25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. It relates to the run down of our overseas balances. Is it correct, as has been stated, that for the 12 months ending June this year it is expected that our overseas balances will be reduced by £170 million? Is it also correct, as has been further stated, that it is expected that the decline will continue for the ensuing 12 months? What action, if any, does the Government propose to take to arrest the downward trend of our overseas balances?
– It is well known to all honorable members that Australia, as a great exporter of primary products, is subject to wide swings in its export experiences. The terms of trade move against us from time to time, we are affected by seasonal conditions, and the level of demand in other parts of the world has a bearing on what we sell and the prices that we receive. In the last financial year alone, 1963-64, the value of our export sales increased by just on 30 per cent. For a variety of reasons we have not had so favorable an experience in 1964-65. However, our front line reserves had built up to the highest level in the history of this country. Our second line reserves increased also and today they stand at something over £230 million.
The honorable member asks whether in the current year there will be a rundown of the order of £170 million from what I described as a record level. That could be so before the financial year ends. Some of the tendencies which have affected our circumstances this year will be carried over into the next year. We shall be watching developments quite closely, and we shall be taking what action seems to us to be necessary in respect of any developments which we may have some capacity to control. However, we are not responsible for droughts or fluctuations in demand overseas. In the past, Australian governments have dealt with these fluctuations in export sales to the best of their ability, and I feel that we will be able to handle the situation and maintain within Australia the high level of prosperity that has resulted from this Government’s administration over the last 16 years.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. It refers to the listing of goat’s milk in the pharmaceutical schedule as a restricted benefit. Does this listing mean that the medical profession has at long last recognised the very beneficial results achieved by putting asthma sufferers and babies suffering from eczema on a diet of goat’s milk? Before approving the supply of powdered goat’s milk, which is imported, will the Department of Health ascertain in each State whether arrangements can be made locally for the supply of fresh goat’s milk, which is readily available and much more effective than the powdered form?
– Consideration has been given for some time to the provision of goat’s milk for children who suffer from certain allergies. The matter has not yet been finalised, but I understand that a recommendation will come before me in the very near future. I can assure the honorable member that that recommendation will be carefully considered. I am hopeful that I shall be able subsequently to reply to him in the affirmative.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. As he knows, this House, since the present sessional period began, has from time to time been short of business - in fact, it is notorious that the Government Whip has often been scratching for business to keep the House going - whereas, in the short sitting time remaining, we shall have to deal with a number of measures, some of them important, that will be inadequately debated or passed at late and protracted sittings. I ask the right honorable gentleman*. Has this occurred as part of a deliberate plan of the Cabinet in contempt of the Parliament, because of the incapacity of the Cabinet to prepare its business properly and promptly for submission to the Parliament, or for some other cause?
– The answer to that question is: “ For some other cause “
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is he aware of an article written by a Mr. Hogan, Secretary of the South Australian Branch of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, Commonwealth Public Service, which appeared in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ on 15th April, 1965, and in which it was alleged that transfers of clerks from the Fourth Division to the Third Division in the Public Service are not being effected in terms of a direction in Commonwealth Government “Gazette” No. 5, of 15th January 1965? If the right honorable gentleman has seen the article, is he in a position to comment on it? If not, will he undertake to check on this matter, which is causing great concern in South Australia, and let me have a reply as expeditiously as possible?
– I am sorry; I missed the first part of the question. Apparently, some statement has been made. I have not seen it. With the assistance of the honorable member, I will put myself in possession of it. If he wants the allegation looked into, I will certainly have it looked into.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: Has he seen a reported statement by a former controller of the port of San Francisco to the effect that that port is 12 times as efficient, in terms of manpower, as the port of Sydney? If the Minister has seen this statement, will he have a study undertaken so that we may ascertain the true position on the waterfront in Sydney and attempt to raise the level of productivity in that port?
– When I was in San Francisco last year, I had a discussion with Mr. Harry Bridges, a former Australian, who is in control of the San Francisco waterfront. I can assure the House that Mr. Harry Bridges and his very able lieutenants of the Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union International have control of the San Francisco longshoremen and I think I can say, too, that Mr. Harry Bridges enjoys the confidence of the shipowners on the west coast of the United States of America. There is an enormous difference between the control exercised by the Longshoremen’s Union and the control that is sometimes attempted to be exercised by the Waterside Workers Federation in New South Wales and Victoria. The facts are that neither the New South Wales branch nor the Victorian branch of the Federation pays much regard to the decisions of the executive of the Federation.
I believe that the performances on the San Francisco waterfront are much better than the performances on the east coast of Australia. 1 do not know what the solution to this problem is. I can say that we are approaching a state of near anarchy and sooner or later the Waterside Workers Federation must realise that, unless it ia prepared to take drastic action to keep its own members in order, somebody else will have to show the waterside workers the way in which the waterfront should be worked.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. How long does he expect the current credit restriction policy to remain in our banking structure? Is he satisfied that this policy of restriction will not harm our export production drive?
– I think it is well known by all honorable members that the Australian economy is currently in a state of labour boom. We have an acute shortage of labour and whilst we are adding to the work force as rapidly as we can by natural increase as our. young men and women leave school, and by the supplement we can make from a considerably expanded migration programme, there are still practical limits at a time when so much expansion is occurring in various sections of the Australian economy. There is also currently a boom in building and construction. While these conditions persist, quite obviously a programme of restraint in further bank lending is desirable. This programme has, I think, worked to the advantage of the community in avoiding the worst kind of excesses which have made themselves evident in other periods when the economy was under pressure. I cannot hold out any hope that such restraints as exist at present will be removed in the near future. When there has been some easing of the pressures, of course we shall review the position.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In view of the pressures being felt by our export industries and the need to strengthen our competitive capacity to produce and export, can the Prime Minister say whether the Government has advanced plans to encourage the manufacturing industries to expand their research capacity? Has the Government considered the document “ A Study of Industrial Research in Australia” produced by a secondary industries research group? Would its findings be in line with the needs of our manufacturers?
– I can add very little to what was said yesterday by my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry, on this matter. We are very conscious of the need to increase exports and we have regard, I can assure the honorable member, to any suggestions that may assist to this end. Research is, of course, a most important way by which industry may be able to expand its export capacity. We all recognise this. The Government has under consideration some proposals that have been made to it. The honorable member may be assured that the document to which he referred will be considered.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. Can the Minister inform the House of the number of compensation claims paid at this date to dependants of victims of the H.M.A.S. “Voyager” disaster? When will all applications for compensation benefits be finalised?
– As this matter comes partly within the administration of my Department, I will answer the question. There are two sorts of claims in respect of the “ Voyager “ disaster. One claim is under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I think all those claims have been met. There are other claims outstanding but they are outstanding only because of evidence that is required. These claims are handled by my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral. I can assure the honorable member that every step is being taken to see that the claims are dealt with as expeditiously as possible.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the outstanding success of the Colombo Plan in promoting goodwill and better mutual understanding between Australia and the countries of South and South East Asia, will the Government give earnest consideration to facilitating an even larger flow of students during the next financial year?
– I will be very happy to give some thought to this proposal made by the honorable member.
– Is the Prime Minister able to say whether Captain Robertson, who, at one time, commanded H.M.A.S. “Melbourne”, is in receipt of a Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund pension? If this is not the case, will the Prime Minister have a look at this position? I know that the Prime Minister is aware of this officer’s very distinguished record. If this is just a matter of putting the telescope to the blind eye, will the Prime Minister do so and rectify what a number of people think is a very grave wrong?
– I do not administer these matters and, therefore, I cannot answer the question. I think the honorable member could put his question on the notice paper and then the relevant Ministers can look at it.
– The Postmaster-General will recall my representations over the last couple of years seeking the assistance of his Department for the improvement of television reception in the town of Mudgee. I ask the Postmaster-General: As a result of his investigations, what action is now being taken, or will be taken, to ensure that the residents of Mudgee have a satisfactory television service as quickly as possible?
– I know the interest of the honorable member in this matter. I also know that Mudgee does not receive a satisfactory service at the present time. It might receive a more reliable signal when the stations which will serve the Dubbo area are installed. What form this service should take will be a question for inquiry when those stations are in fact there. I believe that there is an application from the commercial licensee at Orange for the installation, perhaps on a temporary basis, of a translator service to Mudgee. I believe this is receiving investigation at the present moment.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. When he announced the decision of the Government to send troops to South Vietnam, the Prime Minister stated that the Government had received a request from the Government of South Vietnam for this assistance. Was that request in writing or was it a verbal request? If it was in writing, would the Prime Minister be prepared to table the exchange of letters that occurred in the consideration of this matter? When did the Prime Minister receive this request?
– Mr. Speaker, all these things are dealt with through the ordinary courses of diplomatic exchange. I am not at all disposed to lay on the table of the House diplomatic exchanges-
– Why not?
– Has the Prime Minister something to hide?
– Honorable members opposite can bark as loud as they like because we know that they are opposed to us on this matter. All I am telling the honorable member - and unlike either of those who are interjecting I speak with some responsibility - is that I am not prepared to lay on the table of the House diplomatic exchanges between ourselves, our ambassador, ambassadors of other countries, and heads of other governments; and that is that.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that an electrical sleeping aid is now available from Japan, thus reducing the need for people to use sleeping pills? Will he investigate the possibility of importing this aid or arranging lor its manufacture in Australia?
– Those of us who enjoy the soporific atmosphere of the House would not, 1 am sure, need this aid. I know that an electric-narcotic device is manu factured and is available for sale in Japan, and in Japan only. We have tested this apparatus in Australia under certain circumstances and it has been found to have some rather difficult side effects. It is a transistorised instrument of the multivibrator type, and electrodes are placed on the base of the skull and on top of the eyelids. A problem that has arisen is that when the person who is induced to go to sleep does go to sleep, the electrodes are still in position on the eyelids and they have been found to cause some diseases of the eye such as glaucoma. As a result we have consulted our colleagues in the Department of Customs and Excise, and a prohibition on the import of this apparatus is in effect. It can be brought into Australia only where it is to be used under medical control.
– Has the Prime Minister seen reports that Senator Kennedy, one of the most influential politicians in the United States of America, has joined the growing ranks of those who are against the American military build up in Vietnam? Does he agree that the growing and influential opposition in America to the military build up in Vietnam indicates the shallowness of his own attitude - revealed just a minute ago - and that of his supporters, that any opposition to this military build up in Vietnam is anti-American? Will he say whether his Government is still fully committed to the military build up or will he support - preferably openly - moves for a cessation of hostilities so that Vietnam may seek self determination under international supervision as provided in the Geneva Agreement of 1954, and so avoid young Australians becoming involved in the bottomless pit of a racial war in Asia?
– Mr. Speaker, 1 seek leave to be excused from reopening and conducting at some length a debate which we had recently in the House. The honorable gentleman started this characteristic farrago by referring to Senator Kennedy. Because Senator Kennedy is reported - whether rightly or wrongly, I do not know - to have offered some critical remark the honorable gentleman asks us to accept the proposition that American public opinion is not behind the President. All I know is that it was only the other day that Congress itself had an opportunity of voting on the proposals made by the President and he had an overwhelming majority - probably 98 per cent, of all of those voting.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has his attention been brought to a fresh assertion by the honorable member for Yarra that there is a link between the visit of the right honorable gentleman to the United States of America and the despatch of Australian troops to South Vietnam? Without in any way appreciating the views of the honorable member for Yarra will the Treasurer seek an early opportunity to give an account of his visit to the United States so that the mischief peddled by the honorable member for Yarra, with all the assiduity of an Afghan camel driver, can be put into perspective?
– I think the honorable gentleman has described this invention very effectively. In reply to the second part of his question, I say that I hope to be giving the account to which he has referred to the House some time tomorrow.
– I ask the Minister for the Army: Is it a fact that the Army is experiencing great difficulty in obtaining instructors to train selective national service trainees? Is it true that the despatch of the First Battalion to South Vietnam and the need to hold other men in reserve have reduced drastically the reservoir of trained instructors? Has the Department of the Army sought, by letter for this purpose, the enlistment of Citizen Military Forces officers and non-commissioned officers, first for a period of two years, later for a period of one year, and then even later for a period of six months? Finally, if, as I understand the position, the long standing practice of having one corporal to each section is to be dropped, is that an indication that the training of our selective national service trainees is in danger of being lowered below desired standards?
– I do not know where the honorable gentleman gets his information. Of my certain knowledge, every allegation that he made is incorrect. Obviously, a substantial expansion of the Army, such as we have undertaken - an expansion of 50 to 60 per cent, in 18 months as a result of the introduction of selective national service - puts some strains on everybody in it. However, the Army has been able to provide an adequate number of officers and non-commissioned officers to train national servicemen and others without at the same time affecting our readily available capacity to fulfil our obligations. Indeed, that was shown when the Government was able to meet its obligation in relation to South Vietnam very quickly by announcing the despatch of the First Battalion.
The honorable gentleman raises the question of our attempting to persuade members of the Citizen Military Forces to serve full time. We have been doing that for years.
– For short terms?
– For years we have had an element of C.M.F. members prepared to serve full time for as short a time as they wish. One of the advantages of the concept of C.M.F. members on full time duty is that it enables the persons concerned to leave the Service at will; there is not a fixed term of engagement. It is natural that, at a time when we have a substantial expansion of the Army in a short time, we should redouble our efforts to persuade members of the C.M.F. to serve full time. That is precisely what we have done.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister in his capacity of Acting Minister for External Affairs. As next week has been put aside for International Co-operation Year, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will commemorate the occasion by releasing the report which some senior officers of the Department of External Affairs have prepared over the last six months or so on the nature and effectiveness of Australian economic aid since the Second World War, and by allowing honorable members to speak on the report.
– I imagine that what the honorable member is referring to is a report made in the ordinary course of departmental procedure by officers of the Department of External Affairs for the advice of the head of the Department and the Minister. Some day the honorable member may discover that it is not the practice of any government to disclose such a report.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. He will know that the Australian Primary Producers Union’s application for membership of the Australian Wool Industry Conference is to be considered again at the June meeting of that Conference. Can the Minister inform the House whether the legislation relating to the referendum on the wool reserve price plan will be introduced prior to the House rising for the winter recess or in the Budget session, by which time a decision on membership of the Conference may have been taken?
– It is not envisaged that legislation with respect to the wool reserve price plan will be put before the House before the end of this sessional period because the Wool Industry Conference has not yet made its determination. It will do so at its June meeting. As a consequence, the final recommendations will not be made to enable the Government to know whether the Conference accepts the proposals that the Government has agreed to with the Conference executive. We need to wait for the final recommendations. I am quite sure that the industry’s thinking on the reserve price plan, if it is implemented, will not begin until 1st July next year, so that will give us ample time to consider the matter further.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Will the honorable gentleman tell the House a little more about the physical fitness programme to suit people of all ages that is being worked out by the National Fitness Council? The Minister will be aware of the strain placed upon honorable senators and members due to constant travel, late hours and lack of recreation. I ask: Will the new programme make an impact upon such members? Will the programme possibly influence the provision of exercise and sporting facilities not now existent within the precincts of the House, and could it possibly shatter the refreshment room menu with a harsh diet chart?
– I am afraid that the latter part of the honorable member’s question does not come within my jurisdiction. That is a matter that should be referred to Mr. Speaker or to the President of the Senate. However, if they so require, I could give some very sound advice in certain directions.
At the present time the National Fitness Council has under consideration a programme to which I have yet to agree. The programme has not yet been finalised by the Council. We hope at a later stage to have the programme published in booklet form for wide circulation, but consideration of this has not been completed. Until the final recommendations are received from the Council I cannot make any further comment.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is the Minister aware that more than six months have elapsed since the Bill authorising the establishment of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads was passed by Parliament? As no appointments to the Bureau have been announced, can the Minister inform the House when his Department intends to announce them so that the Bureau can tackle the problems which it was created to deal with?
– I am sure that the honorable member is aware that in order to make appointments it is necessary to have persons who are suitable to fill the positions. I gather that he would prefer us to have suitable persons rather than just make appointments. The Government is engaged in looking for suitable persons to fill the vacancies. As soon as those persons are available and the Government has ascertained the position, the appointments will be made.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question. In view of the fact that the time is approaching when the Government will be preparing its 1965-66 Budget, will he again give consideration to the question of increasing the maximum permissible figure of £4,000 which is applicable to the averaging system of taxation? Further, will he, at the same time, consider allowing those taxpayers who elected to leave the averaging system to return, even if under some form of penalty?
– I think the honorable gentleman would expect from me much the same sort of answer as I usually give at this time of the year to the kind of question that he has put to me, that is, that whilst we do receive a very considerable number of requests for taxation concessions in one form or another, these are reviewed prior to completion of the Budget discussions. I shall certainly see that the matter which he has raised is included in that review which will be made shortly.
– Will the Minister for Social Services consider increasing the payments for age, invalid and widows’ pensions commensurate with the increases in living costs as announced quarterly by the Commonwealth Statistician? Will he also consider the immediate granting of a £1 a week rise in these pensions to meet living costs which have spiralled since the last increase was paid?
– The Treasurer in his normal eloquent fashion just gave very much the reply that I must give now. I point out that the other day in the House I replied to a question from another member of the Opposition who drew a comparison between the consumer price index and the present benefits paid by my Department to members of the Australian public. At that time I mentioned that the benefits paid by this Government compared more than favorably with those paid by the former Labour Government when it was in office in 1949. Over the years the Government has continually considered modifications and improvements of the social service benefits when it has felt they were necessary and advisable.
– Is the Minister for National Development in a position to inform the Parliament what progress has been made in carrying out a survey of water resources in Australia following the legislation enacted last year? Will the survey take into account the economic losses resulting from current drought conditions?
– I cannot give the honorable member the full results of the survey. There have been two meetings of the Water Resources Council since I have been Chairman, and a third meeting is to be held in about two months in the north west of Western Australia. I will get what information is available for the honorable member and let him have it as soon as I can.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Did I address to him in mid-1964 a question as to the pending prosecutions under the Australian Industries Preservation Act against overseas shipping interests? Did the honorable gentleman promise to furnish me with a reply? In view of the serious adverse effect of shipping freights on Australia’s present overseas trading position will he vouchsafe an answer to my question?
– I have a recollection of the honorable member asking me a question about this matter; I do not recollect that I promised to give him an answer, but let me now give him an answer. Two writs were issued in this matter against a company and against an individual. These matters are in the course of pleading. The Commonwealth issued the writs and later the defendants requested that further particulars be given. Advice of counsel was taken on this by the Commonwealth and the matter was proceeded with by the Commonwealth on the basis of that advice. Subsequently the defendants were called upon to file their defence in the action. They were given two extensions of time. The second extension of time for filing a defence has now expired. I understand - although I am not in a position to say this with certainty - that an application will be made shortly by the defendants to a judge in chambers in relation to the pleadings. As I expect this to happen it would be improper of me to go further now.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say what progress has been made by Mount Isa Mines Ltd. in getting back to full production? Can the Minister inform the House as to the current position regarding labourmanagement relationships in the mine, and, in particular, whether official union responsibility is being established in such a way as to obviate undesirable extraneous influences, whether from the Yarra bank or the Clydeside, which are likely to sell the workers down the river?
– I must say first of all that I have not kept in close contact with Mount Isa for some days now. I understand that the company is back to within 1,000 of its labour force at the time the strike commenced. As to the last part of the question, I do not think that the opinion of the meddlesome and ulcerated pair to which the honorable member refers has very much influence in Mount Isa, or that it has ever had very much influence there.
As to the other question asked by the honorable gentleman, I can say that the Australian Workers Union is doing its best to ensure that there are satisfactory relationships between the management and the union. I am not certain as to the exact relationship between the Mount Isa Trades and Labour Council, the Council for Membership Control and the company itself. Nonetheless, if the honorable gentleman does want me to find out exactly what is happening there, and if he would care to press the question later on, I shall get the information for him.
– I preface a question addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware that R. W. Miller (Holdings) Ltd. is negotiating the sale of the company’s three oil tankers to an American owned company - National Bulk Carriers. If R. W. Miller (Holdings) Ltd. succeeds in selling these three tankers, will that company be required to build three tankers in Australian shipyards, or will the purchaser be required to build the tankers in Australian yards? If these tankers are sold and removed from the coastal trade, can the Minister assure me that the trans port of oil on the Australian coast will not revert to the bad old days when oil was carried exclusively in foreign owned ships manned by cheap labour crews who were employed on wages and under conditions far inferior to those prescribed by Australian seamen’s awards?
– I have seen some Press speculation about possible negotiations for the sale of the R. W. Miller tankers, but no official advice has been received by me. Until there is some change in the existing situation, I think it would be idle to speculate on what the Government’s attitude would be.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he will give pre-budgetary consideration to the liberalisation of the income means test, which now limits to £2 a week the income which a pensioner may earn before becoming disqualified or ineligible for the pensioner medical service.
– As the honorable member knows, this is a matter of policy. Therefore I cannot reply to the honorable member’s question; but the matter which he raises will be considered together with other matters before the Budget is brought down.
– In addressing a question to the Treasurer, I refer to the conversion of meters in taxi cabs which will result from the introduction of decimal currency next year. Will those persons who own or lease taxis and who are obliged to convert the meters in their cabs be compensated for the whole or any part of the cost of such conversion? If they are to be compensated, will the Treasurer say what is the latest date on which applications will be accepted and where applications should be lodged?
– I should like to supply the honorable gentleman with a precise answer to that question, and shall do so as soon as practicable.
GEORGE’S HEIGHTS PARKLAND. Mr. COCKLE. - I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he can inform the House as to what developments have taken place concerning the proposed handing over to the New South Wales Government of the 32 acres of land at George’s Heights in the Warringah electorate, which was formerly held by the Army. If there has been any delay occasioned by the procrastination of the former State Government, will the Minister reopen negotiations with the new Government in New South Wales with a view to bringing this matter to early finality so as to make the area available for a national park?
– There have been some protracted negotiations about this piece of parkland. I do not know at this time exactly what negotiations have taken place, but I shall certainly have a look into the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Are forms of application for deferment of training available to persons called up for selective national- service training, and at what point in their examinations are these forms available to them?
– I am sorry that I did not understand the full purport of the question. I will have a look at it in “ Hansard “ and see that the honorable member gets a reply.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, I rise to draw the attention of honorable members to amendments to the Charter of the United Nations, set out in resolution 1991 of the United Nations General Assembly, which I now table, providing for an increase in the membership of the Security Council from 11 to 15, and of the Economic and Social Council from 18 to 27, and providing also for an increase from seven to nine in the number of affirmative votes needed for the adoption of resolutions in the Security Council.
These amendments, the first to the United Nations Charter since it was drafted 20 years ago, have their origin in the rapid increase over recent years of the membership of the United Nations. There were 51 members when the organisation began in 1945. Since then, with the admission of new members, mainly from Asia and Africa, the United Nations has more than doubled, to a total today of 1 14. This rapid enlargement resulted in increasing competition for the elective seats on the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, since the size of these bodies remained as fixed by the United Nations Charter in 1945, that is 11, including 5 permanent members, on the Security Council, and 18 on the Economic and Social Council.
It also resulted, over the years, in increasing pressure for Charter amendments enlarging the Councils. This pressure, however, was for some time resisted by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which argued that it was neither appropriate nor legally possible to amend the Charter until the People’s Republic of China was represented in the United Nations. Since Charter amendments cannot come into force without the ratification of each of the five permanent members of the Security Council - the Republic of China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the U.S.S.R. - the proclaimed opposition of the U.S.S.R. was for some years enough to inhibit efforts to enlarge the Councils. However, at the Eighteenth Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1963 the pressure for enlargement resulted in the adoption, on an Afro-Asian motion, of the resolution I have just placed on the table of the House.
Resolution 1991 A, relating to the Security Council, was adopted by 97 votes, including Australia, in favour, 11, including the Soviet bloc and France, against, with 4 abstentions - the United Kingdom, U.S.A., Portugal and South Africa. Resolution 1991B, relating to ECOSOC, was adopted by 96 votes, including Australia, in favour and 11 against, including the Soviet bloc and France, with 5 abstentions - China, the United Kingdom, U.S.A., Portugal and South Africa.
In the view of the Australian Government, the increases provided for in Resolution 1991 are sensible and equitable. The Government believes that the Security Council, while it should be properly representative, does not require great enlargement. Its function as the organ with “ primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security “ makes a wide membership inappropriate. It must avoid the danger of unwieldiness lest the necessary capability of rapid action be diminished; and its membership must meet the special qualifications laid down in the Charter, Article 23 of which states that in the elections of the Council’s non-permanent members due regard should be “ specially paid, in the first instance to the contribution of members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organisation, and also to equitable geographical distribution”. Resolution 1991A meets these requirements, while at the same time providing for the adequate representation of the countries of Asia and Africa in addition to the groups and interests traditionally represented on the nonpermanent seats of the Council. In the case of the Economic and Social Council, on the other hand, given the wider ranging nature of its work and the absence of specific qualifications for membership, these constraining factors are not present and the rather greater proportionate increase provided for in resolution 1991B is appropriate.
Since enlarging the size of the Security Council and of ECOSOC requires that the United Nations Charter be amended, it was not sufficient for the General Assembly simply to adopt a resolution. Article 108 of the Charter states that amendments to the Charter shall come into force when they have been, first, adopted by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly, and, secondly, ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional processes by two thirds of the members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council. Resolution 1991, which fulfilled the first of these requirements, called upon member states to ratify by 1st September 1965.
So far 63 member states, including one permanent member of the Security Council, the U.S.S.R., have ratified the amendments. Seventy-six ratifications, including those of all five permanent members of the Security Council, are necessary for the amendments to come into force. The 63 ratifications already notified include Canada and New Zealand and eight western European countries. More are expected.
The Australian Government had two main interests in the lengthy and complex negotiations at the United Nations leading up to the adoption of resolution 1991. The first was to secure provision for an equitable and appropriate enlargement of the two Councils. This aim, as I have just described, was satisfactorily achieved. The Government’s second main interest was to preserve Australia’s chances of election to the Councils, preferably through retention of the Commonwealth concept in the arrangements governing elections to these bodies.
Elections to the Security Council and ECOSOC were in the beginning and for many years thereafter governed by informal conventions which in effect reserved one of the six non-permanent Security Council seats to the Commonwealth and one of the ECOSOC seats to the three “ Old Commonwealth “ countries - Australia, Canada and New Zealand. But the convention of the Commonwealth as an electoral category came to be increasingly called into question, on the grounds that it cut across other accepted groupings. The African Commonwealth members, for example, made it plain in the years preceding the 1963 session of the General Assembly that they wished to be elected as representatives of Africa, not of the Commonwealth. The fact that the Commonwealth had special electoral status also attracted criticism from some nonCommonwealth members of the United Nations, especially those belonging to nongeographical groupings akin to the Commonwealth but without separate electoral status in the United Nations. These attitudes resulted in Malaysia’s failing in 1963 to be elected to succeed Ghana on the Security Council - Malaysia had to share a seat with Czechoslovakia - and in the deletion of the Commonwealth from the new electoral categories established in resolution 1991.
As is recounted in the report of the Australian Delegation to the Eighteenth Session of the United Nations General Assembly - the 1963 session - copies of which are in the Parliamentary Library, the Australian delegation, together with the delegations of Canada and New Zealand, was active during the debate in seeking to preserve the retention of the Commonwealth concept in elections to United Nations bodies, and in seeking to assure the access of the three countries to the General Committee and the two Councils. The General Committee, which is concerned with organising the work of the General Assembly, also was enlarged in 1963 but since that required amendment only of the Rules of Procedure, and not the Charter, governmental ratification is not necessary. In his statement on 10th December 1963, the Australian representative developed at length the argument in favour of Commonwealth representation, as such, in the United Nations. He also emphasised the importance of providing proper access to the two Councils for countries, such as Australia, which had from the beginning played an active and constructive role in the United Nations and had much to contribute in the future. It became clear, however, following the introduction by Australia, Canada and New Zealand of an amendment to the General Committee draft resolution providing that at least one member of the General Committee should be from a Commonwealth country, that most United Nations members were no longer prepared to take the Commonwealth into account in laying down the pattern of elections to the main United Nations bodies. The “ Commonwealth “ amendment was consequently withdrawn by the three co-sponsors. However, statements were made by other Commonwealth countries to the effect that the Commonwealth was an important grouping which would continue to play a constructive role in the United Nations.
Despite the disappearance of the Commonwealth as an electoral category, Australia will continue to have electoral access to the Security Council through a newlycreated electoral category, previously in operation only for the General Committee, entitled “ Western European and other States”. This category was by Resolution 1991 A allotted two of the ten nonpermanent seats on the enlarged Security Council, and Australia, which like Canada and New Zealand is regarded for this purpose as belonging to the “ other States “ sub-category, can now expect to secure election at least once in 21 years as against once in 29 years under the old system. Australia will also continue to have appropriate electoral access to the Economic and Social Council. Resolution 1991B, in setting out the distribution of the nine new seats, laid it down that this should be “ without prejudice to the present distribution of seats in Ecosoc”. Australia was at that time on the Economic and Social Council - we have since been replaced by Canada - and so should continue in its expectation of a three year term on the Council every nine years.
These arrangements adequately meet the Government’s second main interest, that of preserving Australia’s chances of election to the two Councils. While we would have preferred retention of the Commonwealth concept - and indeed pressed hard for it - the category from which Australia is to be elected is perhaps of less significance than the preservation of the possibility of Australia’s election. It is the intention of the Government to proceed to ratify the amendments to the Charter of the United Nations, set out in operative paragraph 1 of Resolution 1991A and operative paragraph 1 of Resolution 199 IB, after Parliament ends its present sessional period.
I present the following papers -
United Nations - Enlargement of Security Council and Economic and Social Council - General Assembly - Resolution 1991.
Ministerial Statement, 12th May 1965. and move -
That the House take note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
– by leave - I should like to acquaint honorable members with the general intentions of the Government regarding the introduction of decimal currency to the operations of Commonwealth Departments. Members will be aware that although the banks will change to decimal operation from C Day- that is, 14th February 1966- other enterprises may change at any time between C Day and the end of the dual currency period, which will last from eighteen months to two years after C Day.
The planning of the change in Commonwealth Departments has been proceeding for some time and it is intended that all Departments will change to decimal currency operation from C Day itself. All rates of charge will be changed to decimal currency with effect from C -Day, as will rates of benefits of all kinds. From that day, Commonwealth Departments will, like banks, accept threepences, pennies and halfpennies only in multiples of 6d. All of our other existing coins - two shillings, one shilling and sixpence - and all our existing notes will be freely interchangeable in all circumstances with the new decimal currency coins and notes, and there will be no problem with them. If a person is paying the Commonwealth in cash and he does not have the number of cents necessary to pay the exact amount, all he will have to do will be to offer any higher amount, in notes or coins, or both, which is a multiple of 5 cents or 6d. The exact change will then be given in cents. There is nothing difficult or novel about this. In most of our present cash transactions in £ s. d., we prefer to tender a higher amount in notes or coins and to receive the appropriate change, rather than to offer the exact amount when odd pennies are involved.
– Does the Minister mean that we would rather receive pennies than offer them?
– We find it convenient to offer the larger sum and let others do the work of sorting out the change.
An area of the Government’s activities which will interest members is the publication of documents and reports, including the financial documents presented with the Budget. The intention is that the pound will continue to be used in documents issued before C Day, and that money references in documents issued after that date will be in dollars. Members will appreciate that the dollar will not become legal currency until C Day. It may be that the aim of dropping references to pounds from documents published on and after 14th February 1966 will not be achieved completely, because of printing or other difficulties.
In the Budget documents to be presented to the Parliament in August next, amounts will be expressed in pounds. Consideration was given to showing amounts relating to 1965-66 in these documents in both currencies, but apart from the legal and presentational problems involved it seems that little would be achieved by such a course. There will, however, be one statement expressed in dollars which will show a summary of the overall Budget prospects.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) already has informed the House of the new postal rates to be introduced from C Day, and other Ministers and their departments will from time to time announce details of changes arising from the adoption of dollars and cents in their administrations.
One of my own ministerial responsibilities which is of special interest to members and to the public is taxation, and I should like to convey to the House the broad outline of decimal currency planning by the Commissioner of Taxation. All returns to be furnished by taxpayers on and after C Day will be printed for completion in decimal currency. Accordingly, income tax returns relating to the income year ending 30th June 1966 will be printed in decimal form. Sales tax, payroll tax, estate duty, gift duty, stevedoring industry charge, tobacco charge and wool tax returns to be lodged after C Day also will be in decimals.
– And the poultry industry levy?
– I suppose the same principles would apply, but I do not want to go beyond my immediate brief. The completion of returns in decimals from C Day and throughout the two year transition period will not oblige taxpayers to advance the conversion of their accounting systems to decimal currency. If taxpayers do not convert on C Day, the request to complete return forms in dollars from that date will merely involve them in the conversion of £ s. d. totals to decimal totals for the purposes of completing the forms. However, return forms and other documents which may be furnished in £ s. d. after C Day will be accepted and the necessary conversions effected by Taxation Branch staff.
To assist employees to complete 1966 income tax return forms in decimal currency, employers will be requested to show earnings, deductions and allowances in decimal form on group certificates issued after C Day. The bulk of group certificates issued in respect of earnings during the 1965-66 income year will thus be expressed in decimal currency, the exceptions being mainly those cases where an employee terminates his employment before C Day and is immediately provided with a group certificate by his employer. In addition to being asked to complete group certificates in decimal currency, employers will be requested to furnish the standard monthly remittance statements in decimal currency after C Day. This should not impose additional work on group employers as these monthly statements are usually accompanied by cheques, which must be expressed in dollars and cents after 14th February 1966.
Tax stamps will be available after C Day in decimal currency denominations only. Specially designed forms will be supplied to employers who are operating on the tax stamps scheme to permit the ready conversion to decimal currency of the total amount of £ s. d. stamps purchased before C Day. In this way, employees whose tax instalments deductions are being made under the tax stamps scheme will be placed in the same position as other employees in that at the end of the year they will be issued with particulars of their earnings and tax instalments deductions expressed in dollars and cent* although decimal currency tax stamps only will be available after C Day, it is proposed to make schedules of tax instalments deductions available in both the existing currency and decimal currency throughout the transition period. This will ensure that employers who continue to account in £ s. d. after C Day will not be inconvenienced by the need to convert salaries and wages to decimal currency in order to ascertain tax instalments deductions.
The principal effect upon taxpayers of the conversion of the Taxation Branch accounting system to decimal currency will be that all receipts issued after C Day will be made out in decimal form regardless of the currency used in making payment. To facilitate payments by cheque after C Day, notices of assessment issuing during 1965- 66 and falling due for payment after 14th February 1966 will show the decimal equivalent of the amount payable. In 1966- 67 and subsequent years, notices of assessment will be expressed in decimal currency only. At appropriate times between now and C Day, the Commissioner will publish further details of matters affecting the public.
J present the following paper -
Decimal Currency Changeover in Commonwealth Departments - Ministerial Statement, 12th May 1965 - and move -
That the paper be noted.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
-! wish to make a personal explanation. It is a small matter that should be put straight in the record. On 29th April 1965, I addressed a question to the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson). It may be recalled that it related to an allegation that had been made, as I thought, by the Australian Primary Producers Union to the effect that butter was not supplied to the Royal Australian Air Force mess at Wagga. The Minister, it will be recalled, replied that literally tons of butter had been supplied to the mess, and indeed he received a pat on the back from various honorable members on this side of the House. I have since had a letter from the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Primary Producers Union in which he states that the Primary Producers Union, despite the similarity in name, has no connection with the Australian Primary Producers Union. He says that the Primary Producers Union is an organisation of dairy farmers in New South Wales; the Australian Primary Producers Union, on the other hand, represents producers of all the principal farm products of Australia and has a membership of approximately 45,000.
I must plead my ignorance. In view of the fact that I do not have many dairy farmers in Bradfield, I am not up in the minutiae or nomenclature in this field, but I can well understand the vicarious shame of the Australian Primary Producers Union in having a silly complaint of this kind pinned upon it. In these circumstances, I unreservedly withdraw and apologise to the Australian Primary Producers Union.
– I have received a letter from .the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The Government’s failure to co-operate with the Government of Western Australia in the. development of Stage Two of the Ord Irrigation Project.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise m their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
.- The recent decision of the Government to defer indefinitely any further consideration of the question as to whether it will or will not finance the second and major stage of the Ord River project has created strong doubt in the minds of many people about whether Government supporters at any stage were really sincere when they expressed their support for either the Ord River project or the development of the north of Australia generally. The second stage of the Ord River scheme, which requires financial support to the extent of £30 million spread over 15 years, has led to the first major challenge to the Government’s sincerity in relation to northern development. Unfortunately for Australia, this challenge has resulted in the impression being created that the Government was only ever interested in the north to the extent of its value for election vote catching purposes, or that the Government has now lost faith in the future of the north and the people in the north and has most certainly lost faith in the Ord River project.
One or other of these alternatives must be right because the attitude now adopted by the Government is in strange contrast to the views that were expressed by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) when he opened the diversion dam on the Ord River in July 1963 and to the views expressed by Government supporters inside and outside the Parliament. The Prime Minister, when opening the diversion dam, referred to it as a symbolic occasion and went on to say -
If anyone had gone through that area 30 years ago and had talked confidently about having this great scheme, this enormous vista of the future, beginning in an established way by 1963, he would have been told not to talk nonsense.
The Prime Minister spoke in such glowing terms for quite a considerable time, and I hope that his reference to this great scheme, this enormous vista of the future, and to the way it would go on and on has been noted by honorable members. If this was not merely electioneering material, it must surely have meant that the Prime Minister was well and truly impressed and had no doubt about the value of and the need for the Ord River project. Listening to the Prime Minister in July 1963 at the opening of the first stage of the project, one would never have thought for a moment that in May 1965 he would make a statement rejecting the request for financial assistance to proceed with the second stage. But that is exactly what has happened.
The Prime Minister, as I said earlier, was not the only one on the Government side to wax enthusiastic about this scheme and say that it had the full support of the Government. Several other Government members have expressed themselves in this Parliament as being solid supporters of the Ord River scheme. A check of “ Hansard “ will show that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King), the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) and other Government members have spoken in support of the project, and quite forcibly, too. I wonder where these bandwagon riders stand today. I wonder whether they are prepared to stick to their earlier statements or whether they have also joined the ranks of the knockers. I will be very interested to listen to what they have to say.
I referred to what was said by the Prime Minister in 1963 and also the remarks of honorable members as reported in “Hansard “ because it now becomes obvious that they were not sincere even in the views that they expressed at those times; otherwise, something has happened since then to make them change their views. If it is the latter, there must be some good reason why they have changed their opinions. I suggest that, if that is so, then this House and the people of Australia are entitled to know the reasons why their views have changed. We are entitled to a full explanation from the Government on its change of attitude which has already caused an indefinite delay and perhaps may mean the complete repudiation of the second stage of the Ord River scheme, a scheme which means so much to many, to Australia generally, and particularly to northern Australia and the people in the north of Australia.
When one realises that the fate of this project depends on the attitude of the
Federal Government one is aware that the Australian people are naturally very concerned about the Government’s attitude to the project. The Government has not decided to defer its decision simply for a further 12 months. The Government’s decision has been deferred for an indefinite time. This is clear from the Prime Minister’s statement when he said that the decision of the Commonwealth Government was -
The words “ much longer “ must mean that the Government is not likely to make a decision on the results of this present harvest but actually will require the experience of several more harvests. If this is not what the statement means, then the Prime Minister or someone else on the Government side should tell us exactly what it does mean. They should tell not only honorable members but also the Australian people and, more particularly, those people who are directly concerned with the project and who have invested their life savings and have put themselves into debt to go up into this area.
Another disturbing feature of the Prime Minister’s statement is found where the Prime Minister stated -
Now, what struck me about this particular part of the statement was how close it seems to go to the views expressed by Dr. Davidson who, to my mind, has purposely set out to try to destroy the Ord River project. It seems to me that the Government has seized upon his views or expressions of opinion as a means by which it can, at least for some period of time, delay or avoid granting further finance for the development of the Ord River project. If the Government, after the experience of last year’s crop and harvest and after years of research carried out by the Kimberley Research Station, had any doubts about production, pest control, &c, why has it taken the Government 12 months to make and announce its decision?
I suggest that the Government should make it clear as to whose views it is acting upon because it must be remembered that the Government set up the Northern Divi sion within the Department of National Development and appointed Dr. Rex Patterson as Director of that Division. If the views expressed by Dr. Davidson, for instance, and others like him, have influenced the Government to any degree, what about the views of the Director of Northern Development, Dr. Patterson? Do his views have any influence on the Government? Surely it must be agreed that the practical experience, the research and the inspections that he has made and carried out to furnish himself with knowledge would make him much more capable of assessing the position than people of the ilk of Dr. Davidson, who has never had any really practical knowledge of the north of Western Australia anyway.
When Dr. Patterson addressed a conference of the National Farmers Union in April of this year, he made several points against the views expressed by Dr. Davidson and the other people who support Dr. Davidson’s views. Unfortunately, I have not the time to explain all these points. But Dr. Patterson showed Dr. Davidson as being off the beam on almost every count. In fact, I would say that the points made by Dr. Patterson left Dr. Davidson without a feather to fly with. Not only that, but I would say also that Dr. Patterson at that time came out as being 100 per cent, behind the Ord River project - or, at least, that is the interpretation I put upon the statement that he has made.
What about the views expressed by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn), who is sitting at the table? In his statement as recently as 4th April when he was commenting on Dr. Davidson’s book “ The Northern Myth “, the Minister said that Dr. Davidson was relying on information of several years ago and was completely out of date with his analysis. In fact, the whole of the statement by the Minister quite definitely refutes Dr. Davidson’s arguments and is almost completely in line with the views expressed by Dr. Patterson. If the Government refutes Dr. Davidson’s views, whose views does it accept? Surely it does not accept the views of Dr. Patterson. I think we are entitled to know these things.
The Premier of Western Australia has claimed that no department in that State has put up any views containing doubt on this particular subject. The Government also claims to be concerned with several other questions besides those of profitability of cotton production, insect control and soil behaviour because the Prime Minister in his statement also said -
This season, twenty 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 arc vital to our judgment of the future of the scheme.
I would be interested to know - and I think this House and the general public arc entitled to know - just what these many other questions are to which the Prime Minister has referred, particularly so when the Prime Minister’s statement also refers to- . . . the many unknowns associated with the project . . .
According to the “ West Australian “, the Premier of Western Australia does not know what these questions are and also, according to the same newspaper, the Prime Minister has rejected proposals for a conference with the Premier of Western Australia and his advisers on this matter. So, we are in the position - a most peculiar position - where the attitude of the Commonwealth Government is that it has deferred a decision on this matter pending further information. But the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to advise the Government of the State concerned what information is actually required and is not prepared to give the State the opportunity of giving any assistance on this information.
On the same day that the Prime Minister made his statement refusing financial assistance of £30 million spread over 15 years for the Ord River project, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) announced that Australia would spend £300 million in five years on the development of Papua and New Guinea. The Minister in making that announcement said that the purpose of the increased expenditure in New Guinea was to double the planting of coconuts, cocoa, rubber and tea, and to increase the cattle population tenfold to some 300,000 head. I do not raise any argument against the money being spent in New Guinea. But it seems strange to me that while the Australian Government is prepared to spend an average of £60 million a year for five years in New Guinea to develop such things as the cattle industry to a number of some 300,000 head, it refuses at the same time to spend an average of £2 million a year for 15 years in Australia which would, amongst other benefits, be the means of producing sufficient cotton seed meal to supplement the feeding of one million head of cattle in the north of Western Australia and make that area one of the best and biggest cattle raising regions in Australia.
Because of the attitude that the Government has adopted, because of its reluctance to expound its reasons for its decision, and because it is apparently not prepared to give anyone the opportunity of answering its questions or solving its problems or proving the Government’s reasons to be without substance, one is forced to come to the conclusion that the questions referred to, and the information and experience of further trial periods, are not real and in fact have no foundation whatsoever. This in turn forces one to conclude that the Government is not sincere and has never been sincere in its approach to northern development and, particularly, to the Ord River project. If the Government does claim to be sincere in this regard, then it now has the opportunity to clear up the doubts which are disturbing the minds of so many people. The Government can prove its sincerity by agreeing to a conference with the representatives of the Government of Western Australia and it can give the House a full explanation of the reasons for its change of attitude. There would be no sense in any member of the Government saying that we or anybody else should try to prove where the Government is wrong, if the Government is not prepared to tell us where it claims to be right. We are entitled to know whether the views on which the Government has based its decision are in conflict with the views of the Director of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development. If they are, we should be told what purpose is being served by the Northern Division and why it was set up if the Government does not intend to accept its recommendations or views. In other words, was it also set up as an election gimmick?
Someone on the Government side may claim that the Government’s sincerity is proved by what the Government has done in the past. Let me refer to the opinion expressed by Mr. John Lewis, a planner and designer of various structures on the Ord and Fitzroy Rivers. He said -
In my opinion the Commonwealth Government has never been sincere in its support. The first £2,500,000 was given to silence criticism and with the thought that the State’s plans were too nebulous to spend the money in a set period. The second £2,500,000 was given at the next Federal election to counter a Labour promise to spend a big annual sum in the North.
Those views are held by a large number of people in Western Australia. I have never heard any agricultural expert, or anyone connected with the Ord River scheme, express any doubts about it, and I have no reason to believe there should be any doubts. Unless the Government is prepared to give us a full explanation of its change of attitude I cannot believe that it has any reason for doubts either.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) said that the Government is not sincere or genuine about the Ord River development or the development of the north in general. I will come back later to the question of northern development in general, but let me start by saying that if it had not been for the Commonwealth Government the Ord project would never have appeared. The honorable member knows perfectly well that by far the major share of the funds which went into the diversion dam on the Ord came from the Commonwealth Government. Originally the Commonwealth made a grant of £5 million to be spent in opening up the north west of Western Australia. Some of that money was spent on harbour development, but the bulk of it - about £4.3 million - was spent on the Ord diversion dam. At a later stage even more money was poured in until finally the Commonwealth spent, I think, £6£ million out of the total of £8£ million that has been spent. It is perfectly obvious that nobody can honestly say that the Commonwealth Government is not sincere when, had it not been for the Commonwealth, there would not be an Ord project at the present moment.
The honorable member went on to say that the Government should have made a decision immediately to go ahead with the No. 2 scheme - the building of the major dam. I point out to the honorable member that the original application from the Western Australian Government for the extra £30 million was made to the Commonwealth Government before the first crop had even been harvested on the Ord. I think it is true to say that there were, at the time of the Commonwealth gift of £5 million to Western Australia, members of the Government and many members of the public who had some doubts of the economic viability of this scheme. Certainly they thought that the Government should have more information than had been given to it at that time about transport costs, the growing of various crops and other problems which affect the economic side of the development of the Ord. However, the Commonwealth gave that £5 million to Western Australia and said, in effect: “This is a gift. It is for you in your judgment to decide where you can spend this to get the best result in opening up the West.”
Immediately on top of that, before one crop had been harvested, the Commonwealth received a request for £30 million. Surely it is one of our responsibilities to the taxpayers in general that we should look at a project pretty closely before we decide whether it is an economic project and whether we should go ahead and expend £30 million on it. One of the tragedies of northern development generally has been that there have been people who have been prepared to rush into the north and spend money before there has been a full economic assessment made of the possibilities. As a result, a number of projects in the north have come to a tragic and sticky end - because a proper assessment was not made. I have only to recall the Humpty Doo project, on which £1 million was lost because the project was not fully explored economically in advance. Money was poured in, it was thought that everything was all right, but very soon all sorts of excuses were being made as to why the project did not work. The net result was that it did not work.
So I think that the Government was correct in asking Western Australia to show more results before the Commonwealth commits the taxpayers to an expenditure of £30 million. We have had results from five farmers for one year’s harvest of cotton on the Ord. I should say that those results were very good. They are the best results per acre that we have obtained from any area in Australia. I have no doubt myself that it is easier to grow high quality cotton in the Ord district than anywhere else in Australia, and that a greater return per acre can be obtained there. That is just my view and I am basing it on the result of one crop by five farmers. There are, of course, many problems to be looked at.
The farmers themselves have not had a great deal of experience. In fact, they had no previous experience in growing cotton. This year we have up on the Ord four farmers who have grown cotton in Arizona. They have considerable experience in growing cotton and the results from the crops which they are just starting to harvest will give us a much better idea whether we can reach the required economic return. I think it has been said that we must look for something of the order of 1,700 lb. of cotton seed per acre, although this figure varies depending on whether the farmer also grows other crops such as rice or whether he depends only on cotton. One would hope to reach a return of that nature. Last year the return on the Ord was about 1,330 lb. per acre, although it is perfectly true that one of the farmers grew a ratoon crop and harvested a second crop which gave him a total return from 55 acres or 2,800 lb. per acre. He obtained 1,600 lb. per acre from the first crop and 1,200 lb. per acre from the second.
One does not base plans for an expenditure of £30 million on the return of one farmer harvesting 55 acres in one year. I think that the Government must have due regard to its responsibility to the taxpayers and to the fact that it must know a lot more about this project before it can make a decision to go ahead.
– How many farmers can be settled there?
– At present there are 20 farmers and this year it is expected that there will be a large increase in the number. I think that the total number that can be settled in the area watered by the diversion dam is 40. Probably 30,000 acres can be farmed. Whatever the Commonwealth’s decision is, the Western Australian Government can still go ahead and put more farmers into the area. Every year that more farmers are producing crops more knowledge will be available.
I have a friend in Melbourne who uses a lot of cotton and who used cotton from the Ord area. He told me that in length it was the best in Australia. It was about 14 in. middling which, I think, is the term they use; but he said that there were some problems associated with the cotton and expressed the opinion that as the farmers obtained more knowledge they would produce a better product. He said that because of their limited knowledge about growing cotton the farmers had not been as effective in classing the cotton as the Americans who are there now will no doubt be, as they have grown cotton for some considerable time. Another problem, of course, is that of pests. I do not know whether it is true, or whether my leg is being pulled, but someone told me that there are 24 known cotton pests in the world and that 23 of them have been identified in the Ord area. In any case, there is no doubt whatsoever that the pest problem-
– They have got the pests under control now, have they not?
– That is so; but one of the problems in connection with Ord cotton last year was that there were some attacks of pest and the strength of the cotton was not as high as it was in other areas in Australia where cotton was grown. One of the farmers had an unfortunate accident and his son later also had an accident; so that farm was not occupied or sprayed as much as it should have been during the growing period.
All of this just gets back to the basic story that I am telling, namely, that there were five farmers, one of whom was not even on his property for a considerable period, and the Commonwealth Government is being asked to spend £30 million on the basis of the results of those five farmers in one year. I think it is only reasonable to say that we should wait and that we should discover more about the economics of the whole project. We want to find out more about the economics not of fattening cattle but of maintaining cattle alive during the dry winter. One thing that is expected to come out of a large scale cotton growing industry in the Ord area is the use of cotton seed offal for feeding cattle and calves in the Kimberley area in order to keep them alive, instead of a very large number of them dying, as has happened in the past. Some interesting experiments have been carried out at the Kimberley Research Station. The research workers have achieved successful results; but until now we have not seen this idea used in the broad picture, on the large station properties which we hope will use it.
At the research station, I think the research workers started off with two lots of 10 cows, each running with a bull. They ran one lot under natural conditions and in three years the herd was reduced to seven. The other herd, by having a very small quantity of this cotton seed offal - about half a pound a day over a period of two months - built up to 27. That showed that, in theory and on the research station, the use of this offal improved enormously the number of cattle that were born and remained alive, instead of dying as most of the cattle had done in the past. However, more research in this matter is needed.
The view of many people when the diversion dam project was first put forward was that the area served by that dam was to be a pilot area. Of course, it is very hard to say how long you need to run a pilot farm or a series of pilot farms before you get the required results and can then make your decision. But I am sure that no-one foresaw that at the end of the first year’s harvest, or actually before the first harvest had even been collected, a request would be made to the Commonwealth Government to go ahead with the full scale project. There was to be a series of pilot farms; then, as we gained knowledge and experience, so the scheme would be broadened. Gradually, we hoped, if the right answers came out of it, we would go into the major, overall scheme.
In the few minutes remaining to me I want to answer another claim that was made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. He said not only that he doubted our sincerity on the Ord scheme - I think that is a pretty extraordinary statement in view of the fact that had it not been for the Commonwealth there would be no Ord dam at all - but also that he doubted our sincerity on northern development. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie knows and lives in the north. Actually, I do not know whether he lives in the north, but at least his electorate extends into the north, as does that of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). So surely he can see the tremendous strides that are being made in the development of the north. The story of what is being done to develop the north is a magnificent one that can and should be told. The north is going ahead as it never has before in its whole history.
One has only to look at a list of Commonwealth payments to the States and the Northern Territory for development projects in northern Australia, which I have before me, to see a fantastic picture. This list deals with only one side of the picture, namely the special Commonwealth payments. The projects include the reconstruction of the Mount Isa railway, beef cattle roads in Queensland, brigalow lands development, coal loading works, beef cattle roads in Western Australia, the Derby jetty and the Exmouth Gulf township. There is also the Northern Development Act. There is a list of about £65 million worth of works which are actually being undertaken at present in the northern areas of Queensland and Western Australia and in the Northern Territory as a result of special grants from the Commonwealth Government.
Of course, in addition to that, money is being spent by the Western Australian Government and the Queensland Government. This year both of those Governments have had record loan funds and have devoted large quantities of those funds to the development of the north. Over and above that, of course, there is the enormous development by private enterprise, which includes the development of iron ore projects and ports and railways associated with them. A total of about £200 million is being devoted to the Hamersley Range area. There is also the Weipa development.
– These things are being done by private enterprise.
– I said that private enterprise was doing these things; but private enterprise is doing them because it is being encouraged by the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments to go in and develop these vast resources. To say that we are not interested in the development of the north is just a misstatement of fact. We are also encouraging the development of the north by producing a new plan for the development of beef roads. We also have a committee looking into transport costs in the north. So I repeat that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is completely wrong when he says that we are not sincere about either the Ord area or northern development.
.- I rise to support the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), who raised this matter so ably. The Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) appeared to be very uncomfortable during his speech. I felt that he would rather have been supporting the move for the main Ord dam to bc proceeded with following the recent completion of . the diversion dam. The Minister has not answered the charge made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, namely that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has been influenced by the views of Dr. Davidson, whom the Minister condemned for presenting such views. If it was not Dr. Davidson who influenced the Prime Minister, surely the House has the right to know who it was who influenced him, what scientific knowledge influenced him and where that scientific knowledge was obtained.
The Minister for National Development also took the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to task for having doubted the sincerity of the Government on the Ord scheme. He outlined the amount of money that has been spent on it. It is true that money was being spent on it prior to the 1961 election and prior to the 1963 election; but now that the elections are over, how much money is being spent on it? I quote the following from “ Inside Canberra “ -
In the coming financial year, with beef road schemes ending, the Government will spend less than £1,000,000 on northern development.
That is less, of course, than has been spent for some considerable time. In my view the Menzies Government stands condemned in the eyes of the Australian people for its decision to delay the provision of financial aid for the Ord River scheme for at least 12 months. Since the Western Australian Government presented its case for £30 million in order to complete the scheme, already there has been one year’s delay; so this further deferment means that the delay will amount to two years. How genuine is the Prime Minister on the development of the North? When he opened the pilot scheme nearly two years ago he said -
We are not at the end of something here today; we are at the beginning of something.
He went on in his usual pompous and dramatic style to say -
This is a most symbolic occasion. Man has here conquered nature in the most spectacular fashion, and has done it in a part of Australia in which it was needed - and needed desperately for tha future of our country.
He said, mark you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it was not only needed but desperately needed. What has he done to fufil this desperate need to which he referred? He has dithered, as usual. Delay has pyramided on top of delay, as far as the Ord River Scheme is concerned. On the eve of the Senate election when this scheme was a vote catcher in Western Australia, the Prime Minister said that the Ord River scheme would be one of the first items before the full Federal Cabinet when it resumed its meetings after the election. The scheme was put well down the agenda after the election and it was some months before it was even considered, and then the only consideration that it got produced a further delay of 12 months.
The development of the Ord River scheme is not a party political matter. All parties in Western Australia support the scheme and delegations from all parties have met the Prime Minister, not only on the development of the Ord River scheme but also on northern development generally. Mr. Court, the Minister for the North West in the Western Australian Government, had something to say about the delay in arriving at a decision. I propose to quote from the “West Australian” of 9th March 1965 in which Mr. Court’s address to a Liberal businessmen’s luncheon was reported. The report states -
The report states that Mr. Court went on to show how much it would cost to finance this scheme over the next 15 years. He said that £2 million per annum would be required over that period. That statement was made before the Prime Minister’s decision to defer consideration for at least 12 months. 1 should mention also that discourtesy was shown to the Premier of Western Australia recently when he was in Canberra. The decision to defer expenditure on the Ord River scheme was made at a Cabinet meeting on 20th April, and although the Premier of Western Australia was in Canberra two days after the decision had been made he was not informed of it and had to get his first knowledge of it from the Press. As a result of questions asked in this House the information was finally passed on to the Premier.
I understand that the State Government has plans to approach the Prime Minister again on the financing of the main Ord dam. I hope that the Prime Minister remembers that almost two years ago he emphasised that the dam was needed desperately for the future of the country. More than 20 years research has gone into the Ord River scheme. Financial assistance, as the Minister said, was provided for the Ord River diversion dam as the first stage of the scheme. This dam has irrigated 15,000 acres of the fertile black soils of the Ord River valley and, as the Minister said also, cotton from the Ord has already proved to be quite good. I do not know whether the Minister also related how cotton from the Ord has fetched good prices. It has been estimated that this season’s crop will be worth £500,000. It is claimed that when the Ord River scheme is fully developed it will enable irrigation of at least 150,000 acres in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The water resources of the proposed Ord River dam will have a capacity of six times that of Sydney Harbour, and if the scheme had been kept up to schedule, as was proposed, the estimated regional population would be 10,000 to 15,000 by 1975. Already this is Australia’s best cotton growing area and the average yield last year was better than the average in any other State. The growers were first year farmers, as the Minister said, and although they did not produce as much as was expected it was found that they had quite a good average yield which will improve as experience is gained. Dr. Patterson, the Director of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, has predicted that when experience has been thoroughly gained the Ord River farmers will be able to produce 3,000 lb. of cotton per acre.
Surely the Commonwealth Government can be expected to take notice of its own appointee. If Dr. Patterson is going to be ignored, why was he appointed to the position of Director of the Northern Division of the Department? When the Government had a majority of only one on the floor of the House after the 1961 election, northern development was well to the fore, as the Minister has already mentioned. Beef roads, port development and like matters were approved at about that time. The Prime Minister was not certain of what would happen during the 1963 election, so among his many promises at that time was one to establish a new northern division of the Department of National Development. At that time he wanted to identify the Federal Government closely with northern development. But the Division, of course, was a far cry from what Queensland and Western Australia wanted. They wanted an authority similar to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to do the job of developing the north, but at the same time they were prepared to go along with this scheme and give it a try. How badly they have been let down. Since the Division has been established the Government has not announced a single new decision on northern development, other than the one to defer further consideration of this dam foi a further 12 months.
The Prime Minister now says that the decision on the main dam has been deferred for a further trial period on the farms already established at the diversion dam. He claims that he wants further information about such matters as profitability of cotton production, control of insects and the behaviour of tropical soils after intensive cropping. As I informed the House a while ago, the Prime Minister has not said where he obtained his scientific information which would justify a delay of this scheme. Did he get the information from Dr. Davidson? One would have thought that at least the Minister would have revealed which section of his Department, if it was his Department, supplied the information, or, if it did not come from his Department, where it did come from and why it should have taken precedence over the advice given by officers of his Department. I suggest to the Minister that even at this late stage further consideration should be given to carrying on the work on the main dam and giving Western
Australia an opportunity to prove what can really be done about northern development. This scheme has been supported by the Commonwealth Bureau of Agricultural Economics and by many other well known and important bodies.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I want to assure the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) that if the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) felt any discomfort while the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) was presenting his case it was due to the injustice and unfairness of the allegations made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. That leads me to ask: What is the real purpose of this discussion which has been instituted by honorable members opposite? Is the purpose genuine? Is it factual? I doubt whether there are very many facts upon which the case is built. Does the Opposition really want to help to develop Western Australia and to encourage the Western Australian Liberal and Country Party Government in its endeavours to develop the north, or is this a political move on the part of Opposition members to try to embarrass the Commonwealth Government and Government supporters on this side of the chamber who come from Western Australia? I assure the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that there is no hope here for the creation of embarrassment. He cannot embarrass the Commonwealth Government or those of us on this side of the chamber who are spokesmen from Western Australia.
Let us consider what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie tried to do. He tried to emphasise and to underline an indefinite delay announced in the statement made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). The suggestion of an indefinite delay is untrue. On what grounds can he claim that? He knows as well as I do that the Prime Minister, in the reply sent to him a short time ago, used these words: “ Until more essential information comes to hand “. It cannot be said that that is indefinite; it is based upon the necessity for facts to be supplied. I propose to deal with the suggestion that co-operation with the Government of Western Australia has not been evidenced. I speak as a Western Australian member and I am proud of it. I am glad that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie drew attention to the fact that on many previous occasions I have advocated the development of the north and the establishment of the Ord River diversion scheme. The Commonwealth Government has given, and I hope it will continue to give, very valuable co-operation and substantial financial assistance to my State. For example, let me remind the House that the comprehensive water scheme for the country areas of Western Australia has been helped in the past. I will be surprised indeed if within a short period there is not made available another £5 million for the comprehensive water scheme. Is that not co-operation with the Western Australian Government? The north has not been neglected. The Minister rightly said that there would have been no diversion dam had it not been for the co-operation of the Commonwealth Government. Let that be noted.
Before I finish I want to return to the circumstances which surrounded the provision of these funds to which the Minister referred. First let me make it clear that as a Western Australian member I have been to the Ord on a number of occasions, as have other honorable members. I have been there individually and I have been there as a member of Government committees travelling through the north. I want every honorable member to know that I will stand against any other supporter of it in Western Australia regarding the advantages that I think can be gained by developing the north. I will take second place to none in this. I am an optimist and I am prepared at all times to enter into an area where venture is necessary, provided there is a reasonable foundation for that venture.
Having said that, let it be known that I abhor knockers. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie dealt with knockers. He and I well know a number of people who fall into this category so far as the development of the Ord and the north is concerned. He mentioned one gentleman - a prolific writer. I mark him down as the greatest knocker of development Western Australia has ever known. I believe he is around the bend on this. If ever a man was convinced he should kill the Ord development it is this man, whose views are known. These individuals, of course, are not restricted to the Ord river. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) will speak presently, and I want him to know that I recognise that Northern Territory development in many spheres has been knocked unjustifiably, even by some of my own colleagues. So far as knockers are concerned, I will raise my voice against them as strongly as, if not more strongly than, members of the Opposition.
I am in good company for my Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) spoke in this strain when at Kununurra. I do not need to repeat the words he used when he made his outstanding speech on the occasion of the opening of the dam because they have been quoted, but my optimism is shared by him. That does not mean, however, that he should commit the Government to the provision at this stage of the enormous sum of £30 million. I think we must get some facts clear. Let us get this into the right perspective. The Western Australian Government in 1962 put out a very challenging and helpful booklet titled “Break Though in the Kimberley”. This is an official publication and in it is a reference to the damming of the Ord River. It indicated the State Government’s plan and stated -
The State Government is approaching this magnificent agricultural opportunity in four stages: (1) Establishment of a £4 million diversion dam to irrigate up to 30,000 acres of the black soil plains on which the fruits of research can be proven in practical farming.
The second stage was to be the building of the main dam 30 miles up stream to a stage where it would hold more water than Sydney Harbour and would irrigate a further 30,000 acres. Let me underline the fact that at that time the Western Australian Government was saying, “We will use the diversion dam scheme for research purposes”, and it is on the score of lack of research that the Commonwealth Government’s decision for deferment rests.
In August 1959 I asked a question of the Prime Minister regarding a Commonwealth grant for the Ord project and he rightly told me in reply that he had nothing to say until his official correspondence was in the hands of the Premier of Western Australia. The newspaper, the “ West Australian “, in August 1959 released a report of the circumstances. That newspaper said that the correspondence from the Prime Minister of Australia on behalf of the Commonwealth Government said, in effect: “We are not without doubts in approving the £5 million to be used for the diversion dam. If we, the Commonwealth Government, were spending the money ourselves we would need more positive information and research. Nevertheless, because of your insistence, because of your enthusiasm, we will approve that £5 million be spent for this purpose.” A hesitancy was indicated. This was the spirit of co-operation at that time. In other words, it was qualified support; it was conditional upon research and results.
What is the position today? The Commonwealth Government’s interest in the north is still paramount. It is still there; it is very much alive. The Minister and his departmental chief have indicated this, not only today but a few weeks ago in official statements. The Commonwealth Government’s reply to Western Australia is similar to the reply given in August 1959. In other words: “ Do not rush, Provide your research and complete your stage 1 as we indicated before.” I am claiming that the Commonwealth Government’s deferment of the committal of £30 million is a sound businesslike approach until more farms are operating - as the Minister said, not five but rather twenty or more - and a further season’s cotton crop results are analysed. For my part I am as confident of success in this venture at the Ord River as ever I was. I have said that I abhor knockers. I will raise my voice in protest against these people who try to wipe out so early these achievements of recent years. My spirit is with the men who are farming on the Ord under relatively difficult conditions. I believe that provided a good case, based upon research and upon crop results, is put forward by the Western Australian Government, the Commonwealth Government will readily come to its assistance. Let me assure the House that when this type of case, based upon experience with more farms and upon another season’s crop is presented, I will be strongly pressing the Government to release the funds which are required by the Western Australian Government for stage 2 of this challenging enterprise.
– I support the case put forward by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) and the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb). My concern is to see some worthwhile development take place in that part of Australia. My electorate is concerned to the extent of one-third in bringing to fruition the Ord River scheme. The Government today, by its action in denying the State Government of Western Australia the additional funds it asked for, has spelled out in unmistakable terms, to my way of thinking, that agricultural development in northern Australia is out, from now on. I think no other interpretation can be placed upon the Government’s decision.
The Government has up to the present supported the scheme to the extent of £64 million - the figure given by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) - but has withdrawn further support from the project. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) by his intervention in this debate has indicated that he supports the Government’s decision. Indeed, he attacked the honorable member for Kalgoorlie for having the temerity to bring this matter forward. He doubted the motive of the honorable member in raising this matter of public importance. The honorable member for Swan is obviously in agreement with the Government’s decision, but what does the Western Australian Premier have to say about it? Does he support the decision which, of course, implies that his case has been ill based and has not been adequately supported by the necessary expert information to influence the Commonwealth Government. I might say the request was not for £30 million but, as I understand it, for £8 million. As I understand the position, to finalise the scheme would cost £30 million, but the Premier of Western Australia is prepared to defer the final stage until some later date and to go ahead with stage 2. He is requesting an immediate grant of £8 million to allow the scheme to be proceeded with. The figure of £30 million that has been mentioned is not a realistic one and, at the moment, would not be requested by the State Government.
I should like to refer now to the speech made by the Minister for National Development. We have all heard what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) have had to say. The Minister says that the Government has already spent £64 million on this scheme. I was under the impression that £64 million would not be spent on a project unless there was some solid basis for expecting that it would be successful. One does not spend £64 million just to see whether one can grow cabbages at a particular place. Before investing that amount of money, one would be fairly sure that the probabilities were that the scheme would be successful.
After all, research extending over 15 or 20 years was carried out in this area before the scheme was commenced. If the Commonwealth Government of the day had not been influenced by the opinions of the scientists at that time, it would never have spent one penny let alone £64 million on the Ord River project. The fact is that, to an extent, this scheme has been tested and tried. We know that no absolute guarantee has been given, but if we are to wait until every “ t “ is crossed and every “ i “ is dotted before deciding to embark upon a project, we shall never have progress, and we shall never make a start on any project, wherever it might be.
If the economist to whom the honorable member for Kalgoorlie referred had been let loose in what are now the cane growing areas of north Queensland 25 or 30 years ago, what would the reaction have been? Would there be a single stick of sugar cane grown in north Queensland today? Taking his assessment of the industry on a mechanised basis, there would not be one stick of cane grown on the area and we would not have in north Queensland the development that we have there today. We must take a calculated risk somewhere along the line. That is the basis of courageous development. As I have said, if we are to wait until we cross every “ t “ and dot every “ i “, we shall never spend one penny on any project in the north, or anywhere else for that matter. The basis of every scheme, whether it be agricultural, pastoral or mineral, is the taking of a calculated gamble. We have to be prepared to take a calculated gamble, and I say emphatically that the probabilities of success are overwhelmingly in favour of the Ord River scheme. Indeed, I submit that it is virtually certain to succeed and that the Commonwealth Government held that view when it decided to provide £64 million.
What can we say about the need for such a scheme? As I have pointed out already, this scheme is of some concern to the Northern Territory. First we want to know what the demand is for the products that a scheme such as the Ord River project can supply. Is there a demand for those products? Of course there is. I understand that Japan will buy every pound of cotton we can grow provided it is of the right quality. I understand that the demand in Japan for cotton would entail the planting of 3 million acres of land, based on our present rate of production. At the present time, we have 40,000 acres under cotton production in Australia. The demand for cotton is unlimited, and we can grow the type of cotton Japan wants. The quality of the cotton grown at the Ord is second to none.
What are the economics of growing cotton there? I take as my authority Dr. Rex Patterson. In particular I refer to his reply to Professor Davidson’s statement. He said that to be an economic proposition, we would need to be able to produce in the vicinity of 2,000 lb. of cotton per acre. We now know that the Ord River area is one of the few areas in the world where ratoon crops of cotton can be grown. We also know that the crop now being harvested will return 4,000 lb. of cotton to the acre.
The Minister for National Development had a good deal to say about our not having experience. This huge crop can be produced even with the limited experience we have gained up to the present. What will be the crop yield in that area when we have further experience? Cotton growing there is an economic proposition now. Nobody will deny that there are certain problems to be solved, but, with further experience and greater knowledge our problems should not be very great at all, especially when we remember that even now, with limited knowledge, we can produce 4,000 lb. of cotton to the acre.
I remind the House that it has been stated that 2,000 lb. to the acre is an economic return. We can supply the whole of Australia’s demands and also supply an export market, thus helping to build up our balance of payments, with our present crop. I suggest we have no problems to solve. The cotton we are producing is of the right quality, and in the Ord River and adjacent areas we have land on which we can cultivate cotton and thus not only help the development of Northern Australia but also supply both our local demands and the export market. The
Government might live to rue the day that it ever made this decision. I am afraid Australia is going to rue it.
.- This debate seems to have generated quite a lot of heat and excitement, and I doubt very much whether this sort of discussion and this sort of frame of mind will do very much to further the very great objective of northern development. As to the Ord River project, let me say at the outset that I am first and foremost a Western Australian and I am deeply conscious of the need for development in the north western part of this vast State. I am therefore in complete sympathy with the implied disappointment and frustration contained in the motion before the House.
As one who has had a lifetime of experience in every aspect of agriculture, I recognise the tremendous agricultural and pastoral potential of the Ord region and indeed of large areas of the north west. I do not believe that the provision of national funds amounting to about £30 million over a period of 15 years is a financial exercise of such magnitude, when viewed against the backdrop of northern development generally, that this Government should or would defer this project on such financial considerations alone. Nor do I believe that the decision to proceed with stage 2 of the Ord irrigation project should stand condemned or otherwise on the simple judgment of the immediate and direct economics of a relatively small group of farmers or, for that matter, an even larger group of farmers who, in the initial stages of this ambitious project, may or may not be able to show figures on the right side of the ledger.
The Ord irrigation project should be viewed as the cornerstone of the development of the north west. If it takes 50 years for the total investment in the Ord River development to pay dividends, then the expenditure of this additional money will be more than justified. Here in this part of Western Australia lie literally thousands of acres of rich, fertile soil and a river which yearly pours into the sea a quantity of fresh water which would easily fill Sydney harbour. Behind the area embraced by the Ord project lie vast areas of good pastoral country with potential for further development and an area potentially rich in minerals, the surface of which has only been grazed at this point of time. Further to the north, and much closer to the Ord River area than Adelaide is to Perth, are literally millions of people imbued with a rising tide of nationalism and an obvious determination to claim for themselves a better standard of living and a fuller enjoyment of life. I ask you, Mr. Speaker: How long can Australia sustain its moral right to hold in an undeveloped state an area such as the Ord, on the pretext that this country cannot afford to spend about £2 million a year for 15 years in an effort - the first real effort - to test the developmental prospects of the area?
I recall quite clearly the early history of attempts to promote development of the Esperance district and the south coastal area of Western Australia. I recall the Dismal Desmonds and the knockers who said the area was only hungry sand plain and would not support a kangaroo. The practical thinking and farsighted outlook of such farmers as Alf Button and others, backed by the then Minister for Agriculture, the late Garnet Wood, has resulted in the development of the Esperance area becoming one of the glamour agricultural projects of Australia, and, indeed, of the world. Yet a comparison of the naturally poor soils of Esperance with the rich soils of the Ord is not an exercise which would appeal to any agriculturalist, and to imagine that the cultural problems presently being solved on the pilot farms of the Ord have no counterpart at Esperance is equally fantastic.
But in all fairness, let us examine the broad history of the Ord plan. It was recognised in the conception of this plan that a diversion dam would have to be built. This has been completed. It was proposed that this would be followed by the establishment of pilot farms - and I emphasise “ pilot farms “ because I have never seen them referred to as anything else - to assess the cultural and economic problems of the area. This assessment is in the process of being carried out now. We have not yet got anywhere near establishing the number of farms that it is possible to develop in conjunction with the diversion dam. Much valuable knowledge, fundamental to the main project, is still being gathered. This involves knowledge of the cultural problems of the area. Until these problems are solved - and solved I am confident they will be - it is impossible to make any worthwhile assessment of the economics of the farms. It was then proposed that, subject to the completion and against the background of the diversion dam and pilot farm exercise, the main Ord irrigation project would proceed.
I think this would be the appropriate time, Mr. Speaker, to reiterate the matter of public importance proposed for discussion this afternoon. It was in these terms -
The Government’s failure to co-operate with the Government of Western Australia in the development of Stage Two of the Ord Irrigation Project.
I think it is fair to ask where the Government has failed to co-operate with the Government of Western Australia. If this Government had said to the Government of Western Australia that the balance of the Ord project was to be abandoned, then the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) would have received my full and active support, because I believe that it would be completely unjust and unreasonable and a breach of faith for the Government to take such a step while the project is still in an embryo stage. But the Government has made no decision to abandon the Ord project. The decision it has made is in strict conformity with the general concept of the developmental programme, and if there has been any attempt to beat the gun in what was a magnificent conception of northern development, with this Government and the Government of Western Australia acting in a spirit of co-operation, then it has not been made by this Government.
I am fully conscious of the drive and vigour of the present Government of Western Australia and of the unlimited energy and ambition of the Minister for the North West. I welcome the manifestation of the will to forge ahead with the development of the State to which I personally owe so much. But, Mr. Speaker, I question the wisdom of the present attempt by the Western Australian Government to bulldoze its partner in the Ord project into rushing ahead of schedule with the programme instead of following the plan to solve the problems of the pilot farms before embarking on the more ambitious final stages of the Ord scheme. I have had first hand experience of what can happen to human beings in a developmental area when the mechanics of their enterprise break down, as the Ord project could break down if haste were made too quickly at this stage, bringing drastic results to the sturdy individuals and their wives and families who have had the courage, initiative and enterprise to go to this remote area. We could well see the abandonment of the whole project which would give northern development a setback from which it might never recover. I believe this Government has carried out its obligations in respect of the Ord River project to the letter, and I do not accept the proposition that the recent action of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) constitutes, in effect, an abandonment of this magnificent venture.
– Order! The discussion is concluded.
Bill presented by Mr. Bury, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill I have just introduced represents a major change in the nomenclature of Australia’s customs tariff but not in the levels of import duties chargeable under our fiscal policy. The Bill puts into effect a Government decision to recast the tariff into the internationally recognized language of the Brussels nomenclature. The new tariff, however, does not make any significant change in the level of duties. Historically, there have been three major nomenclature changes in Australia’s customs tariffs since Federation. They are represented on the statute book by the Customs Tariff 1902, the Customs Tariff 1908 and the Customs Tariff 1921. This Bill differs from other tariff Bills in that it changes nomenclature, that is the numbering and naming of the items, without changing the level of duties.
With the approval of the Minister for Customs and Excise, a handbook, entitled “Introduction to the New Australian Tariff”, is being circulated for the information of honorable members. This handbook gives a concise explanation of the new tariff nomenclature, its origin, and how it works. Also available for perusal is a concordance showing each item, sub-item, paragraph and sub-paragraph in the bill, and the principal tariff items and operative rates of duty in the Customs Tariff 1933- 1965 that are the source of each reference in the Bill. Honorable members may select any item in the Bill, note the rates proposed and, by turning to that item number in the concordance, compare the new rates with existing rates.
It may be of assistance to honorable members if I outline the principal provisions of the Bill. It is in four parts of twentynine clauses and four schedules. Part I, comprising clauses 1 to 12, is typical preliminary material giving definitions of words and the meaning of terms used in the Bill. Clause 6 relates percentage rates shown in the First and Second Schedules to the value of the goods, clause 7 defines f.o.b. price, that is to say, free on board price, a term used in some items in the First Schedule, while clause 8 defines rates of duties. Clause 9 provides for the recognition of declared preference countries and continues existing legislation in this regard. Clause 10 sets out how countries are to be identified as preference countries by appropriate abbreviations shown in the fourth column in the First Schedule, while clause 1 1 tells bow the commencement of an item is to be recognised, how the commencement of a sub-item is to be recognised and so on. The new nomenclature depends on precise classification to ensure common treatment of goods internationally and therefore needs a rigid set of rules to this end. Clause 12 formally recognises these interpretative rules and their basic use. The rules themselves are set out in Part I of the First Schedule.
Part II of the Bill deals with the imposition of the duties and covers clauses 13 to 23. Clauses 13 to 16 stipulate when customs duties are imposed, to what countries the rates in the third and fourth columns of the First Schedule apply and what is to be done if two rates are shown as applying to goods depending on whether the choice lies between the higher or lower of the rates quoted. Clauses 17 and 18 deal with deferred duties and temporary duties in the same language as in the present customs tariff and thus introduce no changes to the present procedures. Clause 19 takes the place of the third column in the old tariff and this section can be used if it is desired to surcharge goods from countries other than countries entitled to most favoured nation treatment. Clause 20 extends concessional duties to certain classes of importers or to certain broad classes of goods. These provisions could not be included in the First Schedule because the Brussels nomenclature does not lend itself to such strictly national provisions. Such concessions were accordingly included in a Second Schedule to this Bill. All the provisions in the Second Schedule appear in the Customs Tariff 1933- 1965 in practically identical words and at the same rates of duty. The Second Schedule thus enables all the existing concessions to be continued. Clause 21 deals with substitutes and imitations. At present, substitutes are dealt with by section 139 of the Customs Act and imitations by Prefatory Note No. 1 to the customs tariff. With two exceptions all the present substitute notices have been written into the First Schedule of the tariff and the present section remains as a reserve power. Clause 22 (1.) provides power for the Minister to strike a proportion of a specific rate where a part for an article which is subject to a fixed rate of duty is imported. For example, if household clothes washing machines are subject to duty at a rate of £6 each, it would seem inequitable to charge £6 on a part of the machine such as the revolving tumbler. Clause 22 (2.) makes provision for the Minister to direct that the duty on parts for goods shall not be higher than the duty on the whole goods into which the parts are to be incorporated. Both these powers are presently usable by the Minister under existing legislation.
Clause 23 deals with the question of duty on sets and on machinery incorporating electric motors and other driving units. Subclause (1.) allows the Minister to direct that the duty shall be payable either on the basis of the duty payable on the one article in the set which gives the set its essential character, or, alternatively, on the basis of the duty payable on each article in the set as if each were imported separately. The need for alternative approaches stems from the recognition that sets may be of two principal types - firstly, the set comprising a principal article with several makeweight articles, and secondly, the set with more or less equal articles, such as occurs in a canteen of cutlery. In the first case, the duty can be collected on the basis of the main article; in the second case, on each article. The powers to be accorded the Minister under clause 23 are presently operated by powers conferred by Prefatory Notes Nos. 11 and 12 to the customs tariff.
Part III of the Bill, covering clauses 24 to 27, deals with the imposition of primage duties. As honorable members know, primage duty is presently imposed by the Customs Tariff (Primage Duties) 1934- 1958. This Act is to be repealed and primage duties, not at higher level than are presently being imposed, will now be imposed by the Third Schedule to this Bill. Provision is made in clause 27 for the Minister to exempt other goods from primage duties by “ Gazette “ notice. Such “ Gazette “ notices are liable to disallowance by either House. Part IV, comprising clauses 28 and 29, deals with miscellaneous matters. Clause 28 provides that orders made under clauses 9, 19 and 27 are subject to disallowance by the Parliament, while clause 29 provides for the repeal of the Customs Tariff 1933 as amended to date, the preference tariffs and the primage tariffs. The details of the acts to be repealed are set out in the Fourth Schedule to the Bill.
I turn now to the schedules. The First Schedule is the principal schedule and is that based on the Brussels nomenclature so far as the first four numbers of the items are concerned. The fifth, sixth and seventh numbers, where they occur, are divisions of the four-figure items which are introduced for national purposes so as to retain the existing rates of duty and to differentiate between areas of protection and nonprotection and international preferences. The commodities in the First Schedule and the rates applying thereto are basically those subject to the Customs Tariff 1933-1965 and now to be repealed. This is the main tariff schedule setting out the substantive duties applying on all imported goods. The Second Schedule makes provision for concessional entry for goods for the Commonwealth, for foreign governments as approved, for diplomatic personnel, for principal by-law purposes, for reimported goods and for many other concessional provisions in the Customs Tariff 1933-1965. The Third Schedule is the schedule which takes the place of the Customs Tariff (Primage Duties) 1934-1958. It is divided into four Parts. Goods classifiable in the First Schedule under the items in the first column of the four Parts of the Third Schedule, except to the extent of any goods listed in the second column, are liable to primage duty. The Fourth, and last, Schedule sets out the titles of acts to be repealed.
In conclusion, may I remind honorable members that the main Schedule to the Bill has been translated from the existing Act in accordance with the Government’s direction that any changes in the levels of duty should be minimal but that rationalisation should be made to produce a workable document. The translated document will thus maintain existing levels of protection and is not expected to cause us any difficulties insofar as our international commitments are concerned.
The Bill is to come into operation on 1st July 1965, and this requires it to be enacted before this session of Parliament ends. The timing for a major change of this nature can only be 1st July in any year without destroying the value of two years’ trade statistics. The Commonwealth Statistician is geared for the changeover from 1st July this year. From the point of view of overseas trade talks, the transition to a tariff similar to that proposed by the European Economic Community and many African and Asian states has much to commend it. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Bury, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, with one exception ; the repeal of section 144, relating to the valuation of proprietary medicines - this Bill to amend the Customs Act contains only amendments consequential to the principal change as contained in the Bill for the new Customs Tariff. Clauses 1 to 4 of the Bill are procedural changes while clauses 5 and 6 repeal sections 131, 138, 139 and 140 of the principal Act. The sections so repealed related to the following matters.
Section 131 exempted goods the property of the Commonwealth from liability to customs duty. This provision is duplicated in the existing Customs Tariff 1933-1965 and will now be found as Item 1 in the Second Schedule to the Customs Tariff Bill. Thus, section 131 can be repealed.
Section 138 directed that the higher rate of duty is to be charged whenever goods are classifiable under two tariff items. More elaborate rules for the classification of goods will be found in Part 1 of the First Schedule to the Customs Tariff Bill andthis enables section 138 to be repealed.
Section 1 39 provided that substitutes may by Ministerial Notice be chargeable with duty at the rate applicable to the goods for which they are substitutes. This power is transferred to section 21 of the Customs Tariff Bill and section 139 of the Customs Act becomes redundant.
Section 140 made provision for the Minister to vary the duties on parts in approved circumstances and this principle is carried forward in section 22 of the Customs Tariff Bill.
Leaving aside clause 7 for the moment, clauses 8 and 9 make certain procedural alterations to sections 151, 151 A, 151B and 153A by bringing together various provisions in the Customs Act and preferential tariffs relating to goods the produce or manufacture of overseas countries and by clarifying the meaning of value in relation to goods. Similar amendments are made to sections 154 and 160 by clauses 10 and 12 of the Bill. There are no changes of substance involved.
Clause 1 1 which inserts a new section 1 55 sets out how inland freight charges on goods sent from Canada to Australia are to be calculated. This provision exists at present in the Canadian preference tariff which is to be repealed by the earlier Bill. The amendments proposed by clauses 13 to 15 of the Bills to sections 271, 272 and 273 recognise the alteration of the titling of customs bylaws from departmental by-laws to by-laws.
Section 273e, which is repealed by clause 16 of the Bill, provided rules for deciding when by-law items should take precedence over non by-law items. This directive is transferred to the interpretative rules in Part I of the First Schedule to the Customs Tariff Bill.
This completes the changes directly concerned with the changes involved in recasting Australia’s tariff and I return to clause 7 of this Bill, which repeals section 144 of the principal Act in accordance with a decision of the Government.
Section 144 of the Customs Act provided that the valuation of incomplete medicinal and toilet preparations imported for completion and preparation for retail sale, should be calculated on the value of the completed goods less certain costs incurred in Australia. Bearing in mind that bulk materials were imported, this meant that duties applied by section 144 valuations were out of proportion to the value of the goods imported. The result of this type of valuation was to discourage manufacturing in Australia in that the same type of duty would be payable on the fully imported product without the cost of setting up a manufacturing factory in Australia.
As Australia’s tariff is geared to encourage investment and the production of goods in Australia the need for section 14, which was part of the original 1901 Act and served as a revenue raising device, has passed. Technically, objections to section 144 can be raised on several grounds. First, the section is contrary to the accepted principle that a duty should be ascertainable at the time of clearance of the goods; next, the basis of valuation provided under the section is not wholly related to the materials imported; thirdly, the section is discriminatory in that it isolates two particular kinds of commodities for special treatment as to valuation for duty; fourthly, the provisions of the section may be easily circumvented by using a different trade name, or by shipping from a country where the product is not sold domestically or by putting up the goods in expensive packs in Australia; and lastly, the administration of the section is so complex that the bulk of any duties collected are absorbed in administrative costs. In all the circumstances the Government is of opinion there will be less restriction on trade if section 144 is repealed as is now proposed. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Bury, and read a first time.
– I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is consequential upon the Customs Tariff Bill which has just been introduced. The schedule of sales tax exemptions contains certain provisions applicable to imported goods which are complementary to provisions in the Customs Tariff. The sales tax exemption items generally refer to the relevant Tariff item number in the Customs Tariff.
The sole purpose of this Bill is to preserve the link with the Customs Tariff and ensure that the relevant sales tax exemptions apply after the proposed new tariff comes into operation. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 5th May (vide page1 1 95), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Bills relating to the poultry industry have had a somewhat on and off progress through the House. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) must feel a little like a clucky hen sitting on the nest wondering whether bis brood will ever be hatched. I support the Bills that are now before the House. For a long time, the egg producing industry has suffered from instability. All too short periods of prosperity have been shattered by periods of poverty brought about by surplus production, high production costs, low prices and cut throat marketing, both at home and abroad. Three years ago, on 16th May 1962, when the difficulties of poultry farmers were raised by me as a matter of definite public importance, I referred to the stark realities of the position inthe industry. Poultry farmers were losing their livelihoods and their farms, and the situation was critical. Because many hundreds of poultry farmers were virtually starved out of production, supplies of eggs fell away. Prices rose. Prosperity briefly visited the survivors in the industry but, again, the pendulum swung. Production increased. Surplus production banked up and with cut throat competition between the States, both officially and unofficially, by individual producers, the industry came to the brink of disaster again. It is a boom and bust industry with too many little people, too many hard working people, being hurt.
On many other occasions I brought to the notice of the House the urgent needs of the industry. Action has been long needed. Finally, out of the confusion of a formerly disorganised industry has come this legislation. It will put into operation part of a plan which, as I have said before, although it will not cure all of the industry’s ills, will go a long way towards doing that. I, and the Australian Labour Party, support the Bills for a variety of reasons. The first reason is that the plan behind this legislation is a genuine attempt to overcome some of the difficulties confronting the egg producing industry. The second reason for our support is that the Bills as they are drafted are not a concoction of the Menzies Government or of the Minister for Primary Industry, but reflect in detail the exact wishes of the Council of Egg marketing Authorities and constitute an important part of its overall plan for stability in the industry. Honorable members will know that by its very make up the Council of Egg marketing Authorities is representative of the industry. C.E.M.A., as it is known, is constituted by all the various representative State egg boards sitting together. The boards have a majority of members elected by producers and, indeed, many of the members themselves are producers depending for their livelihood on the egg producing industry. In relation to this, C.E.M.A. is backed by the State Governments. So, this legislation is the product of agreement between boards and Governments with substantial backing by poultry farmer’s organisations. Consequently, many years of futile warfare and disagreement in the industry are nearing their end. There is unanimity for the first time between the egg boards and the State Governments.
The third reason we have for supporting these Bills is that they will bring about a measure of justice for egg producers who have played the game, who have delivered eggs to the various egg boards and who have paid the levy - the pool levy or equalisation levy, whatever it might be called - and compensated for the losses upon sales of surplus production overseas. Obviously, the fact that others will contribute to this levy should lessen the burden. Other farmers, of course, have not played the game. They have used various means of dodging the payment of their contributions. Many indeed have been large producers who have undermined the activities of the various State boards. They have taken advantage of section 92 of the Constitution to trade interstate. There is evidence that some of this so-called interstate trade is purely on paper and that there has been no actual physical transfer of eggs from one State to another State. The hen levy or hen tax in this legislation will rope in all the producers. Honorable members who have received representations against this hen levy should bear that fact in mind. They should bear in mind also that there is certainly an element of justice about it.
According to the figures contained in the report of the Australian Egg Board for the year 1963-64, the Australian egg production for that year that is listed through the boards was 1 1 1 million dozen eggs. The sales of the boards, the report says, for consumption within Australia was 85 million dozen eggs and 26 million dozen eggs were exported. These figures refer to eggs or the equivalent in pulp. This, of course, does not take into account the quantity not received by the Board. Indeed, the Australian Egg Board assumes that this figure could have reached 30 million dozen eggs. This is a remarkable quantity, which indicates the extent to which production is sold outside the boards. It indicates the amount of levies which may have been dodged. It gives an indication also of the amount of extra levies which the loyal producers may have had to pay.
The Australian Labour Party advocates and supports orderly marketing of primary products. Each of the six States has egg boards for this purpose. But this unfortunate situation I have outlined has continued despite their efforts. Accordingly, these Bills are not to establish orderly marketing but to make orderly marketing of eggs and egg products more effective. With the inclusion of all producers in the hen levy, the burden will be spread among all producers, and not just the section who have delivered eggs to the respective boards. I have mentioned interstate trading. This has thrived because, not paying the equalisation levy, interstate traders have been able to undercut local producers regarding price. Eggs coming into various States have not gone through the various State boards and some of them have been found unsatisfactory in quality and the grade of some of them has been below standard.
Some time ago, the New South Wales Labour Government took action to protect consumers in that State and, indeed, its producers, against this sort of trading by introducing legislation to ensure that all eggs sold in New South Wales met the required standards. I emphasise that point. This legislation encompassed not only eggs brought from other States but also eggs produced in New South Wales. In this way, the legislation does not discriminate against interstate eggs and so does not contravene section 92 of the Constitution. Victoria is now following the example of New South Wales. A bill is before the Victorian Parliament which makes it an offence to offer eggs for retail sale unless they are graded and stamped by the Victorian Egg Board or its agents. So, this two pronged attack on interstate trade - the hen levy to encompass egg producers and requiring them to pay and the legislation requiring grading and stamping - should remove this disruptive element from the egg marketing scene.
For the benefit of some honorable members who are desirous of protecting the rights of those who trade interstate outside of the boards, I want to make several observations. The first is that although an individual producer may choose to sell the higher grades of his production interstate outside of the board, his State board is forced by law to accept his lower grade eggs, which he could not sell interstate. These eggs are, in the main, of pulping variety and are sold at a loss by the board. But, by not contributing the equalisation levy for the cream of his production, the individual producer forces other producers to subsidise the loss on the sale of his lower grades of eggs. Again, the same pro ducer appreciates the activity of the board in setting prices because he uses them as a base for his returns. Such people seek and use the benefits of the boards but reFuse to contribute their share to the cost of maintaining them. Again, honorable members should be aware that some of the interstate trade is bogus in the sense that large producers in New South Wales and Victoria for example, transfer on paper large quantities of eggs to one another. Their eggs actually remain at home but are sold as eggs from their interstate collaborator. By such devices, these people make use of section 92, in a way which was never intended, to dodge their own State laws.
I want to make some comment on the future of the industry. The basic reason for the huge losses on overseas sales of our surplus egg and egg pulp production has been the virtual loss of our traditional market. The obvious example, of course, is Britain, which was traditionally our major overseas market and the outlet for our surplus egg production, lt is true that we were able to sell some of our egg pulp production last year but it was uneconomical to a disastrous degree. We received 2s. or a little more a dozen - in the equivalent of pulp - less the cost of transport, storage and refrigeration. This represents a substantial loss to egg producers. In the immediate post war years, this market was assured. But the British Government engaged in a drive to boost home production in order to become self sufficient. That this drive was successful - too successful from our point of view - is quite plain.
I want to quote a paragraph from the report of the Australian Egg Board for 1963-64.
It is generally conceded that Britain’s present unmanageable egg surplus is a direct result of tha present subsidy system, which is currently costing the British Government £E20/25 million annually, and is encouraging further expansion in the industry.
Just as a subsidy has posed problems in Britain, similarly a subsidy could worsen the problems here in Australia. While every effort must be made to seek additional outlets overseas - and I want to speak about this aspect later - our home market needs close examination. If the industry is to prosper there is a great need for an increased consumption per head of population. At present Australia’s annual per capita consumption is 210 eggs. In 1946 the consumption was 255 eggs per head per year; in 1949-50, 236; and in 1950-51, 229. Although the figures for any of those years do not take into account eggs sold outside of egg board control they do convey evidence of a strong trend away from egg consumption in Australia.
The situation is serious because obviously the domestic market is the egg producer’s most reliable and profitable avenue of sales. Clearly the industry has lost ground in competition with breakfast foods. The food industry is highly competitive these days, and in their own interests, egg producers, through the respective egg boards and the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities, must meet this competition with a strong promotional campaign - a long-term national sales campaign. If the industry can regain some of the lost consumption - I ask honorable members to remember that the figures I quoted show a fall from 255 to 210 per head per year, or 18 per cent. - the export surplus may be largely eliminated.
Already the Victorian Egg and Egg Pulp Marketing Board has had some success in egg promotion. I cite as an example the Humpty Dumpty campaign. Pullet eggs were packed into cartons with the image of Humpty Dumpty on the outside. This was extremely attractive to young children at breakfast time and I understand that the campaign achieved remarkable success. In the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada the respective industries have achieved great success with promotional campaigns. Americans consume 360 eggs per head per year, a consumption figure which, if realised in Australia, would soon solve the industry’s problem.
Despite increased efficiency, the high costs of production brought about by factors beyond the control of the industry have limited the industry’s capacity to meet competition from other breakfast foods and to withstand losses on overseas sales. In respect of overseas sales industrial specialists from private enterprise frequently visit overseas countries to investigate either the development of existing markets or the prospects of obtaining new markets. Ministers, including the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), have urged that this personal approach, giving exporters a closer look at market pros pects, should be stepped up. Various egg boards - particularly those of Victoria and New South Wales - have engaged in this practice. I emphasise that if we are to find markets overseas - I do not accept the negative proposition that we just cannot find them - we must engage in a vigorous search. Mr. Bain, the Secretary of the Victorian Egg and Egg Pulp Marketing Board recently returned from overseas. According to Press reports he had some success in Tahiti. It may have been only in a small way - probably there is not a large quantity of eggs involved in the contract he made - but his success is an indication that there are some outlets around the world if only they can be found.
I wish to emphasise that these trips are paid for by the egg producers of Australia, who from time to time are on the brink of disaster. In recent years many hundreds of producers have left the industry. 1 recall the year 1962. I remember at that time I used the expression “ Stabilisation by starvation “. Surely this situation warrants aid from the Commonwealth. I suggest that the Commonwealth should assist financially in promotional campaigns and aid the industry in its aim to find better markets.
There is no getting away from the fact that the industry is important to the nation. Its production is worth £70 million a year. Indeed, the industry ranks fourth in the primary industries of Australia so far as value of production is concerned. The order is wool, wheat, dairying and then the poultry industry. Years ago I called it the Cinderella of primary industries because of its desperate financial situation and the fact that it had failed to gain the benevolent eye of any government. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) who introduced these bills may be regarded as the Prince Charming to the Industry, however unlikely that may seem, but the plain fact is that the industry is still a Cinderella. The dairying industry gets £13i million in subsidy each year, the wheat industry could receive £10 million under the stabilisation scheme this year and the wool industry receives £7i million each year for promotion, but :he poultry industry gets nothing. I know that comparison with other primary industries is not an argument in itself, but I do submit that the poultry industry is valuable to this country. Even in the depressed periods - I have mentioned 1962 - when many hundreds lost their farms no assistance was forthcoming from the Government.
No responsible person in the industry would advocate a subsidy. I indicated earlier what happened in Great Britain. But surely because of the importance of the industry to the nation, the desperate position of many producers, and even the balance of payments situation, the industry should qualify for some assistance in its attempt to lift its domestic level of consumption and to dispose of ils surplus production overseas. The industry’s product - the egg - is one of the finest of foods. The Commonwealth provides, on health grounds, a fine food in the form of milk to school children. Why not, even on health grounds, give assistance to the industry to sell its eggs? I am not talking in terms of millions of pounds. A Commonwealth contribution of a moderate sum of say £50,000 for a period of five years, to be spent on promotion, could regain much of the ground that has been lost on the home market.
I point out that while the Australian body has as one of its functions participation as a member of the Overseas Trade Publicity Committee in planning sales promotion for Australian products, the body’s finance is derived from a levy on all eggs and egg products exported from Australia. Much of this production is sold at depressed and uneconomic prices from which egg producers can ill afford deductions. 1 wish now to refer to criticisms directed against these Bills by some honorable members. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) made a speech last Wednesday much of which, I regret, was largely irresponsible and hardly worth commenting on. However, he did raise two matters to which I shall refer. He expressed himself strongly about the failure of the Government to hold a referendum of growers. I want to put quite clearly the Labour Party’s attitude on this matter. The honorable member for Macarthur quoted a passage from a document setting out Labour’s policy. For the benefit of honorable members I will read that passage again. It is-
Where organised marketing of a product is considered desirable a Labour Government will hold a ballot among producers and. if approval is given, to enact legislation, creating a marketing authority with producer majority representation thereon.
The first point I make is that this legislation does not require the establishment of a new marketing authority; nor does it set up a new orderly marketing scheme. These Bills are purely machinery bills providing for the collection of a tax on hens in order to enable the State egg marketing authorities, or the various egg boards, to improve their already existing egg marketing arrangements.
The substance of the C.E.M.A. scheme is not apparent in the Bills, but it is apparent to people who have interested themselves in and studied the industry. Apparently the honorable member for Macarthur has not done that. The substance of the scheme is the agreement between the States to cooperate in the sale of eggs and egg pulp, in the prices of eggs and in the grading and quality of eggs. I emphasise that no new marketing authority will be created. In fact, even the hen tax will be collected by the State egg boards. The honorable member for Macarthur, as the chairman of the Government Food and Agriculture Committee, should know that this Parliament has no power to create a new marketing authority to control the marketing of any commodity on the domestic market, without the consent of the States. Obviously, the States do not want an overall Commonwealth authority to usurp the functions of their respective egg boards. Consequently, no such approval could be given.
The honorable member for Macarthur criticised the legislation because it contains no reference to promotion, research and overseas sales. Obviously, the States will continue the activities in which they are already engaged in respect of promotion in Australia and research. I have already put my views on the need for a Commonwealth contribution to promotion; but 1 want to point out to the honorable member for Macarthur that the Australian Egg Board already exists to promote and sell eggs and egg products abroad. The Commonwealth has power to deal with the export of any commodity. Consequently, through the Australian Egg Board, which was set up in 1947 by the Chifley Labour Government in which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the Commonwealth exercises that power. The Commonwealth cannot, of its own accord, control the industry within Australia.
I confess that I failed to comprehend the reasoning behind the comments made by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), who expressed opposition to the Bills. He said that the Bills provide simply another tax on an already struggling industry. Of course, the fact is that the majority of Australian egg producers have been paying tax - the equalisation levy or pool tax - to meet the loss on surplus export sales. This hen levy will ensure that all producers will pay a tax for a similar purpose. The equalisation levy will be abolished. This hen levy is not an additional tax. The honorable member also said, in effect, that the Australian consumers are being forced to pay high prices in order to provide cheap eggs for overseas. The hen is a contrary bird. She lays eggs when she feels like it, at certain times of the year. Does the honorable member for Sturt suggest that the industry could be geared to supply exactly our domestic needs? Obviously, when the off laying season arrived, a shortage of eggs could be a strong possibility. Such an eventuality would cause prices to skyrocket to the detriment of the consumers. The C.E.M.A. plan provides that the States, by co-operation, will ensure that no such shortage will eventuate.
The honorable member for Sturt attacked the proposal for a hen levy. Of course it has its difficulties; but it will rope in the producers who have poled on the majority of the producers for years. If the honorable member looked a little further he would find that such a levy has been applied successfully in Tasmania for years. If he looked at the dairy produce legislation he would find that the inspectors appointed under it have similar powers to those which will be vested in the State egg boards under this plan.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles) was displeased by other honorable members’ references to South Australia’s role in recent years. It cannot be denied that traditionally South Australia has not exported its surplus overseas; rather has it unloaded its excess production in other States. The honorable member pleaded that the South Australian production constitutes only 7.3 per cent, of the total Australian production. Let me remind him that that figure represents only the eggs delivered to the South Australian Egg Board. From my knowledge of the industry, it is obvious that large quantities of eggs are sold interstate from South Australia, outside of the Board. I also remind the honorable member that if an all out egg war occurred between the States, the South Australian producers would fare very badly indeed. The plain fact is that the combined total of surplus production - I emphasise the word “ surplus “ - over consumption in New South Wales and Victoria is greater than South Australia’s total production. South Australia could be swamped if the New South Wales and Victorian egg boards chose to retaliate. Those boards could sell eggs in South Australia at 2s. a dozen and still be better off financially than they would be if they sold the eggs overseas as they do, at similar or even lower prices. On the overseas market they have to meet large transport, storage and refrigeration costs out of the meagre export price.
I readily agree that there are still dissident voices in the industry. Some people seek the defeat of this legislation for purely selfish reasons. Not having paid the equalisation levy and not having borne their share of the burden of the losses on sales of surplus production overseas, they seek to avoid the necessity to pay the levy provided under this legislation. Frankly, I have no sympathy for them. However, there are people who genuinely seek to put forward constructive suggestions for the benefit of the industry. Their voices should be heeded. Their constructive suggestions should be examined. I suggest that the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities should always be ready to listen to those people. I think it will be. It recognises, as I do, that every other stabilisation plan has had its difficulties. Difficulties are inevitable. They are always encountered. Remedial action may be necessary in the future.
One complaint that is often voiced is about the lack of clarity of the position of producers who suddenly face serious hardship in paying their hen levy. One can see, for instance, that a small producer, in particular, in the event of the affliction of his flock by a disease - which is highly possible in the poultry industry - or in the event of the receipt of a large provisional tax assessment could be forced into bankruptcy by the enforced payment of the levy. In the first case an exemption from payment of the levy may be advisable. In the second case a postponement of payment of the levy may be necessary. From discussions with egg board authorities, I know that sympathetic consideration would be given to producers in such circumstances; but this legislation provides no specific machinery for such an eventuality. Machinery to determine whether such cases were genuine and what action should be taken could be provided. I presume that it will be left to the individual egg boards and the Minister for Primary Industry to set out the position.
Whatever disagreements there are now, I believe that the plan behind this legislation should be put into effect. As I see the position, a measure of stability should result from this legislation. Stability is sorely needed by this industry which until now has been plagued by dissension and high costs of production and has been visited regularly by the misery and penury of low prices in a disorganised and chaotic market. I support the Bills.
.- The first heading that I have in my notes is: Pose the problem which the industry faces and which makes necessary the introduction of this legislation. However, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) has put the problem so fairly that it is unnecessary for me to go over the ground again. I agree with almost all of his comments, although there is one small detail with which I will deal in a minute. I emphasise that this legislation does not impose a new tax; it alters the present tax. It ought to be made clear that the main object of this legislation - indeed, its only object - is to spread more equitably the losses that are incurred on export eggs.
The only criticism that I make of the speech made by the honorable member for Bendigo is that he said that we should not be too pessimistic in looking for overseas markets. I think we should be clear on this: In general terms, the export market has gone and for one clear reason, that is, that it is easier to ship the main material used for making eggs, namely, wheat, by bulk transport than to ship to the overseas market eggs as refrigerated cargo.
Generally speaking, we must realise that we have no great hope for a real export market. We must do our planning on the basis that the export market for eggs will gradually shrink and that, because of this, there will be a loss on exports. That is why the object of this legislation is to spread more evenly the loss that is inevitable on the export of eggs. Another object of the legislation is to safeguard the present orderly marketing scheme. I do not pretend that all the egg marketing boards in all States are perfect. I realise that they face problems because of the nature of the people in the industry and for other reasons, and also because of their own weaknesses in some cases. But the fact remains that if there is not an alteration of the present system of marketing, as the honorable member for Bendigo hinted, the South Australian market, for instance, is likely to be flooded with an avalanche of eggs, which is a rather awful picture in many ways.
My main reason for rising is to answer some criticisms made by my friend, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), a man for whom I have an admiration which borders on veneration. In this case there are some things that he dealt with that I think should have particular mention. He expressed concern that by this legislation we will provide cheap eggs in other countries by taxing Australians. The object of the exercise is not to do that; the object is to spread the inevitable loss on exports more equitably. It is true that if this were a perfectly organised secondary industry there would be no exports. We would so organise things that we produced for the Australian market and had no surplus for an export market. However, as the honorable member for Bendigo so rightly said, the fowl is a contrary bird and, not only that, is feminine as well. The fowl has not the kind of control over her emotions that many people would like to think she has. So if we are to have enough eggs in the winter we must face the fact, because we are dealing with fowls and not with factories, that we will have more eggs than we can eat during the spring, and that if we want enough eggs in the winter we inevitably face an export surplus in the spring. The object of this legislation is to spread the loss on these inevitable export eggs, if I may coin a phrase.
The honorable member for Sturt was concerned that the tax may escalate - as he said, that is spelt e-s-c - from £4 million to £8 million. He drew a dreadful comparison with the Sydney Opera House, which I do not think we should drag into this chamber today. I remind the honorable member that the tax is not paid by the consumer of eggs or by the taxpayer generally; it is paid by the owner of the hens, the man who, through the hens, produces the eggs.
– But the tax will be passed on.
– It should not be passed on to the consumer. The object of the exercise is to make up the loss on exports and that loss should not be met by the consumer. If the scheme is operated as it is intended to operate it will do only one thing and that is to spread the loss on exports evenly among those who produce the eggs. Obviously, if production rises, the losses on exports will rise and, therefore, the levy will rise. A man would be starting to look at his fowls sideways when he had to pay a levy of 10s. a hen instead of 7s. a hen.
I repeat that if we produce more eggs for the export market the levy must automatically rise, so this will automatically dampen down the production of surplus eggs that worry us. This is fundamental to the problem and this is the reason why I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) will look with some doubt on the pressure that has been put on him to bring in a ceiling to the levy. I think the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia should have freedom in this respect. I admit the philosophical difficulties in this, but in my opinion there must be power to impose a levy high enough to dampen down production if it increases. I know that some pressure has been applied to the Minister to put a ceiling of, say, 10s. or some other amount on the levy, but on the whole I do not think it would be wise to do so. I realise the philosophical difficulties of this and I shall now come to them.
The honorable member for Sturt, as one would expect from him, made a great point of the difficulty in the philosophical problem that we face at this stage. I admit that we are handing over to the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities the power to say how much the tax will be. We are handing over to that body the power to make the regulations that will govern this scheme. I have a great deal of respect for the doubts ex pressed by the honorable member for Sturt on this question. Nevertheless, I find it difficult, as do other people, to become philosophical about fowls. If honorable members will excuse the pun, I find the pure pool of philosophical thought is fouled up at this stage, because the industry is as it is and because, let us face it, many of the people in the industry - the sideline producers - have not a very real understanding of the problem. The real point of the legislation is that if it is to work well as it should the Council must have freedom to make regulations in a way which I know the honorable member for Sturt would find disturbing and about which I must admit that at first my hackles rose. However, I think that this is the only way that the scheme can be worked.
It has been suggested that there should be a ceiling levy, but how difficult it would be to decide what the ceiling should be. At this stage it would be almost impossible to do so and I should think that the scheme would break down if the legislation did not contain enough power to enable C.E.M.A. to make the thing work. Imagine the kind of difficulty that we would make if we were to put into the legislation mundane things such as which birds are to be exempted. These are the kind of things about which in most cases I would agree with the honorable member for Sturt, but I must admit that in the case of the poultry industry I would be inclined to take a chance on the legislation in its present form. The honorable member mentioned, for instance, the difficulty of a levy of 3id. collected each fortnight if a man had 21 birds. I admit that the chances of having 21 birds are remote and that, if the difficulty became real, one of them would meet a sudden demise, in theory if not in fact. But it is true that if the legislation went into force in this form it would be unworkable. It is quite obvious that the legislation must give C.E.M.A. power to make regulations to overcome small administrative problems that this situation would pose. The honorable member for Sturt then discussed bureaucratic control. I have sympathy with him in this. I think I once asked a question in this House about how, if such a scheme were to be introduced, the number of fowls could be assessed. There are administrative problems to collecting levies from small producers. There will be administrative difficulties in collecting levies from people with, say, 1,000 fowls. Imagine the difficulty an inspector will have in counting the fowls. He will certainly make arithmetical mistakes and quite possibly most of the fowls will stop laying within a week.
The State boards which are to administer this scheme claim that they can do so. At this stage 1 would go along with them and would say, “This is what you want; you can have it, and I hope you can make it work “. If they cannot make it work, and the administrative problems become more difficult, then as the expense of running the scheme increases so must the levy rise. Because the levies are collected by egg producers themselves it will be a natural incentive for efficiency. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) was critical because there was no referendum on the question. I have sympathy for the point of view that producers have a right to be consulted. We must admit that in many cases they have not been consulted. In South Australia, 12,000 people supply eggs to the South Australian Egg Board, but only about 600 producers get a vote, so the South Australian Egg Board cannot claim to have a mandate from the producers for this scheme.
We must be open and frank about this. If we insist upon a referendum we will kill the scheme. Many sideline producers would not be able to understand the scheme even if the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) went and explained it to them with his undoubted clarity and earnestness. The situation may be different in South Australia because the South Australian Minister for Agriculture, when he was a member of the Opposition in South Australia, actively supported legislation to provide for a referendum. I have heard it suggested that he has departed from that viewpoint, but I find that difficult to believe. Although I do not agree with his politics I believe he is a man of great integrity, and if he said there would be a referendum in South Australia I feel certain they will have a referendum. Indeed, it was he who asked that the owners of more than 1,500 birds should have three votes and those with fewer than 1,500 birds should have one vote. I said earlier that political philosophy and fowls do not go well together. I have always understood a motto of the Australian Labour Party has been “ one vote one value “, but seemingly this does not apply to fowls, if the big producer is to have a bigger voting right.
I think I can briefly conclude. 1 have heard it said that this should be a stabilisation plan. It was not said in this House, of course.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was discussing the problems involved in stabilising the poultry industry and I was pleading with the industry to realise the overwhelming problems associated with a cost of production scheme. I am not sugegsting that this is being put forward by the Opposition or anyone on this side of the House, but there is a feeling in some quarters of the industry that the, poultry farmers have as much right to a cost of production formula as any other section of industry. Speaking as a small poultry farmer, I am well aware of the many virtues of the poultry farmers, but I want the industry to realise that there is no salvation in this scheme for an industry that is as easy of entry as this is. It could always be flooded by excess production. Unless we have some scheme for limitation of production the whole stabilisation plan, which is based on the idea of making egg production profitable, is doomed to disaster. We should be aware of this.
There is one other problem that should be raised. It was raised earlier by the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) who made a plea that, for special reasons, there should be a particular place in this scheme for the Tasmanian egg producers. I notice that the Minister did not refer to this in his speech, and I have not heard it referred to in any of the C.E.M.A. plan discussions. I should like to make my position quite clear. If the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities agrees to this scheme, then well and good; but I hope the Minister is not going to prejudice the success of the scheme at this stage by agreeing in principle that there is some special place in Heaven for the Tasmanian egg producers.
I will admit that when I saw this legislation for the first time my hackles rose to some extent as I said before. I realise now that there are some aspects of the scheme which look to be rather on the raw side and which can be rectified only after the scheme has got into operation. 1 agree with the general political philosophy criticism that rather too much power is to be given to C.E.M.A. to make regulations, although I agree that this is the best way out of the impasse and I should think that we ought to be prepared to give the scheme a fair trial. I repeat that the only alternative to this scheme is no scheme at all. It is quite clear to me that we should favour having the scheme because, rough though it may be in parts, it is better than the disaster which would overtake the industry without it. I refer to the difficulty of wasteful, uneconomic interstate trading which, if continued, must lead inevitably to the breaking down of the marketing scheme which we now have.
In conclusion, I want to say that, whatever we may say in criticism of the scheme - I have voiced some mild criticism of it - at least it is the industry’s scheme. It is a scheme brought forward by the people who have to administer it, who have to suffer if anything goes wrong and who have to pay the increased levy if production increases, although I should think that, if the scheme works as we expect it to work, there will not be any increase in production. But this is a scheme submitted by the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities itself. It is submitted by those who are responsible for collecting the levy which has to come from the producers of the eggs and not from the taxpayers or consumers.
I support the scheme, with the mild doubts which I have expressed because it is the industry’s own scheme. It is C.E.M.A.’s scheme and we ought to do our best to make it operate as well as they hope they can make it operate. If I may be pardoned for a note of levity at the end of my contribution, I think we can say that the C.E.M.A. people have made their nest and now they have to lay in it.
– The group of Bills that we are now discussing - the Poultry Industry Levy Bill, the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Bill and the Poultry Industry Assistance Bill - result from agreements reached between the Commonwealth and the States. The whole emphasis given in the Bills is on the position of the States and the
State Egg Marketing Boards. The assistance being given under these Bills is assistance to the State Egg Marketing Boards to recoup the losses suffered on disposal of surplus eggs by export overseas.
In his second reading speech on the main Bill, the Minister had this to say -
I would like to emphasise now that all of the proceeds of the levy will be repaid to the industry through the State Egg Boards. The boards will use the proceeds to meet trading losses on exports in place of the proceeds they had previously obtained from their equalisation levies.
He indicated that the president of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities had foreshadowed that the rate it will recommend to operate from 1st July 1965 will be 3id. per hen per fortnight, which on an annual basis is approximately 7s. per hen. That is in the old fashioned currency of of pounds, shillings and pence.
I want to address my remarks to the needs of the poultry farmers in the Australian Capital Territory. This is not a major poultry farming area. At present there are about nine or ten poultry farmers operating in the A.C.T. Until a few weeks ago, there were a couple more than that, but they have been forced out of the industry through conditions that I shall refer to later. This is not good poultry farming country. The climate, for one thing, renders it not eminently suitable for this pursuit. With its extremes of heat and cold, it would not be country normally chosen for egg production.
Costs in the industry here are high. Those high costs result from several factors. Firstly, the poultry farmers here have to import their feed from much greater distances than is the case, certainly in New South Wales, where the flour milling centres are in reasonably close proximity to the egg producing areas. The poultry farmers here import their feed from Harden, and the cost is about £5 a ton above what is paid in the larger poultry farming areas near the cities.
The land on which the farmers here operate is leasehold land. I understand one of the farms is on a 50 year lease and the other farms are on 20 year leases. This means that the value of the land is depreciating all the time in contradistinction to freehold land in areas adjacent to the city, where the value of the land is appreciating. The leases given by the Commonwealth here under the Rural Leases Ordinance contain a withdrawal clause which empowers the Commonwealth at any time, for a Commonwealth purpose, to resume the whole or any part of the land. There is no security of tenure for the farmers under leases of this kind, and it is quite probable that their land will be required for the expansion of the city before many years have passed. So there is not available to them the source of finance that is available to the farmers operating on freehold land or land held on perpetual lease because of the very nature of the leasehold and the existence of this withdrawal clause.
The poultry farmers here have not been called on previously to pay any levy. I believe that all of them agree with the proposal to levy poultry farmers on the hens. They agree with the purpose of the legislation we are discussing.
I have heard it said, and said quite recently, that poultry farmers in the Australian Capital Territory have been poling on the egg producers of Australia for years. They have been described as scabs of the egg producing industry. I want to refute both of these charges. The poultry farmers here are men who have invested their money in land, stock and equipment to establish themselves in this branch of primary industry. They have worked to develop their farms and to increase production from those farms. They have complied with all the requirements of the law of the Australian Capital Territory and they have been under no compulsion to comply with the laws of any State or to follow the dictates of any State’s organisation. Some of the poultry farmers here have been engaged in this form of primary production for only a very short time, most for a few years only, and some, indeed, for periods even shorter than that. They can hardly be rightly accused of having poled on the industry generally for a number of years. Whatever may be said of any individual farmer - and individual farmers are subject to criticism, I do not doubt, in any area - a general accusation of this kind cannot be justified.
Four years ago the Egg Marketing Board of New South Wales tried to force the Australian Capital Territory producers to join that organisation and to enter into contracts with the Egg Marketing Board.
The Board attempted to establish a monopoly in this area. There was a public outcry and protests were made to the Minister for the Interior at the time. That attempt was frustrated, largely because the agent of the Board here took a stand against the Board and continued to collect eggs from the farmers in this Territory. A similar attempt was made again this year.
I want to point out that the producers here are able to produce and are in fact producing approximately enough eggs to meet the local demand - that is, the local demand in Canberra and possibly in Queanbeyan. But the local demand is not available to the local producers because of the operations here of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board. As many honorable members know, the large chain stores buy in quantity through their city head-quarters and have the eggs transported to their stores in country centres. Other large local stores in this city are tied to the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board under the bonus system, and even if they decided to transfer their trade to the local farmers they would suffer a financial loss because of the threat of the board to withhold their accumulated bonuses. In this situation some local producers have found it necessary to sell some eggs in New South Wales. The situation is that we have local farmers producing sufficient to meet the local demand; the local demand is not available to them because of the operations of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board; so the local farmers find it necessary to dispose of their surplus eggs in New South Wales as best they can.
In March this year the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board declared war on the local Australian Capital Territory producers. The Chairman of the Board announced that the price of Board eggs in the Australian Capital Territory would be reduced by ls. 6d. a dozen. The local farmers, of course, were forced to bring the price of their eggs down to meet this reduction by the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board or else lose the market that they had at that time. For the information of the Minister, if he is not already aware of the facts of the situation, and for the information also of other honorable members, I shall read portion of an article which appeared in the “ Canberra Times “ on 8th February 1965 as follows -
The chairman of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board, Mr. K. O. Triggs, said last night: “ It is true we are going to drop our prices sharply. We may eventually make an even bigger cut than ls. 6d. . . . this is war.” “The board is not trying to bully the Canberra farmers, but the fact is we are in fierce competition with all other producers. “ We believe Canberra should be part of our New South Wales marketing operation. The city has been a festering sore to us for a long time. “ We are not out to crush the local farmers, but they know what to do. They can either fight us or join us. The choice is theirs.”
That, I suggest, is extremely intemperate language for the chairman of the Board to use. on the eve of an attempt to crush local farmers here and force them out of production.
– This is the kind of thing that was done in respect of a margarine company.
– I do not know anything about margarine. I leave that subject to the honorable member who interjects. I eat butter. I suggest that this action and these words come strangely from the chairman of a board which strongly condemns undercutting of prices by interstate producers selling in New South Wales. They come strangely from a man who has protested against this kind of practice indulged in in New South Wales by interstate producers not subject to the operations of the Board. There were public protests about this. Let me quote from some of the local newspapers. On 9th February 1965 the “ Australian “ had this to say in an editorial -
With a frankness that is astonishing in its impertinence, the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board has proclaimed its intention to compel A.C.T. egg producers to market their products through it and it alone.
The editorial went on to say - . . a price-cutting war, which the board apparently plans to wage to the death (of the A.C.T. producers) will be of no more than temporary and highly questionable value to the consumers of Canberra, whom he represents. lt will continue only as long as the 10 egg producers of the A.C.T. can fight against a retail price lower than their cost of production. Obviously that is not likely to be long. The Egg Board, by comparison, has unlimited financial resources at its disposal.
The war - or should the word be blitzkrieg? - over, not only the A.C.T. egg producers but the A.C.T. consumers will take what the Egg Board cares to give them, fresh or otherwise, at the price it chooses to fix from time to time.
There was support from the community for the local egg producers. I quote again from the “ Australian “, this time of Thursday, 1 1 th February 1 965, as follows -
The A.C.T. Trades and Labour Council and the A.C.T. Branch of the AWU have announced their support for Canberra poultry farmers in the egg price cutting war.
The decision to join the fight on the side of the farmers was one of several developments yesterday in the price war which has been raging since Monday.
The Secretary of the AWU in Canberra, Mr. W. Spellman, said last night the present dispute affected all poultry farm employees, and his union would do everything in its power to protect the interests of these employees.
Again, just to show that there is local support for the Canberra poultry farmers and a proper assessment of the problem, I quote the following from an editorial in the Canberra “Times” of 11th February 1965-
On the one hand we have the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board firm in its conviction that it has some sort of vested interest in the A.C.T. and firm in its intention to break those suppliers who refuse to toe the line and market their eggs through its agency. On the other are the local suppliers who spiritedly reject the suggestion that they should join the board and pay the levy that defrays the cost of its activities.
In defending the opening of this trade war by his board, the chairman, Mr. K. O. Triggs, has gone on record with some astonishing statements. Following his uncompromising threat to A.C.T. poultry farmers which we reported on Monday, Mr. Triggs by implication justified it by saying that “ Canberra is in our own State “. Of course, it is nothing of the sort. Its people owe no allegiance to any board operating with the blessing of the N.S.W. Government, nor has the board any rights in the A.C.T. other than the right of any business organisation to operate in open competition with other suppliers.
The newspaper also made this point, and I think, very properly -
Yet, although it is proper to resent the arrogant manner of the board’s attack on A.C.T. suppliers and prudent to reject the very suggestion that A.C.T. consumers should be placed at the mercy of an institution of another State, it would be a mistake to reject the idea that orderly marketing of eggs is to be avoided at all costs. Although the N.S.W. board has been the target of a lot of criticism in its own State, and has been faced with possibly more active resistance than it would care to admit by enthusiastic sub rosa trading in eggs, it has to be admitted that there is another side to the coin.
The editorial then went on to praise the board for the work it has done within the boundaries of the State in which its charter operates. The editorial concluded -
But to eliminate competition in the marketing of a staple article of food is a very serious matter and the form of this proposed legislation will require the closest study by all of us.
Just to complete the quotation, Mr. Deputy Speaker, here is another from the “ Australian “. On 19th February, in an editorial, it stated -
With virtually no prior warning and with no satisfactory explanation, the N.S.W. board has embarked on a price-cutting campaign so extravagant that, taken to its logical conclusion, it can bring nothing short of ruin to A.C.T. egg producers, unless they comply with the board’s edict - “ sell all your eggs through us, or starve “.
The editorial added -
Canberra producers have freely admitted that they market some of their eggs in New South Wales, but they have flatly denied that they sell them anywhere at less than Egg Board prices.
Unless the Egg Board can show that this is not true - that in fact Canberra egg producers are undercutting or in some other way threatening the N.S.W. market- there is no reason why they should have been subjected to such a vindictive onslaught by the State authority. No one has found ground for complaint that the Egg Board sells at fixed prices in the A.C.T.
Following that outbreak of war, there were various indeterminate consultations between the Australian Capital Territory Poultry Farmers Association and the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board, and consultations by representatives of both with representatives of the Department of the Interior, in an effort to solve this problem, which, in essence, was that of a State organisation seeking to impose its will in an area completely outside the boundaries of its State. Nothing came from these consultations, except an indication that if the Australian Capital Territory poultry farmers signed the form of contract that the New South Wales Board wished them to sign, egg prices in Canberra would not merely be restored to the original levels but would rise an additional 4d. a dozen. It is to the credit of Mr. Cutts, Chairman of the Territory Poultry Farmers Association, and at least one other of the Association’s members, that they refused to have anything to do with a transaction that would increase egg prices in Canberra and Queanbeyan by that amount.
On 30th April this year, the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board announced that egg prices in the Australian Capital Territory would rise by 6d. a dozen for 18 oz. and 21 oz. eggs and by 3d. a dozen for 24 oz. eggs, bringing prices in the Territory to ls. a dozen less than prices in New South Wales. Perhaps the Board was finding that the war was costing it too much, and was therefore induced to reduce the amount by which it had been undercutting New South Wales prices. On the same day, it was announced that one local poultry farmer had issued a writ out of the District Registry of the High Court of Australia under section 11 of the Australian Industries Preservation Act, which, as the House knows, relates to the repression of monopolies, and the proceedings were authorised by the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) under section 14 of that Act.
I support these Bills. I am quite certain that the poultry farmers of this area support the purposes of these measures, which seek to bring stability to this industry. There is no need for me to traverse the ground that has already been covered so well by honorable members who represent electorates in which there are considerable egg producing establishments. These measures will ensure that all poultry farmers contribute to the equalisation funds of the industry. I believe that poultry farmers in this Territory recognise the justice of the levy. I think they recognise that the whole industry will benefit. As was revealed earlier by the Minister for Primary Industry, the Australian Capital Territory has made no application for exemption. The possibilities that would flow from the granting of any exemption to a small area such as this within a big State such as New South Wales are perceived. There would be such a rush of poultry farmers to the Territory as to leave no room for anyone else.
All poultry farmers will be required to pay the hen levy at whatever rate is fixed. But, as I understand these Bills, the levy collected here will be distributed to the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board, which is chartered to operate only within the boundaries of New South Wales and has no power or authority within this Territory. I hope that the Minister, if he speaks in reply to this debate, will have something to say on this point. I quote from his second reading speech on the Poultry Industry Assistance Bill, in which he said -
Payments out of the Fund are to be made to the State Governments for financial assistance to the poultry industry.
So we are to understand that the levy paid by poultry farmers in this Territory on the hens that they own will be distributed to the New South Wales Board. I want the Minister, when he replies to this debate, to answer this question: Why should levies collected from a Commonwealth Territory be paid to a State authority? The Minister may reply by saying: “ This will not be the procedure “. If he does, I shall applaud him for that.
Producers in the Australian Capital Territory have no surplus of production for export overseas. I suggest to the Minister that he consider making in respect of this Territory the same sort of arrangement as is being made for Tasmania. That State has a very small surplus of production. I believe that it has some surplus of pulp, which is sent to Victoria, but it has no export surplus of any magnitude. The suggestion is that Tasmania will receive a refund of portion of the levy, which will be distributed among the Tasmanian poultry farmers, presumably according to the basis on which they have contributed to the Commonwealth levy. I suggest that, if the Minister accepts the view that the Australian Capital Territory is not part of New South Wales and that it should not be subject to the operations or dictates of a New South Wales egg marketing authority, he adopt a procedure somewhat similar to that envisaged for Tasmania.
The Commonwealth has, within the departments existing in Canberra, ample machinery for the collection and policing of the levy, for the inspection of farms and so on. The levy could be collected, for example, by the Accounts Section of the Department of the Interior, which is not overworked. With the introduction of many new and modern machines, it has been able to get the rates notices out about six months earlier in the year than usual. So that Section apparently has plenty of capacity with which to handle the accounts concerning the levy for the poultry industry in this Territory. The local industry could be controlled by the Agriculture and Stock Section of the Department of the Interior, which is well staffed and highly competent, just as is the Accounts Section. The staff of the Agriculture and Stock Section would be quite competent to undertake all the necessary inspections and supervision required by the terms of the Bills that we are now discussing.
I point out to the Minister that the measures, as they stand, offer no protection whatsoever to the poultry farmers of the Australian Capital Territory. This Territory is an area for which the Commonwealth has direct and sole responsibility. If the Commonwealth Parliament is legislating with respect to poultry farmers throughout Australia, it should have particular regard for the poultry farmers within this Commonwealth Territory, where the Federal Government stands not only as the National Government, but also in place of a State Government and, indeed, in place of a local government authority as well. So I suggest that the Commonwealth has a particular responsibility for this area.
I see in these measures nothing that will prevent in the future the very kind of operations by the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board that I have described this evening. It is quite apparent that the Board was prepared to lose money by selling eggs here at ls. 6d. a dozen below the New South Wales prices for the sole purpose either of forcing local farmers to market their eggs through the New South Wales Board or of putting them out of business altogether. I do not need to remind the Minister of the words of the Chairman of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board. He said: “This is war. They can do what they like about it, but they will either join us or be crushed in the process.” That was the effect of what he said. I see in these Bills nothing that will prevent the New South Wales Board from following the same course in the future. Admittedly, the poultry farmers of this area are not required at present to pay a levy to any board or authority. They pay neither an equalisation levy nor an administration levy of any kind, because there is no authority and no administration operating in this Territory. However, they comply with all the laws with which they are required to comply and if the Commonwealth saw fit to impose a levy, I suggest that these poultry farmers would accept their responsibility and make no objections to meeting it.
I ask the Minister to consider the points I have put forward. Admittedly, we have here 9 or 10 poultry farmers. Their production runs at about 1,000 cases a week. It is barely sufficient at present to meet the demand that exists in Canberra and Queanbeyan, but that demand is not available to them because of the entry of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board into this Territory. The action of the New South Wales Board has forced the local poultry farmers to dispose of their surplus as they can by distribution through New South Wales, a task that will, of course, be made harder by the introduction of new regulations in New South Wales. They deserve consideration and I hope that the Minister will see that their position is recognised. I hope he will say what is to be done with the levy collected from poultry farmers in the Australian Capital Territory. Is it to be distributed to the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board, in which these farmers have no membership and no representation? Of course, they have no representation on any of the egg marketing organisations throughout Australia.
The Minister may regard the problem as a small one, but it is a real problem tor these men, for their employees and for the consumers in this Territory. Whether the prejudice is justified, the housewife does have a preference for local eggs. I am assured that board eggs are just as good as local eggs, but the housewife will not be convinced of this. If a housewife has the chance to buy local eggs, she will buy them. If she is driving back from Sydney and sees a sign “ Farm eggs “, she will buy them rather than buy board eggs. I. cannot see any reason why the people of Canberra cannot have access to the local production of eggs and why the local egg producers cannot have the protection that the Commonwealth should give them.
– in reply - I thank honorable members for the positive way in which they have discussed the three Bills that are now before the House. They have tried to be constructive. I think I can say that the scheme contained in the legislation is almost universally supported. As has been said on two or three occasions, this is an industry scheme. It was submitted to the State Governments and to the Commonwealth Government through me. It is the outcome of many discussions with State Ministers in the Australian Agricultural Council and many conferences between myself and the industry representatives. The more I study it and the more I hear it discussed here the more I am convinced that it has a reasonable chance of success. But the success or failure of the scheme will depend on the cooperation of the State Egg Boards; its success will depend on whether they work together.
The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) said that the scheme is not a stabilisation scheme. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) said it is a stabilisation scheme and he wants a poll on any new stabilisation proposals. I suggest that neither of the two honorable members is just quite right. The existing stabilisation scheme for the egg industry is administered by the State Egg Boards and the Australian Egg Board, which markets surplus export eggs. We want to strengthen the scheme through this legislation. When the honorable member for Sturt says that it is not stabilisation, I remind him that a stabilisation scheme already exists and we want to strengthen it. I do not have any less respect for him than I always have had merely because he disagrees with me. I always respect a man who voices his opinion forthrightly. The honorable member has not lost any of my respect because he has done so on this occasion.
The honorable member for Macarthur said that this is a new stabilisation scheme and he demanded a poll. But there is no need for a poll. We have a stabilisation scheme in operation through the medium of the State Boards and all State Boards are represented on the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia. The two Queensland boards are represented on this Authority, but it has been agreed that the South Queensland Egg Board should have the voting power. Each of the six States has a vote on C.E.M.A.A. and any decision made by the Council must be made by unanimous vote. In other words, each State can safeguard its own interests by exercising the power of veto if it wishes to do so.
I remind the honorable member for Macarthur that the legislation in each State, with the exception of South Australia, provides a way for a challenge to be issued to the existing marketing authorities. I understand that South Australia adopts a different method. I think that every three years the Parliament of South Australia re-enacts the legislation covering its egg board. I cannot recall the poultry producers of Australia ever challenging any of the egg marketing boards. That in itself is sufficient justification for saying that there should not be a poll.
To this we can add the fact that the six State Governments have supported this legislation and they in turn have said that there is no need for a poll. The previous Government of South Australia did say it would have a poll, but the present Government says there is no need for a poll.
The honorable member for Sturt said that this is not an equalisation scheme; that it is another tax. I think his suggestion was effectively answered by two or three honorable members who spoke in the debate. This is not another tax. The levy imposed by this legislation will replace the levy that is now being collected by the States. The State equalisation levy will go out of existence and we will have this levy instead. The levy will be used entirely for equalisation purposes. Therefore, I cannot agree with him when he says there is no equalisation proposal. I have said, especially in my second reading speech, that the purpose of this levy is to provide for losses that accrue when we have to sell our surplus egg production on overseas markets.
The honorable member for Sturt used another term with which I disagree. He said that we are just dumping our eggs on the overseas markets at the expense of the Australian consumers and to the detriment of those countries to which we export. Dumping, as I understand it, is selling a commodity at less than the price that the local producers receive for their product. We are not doing that. We are selling our eggs at the best export price that we can get and this is equivalent to the price paid to local producers in the countries that take our eggs. That is not dumping.
We protest if anybody comes here and sells goods at less than the price our producers receive, because that is dumping in an effort to undercut our market. But we are selling our other surplus commodities in other countries at world prices because we cannot get anything better. The egg marketing authorities, through the Australian Egg Board and the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board, found that no market for eggs in shell really existed in the United Kingdom, and they have promoted sales in the Middle East. They are selling eggs in shell on the Middle East markets and they are looking for other markets. Necessity demands that they try to secure markets when a surplus occurs. So, I think that is a fair statement in reply to the honorable member for Sturt.
I think I have answered the remarks of the honorable member for Macarthur about the poll. I cannot follow the honorable member’s opposition to this legislation, which he has indicated, remembering his continued advocacy of legislation on stabilisation matters. On many occasions he has supported me in regard to such matters. The very thing that he opposes here is consistent with all the stabilisation acts that have been passed in this House relating to other commodities. Why he should heed the voices of those who are taking advantage of those producers who support stabilisation throughout the States, I cannot understand. The honorable member made mention of margarine. Agreement has been reached between the six State Ministers for Agriculture and myself, representing the Commonwealth Government, on certain control measures to protect the dairy industry. We do not believe that the dairy producers should be taken advantage of. The honorable member for Macarthur seems to accept the arguments voiced by those who want to take advantage of the producers who are paying the levy to the State egg boards so that they can have a domestic market for their own eggs. Those people pay nothing and are prepared to let the other fellow carry the burden of selling the surplus for export. I cannot follow the honorable member’s views on that matter.
– I will clear it up later.
– The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) made reference to the Chairman of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board. Really, I think that matter has nothing to do with this legislation. Some of the statements which have been quoted by the honorable member, do not fill me with enthusiasm concerning the actions of the New South Wales Board. As the Chairman he would need to have a better spirit of co-operation to make this scheme succeed. But the agreement made by the New South Wales Board and by the Government of New South Wales in support of this legislation was unanimous, and was made before Mr.
Triggs became the Chairman. We have worked on the basis of that advice.
Probably what I am about to say will bear in part on the remarks which have been made by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory. The question has been asked as to whether any action would be taken by C.E.M.A. to eliminate the wide variation in egg prices between States. Now, one of the initial aims of C.E.M.A. was to eliminate price variations as far as possible. This aim has been reconfirmed by that body, even since the present chairman of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board has taken office. So, there is complete agreement. What I say to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory is that although there is no exemption for the producers in the Territory they should benefit by the fact that the incentive for the New South Wales Board to send eggs to the Australian Capital Territory at cut prices has been removed. The honorable member mentioned the charge of ls. 6d. a dozen as being a cut price. If all boards will agree to equalise their prices, or make them approximately equal, there is no reason why the New South Wales Board should cut prices to send eggs to Canberra. That would not be consistent with the aim of the whole organisation that we are endeavouring to strengthen.
The first benefit that producers in the Australian Capital Territory will receive by paying the levy is that they will have their own market with a price equivalent to what the boards are getting throughout the various States. The producers obviously should benefit by that. The second benefit that they should receive is that the market will be strengthened overall to this degree as the surplus will be cared for through the Australian Egg Board or whatever exporting authority it may decide to operate through, such as the New South Wales board. The domestic price will be maintained at a level agreed to between the six State boards through C.E.M.A. This will strengthen the local market. I think this matter has been questioned by some people and it has been stated that this will possibly increase the price of eggs to the consumer, and that there will be increased production. If we have increased production, then my kindly retort will be that evidently the scheme has succeeded as we knew it would succeed. Conditions will be a bit better for the poultry producers than they have been in the past. The producers could not continue in the chaotic conditions in which they were operating. So, I say that when this objective is achieved it will be good for the producers.
The honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) has asked me what is the position with regard to Tasmania. In case honorable members think that Tasmania is getting some priority I point out that it is not so much a priority as it is a case of dealing with a special position. C.E.M.A. has recognised the special position of Tasmania in the scheme and has given repeated assurances that when making recommendations in respect of the distribution of the levy money, Tasmania will receive special consideration. Now the reason for this is that the Tasmanian surplus is not large enough to enable the Tasmanian board to operate economically to meet the high requirement for export standard pulp. Accordingly, Tasmania has an arrangement with the Victorian board for that board to purchase Tasmania’s surplus at ruling export prices, and Victoria is to export an equal quantity of its own pulp. C.E.M.A. claims that Tasmania will receive the equalised price from Victoria because Tasmania has sent its product to the Victorian board as its surplus to be sold along with the Victorian surplus. So, consideration must be given to that position. An assurance was given in regard to the Australian Honey Board which has an arrangement similar to this one. I can say with the authority of C.E.M.A. that this has been arranged with the Tasmanian Egg Board and this arrangement should be carried out. I think that explanation should satisfy honorable members. I think the arrangement is only fair and honorable in the circumstances.
Having regard to the constructive approach of honorable members to this debate, I want to adopt the same approach, and I propose during the Committee stage to introduce three amendments which I feel will strengthen the Bills. I think it is the desire of all honorable members who support these measures to get the best legislation possible. Briefly, two amendments which refer to the Poultry Industry Levy
Bill provide for an upper limit of 10s. per annum in the levy and grant exemption in respect of the bulk of broiler type breeding hens to be specified in the Bill rather than in future regulations. I will explain these amendments more particularly in each case in Committee. The other amendment I propose to move is in respect of clause 11 of the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Bill of which the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) spoke. This clause relates to access to books and documents, etc. The proposed amendment makes this clause more restrictive on the authorised persons than is proposed in its present form.
Honorable members have sought some clarification of the term “ commercial purposes “ in relation to hens. This phrase appears self-explanatory to me. I do not think it needs any special definition. It relates, in effect, to the producer who sells eggs or chickens produced from the eggs laid by his hens. He would be an owner of hens kept for commercial purposes. Farmers or backyard poultry owners who do not sell the produce of their flocks, no matter how many hens they own, would not be considered as producers for commercial purposes. If they are not in the market selling eggs they are not commercial producers.
With regard to broilers, I shall explain later when I am dealing with the amendment that these birds would not be subject to a levy because they are invariably slaughtered well before they reach the age of six months.
– Not always. They can grow them up to eight months because they do not lay up to that time.
– I would not like to eat a broiler that takes eight months to grow.
– The Minister has eaten many of them when he has had poultry in the Parliamentary dining room.
– The successful broiler breeder keep them for about eight weeks and then sells them.
Another question that was asked was how it was proposed to collect levies from those producers who do not operate through State egg boards. Let me emphasise what I said in my second reading speech, namely that the collections will be made through the State boards. The Commonwealth will collect the levy. The State boards will find little difficulty in collecting any levy that may be imposed on producers who supply to a board. The difficulty will be in collecting from those who have not been paying levy. It will be necessary to take steps to arrange to cover them. I remind honorable members that the States have the power already to compel returns of stock held, and so on, to be made. I have no doubt that States already have statistics relating to the number of hens owned by breeders. The States can readily look after this aspect through their State marketing powers.
– Will the Minister explain how the levy will be collected in the Australian Capital Territory and how the money will be distributed?
– It will be collected through the Department of Primary Industry.
– Not by the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board?
– No. The Commonwealth will accept responsibility in the Territory.
Statements have been made to the effect that we are violating the Commonwealth Constitution. We are doing nothing of the sort. Speaking personally, I wish we could get over section 92 for the sake of our industry stabilisation legislation, but that is another matter. We cannot, under this or any other legislation, take away the rights of an individual under section 92 of the Constitution. What we can do by virtue of Commonwealth legislation is impose this levy so that all producers pay equally; but the Bills will not deter people who are now selling interstate from continuing to do so if they so desire. However, if all the boards sold at an agreed price there would be no incentive for producers to sell interstate. They would be able to sell at the same price nearer home as if they transported eggs from, say, Sydney to Adelaide, or Adelaide to Sydney. I pose this question: Who pays the cost of the transport from Sydney to Adelaide, Adelaide to Sydney or from Werribee or somewhere else to other parts of the Commonwealth? The answer, of course, is that the producer has these costs taken out of his returns. This sort of thing is already making price conditions chaotic for producers.
I was asked the question whether the consumer will pay more as a result of the levy. 1 point out that there will be some leeway given by the saving in costs to the producer. The producer will get a better price without necessarily increasing the price to the consumer. I cannot give a guarantee that the price will not be varied. Egg prices do vary according to the characteristics of the hens, as some speakers said earlier. I repeat that the Commonwealth is not violating the Constitution in this matter, because every individual will have the same right to continue to sell interstate if he so desires.
Although later I propose to move an amendment relating to the maximum levy that may be collected I do not want to frighten producers by having them think that they will have to pay 10s. per bird a year. I give a guarantee again that it is not intended that the levy shall exceed 7s. per bird during the first 12 months. There should be no fear in this regard, because C.E.M.A. has on it majority representation of commercial producers of eggs and poultry. I think that there are 39 members of State boards, 25 of whom are producers elected by producers. Those men are not unnecessarily going to levy themselves in excess of an amount that is required to meet the provisions of this legislation. However, if producers do pay any extra they will get it back in the form of equalisation payments. The levy is a collection to help the producers and not a tax that cannot be recouped. 1 think that is all I need to say at this juncture. I invite any honorable member requiring an explanation of any matter to raise it when the particular clause is being discussed in Committee. I commend the House for its constructive, positive approach and for the almost unanimous support it has given to the Bills.
– What about the extra costs that will be incurred by State boards in collecting the extra levy? Are they to be recompensed for having to put on extra staff?
– The levy of 7s. a bird that is proposed is less than they are now paying under State equalisation schemes. Administrative costs will be collected by State boards to cover adminis trative expenses in the same way as they are collecting such costs now in relation to the equalisation levies which they collect. The very fact that producers pay a lesser levy than they are paying their State boards at present probably will pay for any extra costs incurred in the collection of this levy.
Question put -
That the Bill bc now read a second time.
– I wish to ask a question on procedure, Mr. Speaker. Under what Standing Order may I have my vote recorded against the Bill?
– If the honorable member seeks a division, provided he is supported by one honorable member a division will be taken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together.
.- Clause 2 states that the Act is to come into operation on the 1st day of July 1965. The position is that this Bill will not become law until it is passed by the Senate and assented to by the Governor-General. The industry will have no more than five or six weeks in which to get ready to pay this tax. This is most unusual in Australian law, as in respect of income tax legislation there is generally a wait of nine months before the law becomes operative. In this case the industry, which had no knowledge of this Bill until it came before the Parliament - and then only by being fed the information through inspired organs - will not know about the tax until it receives a demand to pay it. So, within five or six weeks of this Bill becoming law the industry will be required to begin to pay the tax. If this Bill is to become law, I believe it would be fair to give the industry six months’ notice. Therefore I move -
In clause 2, omit “July, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-five “, insert “ January, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-six”.
– The Government cannot accept this amendment and I hope that the Committee will not accept it. This matter has been on the stocks for two and a half years or more now. The industry has been acquainted with the contents of the discussions. As Chairman of the Australian Agricultural Council, I have made statements on this matter. I have had discussions with industry representatives. In regard to the possibility or otherwise of collecting the levy, I point out that all the State egg boards are geared for the operation now. Indeed, they are already collecting a similar levy - the State equalisation levy - which will cease at the end of June. The State egg boards will take over the operation of this levy as from 1st July. So, the Government cannot accept the amendment.
.- Like Horatius on the bridge, the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) is endeavouring to fight a delaying action. It is obvious to all honorable members that he strongly opposes this legislation. Not being able to prevent its implementation, he is endeavouring to delay it. It is quite clear that there will not be a great deal of time for the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities and the various egg boards to get to work on the administrative arrangements for collecting the hen levy. But, obviously, the industry has been seeking this sort of legislation for a long, long time - for at least three or four years, to my knowledge. It would be a great disappointment to the industry - not only the egg boards but also many poultry farmers’ associations and the majority of the producers - if this matter were held over for a further six months. It seems to me that the honorable member for Macarthur is fighting a last ditch battle to have the legislation put aside.
The plain fact is that if this legislation were delayed for another six months, the unanimity that exists between the State egg boards, the poultry farmers’ associations and the majority of producers could disappear. For years the industry was disorganised. I suggest that, unfortunately, disorganisation of the industry is what the honorable member for Macarthur is seeking. He wants to see whether the organisations will come apart again if the implementation of this legislation is delayed for a further six months. I believe that it is essential, in the interests of the poultry farmers of Australia, that this Bill come into operation on 1st July this year.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) says that I am fighting a last ditch battle. I thought that if I had something to say about legislation this Parliament was the place to say it. I thought that I was quite entitled to say it on the day or night when I have my only chance to say it; and that other honorable members would not reflect on me in the way the honorable member for Bendigo has done. We are entitled to say what we have to say. We are sent here to say what we have to say. The honorable member for Bendigo is a Socialist. He will adopt anything that imposes controls on producers.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) referred to my statement that the industry did not know about this legislation. I do not accept the statement that the industry knew about it for two years. The industry did not know the details and it has been asking for them. In a debate in the South Australian Parliament the former Minister of Agriculture in that State said he did not know the details of the legislation. That is one of the quarrels that I have with the legislation. Let the industry have a look at it. Do not bulldoze people into paying this tax. I believe that the Minister is honest when he says that he thinks the industry knew about the legislation. The officials from each State - 39 of them - argued this out. They knew about it, but the industry did not know about it.
This Parliament is the place in which to say that the industry will be expected to pay a tax within five weeks after this Bill is passed by the Parliament. We are nearly in the middle of May. The Government would be working very fast to get the Bill through by the end of May. So there will be one month for the industry to get to know about it. Therefore, I believe it is only fair to ask that six months’ notice be given to the industry and that the implementation of the Bill be delayed until 1st January 1966.
.- I do not mind what the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) says, although I disagree with it. It is a remarkable fact that he is a very prominent and distinguished member of the Government Members Food and Agriculture Committee, but in this instance he cannot get any member of his Committee or of his Party to back him up. He is a very conspicuous figure. Perhaps he should be praised for that. Let us look at his form, if we have any doubt about his intention to delay this legislation. The honorable gentleman, in his speech in the second reading debate, when referring to the difficulties of interstate trading, said -
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 wail 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, the honorable member proposes to circumvent the Constitution by putting up some phoney stunt under which a truck taking eggs from Werribee to Sydney would be stuck on the border between Victoria and New South Wales while the eggs were graded to see whether they complied with the grading as laid down by the New South Wales Egg Board. Did you ever hear of such an absurdity, Mr. Chairman? Who would pay for the loss of time? Who would pay for the staff? Who would pay for the administration of a phoney system of that sort? The honorable member for Macarthur has no hesitation in misrepresenting other people, as he misrepresented me the 0:ner night. Let him have a chew on that. He was a backer of a proposal to hold up a lorry on the border between Victoria and New South Wales so that a gang of officers can pull the eggs off the lorry and say: “ These eggs cannot go into New South Wales. There are too many pullets’ eggs among them. There are too many stained eggs among them.” Think of the time that would be taken up by the officials, to say nothing of the extra transport charges and so on. The honorable member supports such a phoney proposal and then denies that he is trying to hold up this measure. Of course he is trying to delay it by every means in his power. That is all I have to say about him.
– I do not want to continue this debate unnecessarily. However, I understood the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) to say that the former Minister of Agriculture in South Australia said that he was not fully informed on this matter. I do not know whether the honorable member speaks with the authority of the former Minister. I am prepared to lay on the table copies of the letters that I have written as Minister for Primary Industry and as Chairman of the Australian Agricultural Council, copies of which were sent to every State Minister of Agriculture on each occasion when the former South Australian Minister asked for information. The letters contain the answers that were given to him. Any statement to the effect that the former South Australian Minister was not fully informed on this matter is certainly not correct.
Secondly, the Chairman of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities almost lived in South Australia in an effort to acquaint the South Australians with the position. He made many visits to that State. I did not want the honorable member’s statement to go unanswered, although I do not know whether he had authority to speak for tha former South Australian Minister.
- Mr. Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I have been misreprented by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). The New South Wales Labour Government has altered the regulations to provide for this system which the honorable member attributes to me and which he says is phoney. The honorable member should get that straight.
– I also will make a personal explanation. The honorable gentleman also made this remark -
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.
If the honorable member thinks that the New South Wales Labour Government was wrong, he was backing it wholeheartedly.
.- I appreciate the sincerity of the last ditcher, the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) when speaking on the last issue that we have been debating. His statements about this scheme go back quite a long time. I have reports of his statements which appeared in the New South Wales “ Poultry
Farmer”. The honorable member has been quite consistent. At least we can give him credit for that. He does not want a bar of this plan and his action is purely an endeavour to delay the measure and to cause more confusion.
– Order 1 I remind honorable members that the actions of the honorable member for Macarthur are not in question before the Committee. The question before the Committee relates to clauses 1 to 3. I suggest that honorable members relate their remarks more closely to those clauses.
– That is a most peculiar ruling, if I may say so, because we have been dealing with the delay in the implementation of this Bill, and that is what I have been discussing. This Bill results from the agreement reached in December 1962 to form the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia. The honorable member for Macarthur has said that the industry has not had time to discuss the matter and he referred particularly to South Australia. He said that those in the industry have not known sufficient about it. I remind the honorable member that this scheme was adopted by all State marketing boards in June 1962, which was three years ago. If those in the industry are not sufficiently concerned about their own affairs to have found out within three years what the scheme means, they do not deserve to be producers of eggs. I should mention also that the scheme was discussed again and approved by all State boards who reaffirmed the proposal at their meeting on 12th and 13th June 1963. That was almost two years ago. This scheme has been constantly before the industry and any producer of eggs who claims today that he does not know what C.E.M.A. stands for must be living in another world in the outer limits. He must be a complete individualist if he does not understand what is going on around him. I do not think there are many poultry farmers who are in that category. It would be outrageous for the Parliament to delay this plan for another six months. I hope that the measures are carried tonight.
.- I am amazed at the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), whom we know to be the Chairman of the Government Members Food and Agriculture Committee. This Bill provides a marketing scheme for a very sound primary industry which has been a producer of food and has been to some extent an earner of foreign exchange and sterling. Because of the action of many producers who have refused to co-operate with others in the industry and accept the guidance of their own marketing boards in the States, the industry has declined and it certainly needs the encouragement that is proposed by the Bill. The position for some producers of eggs is economically bad and is becoming desperate. The export market for eggs is becoming more and more difficult as time goes on.
I find it almost impossible to believe that this important member, whom honorable members of the Government parties have honoured by appointing him chairman of their Food and Agriculture Committee, has moved this amendment which seeks to delay this much needed legislation. The purpose of the Bill is to provide those associated with the industry a much needed economic stability. The nature of the amendment suggests that the honorable member for Macarthur plays the role of a political Janus. In this chamber he advocates a certain line, but he then goes off to his electorate and, speaking to the whole nation, advocates other activities as a means of stabilising primary industry and encouraging more production of food and other products of the land. I am amazed at his stand on this Bill. I hope that honorable members will deal with the amendment in the way in which it deserves. As I am reminded, the honorable member is fouling his own nest and that is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs because we want to encourage the production of clean and wholesome eggs.
The Australian Labour Party is entirely behind the measure now before the Committee and is violently opposed to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Macarthur. The Opposition supports the Minister, who apparently is in need of vocal support on this matter, and believes that if this proposition is agreed to we will be doing something to aid the primary producer. It is the proud record of the Australian Labour Party, in opposition and in government, that it has always been noted for its desire to assist those who are engaged in primary production. Our record is a very proud one. We resent-
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member is getting a little wide of the three clauses before the Committee. I ask him to direct his remarks to the clauses.
– When you said, Mr. Chairman, that I was getting a little wide of the clauses, I was about to say - and I resume the sentence - that we resent the action of the honorable member for Macarthur in endeavouring to delay the Bill. I and other honorable members want to see this plan come into effect on the first day of July 1965. I resent any member of the Country Party or the Liberal Party suggesting that I should be quiet on this matter. Those are my views about this amendment.
– I want to speak very briefly on the amendment. I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the text of the resolution passed by the Australian Egg Board on 16th March, which I mentioned in my second reading speech and which I think gives the reason for the urgency of this legislation. The text is recorded at page 1 152 of “ Hansard “. I think there is no need for me to repeat it. This sets out the urgency and the need to bring the legislation into effect on 1st July.
.- Very briefly, Mr. Chairman, I have no objection to being called a Socialist by a reactionary Conservative - not in the least - but I want to say that by implication the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) considers this scheme to be a Socialist one. Without digressing from the issue but to make just a passing reference, I may add that if this is a Socialist scheme, the wheat stabilisation scheme, the dairy industry price stabilisation scheme and others are Socialist schemes.
I should like the honorable member to go outside this Parliament and attack them as such. I wonder how sincere he is, because he has opposed this Bill and the scheme itself. Indeed, it is interesting to refer to a copy of the “ Poultry Farmer “, the official organ of the Egg Marketing Board of New South Wales, dated 3rd April 1965 - a com paratively recent publication. An article therein states -
It would be reasonable to say that the attitude of the Federal Government at that time was expressed in a press release by the Chairman of the Federal Government’s Food and Agriculture Committee, Mr. Jeff Bate, M.P.
I will not quote all that the honorable member is reported to have said, because it is long and I am sure the House does not want to hear it. However, the article states that he said -
The Government had, for a long time, aimed at a stabilised egg marketing scheme as a practical way of overcoming the industry’s financial problems . . The evasions, practised by producers who were not prepared to accept any share of the export losses suffered by their industry, were seriously damaging.
It is important to note the following -
If necessary, legislation would be passed to enable the plan to be carried out. “ I om delighted that, although, for years, the majority of producers have not been able to agree on a plan, the birth of one seems imminent,” he said. “ Its advent now will be particularly welcome as, for some years, the British egg market has been steadily shrinking in line with rising British production, and indications are that the Common Market, whatever its final shape, will not provide any appreciable outlet for Australian eggs and egg products.”
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Macarthur under the date 3rd April 1965.
– Be fair. Give the exact date. He made the statement on 21st July 1962.
– It does not say that here.
– Yes it does.
– My point is that the honorable member said that the evasions of a share of the burden of the export losses suffered by the industry were seriously damaging. He said that he was delighted that a majority of producers had agreed to a plan, and he commented on the loss of the traditional British market. All of those words bad about them a sense of urgency for the industry. There can be no question of that, so I say simply that it is very difficult to believe that the honorable member is sincere in this matter.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 6 - by leave - taken together.
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ hen “ means a female domesticated fowl that is not less than six months old; “ levy “ means levy imposed by this Act; “ the Council “ means The Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia.
Clause 5. (1.) Subject to this Act, a levy is, on each prescribed day, imposed in respect of hens kept for commercial purposes on that day. (2.) In the last preceding sub-section, “ prescribed day “ means the last day of each successive period of fourteen days after the date on which this Act comes into operation.
Clause 6. (1.) The rate of levy is such amount in respect of each hen as is prescribed. (2.) Before making any regulations for the purposes of the last preceding sub-section, the Governor-General shall take into consideration any recommendation with respect to the rate of levy made to the Minister by the Council, and regulations shall not be made prescribing a rate in excess of the rate last recommended by the Council to the Minister.
– by leave - I move -
In clause 4, after the definition of “ levy “, insert the following definition - “ ‘ prescribed day ‘ means the last day of each successive period of fourteen days after the date on which this Act comes into operation;”.
In clause 5, omit sub-clause (2.).
At end of clause 6, add the following subclauses - “(3.) If the sum of the rate of levy for a prescribed day and the rates of levy for the preceding prescribed days occurring on or after the last preceding first day of July exceeds Ten shillings, levy is not imposed on that first-mentioned prescribed day or on any succeeding prescribed day occurring before the next following first day of July. “ (4.) In the last preceding sub-section, ‘ rate of levy ‘, in relation to a prescribed day, means the amount prescribed by the regulations made for the purposes of sub-section (1.) of this section that are in force on that day.”.
The amendments to clauses 4 and 5 are merely consequential. They will make the definition of “ prescribed day “ apply generally and not just to clause 5. The amendment to clause 6 provides for a maximum levy. Honorable members during the second reading debate sought information on the maximum levy, and I gave an assurance in the Government joint parties meeting that I would look at this matter. Honorable members were concerned at there being no limit in the Bill in respect of the application of the levy. I had originally submitted the Bill without provision for a maximum at the request of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities in whose interests it would be to keep the rate as low as possible. I decided to leave it to the Parliament rather than myself direct whether a maximum rate should be imposed. As the debate has made it clear that the Parliament does not wish to abrogate its powers in this respect I move the amendments.
.- I think the Minister will agree that in my second reading speech I pointed out that no maximum levy was provided and I thought it desirable that some provision should be made. Other speakers did likewise and I am glad that the Minister has seen fit to accede to their request and has introduced the appropriate amendment. I do not know whether it is possible for the Minister to explain in simple terms what proposed sub-clause (3.) means. It states -
If the sum of the rate of levy for a prescribed clay and the rates of levy for the preceding prescribed days occurring on or after the last preceding first day of July exceeds Ten shillings, levy is not imposed on the first-mentioned prescribed day or on any succeeding prescribed day occurring before the next following first day of July.
– What does that mean?
– I think the Minister has explained that there will be a limit of 10s. beyond which a rate of tax cannot be prescribed. I found it rather difficult to comprehend the meaning of this subclause and I hope that the Minister is satisfied it means what he suggests it means. I suppose it is good draughtsman’s language, but it is rather difficult for a layman to understand.
– What does it mean?
– I understand it means that the Minister cannot have drafted for consideration by the Executive Council a regulation which would prescribe a rate of levy in any one year which in sum total would exceed 10s. per hen. If the draftsman and the Minister are satisfied that that is what it means I will take their word for it, but either it is rather difficult to understand or I am rather dense.
I am intrigued by the definition of “ hen “ which appears in clause 4, as meaning a female domesticated fowl that is not less than six months old. I admit that I have not had much to do with the poultry industry, but I am deeply interested in this definition. I should like the Minister to explain what machinery has been devised to determine that a hen is no more than six months old.
– Cannot the honorable member tell?
– I can tell the age of a horse up to 12 years by looking at its teeth, and I can give the approximate age of a sheep or cow, but a hen bedevils me properly. It may be that the question will be resolved by a declaration from a poultry farmer that a particular flock of hens was incubated and hatched on a specific date. By what physical means can one ascertain whether a hen is six months old? I do not know whether the Minister can answer this question.
– Regarding the levy on the prescribed day, if the levy at any stage after 1st July of one year exceeds 1 Os. no levy will be imposed for the balance of that year. That clears the air. We cannot make regulations providing for or imposing a levy exceeding 10s. If the levy imposed exceeds 10s. after 1st July, it will not be imposed until the following 1st July. The levy cannot exceed 10s. a year. I have conferred with the Chairman of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities before recommending 10s. as the maximum levy. He supports the figure and points out that it is below the per hen equivalent of the egg equalisation levy of 9d. a dozen which has been operating in most States during this year.
– What the deuce is the hen equivalent?
– I think the honorable member for Lalor is a bit like the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) who, in his second reading speech, scratched all over the yard and then found he could not swallow what he had put up because he cannot eat eggs.
Ninepence per dozen is equal to lis. 3d. per hen per year, assuming a 15 dozen lay per hen, which is not high by present standards of efficiency. Efficient producers are getting 18 dozen per hen per year, which means that, under the present system of paying on eggs, they have been paying as much as 13s. 6d. per hen. The adoption of this amendment will not affect the statement I made in my second reading speech. In case that statement needs to be re-emphasised, I re-emphasise it now. C.E.M.A. intends to recommend a fortnightly rate of 3id. per hen from 1st July 1965, which, on an annual basis, is approximately 7s. per hen. I think that makes the position clear.
As to the other matter raised by the honorable member for Lalor, I described what a commercial hen was when I closed the second reading debate. I refer the honorable member to what I said on that occasion.
.- There is another matter to which I should like to refer. “ Levy “ is defined in the following manner - “Levy” means levy imposed by the Poultry Industry Levy Act 1965.
This brings to mind the general question of the collection of levies imposed by this Parliament. We have had a wool levy not exceeding 2 per cent, imposed without any consultation with the wool growers by way of referendum. We have had a levy for promotion purposes imposed on wheat by legislation of this Parliament. We have had a levy imposed on the canned fruit industry to create a fund to recoup losses on exports. We have had a levy imposed for the purpose of promoting meat, and a levy for scientific research purposes.
I want to point out that all those levies have been imposed willy-nilly by this Parliament and no doubt against the wishes of a substantial number of the people concerned in some cases. I have supported them. In my day I have probably introduced legislation into this Parliament in exactly the same way as is being done now. It would seem desirable that a referendum be held, but, as a rule, an assurance from the primary producers organisations that the organisations approve, is accepted. Then, the others who are in the minority have to pay the piper.
The point I want to make is that if this principle were applied in the industrial field, it would be said to savour of compulsory unionism. I do not object to that. Those who will reap the benefit ought to contribute to the cost. If it is right to do these things in primary production without submitting the question by way of referendum to the people interested, what would be wrong with the trade union movement asking for a levy to be imposed for the purpose of promoting the welfare of trade union members in selling their labour on the commercial market? I make these temarks to refresh the memories of those people who are not very sympathetic towards unionism as applied to those people who have only their labour to sell. I hope that such critics will have a change of heart and will not be so hostile when levies of the type to which I have referred are imposed by trade unions and others.
That is all I want to say except that I did notice the joke made by the Minister for Primary Industry at the expense of the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths). I do not think the Minister meant to be offensive, but there is a good deal to be said for the case submitted by the honorable member for Shortland during the second reading debate last week. The honorable member for Shortland indicated that he was not satisfied that the machinery contained in the Bill was sufficiently effective to ensure that those people who bred hens for the broiler trade would be caught up in the net and become subject to the levy for eggs laid by birds under six months old. I am not an authority on chooks, but the honorable member for Shortland tells me that hens begin to lay eggs when they are about five months old. The Bill excludes that type of domesticated fowl from the levy. If a bird is only five months old, no levy is payable.
– They lay from 18 weeks onward.
– My colleague tells me that domesticated fowls will lay eggs at 18 weeks. That is somewhere between four and five months. He tells me - and I have no reason to doubt him - that the broiler fowl industry in Australia is of some magnitude. Consequently, there could be thousands of people breeding hens for the broiler trade and gathering from those hens - voluntarily on the part of the hens - some millions of eggs for the egg market. Because there is no provision in the Bill for the imposition of a levy on birds under six months old, no contribution is made by the people who benefit from the marketing of eggs laid by these young birds.
– Move an amendment that hens under six months old will not be allowed to lay eggs.
– That would not be practicable. I suggest we have here a grave position which must be met. The purpose of this Bill is to facilitate substantia] benefit to the men who sell eggs. The honorable member for Shortland has pointed out that a substantial number of breeders sell eggs laid by hens on which it is not possible to impose a levy. Perhaps the Minister will be able to say that if he finds the amount of revenue lost in this way is of any magnitude, he will be prepared to bring these younger birds within the scope of the legislation.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Before proceeding to discuss the Bill, Mr. Speaker, may I express regret to those honorable members who were interested in the measures affecting the poultry industry, which were in process of being dealt with by the Committee of the House, for any inconvenience they may have been caused. However, it is desirable for the proper conduct of the business of the House that a number of bills be introduced and second reading speeches made before the Committee resumes its discussion of the poultry industry measures.
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain the approval of Parliament to an agreement between the Commonwealth and Western Australia for the provision of financial assistance to the State to accelerate extensions to the comprehensive water supply scheme in the south-west of the State. The Commonwealth Government’s decision in this matter was announced in my last Budget speech, when I said that the Commonwealth would provide advances to the State, up to a maximum of £5,250,000, on a £1 for £1 basis with the State’s expenditure on the scheme. I also indicated that the Commonwealth’s contributions would not begin until the financial year 1965-66.
The comprehensive water scheme was originally planned, in 1946, to extend over 12 million acres, but was subsequently modified to 4 million acres. The Commonwealth Government of the day agreed to assist the modified scheme and for this purpose the sum of £5 million was provided on a £1 for £1 basis with the State under the Western Australia Grant (Water Supply) Act 1948-1957. The modified scheme was completed in 1961-62.
In 1963, the Government of Western Australia sought further financial assistance to accelerate desirable extensions to the scheme, which the State had been financing from its own resources since termination of the Commonwealth assistance. The extensions proposed consist of additional pipelines and pumping equipment to supply water to towns and farms in two main areas totalling 3.7 million acres in the south-west. One area consists of 2.3 million acres between Dalwallinu and Quairading and will be fed from the Mundaring Weir. The other, which will draw its water from the Wellington Dam, consists of 1.4 million acres extending for about forty miles east of Narrogin. In addition to these two areas, there are several small areas in the North which will also be supplied. The purpose of the scheme is to provide water for stock and domestic purposes only and not for irrigation.
The area covered by the proposed extensions of the scheme lies wholly within the sheep raising and cereal growing districts of the State, the principal commodities produced being wool and cereal grains. It was represented to the Commonwealth that this area of the State has considerable potential for increased production by virtue of its natural fertility. Unfortunately, however, attainment of this potential has been restricted by the inadequate natural water supply for stock. This stems from several factors such as the lightness of the summer rainfall, the extreme variability of annual rainfall, the paucity of underground water supplies and the difficulties in ensuring adequate surface water storage. The State claims that the water available on most farms was only just sufficient for the sheep already being carried and that reticulation of water to the farms would lead to a substantial increase in stocking rates and substantial pasture improvement.
The proposed extensions were the subject of an economic appraisal by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The Bureau’s survey showed that, on certain reasonable assumptions about such things as the response of farmers to the reticulated water, the areas sown to pasture, the likely increase in carrying capacity and the levels of prices and costs, the extension to the scheme would be fully economic and would result in significant additional production of an export earning nature.
Against this background, the Government decided to agree to the State’s request for Commonwealth financial assistance to enable the project to be completed in .a shorter period than the State would otherwise have found possible. The terms on which the assistance is to be provided are set out in the agreement. The assistance will be on an interest bearing loan basis, and will be payable to the State, subject to an upper limit of £5,250,000, to the extent of one half of expenditure by the State on the project during the period of eight years commencing on 1st July next. Payments so made will be repaid by the State over a period of fifteen years, commencing ten years after the payments are made by the Commonwealth. No repayments by the State will thus be required until after completion of the project.
The areas to be supplied with water are referred to in the first schedule to the agreement and are fully shown in the map attached to the document described in the schedule. The particular works in respect of which financial assistance is to be provided are listed in the second schedule, and are also fully described in the same document. There is provision in the agreement for variation of the works to the extent that the State may propose and the Commonwealth approves. The agreement also contains the usual provisions included in other comparable agreements relating to such matters as the efficient execution of the works, the payment to the State of working advances, the supply of information by the State and the auditing of expenditure.
The Government is satisfied that the measure before the House will make a significant contribution to the development of an important pastoral and grain growing region of Western Australia and will lead to a significant increase in export earnings. 1 have pleasure in commending the Sill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Webb) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Fairbairn, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for payments to be made to the States as the first leg of the plan to provide subsidy on the distribution of petroleum products in country areas. In his 1963 policy speech, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) undertook to do something about the burden placed upon rural costs by the higher prices of petroleum products in the more remote areas. He proposed that we should bring it about that the normal price of these products would nowhere in Australia be more than 4d. a gallon above the level of capital city prices. He went on to say that the Government would put this proposal into effect by arrangement with the petrol companies and by arranging with the States for the Commonwealth to make grants to the States, under section 96 of the Constitution, to enable them to pay the appropriate compensation to those companies. Accordingly, this Bill provides for grants to be made to the States to enable them to subsidise sales of certain petroleum products by oil companies and some other distributors in country areas.
The second leg of the plan to give effect to the proposal will be appropriate State legislation under which the States, subject to a number of safeguards, will pass on these moneys to the distributors. State Governments have indicated that they will introduce their legislation as soon as practicable, and the subsidy scheme will come into effect shortly after this legislation has been passed. It is hoped that the subsidy will be in operation throughout Australia by 1st October. As has already been announced, the subsidy will apply to motor spirit, power kerosene, automotive distillate, aviation gasoline and aviation turbine fuel. The purpose of the subsidy is the reduction of transport costs to country people and country industry, and the five products to be covered are those which are directly employed in transport. Other petroleum products are not significantly used in transport in the country, and their inclusion would result in a heavy administrative load without compensating benefit to the country dweller and country industry generally. The subsidy will apply to the five products for whatever purposes they are used. The products will be identified by the normal product specifications now in use. In cases where there may be doubt as to whether the technical specifications of a particular petroleum product are sufficiently similar to one of the five products eligible for subsidy, the Bill provides that the Minister for Customs and Excise will have power to determine whether a product is an eligible product.
The broad outline of the plan to reduce the price of the five products in country areas is that payments are to be made to the States to enable them to subsidise sales of the eligible products by oil companies and certain direct purchase agents. The sales to be subsidised are, in general, those made at country locations which, on 30th June 1964, were recognised distribution points and at which the wholesale price was more than 4d. above the wholesale price in the relevant capital city, or, to adopt the term used by the oil industry in referring to the increase in wholesale prices as the distance from seaboard terminals increases, at which the differential was more than 4d. Thirtieth June 1964 was a date shortly before the main features of the subsidy proposals became generally known. The rates of subsidy in respect of these locations will be based on the differentials ruling there on 31 st December 1964. Between 30th June 1964 and 31st December 1964, there were made some corrections to differentials, of which it is desirable that the subsidy rates take account.
To illustrate how the subsidy will operate, let me take a particular example. The town of Bourke was a recognised distribution point at 30th June 1964. and the differential at that date was more than 4d. above the Sydney price; that is, the wholesale price was more than 4d. above the Sydney wholesale price. It follows that sales by an oil company to agents, garages, primary producers and other wholesale customers in Bourke will be subsidised by the New South Wales Government, using moneys provided by the Commonwealth under this Bill. The extent of the subsidy payable will be determined by the differential at Bourke on 31st December 1964, which was lOd. per gallon for motor spirit. The subsidy payable will be 6d. per gallon, with the result that the wholesale price of motor spirit in Bourke will be 6d. cheaper and will be 4d. above the Sydney wholesale price.
The rates of subsidy payable are set out in a Schedule, which the Bill provides shall be gazetted. Copies of this Schedule as it will be gazetted, have been distributed with the Bill. Honorable members will see that the Schedule sets out rates of subsidy per gallon for each of the five eligible products in respect of some 5,000 locations. As I have said, the locations contained in the Schedule are in general those distribution centres which were recognised by the oil industry at 30th June 1964 - that is, were recognised before the outline of the scheme was made known. However, in addition to locations recognised as distribution centres at 30th June last, it was decided after consultation with the State Governments and
the oil companies to include in the Schedule some further locations which were de facto distribution points at 30th June but had not been officially recognised.
Under clause 6 of the Bill, the Common-, wealth Minister concerned with the administration of the subsidy, who will be the Minister for Customs and Excise, will have a discretion to add to the Schedule additional distribution centres and to determine rates of payment in respect of sales at those centres if he is satisfied that new centres of distribution have been established. He will also have authority to add a new centre to the Schedule, and to determine a rate for it, or to vary the rate provided for a centre already in the Schedule, where he is satisfied that this action is justified by circumstances which existed on 30th June or 31st December 1964. This is a reserve power to correct anomalies that may be discovered hereafter in the Schedule. Except as specifically provided in clause 6, the Schedule, once gazetted, cannot be amended by the Minister.
While the effect of the subsidy will be to reduce the wholesale price of eligible products for all the locations in the Schedule to no more than 4d. above the relevant capital city price, it should be noted that there are differences between the various capital city wholesale prices. The 4d. per gallon difference will apply separately in each State and there will be some small variations in the prices of the same products in country areas from State to State. The wholesale prices of motor spirit to resellers in each State capital and the operating retail prices are given in a table which, with the concurrence of honorable members, I now incorporate in “ Hansard “ -
The subsidy is concerned with the reduction of wholesale prices and, through them, of retail prices. The Government has closely examined the possibility of covering retail prices directly, but found this impracticable because of the variability of resellers’ margins in those States which do not have price fixing laws. In most country places it will not matter that we are dealing directly with wholesale rather than retail prices, because resellers’ margins are for the most part the same as those in the city. However, there arc places, especially in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, where country resellers’ margins exceed capital city margins by varying amounts. Indeed, in some small centres, resellers’ margins vary within the same township. In such cases the result will be that, if the retailer decides to retain his higher margin, the retail price may still be more than 4d. above the capital city retail price, although of course reduced by the amount of the subsidy paid.
The price structure of the oil industry provides for special wholesale prices to certain classes of consumers, for example, primary producers, local government authorities, and industry consumers. These consumers will receive the full benefit of the subsidy. That is to say, just as the intention is that the price to the ordinary consumer in any country area will generally not exceed by more than 4d. the price to the ordinary capital city consumer, so the price to a consumer in a country area receiving a special wholesale price will be not more than 4d. above the price that would be charged to a similar consumer in the city. Thus the same subsidy will be payable on a country sale at the special wholesale price as on an ordinary country sale and the same advantage as hitherto may still be extended by the industry to the country customer receiving a special wholesale price over the ordinary country customer.
The rates of subsidy, as they are set out in the Schedule, will not be varied to take account of day to day changes in marketing costs or other circumstances. It is the Government’s hope that increases in railway freights, road taxes or other distribution costs of the petroleum products will be avoided as far as possible. The Government recognises, however, that if there are general increases in freight or other distribution costs, it may be inevitable that such increases will apply also to the petroleum products. If there are changes in the distribution costs of petroleum products, the result could be wholesale prices for these products in some or all country locations which were more, or less, than 4d. above capital city prices. The Government does, however, propose to make a general review of the rates of subsidy three years after the subsidy comes into operation; and we have in fact given a firm assurance to this effect to the State Governments. The machinery of the Bill has been designed to permit quite flexible arrangements to be made between the Commonwealth and the States as to the mechanics of operating the subsidy. The Bill provides for the grant of financial assistance to a State of amounts equal to amounts expended by the State in making payments to distributors, provided that those payments are made in accordance with a scheme formulated by the Minister for Customs and Excise in relation to that State.
The approved scheme will in fact represent an arrangement between the Commonwealth and each State which will set out the machinery by which the objective of reduced prices of eligible products in country areas will be achieved. The scheme, or arrangement, for each State will not come into operation until State legislation providing for payments to be made to distributors is in force. The main features which the scheme must contain are set out in clause 5 of the Bill. The scheme will provide for the registration with the Commonwealth Minister of oil companies as subsidisable distributors. It will be a condition of registration that the company will enter into a written agreement with the Commonwealth and State whereby the company undertakes that the full benefit of all subsidy paid to it in respect of any sale of a petroleum product shall be fully passed on by it; it will be obliged to ensure that the country wholesale price at which it makes each subsidised sale takes the amount of the subsidy fully into account.
Direct purchase agents may also be registered. These agents are independent businesses which buy petroleum products from the oil companies, either in a country centre or in the city for carriage by themselves, and deliver those products to their own customers. They may sell some of them in areas where the wholesale price is higher than thai applicable in their main area of operations. Direct purchase agents will be registered on the recommendation of the oil company concerned and on their entering an undertaking to pass on the subsidy they receive. Such agents will be entitled to be paid appropriate subsidy, but only in respect of sales made by them in a locality of higher subsidy rate than that operative in the locality in which the sale to them by their principal company was effected.
The scheme will also provide that claims for subsidy may be made only by registered persons and must specify the gallonage of each product sold in each subsidy area. The subsidy area need not necessarily be an area within the State concerned but it must be an area to which distribution is made from within that State. To illustrate, parts of the Riverina come within the oil companies’ Victorian marketing area and claims may be made on the Victorian Treasury in respect of sales by the companies in those parts. Officers of the Department of Customs and Excise in each State will receive copies of claims made to the State for subsidy and, authorised by State legislation, will check the claims and then certify to the State Treasury the amount payable on such claims. The State Treasury would then pay the sum indicated. 1 have elaborated on the nature of the scheme to be formulated by the Minister so that honorable members will perceive how our proposals will be administered. The Bill also contains a number of machinery provisions of the kind normally incorporated in measures providing for financial assistance to the States. These include provision for submission by the States to the Treasurer of certificates of the amounts paid by the States as subsidy, provision for the making of advance payments to the States and provision for adjustment of overpayments to the States. The Commonwealth has also undertaken, in clause 12 of the Bill, to indemnify the States against certain costs that might be incurred by them arising out of their co-operation with the Common- I would mention that provision is made for the conversion to decimal currency of the rates of subsidy set out in the schedule.
I will touch briefly on the nature of the State legislation. It has been agreed by
State Ministers that the State legislation will provide for the payment by the State to persons who are registered distributors of amounts ascertained in accordance with the scheme. Other provisions will relate to the appointment of the authorised officers, who will be officers of the Department of Customs and Excise, to examine and certify claims by registered distributors, the powers of authorised officers to inspect accounts of registered distributors, the protection of authorised officers in the performance of their duties and the provision of penalties for false returns.
So far 1 have described the operation of the subsidy in relation to the States. As the device of State grants is not applicable to the Northern Territory, separate legislative treatment will be necessary to bring the Territory within the plan. It is expected that an ordinance to provide for payment to distributors in the Territory will be introduced into the Northern Territory Legislative Council. I have already mentioned the differences between the various capital city wholesale prices, and the effect of these differences on the results of the subsidy plan. Now, there is a particular problem of subsidy rates in the Northern Territory. Oil industry practice is to base all differentials in the Territory on the wholesale price in Sydney. In Darwin, the differential for motor spirit has been set at Hd. - that is, the cost of motor spirit in Darwin is Hd. above that charged to the same class of consumer in Sydney. If subsidy payable in the Territory were to be tied to differentials based on Darwin and did not follow the present practice of the differentials being based on Sydney, the wholesale prices in the Territory would need to be more than 4d. above Darwin - that is to say, 5id. above Sydney - before subsidy would be payable. The effect of this would be that the wholesale price in the remoter parts of the Territory would be Hd. dearer than in the remote parts of, for example, New South Wales. To avoid this situation, the Government proposes that the rates of subsidy for the Northern Territory shall be based on Sydney wholesale prices and the schedule makes provision for rates of subsidy accordingly. The effect will be that at the Territory locations set out in the schedule, the wholesale price will be 4d. above the Sydney wholesale price.
No legislation of the Australian Capital Territory will be required to apply the subsidy to this Territory. In accordance with the normal pattern of distribution of petroleum products to the Territory from New South Wales, subsidy on sales made to the Territory will be paid by the New South Wales Treasury. The rates of subsidy will be related to the Sydney wholesale price.
There is one aspect of the operation of the subsidy plan that I have put before the House in which it seems that it may, initially at least, fall short of what the Government would wish to achieve. This is the extent to which the subsidy covers outback properties, by which I mean pastoral properties situated in the more remote regions of the continent. A number of these properties were covered by differentials established by the industry, and these are fully covered by subsidy rates set out in the schedule. Others, however, were not so recognised and are not established distribution centres. These will enjoy the benefit of subsidy, in effect, only to the nearest recognised distribution point. The Government would hope that as the subsidy arrangements are worked out in practice, it may prove possible for arrangements to be made which will fully and equitably meet the special position of these remote properties.
We have put it to the oil companies that we are prepared to provide for these properties within the subsidy plan if we were satisfied that a company had made the property an agent by contractual agreement, the agent had undertaken to supply products to the public and the company had undertaken to invoice supplies to the agent at the delivered price. The companies, however, have expressed themselves as unwilling to meet these conditions, on the grounds of the costs involved in setting up such agencies and the distribution and market disorganisation that they felt would result. But the Bill before the House provides for the inclusion of new centres of distribution in the Schedule and it will be open to any company to initiate arrangements with an outback property to have it admitted as such a centre. However, with the commencement of the subsidy plan the wholesale price at all outback distribution points contained in the Schedule will be no more than 4d. above the relevant capital city wholesale price and all outback properties will continue to enjoy primary producers prices related to these distribution points.
The proposals that I have put before the House have been arrived at with the considerable co-operation of the State Governments and the oil companies, and after a good deal of work by the companies in providing information not otherwise available to the Commonwealth. It has taken much patient negotiation to devise a plan which is workable, which safeguards the Commonwealth’s interests and which could be supported by the States and by the oil companies.I should like to say something particularly about the relationship of the oil industry to this subsidy plan. The industry has nothing, at any rate directly, to gain from this subsidy; nor for that matter has it anything to lose. It is right that I should express my appreciation of the co-operation and help that departments have had from the industry in the working out of the subsidy plan.
Each State has agreed to introduce the necessary State legislation, which I expect will be done as soon as practicable. Meanwhile, the oil companies will adapt their accounting arrangements to fit in with the plan. As I have mentioned, the commencement date should not be later than 1st October. It is expected that this measure will cost about £6 million in a full year. As a result of this expenditure we shall achieve a most useful practical measure towards decentralisation, by moderating in one important respect the burden of transport costs on people living in the more remote areas and on the industries that they pursue there. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act relating to the distribution of the
States into electoral divisions. Opportunity is also being taken to effect other amendments considered desirable. The provisions relating to the distribution of the States into divisions have not been changed since Federation, and it is not intended to alter in substance those provisions. For the information of the House I will read the existing section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which is pertinent to the proposed amendments.
In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration to -
However, the proposed amendments will make it clear to the Distribution Commissioners, that, while keeping within the 20 per cent, margin of the quota, a margin which has existed since the Act began, they shall give consideration to community of economic, social and regional interests, means of communication and travel with special reference to disabilities arising out of remoteness and distance, the trend of population changes, the density or sparsity of population and the areas of proposed Divisions. In addition the Commissioners will be required to have regard to physical features and the existing divisional and subdivisional electoral boundaries.
While the trend of population changes, the density or sparsity of population and the areas of proposed divisions are new elements which are now expressly stated for the first time, they will not result in any significant change in the procedure followed by Distribution Commissioners since they are factors in respect of which some allowance has invariably been made by Commissioners at past distributions. The amendments do, however, give specific expression to these factors and, in a sense, will thereby provide a legal basis for what has been normal practice. Accordingly, all Commissioners will in future be working to the same ground rules.
Under a new provision, any person or organisation will in future be able to submit suggestions to the Distribution Commissioners before the Commissioners have formulated any plans. Honorable members will know that this has not been possible in the past. The procedure will be for the Distribution Commissioners, by advertisement in the Commonwealth “ Gazette “, to invite the submission of written suggestions relating to the distribution. Then, after a period of 30 days, any suggestions lodged with the Commissioners will be made available for perusal at the office of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, after which a further period of 14 days will be allowed for the lodgment of written comments on the suggestions. Until these periods have elapsed - that is a total period of 44 days - the Distribution Commissioners will not commence their task of formulating their initial proposals for distributing a State. All suggestion and comments lodged with the Commissioners will be duly considered in addition to the other factors referred to earlier.
When the Commissioners have made their initial proposals they will, as in the past, cause maps to be exhibited at post offices showing the boundaries of the proposed divisions. At this time, any written comments lodged with the Commissioners will be made available for perusal as before at the office of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State. A further period of 30 days will then be allowed for the lodgment of written suggestions or objections to the proposals. Apart from making available for perusal copies of all suggestions and comments lodged with the Commissioners, it is not intended that the Commissioners be required to generally make available other copies. However, because of the particular interest of political parties in any distribution, I shall direct that copies be made available upon request to any recognised political party.
At the expiration of this further 30 day period, the Commissioners will consider all suggesions and objections lodged with them and thereafter they will make their report to the Minister. Such report will be accompanied by a map showing the boundaries of the proposed divisions together with copies of all suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Commissioners. All these documents will be tabled in Parliament. Except as expressly permitted by law for the lodgment of written suggestions, comments or objections, a person will be prohibited under the provisions of this Bill from seeking to influence a Distribution Commissioner in the performance of his duties. Although not included in the proposed amendments, the Government intends that the Minister direct the Chief Electoral Officer to arrange for consultations between the Distribution Commissioners appointed for the several States for the purpose of obtaining uniformity in procedures and to ensure the proper interpretation of the law by the Commissioners.
The purpose of requiring a deposit to be lodged with a nomination paper is to discourage “ frivolous “ nominations. The existing amount of £25 is now ineffective. This amount has remained unchanged since 1902 and today’s equivalent would be more in the nature of £200. Under the provisions of this Bill the amount of the deposit to be lodged with a nomination will be increased from £25 to £50 in the case of a House of Representatives election and from £25 to £100 in the case of a Senate election. The Government believes that because of the State-wide nature of a Senate election, the candidates’ deposit in such elections should be double that of the candidates in the House of Representatives elections, lt might be noted that the amount of deposit required of candidates for the British House of Commons is £150 sterling while it is 200 dollars for the Canadian House of Commons. The amount of candidates’ deposits for State elections are -
Under the electoral and referendum regulations, a number is placed on each postal vote certificate and declaration envelope relating to absent and section voting and a corresponding number is placed on the relevant ballot papers. This enables a Court of Disputed Returns, should it so desire, to identify and reject any such ballot paper where it is found that the person who marked the ballot paper was not entitled to vote at the election. However, there is no way of identifying the ballot paper of any person who had recorded an ordinary vote at any polling booth and there is no justification for a provision which enables a Court of Disputed Returns to identify the ballot paper of a postal, absent or section voter. Accordingly, it is proposed to repeal section 189a which was enacted in 1922 specifically to enable a Court of Disputed Returns to identify and reject such ballot papers.
A consequential amendment is proposed to the electoral and referendum regulations which will remove altogether the numbering provisions which have been the subject of much criticism over many years due to the fact that in certain circumstances the numbering could be used to violate the secrecy of the poll. No State electoral law provides for the numbering of ballot-papers. Queensland discontinued this practice in 1959 and Victoria discontinued it in 1938. The electoral laws of New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania have never included such provisions.
Members will be aware that two or more candidates in a Senate election may have their names grouped on the ballot-papers and that the names of candidates included in groups are shown before the names of candidates not in groups. Accordingly, where there is a single casual vacancy to be filled at a Senate election - as was the case at the 1963 Senate election in Queensland, held in conjunction with the House of Representatives elections - a candidate who does not group, has his name placed at the end of the ballot-paper together with other ungrouped candidates. Thus, a political party can obtain an advantageous position on the ballot-paper by being represented by more than one candidate even though only one vacancy exists.
In order to remove this anomaly, it is proposed that the grouping provisions shall not apply where a single Senate vacancy is to be filled in any State. Under the proposed amendment, all candidates for a single Senate vacancy will be subjected to a draw for position on the ballot-papers. The names will not be arranged in alphabetical order but they will be listed from top to bottom as in the case of a House of Representatives election. lt is also proposed that the amount of the penalty for failure to enrol or failure to notify change of address be increased. The maximum penalty for such an offence will be raised from £2 to £5. The minimum penalty will remain unchanged except in the case of a second or subsequent offence, when it becomes £2 in lieu of 10s. Uptodate rolls are the very essence of a good electoral system and the existing penalties are quite ineffective. From time to time, magistrates have criticised the smallness of the fine which they may impose. This proposed increase in the amount of the penalty will affect only those cases which are referred to a court. The offending person will still have the option of having hi3 case dealt with by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, who may impose a penalty of not more than 10s. for a first offence and not more than £2 for any subsequent offence.
Under the provisions of this Bill the amount of penalty for failure to vote will also be increased from “ not less than 10s. and not more than £2” to “not less than £t and not more than £5 “. The amount of the penalty has remained unchanged since the introduction of compulsory voting in 1924 and it is now regarded as inadequate. lt has become evident that, in this day and age of high wages, some people are prepared to risk the possibility of a small fine rather than upset their Saturday routine for the purpose of voting. Whilst it is thought that an increase in the amount of the penalty will have the desired salutary effect, in practice it will affect only those few non-voters who do not consent to having their cases dealt with by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer and who are subsequently dealt with by a court. It is not proposed to alter regulation 78 which empowers a Commonwealth electoral officer to impose a penalty of “ not less than ten shillings nor more than two pounds” for failure to vote.
Under the existing law, an elector may hand the postal vote envelope containing his marked ballot-paper to a divisional returning officer or to any assistant returning officer where the postal vote, if posted, would not reach the divisional returning officer for the division in respect of which the elector claims to vote, within a period of seven days. A postal vote which is posted to a divisional returning officer must be received within this seven day period to be admitted to the scrutiny but due to the increased overseas postal voting, more and more postal votes are being returned through the post just outside the seven-day limit.
Clauses 10 and 11 of the Bill extend from seven to ten days the period in which postal votes must be returned, if posted direct to the divisional returning officer, to be included in the scrutiny. The time limit applies only where a voter posts his ballotpaper direct to the divisional returning officer. There is no time limit for the return of postal votes which are handed to any divisional returning officer or assistant returning officer up to the close of the poll. In such event, these votes are included in the scrutiny even though they may not be received until after seven days.
While, under the existing law, a presiding officer may adjourn the polling from day to day in the event of an interruption or obstruction due to riot or open violence, there is no such provision for an adjournment in any other case, once the polling booth has been opened on polling day. It is proposed, therefore, to extend this power of day to day adjournment to instances where the polling is interrupted by storm, tempest, flood or occurrences of a like kind.
The proposed amendment to section 91b provided in clause 9 is merely an administrative amendment to make it clear that, where a postal vote is being recorded outside Australia, any elector for a State or Territory is also an authorised witness in addition to other persons referred to in section 9.1 b (1 ) (b). I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a very minor bill and it is consequential to the Bill introduced by me to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Some sections of the Commonwealth Electoral Act apply to a referendum as if it were an election, while other sections do not.
One of the new sections which it is proposed to insert in the Commonwealth Electoral Act, namely section 105 b, does not apply to a referendum and this Bill merely adds that section to the list of other inapplicable sections in paragraph (f) of subsection (2) of section 4 of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Consideration resumed (vide page 1423).
– The Committee is dealing with clauses 4, 5 and 6. They deal with the imposition of the tax, which is estimated to produce about £4 million if the tax is 7s. per hen per annum, and more than £6 million if the tax reaches the maximum which, I understand, is now provided for in the amendments moved by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). On a previous occasion I referred to the possibility of this tax escalating similar to the way in which the cost of the Sydney Opera House has escalated, lt appears that, as the figure now contemplated is something between 7s. and 10s. per hen per annum, the escalation may be even better than that in the cost of the Sydney Opera House. I believe that there is evidence that this tax must escalate. Obviously, the purpose of this legislation is to make the poultry industry profitable to the producers. If it does not do that it is of no value at all. But if it does do that, obviously more eggs will be produced, more eggs will have to be sold overseas at a loss and a higher tax will have to be imposed.
Honorable members might be interested to hear what the South Australian AuditorGeneral has said about the administration of the Egg Board in that State. The AuditorGeneral, in his report on the marketing of eggs for the 12 months ended 27th June 1964 - this is the latest report - said -
From July, 1963, to March, 1964, first quality hen eggs which were purchased at prices ranging from 4s. Sd. per dozen to 5s. 6d. per dozen were manufactured into pulp at an average realisation of 3s. 3. 15d. per dozen.
In other words, there was the curious method of commerce of paying between 4s. 5d. and 5s. 6d. a dozen for eggs and then selling them at 3s. 3. 1 5d. a dozen. The Auditor-General continued -
Although the highest possible return from pulp at the basic price would be equivalent to 4s. 1.81d per dozen, this was not realised, but the Board decided to use these first quality eggs to meet pulp contracts– that is for overseas -
. rather than increase sales on the South Australian marker with a much better genera! return. These first quality eggs were not sold to the best advantage of the producer or the South Australian consumer.
The South Australian Auditor-General bears out exactly the point that I have been making, namely that this tax will not help the producers; it will not help the consumers; it will do nothing more than encourage a completely unhealthy increase in the production of eggs which will have to be dumped - I emphasise that word - on the overseas market at a price below the Australian cost of production, below the price at which we sell to our own consumers and below the cost of production in the United Kingdom or other countries. If that is not dumping, then I do not know what the definition of dumping is.
My friend, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), took me to task for saying that this was not a new tax. I remind him that if this was not a tax it would not be before us at this moment. It is before us because it is a tax and because the Constitution empowers this Parliament to levy taxes. The Constitution does not give this Parliament any power to delegate its power to tax the people. That is my great objection to this legislation. Here we, who are empowered by the Constitution to tax the people and entrusted by the people with the responsibility of protecting them against unlawful taxation, are delegating our power to levy taxes to virtually an outside authority. We are delegating to that authority the power to levy people for a tax which, under the legislation as originally drawn, had no limit whatsoever. I am glad to see that the Minister for Primary Industry has now realised that we cannot be quite as shamefaced as that; that we must impose a limit and say that the limit is to be 10s. per hen per annum, or approximately £6 million per annum.
I would like honorable members to look at the Constitution under which this Parliament is created. Look at section 51, which empowers this Parliament to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the people with respect to taxation. Look at section 55 which says that a bill imposing taxation shall do nothing other than impose taxation. That is the very reason why three bills have been introduced. The Bill now before the Committee, which is a taxation bill although my friend from Wakefield says that it is not, must not contain anything other than taxation. Of course, it does not. It proposes the levy of the tax.
Then look at all the safeguards that the framers of the Constitution put in it, so that the rights of the Senate would be protected, so that the rights of the people would be protected and so that the people would not have a tax put on them unless it was levied by their representatives. In this instance we are being asked to delegate to virtually an outside body, over which the Parliament will not have any control whatsoever, our power to levy a tax which, it is estimated, will produce between £4 million and £6 million per annum.
I object to this Bill and every clause in it because it is contrary to all the principles of sound and representative government. I object to it because it will not put the poultry industry on a proper and profitable basis. All that it can do is wipe out first the small producers and then the medium sized producers, leaving only the big producers who then will come to the Government and say: “ We must have a bounty “. If we are to stabilise this industry we must do it in the way we have stabilised the wheat industry, namely on sound principles and not in this socialistic manner or in this manner of bureaucratic control under which things are placed outside the control of the Parliament.
It is no wonder that the Labour Party supports this legislation wholeheartedly, to a man. It is a Socialist party. I would not expect it to do anything else. But I cannot understand how people who are not Socialists can support this legislation which has every element of bureaucratic control and every element of Socialism, which allows an inspector to enter a person’s house, to count the number of hens that he has and to find out their ages, and which places the onus of proof on the poor poultry farmer. I will be quite interested to hear what m« ^Socialist friends say when we come to the onus of proof clause. They went into the highways and byways to defend the Communists on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill because of the onus of proof, they said, but in this case the onus is put onto the poultry fanner to prove that he is not guilty of an offence. I am waiting to hear the honorable Socialists on this point.
– 1 wish to speak primarily on clause 6, but before doing so I should like to mention briefly clause 4 in which “ hen “ is defined. I congratulate the draftsman of the Bill for not using the word “ bird “. The Parliament may have had some trouble if it were necessary to describe domestic birds kept for commercial purposes - using the vernacular. The matter of the age of the hen becomes very simple. A poultry farmer keeps records for taxation purposes. His records will show when he bought his clay old chicks, so the age of the fowl will be quite easily verified.
It is on clause 6 that I particularly want to speak. Like the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), I had some difficulty in understanding the amendment when I read it. In fact, I felt that I should seek the advice of my friend, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and consider whether or not I should, while I was in Parliament, take a law degree to enable me to understand the amendment. In my speech on the motion for the second reading of the Bill 1 said that I supported this measure in its entirety and I stated my reasons for doing so. I said that I thought that the measure would strengthen the State authorities and would produce some leadership and co-ordination within the industry where it was needed. In the course of my remarks I cited the Minister’s second reading speech in which he said -
It places the affairs of the industry virtually in its own hands but does not involve the Commonwealth in any residual financial liability. It is a measure devised by the industry for the industry and. if passed, its successful continuation rests with the industry.
I gave great stress to those words and I regret that the Minister has now brought in a maximum limit of 10s. to the levy because I believe that this will quite possibly give residual financial responsibility to the Commonwealth at a later date if, as may happen and is now forecast as a possibility, an amendment is brought before the Parliament requiring the levy to be increased beyond 10s. At that time the industry will be in a far more serious state than it is today because the losses on overseas markets will have caused the levy to rise to that amount. The debate at that stage would be in a context totally different from the one today and I fear that pressures will be brought upon the Parliament for a subsidy or for some other alteration of the provision. I do not press the point, but I just want to place on record my reservations about the maximum.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Bridges-Maxwell). This is not a perfect measure by any means, but it has our support. The scheme stands or falls on what it will cost the producer of eggs. If there is a revolution among egg producers because of the high cost of the levy, many growers will try to beat the gun by using devious means to get rid of their eggs. The result will be the encouragement of more dumping and more by-passing of the egg marketing boards. The figures relating to the dumping of eggs are staggering. Last year 110 million dozen eggs were produced in Australia and 30 million dozen by-passed the boards. That is a colossal percentage. More than one-third of the eggs did not go through an egg board. If anything will discourage a producer and increase his desire to by-pass the board it is the cost factor. A levy of 10s. a hen is a lot to ask any producer to pay. Honorable members should not forget that producers will be required to pay another levy - a State levy. We must not overload the egg producer with the costs of this scheme; if we do so we will wreck the scheme.
– It is still less than they are paying now.
– Not necessarily. Tasmania is the only State where a levy has been imposed on hens, and in that State the minimum number of hens which will attract the levy is being reduced from 50 to 20. At the moment a producer with 50 hens pays a levy, but in order to come into line with the Council for Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia the board in Tasmania will require that a levy be paid by producers with more than 20 hens. The cost to the producer of that levy is pretty high to start with.
I ask the Minister to use whatever influence he may have on C.E.M.A. organisations outside the Parliament, or perhaps through the Parliament, to make sure that the levy does not go beyond 7s. a hen, which in my opinion is a reasonable figure. If the producer believes that in a year or two he will be charged a levy of 10s. a head he will suffer a big blow. The producers hope that this scheme will help to stabilise the industry and not put them out of business through high costs. We do not want bureaucracy to run mad through C.E.M.A. In my speech on the second reading of the Bill I stated my reasons for believing in C.E.M.A. I said what C.E.M.A. does for the industry and what it does not do, and I mentioned the dangers that we must watch for in the C.E.M.A. scheme in the next year or so. One of the dangers is on the very point that the levy could become too high in view of the fact that the producers are paying two levies.
Although the Opposition does not oppose the maximum limit of 10s., I feel that we have a right to express our view that there is a danger about the provision. I agree with the honorable member for Robertson on this point. I accept this clause with great reservation. I feel that the C.E.M.A. organisation will have to watch this matter very carefully. It is so easy to slam down levies and to increase levies when one has control of the whole industry. A body can become dictatorial or super-bureaucratic, and this provision gives C.E.M.A. an opportunity to do just that. The C.E.M.A. organisations in the States will have to watch their cost factors. At the moment the States have the costs of grading and pulping and also the costs of staff and administration. It will be necessary for them to watch cost factors because every increase in costs at the State board level will have to be met by the egg producer and, in the long run, the consumer will pay more. I am merely giving a warning of what could happen.
.- Briefly, Mr. Chairman, I think the recommendation by C.E.M.A. of the maximum levy of 10s. indicates that the egg producer will, in effect, be better off. I refer there to the producer who has been contributing to make up the loss on the sale overseas of surplus production. I want to cite some figures in respect of the industry in Victoria. In the pool year of 1960-61, the average equalisation or pool which was paid per dozen eggs by producers delivering to the board was 7.38d. per dozen. This is worked out on the basis of the average production per hen per annum. I think it fair to suggest that the average hen would lay 17 dozen eggs a year. Some hens might lay 180 eggs and others 220, but the average would be about 204. This is not overworking the hen and is allowing for the holidays she might like to take in the winter. Worked out on the basis of 7.38d. per dozen, which the producer paid in 1960-61, on an average of 204 eggs the producer actually paid 10s. 51 d. per hen in that year. In the pool year 1961-62 the average payment per dozen to the Board on this loss on export sales was 7.1 7d. which worked out to a payment of 10s. 2d. a bird by the Victorian egg producers. In 1962-63 the average payment per dozen on this pool levy was 6.69d. or 9s. 6d. a bird. In 1963-64 it was much lower. The rate per dozen paid was 4.13d. which worked out at 5s. lOd. per bird. 1 want to make it clear that this last figure was for an abnormal year. Eggs were scarce in 1963-64. This resulted from the squeeze in 1962-63 when hundreds of poultry farmers were forced to leave their farms because of what might be described as stabilisation by starvation. Conditions were so bad that men walked off their farms, which they sold if they could. They left the industry. Consequently there was a shortage of eggs which resulted in a much lower pool levy for losses on export because obviously exports were much lower. So, in those four years the annual payment per bird was 10s. 5id. in 1960-61; 10s. 2d. in 1961-62; 9s. 6d. in 1962-63: and 5s. lOd. in 1963-64. When we compare these figures with the levy of 7s. which it is suggested will apply during the first year of operation of this scheme it can be seen that the poultry farmer who has been playing the game and delivering his eggs to the boards and accepting his share of the burden of losses on export sales will be better off. it seems to me that the limit provided in this legislation is reasonable. The Council of Egg Marketing Authorities and the Minister obviously consider that the poultry farmer will not have to pay a 10s. levy. In
Victoria poultry farmers have paid more than 10s. a bird in two of the last four years, so obviously they will be better off under the proposed scheme.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) said that last year the Victorian poultry farmer paid a levy of 5s. lOd. a bird. This raises the question of how the tax will affect the States. I assume that the levy will have to be the same throughout Australia. If Victorians paid 5s. lOd. last year and poultry farmers in New South Wales paid 8s. - and 1 have not the correct figures - what would happen when the levy was averaged out would be that the Victorian poultry farmer’s levy would skyrocket. The honorable member frowns, so let us work it out.
– I cannot work it out.
– I take it that the Commonwealth must have an average levy for the whole Commonwealth, lt would not impose different taxes in different States because there cannot be discrimination between the States. Last year the Victorian Egg Board charged a levy of 5s. lOd. a bird, but what levies were charged by the boards in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia? According to the report of one State Auditor-General there was a loss of £500,000, so if an average were determined for Australia obviously the Victorian producer would pay much more. This is a logical deduction from what the honorable member said. I am surprised that the levy was so low in Victoria. From what I have heard I believe the levy was much higher in New South Wales.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) has proposed a maximum levy of 10s. per annum, although it is understood by honorable members that the Minister has undertaken that the levy will be no more than 7s. for the first year of the scheme. After the first year the levy can rise or fall, but honorable members know that when a maximum charge is prescribed it tends to become the minimum charge, so I suggest that by accepting this proposal honorable members are virtually imposing a levy of 10s. a bird.
– That is nol true.
– The practice in circumstances like this is that if a maximum is prescribed it becomes the minimum.
– It sounds a bit high to me.
– The honorable member for Bendigo says that it is not true and now the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) says it sounds a bit high to him. What is the demeanour of the Parliament now? On the one hand it proposes to impose a maximum levy of 10s., but the honorable member for Maranoa says that it will not be 10s. What does he want? If it will not be 10s. then let us have a lower maximum. I predict that the maximum levy of 10s. will become the minimum levy. It was heartening to hear that the Victorian charges are falling. If this were the general trend I would be less frightened than I am of this legislation. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) made an extraordinary speech. He commenced by saying that our export market had gone and then proceeded to make his whole speech about the losses on exports. What do we do with the eggs which we cannot export because the export market has gone? If there is a surplus of eggs, what do we do with them?
– Export them as pulp.
– And then we lose a great number of shillings per dozen on the eggs which are pulped. This would mean that the more we lost the more we would have to charge by way of this tax, and the tax would increase. This is different from what the honorable member for Bendigo said has happened in Victoria, where some sort of rationalisation has apparently occurred. What I fear is something which has been mooted by the previous chairman of the New South Wales Egg Board, Mr. Whinfield. I think the honorable member for Bendigo said that he is not on the Board now. He is. When speaking to the industry in 1961, Mr. Whinfield used these two words -
That would be the next move in a socialistically controlled scheme. Production would be curtailed to avoid these losses on the exports that we do not have, or on the egg pulp that is dumped, and when you curtail production, you do something which is abhorrent to a free economy. The inevitable consequence of this sort of treatment is the curtailing of production.
– Cheer up.
– That is just what one would expect. The honorable member for Lalor says: “ Cheer up “. He has not gol to suffer like the egg producers will have to do and I think his approach to this matter is utterly cynical. Indeed, those other honorable members who are making a joke of this are also cynical because this matter means their livelihood to a number of people. I view this question with disquiet. I think the House ought to agree to a maximum of 7s. Later on, if good reason is found for it, that maximum can be increased. The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) has given an undertaking that if he is still Minister for Primary Industry on 30th June 1966 the tax will not be more than 7s.
– I have no guarantee that I will still be alive then.
– If he is still aliveand we all hope that he will be - the tax will not be more than 7s. My point is that after 1st July 1966 the levy can increase to 10s., and 1 do not think that anybody here, no matter what pious noises he may make about it, doubts that it will increase. The honorable member for Wakefield says that we will have no exports by then. If that should be so, then the eggs will have to be pulped and we will be faced with either an increased levy or curtailment of production.
I take it that under this scheme the egg boards will deduct the levy from the receipts obtained from eggs consigned to them. I take it also that a uniform type of return will be made out by each of the egg boards. No doubt on those returns will be placed particulars of the number of hens over six months old owned by each supplier and of the levy deducted for them. I take it that the producers’ agents will also make similar returns to the various egg boards and that those returns will contain particulars of the number of eggs they have handled and the amount deducted for levy. The levy collected by them will then be forwarded to the boards.
The third group of people affected will be those who have escaped the payment of any levy hitherto. They will be paying a levy for the first time, and I take it that this is where the policing will take place. I understand that the proposed bird tax will be used to pay the cost of policing these new taxpayers who will be brought within the ambit of the legislation. I think we all understand the machinery which will operate for those who supply eggs to the boards and the producer agents but I repeat that a third group of people will be starting to make returns and the high cost will result from the policing of their operations. They are quite different from people engaged in the dairy industry who supply a co-operative society, or the suppliers of stock to abattoirs, or wheat producers who supply to silos. This will be something quite new.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not think sufficient credit has been given during this debate to the members of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities who have been struggling since 1961 to devise a stabilised marketing scheme for this industry. 1 do not think the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) and the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) appreciate the good work that has been done by C.E.M.A., and especially by the members of the sub-committee that was set up by C.E.M.A., in arriving at this figure of 7s. This sub-committee, which was comprised of men with a lifetime of knowledge of the industry, had before it the latest figures available throughout the Commonwealth. The technical sub-committee did a tremendous amount of work before coming up with the figure of 7s.
The honorable member for Sturt has prophesied rises and falls. This figure is no stab in the dark. The technical subcommittee arrived at it only after giving full consideration to a 14 point programme. I have no desire to go over those 14 points again, but among the matters considered were tosses on realisation from the sale of eggs surplus to local requirements, the cost of grading and handling of eggs surplus to local requirements, the cost of carting eggs surplus to local requirements to pulping plants, the cost of wharf charges and dues, packing materials for shell eggs and pulp, freezing and storage, freight and insurance and other shipping expenses, and so on.
One point which the honorable member for Macarthur and the honorable member for Stuart have failed to appreciate is that in arriving at the figure of 7s., the technical sub-committee set up by C.E.M.A. obtained from all the egg boards throughout the Commonwealth complete statistics relating to the number of eggs they handled in a year. Those figures are available to anyone who cares to ask for them. From these figures relating to actual production in the various States, the members of the subcommittee had full information as to the number of eggs passing through each egg board in each State. To that, they added 25 per cent, to cover those who were evading their obligations to the various egg marketing authorities. Some honorable members have suggested that the figure should be 30 per cent. Some have even suggested that 33 per cent, would be nearer the mark. If that should be so, then in view of the fact that the technical sub-committee appointed by C.E.M.A. based its levy of 7s. on the assumption that 25 per cent, were evading their responsibilities, the 7s. hen tax will be reduced. Honorable members opposite seem to have missed that point.
I am not a poultry producer, but I do think that it behoves anybody who speaks on a matter such as this to do a little bit of homework on the subject. As I said during the second reading debate last week, I do not think that some of the honorable members who took part in the debate were fully conversant with the methods adopted by these people since 1961 in tackling the problems associated with the poultry industry. Again I pay tribute not only to Colonel M. H. McArthur but also the others who have done this magnificent job for the industry in Australia. I pay particular tribute to the members of this sub-committee whose task it was to work out the rale of hen tax.
Again I remind honorable members opposite that the members of that subcommittee gave full consideration to 14 costs affecting the industry and, on that basis, arrived at a figure of 7s. for the whole of the Commonwealth. I remind honorable members also that the subcommittee based its calculations on the assumption that 25 per cent, of the producers were evading their financial obligations to the various State authorities. I repeat, therefore, that if the evaders represent 30 per cent, or even 33 per cent, of the producers then it is obvious that there will be a reduction of the 7s.
I am very pleased that the Minister has moved an amendment designed to place a ceiling of 10s. on the tax. This will remove a good deal of the fear that is possibly held by certain sections of the industry. I support the amendment moved by the Minister.
.- Like the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) 1 pay a tribute to those members of the Australian Egg Board who, in a very dedicated manner, have been trying to administer a completely impossible scheme. The imposition of this poultry industry levy will not in any way improve the fundamental defects of the scheme. My friend the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) is certainly a realist, and in his speech he candidly stated the effects and the objects of this Bill. He started off by saying that the export market has gone. He was quite correct in saying that. It has gone in the sense that there is no profitable export market for the Australian producer. The Auditor-General of South Australia pointed out in his report that quite recently the European Economic Community, in an endeavour to overcome the problem of its own surplus of eggs, imposed very heavy duties on imported eggs. So that market has substantially gone. It was also pointed out that the United Kingdom is now proposing to take steps to protect its poultry farmers against the dumping of eggs from other countries. I do not quarrel, therefore, with the statement of the honorable member for Wakefield that our export market has gone.
The honorable member then proceeded to tell us candidly - and quite rightly so - that there will be a loss on exports because we will simply have to export our surplus somewhere, even if we give the eggs away or sell them for a few pence a dozen. Therefore the honorable member was perfectly correct in his statement that there will be a loss on exports. This loss is to be recouped by the proceeds of the proposed hen tax. Of course the greater the loss the higher the tax must be, until it reaches the point at which the producers must come cap in hand to the Commonwealth Government and say: “ You put this tax on us and you have kept it going. Now you must subsidise us to save us from bankruptcy.” The honorable member for Wakefield said that the purpose of the Bill is to protect the industry.
– No. It is to equalise its losses.
– Well, to equalise the losses. The honorable member said that it is the industry’s scheme. Then he said that if the scheme were put to the producers as a referendum proposal it would not be accepted. If that is so it is evidently not the scheme of the producers but the scheme of the Egg Board. I am not quarrelling with the personnel of the Egg Board trying to do their job, but I completely agree with the honorable member for Wakefield that the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities’ scheme and the scheme that this Bill attempts to implement is the Egg Board’s scheme and that if it were put to the producers it would be rejected by them, because it will not benefit the producers except, possibly, in a very temporary manner.
As I said earlier, the first ones to go out will be the small producers who will find the tax too heavy a burden for them to carry. Finally, there will be only a few large producers left in the industry and (hey, of course, will be lobbying for a subsidy to protect the industry. If we want to protect this industry we should have a proper equalisation scheme in which we say either that we will impose a tax on exports if the price goes to a profitable level or that we will restrict production in such a way that the poultry industry, like our secondary industries, will produce at a profitable price for the Australian market and we will forget about exports.
This Bill is not in the interests of the poultry producers; it is certainly not in the interests of the consumers, and it is not in the interests of Australia as a whole.
– Pursuant to what I have already said, I should like to test the feeling of the
Committee in relation to the levy of 10s.I move -
In proposed new sub-clause 3 omit “ Ten “, insert “Seven”.
I ask the Minister to accept my proposed amendment because when I asked him the other day for a maximum figure he said he would not accept one. I think 10s. is too high. I think it should be 7s. in accordance with the undertaking given for the first year.
– The question immediately before the Committee is, “ That the word ‘ Ten ‘ in proposed sub-clause 3 stand part of the clause “.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now before the Committee is that the three amendments be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses, as amended, agreed to.
– The question now is, “That the remainder of the Bill be agreed to”.
– In dealing with the remainder of the Bill I propose to move an amendment to clause 7. The clause reads -
I move -
Omit the clause, insert the following clauses: - “7. Levy imposed by this Act in respect of a hen is payable by the owner of the hen. “7a. - (1.) Levy is not payable by a person who, on the day on which the levy is imposed, does not own more than twenty hens. “ (2.) Levy is payable by the owner of hens only in respect of such number of hens owned by him on the day on which the levy is imposed as exceeds the sum of twenty and a number ascer-
a is a number equal to the number of broiler breeder hens owned by him on that day; b is a number equal to the number of eggs produced by broiler breeder hens owned by him during the period that is the prescribed period in relation to that day, being eggs that have been or are to be used, whether by him or by another person, for the purpose of hatching broiler chickens; c is a number equal to the number of eggs produced by broiler breeder hens owned by him during the period that is the prescribed period in relation to that day. “ (3.) In thelast preceding sub-section - broiler breeder hen ‘ means a hen used for the purpose of producing broiler chickens; broiler chicken ‘ means a chicken to be used otherwise than for producing eggs; prescribed period ‘, in relation to a day on which levy is imposed, means -
This proposed amendment breaks up clause 7 but does not exclude any of its provisions. Originally the Bill did not include any specific exemption which could not be provided by regulation because one of the principal purposes of regulations is to keep complicated detail out of an act. Should the regulation be considered undesirable the Parliament is enabled to disallow it. That is the normal procedure with regulations. In the light of the attitude of honorable members in the debate, I have proposed an amendment which will exempt a substantial portion of the broiler breeding hens owned by a person. It was intended to cover this by regulation because the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia had made an agreement with the president of the broiler organisation. By this proposed amendment we are enabled to write this into the Bill so that the Committee will know what is happening.
The effect of this proposed amendment is that each owner of broiler breeding hens will pay the levy in the proportion that the number of eggs he sells for human consumption bears to the number of eggs produced by those hens. This apparently complicated means of paying the levy has been reduced to a simple formula which is set out in the amendment which I have moved. In addition to definitions, the amendment also provides that this formula needs to be calculated only four times a year, but when it is calculated it will apply every fortnight until changed.
The provisions of the new clause 7b are identical with those of sub-clauses 4 and 5 of clause 7 of the Bill as originally presented to the Parliament. Those two sub-clauses have merely been moved to a new clause. 1 hope 1 have made myself plain. It was the intention of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia to exempt the broiler trade and to impose a levy only on the basis of the proportion of the eggs produced by that trade that goes on to the market for commercial purposes. This amendment will accomplish that purpose, and I hope the Committee will accept it.
. -I should just like to thank the Minister for the amendment, which relates to a matter that I raised at the second reading stage. I am not in a position to appreciate all the details relating to the industry, but I am concerned about the principle. The principle of spelling out in the Bill what is to be done rather than leaving it to be spelt out in some future regulation is a good principle. I repeat: I thank the Minister for what he has done.
.- Mr. Chairman, I, too, am very glad that the Minister has proposed this amendment in an endeavour to lay down in the law which hens shall be exempt from the levy. The industry has criticised the existing clause 7 on the ground that the broiler breeder who sells eggs for the hatching of broilers also sells eggs for consumption. The argument is that a broiler breeder should be covered by this legislation in respect of eggs sold for ordinary commercial use. It is impossible to
of proposed clause 7a, means. I would only weary the Committee if I were to read out the formula and the associated details. We have to accept what the Minister says about eggs produced by broiler breeder hens and sold for commercial purposes. May I point out that a broiler breeder hen is a hen used for the breeding of broiler chickens. These hens are run with cockerels and they do not produce as many eggs as are produced by an ordinary commercial layer. A broiler breeder hen will produce about 12 dozen eggs for every 15 or 17 dozen produced by a commercial layer. The amendment appears to be designed to ensure that the owners of broiler breeder hens will pay levy in proportion to the proportion of their egg output used for commercial purposes.
Since the Committee now has before it the remainder of the Bill, we are dealing also with clauses 8 and 9. Is that correct, Mr. Chairman?
– That being so, I wish to ask the Minister some questions. What is contemplated by the words “ hens included in a prescribed class of hens “ in sub-clause (1.) of clause 8? I take it that this would include broiler breeder hens. The next question is: Why are the prescribed classes of hens not laid down in the Bill? I take it that proposed new clause 7 represents an attempt to bring the matter before us and before the industry. The industry does not know which hens are to be exempted. This is one of the unknown factors. Even during the second reading debate on this Bill last week, the industry did not know which hens are to be prescribed and which are not. We are now beginning to get to the heart of the matter. I ask the Minister to explain these points to us. Clauses 8 and 9 deal with regulations which, I take it, will come before the Parliament, and we can deal with them then.
– That is correct.
.- I should like to hear more about proposed clause 7b, which states -
An authorised person may, by instrument in writing, direct that any hens that, at any time while the instrument remains in force, are in the possession or control of a person but of which that person is not the owner shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to be owned by that person, and the direction has effect accordingly.
Apparently a person is to be guilty of an offence of being the owner of hens of which he is not the owner. Apparently, he will have no answer and no appeal. The onus of proof will be “virtually on him, but he will be debarred even from discharging that onus. I should like to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), who has been very vocal on the question of onus of proof on several occasions - and perhaps some other members of the Labour Party - tell us why they are so enthusiastic about this Bill, which will create an offence by a person who is not the owner of hens, because some civil servant or some authorised person says he is the owner.
I just cannot comprehend how this clause could possibly have got into the Bill or how it can be substantiated. Where are all the rights of the individual if he is to be guilty of an offence of which he is not guilty of and of which the provision itself says he is not guilty? The section says that he is not the owner, yet a gentleman can come along and say: “You are the owner of these hens of which you are not the owner, and therefore you are guilty of an offence because you have not paid the tax “. I find it very hard to understand how anyone can support that clause.
– As the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) rightly says, the Bill does provide for regulations consistent with the conditions of the legislation. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Bridges-Maxwell) directed attention in his speech at the second reading stage to the fact that we might need to exempt birds used for research purposes. It is very difficult to specify that in words until one knows the circumstances of the research work. We can exempt birds used for such purposes. I give him the assurance that they will be exempt by regulation.
In reply to the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) I direct his attention to the wording of the provision. The birds will be in the possession of a person and on his property. This provision is simply to prevent a man from claiming that ownership of his flock is split amongst all members of his family, relations and even friends, so that the 20 hen exemption may be claimed for many persons. The intention is to avoid that. The honorable member makes the point that the person may not be the owner. Many children are not owners, yet they are still claimed to be owners by persons in order to escape payment of the levy.
Amendment agreed to.
Remainder of Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Adermann) - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Orders of the Day Nos. 2 and 3 - Government Business - being called on.
Debate resumed from 1st April (vide page 553), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 11, which reads - (1.) For the purposes of this Act, a person authorized 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. (2.) A person shall not, without reasonable excuse, obstruct or hinder a person acting in pursuance of an authority under this section.
Penalty: Fifty pounds.
I move -
Omit sub-clause (1.), insert the following sub-clause - (I.) For the purposes of this Act, a person authorized in writing by the Minister to exercise powers under this section may, at all reasonable times and on production of that authority, enter any building or place where, in the opinion of that person, there are any books, documents or other papers relating to the keeping of hens for commercial purposes or the hatching of chickens, and may take extracts from, and make copies of, any such books, documents or other papers.”.
This amendment restricts the right of authorised persons to enter premises. Under the Bill as it now stands an authorised person technically may for the purposes of the Bill enter any premises for any reason. This amendment makes it clear that the authorised person may exercise this right only at reasonable times, that he is obliged to present his written authorisation, and that he is to have access only to places where there are in his opinion books, documents or other papers relating to hens kept for commercial purposes or the hatching of chickens. I had a look at the matter raised by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and I am happy to move this amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– J did not know that we were taking the Bill as a whole. I want to speak to clause 3, very briefly. I am not perfectly sure where we stand, and quite frankly I am not altogether sure that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) knows where he stands, in relation to the Australian Capital Territory. Clause 3 refers to State Egg Boards. Obviously there is no egg board in the Australian Capital Territory. However, the Minister has announced, and I agree with him, that the Australian Capital Territory will not be exempted - I think that is reasonable enough - and that producers in the Australian Capital Territory cannot claim sole rights to the market within the Territory. I think it is legitimate to ask that the Australian Capital Territory producers contribute towards off-setting the loss sustained on the sale overseas of surplus eggs. But I want to direct attention to that section of the plan outlined by the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia in which the Council states that it seeks reasonable uniformity of prices, quality and grading. 1 have spoken to several poultry farmers in the Australian Capital Territory and they seem happy to be brought under the provisions of this legislation. But if they are to come under this legislation and are required to pay the hen levy, they should not be faced with the prospect of their market here in the Territory being swamped with eggs from the States. At present eggs from New South Wales and Victoria are sold in the Australian Capital Territory and in the past eggs from the Territory have been sold in New South Wales. There has been a two-way traffic. I do not argue who has been at fault, but if they join the scheme and are obliged to pay the hen levy, Australian Capital Territory producers should have an undertaking from the New South Wales Egg Board and other boards that they will not be swamped by eggs from outside the Territory. In other words, the reasonable uniformity of prices, quality and grading that is to apply as between States should apply also as between New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory and between Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. The handful of producers in the Australian Capital Territory who rightfully could come under the scheme should enjoy all the benefits of the scheme insofar as arrangements between the States are concerned. They should be in no different position to producers in the States.
– I thank the Minister for introducing the amendment.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Adermann^ - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 1st April (vide page 553), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Administrator recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Adermann) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In the city of Brunswick in Victoria live a married pensioner couple who depend for their existence solely on their age pensions. The husband is incapacitated. For some years he has suffered from an illness that necessitates oxygen being administered to him. The cost of the oxygen is approximately £3 a week. If this pensioner were in hospital, this attention would be provided free. However, he is at home. I have applied to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) to seek some payment towards this oxygen. The Minister for Social Services says that this is not a matter for his Department. He made inquiries from the Department of Health. The Department of Health has said that nothing can be done. I have received a communication from the Minister for Social Services to that effect. He pointed out in that communication that if this person were in a hospital he would receive the oxygen free of charge.
The point 1 desire to make is this: The person concerned cannot necessarily go to a hospital. Hospitals will not receive chronic cases of this description because they are over-crowded. The result of this is that, through no fault of his own, this man is deprived of the payment for oxygen which is costing his wife and himself over £3 per week. The total pension they receive is about £11 per week. Subtracting that £3 for oxygen, we find that they are left with £8 a week and when the cost of rent is taken away from that amount, this couple would be left with approximately £3 a week upon which they are expected to provide themselves with all the requisites of existence outside that of shelter. This, of course, is impossible. I know that honorable members opposite say that there should be no inquiry into poverty in Victoria or in Australia generally, but this is certainly a case in which preventable poverty exists and upon which the Government should act in some way. But it is not an isolated case. There are several cases of that description.
While I am on my feet, I want to take advantage of the opportunity to point out that in the electorate I represent there are numerous pensioners who have applied for admission to public institutions because they are unable to care for themselves. The public institutions are unable to grant them admission. Because of the increase in population, the demands for admittance to institutions have increased tremendously during recent years. Our population has increased by one third during the past 10 years or thereabouts. Not only has our population increased, but because of the existence of health giving drugs that did not exist in the past, the occupancy of rooms and accommodation in public institutions by the aged and infirm today is about five times as long as it was approximately 20 years ago. Therefore, the accommodation that would be requested today would be five times the increase in population or thereabouts. But this accommodation does not exist.
The Minister for Social Services should find out exactly how many people there are in this community who are literally turned away from the doors of institutions to die. Not only are their lives made less endurable, but they are terminated considerably earlier than they would have been because these people are unable to care for themselves and have not friends or relatives who will care for them. The Government refuses to secure information as to how many such people exist in this community. It would be a very easy thing for the Minister for Social Services to attach to the annual statement that goes out to pensioners a question to the effect: “Have you applied for admission to an institution for the aged and the infirm? “ The Minister could ask also, if necessary: “ Why do you desire to enter such an institution? “ On the basis of common humanity, these things arc desirable. If this community, which we boast of as being Christian, is to be considered even humane or civilised, the Government cannot excuse itself for inattention to the needs of the aged and. infirm, or for saying that it does not know exactly how many persons want to be admitted to institutions but have been denied admission, because those institutions are under the control of State instrumentalities or churches, lt is the responsibility of the Government to ascertain who these people are and what are their conditions, and then to plan so that provision can be made to meet their requirements.
I suggest that even now the Minister for Social Services should be able to make some suggestions about what could be done to relieve the plight of the person who lives in the city in which I reside and who up to date, as a result of charitable donations, has been able to obtain sufficient oxygen to keep him alive but who apparently will not be able to do so for much longer because the capacity of others to support him is not as great now as it was in the past. I repeat that something should be done in this particular case and that something might well be done for people who want to be admitted to institutions but cannot be admitted.
.- What I have to say at this late hour is concerned with the controversy that has raged over the non-appointment of Dr. Knopfelmacher to the staff of the University of Sydney. This matter is very important, because involved in the circumstances of the case are the academic integrity of universities in Australia and their accompanying claim to independence. To state the matter very shortly, Dr. Knopfelmacher was a member of the staff of the University of Melbourne. He applied for appointment to the position of senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Sydney. He was selected by a selection committee that was composed of people who were associated with his own disciplines - that is. with the Department of Philosophy, the Department of Psychology and so on.
This selection committee, without anybody voting against him, decided to appoint Dr. Knopfelmacher. There was one abstention, but nevertheless these people, who had the necessary qualifications to make such an appointment, did in fact appoint Dr. Knopfelmacher. In the normal course of university proceedings, the Professorial Board met, presumably to ratify the decision of the selection committee. At its first meeting, the Board rejected the decision. At the second meeting, it upheld its earlier decision.
The principles involved are of critical importance, because in this case the Board ran a political measure over the applicant. They made his politics a condition of his appointment. This is indisputable. It is not my intention tonight to canvass the merits of people like Professor Christiansen, Associate Professor Wheelwright or even Professor May. I do not want to go into their history, or even into the history of Professor Alexander. I merely want to emphasise that these people have run a political measure over a man in considering a university appointment. The very fact of their having done this and of this pressure group having persuaded other professors to go along with them has impugned the integrity of Australia’s oldest university. It is interesting to note that the men who offered the greatest opposition to the appointment of Dr. Knopfelmacher did not know anything about his discipline but were chemists and physical scientists and people of that kind. They were not people who were concerned with this branch of learning. This is rather like the case which Chesterton referred to, when he spoke of engaging a plumber to advise on how to do away with the brackets in algebra. It was completely inappropriate to their branches of learning, yet they sought to impose their conditions on the learning of the doctor from Melbourne.
The administration of the University of Sydney has to share some of the blame as well. Between the two Professorial Board meetings the members of the professorial staff were looking to the administration for a lead as to how they might act, and by omission it is very clear that the administration failed to give a lead. People such as Professor Roberts wanted to avoid controversy altogether, but in avoiding controversy they must answer for what has been done to the traditions of the University of Sydney and to the traditions of Australian universities generally.
This is not the first time that universities have had this kind of problem put before them. Almost all the wellknown institutions in this field have had to face political pressures at some time or another. Some have responded to the political pressures; some have succumbed to them. During the early 1950’s Harvard University in the United States of America was beginning to suffer from a similar type of situation, particularly with respect to its law school. Political pressure began to be exerted on appointments to the law school, and the President of Harvard University, Henry Conant - a man who had been the United States ambassador in West Germany - responded vigorously and publicly to protect the academic integrity of that institution. This caused controversy but Harvard was the stronger for his having done so. Its prestige has been as high since then as it was before that date. The administration of the University of Sydney, by contrast, failed to respond in the way in which the administration at Harvard responded in the early 1 950’s.
We have the case of the German universities during the 1930’s. They failed to respond. They allowed political arguments to take place and they allowed whole fields of learning to become imbued with a political bias. We know the political bias they introduced into the fields of sociology, philosophy, history, and in a certain way, into the empirical sciences. They succumbed to political pressures. The German universities have, in many cases, tried to live down their history during the 1930’s. What we are anxious about is that the University of Sydney has in this way - certainly in a less serious way than did the German institutions - succumbed to the pressures that have been put upon it. The administration has to share a great deal of the blame for this.
This sort of thing cannot be ignored. The independence of appointments to universities is defended in our tradition. It is defended in the tradition of British universities, in the tradition of centres of learning in the western European countries and in centres of learning such as those in the United States and South America. We have sought to preserve the situation in
Australia. Universities are dependent in a great way upon public moneys for their administration and for their resources. Governments have appointed independent bodies to be interposed between ourselves and the universities. The whole purpose of university commissions is to break up the authority of governments and to prevent political pressures from being applied.
The University of Sydney, by its failure to respond, and by succumbing to this pressure, has placed itself in the position that people will begin to ask whether their money, which goes into these institutions, is to be subverted for political purposes. They will ask: Is the balance which often exists in the appointment of people to universities to be destroyed? We know that very strange people have been appointed to universities - people with whose views we disagree - but we know also that a balance has been maintained. People of a different type of persuasion and outlook have been appointed to these bodies. In the case of the oldest university in Australia, have the events of the past few months done much to destroy that balance?
If these bodies are to maintain their independence and academic integrity, they should have reacted before this time. We do not have to consult Aristotle to know that university activity requires the twin properties of freedom in order to have understanding. This is enshrined in every university activity in Australia and the western European world. An honorable member interjects “ It should be “, and I think that is right. We have to ask whether in the case of the University of Sydney this will be forgotten.
The great danger to this body and to the integrity which it must have has been posed by itself. It has been posed by the academic staff of that university. The administrative staff also has to share a great deal of the blame. This matter is something that should not be allowed to be forgotten because with it is associated the intellectual life of this country, and with the intellectual life of Australia so often is associated the future of this country. Were we to ignore it we would in many instances, in a great sense, ignore the future life of Australia.
.- While I sympathise with some of the things that have just been said, 1 feel that I cannot allow them to pass unchallenged in entirety. I personally believe that there is a very big question - much bigger than the current one - at stake when one is discussing the question of academic appointments to our universities today. For instance, this could be a two-edged sword in the hands of those people who might seek the appointment of known Communists to a university. They could be men with outstanding academic qualifications, yet because of their partisan political views - if you can call Communism a political entity - there would be a very big question for the administration of any university to face, namely, whether they would be fit and proper persons to place in that university.
The matter, of course, comes down to what is the function of a teacher in a university. Is his function purely and simply the search for academic knowledge in freedom, or does there enter into the picture - and this is only something that the colleagues of that person can determine - the question of whether he is pursuing propaganda or whether he is open in his mind, merely an apologist or making a proposition? The interesting thing about the present case is that a little over two years ago - f imagine about that time - Dr. Knopfelmacher came from Melbourne to Sydney to participate in two television discussions on this particular subject for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. 1 chaired the discussions. He was invited to come because he was outspoken about the question of Communists being appointed to university staffs. f personally am known to be, of course, anti-Communist. To put a Communist in charge of the people who are framing young minds and who are in charge of their reading, development and thinking, I believe, is a wrong thing in this country. While I sympathize with Knopfelmacher^ outlook. I must admit that the way in which he conducted himself in the debate, the personality that he disclosed, the lack of balance of judgment and the extremism with which he spoke, certainly antagonised me. I am sure that a large number of the people viewing that particular programme were also antagonised by this man’s bearing and the lack of ordinary academic restraint in his utterances. believe that there is much more to this matter than the oversimplified account to which we have just listened. For instance, a university might have to make a judgment, as the University of Tasmania had to do. Take the case of the admitted, or certainly suspected, background of another professor. I would find it very difficult indeed to appoint, on purely academic grounds, Professor Orr to a chair in a university in which I had any say in choosing the staff.
I admit that universities have a research role. But they also have a teaching role. From my own understanding of the matter, I believe that teachers should be probably the most carefully chosen people with regard to their personality and their subscription to the underlying moral and general ethos of the nation that they are attempting to serve as well as with regard to their academic ability. Because I know some of the persons who make up the Professorial Board of the University of Sydney I would reject out of hand the proposition that this large number of academics have been acting deliberately with partisan political bias. I do not believe that, for a moment.
I think there is a lot more to this matter than has been said. As I said at the outset, this is a two edged sword. I reject the proposition that, in considering a person for a senior teaching appointment, political and other considerations attaching to him should not be in the background of the thinking of any responsible body of academics. The person’s personality and balance, and many other factors in addition to his purely academic attainments in his own right, come into the matter.
– There is, indeed, a great deal more to this matter than appears on the surface. Perhaps the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) would not have spoken in the terms in which he spoke if he were familiar with more of the background. It is quite clear, first, that Dr. Knopfelmacher is not a subversive. Although ideologically he is a left winger or a Socialist, he is not a subversive. Secondly, it is quite clear that his application was not rejected on academic grounds. The reasons for the rejection of his application were set out very clearly in a long memorandum which was written by Professor Armstrong, the Challis Professor of Philosophy at the University of
Sydney, and Professor Spann. Honorable members will find that memorandum printed in the 7th May issue of the “ Canberra Times “. If they read that article they would know something of the background. I will not quote in extenso from that article, but I will say that it lays it on the line quite clearly, quite definitely and quite beyond any reasonable contradiction that Dr. Knopfelmacher’s application was not rejected on academic grounds.
There were three applicants for the post for which Dr. Knopfelmacher applied. He was chosen by the selection committee from the three. He had good referees. What was much more to the point was that the Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney had worked with him in the University of Melbourne at an earlier stage and speaks in high and glowing terms of his work in Melbourne. Why then was he rejected by the Professorial Board for appointment? T think this is the saddest thing of all. I believe that he was rejected, in the main, by men of goodwill who did not know how they were being used and manipulated.
– The old, old story.
– This may be an old story, but it is a true story. These men are going around trying to persuade themselves that they have not acted improperly; yet they have acted improperly. They have said that they did this on academic grounds. They pretend it was done on academic grounds but they were not competent to judge this particular discipline. The people who were competent to judge this particular discipline - and the details are in the article to which I have referred and which is available to honorable members - had no doubt of Dr. Knopfelmacher’s academic qualifications.
What then was the real reason? The real reason was that these people were the victims of a very clever propaganda campaign run by a small minority on the Professorial Board. Months ago, when Dr. Knopfelmachers appointment was first mooted, an organisation of Communist sympathisers came into being to traduce him and to lobby against him. Why? They were not concerned with this discipline. They were scientists and physicists. The leading figure - and I had better lay this on the line now - was a certain Professor Christiansen who, I think, is a professor of electrical engineering.
I would like to tell honorable members something about Professor Christiansen. He, as it happens, is the brother-in-law of Mr. Ted Hill, some time secretary of the Communist Party in Victoria and the present leader of the pro-Chinese wing or the most vicious wing of the Communist Party in Australia, a man who is a traitor to his bootstraps. Now, a man is not responsible for his brother-in-law, of course, but if honorable members will look at the report of the Petrov Royal Commission in 1955 they will see that Professor Christiansen figured in it. He was in the Russian code books under the name of “ Master “. There was not much evidence against him except that it was admitted that he was in the Russian code books under that name.
Very properly the Petrov Commission came to the conclusion on the evidence in front of it that he should be given the benefit of the doubt. The Commission said that he might have been in the books because he was part of the Communist espionage network or he might have been there because he was an innocent man whom the Communists were trying to involve. The Commission said, and rightly so in the light of the evidence available to it in 1955, that it accepted that this man might be innocent and so found.
But his conduct subsequent to that date seems to suggest that he should not have been given the benefit of the doubt, because if he had been an innocent man then he would have said: “ Here are these Russians trying to involve me in an espionage network. I must get away from these Communists who have tried to traduce and betray me.” But he has not done that. He has been the mouthpiece of the proCommunist faction in the University of Sydney ever since. Only recently he visited China and was in conference with Kuo Mo-Jo, the President of the Academy, I think he is called, but who is also the political vice-president of the Communist Republic of China.
This is the kind of man who organised against Dr. Knopfelmacher. He organised very successfully because the innocent professors concerned - and I know this from checking with some of them - did not know of Professor Christiansen’s Communist connections. They did not know who he was; they did not know what he had done. Therefore, they took him at his face value and these poor innocents believed that they were not being used by a Communist. Or course they did not know this at all. They swallowed the story that Dr. Knopfelmacher was a troublesome man, a man of violent opinions, a man who would disturb the quiet academic calm of the university.
Now, do not let us deceive ourselves. Dr. Knopfelmacher is a man of violent opinions. Well might he be. His family was Jewish. He is the sole survivor from a Nazi massacre of his whole family. In Czechoslovakia he had to flee the Communist regime. He knows what a Communist regime is. He knows that the totalitarian Nazi and the totalitarian Communist are the same. He knows it from bitter personal experience. He is a violent and dedicated man. Is there no place in a university for such a man? Surely a university which will not accept a controversialist because he is a controversial figure disqualifies itself from any academic standing. After all, the things alleged against Dr. Knopfelmacher, funnily enough, are almost the same things as the Sophists alleged against Socrates, including the fact that he did not write very much. lt can be said that this man is suffering because of the largely successful campaign against the Communists which he conducted for a long time in the University of Melbourne at a time when he was still a member of the Australian Labour Party. It is only recently that he has left that party because he had become disgusted at its failure to stand up to the Communist menace. No wonder this man is unpopular in certain circumstances. But he is certainly qualified and it is quite certain that his rejection was organised by a small political clique and was made on political and not academic grounds.
.- I rise briefly to commend the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay). In the nine or ten years that I have been in this place it has not been often that an honorable member on the other side of the chamber has risen to display some sense of objectivity and to pour a few words of reason into the rather unenlightened contributions that honorable members opposite are likely to make. 1 simply ask honorable members opposite to evaluate the remarks made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) by saying to themselves: If the honorable member has any brothersinlaw, would we judge them by the honorable member himself? The honorable member for Mackellar has come here night after night, occasion after occasion - usually supported by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who, since the electors of Moreton nearly woke up to him, but not quite, has been much more silent in this field - and has attempted to pour the sins of association, of links by marriage or descent or anything else, upon people throughout this country. In some fields the honorable member is quite a credit to this Parliament, and as long as he keeps ofl! politics he is all right. But that is not a very sound credential, I am afraid, for a politician.
So far as we on this side of the House are concerned, it is fair enough to say that the judgment that has been issued in Sydney on Dr. Knopfelmacher has been made by people who were under Communist influence. The honorable member had no right to voice in this House the scathing remarks that he has uttered here this evening. From my own rather limited personal experience of the learned doctor I agree with the remarks made by the honorable member for Evans. In the experience that I have had of some organisations in which Dr. Knopfelmacher was engaged, he was a rather disruptive and, indeed, a controversial figure. I should think that the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar in which he said that the doctor is a violent character supply part of the reason why the gentleman ought not to enter into the faculty of philosophy, if that is what it is. I say to honorable members opposite that I hope that in the near future a few more of them will remember that they are living in a democratic society. To charge people with guilt by association is surely the opposite of what liberalism means, and it is time that more honorable members opposite adopted the attitude that was adopted by the honorable member for Evans tonight.
.- I do not want to hurt the feelings of my friend, the honorable member for Evans (Dr.
Mackay), but after having been congratulated by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) on what he said I am sure that my friend must understand how Lazarus felt when the dogs licked his wounds. I am sorry to delay the House at this time, and I am sorry to startle you, Mr. Speaker, but I must speak while the spirit moves me. I want to talk about another doctor - the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns). However, do not leap to conclusions; I want to defend the honorable gentleman because there has passed into my hands in the last couple of days a paper represented to have been prepared by the honorable member for Yarra. I think it is a very serious thing when documents are handed around this building and the names of honorable members are used in a way which may have a touch of verisimilitude but is not altogether commanding of truth and all substance. This is a paper which bears the inscription “With compliments J. F. Cairns “ purporting to be in the handwriting of the honorable member for Yarra. The document is headed “ Truth about Vietnam -J. F. Cairns “.
I say some harsh things about my friend the honorable member for Yarra. I may have infelicitously described him the other night as “ Ho Ghi Jim “, but this was all clean fun and I did not really mean it. The honorable gentleman knows that I nurse no personal ill will against him at all, but I am appalled to have in my possession this document which is pure Marxism.
– This is the point. I am pleased that the honorable member for Wills and I are ad idem for once. I am appalled to think that here is a document which is » pure Marxism, and which is represented to be put out in the name of the honorable member for Yarra. I hope that my learned friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) will agree to my request that this document be included in “Hansard” so that people can read it and judge for themselves the enormity of the misrepresentation which has taken place. I ask for permission to have it incorporated in “Hansard “.
– The procedure recommended by the Standing Orders Committee has not been followed and I am not able to oblige the honorable member.
– Leave is not granted.
– I regret that at this late hour the honorable member has not charity in his make up. However, I will read one or two paragraphs so that the House may judge how substantial this is. The document, after referring to “ revolution “ states -
We can conclude from this that the revolution must proceed.
That is a firm statement.
It must produce those political leaders who will bring about the necessary economic changes. Nothing but revolutionary changes can produce those leaders.
The document then refers to the possibility of a threat from China and states -
What is not hidden is that “ China is a formidable power “, but “ one of the most striking facts about China’s military establishment is that it is organised almost exclusively for defence rather than attack “.
This amazes me. I am sure the people of Tibet would agree with it.
China may become aggressive and may build armed forces capable of expeditionary campaigns as Japan did, but to date there is no sign of this development.
I am told that the honorable member once lectured in economic geography, but apparently history does not mean anything to him at all. He cannot even recall the fact that there was an invasion of a sort into India which did not amount to an expeditionary campaign. I do not believe this of the honorable gentleman.
The paper continues -
Certainly China must be kept under close observation as must all powerful nations, but there is no evidence up to 196S that China does any more than leave revolutions to the revolutionary conditions that exist in other countries and to the people who live in those conditions.
The paragraph concludes -
She is generous with revolutionary slogans and exhortations but cautious in action and very limited in support. Similarly the evidence to 196S is that China has not designed any expeditionary military force nor is there any indication she plans to do so.
I had hoped that at this point I would have persuaded the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to let me rest my voice and have the paper included in “Hansard”, but I see he is not going to be co-operative.
I will quote a further illustration of this pure Marxist approach and I will leave it at that then. The paper continues the reference to revolution and it makes this finding -
The main western impact that is possible upon conditions in areas in which the ‘revolutionary process’ is operating, or is likely to operate, is economic. So far the economic factor has been very much in second place to the military. But economic aid is hardly more than useless unless it goes to a progressive government. Economic aid to a Diem type government does nothing but delay and make less necessary the economic changes that must, sooner or later, take place. It is essential to make available for South East Asia a large economic aid programme, but it is equally important to make that aid conditional upon progressive political changes. Private enterprise ‘ and ‘ anti-communist ‘ standards ensure failure. To qualify for the term, progressive ‘, governments must play a large part in economic affairs. They would need to comprise men who would be classified by the conventionalists as ‘ communists ‘ or ‘ socialists ‘.
There can be little doubt that such governments would not be unfavourable to China.
It is represented to me that the honorable member for Yarra wrote this. I do not believe it at all. I do not believe the honorable gentleman is capable of such intellectual falsehood. I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, whom I might with great respect describe as one who takes an avuncular interest in all of us, will take the first opportunity to use your own intelligence network to find out precisely who wrote this. If there is any opportunity of avenging the character of the honorable member for Yarra, I hope that it will be presented to the honorable gentleman and that he will immediately seize it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.21 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
n asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
r asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information -
Pensions. (QuestionNo. 922.)
t asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Is an eligible Australian citizen living in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea entitled to apply for and receive an age, invalid or widow’s pension; if not, why not?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
A person must be residing in Australia on the date on which he lodges his claim in order to qualify for an age, invalid or widow’s pension under the Social Services Act. A pension cannot be granted, therefore, to an Australian citizen living in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. A person granted a pension in Australia, however, may continue to receive the pension during any subsequent period of residence in the Territory.
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 - 1 and 2. Schedule 1 attached shows the imports into Australia (quantity and value by country of origin) of crude petroleum for the years 1959-60 to 1963-64.
Schedule 2 (A) shows the consumption of a number of selected marketable petroleum products, including motor spirit, in Australia during the years 1954, 1960 and 1964. The figures are based on oil companies’ sales to all consumers.
Aviation turbine kerosene.
Automotive diesel oil.
Industrial diesel oil.
Heavy fuel oil.
Light cycle oil.
Liquid petroleum gases, viz.
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
s 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 -
y asked the Acting Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
d asked the Acting Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Arrangements have also been made for appointment of naturalisation promotion officers in New South Wales and Victoria. An officer has commenced duty in the Sydney office of the Department of Immigration and a similar appointment will shortly be made in Melbourne. The position in other States where the volume of applications is much lower than in New South Wales and Victoria is under review. Officers engaged on naturalisation promotion activities will be in touch with national groups, employer and employee organisations, the Good Neighbour Movement and other organisations interested in the integration of migrants.
d asked the acting Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1. (a) An officer of the Department of Immigration made a tour of the Wittenoom area in June 1964 and the Geraldton district in December 1964; (b) it is some time since a visit has been made to the goldfields area; (c) Esperance area was visited in June 1964 and the Manjimup area in
November 1964. The Bunbury area was also visited several times within the last six months.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 May 1965, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19650512_reps_25_hor46/>.