are already in existence and gave this as a reason why growers’ polls should be held. In South Australia there is another act in existence, passed quite recently, which would enable a growers’ poll to be held.
– Yes, and it is supported by the present Minister of Agriculture.
– That may well be so. The position in South Australia is slightly different from that in other States. There are quite a number of people in South Australia who have become, shall we say, rather heated over the fact that an announcement has been made, after South Australia had agreed to follow the C.E.M.A. plan, that no growers’ poll will be held. It is unfortunate that producers in South Australia were led to believe that a growers’ poll would be held by a government that was later voted out of office. It is doubly unfortunate that the incoming government has refused to conduct a growers’ poll. I estimate that 80 to 85 per cent, of growers in the Angas electorate consider the action of the present South Australian Government to be high handed in the extreme, particularly as no mention was made in the policy speech delivered during the election campaign on behalf of the present Government of any intention to cancel plans for a growers’ poll.
May I add in passing that, considering the nature of the poultry industry in South Australia, I believe the ex-Minister of Agriculture had a perfect right to ask the questions that he did ask of C.E.M.A.
This is so because the questions concerned matters which must inevitably affect the egg producers of South Australia more than those of other States because of the farmyard, ancillary type of egg production that is carried on in South Australia. Many of the questions that were asked have not yet been answered, and for the sake of the record I will read out a few of them. The ex-Minister of Agriculture has repeatedly asked these questions and repeatedly they have remained unanswered either by C.E.M.A. officials or anybody else.
These are the kinds of questions that were asked: What was to be the minimum number of birds the owners of which would be subject to payment of hen tax? Would the price of eggs vary between capital cities? Would the Egg Board levy be deducted in the no.mal way on eggs marketed through the Board? How was it proposed to collect the tax from those producers who sold eggs outside the operation of the Board? What provision was to be made for the plan to bc terminated should producers disapprove of the way it was functioning? Would owners of broiler poultry be subject to the payment of hen tax? This question, of course, has been largely resolved. Then there was the final question: Would legislation be needed in South Australia to bring the plan into operation? There are questions among those I have enumerated which, to my mind, arc still unanswered.
Let me turn now to clause 7 of the Poultry Industry Levy Bill, which deals, again, with this matter of collection of levies. It points out that the levy is not applicable to owners of flocks of hens below 20 in number. I believe it to be the intention, although I cannot find a reference to it in the Bill, that a levy will not be collected in respect of a flock of hens producing eggs that, in fact, are not sold. Does the Bill mean, for instance, that someone with 200 hens can pickle his eggs - put them down or use them in a big family unit - without being liable to pay the levy? What does it mean? At this stage I am not sure in my mind. I would like these matters clarified.
Is a producer liable to pay the levy if his birds produce 500 eggs a day and if he insists on giving away all of his eggs? If he gives away his eggs to somebody who in turn decides to sell them, who is liable for the levy? I do not know that I particularly approve of the clause that deals with the nomination of hens to one owner whether he owns them or not. This seems to be a high handed method of dealing with the problem. I suppose that on most farms in my area the poultry would be deemed to be owned by the farmer’s wife. Suppose 50 per cent, of the hens were deemed to be owned by the farmer’s wife, who kept the proceeds from the sale of eggs as pin money, and that a further 20 hens were owned by her daughter, who did the same thing. What would be the position? I do not think the legislation is clear on this point. As I understand the legislation, all it means is that the authorities have the right where more than 20 hens are involved, to nominate them as the property of an owner who, I imagine, would be the owner of the farm. I do not think many of these matters have been aired to my satisfaction. I hope that I will have an opportunity to refer again to some of them in Committee.
If I may become parochial, I would point out that not one member who has spoken in the debate has ignored South Australia and its implication in the problem confronting the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia. Some very interesting facts have not been brought to light. The honorable member for Robertson got close to the mark when he pointed out that only 7.3 per cent, of the total production of eggs in Australia comes from South Australia. Despite this we find that many speakers in the debate, and many people outside the House, too, look upon South Australia as the big dark bogy responsible for gumming up the works and dumping eggs on interstate markets. But remember, only 7.3 per cent, of the total production of eggs in Australia comes from South Australia. My friend from Robertson is interjecting behind me. He has made his speech. I ask him to allow me to make mine. If I am guilty of mis-stating facts he may correct me later. For his benefit I point out that I am citing the South Australian Auditor-General’s report on the marketing of eggs. I do not believe that South Australia has been a bogy in marketing of eggs within the last two years for the simple reason that South Australia’s production is so small. In addition, sales interstate declined by 79 per cent, in 1964. There has been a big increase in the consumption of eggs in South Australia. Of course, there has also been an increase in total stiles within the State because South Australia is expanding rapidly. I will resist the temptation to make invidious comparisons with other States, but we all know that South Australia is expanding at a rapid rate. The Auditor-General’s remarks in the report to which I have referred make one wonder whether the particular type of stabilisation scheme proposed is the right one in the circumstances. In his report for the year ended June 1964 on the marketing of eggs the Auditor-General said -
Attention is drawn again to the fact that, if each State met its local demand at the average price obtained, the producer would benefit because of reduced handling and transport costs, and the consumer would not pay any more for eggs from local sources than he now pays for local and interstate eggs.
I consider that the decision of the Board in safeguarding unprofitable interstate markets at a loss of £20,400, while restricting sales in this State, is unsound.
The same argument would apply to egg boards in one or two of the bigger States. The report continues -
Extensive advertising, as undertaken elsewhere, has been advocated continually, and a forceful sales campaign aimed at increasing sales in South Australia could produce better returns to producers, and should obviate the necessity for largescale interstate transactions.
I agree that the honorable member for Robertson has made a valid point, up to a point, the Auditor-General’s report agrees with the argument used by the honorable member but I do not apply it in that sense. I merely point out that the argument used by the Auditor-General could well be the basis for better handling of egg sales in the future if a C.E.M.A. scheme were not introduced. Further, I cite the Auditor-General to indicate the type of thinking taking place in South Australia, the fact that interstate sales have decreased and the fact that South Australia’s proportion of total production in Australia is very small. I say without hestitation that many representatives of electorates in other States have been using South Australia as a chopping block. I do not think there is any basis in fact for their arguments.
Finally, I should like to refer to one section of the community that sometimes gets the rough end of the stick. I refer to the consumers. We, as Anglo-Saxons, accustomed to a high level of intake of foodstuffs, depend on eggs and egg products as a major source of protein. The honorable member for Braddon said advantages would accrue to pensioners and people on low incomes from the introduction of an element of stability into the market. But this, of course, is complete and arrant nonsense. For years, when there have been surpluses of any goods on the market the ordinary consumer has been able to take advantage of those surpluses and the consequent fall in prices. Very often people on lower incomes have been able to buy more of the particular product than they would buy when it is dearer. Conversely, they buy less when there is a rise in price. So I do not for a moment accept the argument that has been put forward. 1 hope that this attempt at orderly marketing will not lead to an increase in the average price of eggs to the consumer. However, I fear that it will. Therefore I do not share the enthusiasm of the honorable member for Braddon and the honorable member for Robertson. By the same token, I do not offer any complaint against the principle of orderly marketing or stabilised marketing schemes. I hope that all who have in mind to vote for this legislation will remain consistent and will look just as closely at more deserving cases and schemes better than this one when eventually they come before the House. I support the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. McEwen, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to seek the approval of Parliament to the signature and acceptance by Australia of the Protocol extending by one year the International Wheat Agreement, 1962. Parliament in J.962 approved the acceptance by Australia of the International Wheat Agreement which had been drawn up in that year in Geneva. That agreement runs until 31st July 1965. In normal circumstances, it would have been re-negotiated this year so that a new agreement would take effect on 1st August 1965. At the present time, however, most of the trading countries of the world are engaged in the Kennedy Round of G.A.T.T. trade negotiations in Geneva. In these negotiations the G.A.T.T. Cereals Group has been entrusted with the task of drawing up new world-wide arrangements which would regulate international trade in all major cereals and which, it is expected, would make redundant an international wheat agreement of the present type. In these circumstances, the International Wheat Council recently agreed unanimously that the most practical procedure would be to extend the existing International Wheat Agreement for one year; that is, until July 1966. Before this time runs out, it should be clear whether it will have been possible for the world’s cereals trading countries to reach agreement on new international trading arrangements for wheat and other grains.
As the proposed one-year extension of the current International Wheat Agreement is a direct consequence of the negotiations going on as part of the G.A.T.T. Kennedy Round of trade negotiations, I have considered it appropriate to take this opportunity of informing the House of the objectives of these negotiations insofar as wheat is concerned. It will be recalled that upon the initiative of the late President Kennedy, comprehensive negotiations were to be conducted among G.A.T.T. countries with the objective of expanding world trade, through the reduction of tariff and other barriers to trade and the creation of acceptable conditions of access to world markets. Significantly, these objectives were to be equally applicable to the agricultural sector of world trade and not only the industrial sector as had been the case in previous G.A.T.T. negotiations. The G.A.T.T. Cereals Group was established to negotiate international arrangements for cereals, including Wheat, as part of the total Kennedy Round objectives and negotiations.
Since 1949 there has been a series of International Wheat Agreements, each of which Australia has adhered to. The provisions of these agreements have been debated in this House on a number of occasions. I have arranged for copies of the 1962 agreement to be available on the table of the House for those honorable members who may desire to study the text of the agreement that is being extended. Honorable members will recall that the main purpose of the agreement is to ensure some degree of stability in the range of prices within which wheat is traded commercially. In this respect the International Wheat Agreement has served a useful purpose even though the actual range of prices designated within it has not been totally satisfactory from our viewpoint. It has long been recognised, however, that the International Wheat Agreement type arrangement does not adequately cover all the problems encountered in the international wheat trade.
In the first place, the International Wheat Agreement does nothing to inhibit the protection afforded to high cost wheat production. Highly protectionist wheat policies pursued by most industrialised countries have led to a shrinking or, at the best, a stagnation of their import requirements for wheat. The Kennedy Round presents an opportunity to negotiate for the containment of high cost production, thereby preventing the erosion of the commercial markets for wheat. Secondly, the price level at which wheat is traded internationally is far from satisfactory. I have said publicly on more than one occasion that the so-called “ world price “ for wheat, which exporters of wheat are obliged to accept, bears no sensible relationship to prices being paid for the great bulk of the world’s wheat production. At the present time, for example, the price of Australian wheat landed at German ports is about £25 sterling per ton. But when imported into Germany, this wheat attracts a levy of £25 sterling per ton to ensure that the price paid to German producers of about £50 sterling per ton may be maintained. The same kind of disparity between the prices realised by exporters and the prices paid to highly-protected producers occurs in many industrialised countries. Over recent years world prices for exported wheat have been determined by the subsidy and dumping practices associated with the level of protection afforded high-cost wheat production. In these circumstances, competition is not between producers, or exporters, but between national treasuries. A satisfactory world wheat agreement must ensure a better and more sensible price situation. What is needed is an effective floor price, which will assure efficient wheat producers a remunerative return for export wheat.
Another important area of the international wheat situation is the position of many less developed countries which need to import a great amount of wheat and will need to import much more in the foreseeable future. Because of their foreign exchange position, such countries are unable to secure their requirements unless wheat is made available to them on concessional terms. As I said in the House a short time ago, I take the view that, whilst the needs of such countries must be recognised and ought to be attended to, the responsibility should not fall only on those countries which happen to produce wheat in sufficient quantities to have an export surplus. There is a clear case, on the grounds of equity, that the burden of meeting the legitimate needs of these countries should be shared by all countries which have the capacity to contribute. This is another important sector of the international trade in wheat to which the G.A.T.T. negotiations are being directed.
Honorable members will appreciate that an international arrangement which adequately dealt with all the issues I have referred to is obviously not a simple matter to negotiate. A satisfactory outcome to the negotiations requires commitments and obligations to be assumed by Governments which impinge on their freedom of action in respect of their national policies. Obviously, therefore, the negotiations are bound to be time consuming. Much groundwork has been done, however, and in preparation for the resumption of the G.A.T.T. Cereals Group meetings in mid-May or thereabouts a strong delegation led by the Permanent Head of the Department of Trade and Industry has recently taken part in discussions in Washington with representatives of other wheat exporting countries. It may well be that, as the negotiations gather momentum, negotiations at ministerial level will be necessary. Meanwhile, the Bill before the House, providing for the extension of the current International Wheat Agreement for one year, is a straightforward measure which will no doubt command the support of all honorable members. Australian participation in the successive International Wheat Agreements has consistently had the support of the Australian Wheatgrowers
Federation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1163).
.- This legislation is an honest and sincere attempt to save the egg industry of Australia from chaos. On the evidence supplied to us from the various States it would seem that the industry is balanced definitely on a razor’s edge and that therefore there is a real urgency about the passing of the legislation. The Opposition approves of it. Of course, it sees difficulty and has apprehensions about some aspects to which I shall refer in my speech. A tremendous amount of work has been put into this matter over the last four years since this scheme was first envisaged by the State egg authorities. Not until four years later is the scheme to take legislative form.
I want to congratulate the Minister for
Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) for being open minded and interested enough to listen to the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities, and to bring this legislation before the House. As a matter of fact, the legislation would not be here now if it were not for South Australia finally agreeing to support the scheme. At this point I would say quite definitely that never has a change of government done an industry so much good as the change of government in South Australia did recently. The Playford Government was opposed definitely to the C.E.M.A. scheme. It held up the legislation for all these years, but a Labour Government took office in South Australia with a new, livewire Premier, Mr. Walsh, and almost immediately the South Australian Cabinet agreed tothe C.E.M.A. scheme.
– A Labour Premier.
– Yes, I want to stress that.
– Did the legislature agree to it?
– ThatI am not sure about, but it will, because the Labour Party has a majority in the South Australian Parliament.
I want to outline a few points about the Tasmanian position before I deal, first, with what C.E.M.A. does do, secondly with what C.E.M.A. does not do. and thirdly with some of the dangers that have to be watched. As the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) said, Tasmania is not an egg or egg pulp overseas exporting State. We send our surplus pulp to Victoria and that State has been very kind and generous to us. It has added our quantity of pulp to its own production, exported that much extra of its own and so far as I am aware has kept the Tasmanian pulp for local consumption. About 20 per cent. of Tasmania’s egg surplus is exported to Victoria as pulp after the Tasmanian market has been served. By the end of June 1965 £44,000 worth of egg pulp will have been exported to Victoria, or approximately 299,000 lb. of pulp in the last 12 months.
The refund due to Tasmania has been agreed upon by C.E.M.A. Tasmania is very grateful for this. It means that some of the 7s. a hen levy that the Tasmanian producers will be charged will be returned to the Tasmanian Egg Marketing Board to be distributed proportionately among the producers. I have before me a letter received yesterday from Mr. W. M. Patrick of the West Gawler Hatchery, Ulverstone, in Tasmania. On 1st May 1965, Mr. Patrick wrote to me as follows -
I have just returned from a C.E.M.A. Committee meeting held in Sydney when the question of (he position of Tasmania was reviewed. With regard to the request made by the Poultry Association in Tasmania may I be permitted to reiterate the following facts for your consideration:
Mr. Patrick goes on to say that throughout all the negotiations the other States were prepared to understand Tasmania’s situation. He continues -
As Chairman of the Tasmanian Egg Marketing Board I have attended -all C.E.M.A. meetings and voted on Tasmania’s behalf and I can assure you that I have every confidence in the plan in its present state, and would earnestly request you to give it your support . . .
I support it, as does the Labour Party. All of us on this side support the measure, but I want to mention a significant point in Mr. Patrick’s letter. He said that it is not to be written into the Bill that Tasmania is to have part of its levy refunded, but that this will rest on a gentleman’s agreement. All I hope is that for the sake of Tasmania they will be gentlemen. I feel sure that they will be.
The secretary of the Tasmanian Egg Marketing Board, Mr. Pennyfather, last week gave me some figures relating to Tasmania’s egg production. The total receivals at the Egg Board from June 1963 to June 1964 were 656,000 dozen. The receivals at the Board to the end of March 1965 were 450,400 dozen. At the end of February this year there were 275 producers in Tasmania. I might say that Tasmania is the only State in Australia to have a hen levy to cover the cost of its board and the equalisation scheme. The levy has to be paid by all growers with more than 50 hens. The new scheme will make a revolutionary change in Tasmania. It will increase the leviable number of fowls by lowering the number free of levy from 50 to 20. I think, perhaps, that the C.E.M.A. people should have another look at this and consider whether the number could not be increased to 30 or 40. That is a point I put forward for the consideration of the Minister.
In Tasmania, from 1st April 1964 to 1st April 1965 the average wholesale price of 2-oz. eggs was 5s. Id. a dozen; of U-oz. eggs 4s. Sid. a dozen, and of li-oz. eggs 3s. 0 1/2 d a dozen. From July 1964 to 24th April 1965 Tasmania has pulped 187,000 dozen eggs. Of those eggs, 4,700 dozen were 2 oz. eggs, 33,000 dozen were lir oz. eggs, and 13,000 dozen were 11 oz. eggs. The balance of 2 oz. eggs that were chilled totalled 16,000 dozen. Those are just a few facts about Tasmania’s production. The levy to be charged will be approximately 7s. a hen a year on the number of birds above 20 at the age of six months. About £4 million in revenue will be derived under this scheme. It is a small amount of money, but there is a considerable outgoing, too, at the present time. As the honorable member for Braddon said our producers pay 4s. per annum per bird. From now on as will be the case in all States, poultry farmers in Tasmania will be paying two levies, one local and one to C.E.M.A. The Board charges which have to be covered by the State levies now as distinct from C.E.M.A. levies are for administration, grading, staff costs, etc., and even the cost of inspections. The Board charges vary from 5d. a dozen in South Australia to Hd. a dozen in Western Australia. I am wondering whether C.E.M.A. can produce some degree of uniformity or levelling out of charges between the States. There might even be a reduction in these charges. Maybe C.E.M.A. can do that. 1 hope so.
One of the main reasons for the scheme is to stop dumping from one State into another State. We have had evidence from the firm of Carter Bros., of Werribee, that it takes eggs from State to State and even brings them to Canberra from Victoria. This form of disposal is helping to break down the stability of the egg marketing system in Australia. The Minister for Primary Industry, in his second reading speech, clearly outlined the main purposes of the Bill. He said-
In an endeavour to assist the producers with the disposal of that portion of their producion which is surplus to local demand, the Commonwealth Government has established the Australian Egg Board to market export surpluses.
He went on to say -
All producers who market through their State egg boards incur deductions, commonly called equalisation levies, from their gross payments, to meet the losses experienced from sales by the Boards in export markets. In recent years, export prices have been very low indeed and in some years production surpluses have been high. A high surplus means high equalisation levies and a lowering of the net returns to producers.
When equalisation levies are high, many producers avoid paying their levies by illegally selling their eggs intrastate or legally selling them interstate under the protection of section 92 of the Constitution. This means that any losses from export sales have to bc met by those producers who market through their boards.
This means that the men who play the game have had to meet the difference between the local price and the export price of eggs. As more and more producers have been avoiding this responsibility, the burden on the men who are playing the game is becoming completely beyond their capacity to bear. As a matter of fact, 110 million dozen eggs were produced in Australia last year. Of that number, 30 million dozen did not go through egg boards. That fact gives honorable members a conception of what has been going on. No scheme can continue to do the right thing by producers if so many eggs are out of its control and are bypassing the legitimate boards.
I want to stress one or two other points. As the honorable member for Braddon said, we have had dumping in Tasmania by people calling themselves interstate traders. I would rather call them interstate raiders. But they were trapped. They have been prevented from continuing to dump eggs in Tasmania. Our Tasmanian Egg Board was very quick to prevent this practice. Another matter I want to raise is this: What happens to prize birds under this legislation? There are many men who produce fowls for show purposes only. These hens do not produce marketable eggs. They are bred solely to be entered in shows. Some of these breeds in my State include Wyandotte, Minorca, Ancona, Black Australorp and Bantam. These special fowls are exhibited at our shows. A farmer needs a minimum of 40 fowls for breeding for show purposes. This is 20 above the leviable minimum. I hope that the Minister will see that this type of producer will be helped and protected under the C.E.M.A. scheme. There is another group of farmers I have found in my electorate who have fowls for the sole purpose of fertilising their orchards. I would like to call these fowls mobile fertiliser works. The fowls are used to fertilise orchards because the owners of the orchards are opposed to the use of what we call chemical fertilisers. I feel that these men should be protected also.
– What happens if the fowls lay eggs?
– The farmers have no interest in profiting from any eggs from these fowls. The fowls are there only to fertilise orchards. I hope that these farmers will be protected. 1 should like to refer to the facts that I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. What does CE.M.A. do? C.E.M.A. gives a measure of equalisation, rationalisation and stabilisation to an unstable industry. It reduces interstate trading and undercutting of other State Egg Marketing Boards by reducing the incentive to do so. In other words, those producers who have been paying levies in their States and are able to take their eggs by big transports interstate and undersell the Board price in another State will have to pay a levy under this legislation if it is properly policed. If they pay the levy, interstate dumping will lose its attraction. C.E.M.A. will check the worst features of interstate dumping which, though legal constitutionally, is at the expense of poultry men loyal to organised marketing. The Council introduces an overall Commonwealth levy of approximately 7s. per hen per annum, as I have mentioned, lt gives long term protection against disastrous returns due to low export prices and a measure of orderly marketing desperately needed in a disorderly industry. C.E.M.A. reduces the possibility of speculation and exploitation. It forces all producers to pay a levy on a Federal basis and so they share in the task of equalising local and overseas prices and share equally in the benefits and responsibilities of orderly marketing. State levies, therefore, are no longer raised for equalisation purposes but are raised purely for administrative purposes in each State. This will stop one section of the industry from enjoying benefits without accepting the responsibilities that go with them. C.E.M.A. establishes a form of uniformity in the grading of eggs and egg quality.
I might mention that, on the dumping angle, I understand from the Chairman of C.E.M.A., who is in Canberra at this moment, that the Victorian Parliament has legislation before it similar to that in New South Wales which endeavours to check the worst offenders in regard to interstate dumping of eggs. That is an interesting piece of information.
My next point is in relation to what C.E.M.A. does not do. Let us be quite clear about this. C.E.M.A. does not guarantee egg prices to producers. It does not give a Commonwealth subsidy for the industry, lt does not completely stop interstate egg dumping and trade. C.E.M.A. has said that it does not intend to do that, because under section 92 o. the Constitution, this could not be done without a change in the Constitution. C.E.M.A. does not provide funds for the administration of the State Egg Boards. These funds must be found by separate State levies. So, from now on, there will be two levies in each State of the Commonwealth. There will be a State levy - a hen tax or a fresh egg tax - and the Commonwealth levy on hens.
I want to quote from the “ Poultry Farmer “ which has a fund of information about this legislation, especially the history of it which dates back to the beginning of this scheme. It gives details of the important representations to the Minister and the Minister’s replies, etc. It is one of the best documented primary producer journals that I have ever come across. At page 13 of the edition of 3rd April 1965, it says -
The State Egg Boards will continue to charge an Administration and Handling and Selling Charge, but no equalisation charge.
Therefore, there will be two levies to be paid. C.E.M.A. does not outline in detail how this scheme is to operate.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I had dealt with what the C.E.M.A. scheme does for the industry and I was in the process of referring to what it does not do for the industry. First, it does not give a guaranteed price for eggs. Secondly, the Commonwealth does not subsidise the industry in any way. Thirdly, the scheme does not completely stop interstate egg dumping and trading; and fourthly, it does not provide funds for the administration of State egg boards. I feel that this should be looked at, as the States will have a good deal of extra work to do. The fifth point is that we do not know in detail how the scheme is to operate. Very much is left to the Minister and to regulations. The sixth point is that the scheme places no obligation on the Commonwealth Government to contribute one penny towards the cost of the scheme. In fact, the Commonwealth boasts that it does not have to contribute anything towards it. I think the Commonwealth is getting this scheme on the cheap. I believe that it should subsidise the State egg boards for the work entailed in collecting the money raised by the levies and paying it to the Common wealth, which, in turn, will pay it back to the State egg boards. This will involve the employment of increased staffs by the boards. I know that the chairman of the Tasmanian board envisages the employment of at least one more person on his staff. It may be necessary to employ two more if the scheme is to be policed efficiently. We must not forget that State officials will be collecting two levies from now on - one for the State board and one for the C.E.M.A.
The seventh point is that the scheme does not provide for an advertising programme in Australia to encourage local consumption. I feel that this is one area in which the Commonwealth could play a very important role in assisting the industry. If we could advertise adequately throughout Australia, encouraging folk to eat eggs, we could perhaps do much to solve one of the greatest problems facing the industry - that of periodical over-production. There is no overproduction if there is over-consumption. Advertising helps considerably in increasing consumption. In Great Britain there is a very fine advertising campaign to help the British egg industry. Perhaps here we could adopt some such slogan as: “ Start the day with an egg “. I mean to eat, of course, not to throw. Another slogan could be: “ Eat an egg a day “. Perhaps we could have a competition and offer a prize for the best slogan submitted. I am not joking about this matter; I am very serious. Unless we can increase the consumption of eggs in Australia, we will have periods of overproduction which could do great damage to the poultry farmers. I have mentioned some of the things that the C.E.M.A. does not do.
I come now to the dangers we will have to watch for in the industry. The first of these relates to interstate trading practices, because some of the smart boys may still find loopholes in the Acts. These people will have to be watched. Secondly, the high cost of grading could lead individual poultrymen to grade their own eggs and sneak them out of the State. I am informed that these folk can grade their own eggs for 3d. a dozen cheaper than the egg boards can do. This is something that will have to be watched. Thirdly, inefficient policing of regulations and slack and inefficient inspectors or an insufficient number of inspectors could give rise to serious problems. The success of the scheme will depend upon inspectors counting all the hens in all the registered poultry yards of Australia. That is going to be a tremendous task for the inspectors. This question is dealt with in a recent issue of the “ Poultry Farmer “, which contains this statement on page 13 -
The policing of a plan should be done by an Inspectorial body under the control of C.E.M.A. This will not cause added expense, because the State Boards will not need Inspectors if it is done by C.E.M.A.
That statement is contained in an article written by Mr. Triggs. He makes the point that the C.E.M.A. organisation will take over inspection. But there will not be enough inspectors. Take Carter Brothers of Werribee alone, as an example. Why, a team of inspectors would be needed to count all their chooks. Carter Brothers have avoided the payment of levies in Victoria for years, as is well known. They have got away with blue murder. The proposal now is to count the hens. Hitherto, the levy raised in Victoria was an egg levy. The proposal now is to collect a hen levy all over Australia.
– They will have to count them when they are on the roost. They cannot count them in the day time.
– That is very true. The inspectors will have to be very efficient indeed. Recently in this Parliament we passed a measure dealing with the meat industry. Under that measure, meat inspectors were appointed throughout the Commonwealth in an endeavour to tighten up on our meat killing works. The inspections done by the C.E.M.A. will have to be along similar lines. We shall need more and very efficient inspectors. They will have to be very courageous men. Some of them will have to pack a gun because the inspector will be the most unpopular man in his district next to the Commissioner of Taxation. The inspectors will be required to check the number of hens, because the levy is based on the number of hens above 20 owned by a producer. This will be a constant and difficult task. I would not want to be an inspector even if the salary offered me were twice what I am getting at the present time.
– I would not like to tempt the honorable member.
– It is up to the Minister and the C.E.M.A. to make me an offer.
The next danger that we shall have to watch is over-production resulting from a feeling of greater security brought about by this legislation, which does provide some form of sound and orderly marketing. If we have a greatly increased number of hens, this will lead to greatly increased egg production, indeed to over-production, and the foundation of the scheme will be destroyed if we have undue over-production.
The fifth danger is that we may have to introduce restrictive measures later to reduce production. A sixth danger is that too much control, too many decisions by the Minister by way of regulations, could have a retarding and irritating effect. I want to avoid irritation above all things in this industry. If the inspectors are officious rather than efficient, they will create all kinds of tensions among the egg producers of Australia, and this could have disastrous consequences. The final danger to guard against is the collection of the hen levy at too frequent intervals, for this could cause undue strain on the producers, especially on the small producers.
One important producer in my electorate made a very fitting comment to me on the phone. He said: “Despite the C.E.M.A., efficiency is still the key to economic returns “. I think we can all agree with that. This man is fully in favour of the C.E.M.A. This proposal opens the door to a new order for the egg industry of Australia, but the real solution goes back to individual responsibility, to individual efficiency on the producer level. We must not forget the hens, either, for they play an important part. Therefore, the key to economic returns is not necessarily the C.E.M.A. This body provides an industry organisation to help the producer, but it does not make the producer any more efficient. To become efficient is the responsibility of the producer. There is no doubt that that is the key to the whole problem.
I trust that the high hopes held for the C.E.M.A. will be realised. But constant vigilance on the part of the Minister and the leaders of the C.E.M.A. will be essential. As I have said - I stress it again - without an adequate staff of courageous and efficient inspectors, and without intensive inspection, the scheme will fail.
.- Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure this evening to support these three Bills that we are now discussing, because I realise the difficulties that have confronted the egg industry for a considerable time. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has pointed out some of the difficulties that he can see in relation to these measures. However, difficulties have always appeared when any orderly marketing plan has been introduced throughout our history. No doubt, this sort of situation has always arisen in other parts of the world in the introduction of such schemes. Considerable difficulties are associated with the introduction of orderly marketing schemes and no doubt always will be. Let me point out to the House, however, that in most instances the difficulties would be far greater if orderly marketing were not introduced by legislation of the kind that we have before us this evening. Over the years, we have seen the chaos caused not only in the egg industry but also in many other industries by lack of organisation and the absence of orderly marketing. We hope by these measures to overcome at least some of these difficulties for the egg industry.
I believe that governments, both Federal and State, always have an obligation to do what they can to assist primary industries, by legislation of this sort, in organising the sale of their products in various markets, both at home and overseas, to the best advantage of the individual grower and of the nation as a whole, not forgetting in particular the consumer. We have an obligation also to assist in whatever way we can in research work and promotion activities. The Commonwealth Government has done this in many fields over the years, and no doubt there is room in the egg industry also for further research and for promotion activities to expand its markets. However, nothing that I have said lessens the obligations of the industry itself. It always seems to me that in situations such as this the greatest obligation of all rests on the industry itself, especially on those who are regarded as its voice. The industry has an obligation to help the Government in the discharge of its obligation and to assist itself in sorting out these problems and establishing a worthwhile scheme of orderly marketing.
Perhaps, before I go further, we should have a look at the present situation. 1 shall discuss it very briefly. The Australian Egg Board, in its interim statement of activities for the financial year 1963-64, described the sales situation that has existed in recent times. Referring to the year 1963-64, the interim statement reports -
Sales of eggs in shell on the Australian market increased to approximately 8S.3 million dozen, a rise of 2.5 million dozen or 3 per cent, compared with the previous year. In addition, approximately 12 million dozen were broken out for local sale, so that of the season’s production of 111.2 million dozen, approximately 97.3 million dozen or 87.5 per cent, were marketed for consumption in Australia. Stocks on hand at 27th June 1964 exceeded stocks at the start of. the season by 1.4 million dozen and sundry disposals amounted to .5 million dozen. The balance of the season’s production, 12 million dozen, was packed for export from Australia.
This indicates the relatively small proportion of export sales compared to overall production.
Let us now consider the situation of the producers, with particular reference to the average price paid to them for all grades of eggs received at packing floors for the six months ended 2nd January 1965. There was a drop in prices in all States, Mr. Speaker. Apparently, two boards operate in Queensland. In central Queensland, there was a decline of 2.19d. a dozen; in southern Queensland, 7.50d. per dozen; in New South Wales, 6.31d. a dozen; in Victoria, 7.80d. a dozen; in South Australia, 5.95d. a dozen; and in Western Australia - my home State - 5.99d. a dozen. This gives an average decline throughout Australia of 6.68d. a dozen.
The statistics indicate to me that, on the one hand, production has risen - surely we must encourage the expansion of production if we can in the world of today - and, on the other hand, returns to producers in Australia have fallen considerably. So, as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) intimated in his second reading speech on the Poultry Industry Levy Bill, it is time we did something to help the industry to get back on its feet. To this end, the Minister has introduced the three Bills now before us, and I believe that they will do a great deal for the industry. As I have mentioned, Mr. Speaker, we should encourage expansion of the production of foodstuffs throughout Australia. This may seem a little difficult in the circumstances of the egg industry. However, the world today is crying out for food. Over the years, we have proved beyond the shadow of doubt that properly organised marketing, of which the wheat industry perhaps provides a perfect example, ensures the disposal of surplus production throughout the world by one means or another. Therefore, I suggest that we should do everything possible to achieve properly organised marketing for the egg industry. 1 understand that the egg marketing boards throughout Australia are unanimous in their view that the scheme proposed by the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia provides the only means of saving the industry. When these Bills were introduced, I received from the Chairman of the Western Australian Egg Marketing Board and the President of the Western Australian Poultry Farmers Association a telegram in these terms -
Current legislation to stabilise Australian egg industry on national basis has unanimous support Western Australian egg industry.
This indicates to me quite clearly that the industry organisations in Western Australia are solidly behind the C.E.M.A. plan. I notice, also, that the Chairman of the Egg Marketing Board for the State of New South Wales has written quite extensively about the plan. Obviously, he is well and truly behind it. In the issue of 3rd April 1965 of the “ Poultry Farmer “, which is the official organ of the New South Wales Board, he wrote -
The Egg Marketing Boards throughout Australia unanimously see in the C.E.M.A. legislation the only means of saving the industry from an undeserving fate. Unfortunately, the forces of destruction, disguised as freedom fighters, are confusing poultry farmers on the real meaning of the C.E.M.A. plan. Therefore, compiled in this journal are all the facts and information published to show that this criticism and confusion is unfounded. It is most significant that among those who are complaining are many who do not support their marketing board, but indulge in interstate trading. Some of them even boast of it.
In spite of their criticism they have no alternative to offer except chaos!
As on so many occasions when organisations and governments have set out to improve the situation of an industry, various individuals and sections in the industry criticise the organisation that is trying to improve the situation or the legislation that is proposed but offer no alternative.
C.E.M.A. is composed of the members of all State egg marketing boards, the majority of whom are producers elected by producers. This is an important part of organised marketing of primary industries where boards are set up by an industry to look after the industry and to take on the responsibilities.
When all the egg boards throughout Australia are behind this legislation - and obviously they must have given it considerable thought - it must- be reasonably sound. Further, the industry believes that there is a need for it. We find that in most cases, however, the opposition to a scheme such as this comes from an individual very often. It is not a matter of many individuals united in opposition. Frequently we find that such an opposition is on behalf of an individual and is not for the good of the industry. I believe that a marketing scheme of this nature must be by the industry for the industry and on behalf of the industry. I believe that such a scheme is for the good of all and not merely for the good of the industry. It benefits the whole nation. I suggest that the opposition to this scheme that we have seen or read about from time to time has come from producers who wish to accept the benefits of organised marketing without contributing to the cost of disposing of surplus egg production. We have seen in various States that those who have been by-passing the egg boards have not been contributing to make up the losses that we encounter when selling eggs overseas. In other words, those producers want the best of both worlds. I do not think that anybody is really entitled to have this.
When we set out to organise an industry and to stabilise it everybody should be in the scheme. I believe that it is only fair that it should be a matter of one in, all in, and I believe also that we, in turn, should support them. I wonder whether the opponents of this measure would be prepared to accept the world price for their products. I realise that it is difficult in these days to establish a world price, but would they be prepared to accept the overseas price for their product? If we had no organisation in Australia we would soon find that the overseas price would become the local price. What has been the experience in the fat lamb industry?
– We can sell our fat lambs.
Mi. HALLET!. - Even if we can sell them we find the situation arising every year that immediately the local market reaches saturation point and we have to move into the export market, the local price received by producers comes down to the prices gained on the London market. That is the market on which our prices are based. Only arrangements such as the 15 year meat agreement have been able to assist us with the sale of our meat. I remind honorable members that a similar situation applies to the marketing of pig meats. What would happen if a similar situation applied in respect of egg marketing? Immediately the market reached saturation point in Australia we would be selling eggs at world parity. This is the situation we would face without organisation.
Nobody who has been in the business of marketing primary products for many years will argue against the statement that where there is no organised marketing the producer finishes up by selling a surplus at world parity. There is one point that I want to mention very clearly, because I believe that it is extremely important. The Minister for Primary Industry has mentioned in his second reading speech that when the home market is saturated we move into an export field. He said -
In an endeavour to assist the producers with the disposal of that portion of their production which is surplus to local demand, the Commonwealth Government has established the Australian Egg Board to market egg surpluses. All State Egg Boards are enabled to use the facilities of the Australian Egg Board, to avoid export competition amongst themselves, if they so desire.
Although this is a terribly important aspect of the egg marketing scheme, it is not included in the C.E.M.A. proposals. There is no doubt whatever that by selling through a single authority the producers will receive a higher return. In addition, the consumer could benefit by being able to obtain eggs more cheaply. But, as I have said, the producers would have every opportunity to benefit, lt may be asked why this is so. In the egg industry over the years we have seen what may be called severe competition between the States which have been trying to sell eggs overseas. This, if I may say so, is quite crazy.
I like competition, but if we want to move into the world markets - and markets are very hard to find at this time - surely as a nation selling a single commodity we should move in as a united force and not as a split force, each part competing with the other. This method will never get us anywhere. In this situation the States have been competing for one market and have been cutting their prices to the detriment of all concerned. I repeat that this can have only a detrimental effect on the home price and an effect which is to the detriment of both the consumer and the producer. If there is no legislation to force the States to sell through the Australian Egg Board, there is definitely an obligation on the State egg boards to get together and to organise for the sales in the external markets in a sane and sensible manner. This is an obligation which I feel sure the Minister and other honorable members will be watching very carefully to see that the various boards throughout Australia do exactly this.
The machinery is available for the States to market through the Australian Egg Board. There is no excuse whatever for them to go into world markets as separate entities and to cut the price of eggs overseas. Such action is not only detrimental to us but also confusing to buyers in various parts of the world. No doubt they like to know where they stand, as we do. They want to know where they can purchase their eggs, at what price and in what quantities. In other words, once we enter an overseas market we will find that buyers want security, just as we want security. There is only one way to achieve that, as has been proved time and time again. The only way is to market a bulk commodity, to sell by a combined effort. Many people will not agree with that statement, but let us not return to that chaotic situation that we had in the marketing of some of our bulk commodities some years ago. The people who will suffer as a result will be mainly Australians, not the least of whom will be Australian housewives.
There has been some discussion from time to time about the situation in which the broiler growers will find themselves. This is quite an important factor, not only in respect of this legislation but also in regard to other measures. An honorable member asked today where these people will stand. Can we not establish an organisation under C.E.M.A. to protect this industry? As I said earlier, with this measure there will obviously be difficulties. The plight of the broiler growers is one difficulty that will have to be overcome. I understand that already there have been numerous discussions with people in this industry and with the C.E.M.A. organisation and I believe that some agreement has been reached. There is nothing unusual about this, nor is there anything unusual about the difficulties referred to by the honorable member for Wilmot. This is why we have organisations and why we have boards - to sort out these difficulties. We have encountered these difficulties many times before.
With these few comments I have much pleasure in supporting the measure before the House. I repeat that I sincerely hope that the State egg boards will accept their responsibilities, as they have now done in relation to C.E.M.A., for the sale of eggs overseas. In this way, and only in this way, can we sort out the Australian egg industry.
.- We are very fortunate this evening in being able to assist in the clearing of the business paper by discussing these three Bills in the one debate. Of course, the Bills are inter-related. They deal not only with the sale of eggs overseas but also, to some extent, with the sale of eggs within the Commonwealth. Primarily, the Bills have been produced to deal with the problem that has been created in recent times by the sale of the produce of the hen on overseas markets.
I was very happy to listen to the speeches made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) when he introduced these Bills. Being of a studious nature, I referred to some of the parliamentary history of Queensland in order to be informed on the origin of organised marketing, particularly of primary products. I discovered that it originated in that State. If honorable members arc interested enough to refer back to 1921 and 1922, they will find that a very progressive Premier of Queensland, Mr. Theodore, was the originator of the extension of organised marketing systems to primary products in that State. He did not receive much co-operation and support from the people who were the political predecessors of members of the present Government parties.
It is very pleasing to find that although the Minister for Primary Industry and his colleagues in the corner - the members of the Country Party - lose no opportunity to berate the Australian Labour Party for its socialistic outlook and policy and to condemn us for that, when the primary industries of Australia are in dire straits they have recourse to the policies that the Labour Party advocates and willingly use socialistic legislation in order to ensure that the industries will be saved from destruction. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hallett), who preceded me in this debate, referred to the great system of organised marketing which has saved the wheat industry. But, of course, he refused to make any reference to the fact that the Australian wheat industry has been saved from destruction by the People’s Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which are the principal buyers and consumers of our wheat.
I am surprised to find such marvellous support for this legislation coming from members of the Liberal section of the coalition. These apostles of free enterprise and free trade are now prepared to bow the knee to organised marketing and socialistic control of the products of this important primary industry.
– Do not twit them too far.
– The honorable member tempts me. I know that the Constitution, in section 92, makes ample provision for the preservation of free trade between the States and preserves the principle of free enterprise. My audience is diminishing because members of the Liberal Party, conscience stricken and realising their guilt in this matter, are sneaking from the chamber. They are prepared to reverse or to throw away their policy of free enterprise and to accept the policy that we have advocated over the years - namely, a degree of socialistic control - in order to maintain primary industries and to save them from destruction.
The honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Shaw), who is now leaving the chamber and who is one of the guilty ones, has been associated with the sugar industry for a great number of years. He realises the value of organised marketing and organised control in that industry. The most glorious example of socialistic enterprise and socialistic control and organisation of primary industries in Australia today, and the most efficient primary industry in Australia today, is the sugar industry. One man whose name will live for all time in the history of Australia, because of his behaviour and the legislation he introduced to preserve the sugar industry, is that great Premier of Queensland who once graced the benches of this House and who did grand things for primary industry in Queensland - Mr. Theodore.
Having touched very lightly on those matters, I will now refer to several aspects of the Bills that we are discussing. Over the years the Slates, quite rightly, realising the value of organised marketing, have established egg marketing boards in order to ensure centralised control, the removal of competition - I stress that - and the general streamlining of marketing with the object of reducing wasteful expenditure on the marketing of eggs. As we all know, egg production is the basis of a very great industry in Australia. We find that all egg producers are not prepared to accept primary production unionism in their industry. There is a great deal of scabbery among them. On one hand, they want control when it is to their advantage; but on the other, they want free enterprise when they think they can receive some advantage individually. As my leader said some years ago - this applies to members of the Country Party - they want to capitalise their gains and socialise their losses. That is the position which exists today and which has brought about the introduction of these three Bills by the Minister for Primary Industry.
The marketing of eggs has been well organised by the various State legislatures. But the owners of the hens which produce the eggs have not been prepared at all times to accept organised marketing legislation. That has created the problem which confronts the whole industry today. The producers are prepared to sell their eggs on their own account when they can get a high price for them on the home market; but they want the State egg marketing boards and the Australian Egg Board to handle the surplus production of eggs on the export market, because they cannot sell their products at a profit. They want the Australian consumer, through his breakfast table, to subsidise the sale of eggs on overseas markets.
At last the Minister for Primary Industry has obtained the agreement of the State Governments to the introduction of these Bills. The Chairman of the South Queensland Egg Marketing Board welcomed the announcement of the adoption of a stabilisation plan to ensure the orderly marketing of eggs. But representations for the introduction of an organised system of marketing had been made to the Minister over a considerable period of time. The Minister, although desirous of doing so, was unable to accede to the requests that were made to him, because of the attitude of the undemocratic, minority government that existed in South Australia. However, early this year the electors threw off the yoke of Liberalism and a Labour Government now rules in South Australia by the voice of the people. It is a democratic government democratically elected. Very rightly the new Labour Government in South Australia disapproved the hostility that the Playford Government had expressed to the proposal for organised marketing, and the Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industry acted promptly on receiving notification of the South Australian Government’s decision and produced in. this Parliament on 30th March the necessary legislation for the implementation of the scheme. The Minister acted with alacrity as soon as the Playford Government was consigned to political oblivion and the Australian Labour Party took control of the Government in South Australia. What a godsend it was to the egg producers of Australia and what a help it was to the Minister when the people of South Australia threw out the Playford Government.
We are faced with a heavy production of eggs in Australia. Production is increasing but unfortunately consumption is not increasing at the same rate. I speak feelingly on this matter.. Some time ago the Government wisely made a considerable cash contribution to the National Heart Foundation of Australia to encourage research into the greatest killer Australia knows - heart disease. One of the books dealing with heart disease published for the education of the Australian people can be found in the Parliamentary Library. It is entitled “ The Fats of Life”. I read it and found that one of the items of diet which has been roundly condemned in the book is eggs, because the egg is a producer of cholesterol, which is a substance that tends to encourage heart trouble. This book has convinced me of the effects of eggs on the system, and since reading it 1 have -given up eating eggs. It used to be my practice to eat an egg for breakfast each morning at the Hotel Kurrajong where I stay when the Parliament is sitting, but since reading this book I have refused to eat an egg and I will not be guilty of eating eggs again, because I realise I owe it to the country to do everything in my power to maintain a reasonable degree of good health. I realise that by eating eggs I go out of my way to encourage heart disease myself.
The Queensland Egg Marketing Board is now publishing a book in direct contradiction to “ The Fats of Life “, to encourage people to eat eggs. It is entitled “Thicker Waistlines Mean Shorter Lifelines “. I assure honorable members that by reducing my consumption of eggs my waistline has decreased. However, the Queensland Board puts forth all sorts of argument for people to cat eggs. The egg producers are in a desperate position because of the propaganda encouraged by this Government - propaganda which, in effect, says: “ Do not eat eggs; eggs produce cholesterol “. The Queensland Egg Board is desperate in its attempts to encourage the consumption of eggs.
I make my position clear. I do not know whether 1 will influence the consumption of eggs at the Hotel Kurrajong tomorrow morning. I realise this is a very important matter. We have to consider the effect of propaganda, such as that contained in “ The Fats of Life “, published with the authority of the National Heart Foundation of Australia, on the consumption of eggs within Australia. I realise that some honorable members are in a quandary about how they will vote on this legislation. My mind is made up. However, 1 have received telegrams from interested parties. I have been lobbied on my vote. A Mr. Loveday, the chairman of some egg marketing organisation, sent me a telegram stating -
Egg marketing board suppliers organisation representing poultry farmers of Southern Queensland seek your support for egg stabilisation bill. Consider essential for survival of industry.
The egg marketing organisations consider these Bills essential for the survival of the industry. Barnes Milling Ltd, the General Manager of which is a former Country
Party member for Maranoa in this Parliament, sent me a telegram stating -
Understand legislation currently before House relative to Commonwealth scheme controlling egg marketing and eliminating interstate trade in egg.
I ask honorable members to note the phrase “ eliminating interstate trade “. Where is section 92 of the Constitution? The telegram continues -
Legislation not wanted by majority of producers and details completely unknown to them. Strongly recommend ballot be taken and pending legislation held up until results of Australia wide ballot known.
I replied to the General Manager telling him that my conscience would be my guide, as 1 had been lobbied by different sections, one saying “ Yes “ and the other “ No “ to the proposed legislation, and that I was tied to neither of them. My conscience is my guide and 1 ask myself: What can I do for the primary producer who is sorely in need of help in this matter? I have since received a letter from Barnes Milling Ltd., a producer of poultry food in my electorate, in which 1 am told that 65 per cent, of the eggs produced and sold in Queensland are marketed through free market channels.
Where are we going with egg marketing? Here I am told by Barnes Milling Ltd. - and I do not doubt its word, but accept it - that 65 per cent, of the eggs produced and sold in Queensland are marketed through free market channels. And that is the reason for these Bills. The producers of eggs not only in Queensland but throughout Australia are failing to co-operate to bring about the stabilisation and salvation of their industry. As the celebrated Miss Bramston would say: “ Togetherness will get us somewhere”. This is something the egg producers have not heard of yet.
An earlier speaker referred to the difficulty of maintaining overseas markets. He suggested that with the development of the emerging countries the market we had established were disappearing. I have gone to considerable trouble in examining statistics to find out where we sell our eggs. The latest statistics available are for the year 1963-64. We export eggs to Christmas Island, Nauru, Papua and some of our other Territories but we send more eggs to Hong Kong, Malta and other Commonwealth countries. In 1963-64 we sent 144,150 dozen eggs to Hong Kong, 48,000 dozen to Malta and 43,650 dozen to other Commonwealth countries. However, I find that we are sending eggs principally to the Arabian States. To Bahrein Island we sent 200,672 dozen eggs in 1963-64, to Kuwait 1,596,180 dozen, to Qatar 216,750 dozen, to Saudi Arabia 810,030 dozen. In total in that year we exported 3.599,221 dozen eggs having a value of £576,652.
– That is very interesting.
– Yes, it is quite interesting, and I think we ought to know just where those eggs came from. The numbers exported from the individual States and the amounts received for them were as follows -
These were large amounts of money and they meant a lot to the primary producers. The Bills before us represent an endeavour to create a fund to establish price equalisation, to ensure that the prices received for exported eggs will be approximately the same as the prices received for eggs sold internally. The Minister proposes to levy a tax on hens. One of my colleagues said a while ago that it will be a tax on adult hens, but I am not too sure that he has chosen the right word. The Minister says that it will be a tax on hens more than six months old. I remind the House that the tax will be, if I may say so, a sex tax, one imposed only on hens - and it is not a fowl tax.
– Has the honorable member ever seen a rooster lay an egg?
– No, but I have been informed that to some extent the rooster is an essential part of the industry, although not specifically in respect of the export of eggs. We must realise that at 7s. per hen the tax will be quite a substantial one. I have some figures that I know you will allow me to cite, Mr. Speaker, because they are contained in a very reliable journal. 1 find that the weighted average laying of hens in Queensland in 1964 was 17 dozen eggs. This was an increase over the previous year, in which the figure was 16.8 dozen. The figures are given for five districts, the lowest number of eggs for the year being 192 per bird and the highest 215. These figures represent quite a fair effort on the part of the birds themselves.
– As my colleague from Kingsford-Smith says, it is quite extraordinary, but it is amazing what little things can do. The price of eggs to the consumer, unfortunately, is constantly increasing. In my electorate of Griffith a dozen ordinary hen eggs cost 6s. 4d. When it is realised that we are paying more than 6d. for an egg we can appreciate that we are paying more than a reasonable price for this important commodity. As I said earlier, the production of eggs is increasing in this country, and this is tending to aggravate the problem that the Bill is designed to deal with. Let me give the House some more figures, which appear in a periodical entitled “ E.M.B. Bulletin “ for April 1965. On page 23 there is a table which shows how production has increased over the last 12 months, and we find that there was an increase in production of 7,878,606 dozen, representing an increase of 12.16 per cent, over the production for the previous year. With no great increase in the consumption of eggs, we can readily appreciate the problem that is facing the industry.
– Where did the honorable member get those figures?
– From the “ E.M.B. Bulletin “ for April 1965, published by the South Queensland Egg Marketing Board. It is most interesting to read the comment of the new Minister of Agriculture in South Australia, a most progressive member of the Australian Labour Party, Mr. G. Bywaters. His remarks appear at page 3 of this Bulletin as follows -
The present position with regard to egg production in Australia is chaotic. The estimated production surplus of eggs in Australia over and above local requirements for the year ending 30th June 196S, is 4,200,000 dozen eggs in shell and 9,000 tons of egg pulp.
This is the problem that we are facing. I realise that the primary producers must make a concerted effort to save themselves. When people encounter trouble the best thing they can do in a single industry is to combine and make a determined effort to save that industry. The proposal before us tonight, socialistic in its origin, breaching the Constitution to some extent, denying the grand principles of liberalism - and of the members of the Country Party too, if they have any - represents a determined effort to bring salvation to the industry. The idea had its origin in the Australian Labour Party in Queensland in the 1920’s, and because I believe that the primary producers deserve assistance I propose to give my blessing and my support to the Bill.
.- I oppose these three Bills. 1 do so with very much feeling. 1 particularly regret having to oppose Bills that have been introduced by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), for whom I have the highest regard. 1 also regret that I do not see eye to eye with a great many of my friends and colleagues who are supporting this legislation.
I oppose these Bills because I believe they are the worst Bills that have been introduced into this House in my 20 years of parliamentary experience. I believe they flout every principle of responsible government, and I will give my reasons later for that view. I believe they flout the spirit of the Constitution, if not the letter of it, and I will also deal with that statement in detail later. I believe they take away the freedom and liberty of the people, they will be resented by primary producers and they will fail to achieve the purpose for which they were designed. At the outset. I want to make it quite clear that I do not oppose the principles of stabilisation and equalisation. On the contrary, I wholeheartedly support them. I do not believe that any primary industry can survive unless it has reasonable price stability - unless the primary producer can estimate with reasonable accuracy the amount he is likely to receive from year to year. 1 believe that price stability is necessary to prevent periods of boom and bust, which must take place if you have violent fluctuations in prices.
The sincerity of my belief in stabilisation and equalisation will be borne out when 1 remind the House that on 8th December 1938 - that is quite a long time ago - I introduced the first bill into this Parliament to provide for a wheat stabilisation scheme. In my second reading speech on that Bill
I gave at length the reasons for the necessity to stabilise prices. I do not propose tonight, because time will not permit me, to go over all of those reasons. They are fully set out in the “Hansard” of 1938, volume 158, page 2971. It was on the basis of that bill that a subsequent wheat price equalisation scheme came into effect. So I think it will be realised that I am not opposed to stabilisation and equalisation. I am opposed to the Bills now before the House because they will not provide either stabilisation or equalisation. The Bills provide simply for another tax on an already struggling industry. The problems of the poultry industry are not unique to Australia. The industry in the United Kingdom is so depressed that recently farmers have been giving away their fowls because there is no demand for them and it is not profitable to carry on in the industry. Honorable members will have read in the Press of the poultry farmer who offered 10,000 fowls free and of the rush by those who wanted to put them on the table.
The legislation now before us proposes to tax our own consumers and producers in order to provide eggs for overseas consumers at prices below Australian costs of production, below the price at which we sell in Australia, and below overseas costs of production. In other words, by passing these Bills we will be dumping our eggs on overseas countries so that consumers in those countries may get eggs at below our cost of production. When other people do this to us - when they try to dump their goods upon us - we pass special legislation to stop what we regard as a very wrongful act. The poultry industry in the United States of America is equally depressed. In an endeavour to get rid of their surplus and to meet their very high wages bill. United States producers sell their chickens to Australia at below our cost of production.
The poultry industry is an industry that needs little plant. Anybody can keep fowls. To run fowls does not require a great amount of skill. Keeping fowls is a useful sideline which enables the farmer’s wife, not only to reduce her cost of living by providing fowls and eggs for her family, but also to earn some pocket money from the sale of eggs at times when she has more than she needs for her own purposes. Fowls are kept in every country. The supply of eggs may be increased quickly whenever demand exceeds supply. Under present conditions, there is little or no potential for increased egg production. We lose money on every egg we sell overseas and the more we export the more we lose. In his second reading speech on the Poultry Industry Levy Bill the Minister for Primary Industry said -
In an endeavour to assist the producers with the disposal of that portion of their production which is surplus to local demand, the Commonwealth Government has established the Australian Egg Board to market export surpluses. . . . The net prices which the boards pay producers for their eggs are normally comprised of two components. These are the relatively high returns from local sales and low returns from export sales.
The Australian consumer is being fleeced to the extent of £4 million a year in order to provide cheap eggs for overseas consumers and to pay the costs of administering the scheme. I forecast that within a few years this tax of £4 million a year will escalate, like the cost of the Sydney Opera House, and probably will reach £8 million a year. If this legislation were an emergency measure to provide stability in prices during a temporary decline in the overseas price there might be some justification for it. However, there is no evidence that the low overseas price is of a temporary nature, nor is there any provision in the legislation to make a charge on exports if the world price of eggs exceeds the domestic price, as is the case with the wheat equalisation scheme.
– We sell wheat at less than the domestic price.
– And you get a levy from the wheat producers.
– You cannot have it both ways.
– I did not interrupt the Minister when he was speaking. The Minister referred to wheat. It is true that there is a wheat equalisation scheme. When the overseas price of wheat falls below the Australian price, the fund builds up the price paid to the producer. When the overseas price goes above the local price, the producer pays into the fund through a true equalisation scheme. If this legislation provided for a scheme of the same nature as the wheat scheme it would have my wholehearted support instead of my wholehearted opposition.
The propounders of this legislation evidently have no expectation that the overseas price of eggs ever will reach the domestic price. Evidently, the Australian consumers are to be mulcted indefinitely to provide cheap eggs for people overseas. Eggs are the most nourishing and complete of all foods, despite what the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) said. Why should our pensioners and people on low incomes be charged an excessive price for eggs so that people outside Australia may obtain this nourishing food cheaply? If the intention were to aid the starving millions of Asia and Africa there might be something in it but our eggs are sold, not to low standard countries, but to high standard countries which are just as able to pay the cost of production as we are. If anything is to be done for the Australian egg producer, and I certainly believe something should be done, we should forget about the export of eggs for the time being. Or, if we intend to produce more eggs than we can consume in Australia, we should consider subsidising those eggs that we choose to sell overseas below the cost of production and all the taxpayers could then share in the subsidy. Or perhaps we could give the eggs away to the hungry people of Asia and Africa and all share the cost.
I want now to deal with the Bills in detail. I mentioned earlier that they flout every principle of responsible government. It has been understood since there was democratic government that the power to tax the people should rest in the hands of the representatives of the people and no-one else. Here we have a tax amounting to £4 million which is to be levied not by Parliament, not by the representatives of the people, but by the Government on the authority of the Minister and on the advice of an outside body - this so-called Council. The Parliament has no right to delegate its power to tax the people. It is fundamentally wrong and fundamentally unsound and could take away the liberty of the people. The founders of the Constitution went to no end of trouble to try to prevent this sort of thing from happening. They dealt with it in several sections of the Constitution. They said, for example, that a Bill imposing taxation must deal only with that imposition. They said that such a Bill should deal with only one subject of taxation, that it must not discriminate between States and parts of States. By these Bills we are getting completely around the Constitution. We are flouting all those provisions by handing over to somebody other than the Parliament the power to tax the people. This is not just a charge for administration; it is the imposition of a tax of £4 million, but which could be increased to any figure, and we, the representatives of the people, are asked to hand over a blank cheque.
We will not be carrying out our duties and trust to the people if we pass the Bill delegating this power. We are asked to give a blank cheque; there is no limit on the tax. The tax can be of any amount that is recommended by this outside body and approved by the government of the day. This flouts the principle under which I was elected to the Parliament. This principle is contained in the policy of the Libera! Party of Australia and it is that we believe that the Parliament should control the Executive and not the Executive control the Parliament. The wording of the provision is -
To have an Australian nation in which an intelligent, free and liberal Australian democracy shall be maintained by (I) Parliament controlling the Executive and the law controlling all.
The Parliament cannot control the Executive if we pass this Bill. We are giving a blank cheque to the Executive to impose a tax on the people of any amount recommended by this Council. I cannot support that denial of the rights of the Parliament and of the rights of the representatives of the people. I said that T believe the Bill flouts the spirit of the Constitution. 1 think there is a distinct possibility that it flouts the letter of the Constitution. But no doubt in due time the courts will decide that issue and therefore I will not deal with it any further. r want to deal with the details of the
Poultry Industry Levy Bill. The Bill involves the greatest amount of bureaucracy that could be imagined. It provides that anyone who has 20 or more hens of six months of age or more must pay a hen tax of 3id. per hen per fortnight. I have heard some people call it a fowl tax and I agree it is a fowl tax, whichever way we spell the word ’ fowl “. But let us examine this. First, an offence is committed by a person who has 21 fowls and who does not pay 3id. each fortnight. T thought farthings went out of circulation years ago. I have not seen one for many years. But if I have 21 fowls and 1 sell the eggs, 1 have to pay *3id. a fortnight to this Council or I commit an offence. This applies only if I have 20 or more fowls that are six months of age Or more. How do we tell whether a fowl is six months of age or more? I do not know of any State that has a register of births, deaths and marriages of fowls, but I imagine that when the inspectors and other officers get going on this scheme they will compel people to keep a register of the births and deaths of their hens, even if they do not worry about the marriage side of it. Just imagine an inspector going to a farm and seeing 400 or 500 fowls running around. Is he going to try to catch them in the daytime? Of course he cannot. Therefore, he must go to the farm at night. When the inspector arrives at night he sees the fowls in the roost. No doubt he puts the torch light on them and tries to ascertain whether they are six months old.
I say that the Bill is incapable of enforcement. It simply provides a harvest for the bureaucrats. It creates a police state of the worst form, so far as the producers are concerned.
– How do you tell the age of fowls? By their teeth?
– I do not know; that is for you and your colleagues to say. If an inspector finds 80 hens six months old or more and the farmer says: “ Twenty of these belong to me, twenty to my wife and twenty to each of my two children “, no offence has been committed. But to overcome this the Bill contains the extraordinary provision that this gentleman authorised by the Minister can say that fowls that the farmer claims do not belong to him do in fact belong to him. In other words, the inspector can say that black is white and that the farmer has committed an offence. He can say: “ Although you say that you do not own these hens, I say you do “. That is the sort of bureaucratic Bill that we in this House are asked to support.
I intend to vote against the Bill for the following reasons: It will not stabilise the poultry industry because it will simply encourage a greater surplus, which means a greater quantity available for export and consequently a lower price to the producer instead of a higher price. It does not provide for equalisation. It will not give a payable price to the producers. It places an excessive cost on Australian consumers - many of whom cannot afford the extra cost - for the benefit of overseas consumers, many of whom could afford to pay more for their eggs than they pay today. The legislation can be easily evaded. It imposes bureaucratic control. It gives a blank cheque to the Executive to impose a tax on hens of any amount without reference to the Parliament. It destroys the control of the Parliament over the Executive. It proposes a tax of 3id. per hen per fortnight, and this is unworkable and impracticable. It is impracticable to count the number of hens that a farmer has and it is impossible to ascertain their ages when counted.
The legislation places the onus of proof on the farmer. What are Labour Party members doing about this Bill? When they were protecting the Communists they went into the highways and byways and talked about th; onus of proof, but now the Labour Party is prepared to support a bill which places the onus on the farmer to prove that he is innocent. Clause 9 (2.) of the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Bill imposes the onus of proof on the farmer. Clause 10 (1.) of the same Bill imposes the onus of form filling on him. Clause 11 enables snooping by inspectors into the privacy of a farm. An inspector can go onto a farm and into a farmer’s house day or night. He can check the farmer’s books and have a look at everything.
– It is much worse than that.
– It is worse than that, as the honorable member says. Clause 7 (4.) of the Poultry Industry Levy Bill enables an authorised person to say that a person who is not the owner of hens is indeed the owner of those hens.
As I mentioned previously, I believe that this legislaton flouts the Constitution under which this Parliament was created. 1 am sorry to have had to speak so strongly on this matter, particularly as I believe so firmly in stabilisation and equalisaton. Why did not the Minster bring in a bill similar to the Wheat Stabilisation Bill? If there is no chance of the overseas price becoming the Australian price why do we not as a Parliament, call on all of the people of Australia to assist this industry? Why do we put the burden on to the consumers of eggs - the pensioners and the young married couples? The burden will fall heaviest upon those with the largest families. I believe that this legislation is far worse than the curate’s egg. It is not only bad in parts, it is wholly bad and rotten from beginning to end.
.- Although it might sound strange to some of my colleagues on this side of the House, I commend the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) on the forthright statement he has just made in his opposition to these Bills. Contrary to the intense enthusiam which has been shown by many speakers from both sides of the House in praise of the legislation I am not, 1 regret, able to share their pleasure. In my 15 years in this Parliament never have I heard so much praise for any measures where so much fear has been expressed as to the likelihood of their success. Speaker after speaker has spoken of his doubt as to whether the dumping of eggs can be overcome or whether stabilisation can, in fact, be established.
In my own remarks tonight I do not intend to deal with the statistics of the industry, because other speakers have already done so. I will content myself with an examination of the physical aspects of the legislation. It is my belief that the provisions contained in the three Bills we are now discussing cannot possibly hope to stabilise the poultry industry. In fact, as I see the position, the Government is running away from its responsibility to the poultry industry, lt is abdicating that responsibility to the will of egg boards so that it cannot be held responsible should the plan of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities fail. As is well known, the membership of C.E.M.A. consists of the six State egg marketing authorities, and the members of each board comprise C.E.M.A.
I speak for the New South Wales producers who conduct poultry farms in my electorate. I am told that the farmers have not been consulted by C.E.M.A. in respect of the present proposal. Nevertheless, I am sure that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) is genuinely endeavouring to find a solution to the problems of the poultry farmers. In my view, however, he is hopelessly astray in the formulation of the legislation that is now before the Parliament. The Minister’s own statement when introducing the present Bill shows that he is aware of the critical economic state of the industry and of the failure and the lack of ability of the State Governments to stabilise it. The gist of my criticism of the Bills is to be found in the Minister’s own statement, and statements by some of the producers themselves, extracts of which I shall quote.
The Minister in his second reading speech on the Poultry Industry Levy Bill said -
The Australian poultry industry, through its principal producer body, the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia, has drawn the attention of the Government to the critical economic situation that has developed in the industry, and has submitted proposals to the Government which will introduce a measure of stability into the industry - a stability which so far this industry has been unable to obtain under State Government legislation.
That statement reveals the Minister’s awareness of the critical state of the poultry industry. He then went on to say -
When equalisation levies are high, many producers avoid paying their levies by illegally selling their eggs intrastate or legally selling them interstate under the protection of section 92 of the Constitution. This means that any losses from export sales have to be met by those producers who market through their boards. Obviously, the greater the number of producers who avoid paying the levy, the higher the unit rate of levy has to be on the remainder.
He then went on to say -
The chairman of one of the State egg boards recently stated that his board had lost one-third of its local market to interstate operators.
The end result of this type of situation will be chaos in the egg marketing system and the State egg boards themselves will be forced to trade interstate in competition with their own producers if they arc to survive. No board or individual will be prepared to sell on the export market, and cut throat competition on the Australian market will force prices down until eventually they are at approximately the same level as the export prices.
That is a frank admission, I suggest, on the part of the Minister that it is impossible to control the illegal selling of eggs under six different authorities while section 92 of the Constitution remains as it is. Yet this Government is prepared to condone the offences of the past by introducing legislation that threatens to split the industry right down the centre, and which will considerably exaggerate the already existing anomalies in the industry. There are many facets of the poultry industry about which the Government fails to do anything, yet the Minister and some producers concede that there are many problems confronting it which could well destroy the alleged stability which this legislation is supposed to give to it. The truth of the matter is that the C.E.M.A. proposals, as contained in these Bills, are being opposed by most of the small producers - that is, in New South Wales at least - by some of the large producers, and by some executives who, at least, know the shortcomings of the poultry industry.
For the information of the House, I will quote some of the views which have been expressed during the last 12 months or so. The representatives of the Associated Poultry Farmers of Australia Stabilisation Committee had this to say -
For over 12 months the Committee of the Egg Marketing Boards of Australia (C.E.M.A.) has promised the poultry industry a plan for stabilisation, on a Commonwealth basis- called the C.E.M.A. plan.
The C.E.M.A. plan has been recommended to the Federal Government and presented to the Australian Agricultural Council, for its consideration. At the present time it has been sent back to C.E.M.A. for further details. The C.E.M.A. plan therefore has occupied the attention of Governments, and the industry during this period in preference to other industry plans.
During this period the A.P.F.A. has agreed to withhold any criticism of the C.E.M.A. plan, to allow it to receive government recognition, before it was opened for industry discussion. In the meantime, we sought to get all particulars possible about it.
In accord with this principle, the A.P.F.A. has communicated with the Federal Minister for Primary Industry, Mr. Adermann, and the C.E.M.A. Committee. It has also kept informed of the reports published on the plan including questions and answers in Parliament.
From the sum total of these sources, and including the official draft of the C.E.M.A. plan, we find that there is insufficient information available for the Association to recommend it to the industry. We believe that the C.E.M.A. Committee itself has no further information to offer the industry, and because it is isolated from egg producers as a whole, is incapable of constructively filling in the plan in a way acceptable to producers.
Mr. H. J. M. Gomers of 27 Elliott Avenue, Carnegie, Victoria, on 13th July 1964 circulated an open letter to members of the Victorian Parliament and also members of the Commonwealth Parliament. That gentleman signified that he was the public relations officer of the Poultry Farmers Protection League of Victoria.
– It is a scab organisation.
– I do not care whether it is a scab organisation. I have something to say about it. Mr. Gommers had this to say in a question and answer query to all concerned -
Shortly you may be asked to approve of a “ plan for the stabilisation of the egg industry in Australia “ known as the C.E.M.A. plan.
Producers and consumers who have felt sufficiently responsible to examine the details and implications state confidently and frankly that acceptance of this plan would be a sad and costly mistake.
In addition, Australians are incensed at the thought that this scheme was created and is attempted to be bulldozed into legislation in a manner which possesses none of the qualities of freedom, democracy and fair-go which we have come to expect and respect in sincere proposals.
Producers and consumers know also that this appeal to their elected representatives will not be considered lightly in view of the facts, reasons and opinions which they state here. They know that when it comes to the maintenance of the Australian poultry industry and the interests of all consumers, our common responsibility is unable to be diluted or betrayed. lt is this sense of responsibility which has prompted us to bring to your notice the following considerations of the C.E.M.A. scheme which are the result of numerous meetings of, and discussions by, many people with an intimate knowledge of the industry and egg marketing.
We challenge supporters of C.E.M.A. to climb down from their tower of promises and test its foundations by proving wrong all of our answers to 30 pertinent questions. If they can do so, (hey wilt win the respect and support of many. U they cannot we suggest they face reality.
The questions referred to are all pertinent to the poultry industry, even though there are many of them with which I do not agree. However, the questions deal with the basic weaknesses of C.E.M.A. and point out that graft, corruption, evasion and racketeering could result under this plan. Therefore, so far as I am concerned, it is the bounden duty of this Parliament to see that such things are mitigated as far as it is humanly possible to do so. That is not being done in this legislation.
In still another pamphlet which was recently distributed entitled “The C.E.M.A. Plan- What will it do for the Australian Poultry Industry? “, Mr. A. G. “ Almar “ Crooke expressed some views. Incidentally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I understand that Mr. Crooke at one time was the
Chairman of the New South Wales Egg Board; in fact I think he was the first Chairman of that Board. He said -
The C.E.M.A. has so far produced nothing in the way of a clear cut statement as to how it proposed to set up a Commonwealth control of eggs and egg products that will produce equitable results for the egg producers of all States while, at the same time, affecting an efficient price stabilisation at levels that will enable egg producers to remain in business.
Egg producers’ Associations, and producers generally, are gravely concerned about the very obvious lack of detail, and it is considered that the question at this stage is only half baked, the one clear cut feature being the proposition to obtain legal power, to levy the stock tax on hens and to let the rest work itself out later.
In the same pamphlet, Mr. James Carter, of Werribee, stated -
The C.E.M.A. plan can guarantee one thing only - a hen tax will be imposed and the producers will be loaded with the cost of an additional form of control with a considerably increased friction and harshness associated with the collection of the hen tax and, in the final issue, a greater revenue loss arising from evasion on the part of an ever increasing section of egg producers fighting a last ditch battle to remain in the industry.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, 1 am not concerned with any of the authorities. They are part of the industry and my colleagues and the members of the Government alike have to take notice of them if they want to do justice by the poultry industry. That is my view of the matter. In each of the quotations I have made, it is to be clearly seen that the poultry industry is a bad one. Big and small producers alike fear for its survival. Principal overseas markets have been lost to it and conflict exists between the various segments of the industry. Unfortunately, it is an industry which operates knowing that it cannot eliminate illicit trading or overcome periods of depression especially in times of a glut of production. It is an industry that knows that it cannot eliminate the householders* backyard flocks of fowls which are kept primarily to consume kitchen waste and which provide the families with a ready supply of fresh eggs; nor should the industry be allowed to do so. Unfortunately, there are thousands and thousands of backyard poultry men who have a habit of supplying their neighbours with their surplus eggs. Those eggs are supplied, I believe, at most times and by most poultry owners, at a very reduced price compared with shop prices. But the fact that people obtain eggs in that way militates against the stability and prosperity of the poultry industry in some way.
The principal feature of the three Bills now under consideration is the stabilisation of the poultry industry. There is not one provision in any of the Bills that will bring about stabilisation. Critic after critic of these Bills has said so. The Minister for Primary Industry himself has expressed his doubts about it. In fact, the titles of the three Bills are misnomers, for they do not in reality give effect to the principles the Minister himself espoused in his second reading speech. The proposed Poultry Industry Levy Act may be described as an act by regulation. Every important aspect of the Bill will be given effect to by regulation. It will impose a levy on hens kept for commercial purposes, but it does not define what are commercial purposes. The Bills exempt a person from paying the levy if he does not own more than 20 hens. At the same time, they do not mention what is to occur to the backyard poultryman who is the owner of more than 20 hens, which he describes as being for breeding or broiling purposes. The Poultry Industry Levy Bill does provide, however, in clause 8 that a levy is not to be imposed on hens included in a prescribed class of hen, but it does not provide for the imposition of a penalty of any kind for offences. That is a fundamental weakness. From all the available evidence, it is as clear as daylight that the industry is to be split down the centre. One half of it is to be free to do as it likes, while the other half is to be levied and eventually destroyed.
The Minister has admitted in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) that there is a provision in the Poultry Industry Levy Bill for exemptions and that the chairman of the C.E.M.A., Colonel McArthur, and the broiler industry are in agreement with the types of exemptions which are likely to be made. Apparently at the moment they are the only ones who have any idea of who is to be exempted and who is not to be exempted under the Bill.
As I read the Bill, and from what I have gleaned from the second reading speech, the Minister’s only concern for the industry was for the orderly marketing of eggs to the general public, not for the poultry industry as a whole. The Minister has not paid one moment’s attention to the evils of the industry, nor does he indicate by what means the Government proposes to overcome them while section 92 of the Constitution remains as it is. Apparently the Minister and the Government - and, unfortunately, some of my colleagues on this side of the Parliament - have resolved that these Bills are the best the community can hope for.
As I see it, as soon as an egg has been laid by prescribed hens, honorable members opposite hope to forget about it simply because it might be used for hatching a chicken or for purposes of the broiler industry. They forget that with the laying of the egg all the problems of the poultry industry begin. Immediately the egg is laid, the Government abdicates its responsibility by delegating its authority to an outside body of people, whose job it will be to dictate to the Government the terms on which the industry will function. To me, the C.E.M.A. savours of something like the 36 faceless men about whom the Government is so prone to charge the Opposition from time to time. If ever evidence of faceless men directing the affairs of the Government is to be found, it is to be found in this legislation. For the purposes of examination of this legislation, may I say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the end result of the egg-producing fowl is an egg. Irrespective of how the egg is used, it is characteristic of and fundamental to the poultry industry, and should be considered as such.
Unfortunately, as I said earlier, the Government and some of my colleagues agree that the industry should be split into two parts - that which supplies the kitchen table or the pastrycook, and that which provides the dinner table with meat or egg producers with new flocks from hatcheries. In the first instance, all hens over the first 20 in each flock are to be levied. In the second instance, the C.E.M.A. will determine what stock is to constitute prescribed hens. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether a hen, once it has been prescribed, is likely to become unprescribed at any time during its lifetime. If it is not, the whole industry is likely to suffer as a result of this classification. Clause 5 of the Poultry Industry Levy Bill provides that the levy shall be imposed on hens kept for commercial purposes, but the Bill is silent on what constitutes hens kept for commercial purposes. In my view, a definition of “ commercial purposes “ has been deliberately excluded so as to provide a loophole for the broiler breeder and the chicken hatcher to escape payment of the levy. Mr. Carter of Werribee, in one of his statements, said: “ That could be a real troublemaker “. I agree 100 per cent, with him.
The CE.M.A.’s original scheme proposed that all hens everywhere throughout Australia, after the first 20 in every flock, should be levied for stabilisation purposes. In my view, that was the only way in which the industry could have been stabilised and placed on a sound financial footing. Perhaps the Minister will tell the Parliament why the C.E.M.A. changed its attitude without first of all allowing the producers to discuss the merits of the new proposals. The Minister might also say, further, why he has reneged on the proposition by the C.E.M.A. to exempt the first 50 fowls in each flock. On the 9th February of this year the Minister released a statement to that effect, but apparently someone has been able to get at him, as the Bill now before us exempts only the first 20 hens of any flock.
If the broiling industry and the hatcheries are to be exempted from the levy, I suggest they should not be entitled to sell eggs to the general public under any circumstances, including eggs produced by hens between 18 and 26 weeks old. It is an accepted fact in the industry that pullets come into laying anywhere between 18 and 24 weeks old. Therefore, I am prompted to ask the Minister: Who is to determine the age of the hens, and when will they officially become six months old? Each year, millions of pullets commence laying before reaching the age of six months. Therefore, in the case of poultry men breeding for broiling purposes, where will the pullets eggs go? Is it to be expected that they will go to the various boards and compete against the eggs supplied by egg producers? If that is to be the case, then untold damage will be clone to equalisation prices.
Further, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in New South Wales eggs are graded. Large size eggs must weigh from U ozs. to 2£ ozs. and eggs used for hatching purposes must weigh at least 2 ozs. Smaller eggs are not used for hatching because they produce weedy type chickens, which usually take a much longer time to develop. At present, the demand for small eggs is somewhat limited, but I suggest that when this Bill becomes law, and if broiler industry and chicken industry hens are not to be levied, inferior type eggs will soon flood the market in every State of the Commonwealth and it will not be possible to do anything about it.
At the present time, eggs from Queensland, where production has skyrocketed, are being sold in my electorate at 6d. a dozen below the price at which retailers in New South Wales are allowed by law to sell eggs. As I see the position, when these Bills become law and if the stock used for the production of broilers and chickens are to become prescribed hens, it will be a case of: Lord help the poultry industry. Perhaps the Minister may care to clarify this possibility so far as the chicken breeders and the broiler industry are concerned.
What is to happen to the eggs produced by those breeders once they have sufficient stock for their special purposes? Are the breeders to be allowed to send them to the boards for sale and distribution? If so, are they to be allowed to participate in equalisation prices, seeing that their hens are not being levied? In my view, that is an aspect which might well bring about the destruction of the industry. Yet there is no provision in the Bills to guard against that sort of thing. I repeat that the only hope of salvation for stabilisation of the poultry industry lies in the levying of all birds after the first 20.
In New South Wales, one firm alone - Ingham’s Enterprises - says that it produces over 5 million chicks a year. I understand that it would take something like 35,000 fowls to produce that many fertile eggs suitable for hatching. I ask the Minister: Are those fowls to be prescribed hens, and will the eggs they produce be exempt from any type of levy? If so, where does the industry go from there?
Before concluding, I want to put to the Minister a number of questions, and I hope he will answer them when replying to the debate. Is there any real reason why the broiler industry should escape its responsibility to the poultry industry, seeing that without eggs it could not operate and in view of the fact that its profits are ever so much higher than those of the egg producer, and its responsibility much less? Similarly, why should the breeder of day old chicks escape his responsibility to the industry when all he has to do is hatch the egg and sell it at many times the profit the commercial egg producer gets? Does the Minister know that imperfect, infertile, small or soft shelled eggs are not used for hatching purposes? Is he aware that such eggs eventually find their way to the consumers? Will the income from such eggs, even when they are produced by prescribed hens, be used to swell the profits of the breeders of broilers and chickens? If so, why, without a levy having been paid by those breeders?
The poultry industry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is the Cinderella among rural industries. I suppose that this is so because not many voters are employed in the industry and, as a result, politicians take very little interest in it. Whenever floods or fires ravage the lands of the dairy farmer or the grazier, or droughts occur, as is happening in many parts of Australia today, there is always a plea for financial assistance to be provided by the Commonwealth and State Governments to tide the victims over the disaster period. Substantial subsidies are paid to producers in the dairy and other industries so that industry equilibrium can be maintained. But the poultry farmer, apparently, is not worth a damn. He is expected to put up with, and run the gauntlet of, the effects of community gluts and surpluses, of droughts, of heat waves, of disease, of fire and of water shortages, and there is never any sign of government help being offered to him. Only recently, farmers in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley regions lost thousands of head of poultry in fires and heat waves. But nothing is said about that sort of disaster.
In my view, this is a time when the Commonwealth Government could have given substantial help and once and for all have assured the poultry industry of stability and security. But this Government lacks the moral courage to tackle the problem. Therefore, some other government will again have to do something for the industry in the future. Finally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I remind the Minister that he could have given this industry real stability simply by having a levy imposed on all hens after the first 20 in each flock.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to make it very clear that in what I am about to say I shall offer no criticism of the intentions of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) in what he is trying to do by means of the three Bills that we are now discussing. Nor do I criticise the amount of work that he has put into the proposals envisaged. Like other honorable members. 1 do not criticise him in those matters. Like the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), I have considerable affection for the Minister. I believe that he is dedicated to the ideal of representing the rural industries of Australia to the best of his ability. But I consider that he has made a mistake. I make these observations as one who desperately wanted a Commonwealth scheme to help overcome the problems being experienced by the Egg Marketing Board for the State of New South Wales as a result of the provisions of section 92 of the Australian Constitution. I understood that a suitable marketing scheme would be introduced. There was plenty of talk about the scheme, but not about the details of the proposals now submitted. I believed that we would be offered a scheme that would get over the difficulties. But I am bitterly disappointed at the Government’s present proposals.
– Don’t be like that.
– In the first place, I never dreamt that the honorable member, the Government or the Parliament would agree to a scheme without a poll of producers. It never even occurred to me that there would not be a poll of producers to approve any scheme proposed.
– Apparently, the honorable member has not much influence with the Government.
– The honorable member made his speech earlier. I am making mine now. I never dreamt that any man would bring pressure to bear on the New South Wales producers to impose this suggested scheme on them in the way in which Mr. Triggs, the present Chairman of the New South Wales Board has done. Until I saw this flood of material printed in the “ Poultry Farmer “ which has been going to all honorable members, I did not know that Mr. Triggs existed. I had no idea that the task of getting this scheme approved was to be entrusted to him.
When I read the Bills that we are now discussing, I realised that they were prepared by people who have no political knowledge and who have not looked at the platforms of the Australian Labour Party, the Australian Country Party or the Liberal Party of Australia. This legislation has no relation to the principles in which we believe. Therefore, I feel compelled to try to have it amended to provide for a poll of producers, or to oppose it.
What are the real problems of the industry? We have heard that there are overproduction and losses on exports. We know that about 25 million dozen eggs have to be pulped and sold at a loss of between 2s. and 3s. a dozen. One of the main objects of the levy on hens is to raise funds to make up the loss on these eggs. We have heard a great deal about interstate trading. This has already been dealt with by Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, which are providing machinery to stop it by means of a system of grading that will make interstate trading unprofitable. A 15-ton truck might have to wait at the border for almost a week for the eggs in its load to be graded. This would make it unprofitable to sell eggs interstate. So that problem is already being dealt with in the rapid transition that is taking place, and this legislation is not needed to deal with it. Ingenuity has already been brought to bear to deal with it.
Next, I turn to losses on exports. This is where orderly marketing is necessary. I am surprised that the experts of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia and our very able officers in the Department of Primary Industry have not taken action to solve this problem. If levies are reduced, egg production is made more profitable. This was part of the thinking behind the scheme now proposed. The aim is to make egg production more profitable. But what will happen? Immediately it is made more profitable, the number of producing hens is increased. It may even be doubled in six months. Can anybody tell me what will be done with the surplus production then? If that happens, the scheme will be broken straight away. This is the sort of dilemma that occurs in the marketing of primary products. There is no pro vision in this legislation to deal with that sort of difficulty.
I have been told that meetings of producers, in my electorate, particularly at Thirlmere, supported the C.E.M.A. scheme. I went to a meeting at Thirlmere years ago with the Chairman of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board. The meeting was on the point of carrying a resolution proposing a subsidy of ls. a dozen on eggs. About 100 producers were all ready to agree to it. I said: “If you carry this resolution, I shall be under some sort of instruction to have the proposal adopted. Will you tell me what is to be done with the surplus of eggs that will be produced in six months if producers receive an additional ls. a dozen? Since we cannot sell any more overseas, will we be able to do anything but throw them in the ocean? “ At that time we were selling 20 million dozen eggs a year to Great Britain. Today, we are selling almost none there. Our sales to that country are finished. The West German market is finished for us. There is surplus production of eggs in the European Common Market countries. Anybody who went to the Middle East or Asia with the Australian Imperial Force knows that eggs are produced there in great quantity and are a staple item of diet. We all remember the eggs and chips that were served in the N. A. A.F.I, canteens in Egypt. Eggs are a staple food throughout Asia, particularly in South East Asia, and are produced there in great quantity. Can anybody tell me what we are to do with our surplus production of eggs? Can C.E.M.A. tell me how we shall dispose of our surplus production if the present levies are reduced?
We all want to reduce the levies, of course. Nothing is more annoying to a producer than to see on his account sales a deduction of 9d. a dozen for a levy to make good export losses and, say, 3d. a dozen to pay administrative costs. A producer does not like to find that, for eggs sold at something like 6s. 6d. a dozen, he receives only about 3s. 6d. a dozen after the deduction of commission, freight and administration and other charges. We have not been told how this problem is to be solved, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member for Sturt told us how this legislation will flout the Constitution. But there is something else that its flouts.
– It does nothing of the sort.
– The honorable member says that it does nothing of the sort. He is an honest man. He speaks for the Labour Party on rural production. I ask honorable members to listen to the words which fell from his lips in Grafton on Friday, 8th November 1963. The honorable member spoke today on this Bill, but he did not mention the solemn undertaking that he gave and the contract that he made with the rural producers in Grafton. Does the honorable member think politicians can get away with this sort of thing and not be criticised by everybody?
– Tell us what was said.
– If the honorable member will cease interjecting for a moment, I shall do so. He said -
This is Labour’s organised marketing policy: Where organised marketing of a product is considered desirable a Labour Government will hold a ballot among producers and, if approval is given, will enact legislation, creating a marketing authority with producer majority representation thereon. In some cases complementary State legislation would bc required.
The honorable member for Lalor has a short memory. He never mentioned that matter today, nor did any other member of his Party.
– We do not happen to be the Government.
– But the honorable member and his colleagues in this place are in their seats because they made these contracts with the people. Yet the honorable member for Lalor spoke on this Bill today and did not mention this.
There has been much talk about flouting the Constitution. Let us look at the Liberal policy on marketing, for this is a little more clear than the Labour policy on the question. I am labouring this point because everybody knows that when persons in an industry or a group, by a democratic ballot, impose something on themselves they will accept it, but that they will not have it pushed onto them or be bulldozed into it, particularly when they have been given undertakings of the kind that I have mentioned.
– How did the honorable member stand on the wool promotion levy? He forgot all about these things then.
– If the honorable member will wait just one moment 1 will go through the excellent policies delivered by the Liberal Party. These are the words - some are the words of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) - which stated the joint policies of the Liberal and Country Parties. In 1949 the present Prime Minister said-
– That is a long time ago.
– Yes; and we are always hearing that we should not bring up what was said before. But the Constitution was written in 1900. That was a long time ago. The Prime Minister said in 1949 -
We stand for the stabilisation of rural industries wherever practicable on the basis of guaranteed minimum prices.
Minimum prices are not part of the egg marketing scheme, of course. He continued -
Schemes to this end will not be set up unless growers, by vote, approve.
For the benefit of the gentleman who said “ That is a long time ago “ I refer to what was said in 1955, which was not so long ago. The Prime Minister then said, when delivering the joint policy speech of the Liberal and Country Parties -
Any arrangement which provides for contribution by growers will be first submitted to a ballot of the growers
– This is not an entirely new scheme.
– We try to water it down and to argue around it and indulge in straw splitting. On 15th November 1960 - not so long ago - the official Federal platform of the Liberal Party of Australia included -
Provision, where practicable and desirable, for orderly marketing and intensive sales promotion schemes at home and abroad; no such scheme to come into effect without the approval of the producers in the industry concerned.
– The Prime Minister has run out on the honorable member, has he?
– At least he did not speak on this Bill. The honorable member for Lalor did speak on it.
– He ran out on the honorable member.
– But the honorable member who interjects actually spoke on it.
He delivered the words, but he has forgotten what he said at Grafton. I see that the Minister for Primary Industry is smiling. I am glad he is smiling because he may not be smiling when I have finished. That great man, Sir Arthur Fadden, in the policy speech that he delivered on behalf of the Australian Country Party in September 1946. referred to stabilisation funds, and said -
The Country Party also undertakes that for each primary export industry desiring it, a stabilisation fund will be created.
The policy speech delivered in 1949 by Sir Arthur Fadden included these words -
Guaranteed minimum prices will be determined after adequate survey by an independent body, and a stabilisation fund will be offered for each industry which so desires.
The Australian Country Party platform stated -
A stabilisation fund to be set up for each export primary industry desiring it. Into this fund will be paid: (a) a percentage to be agreed upon of the annual excess export realisations of the produce over the guaranteed minimum price, the balance being distributed among producers.
This is the same idea as the honorable member for Sturt spoke about when he stated what he thought were the principles.
– It has been rewritten.
– Very well. I have the rewrite here, which I will read to the honorable member. This was the Australian Country Party Federal platform and policy reaffirmed in July 1958, Objective (h) stated -
– The honorable member has been sold down the river.
– The honorable member for Lalor should listen to these words as they get him out of quite a bit. The objective stated -
Stabilisation of primary industries where they indicate by vote that they desire it.
These are the solemn contractural obligations made by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and by every honorable member of this House. They were obligations undertaken by the three parties, but apparently honorable members propose to throw them down the drain now and not give the egg producers a vote. What was done by the Egg Board? I remind honorable members that the New South Wales Egg Board controls the marketing of 55 per cent, of the eggs produced in Australia and that on 2nd September 1 961 the Chairman of the Board, Mr. M. G. Whinfield said, almost prophetically -
One point I want to make perfectly clear is that no scheme whatever will come into operation unless it has been submitted by plebiscite and given majority approval of commercial egg producers.
Now we come to the brilliant part where he said -
Unfortunately, a number of producers have the mistaken idea that some scheme, already “ cut and dried “, will be brought into operation in the not far distant future.
He said, in effect: “ Fancy them thinking that about us “. He continued -
That is not so; we are looking for sensible, workable ideas to formulate a plan.
He said that they would not dare to have a scheme without a poll of producers.
– He is not the chairman now and is not on the Egg Board.
– I do not know where that gets us. The honorable member for Bendigo can say all sorts of things to try to get round this. He subscribes to the policy speech of the honorable member for Lalor and is himself recreant to the trust. Of course, he would interject because he is uncomfortable. Mr. Whinfield, the man appointed Chairman of the Board, said on 22nd September 1961 -
The Board has not taken and will not take action to implement any scheme until it has been referred by plebiscite to producers. In point of fact nothing can be done to curtail production until the Government- “ Curtail production “ is a new one coming in - has introduced amending legislation in Parliament.
There has never been a clearer case in which the members of this Parliament have been obligated to vote for a poll of producers. I propose to move an amendment which will give honorable members the opportunity to agree to the taking of a poll. If they do not agree they should never come into this chamber and complain that politicians are criticised, because this is a breakdown - a case of moral turpitude.
– My statement is laughed at by the honorable member for
Bendigo. Probably he is not old enough to be serious about these things, but this is a serious matter. The legislation proposes to impose a tax on small producers. Of course, if a person owns sheep, he gets a vote. If he is a big man and has many bales of wool he is given a vote, but if he has a few hens he does not get a vote. The Labour Party is supposed to look after the downtrodden people. What are members of that party, except the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), who made a well reasoned speech, doing to help the egg producers? Will any honorable member carry out the promise that he made to the public through the policy speeches of his leader and his party’s platform, to the effect that he would support a poll of producers? Will any honorable member do anything other than make frivolous little remarks in an effort to divert this matter? It cannot be diverted. Those are the facts.
The other reason why I am shocked by this legislation is that it consists of nothing but a stack of regulations. Under it, the Parliament hands over its responsibility to the C.E.M.A. through the Minister for Primary Industry. I do not know whether the C.E.M.A. is a statutory body; I know that the State egg boards are statutory bodies. From here, this legislation will go to the Governor-General and come back as law. From then on, we will not touch it; we will not do anything about promotion, research, getting eggs sold overseas or probing overseas markets after the collapse of the European market, which has been so good. These Bills are merely designed to do what the States will not do. It is a case like the engineers’ case, in which the States funked and told the Commonwealth to do the dirty work of imposing a tax, after which it had no say in what happened. This is a breaking down of responsible government. It is a breaking down of the idea that the people who pay the piper call the tune. This Parliament is being asked to vote for these Bills and then to hand the whole thing over to the C.E.M.A.
The legislation does not even specify a maximum levy. I propose to move an amendment to establish the maximum amount that shall be taken from the producers. It is proposed that there shall be a fortnightly charge, and it is hinted that the charge will be 3id. a fortnight or 7s. a year per bird. The Minister, in his second reading speeches, used the phrase - this is what we aTe asked to agree to - “ it is proposed to recommend a charge of 7s. per year per bird “. But there is nothing in the Bills to say what the charge will be. The charge is to be set by regulation. The C.E.M.A. will make a recommendation to the Minister; the matter will go to the Governor-General; and then it will come back to this Parliament as a regulation. At that point the Parliament will have a chance to disallow the regulation.
Now I come to the more serious part of what I have to say. There is an extraordinary situation in the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board. The chairman of the Board is a man named Triggs. This man wrote a letter to the “ Poultry Farmer ‘. The letter is headed “ The Policy of K. O. Triggs “, and has a photograph of him with it. In this letter he said, in effect: “ For ten years I was a director of a margarine company, with control of the manufacture and marketing of margarine in four or five Australian States “. This man has set himself up as a businessman in a rural industry. But what were the effects of his ten years in the margarine business? The effects were: £5 million worth of butter was diverted overseas and lost to the dairy industry; restricted production under quotas created a very powerful black market out of which the margarine companies made millions of pounds; an organised scheme by which certain margarine companies - I must exempt some which play the game - were taken to court by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) was present at the time. He knows all about the prosecution. No doubt he will stand up in a minute and say that he had three other people with him. Certain margarine companies were prosecuted for over-production. When they were taken to court, no fewer than four very distinguished gentlemen appeared. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was one of them. Since then he has not been quite so distinguished; but at that stage they were four distinguished gentlemen. The companies, by having the prosecution taken from the Magistrates* Court to the High Court of Australia and then to the Privy Council - it went on for years - managed to sell millions of pounds of margarine at a cold profit of ls. per lb. They enriched themselves by battening on to a distressed industry which governments were attempting to help. The margarine companies plundered the consumers and the industry under restrictive legislation.
This is the man who will be entrusted with the money collected under this legislation, which will be millions of pounds. Half of it will be under the control of the chairman of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board. He is a man who will batten on to a distressed industry and make money out of its problems, and do that in a way which is corrupt and which was illegal in the case of the margarine companies. He is so lacking in his ideas of what is moral that he says to the poultry farmers: “I should be a member of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board. You should vote for me because for ten years I was a director of a margarine company “, when the margarine companies were involved in the most corrupt thing that has happened in New South Wales politics for 20 years.
– I think the honorable member is talking about the wrong Triggs.
– I am very glad that the honorable member said that. Now I will read the letter so that he will be sure that I am talking about the right Triggs. There is a magnificent photograph with the letter, which is headed “The Policy of K. O. Triggs “. In the letter Triggs says -
Until I recently resigned and devoted all my time to poultry farming I was a director of a leading Table Margarine Company with factories in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. I held this position for 10 years.
The man about whom the honorable member for Shortland is talking is the father of this man. This man destroyed Joe Arthur. Joe Arthur was expelled from the Australian Labour Party, and this was part of the corruption.
Mr. Triggs owned a company called Fooderies Pty. Ltd., which had three shares, I think. The shares were owned by himself and his family. That company was trafficking with the Egg Marketing Board while he was a member of the Board. The relevant papers were sent to the AttorneyGeneral and all around the legal world, including even Stephen, Jaques and Stephen, in order to get a ruling on whether or not the position was legal. He was trafficking with his own Board. Against that background, this Parliament is now asked to pass legislation which will put £2 million, which is raised to help a distressed industry, into the hands of this man, who has a history of plundering and raping another distressed industry under restrictive legislation.
I have in my hand a letter which came into my possession today and which sets out pretty well what I feel and what the industry feels. I am certain that in the last three years, since I began to pursue this matter myself, there has been no call by separate poultry farmers for this legislation. This letter was written by a solicitor on behalf of a large group of poultry farmers in the southern Queensland area whose production of eggs is consigned to the .South Queensland Egg Marketing Board. It says -
My clients in this instance are not, so far as I have been able to ascertain, interstate traders, nor are they illegally disposing of their production within the State of Queensland. They instruct me that they are greatly disturbed by the proposed legislation now before the House of Representatives known as the “C.E.M.A.” Plan for the alleged stabilisation of the egg industry.
My clients are disturbed because they consider that they should have been given an opportunity of casting their vote on whether they support or oppose the Plan.
They were told, as everybody was told, that they would get a vote; but they did not get any vote. The letter continues -
I am instructed that on no occasion anywhere within the Commonwealth of Australia has any vote amongst producers ever been taken to deferment their attitude to this Plan.
The letter referred to the Egg Board election which was alleged to approve of this. But the producers did not have a poll to determine whether they wanted the C.E.M.A. plan. They had to vote for a person, and this is being twisted to mean that they agreed to the C.E.M.A. plan - without a precise vote on a precise scheme. The letter states-
They say that this plan has been proposed to the Government by representatives of Egg Marketing Boards of the various States.
In other words, this has been asked for by officials. Officials have been trying desperately for years to get some order in the industry. The 39 members of C.E.M.A. are working for this plan. They are the members of the State Egg Boards. The various persons involved in the various States are asking for a poll to determine the producers’ wishes, and to that end I move-
That all words after “That” be omitted wilh a view to inserting the following words in place thereof - “the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that the proposed levy in respect of hens kept for commercial purposes shall not be imposed unless and until a poll of producers has been taken and the producers have expressed their approval.”
– Order! Is the amendment seconded? There being no seconder, the amendment lapses.
.- I propose to speak on the Bill. I do not propose to speak on other industries except to illustrate some of the disadvantages under which this industry labours. Frankly, 1 think that the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) has delivered himself of the least relevant and the least responsible speech I have heard him make, and that is quite an indictment. It is completely irresponsble to suggest that any of the moneys for which the State Egg Boards are responsible have been improperly spent. To say that, is to suggest that every State Auditor-General has fallen down on his job. It is quite wrong to suggest that any moneys collected under this Bill by the Commonwealth and handed over to the States under one of the Bills would be improperly allocated. To say that is to assert that the Commonwealth Attorney-General would not do his job properly. The honorable member has done much to misrepresent this industry and in so doing he has not helped the consumers of eggs and he is not doing the fair thing by the persons the producers have elected to conduct their industry. It is quite wrong to suggest, as he and some earlier speakers suggested, that these Bills will result in any increased charges on small producers and that they will result in further paper work or in bureaucracy.
The sole intendment of these Bills is to make the present marketing schemes work fairly. The present marketing schemes do not work fairly. No small primary producer need fear that he will pay more or have to fill in any more forms as a result of this legislation. In fact, the small man will pay less and the public will pay less, and less paper work will be involved. It is the big man who has avoided all present schemes.
– Plus some South Australians.
– And some persons in the Australian Capital Territory. Under the interpretations of section 92 of the Constitution all primary producers know they can set at nought any State or Commonwealth levy by carrying their goods across State borders. Eggs happen to be a product which is already packaged and which can be swiftly transported. Such has been the improvement in roads and trucks that it is possible to deliver eggs in a fresh condition some hundreds of miles quickly and cheaply. The nearer the producer is to a border the more eaily he can avoid any State charge. This does not apply in Western Australia or in Tasmania; The desert and Bass Strait make it impossible to transport the eggs cheaply. However in northern Victoria, in southern New South Wales, and in the entire settled area of South Australia it is possible to transport eggs 100 miles and avoid the charges imposed by the boards elected by producers in both the State of production and the State of consumption.
Some very large producers, such as Carter Bros, and Barrow Bros., have imposed on the industry for decades. They have concentrated on production solely for the interstate market. They have, in fact, deliberately carried goods across the Murray and then reloaded them, sometimes in another truck or through another contractor, and sent them back across the river. The cases before the Supreme Court of Victoria and the High Court of Australia are legion. I should imagine that Carter Bros, are the most redoubtable litigants in the history of this country.
The public is puzzled by the economics of this industry. The honorable member for Macarthur has done nothing to explain its problems. This is not the only industry in which production varies with the seasons. Inevitably more eggs are produced in spring and summer than in autumn and winter. If we are to have fresh eggs in the number we want them in autumn and winter, inevitably we will have more eggs than we can consume in spring and summer. This industry is unlike other industries with seasonal fluctuations in that it is not easy to preserve the surplus of the flush seasons. It is possible to preserve wheat, which is produced in some seasons only, for the whole year in its original or in a processed form. It is possible to preserve milk and cream in their processed forms of butter, cheese and powdered milk, so that they remain acceptable from season to season, but it is not possible to preserve surplus eggs in an acceptable form from the flush seasons into the lean seasons.
Persons who have served in the armed forces will recollect very well that it is impossible for the most skilled cooks to produce as attractive egg dishes from powdered eggs or from egg pulp as it is from fresh eggs. Admittedly the techniques of powdering, pulping and preserving may have improved in the last two decades; nevertheless the public seeks fresh eggs. It gets better eggs now than it has ever done in Australia’s history. It does so at the cost of a surplus above Australia’s needs in the flush season. And what are we doing with the surplus? We are selling it overseas, and we are selling it for less than we could get at home. It is for this reason that Australian consumers are asked to bear the losses on the overseas sales. If Australian consumers do not bear the losses on overseas sales they will not get fresh eggs the whole year round. Inevitably when eggs are less plentiful they will be a bit more expensive.
Less than half the eggs produced in Australia are sold commercially. I have before me a publication issued by the Department of Primary Industry, titled “ The Egg Situation”, last December. The Department estimated that in 1962 a total of 201 million dozen eggs were produced in Australia. This included backyard production. Only 83 million dozen were sold commercially. For 1963 the figures were 202 million dozen and 85 million dozen. Exports were not great overall, amounting to 3 million dozen in each case. I compare this export proportion of the total production with that which is found in another industry, the wheat industry. Three quarters of the wheat produced in Australia is sold overseas. The wheat industry is a profitable export industry because Australia is one of the most efficient producers of wheat in the world. Our wheat is not always the wheat that is in greatest demand, but the fact is that no country can produce wheat more economically than Australia can. We cannot produce eggs for export at a profit. We produce eggs for export because only thus can we get enough fresh eggs the whole year round.
What this legislation does is to ensure that every producer of eggs, whether he lives close to a border or far from it, whether he produces for export or for home consumption, pays the same amount per unit of production towards the inevitable losses on our exports. These Bills arc fair Bills. This will be the first effective scheme for egg marketing. The poultry industry is beset by every difficulty which attends other primary industries in Australia; it has more difficulties than any other primary industry in Australia. These Bills will see that the poultry industry is, within the present marketing scheme, efficiently and fairly financed. The big operator, like Carter Bros., who has concentrated on despoiling the industry, and people like the South Australian and Australian Capital Territory producers who have been able to sell their products so easily over the border and thus have no share in the inevitable Australiawide losses, will pay where they have not paid hitherto, but the small people will pay less. The total taking in tax from all Australian producers will be no greater than it is now. The small producer will pay less; the exploiter for the first time will pay something. This is fair.
The public will pay no more. The public in fact pays just as much for the eggs produced by the exploiter, just as much for the eggs produced by the man who pays no equalisation or pool levy, as they pay for the eggs produced by the man who does pay the pool or equalisation levy. The public gets no advantage whatsoever from the present system. In fact, the public pays more for eggs now than the public will pay under the legislation before us, because the additional amount which the public pays to the exploiter, to the interstate trafficker, is pocketed by the exploiter, by the interstate trafficker. When everybody pays alike the people who are at present paying levies will pay smaller levies, so that the charges for eggs will drop. The public who want to consume eggs will get them at lower prices. The producers - and in general this is a humble industry by comparison with other primary industries - will pay less.
This legislation will do more to stabilise the industry, to ensure efficient production, to finance fairly, than any legislation hitherto enforced. The taxpayer contributes nothing to this industry. As I have said, it is the consumer who finances the losses. Other industries are assisted by governments. We have stabilisation legislation for the wheat and dairying industries. There is bounty legislation for the flax fibre, cotton and tractor industries. There are allocations for wool, wheat, dairying, tobacco and beef research. Governments do not collect taxes to stabilise, to subsidise or to investigate the poultry industry. The industry is wholly financed by the consumers through the prices they pay for the products of the industry.
I regret that so many honorable members have done so much to obscure the economics of this industry. This legislation is the best legislation so far devised for the poultry industry. Until now it has been beyond the wit - it has been beyond the power, not just the wit - of all members of Parliament in Australia, of all the Houses and of all the parties, to devise marketing legislation for this industry. This has been because the operation of section 92 of the Constitution has made it possible in this industry more than any other to exploit border hopping and interstate trafficking. My party is committed to giving the people the opportunity to modernise the Constitution in regard to marketing in general. My party has committed itself to supporting any referendum proposal that this Government puts forward, and it is committed to putting a referendum proposal itself if this Government does not do so, to carry out the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which were placed before the House for the first time in October 1958 and with full reasons in November 1959. The Committee consisted of six members of the Labour Party, four members of the Liberal Party and two members of the Country Party. Eight of its members were from this House and four from the other place. The Committee unanimously recommended that this Parliament should seek power at a referendum to submit proposed marketing plans to a poll of primary producers and also that if three-fifths of the votes at such a poll were in favour of any plan this Parliament should have power to give effect to that plan free from the operation of section 92.
This was a proposal for amending the Constitution to permit the Parliament to seek the views of producers of any primary product and to follow those views if 60 per cent, of the producers supported them. It would for the first time enable an Australian Parliament to implemen. a marketing scheme in this country. It is impossible for any Australian Parliament to implement a marketing scheme in respect of a product which can be carried across a State border. Not only is it impossible for any Parliament to do this; it is impossible for all the Parliaments in co-operation to implement such a scheme. This legislation, therefore, cannot affect the marketing of the product as to its handling, transportation and so on, but it will for the first time enable the financing of the present marketing schemes to be fairly implemented. It means that the present authorities will sell eggs within Australia and overseas but it sees that for the first time every producer will contribute, proportionately to his production, to sharing the losses which inevitably take place in selling our seasonal surplus. It means that the public will receive the same quality of eggs as it receives now. It ensures that the small producer - the man who in fact sells through the boards which he elects - will pay less and will fill in fewer forms. It means that for the first time the exploiter will contribute to the losses of this industry as a whole. It will see that the consumer will no longer be exploited by the border hoppers. It will see that the consumer will in fact get just as good eggs but cheaper eggs than he is getting at the moment. It will see that the industry whose product he consumes is in fact fairly conducted for the first time. This is the best legislation which can be devised under the Australian Constitution as it stands. It is legislation which has been supported by every egg board in Australia. The Opposition supports the legislation.
. I approach these Bills with somewhat mixed feelings. On the one hand I have been calmly impressed by the arguments put forward by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) with regard to the effect of the legislation on consumer prices and the possible emergence of an aggravating egg surplus by reason of the operations of this legislation. On the other hand, I do not myself feel that I know much about this industry. Although there is some activity in the industry in my electorate, it is much less than it was a few years ago. I look at this legislation, therefore, not so much as regards its effect on the industry as the form that it takes.
I would like to make a couple of comments about the form of the Bills. My first remark relates to clause 8 of the Poultry Industry Levy Bill. This Bill has some peculiar features. It imposes notionally a levy on all hens kept for commercial purposes. But the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), realising that in some respects this levy will react unjustly and unfairly, has drafted clause 8 to read - (1.) Levy is not imposed on hens included in a class of hens prescribed.
I think this is in form a very bad thing to do to the House. You say to the House: “We will impose a blanket tax although we know it will act unjustly on certain classes of people. We propose, by some future prescription, to remove that injustice”. But the Bill does not say what that prescription is. Now, the House has a right to disallow any regulation which comes before it. The word “ prescribed “ means, I think, “ prescribed by regulation “. But the House does not have a right to initiate a regulation or to amend a regulation which comes before it. It may only disallow. The House is therefore being put in a position where it is doing something that is unjust and which the Minister admits to be unjust on the face of it. He says: “ I will by prescription at some future date remove this injustice “. That is what the Minister virtually says in clause 8. What he says to us is correct. He says: “ We are going to do something in blanket form which, if maintained in that blanket form in which we pass it, would be unjust, and we propose by some kind of future prescription, to remove that injustice”. I do not think it is right that the House should be asked to deal with its legislative power and with its very special taxing power in this form. In my view, clause 8 should prescribe that levies will not be imposed on hens of such and such a class, which the Minister now defines, and we should add “ or on hens in any other prescribed class “.
So the Minister is doing what is just at the present moment, as he sees it. If it is found at some later stage that other amendments are needed, they can be provided by prescribed regulation. This may seem to be a quibble but it is not really a quibble. This House should be very jealous of preserving its taxing powers to itself. It should not pass a power in blanket form and say at the same time: “ We know this is unjust in this blanket form. We will fix it by some kind of future prescription.” When the House says that it takes its hands off the control of the power to tax, because the House cannot initiate that prescription and it cannot amend it when it comes before it. It would not want to disallow it because by disallowing any prescription it would only be increasing the injustice. This seems to be a defect of drafting in the Bill and I would ask the Minister to help us by amending clause 8 to read: “Levy is not imposed on hens included in such and such a class and such and such a class or in any other prescribed class “. The Minister knows what is fair. Let him put it into the Bill at this stage.
The second point I raise also is a point of form and relates to clause 1 1 of the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Bill. The clause reads - (1.) For the purposes of this Act, a person authorised in writing by the Minister to exercise powers under this section shall at all times have full and free access to all buildings and places and all books, documents and other papers and may take extracts from and make copies of any books, documents or papers.
It is intended, I think, that this power should be exercised only in relation to people who are keepers of commercial hens. I think that is the Minister’s intention. To some limited extent this is provided for in the first few words of the clause -
For the purposes of this Act …
But is this so? I do not think it is, because it may be alleged that for the purposes of this Act, in order to see that somebody was not trafficking in eggs you would be able to go to somebody who was not a keeper of commercial hens and inspect his bank account and his private papers. This could give rise concurrently to the right of unlimited search not only against poultry farmers but also against every other member of the community, and I do not think the House should pass a clause in a bill in this sloppy form - that is, in a form that is liable to misinterpretation. It may be said that this kind of clause has been included in previous acts. It has been brought to my attention through the Minister’s officers that the Wool Tax Act, the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilisation Act and the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Act contain clauses of similar kind, although perhaps not identical. If there be a bad precedent, that is no reason for following it. We may not have been as vigilant as we should have been in dealing with the previous acts. I think we have permitted a good deal of sloppy drafting to go through the House from time to time.
There is no difference between the Minister and myself in regard to the substance and intention of the clause. He means that it should apply only to commercial egg producers. I mean that it should apply only to commercial egg producers. I think we may be able to amend and redraft this clause in a way that would express more clearly the intention of both of us, and I hope that the Minister will initiate some kind of amendment which will not have the effect of changing the substance of the clause, as he intends it, but which may make its import clearer. This is not a quibble. This House, when passing legislation, should be particularly vigilant to ensure that the operation of the legislation does not go beyond what is intended. I am not impressed by the fact that this bad principle may have been included in other acts relating to primary products. I am sorry that this is so. If I have by negligence allowed such a provision to go through the House without a protest, I am sorry. But the fact that a wrong has been done in the past and that sloppy drafting has been permitted in the past does not excuse a repetition of the crime once it has been brought to light.
For the reasons that I have given, I hope that the Minister will see fit to initiate an amendment to this clause or perhaps will allow me to initiate one. I propose to vote for the second reading of the Bill. I hope that the clauses I have mentioned will be amended either by the Minister or by a motion from me during the Committee stage. If these clauses be not amended, I shall have to consider very seriously whether I should vote against the third reading. I feel that I should vote against the third reading if the clauses remain in the form in which they at present appear in the Bill. However, I hope that the Minister will see fit to consider a certain amount of redrafting. As I said, there is no difference in substance between his intention and mine.
Debate (on motion by Mr. L. R. Johnson) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) - by leave - agreed to -
That the following Orders of the Day, Government Business, be discharged -
No. 9 - Overseas Visit by Minister for Defence - Ministerial Statement - Motion to take note of Paper - Resumption of debate upon the motion, That the House lake note of the paper.
No. 13 - Defence Review - Ministerial Statement - Motion to take note of Paper - Resumption of debate upon the motion. That the House take note of the paper - And on the amendment moved thereto by Mr. Calwell, viz.: That the following words be added to the motion: - “ and opposes the Government’s proposals to conscript Australian youth for service overseas, regrets its failure to stimulate recruitment for the regular Army and condemns its delay in securing Naval and Air Forces to safeguard Australia and its territories and communications “.
No. 14 - Arbitration Sanctions - Ministerial Statement - Motion to take note of Paper - Resumption of debate upon the motion, That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In the few minutes at my disposal tonight, I propose to put the record straight and to produce proof of certain statements I made recently about the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). The Minister alleged at the time that the statements I made were untrue. Quite recently, in discussing the airline dispute between the New South Wales Government and Ansett- A.N.A., I drew attention to the violent reaction of the Minister to certain questions that had been directed to him on this subject. I had this to say -
I referred recently to the report of a speech made at Dubbo by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) on the airlines dispute. The reference sent the Minister into a tailspin, and in a frenzy and a panic he has by telephone and courier endeavoured to secure a copy of the article.
The Minister said that these remarks were untrue. Referring to me, he said -
He then went on to say that I have attempted today to contact the “Dubbo Dispatch”. Again bc is not truthful.
He was referring to me again -
Neither 1 nor any person to my knowledge or with my approval has contacted the “ Dubbo Dispatch “ today or since I was last in Dubbo three or four weeks ago. So I point these facts out purely for the purpose of indicating that a statement has been made by the honorable member which is untrue.
I propose to put the record straight on this matter. Let me say, Mr. Speaker, that following my question and the Minister’s statement. I received a telephone call from a private secretary in this Parliament stating that he had been approached by the Minister’s secretary asking that I make the article available to him, as the Minister did not have a copy. Does the Minister say that the secretary was acting without his knowledge or authority? I will be interested to hear the Minister make the position clear.
Following the Minister’s statement on 28th April, I spoke by telephone to Mr. Twemlow of the “Dubbo Dispatch” on Thursday, 29th April. Mr. Twemlow advised me that about 4.30 p.m. on 27th April, following my question, Miss Rogers of the Minister’s staff telephoned him and asked that he make a girl available to dictate the full article, as the Minister did not have a copy in his office and was most anxious to obtain it. This was the Minister who said he had no knowledge of this. At the time, the staff of the newspaper was finishing work, so Mr. Twemlow arranged for a girl to work back on overtime, and that night, 27th April, she spent 15 or 20 minutes dictating the article to a member of the Minister’s staff, who took it down in shorthand. On 28th April, Mr. Twemlow of the “ Dubbo Dispatch “ received a copy of the Minister’s answer to a question asked in the Parliament on 27th April, from Miss Rogers of his staff, with the Minister’s compliments. Does this mean that the Minister had no knowledge of the subject and had not approached anyone?
On 29th April, the following letter was received by Mr. Twemlow, and I shall read it for the benefit of the House. I have the original of the letter here. It is headed “ Minister for Labour and National Service, Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T., 28th April, 1965 “. This is the day following the telephone conversation. The letter reads -
Thank you very much for your assistance last evening. I did appreciate it.
I am sorry this Hansard could not reach you any earlier than Thursday’s air express.
Yours faithfully, I Peter Kelly
Does the Minister say that his staff was acting without his knowledge or authority? Does he say that he had no knowledge of these activities? Why did he make this allegation against me and make false statements as a Minister of the Crown about the action he had taken in this matter? The facts speak for themselves and I leave it to the House to judge who is telling the truth on this subject. The evidence is here for all to see. A photostat of the letter could be incorporated in “Hansard”. The Minister has misled the House. His allegations of falsehood against me are baseless and he should withdraw them. I see that you, Mr. Speaker, a genuine and sincere advocate of the principles that apply in this House, realise the substance of the attack that has been made on my integrity. Mr. Speaker, this grave reflection on my integrity is a very serious matter. I rise tonight to deny it because it is based on falsehood, as I have shown.
The Minister’s action merits his resignation because he has misled this House. This sort of thing happened in recent times in the House of Commons and the Minister concerned there had to resign after he had made a false statement to the Parliament. In this Parliament we have the spectacle of the Minister for Labour and National Service deliberately misleading the House by saying that he had not approached the newspaper or those concerned. Does the Government defend this conduct of the Minister? I told the Minister that I would speak on this matter tonight, but he is not prepared to come into the House to defend himself. This shows that he has a guilty conscience. The Minister who accused me of falsehood is condemned by statements from his own secretary and a personal telephone call that I received, yet he has the audacity to tell this Parliament that he made no approach to the people concerned.
I suggest to the Minister in charge of the House at the moment (Mr. Barnes) that he convey to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Minister concerned that we view with great concern the attack made on my integrity in this matter in a statement based on falsehood made by the Minister for Labour and National Service. Let the Minister come into the chamber and explain it away. If the Minister will not resign, of course there is little we can do about it, but I believe that any party that supports a Minister who makes these baseless allegations and attacks the integrity of honorable members, should be called to answer for it, particularly when the evidence of the Minister’s conduct is produced.
It is with great regret that I have to speak in this strain, Mr. Speaker, but I am forced to do so because of the vile attack that was made upon me and the intemperate language used by that Minister in other directions on the same night. I leave it to you in your wisdom, Mr. Speaker, to judge the case I have presented. I submit that the resignation of the Minister should be demanded because of the way in which he misled this House and because of his refusal to honour his responsibility as a Minister of the Crown and speak the truth at all times.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
son asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1, 2. 3, 4 and 5. A wide variety of measures are being taken to check that all who were required to register for national service did so, and to deal with any defaulters. It is too early as yet to make any precise estimates.
t asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Did the Final Declaration of the 1954 Geneva Conference on the problem of restoring pence in Indo-China require that general elections be held in July 1956, under the supervision of an international commission?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Article 7 of the Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference reads: “The conference declares that, so far as Viet Nam is concerned, the settlement of political problems, effected on the basis of respect for the principles of independence, unity and territorial integrity, shall permit the Vietnamese people to enjoy the fundamental freedoms, guaranteed by democratic institutions established as a result of free general elections by secret ballot.” “In order to ensure that sufficient progress in the restoration of peace has been made, and that all the necessary conditions obtain for free expression of the national will, general elections shall be held in July, 1956, under the supervision of an international commission composed of representatives of the member states of the International Supervisory Commission.”
Yes. 3, 4. Australia was not a party to the Geneva Agreements or the Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference but welcomed the ending of hostilities in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and expressed its willingness to play its part in the consolidation of peace in the area. The Australian Government supported holding the proposed elections provided that the conditions existed for the genuinely free expression of the people’s will as laid down in Article 7 of the Final Declaration. At the 1954 Geneva Conference, the Vietnamese representative sought to have the future of Vietnam decided by free elections under the supervision of the United Nations. The Viet Minh representative did not agree.
President Ngo Dinh Diem, in a declaration of 16th July, 1955, stated that elections would be meaningful only if they were “absolutely free” and that, faced with the Viet Minh’s totalitarian regime of oppression in the north, it was unlikely that the conditions for the holding of elections could be fulfilled. The Vietnamese Government said in a statement issued on 9th August, 1955: “The Government considers the principle of essentially free elections as a democratic and peaceful institution, but believes that conditions of freedom of life and of voting must be assured beforehand. From this point of view, nothing constructive will be done as long as the Communist regime of the North does not permit each Vietnamese citizen to enjoy democratic freedoms and the basic fundamental rights of man “ On 30th May, 1956, the Minister for External
Affairs, Mr. Casey, as he then was, said “I cannot see much possibility of free elections as we understand them, throughout the whole of Vietnam. I think that Mr. Diem, on behalf of his Government, has said everything that could be said with truth about the situation in the country and I do not think that the Geneva Agreements have been vitiated or violated in any way “.
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
2 and 3. As the honorable member will realize, many people have been asked to report to the Government on educational matters. Thus, Australian delegates to the many educational conferences have reported, as also has the Australian Universities Commission. I take it that the question refers, however, ro those reports on matters of general educational import which result from particular inquiries initiated by the Commonwealth Government. These are as follows:
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished .the following answers to the honorable member’s questions -
n asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
y asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
– The information sought by the honorable member is contained in the following table -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answer -
The programme of development of aerodromes throughout Australia and the Territories for the forthcoming financial year is being drawn up at the present time, ft must, of course, be approved as part of the budget for 1965-66 and it will be several months yet before the details for which you have asked will be available.
y asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Ord River Project.
– On 28 th April, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), I undertook to make a statement about the Government’s decision on the request from the Western Australian Government for £30 million to assist with the completion of the Ord River Irrigation Project. I have since written to Mr. Brand, Premier of Western Australia, informing him of the Commonwealth’s decision to defer new financial decisions until detailed results over a much longer trial period are available.
The Commonwealth Government has given long and exhaustive consideration to all aspects of the scheme, including, of course, our own policy in respect of northern development and the desirability of maintaining continuity of development in the Kimberley area. Honorable members will recall that the Commonwealth has already provided financial assistance of £5 million towards construction of the Ord diversion dam and associated works.
The Ord River Project is the largest irrigation proposal which has ever been contemplated in Northern Australia. It is located in one of the most remote areas in our continent, and the establishment of a relatively large permanent population in such an area is a matter of great importance. Despite the agricultural and engineering research work that has been undertaken over the years, the Government considers that more detailed information needs to be known about such issues as the profitability of cotton production, the ability of the farmer to control insect pests which apparently abound in the area, and the behaviour of these tropical soils after intensive production has been commenced.
Last year was the first season of commercial production, but only five farmers were involved. An average yield of 1,330 lb. of seed cotton per acre was obtained although it has been confidently anticipated that a much higher yield would result. Although the Government appreciates the difficulties confronting farmers growing cotton for perhaps the first time, more particularly in such an area as the Ord, it would be most difficult for us to give a favourable decision committing the Government on the basis of this limited evidence. This season, 20 farmers are growing crops on the project and the results of these operations will throw more light on many of the questions which we consider are vital to our judgment of the future of the scheme.
In view of the many unknowns associated with the project at this stage the Government has taken the view that the wisest decision is to wait until more essential information comes to hand which can only be gained by further experience with the project.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 May 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19650505_reps_25_hor46/>.