25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Australian Government withdraw our troops from Vietnam, call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Vietnam and through world leaders seek a conference of conflicting parties aimed at permanent peace and selfdetermination of the Vietnamese people based on the principles of the 1954 Geneva Accords.
– I wish to ask the Minister for the Interior a question. Is he aware of a report that a Japanese consular official said in Sydney yesterday that many Japanese still think of Australia mainly as a land of sheep and kangaroos? If so, can the Minister say what steps the News and Information Bureau is taking to correct this unfortunate situation, particularly in view of the growing importance of relations between Japan and Australia?
– This statement has been brought to my notice. I should like to inform the honorable member that it was only this year that the News and Information Bureau established an office in Tokyo for the dissemination of information about Australia. One of the difficulties we have at this post is the problem of translating our information into idiomatic Japanese and of presenting speech on film. In Japan, there is a tremendous potential for the dissemination of information, but the language presents us with a very great problem. In that country there are something like 470 television stations, for instance, and it is a big job for any organisation to disseminate information on such a vast scale. However, we have plans for increasing the size of the office and getting the information out.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, relates to the introduction of decimal currency and suggestions that during the conversion period retention in circulation of the humble halfpenny, which would have no decimal equivalent, would tend to complicate our monetary transactions. I ask whether there are reasons, such as commodity pricing or other factors, why the halfpenny should not be withdrawn from circulation prior to C Day.
– This matter has been considered, and it is felt that the halfpenny should not be withdrawn from circulation before C Day. It will still have a use over the transition period, which is likely to last for about two years from C Day. It is true that there will be no precise equivalent of the halfpenny in our decimal currency. But neither will there be an exact equivalent of the penny or the threepenny piece. The withdrawal of the halfpenny from circulation would have the effect of forcing on shopkeepers, until the end of the transition period, a pricing policy that we consider it is not necessary to introduce. The customer should be able to obtain such benefit as will endure from the continuance in use of the halfpenny in pricing over that period. If the customer is in any doubt about the amount to be tendered, he or she can tender above the amount in some round sum and the storekeeper will oblige with the exact change in either decimal currency or the equivalent in the £ s. d. system. I know that in some minds there is a belief that there could be added confusion with the halfpenny in circulation, but I think we have a sufficiently intelligent Australian community to cope with this and the other problems that will arise when the new system is introduced.
– I ask the Prime Minister: In his unceasing watch and ward to combat Communist subversion is he keeping a sufficiently eagle eye on the ministerial front bench? Did he not rightly say last month: “ Events must surely convince all Australians who have not been completely taken in by Communist propaganda that talk about the Geneva Accords or the International Control Commission will be nonproductive”? Then what does he make of the statement of the Minister for External
Affairs that “ Our aim and hope should be a return to the Geneva Agreement of 1954”? Has the Minister for External Affairs been completely taken in by Communist propaganda, or has the Prime Minister on this occasion slightly overplayed his hand?
– This is one of very many occasions on which the Minister and I completely agree. Our statements are entirely consistent.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. What progress has been made towards the establishment of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation since the passage of the relevant Bill towards the end of the last sessional period? When is the Corporation likely to open its doors for business?
– Shortly after the Act was assented to the Corporation was established and the Board , appointed. It has met now on a number of occasions. Recruitment of senior and, to some extent, junior staff has already begun. The Corporation has established offices in Sydney and Melbourne and it is in the course of negotiating for office space in Adelaide, Perth. Brisbane and Hobart. Senior staff have engaged in a series of discussions with lenders and other people whose activities and co-operation will be part and parcel of the whole scheme. At present it is hoped that the Corporation will open its doors for business about the end of November.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question. It is known that with the establishment of the proposed Army battle group in Townsville the City Council there will need additional funds for the provision of sewerage and water facilities for the Army installations at Cluden and the housing project. As the Council had not anticipated that development would proceed in these areas for some time, adequate provision had not been made for funds to cover the extensive work necessary. There is some concern that the costs of these installations may have to be borne by ratepayers in the Townsville area. I ask the Minister: Is the Commonwealth to assist in meeting the costs of these sewerage and water facilities and, if so, what proportion of the costs will it agree to contribute? In what way will these funds be provided? Is it proposed that all or some of the finance will be provided to the Council from funds allocated for the provision of the Army facilities, or will separate funds be made available to the Council to cover the cost of this work? Also-
– Order! The honorable member’s question is far too long. I ask him to complete it.
– It is not the usual practice for the Commonwealth Government to make a cash allocation for the provision of sewerage and water for installations in an area where those things are under the control of a local government authority. The usual practice in these cases is for the facilities to be provided by the local authority out of loan funds made available to it and under the allocation control of a State Government. In the case referred to by the honorable member I understand that the Townsville Council has made an application to the State Government for funds and that provision has been made for the major share of the funds required for sewerage and water undertakings during the current financial year.
I might add that if the Townsville Council decides to extend the sewerage works and main out to the university area adjacent to the proposed barracks area, because this will effect a saving for the Commonwealth, which will not have to establish a collector main in the barracks area, the Commonwealth will make a contribution to the Council to the extent of that saving. This contribution will be set against the whole cost of the project.
– Can the Treasurer advise me whether, on the introduction of decimal (currency, the sales tax percentages will remain the same and whether such sales tax should be taken to the next highest or to the nearest cent?
– Without wishing to sound in any way ominous about the matter, I point out that a government must reserve to itself the opportunity or responsibility to decide what the sales tax rates shall be on any commodity at any given time. Having said that, I can assure the honorable gentleman that there are no changes in contemplation which would arise from a changeover to a decimal currency system. The present rates of sales tax - 2i per cent., 12i per cent, and 25 per cent. - lend themselves quite conveniently to continuance in a decimal currency system. As to the treatment of fractions of a cent, the same practice will apply as currently applies to fractions of a penny.
– My question to the Treasurer relates to a special allowance paid either as an attraction wage or as a bonus to employees in various categories - 1 understand up to the level of foreman - at the Royal Australian Mint. Can the right honorable gentleman say what action has been taken or is contemplated on a request by technical officers employed in the Mint that this special allowance be paid also to them? Will the Treasurer ascertain whether any action has been taken on a request made to the Public Service Board on this matter in, I think, February of this year?
– This matter is one of internal administration within the Department which has not come to my notice. I shall make inquiries and ascertain what information I can pass on to the honorable gentleman.
– Can the Minister for the Navy inform me whether coast watchers are being recruited for Papua and New Guinea and for Australia? Is there any substance in the story that submarines have been sighted in waters to our north?
– I think the House is aware of the great value of the service performed by coast watchers during the last war. As a matter of fact, since then the coast watching service has been kept in operation. This is not the appropriate time or place to say anything about its methods or equipment. The sightings referred to by the honorable member have been making rather startling news recently. One of the main sightings which was said to have been made by a mission boat captain turned out to be the United States submarine “ Medregal “ which had been in Melbourne for the Coral Sea celebrations and was returning to its base. Another unidentified vessel sighted between Vanimo and Wewak afterwards proved to be H.M.A.S. “ Anzac “. There have been numerous reported sightings but investigations have proved them all to be without foundation.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by informing him, if he does not already know, that several European and African governments have made cash donations to a defence aid fund for victims of apartheid in South Africa. Consequently, many Africans who have been improperly convicted or gaoled have, on appeal, been released. In view of the lead given by these other governments will the Prime Minister consider favorably the making by Australia of a cash donation to the fund?
– I have not heard of this matter before but I will investigate it to find out what is going on.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport will be aware that at present there is a backlog of approximately 1,700 tons of steel at Port Kembla awaiting shipment to Hobart. Can he indicate whether special arrangements have been made for its early shipment from Port Kembla to Hobart?
– Unfortunately there is a substantial backlog of steel at Port Kembla awaiting shipment. This is due to a combination of unfortunate circumstances - adverse weather, a shortage of labour at the port and ships having to wait for berths to load the steel. However, I understand that the “ Poolta “ is due at Port Kembla on the 21st of this month to load about 1,800 or 1,900 tons of steel for Hobart. This should relieve the position.
– Is the Treasurer conversant with the latest annual report of the Commonwealth Development Bank? Is he aware that the report shows that about £36 million was advanced to the rural sector and £12 million to the industrial sector? Is this ratio of 3 to 1 in favour of the rural sector due to more applications for such assistance being received from the rural sector or is it due to policy? If it is due to the latter, will the Treasurer consider increasing the capital of the Bank to enable it to meet more demands for industrial development?
– I should like to get a detailed explanation for the honorable member. Frankly, I did not appreciate that the ratio favoured rural lending as much as he has suggested. I knew there was preferment to rural borrowers in the Bank’s lending policy. As the Bank has adequate funds available for lending purposes at present it would, seem that it has not had the same volume of inquiries from industrial borrowers. This explanation suggests itself immediately to me, knowing something of the capital structure and capital availability of the Bank, but I shall get detailed information from the Bank to enable me to give a more elaborate reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development who represents here the Minister for Civil Aviation in another place. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an editorial appearing in the Dubbo “ Daily Liberal “ of 10th September 1965 charging the Department of Civil Aviation with serious neglect of the Dubbo air strip? Is the Dubbo aerodrome capable of handling jet aircraft scheduled for the Dubbo route or travelling to Dubbo for overhaul at the proposed Ansett Transport Industries aircraft base? If not, will the Minister have corrective measures introduced immediately?
– I understand that the surface of the runway at Dubbo is adequate to handle either propeller driven or turbo prop aircraft, which are the types at present being used. It would not be adequate for use by jet aircraft. However, this is a question that comes within the province of my col league the Minister for Civil Aviation, and I will take the matter up with him immediately. I understand the honorable member’s feelings. I believe that this is the largest inland aerodrome in New South Wales and naturally one would want to see it in the finest possible condition. I will therefore obtain a reply for the honorable member as soon as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories. Is he serious when he claims, as he did in the House a few days ago, that he places great reliance on the opinion of inhabitants of remote areas of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea that the Territory will not be ready for independence for very many years? If he is, does he intend to seek advice from the same quarter on which of the recommendations in the report of the International Bank for the economic development of the Territory and in the report of the Committee on Higher Education in the Territory should be implemented?
– I mentioned that I was taking note of the opinions of inhabitants of remote areas of the Territory, but these opinions have to be considered with many other factors. All these factors add up to a picture, which is very important. Few people realise that the Territory is peopled by multitudinous groups who have no relation to one another. They have different languages, different ideas, different laws and so on. We hope to unite these people into a body with one common national spirit. Obviously, we must look to very many factors to do this.
– I address my question to the Minister for Housing in his capacity as representative of the Minister for Customs and Excise. In view of the recent disclosures of the smuggling into Australia of the depraving narcotic drug heroin, and as I understand the maximum penalty for infringement of the Customs Act is the same for smuggling a blasphemous or pornographic book as it is for smuggling narcotics, will the Minister suggest to his colleague in another place that he should consult with the Minister for Health and the Attorney-General with a view to introducing more appropriate penalties for smuggling narcotics?
– I understand that the section of the Customs Act which deals with this subject enables a number of different articles to be specially declared by proclamation. It is true that the importation of blasphemous, indecent and obscene articles or works comes under the same section as the importation of heroin, opium, Indian hemp and other narcotic drugs under international control. The section provides for a minimum penalty of three months imprisonment and a maximum, I think, of two years. But, of course, the penalty is fixed by the court and presumably in most cases the court would take the degree of guilt into account. Presumably the importation of blasphemous or obscene articles would not normally attract the same kind of penalty as would the importation of heroin. So the legislation at the moment has, in practice, some elasticity. I will certainly convey to my colleague in another place the request that he consider whether these items should be dealt with under different sections and in a different way.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing and I ask: Has the cost of building a home increased since the maximum loan available to exservicemen was fixed at £3,500? If it has, has the Minister given any thought to increasing this amount? May ex-servicemen in the future expect to have this amount increased?
– Of course, the cost of constructing houses has risen since the limit was last fixed at £3,500. A survey that the War Service Homes Division made some time ago revealed that at that time about one in eight ex-servicemen receiving war service homes loans were obliged to resort to second mortgage finance. This is a matter that we always have under consideration and scrutiny; but whether and when the limit might be raised is naturally a matter of policy.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer to the present very tight monetary situation and the strong demand for banks to grant accommodation to their clients. As the major trading banks have accommodated themselves to the requirements for funds as fully as possible and have only i per cent, to 4 per cent, of their deposits as free liquid funds, can the Treasurer indicate why the Commonwealth Trading Bank has nearly 12 per cent, of its deposits available as free liquid resources? Does that position seem to be at variance in any way with current banking practice, especially having regard to recent actions by the Reserve Bank of Australia?
– As is well known, at the present time, productive capacity inside the economy is pretty hard up against expenditure. It is felt that a statutory reserve deposit rate should be maintained which, whilst enabling the banks to continue what has been a fairly high total level of advances, should not enable activity to reach a point where inflationary pressures are generated or become uncontrollable. The Commonwealth Trading Bank, as a matter of practice, has maintained a rather higher level of liquidity than have the other trading banks. It is a matter for each bank to decide how much free liquidity it will have above the minimum that it is required to maintain. In respect of different banks, differing circumstances produce different situations. I think that is about all I can say on the matter at this time.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Works. Is it true, as reported, that yesterday the Commonwealth Government invited major building contractors to apply for registration as tenderers for the £10 million Army base at Townsville; that it is proposed to issue tender documents to registered tenderers only; and that contractors were warned that only major contractors would be considered as tenderers? Can the Minister tell us what or who are major contractors? Does this action mean that only southern contractors will be allowed to tender for this job in Townsville? Will local contractors have the opportunity to tender for it?’
– I do not know the circumstances’ of the particular case to which the honorable gentleman has referred.
Naturally, they would be within the knowledge of my colleague, the Minister for Works, who is in another place. However, it is a common practice of the Department of Works to request potential tenderers to register with the Department if they’ intend to tender for a substantial public work. That is in the interests of the tenderers themselves. A great deal of cost and expense is involved in tendering for a major work. If, in the Department’s view, a contractor is not of sufficient substance or is unlikely to be able to carry out the work, very often it is better for the Department to discuss the matter with the contractor before he goes to the expense of preparing a tender which would not be likely to be accepted.
– Has the Minister for National Development seen a report concerning a major breakthrough by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in a new process for the desalting of water? Is it possible that this important development may mean a revolutionary change in water usage for both primary and secondary industry expansion in Australia?
– This question should more properly be put to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I think that my only interest, in it is as Chairman of the Australian Water Resources Council. I have, of course, been informed of this breakthrough and I think it could have a great application in taking minerals out of brackish water. However, the best thing would be for me to obtain a full answer for the honorable gentleman from the Minister in charge of C.S.I.R.O.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. In view of the increasing concern over the terms which the Government has to meet in buying defence equipment overseas I ask the Minister whether he has yet secured refunds or allowances from the Ferranti company in respect of its excessive profits on the Bloodhound missile.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will remember that he asked me for details of this matter during the last Parliament and that I promised to let him have some details as soon as I had them ready. At that time I informed him that 1 was in touch with the Minister for Aviation in the United Kingdom Government. As a result of that Minister’s good offices we were able to persuade officials of the Ferranti company to come to Australia in June, and we had further discussions with them. The House will remember that we had a contract with the Ferranti company concerning the Bloodhound missile, which was negotiated at the same time as a contract that the United Kingdom Government had with that organisation. As the contracts were negotiated at the same time we thought that probably the prices quoted to us were the same as those quoted to the United Kingdom Government. Both contracts were for a fixed price and there was therefore no legal right, in either case, for the contracts to be reopened. However, a report was submitted by the Lang Committee to the United Kingdom Government. In the view of that Committee the prices charged by the Ferranti organisation were excessive. The Ferranti company felt that it had a moral obligation to make repayment to the United Kingdom.
When the company came to discuss the same matter with us it did not feel that it had a similar moral obligation to make a repayment to the Australian Government. Tt appeared that the company had one standard of business ethics for the United Kingdom and another standard for Australia. It refused to disclose to us the information that it was prepared to disclose to the United Kingdom. In our discussions we got nowhere aird I could not really be very happy about the situation. But there was a silver lining to this rather dark cloud, because at the same time as we were having these discussions we were negotiating a contract for a control and reporting unit which 1 have already reported to this House. One of the consortium of companies tendering for the supply of that equipment was Ferranti. As a result of our discussions I felt that we should break off negotiations with the Ferranti company over this matter. Fortunately we were able to find another company - the Marconi organisation - that was able to tender for the supply of a similar type of computer to mat for which
Ferranti was tendering. The Marconi computer was better and cheaper, so we cut Ferranti out and bought from Marconi.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question which may be in some respects supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Lilley. Is it difficult for trading banks to finance their rural clients in drought areas because of low liquidity? Does this contraction of credit permeate the financing of all agricultural services, supplies and transport? Did the Minister predict an even lower liquidity in December when he was speaking in Melbourne a few days ago? Could he discuss this problem with the Reserve Bank Board, now that the financial results of the drought are beginning to emerge, so that a release of statutory reserve deposit funds could be made?
– I have told the House on previous occasions that the Reserve Bank has made it clear to the trading banks that they are not to regard themselves as bound within any general limit of advances in cases where advances are for drought relief purposes. The honorable gentleman raises the point that if the liquidity of the banks was not adequate for their general purposes they might still have a problem even though they had been given the green light for lending by the Reserve Bank. We are now entering a period of the year when the liquidity of the banks tends to improve. Export receipts are coming in and the Commonwealth Budget is heavily in deficit at this period of the year. So the banks, with that degree of improved liquidity, should not be inhibited from making advances in the directions to which the honorable gentleman has referred.
The statutory reserve deposit system operates in such a way as to enable the Reserve Bank to maintain some general supervision over the volume of credit available inside the community at any particular time. Requests have been made on a number of occasions for releases from the statutory reserve deposits for particular purposes, but those requests have been resisted for the reason that such releases could cut across the basic purpose of the statutory reserve deposit system. However, I shall go into the matter raised by the honorable gentleman because we would all wish to avoid a situation in which genuine cases seeking advances for drought relief purposes were denied that relief because the banks found themselves without adequate resources for lending.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Does the right honorable gentleman remember stating in reply to a question by me that the report of the Northern Transport Committee, which was set up to inquire into transport costs in the northern area, would be available before the end of August? As this report has not yet been tabled, will the Prime Minister indicate when it will be available to the House?
– I cannot. The delay is not something for which I am responsible. There has been delay in receiving and considering the report. I certainly hope that we will have the report during the currency of this sessional period, because I am sure that it will turn out to be of great interest to all honorable members.
– The Minister for the Army will remember that it was announced about 18 months ago that a crash programme would be embarked upon with respect to Army housing, with particular reference to Puckapunyal, not only to cater for the shortage existing at that time but also to meet the increased demand caused by a national service training battalion moving in. I exclude Seymour, because living there means extra travelling and extra expense for Army personnel. Can the Minister tell the House how many houses have been commenced in the Puckapunyal camp area, how many have been completed and what delay, if any, there is in completions?
– Puckapunyal is a difficult area from the point of view of housing because of the lack of availability of alternative accommodation. I notice that the honorable gentleman excludes Seymour from his question. Nevertheless, it is regarded as a place adjacent to Puckapunyal where service families can live. I think I am right in saying that in the period he mentioned, in Seymour 48 houses have been completed under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, that contracts have now been let for an additional 81 houses in Puckapunyal itself and that approval has been given for the building of another 75 houses at Puckapunyal. I have great hopes that these 75 houses will be added to the existing contracts and completed at the same time as the other houses. In addition, approval has been given for the building of a further 100 houses under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement at Seymour. I assure the honorable gentleman that I shall be watching the situation very closely to’ see whether there is any further requirement.
– I address my question to the Minister for External Affairs. The South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty, Article IV, paragraph 1, imposes, upon the signatories to that Treaty the requirement that they will recognise an armed attack on one as an armed attack on the others, or words to that effect. What is our obligation to Pakistan under this Treaty? We have been advised that we have an obligation to Vietnam under this Treaty although Vietnam is not a signatory to it. Why have we obligations to non-signatories that we have not to signatories? If we have no obligation to Pakistan, are the obligations of the other signatories to this Treaty to us of a similar tenuous nature? In other words, is the Treaty just another piece of paper?
– If the honorable gentleman will refer to “Hansard” of the 1954 sittings when the Bill for the ratifica-tion of the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty was brought down in this House, he will find in it an explicit statement by the then Minister for External Affairs to the general effect that we had informed Pakistan, and that we wanted to make it clear to this House, that we did not regard ourselves as being bound either contractually or morally to support any member of the Commonwealth in a difference with another member of the Commonwealth. That statement was conveyed to Pakistan before Australia ever signed the Treaty. That statement was implicit in the endorsement by this House of that Treaty.
It has been consistently maintained ever since, and many communications to the same effect have been made to Pakistan.
– Does the Treasurer recall that on 9th November last year, I asked him a question in connection with the collection of subscriptions by organisations on the well known bank order system? I asked whether banks would automatically make the change to decimal currency. The Treasurer prefaced his reply by saying: “Generally speaking”. Four months afterwards, on 23rd March 1965, I tried to get something clearer from him, and the Treasurer replied in this way -
I deliberately used the words “generally speaking” because it is not quite clear that the banks will automatically make this change.
As six months have now elapsed, I ask the Treasurer whether he can clarify the position.
– Yes. Adding another chapter to the serial, I can now say that the legislation which I shall be introducing later today - and an understanding has been reached with the trading banks - provides that there will be virtually an automatic changeover in respect of bank orders except in the cases of those orders which include multiple payments and where that multiplicity of payments could produce a variation of the order of 2 cents. If it is less than 2 cents as a result of the adjustment, then the bank order persists. But if the bank order would involve higher payments of a dimension of 2 cents at least above the existing level, then the bank would negotiate a new order with its customer.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a supplementary question to that asked by the honorable member for Wills. I mention three points and I will put the question to him interrogatively. There is an obligation under the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty by which Australia is bound to take action in defence of another signatory nation in the event of attack. The then Minister for External Affairs, at the particular time in 1954 referred to earlier by the Minister for External
Affairs, did say that Australia did not feel itself obliged to go to the defence of Pakistan in any war with any other Commonwealth country. The then Minister for External Affairs said that he had communicated his ideas to the High Commissioner for Pakistan, but nothing was said then or has been said since as to how Pakistan regarded that intimation. So I think the House would like to know in this terrible conflict in which we do not want to be involved anyhow: Did Pakistan agree with the Austraiian contention that Australia would not be obliged to go to war in defence of Pakistan if Pakistan was attacked by any other Commonwealth nation or by any other nation?
– So far as I am aware, there was on record no explicit statement by Pakistan as to that country’s interpretation of the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty or any section of the Treaty. But the way in which Australia would interpret the Treaty was clearly understood by Pakistan in the negotiations leading to the drafting of the Treaty; it was clearly understood by Pakistan at the time of the signing of the Treaty and it has been clearly understood by Pakistan ever since the Treaty has been in operation. In fact, Pakistan has not invoked the Treaty in any request for Australian aid either in the past or in the present.
- Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913- 1960, I present the report of the Public Works Committee relating to the following proposed work -
Ground preparation for instrument landing system at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following proposed work be referred to the Parlia mentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Erection of Commonwealth Offices, Perth, Western Australia.
This proposal involves the provision of Commonwealth offices to provide accommodation for sections of the Treasury - the Taxation Branch, the Commonwealth SubTreasury and the Bureau of Census and Statistics - at an estimated cost of £2.98 million. Generally, the building will be a reinforced concrete structure, faced with precast polished terrazzo type panels. It will consist of 13 office floors, a ground floor, a lower ground floor and a basement. All office working areas will be fully air conditioned. I lay on the table plans of the proposed work.
.- I should like to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) whether he can intimate when this work is likely to be commenced. I point out that even now it has been delayed too long.
– Order! The honorable member will not be in order in following that Une. The question is whether the proposed work shall be referred to the Public Works Committee. Therefore, only a very limited debate is permitted.
– 1 realise that the question is whether the proposed work shall be referred to the Public Works Committee. But I should like to know just how long it will be before something is done. There has been a lot of delay over this new building already.
– Do you rule, Sir, that the rights of members are restricted merely to the question of whether this proposed work shall or shall not be referred to the Public Works Committee? Is it not possible to canvass the reasons why other works of equal if not greater importance should be referred to the Committee in preference to this project?
– Order! I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that it has always been accepted by custom that a motion such as this permits only a very narrow debate. At a later stage, prior to a final decision, the opportunity for a full scale debate will arise. The position here is similar to that existing when a motion for the printing of a report is before the Chair. In such a case, we are interested only in whether the report is to be printed. I have endeavoured to follow the custom of keeping the debate so limited.
– in reply - Perhaps 1 may assist the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) by making a few brief remarks. It would be quite improper for the Government to indicate the place of a project in the construction programme before the Public Works Committee had reported on the proposed work. This would be a gross usurpation of the authority of the Parliament. In reply to the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), I point out that there is a statutory rule that building proposals and other works projects estimated to cost more than a certain sum must be referred to the Public Works Committee unless exemption is approved by the Parliament or, in the case of defence works, unless exemption is given by Order in Council. So the project in question must be reported on by the Public Works Committee. When the Committee has made its report, the Government can decide what place this project will take in the works programme.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Extension of Runway with Associated Taxiway Works, Perth Airport, Western Australia.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Perth - Extension of 02/20 Runway to 10,500 feet with associated Taxiway Works.
The proposal involves the extension of this runway at Perth Airport by 2,600 feet, with provision for a 200 ft. long stopway, widening of shoulders of the existing runway and associated taxiway works, at an estimated cost of £440,000. I lay on the table plans of the proposed work.
.- Mr. Speaker, there are two major international airports in Australia - at Perth and at Mascot, in Sydney. There are very few international airports now which are considered adequate unless they have main runways of 10,500 ft. It is quite clear that both these airports should have such runways. The Opposition supports the reference of the Perth proposal to the Public Works Committee. We hope that there will soon be a reference of the Mascot proposal to the Committee. This is urgent because the current construction at Mascot involves the use of a dredge from overseas and it also involves, since the construction work runs into a harbour, extensive retaining walls. The present work, approved at least two years ago by the Public Works Committee, involves the expenditure of some hundreds of thousands of pounds on retaining walls which will be completely surplus-
– Order! I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is getting away from the subject before the Chair.
– He is wasting time.
– You are wasting three quarters of a million pounds by your delay in referring similar extensions at Mascot to the Public Works Committee.
– Order! I point out to the Deputy Leader that I am not wasting any money at all.
.- I support the motion for the reference of this proposed work to the Public Works Committee, but I would like to inquire how it is that the Minister can ask for such a reference in view of his recent statement that 8,500-ft. runways are quite adequate for all the known requirements of aircraft in Australia. I hope that if the Minister has changed his attitude in the matter of adequate runway lengths, he will make known his changed attitude in respect of the Mascot runway at the earliest possible moment, and that suitable amendments will be made to the plans for the construction of that runway.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 14th September (vide page 872), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The proponents of the wool reserve prices plan have dwelt on two themes. One is “Have Gunn Will Travel “, to which I would add “ to perdition “, and the other is the maintenance of silence when attempts are made to get information. Sir William Gunn showed a lack of dignity in his attack on the members of this House and it is regrettable that the Opposition should bring this matter forward because what the backbenchers of the Liberal Party did was most democratic and greatly to their credit. Had it not been for the 10 backbenchers of the Liberal Party the wool growers would not have had the opportunity to study the cases for and against the plan. Surely all honorable members will agree that what the backbenchers on this side of the House did was democratic. Why Sir William Gunn should attack them I cannot understand, unless it be that he did not want the wool growers to know that there was a case against the plan as proposed.
– I will rubbish you afterwards. Sir William has been most undignified in regard to this whole matter. When challenged he rebuked people. The spectacle of a man of his status and in receipt of his salary going around like a starting price bettor and offering to lay wagers and take the odds is not agreeable to anyone in this House.
It is unfortunate that the proposed plan has not been set out in the Bill before the House. Had the backbenchers had their way this would have been done and the members of this Parliament would have been able to discuss the matter much more intelligently and with much more information at their disposal. It is unfortunate that we have not been given this information, but we are told now that the proposed plan, together with the cases for and against it, will be circulated to growers when the ballot papers are sent out. The Bill before the House refers simply to the referendum, and the plan on which the wool growers will be asked to vote is incidental thereto although it is the major concern of all of us here.
As to the provisions for enrolment, I do not object to people with 300 sheep or producing 10 bales of wool having a vote provided that wool growing brings in the major portion of their income. But if wool growing is incidental to some other kind of farming then I believe that a farmer engaged in that kind of activity should not have a vote. I believe it is also unfair to give a vote to somebody who just happened to come into the game and buy 300 sheep at the appropriate time. There is another anomaly concerning partnerships. If two persons having equal shares in a partnership produce between them 19 bales of wool they will be precluded from voting. This is definitely wrong. If two people own a property and produce between them 19 bales of wool they should at least have one vote. This anomaly is to be deplored. Of course the Opposition supports this plan. It tends towards nationalisation and socialisation and any form of control of persons or property will always be supported by the Opposition.
The plan is not, as stated in the Bill, a wool reserve prices plan but a restricted acquisition plan. I see Country Party members smiling. If any of them know anything about auction sales they will be aware that when a reserve price is placed on an object to be auctioned, whether it be a cow or a bale of wool, if the reserve price is not obtained the auctioneer will not knock the article down. But under the proposal for this wool reserve prices plan the man with the mythical millions can attend an auction sale and, if the reserve price is 52d. and has not been obtained for a particular lot, can bid 52d. against the previous bid of 51d. and have the lot knocked down to him. If that is a reserve price plan, I will go and jump into Lake Burley Griffin. It is not a reserve price; it is a restricted acquisition price. We have not heard any honorable member in this place, and I have listened particularly to members of the Australian Country Party, say that brokerage and commission will have to be paid on the acquisition of wool. I ask the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to take note of that point. There is no doubt that the scheme will provide a bonanza for the wool selling brokers. It is no wonder that 17 of them have agreed to the reserve price plan. What a wonderful time they will have.
– They may get two commissions.
– They may get three. Under the proposed scheme, the wool will be put up for auction and, if it is not sold, it will be purchased by the authority which is to be established. On this transaction brokerage or commission will have to be paid and there will be handling charges. Then the wool will be put into store and there will be more charges. Then, when the authority believes that the time is opportune, it will bring the wool out of storage and put it up for auction again. At a second auction the authority still may not be able to sell wool which could not be sold on the first occasion. It may be wool of a type that the manufacturers do not want at that particular time. It is possible that, although it may not be inferior wool, it will at that time be unmarketable wool. But it will be brought out again, and again it may have to be acquired. This is not a reserve price plan. If the wool has to be acquired again, the brokers will get their commission. They will receive a commission whether the wool is sold overseas or whether it is acquired by the authority - this mystical man with the money supplied by the wool growers and by the Government.
Opposition speakers and other honorable members have made much play of the attitude of various members of my party. They were stunned and shocked last night when they heard the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) give a remarkable, restrained, reasoned and fair address, pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed plan. Another speaker who did well in a restrained manner was the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Armstrong). In his desire to play fair he requested that we who do not agree with the scheme refrain from expressing our view. Although a wool grower may do a very good job in producing fine wool, in many cases he would know little about the marketing of his product. It is for that reason that honorable members who are able to advise the wool growers should do so. without fear of Sir William Gunn or anyone else.
In debating the reserve price plan not much cognisance has been taken of the buyer. He has been mentioned by only a few honorable members, but he is a very important person in the sale of our wool. In every deal there must be two parties - there must be the seller and there must be the buyer. But according to most honorable members who have spoken the only person to be considered is the wool grower. As I pointed out earlier, this is not a reserve price plan. We should envisage the attitude of the buyer who, after bidding perhaps 51d. per lb., finds that the wool is knocked down at 52d. per lb. to the wool authority. What do honorable members think the buyer’s reaction would be? Anyone who has had experience of buying and selling at auction would know that if that happened to them as individuals they would never again engage in or attend a sale conducted by that auctioneer. I have had such an experience when buying cattle. On one occasion I was the last bidder but I found later that the auctioneer had sold the cattle privately to someone else. I never did business with that man again. This will be the attitude of overseas buyers, and we cannot blame them for having that attitude. If they come to Australia and bid legitimately at an auction, but are frustrated by the buyer from the authority, they will not be very pleased.
Under the proposed plan a wool grower who sends in wool that does not fetch the reserve price will be paid at the reserve price, less brokerage, commission and handling charges. But when the wool h brought out by the authority and sold at a profit, the wool grower will not benefit. In some ways that is fair because a great amount of capital will be subscribed to make the scheme function. For a scheme such as this to be successful it cannot operate all one way. If there is to be a reserve price below which wool cannot be sold, then in all fairness there should be a reserve ceiling price. We cannot have it just to suit ourselves. The scheme is not a business proposition and, although I hate to use the phrase, it is “ cockeyed and stupid “. I hate using that phrase, but a friend of mine, Horace Crotty, late Bishop of Bathurst, renowned as one of the best after dinner speakers in Australia, on a desperate occasion used that phrase.
The scheme will neither stabilise prices nor prevent severe fluctuations. My original intention was to speak generally and then go through the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) pointing out that under the scheme stabilisation could not be achieved.
In the time left to me 1 shall examine the Minister’s speech. It appears to me, from what I can learn about the selling of wool, that forward buying and futures dealing will be difficult. If the money that is being supplied were used advantageously by the authority in forward buying and futures dealing then it would be of immense benefit and advantage to the wool growers. I am certain that we have in Australia people who could match their brains in this department with any of the forward buyers or futures dealing people from overseas.
I stress that we have not the plan before us, nor has it been tabled, and this is why I want now to refer to some of the facts brought out by the Minister. He said -
The principal objective of the reserve price scheme is to reduce extreme downward fluctuations in the price of wool and so protect growers against exceptionally low returns. By setting a limit to price fall, the scheme engenders greater confidence among wool users and assists in creating a more stable and stronger demand for wool.
In essence, a reserve price scheme involves fixing a minimum level, also called “ floor “ or “ reserve “, below which prices at auction are not allowed to fall. This is achieved by establishing an authority which purchases any wool for which commercial bids in the auction fail to reach the reserve price. Such wool is held by the authority and resold under more favorable conditions.
I want to know why the wool has to be purchased and resold and all this formality engaged in. Why cannot a reserve price be placed on it and if the reserve is not reached the purchaser be informed of the reserve price. In all probability, in nine cases out of ten, he would accept the reserve price. Regarding financial arrangements, the Minister said -
In addition to their contribution towards the capital of the scheme, growers will pay a small levy to build up a contingency fund. This fund will be used in meeting the operating costs of the scheme to the extent that these costs cannot be met from profits made on the resale of bought-in wool and from rental income of wool stores at present under the control of the Wool Board. Under normal circumstances, the rate of levy paid to build up a contingency fund should not be high and the initial levy should not be more than i per cent. The rate would be reviewed annually in the light of actual experience and the stage could be reached where in some years no levy would be required because of the contingency fund being at a sufficient level.
This is the point I want to stress -
The levies paid by wool growers for the capital of the scheme and for the contingency fund would be collected as part of a combined levy not exceeding 3 per cent, of the gross proceeds al wool sold. This combined levy would cover not only the growers’ contributions for the capital and the operating costs of the scheme, but also their commitments for promotion and their current contribution for research.
The 3 per cent, will not possibly finance the scheme. I understand that previously 7 per cent, was the suggested figure. The Minister also said -
After reaching the level of £30 million by accumulated wool grower contributions, interest earnings and net profits, the capital fund would be revolved. However, only the amounts actually contributed by wool growers by way of levy would be repaid to them under the revolving arrangement. By way of explanation, I make the point that interest or profits from other sources would not be repaid to the growers.
Apart from the growers’ capital fund of £30. million, the scheme would have ready access to additional financial backing of up to £50 million. The Executive of the Wool Industry Conference is at present negotiating with trading banks regarding the possibility of these banks providing some or all of this additional backing. If it proves impossible to arrange this finance on terms acceptable to both the banks and the Wool Industry Conference, the Government will be prepared to make the funds necessary available from its own sources.
I do not think we can count on the trading banks letting £50 million lie idle while ;his scheme is getting under way. It would be both improvident and foolish for them to do so; the £50 million could be far better used until the scheme is well under way. The Minister then said -
The Wool Industry Conference suggested that the scheme should have access to a total financial backing of £80 million. However, the Government considers that the scheme should have available to it unquestionable financial backing and accordingly has guaranteed the provision of finance in excess of £80 million for the buying in of wool if this should ever be required.
So we can see that the Government is prepared to throw in an unspecified yet big amount for this scheme. I wholeheartedly agree that it is necessary to have some scheme to bring about the stabilisation and rationalisation of the wool industry, but surely there must be a better scheme than the one suggested.
– What does the honorable member have in mind?
– I have something in mind. First, there should be better liaison and cooperation between buyer and seller. Money could be expended on improving the quality and length of fibres. There should be advice and assistance to growers, better sorting, better classing and better presentation. Italy could not come here during the last season and purchase our wool because of its balance of payments position. With ail the millions of pounds that will be provided for this scheme, would it not be better to give sonic financial assistance to Italy by selling our wool to her on terms? This would be a better use for the money than defeating our prospective buyers at auction. Would it not be better to offer some inducement to overseas buyers who are short of ready money? After all, balance of payments difficulties mostly appear for only a transitory period. They pass after a while. If we were to offer some financial assistance to buyers who were suffering from such difficulties, we would help to bring stability to the industry and would be engaging in better promotion and marketing arrangements.
.- Whilst I cannot agree with all the points made by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin), at least I must say that, despite his criticism, he did try to make some constructive suggestions. Whether these suggestions are practical is another matter. The purpose of the legislation is merely to provide for a referendum to be held amongst wool growers to ascertain whether they want a wool reserve prices plan. Whatever individual members of the Parliament may think or do about this plan, it will be the wool growers who will finally decide the issue. I say without doubt that it is proper that this should be so. Members of the Parliament, of course, have an interest in the plan. They should see that the Government’s interest is protected, that the taxpayers’ interest is protected and that the economy of Australia is protected.
Let us take a little look at the history of the wool industry and of reserve prices plans in particular in more recent times After the termination of the Joint Organisation, in 1951. the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Australian Primary Producers Union asked the Government for a reserve prices plan. A referendum was held and it was defeated. Certainly, unusual features were present in Australia at that time and they may or may not have contributed to the defeat of the referendum. But the point is that the wool growers were still not happy with conditions in the industry. They came back to the Government at a later date and asked for an inquiry into the industry. As a result, the Philp Committee was set up. This Committee made a valued study of the industry and recommended that an Australian wool commission be set up. It was constrained to mention at that time that the industry lacked a voice. Finally, The Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation formed the Australian Wool Industry Conference, from the members of which came the statutory body known as the Australian Wool Board. The Board set up a Wool Marketing Committee under the provisions of section 25 (1) of the Wool Industry Act of 1962. The Wool Marketing Committee investigated the possibility of a change in the marketing system and, after study, reported to the Board. The Board then presented proposals to the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Conference, made up of wool growers with a practical knowledge of the industry, accepted this report by 45 votes to 5.
A good deal has been said about the report of the Wool Marketing Committee. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) has been active in seeking information about this report, but his interest is somewhat belated. At this time last year, members of the Australian Country Party were asking that the report of the Wool Marketing Committee be made available. It was not made available because it is simply a domestic report of the Australian Wool Board. It is the Board’s plan sent to the Conference, for which the Board is answerable. 1 think it is quite pointless to ask all the time for the report of the Wool Marketing Committee to be made available. I wonder whether the honorable member for Parkes would say to a Cabinet Minister: “You have made a policy decision to do so and so. Let me see the papers that helped you make this policy decision.” The fact is that the report of the Committee is not germane to the main point. The main point is that the Australian Wool Board made a recommendation to the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Conference accepted the recommendation by 45 votes to 5. I say it is quite useless and quite sinister to keep on harping about the report of the Wool Marketing Committee.
I am not happy about one feature of the Australian Wool Industry Conference and that is that a great many wool growers are not represented on that body. I have said this before in the House. It is my belief that the Australian Primary Producers Union should be represented. The Union has made its own study of the wool reserve prices plan within the free auction system and has come out in support of the plan. The Union has been kept out of the Conference for reasons that have been said to be somewhat frivolous, but I believe that the Union deserves a voice on the Conference. This is particularly so when we see members of the constituent bodies of the Conference deserting their representatives when the wool reserve prices plan is being considered.
The Philp Committee made many findings about the reserve prices plan, and these have been used as a basis for opposition to the plan. I would therefore like to take a look at the report of the Philp Committee. The Australian Wool Board has said quite freely, openly and often that fluctuations in price are bad for the industry, both for growers and users. The Philp Committee dealt with fluctuations. At page 23 of its report, it said -
The merchant and topmaker see in price fluctuations the opportunity to make additional profits through skilful buying and selling.
It also made a comment that is important because it deals with the manufacturers. The Committee said -
Knitters and weavers prefer stable prices for the yarns which they use.
Dealing with wool growers, the Committee said -
At page 24, the Committee referred to manufacturing companies and said -
The larger vertically integrated organisations in the- wool textile industry generally prefer wool price stability. They are primarily concerned with the management of their capital and labour and changes in the valuations of their inventories can be embarrassing.
– What paragraph is that?
– That is paragraph 107. It is quite interesting to note that in paragraph 108 the Committee reported that the West German weavers were concerned about price instability and asked that a study be made of price stability. In this paragraph, the Committee also said - the National Hosiery Manufacturers’ Association in the United Kingdom favours price stability. Two of the largest hosiery manufacturers in the United Kingdom stated to the Committee that price instability was a deterrent to their use of wool ….
Even at that time, price fluctuation was causing worry. At page 24, under the heading “ Summary and Conclusions “, the Committee said -
Wool price fluctuations must be regarded as a disadvantage to the use of wool in competition with the more stable-priced synthetics.
The Philp Committee submitted its report in 1962. At page 7 it listed fluctuations in wool prices from 1951-52 to 1961-62. These fluctuations are as follows -
The House can see that there has been a great deal of fluctuation in the price of wool. The Philp Committee, at page 25 of its report, said - this is very relevant to the argument about fluctuations - that in June 1961 the International Wool Textile Organisation decided that it would “ prefer to suffer such a range of fluctuations as has obtained in the last two seasons rather than face the uncertainty arising from the accumulation of stocks in the hands of a marketing authority”. It is interesting to note the price fluctuations in the two seasons that were mentioned. In 1959-60 the price was 57.78d. and in 1960-61 it was 52.06d. The handling of a range of 5d. ought to be well within the competence of the reserve price organisation.
I have a great respect for the auction system. I also have a great respect for the wool firms and stock firms. I know at first hand what assistance they can be to farmers in good times and bad times. I do not believe that any of us in this Parliament can overestimate the value of the wool firms in the development of Australia. The Philp Committee, in its report, expressed the feeling that the auction system was the best and most efficient means of disposing of a large parcel of wool. It also recognised that seasonal factors mitigate against an even flow of wool. The Committee said that the auction system permits merchants to buy at low prices to hold wool until the demand strengthens and then to make a sale. Merchants also have the ability to hedge their purchases through the futures market. The Philp Committee said, at page 25 of its report, that the merchants, by their very operations, tend to create price fluctuations.
The Philp Committee went on to deal with firm offering, forward selling and private treaties. It was worried about each of those matters and their effect on the price of wool. Finally, the Committee decided that there was no need to change the marketing system. The Committee was also worried about the operation of pies. At page 34 of its report, it said -
The Committee has formed the opinion that, while the effect of pies and lot splitting in reducing prices is not great, they do have a depressing influence on the market.’
So, the Philp Committee was quite alarmed about all the various forces that are at work in the wool industry and their effect on the wool market. Finally, it decided against alteration of the present marketing system. That decision was made after anxious consideration. lt is quite obvious that the Committee gave anxious thought to whether or not it should recommend some change, and finally came down on the should-not side.
Farmers and graziers throughout the electorate have been asking this question: Why should there be a change now? This question has been dealt with quite effectively by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser). They pointed out that the lifting of patent rights has freed the sales of artificial fibres. Artificial fibres are not controlled now. They are in easy supply. Therefore, price fluctuations affect more and more the sale of wool to manufacturers who are able to buy artificial fibres at stable prices and at regular intervals. The reason why there has been vertical integration in the manufacturing industry is that manufacturers who use wool have found that they have had to integrate in order to get rid of the middle men - the dealers and merchants - and so lower their costs.
I wish to evaluate some of the questions that arise in the minds of growers. I suggest to growers that they should have the following points in mind when they are considering whether they should vote for or against this scheme. The Australian Wool Board has said that it recognises that there are risks involved in the scheme. As soon as it said that, there was great criticism of it for making that admission. I think there would have been more criticism of the Board by the growers if it had not recognised that risks were involved. At least we know that the Board is aware of the risks and can take precautions against them.
Yesterday we saw the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) present a petition in the House. I point out with great respect to the growers who signed that petition that, in my opinion, the so-called facts in it are pure assumptions. The first item in it reads -
If an error were made in fixing the level of tha reserve price, or if through an unforeseen event after it had been fixed, the reserve price was too high, the probable result would be an accumulation of a large wool stockpile.
Having made that assumption - “ if an error were made “ - the petition goes on to say -
The existence of such a stockpile would necessarily limit the free flow of wool to world markets.
A limitation on the free flow of wool would cause the demand for wool to be further ‘diverted to synthetic fibres.
No one challenges that, if the assumption proved to be correct, the consequences referred to in the petition might follow. What I challenge is the assumption that the Wool Marketing Authority will be so far out in fixing the reserve price as to enable those consequences to follow.
Let us look at the position of the wool industry. First, I suppose that we all are optimistic that wool will retain its position among the world’s fibres. If it does retain its position, that must lessen the fear that the people who signed this petition have in their minds about the possibility of fixing an incorrect price. After all, about 3,000 types of wool are sold from the wool industry. Let us not forget that already, in respect of many of those 3,000 types, reserve prices are fixed by the owner or the wool brokers. I know from personal experience that, in respect of much of this wool, the reserve price is fixed closer to the actual price than it would be under a conservative reserve price scheme. It is obvious that within the industry itself, and particularly in the wool firms, there are plenty of experienced valuers who could assist in fixing the reserve price. Fixing the reserve price may involve a risk, but there will be a greater risk to the whole of the Australian economy if wool loses its value. If that happened the whole economy would be in danger. Finally the petition states -
Funds which should be and would be better used for research and promotion would be applied to financing the proposed scheme.
Are the growers who signed the petition suggesting that if this scheme is defeated they would like to see another £4 million spent on research and promotion? I ask this question: Has there not been a fair bit of criticism already about the spending of money on promotion?
One of the major fears that some wool growers have - this fear has been added to outside the House and it was referred to more directly, by inference, last night - is the fear of acquisition. This possibility has been denied time and time again. Mr. A. R. Beggs, a Victorian member of the Australian Wool Board, when speaking at Yarram in my electorate, said, as reported in the “ Yarram News “ -
Opponents of the reserve price plan have claimed that the plan would lead to an acquisition scheme and to Government control of the wool industry.
These issues have been raised by a minority of bitter opponents of the plan who are trying to discredit the integrity of the Australian Wool Board for their own purposes.
The Board is confident that thinking growers will treat such claims with the contempt they deserve.
Mr. Beggs comes from a very well known family in Victoria and is a highly respected member of the community. The possibility of acquisition has been denied also by the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board. He has said again and again that this scheme cannot lead to acquisition and that there will be no further changes to the scheme without reference to the industry.
I suggest to wool growers that when they are trying to make up their minds whether they will vote yes or no for this scheme that they should have a look at where the opposition to the scheme is coming from. It is quite obvious, from the money being spent on a campaign to create confusion, that the opposition campaign is not being financed only from wool growers’ money.
An advertisement in one of the newspapers in my own electorate of Gippsland measures 15 inches by 9 inches and cost £35 to insert. I do not know how many local newspapers are going to run that advertisement, but I know that it has been published in every State in Australia. I know that it has been published in many newspapers in every country electorate in Victoria. Those who are saying that the Australian Wool Board is spending a lot of money should also consider what the opponents of the scheme are spending. They are certainly spending thousands and thousands of pounds. I think that the validity of the arguments used in these advertisements is very much open to question. I believe that the opposition to this scheme is coming from some merchants and speculators who know that if a reserve price plan is introduced their operations will be inhibited.
– That is pretty rough on the honorable member for Parkes.
– Never mind whom it is rough on. My statement is true. The opposition has been spearheaded by three of the wool brokers. I think that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Wannon yesterday pointed out the connection of these brokers with the vested interests opposing the scheme. Wool growers should study the excellent speech of the honorable member for .Wannon and also the speech of the honorable member for Lalor. I believe that a study of those speeches will help wool growers considerably in forming their judgment. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Maisey) also made an excellent contribution to the debate and wool growers should study his speech too. lt is claimed that whilst the Philp Committee had to consider anxiously any recommendation for a change in the present system, the Australian Wool Board had no difficulty - I think those were the words used - in coming to a conclusion. It is quite obvious that the Philp Committee, when anxiously considering this matter, was not sure that it was making the right decision, but the Wool Board, having in mind the changed circumstances of the present time - and we are living in changing times - came to its decision without difficulty. An interesting point is that one of the opponents to the scheme, the General
Manager of the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Co. Ltd., Mr. George Le Couteur who has been critical of the Board for coming to a quick conclusion, also can be criticised for coming to a quick conclusion and putting up an alternative plan. It seems that in Canberra one night he propounded a scheme which he said was an alternative to that proposed by the Wool Board. He propounded that scheme after having considerably less time to formulate a plan than the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Australian Wool Board had. I feel like asking Mr. Le Couteur why, over the years he has been in the industry, he has not proposed something constructive in the past. I should also like to know what has happened to the plan that he produced that night. I think that the wool growers of Australia, when making up their minds about the reserve price plan, should look at the plan propounded by Mr. Le Couteur
Let us have a look at it. First, he proposed that there should be a system of partial price equalisation. Secondly, he said that there should be a plan for immediate implementation of emergency price support. Who is being radical now? In my view it is Mr. Le Couteur in proposing such a radical plan. He does not support his plan with any fact’s or figures, nor does he say how it is to be financed or how much it is going to cost.
I appeal to members of this Parliament, and to people outside, to stop the vilification that has been going on about certain members of the Australian Wool Board, and I also certainly ask all members of the Parliament and interested people outside to stop creating confusion and try to do something constructive.
– The honorable member wants a monopoly of vilification, does he?
– I am not vilifying anybody; I have spoken the plain truth. I suggest that this vilification be stopped by both sides. Let us have some constructive proposals that will help the industry. Let us remember also that the members of the Australian Wool Industry Conference have been in the wool industry most of their lives. They are practical men who understand the problems of the industry. They are not fly by night people who have no particular interest in whether the scheme is good or bad. They have done a lot of study of the Philp Committee report and other reports on their own initiative. Let us help the wool growers make a proper judgment on this matter. Let us make sure they get the right information to help them to come to a proper decision.
The honorable member for Parkes accused me of engaging in some vilifying. Let me remind him that last night he gave tacit support himself to this campaign when he implied that the veracity of the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board was open to question.
– I impugned his accuracy; I gave chapter and verse for it.
– I will now give chapter and verse in reply. The honorable member for Parkes quoted a letter from the International Wool Textile Organisation. The fact of the matter is that there was no vote by individual members of that organisation because individual members of the organisation do not vote. But, countries do vote, and countries did vote. Despite what the honorable member for Parkes said the organisation did pass a resolution supporting a reserve price plan. Let the honorable member for Parkes deny that.
I repeat in conclusion that I think it is important that all emotion should be taken out of this issue and that there should be no vilification by people on either side. Let us strip the matter of emotion and let the wool growers decide for themselves.
.- I am amazed that such heat should be developed in debating the proposal embodied in this Bill. On analysing the speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and the Bill itself we find that the proposal is merely one to allow those engaged in the wool growing industry to decide on the organisation and the future of the industry. Of course, the industry is one that should concern all people in Australia, whether they live in the cities or in what we might describe as the backblocks, because this industry produces our principal exportable commodity. Australia has about one sixth of the total sheep population of the world.
I am very concerned and alarmed at the attitude of hostility to this proposal of some members of the Government parties, particularly those belonging to the Liberal branch of the coalition. I would say that these honorable members are not very concerned about the outcome of the Bill in the House. They are not prepared to vote against it. Whilst they damn it with faint praise on the one hand, they kick it with all their might on the other. They think that by working up a campaign of vilification in this House they will create confusion in the minds of those who will be called upon to vote and thereby bring about the defeat of the referendum proposal for which this Bill is making provision.
There has been a lot of propaganda issued through the Press, particularly the country Press, and much of it has got on to a personal basis. I am alarmed at the attitude taken by some of the members of the Government. In past years, I have read in the Tory Press of efforts being made to undermine the Australian economy or to bankrupt our basic industries, and invariably the Press has come up with the finding that all these things have been inspired by Communist gold. In view of the sudden upsurge of hostility to stabilising the prices paid for our principal exportable commodity, one might be pardoned for saying: “ I see Communist gold being thrust in to aid this campaign “. Of course, those who are ever ready to espouse a smear campaign in this House are those who are carrying on the campaign against the wool industry on this occasion.
I am sure that some of those who have expressed such hostility to the proposition we are considering are not aware of this industry’s real importance to Australia. Let me refer briefly to Australia’s sheep population. The figures I propose to quote are the latest available, those for 1963, but I am afraid that the numbers will have been reduced considerably by now because of the disastrous drought that Australia has experienced in recent months. In 1963 the total sheep population of Australia was 158,622,000. By far the greatest wool producing State in Australia is New South Wales, which has a sheep population of 70 million. Victoria comes next. The number of sheep grazing on properties in that State is 27,400,000. Victoria is followed closely by Queensland, which has a sheep population of 22,800,000. The other States follow. As so many people depend upon this industry for their livelihood, and as wool is our principal export commodity. I feel that anything that can be done to stabilise the industry, or to lift it out of the doldrums into which it appears to have fallen, is something to which this House should give very serious consideration.
Let me compare the amount of money that this industry earned for Australia in the last financial year with what it earned in the previous year. For the benefit of those few honorable members who are now in the House, I emphasise that there has been a terrific drop in Australia’s income from wool. For the year ended in June 1964, the amount that Australia received for exports of greasy wool was £429,746,000. By 1965, that sum had dropped to £360,770,000. The income from the sale of washed and scoured wool dropped from £50,694,000 to £42,302,000- a drop of something like £8 million - over the same period.
It is not merely by a coincidence that this state of affairs has come about. Wool is a commodity for which there is a demand throughout the world. It is an unfortunate truth that wool is fighting a battle with synthetics at the present time, but wool has good warmth giving qualities. As the great majority of the wealthy people of the world live in the colder climates, there is a demand for good quality warmth producing material, and it is considered that wool is at no disadvantage in its competition with synthetics as a warmth producing material. But, over the years, synthetics have gone from strength to strength because of their popularity with the consuming public. It is also a fact, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon), that the fluctuations in the prices paid for wool have caused great concern to the industry and also to the manufacturers of woollen materials, Who would much prefer a degree of stability in the prices which they are asked to pay.
Over recent years, we have seen a steady decline in the price that Australia - this means the grazier - has been receiving for wool. It is time that something was done to arrest that decline. I feel that the proposition that we are debating now suggests that the Government is at last prepared to make a move in this direction. Some years ago, a commission was appointed by the Labour
Government of New South Wales. Unfortunately, that Government is out of office at the moment. That commission was presided over by Mr. Justice Cook and its purpose was to inquire into the alleged existence of buyers’ rings or pies, as they are called, which controlled purchases of wool, thus forcing down the prices paid at auction. Notwithstanding that there was an outcry from many of the Pitt Street graziers and many of the Liberal politicians of New South Wales, who denied hotly the necessity for the appointment of this commission on the ground that no such organisations existed. The commission found that at that time there were buying rings in existence. It found that buyers from certain countries who were desirous of purchasing large quantities of wool came together at meetings and decided what quantities each would buy. One buyer would then attend the auction and bid on behalf of all buyers in the ring. In this way the whole purpose of the auction system was defeated because the bidding at what should have been an auction was merely a gesture. There was no competition, and when there is no competition it cannot be said that an auction is taking place. The existence of pies was proved, and I am sure that the operation of these pies has been largely responsible for the fall in the price of wool which has been going on over such a long period.
It is a fact that the price of wool is still falling. This just cannot be allowed to continue. It is easy to say that the position will adjust itself, but it has been deteriorating for too long now and the country cannot continue to put up with this, especially in view of the fact that due to the upsurge in the volume of imports coming into the country and the decline in the prices we are receiving for our primary exports there is a huge deficit in our balance of payments. Because of the great drop in wool prices, our balance of payments position is deteriorating even further. Now, I feel that this matter has not been handled very well by the Ministers in this Government. It really hurts me to say this, but I do not think the Minister for Primary Industry comes out with flying colours for the way in which he has handled this matter. I would say that his motives have been very high ones and that he deserves credit for them. He believes he is doing something which, to his mind, will assist the industry. While I say that he has not behaved in the manner that I think he should have, I sympathise with him because of the back stabbing that is taking place behind him in the Government benches. For that reason, the Minister deserves some degree of sympathy.
The Chairman of the Australian Wool Board, who has been touring the country advocating the adoption of the scheme which the Government is to submit to growers by way of a referendum, finds that while he is endeavouring to win a preselection ballot for a seat in this Parliament, the plan that he is advocating is being described by a member of the Government as cockeyed and stupid. Well, I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will agree with me when I say that it is a rather shocking state of affairs far this country if a man who is advocating a scheme which is cockeyed and stupid is trying to enter this Parliament with the prospect, it is said, of being made a member of the Ministry almost immediately he arrives. I feel that “the accusation levelled by the member who made the charge that the scheme was cockeyed and stupid reflects very badly on him.
Several members of this Parliament have been lashed savagely by Sir William Gunn for the attitude that they are taking in this matter. Sir William refers to the honorable members for Parkes (Mr. Hughes), Bradfield (Mr. Turner), Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), Moreton (Mr. Killen) and Bowman (Dr. Gibbs). He sets them up as fools and describes them that way. Sir William has said that they have not set out to understand the problems of the wool industry. When a man of Sir William Gunn’s experience and knowledge of the industry describes these honorable members as fools it is really a severe charge.
I find that in yesterday’s issue of the “ Courier-Mail “–this is, as you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Brisbane’s leading daily newspaper - there is a letter signed by Wylie Gibbs, better known to us as the honorable member for Bowman. I quote from part of the letter -
My serious concern was that the actual plan, which is mentioned in the Bill, and therefore upon which I must vote, has never been made public. In fact, I doubt if it is even fully formulated as yet.
This is a very serious accusation to make. Of course, it must be laid at the feet of the Minister for Primary Industry. Recently in this Chamber, late at night, I saw an excellent demonstration of temper on the part of the honorable member for Bradfield - possibly justifiable temper if such a state of affairs exists. He expressed indignation, and with a great display of physical strength, he tore up a copy of daily “ Hansard “ because the Minister had refused to make available this plan. The letter written by Wylie Gibbs continues -
During my speech, I might add, I mentioned Hu i Sir William had made conflicting statements.
Sir William has a propensity for this, and for getting his facts wrong. He also is given to extravagant statements when anyone dares to express a contrary view to his own.
I wish he’d get on with an objective statement of his case and stop engaging in personalities.
If these accusations are true it is a sorry state of affairs for the primary producer that this man who has a propensity for making conflicting statements, getting his facts wrong and making exaggerated statements, is the chief spokesman for the scheme that the Government is to submit to wool growers by way of referendum if this Bill is passed by the House. I only know Sir William Gunn to look at. I have to stand aside, when he walks down the aircraft, because of his bulk. This is why I said earlier that I felt that the whole matter has been handled very badly. I feel that there is no danger of the plan being defeated in this House because, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has stated quite clearly - and I am most enthusiastically behind him - we will be voting for a plan to give some assistance to the primary producers of Australia. I believe that the Bill will not be defeated in this place. But from the confused issues which are being thrown into the fight and from the charges which are being made - I will refer to another one a little later - I feel that the propaganda being engaged in could bring about the defeat of this proposal. I hope that this state of affairs will not come about, “but I fear very much for the outcome. - The Minister was challenged on several occasions to produce the plan and the correspondence between the Australian Wool Board and the Australian Wool Industry Conference. He has refused to do so. I know that one newspaper described the situation in the words “Adermann adamant”. The Minister has refused to make this information available. If you have a case, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there is no need to hide it. If it is for the good of the people, the Minister should take them into his confidence. By doing so, the Minister will win more friends. What Government members are doing is to create a good deal of doubt in the minds of those who will vote in this referendum. There is no possibility of harmony among Government members.
– It is the growers that count.
– I am saying that there is no possibility of harmony among Government members here, all of whom loudly proclaim that they represent the wool growers. Yesterday, the honorable member for Parkes, which is in the heart of Sydney, presented a petition from 7,000 wool growers which expressed hostility to the whole proposal.
I must make one comment regarding the Country Party’s stand on this issue. This is in relation to the system of voting. I remember sitting up into the small hours of the morning only a little whole ago while the House debated the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1965. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), on behalf of the Government, was very much in favour of votes for sheep and not for men. For the present occasion, however, the Government has changed the voting system and we are to have a vote for men and not for sheep. Members of the Liberal Party, and some sections of the Press in Sydney, are strongly in favour of creating a system of voting whereby a man will have a number of votes according to the number of sheep he has. I commend the Country Party for its change of attitude. It is a great conversion which, I hope, will spread to other fields.
I believe that I must take part in this debate, because, as I said earlier, we all are involved in this matter, for it is of great national importance. Everybody is involved in this issue. The Griffith electorate is a port area, and I have in that division many men who are involved in the processing and export of wool almost as directly as the people in other parts of Queensland such as the Maranoa and Kennedy electorates. I have in my electorate large numbers of storemen who are engaged in dumping and preparing wool for sale, waterside workers who load it and railway men who transport it. All are very keenly interested in the economics of the industry, and it is in their interests that the industry be placed on an economic basis.
I wish now to quote from a letter published in today’s issue of the “ Daily Telegraph”. I must say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I do not do this with any enthusiasm at all. This letter was sent to a group of Merriwa graziers. As some honorable members know, Merriwa is in New South Wales. The letter, which was dated 21st August, was written by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall). It will bear reading, for it is in these terms -
From the tone of your letter to me of August 21, which I understand . very well, I have little chance of making a satisfactory reply.
Let me begin by saying that I distrust the reserve price plan as much as you do and sincerely hope it will be thrown out.
To that you are entitled to reply that I have done precious little to achieve that end in fixing the franchise and majority for the referendum.
The question of weighted voting power is always a vexed one and a decision on it necessarily arbitrary.
Then, in the business of politics where precedents carry enormous weight, the pass was sold in the 1951 referendum where five bales earned any producer an equal vote.
I am not going to say that was right and I would certainly have preferred more equitably weighted voting.
The conditions of the referendum had Government majority approval and, as a member of the Government, I am obliged to go along with it, inevitably accepting the criticism of dissenting constituents.
The alternative is that I should resign and this is not a resigning issue.
I would hope to see the referendum fail, but if it should pass and the scheme come into operation, I would believe that the Government retains adequate and flexible control of the situation by virtue of the establishment, from time to time, of the floor price.
However, thank you for your letter and for the telegram jointly signed by a number of Merriwa graziers.
You may rest assured I will attract the attention of my Cabinet colleagues to it.
That letter was written by the Minister for Supply, who is the member for Paterson.
– Has the honorable member a copy of the letter sent to him by the graziers?
– Is it not a pity that the honorable member has not a copy of it?
– Unfortunately, I have not. If I had, I would have read it, too, being noted for my fair dealing. I am surprised at that letter’s being written by the Minister for Supply. I placed him on a very high pedestal as a member of the Liberal Party of Australia in this Parliament. I did not think that he would be guilty of doing a thing such as this. We in the Australian Labour Party have a sense of loyalty to one another in the Party. If a decision is made in the party room, we do not go out on the highways and byways and, in effect, say: “I am bound to support this because a majority voted for it, but I do not support it “. We on this side of the Parliament do not do that sort of thing, and I hoped that the members of all parties in this Parliament would not do such a thing. I am very disappointed that the Minister for Supply has got out from under, as it were, and attempted to thrust the blame on to bis colleagues. He is not prepared to accept responsibility for the Government’s action. Again, I say, through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the Minister for Primary Industry that I am disappointed at what has happened. I sympathise with him in what he has to face from some of those who sit immediately behind him and who are prepared to stab him in the back while he tries to do the best he can for the primary producers in the discharge of his responsibilities.
Let me now read the comments on the letter written by the Minister for Supply which were thrown in for good measure by the “Daily Telegraph”. The newspaper stated -
It is understood from Cabinet Ministers, that even the Prime Minister has misgivings about the reserve price scheme.
Apparently, there have been further leaks from the Cabinet - the first eleven. The comments continue -
But support for the scheme is the price the Government is prepared to pay to keep the Country Party on side and preserve the coalition.
What a humiliating situation. What a shocking action on the part of Liberal members of the Government who, for the sake of office, are prepared to throw away their principles. The comments of the “Daily Telegraph “ continue -
The reserve price referendum is a rigged ballot achieved by political blackmail and shows lack of political integrity or guts.
Mr. Fairhall is to be congratulated on his candid letter.
In my book, he is to be condemned for his breach of faith. I agree with the honorable member for Lalor about this Bill. It has my complete approval. I know that it has been introduced in the interests of the primary producers who constitute the great wool producing community of Australia and of all who are associated with the wool industry, whether in the city or in the country. I trust that this Bill will be passed and that the referendum will be carried also.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, there are two points on which 1 agree with the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts). I agree with him that it is a pity that the full details of the reserve price scheme are not annexed to the Bill. I agree with him also that the Bill will be passed. I think it will be passed unanimously by this Parliament, because it is a Bill to provide for a referendum. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to twit the Government parties on an alleged lack of harmony in this matter. The Government, as such, neither supports nor opposes the scheme. But individual members of the Government are entitled to have their own opinion and to express it.
Our responsibility is to see that the referendum on the scheme is put squarely and fairly. 1 welcome this. I have every confidence that the vote of the wool growers will be a correct one, provided only that they are given the necessary information and facts and that the campaign of suppression designed to keep the facts from them does not succeed. I believe that the wool growers are the proper people to decide the issue. The main responsibility of us in this Parliament is to see that the details of the referendum are correctly put to those who will vote.
Not all of us - I include myself in this - are expert in matters related to wool, but all of us are expert in referendum systems, methods of voting and ways in which a referendum should be put, and we all have had experience of the kind of political manoeuvre that we have seen adopted in an endeavour to have one side of the case put and the other side suppressed. Our business is to see that the referendum is fair and square and above board and that the wool growers are not made the dupes of any minority clique that may have gained control of their formal organisations.
Having said that, I have now to say something about the scheme itself. We do not know the details of the scheme. They have not been published. Some outlines, which may or may not be adhered to because they are not official, have been published, but they are not all the same. No wool grower would sign a hire purchase contract in which he had not been able to read the fine print.
– The wool grower is not being asked to do so.
– He is being asked to do exactly that because the scheme has not been put forward officially. I believe it should be put forward and that it should be put forward officially in the only proper way, and that is as a schedule to the Bill now before us. I will come back to that in a moment. The wool growers are being asked to sign something which is a thousand times more important than any hire purchase contract and they are not being allowed to read the fine print. This is a wrong thing to ask them to do.
Now let me speak of the scheme insofar as we know it. Let us all in this House agree, and let us all as Australians interested in this great industry agree, that wool must be helped to fight back against synthetics and that there is something to be said for reducing price fluctuations. This is a laudable objective, but will this plan, so far as we know it, achieve this objective? Do its very real dangers outweigh its possible benefits? There are some advantages in the plan and if the scheme is run perfectly everything will be all right. But how often can we say of any human scheme that everything will be all right? What do we need democracy for if every government is perfect? We know that there are human failings. What happens, for example, if the reserve price is fixed, under political pressure, at an unreal level? Do you remember, Mr. Speaker, what happened in regard to Brazilian coffee when a scheme such as the one before us was in existence in Brazil? The growers demanded that the price be kept high. The price was kept high and stocks accumulated until finally the market collapsed in complete confusion and the coffee had to be burnt. We do not want that kind of thing to happen with wool because of unwise political pressure being generated. I am not trying to put Australian wool growers in the same category of unwisdom as the Brazilian coffee growers; I am simply saying that this could happen and that we do not want it to happen here.
It may be, indeed, that the plan will not reduce but will increase fluctuations. If the plan is ever operated, that is to say if at any time stocks are bought in and stocks accumulate, manufacturers will know about it, and no manufacturer will buy wool when he has a mountain of stocks hanging over him. Manufacturers will all be frightened of a market collapse or of fluctuations and they will turn to synthetics. This could happen. It is a very real possibility - not an inevitability but a very real danger that is inherent in the scheme. In the present situation synthetics are mounting a critical battle against wool and it is perhaps a little dangerous to COUrt a situation such as I have described. We do not want to introduce unnecessary perils into a situation which already has a certain interest weakness.
Now let me turn to the answer which the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) gave me yesterday in this House. If the banks are to find £50 million - was that the figure? - for this scheme there will be a certain contraction of the amount of money available for the overdrafts of all other producers. There limits might be reduced. Would not the money be better spent - if it is available at this concessional rate of interest, and apparently’ it is - in helping some of the other men on the land with low interest overdrafts? Is this reserved price proposal the best way to absorb our limited available funds? .
There are alternative schemes but they have never really received proper consideration by the public. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin) was constructive today in suggesting that perhaps some small part of these funds should be used to finance overseas buyers when they experience balance of payments difficulties. We do this kind of thing in respect of wheat. We give our Communist enemies tens of millions of pounds worth of credit for the purchase of Australian wheat; why can we not give our friends and allies, if necessary, a few million pounds worth of credit from time to time for the purchase of Australian wool and the sustaining of the price of Australian wool? Would not this be a much better way of using , the money and would it not be much more helpful for the growers?
These are all considerations that we should think about. Speaking as somebody with not a great deal of experience in wool growing but with some experience in wool marketing and as someone who believes the scheme is likely to go wrong, I find myself, on balance, opposed to the scheme. I do not want to say that it has no merit, but it has dangers which far outweigh any merit that it may have. I would not put up my own view on this if I were not backed by very responsible authorities such as the former Chairman of the Australian Wool Board, Mr. T. G- Carter, who is leading the opposition to the scheme, Mr. R. J. Hawkes, a former member of the Wool Board and Mr. W. J. R. Wilson, a former President of the Graziers Association of Victoria. These are not people one can write off as being of no consequence. Associations representing people producing more than half the Australian wool clip are opposed to this scheme.
It is said that the official organisation has supported it by a large vote, and this is true, but are the opinions of those office bearers- those who voted for it - necessarily- representative of the opinions of wool growers? I ‘ ask honorable members to cast their minds back to August of 1951 when the same associations,, or very nearly the same - the organised representatives of wool growers - supported a referendum proposal on almost a similar issue, just as these representatives are doing now. That referendum proposal was beaten by the wool growers by 63,740 votes to 16,310, a majority of more than three to one. Those who supported the proposal at that time said they represented the opinions of the wool growers. How wrong they were then. How wrong they may well be today. That referendum proposal was carried only in Western Australia, and then only by a small majority. It was overwhelmingly beaten in every other State. If the representatives misjudged the situation then, asked the wool growers to support them and then were found to be wrong, why should they not be wrong today?
The advocates of this plan have not been entirely honest. I regret to say that Sir William Gunn himself appears to have two barrels pointing in different directions. He referred, for example, to the New Zealand scheme at one period as something admirable and at another period as something which is no good at all. He has rather tended to misquote, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) showed us last night, the references that the wool trade has made to this scheme. Let me tell the House of something about which it has not yet been told. I find in a report in the “Coonabarabran Times” of 8th July this year that Sir William Gunn, in a speech advocating the scheme, said that the scheme would “ eliminate private buying “. Looking at the Perth “ West Australian “ of 10th August 1965 and checking it with the Western Australian “ Farmers Weekly “ of 19th August 1965, I find that when Sir William got over to Western Australia, where private buying is quite important, he said that he wants to support private buying and that nothing will be done to interfere with it.
– Two bob each way?
– A two bob each way betting man I am told. We have had in this debate the technique of partial quotation used by the advocates of this scheme. The Philp report has been mentioned, but the conclusions of the Philp Committee have not been stressed. There has been some suppression of the truth.
As to the “Yes” and “No” casesboth sides of the question - I am glad to see the the Government has acceded to our pressure. In spite of the protests, and in the teeth of the protests from members of the Australian Country Party, it has been decided that both sides of the case are to be presented. Does that break their heart? Is this not fair? Is it not reasonable? Why was this provision not put in the Bill in the first place? Perhaps the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) will be able to tell us. Then we had the suppression of the marketing report, and finally the supplementary Jenkins report was suppressed. Honorable members will recall that Mr. Jenkins was seconded from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. He submitted his first report to the Wool Board in May 1964. The Board did not want to release the report, but under pressure released it in December 1964. Subsequently, Mr. Jenkins put in a supplementary report about marketing, but what is in it I do not know because the Wool Board refuses to release it.
When the Secretary of the Graziers Association of New South Wales wrote to the Wool Board for a copy of the report he was told that it was confidential and that it could not be seen, or that he could see it under the seal of secrecy if he did not refer to it publicly. The first letter from the Graziers Association was sent on 5th August last, and when the secretary checked on the telephone he was given this reply: “This supplementary report is secret. It cannot be made public “. Why? This suppression is going on far too much. As I have said, it is Government policy to have this referendum, and rightly so, but it is not Government policy to advocate, as a government, either a vote for “Yes” or a vote for “No”. Some individual members may be committed on either side, but it seems to me that some individual members are inclined to try for a “ Yes “ vote at any cost. Indeed, it seems to me almost that the Bill before us, insofar as it relates to the technical provisions of the referendum, has been drawn with the specific objective of getting a “Yes” vote by preventing the “ No “ case being fairly presented. I think that the comment which I heard from a senator that the sheep drew the Bill was not quite fair because I consider that the Bill was drawn with deliberate intent. Let me say that I hope that when the Bill is before the Committee some necessary amendments to the Bill will be carried. I shall now try to outline some of these amendments, some of which I hope to move myself.
First, the Bill does not have the scheme attached to it. In the definition of “the Plan “ the Bill states - and I read from it - means the plan for maintaining reserve prices . . formulated in consultation between tha
Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Government of the Commonwealth;
I think we should strike out those words and insert as a definition - “the Plan” means the plan set out in the First Schedule to this Act.
Then in the egregious clause 4 we see -
For the purposes of this Act, the Minister shall deliver to the Chief Electoral Officer a document . . containing a statement of the Plan . . . and that statement shall … be taken to be a full and correct statement of the Plan.
This is silly. If the document can be drawn, why can it not be put in as a second schedule to the Act? Let us be honest and fair about this. What is the Minister concealing? I agree with the honorable member for Griffith that there should be no concealment. The Minister was perfectly right when he said that wool growers may not understand all the details of the plan. That is all right, but let the plan go in with the fine print as the First Schedule to the Act and let the summary of the plan, which the Minister wants to be sent out to wool growers by the Chief Electoral Officer, be put in as the Second Schedule so that we will know what goes out. It is an indignity to this House for members to be asked to vote that the Minister can have the right to make some statement in the future and to send it out as his version of the plan. I do not blame the Minister for this. We know of his great personal associations with Sir William Gunn. We know what Sir William Gunn is trying to do inside the Country Party. I am not blaming the Minister, but I do say that he should not allow his personal and political associations to divert him from his duty in this matter.
– It is about time the honorable member got near to the truth. He is right off the beam.
– I believe that it is the Minister’s duty to see that the statement is put in as a schedule to the Act.
– Cannot the honorable member read English? It is in the second reading speech where everything is explained.
– It is in the second reading speech, but why is it not in the Bill? There is no reason why it should not be. A second reading speech binds nobody.
– Does it not?
– No, but the Act does bind. The statement should be in the Bill. If the statement has been prepared, there is not the slightest reason why it should not go in as the Second Schedule.
I want to refer now to something which is undoubtedly an error in the Bill. The definition of “ wool grower “ is wrong and I do not think it is as the Minister intended. If honorable members look at the definition of “ wool grower “ in clause 3 they will see that it reads - “ wool-grower “ means a person who owns sheep that are kept wholly or partly for the purpose of the production of shorn wool.
If honorable members will then look at clause 9 they will see that a voter includes somebody who owns not less than 300 sheep. As the Bill is drawn, anybody could buy 300 sheep - he would not have to hold them for more than a few days - and he would become entitled to a vote. This is perfectly silly.
– It would be pretty expensive.
– It would not be expensive because the sheep could be bought and then sold. A person would not have to keep them on his property. That is not required by the definition. It may be said that no wool grower would do this. I do not think that any wool grower would do this, but this provision in the Bill gives a vote to anybody who has IS quid because starving sheep can be bought at a starving sheep price in parts of Australia. All one has to do is have a piece of paper to show that he owns the sheep for a few hours and he can then pass them on to somebody else. It is not right that a person should be able to do this and I do not believe that this was intended. In fact, I know that it was not intended.
– Look at the definition of “ wool grower “.
– I read the definition, which states - “ wool-grower “ means a person who owns sheep that are kept wholly or partly for the purpose of the production of shorn wool.
It does not say that the person must have that purpose; it says that the sheep are kept for that purpose. In that definition the gate is left open for all sorts of malpractice. I hope the Minister will make the necessary technical amendments to this Bill.
If honorable members look at clause 12 they will see a very peculiar position in regard to partnerships. If a partnership of two produces 19 bales of wool, neither partner can vote. This anomaly can be quite easily cured by putting in a little clause to provide that members of the partnership may opt to vote unanimously either “ Yes “ or “ No “. I hope that the Minister will consent to this amendment. It is quite easy to cure this defect and there is no reason why it should not be cured.
I refer next to the date of the referendum. There are stories current - I do not know whether they are true or not - that the Government intends to rush this through before the other case can be put and try to close the referendum sometime about the end of October. I find this hard to believe, but the rumours are current. If this is done it will be a travesty of all natural justice because the wool growers have a right to hear the “No” case which is to be prepared. They have a right to discuss this after they get the case. Why should they be hurried and rushed into making a decision? A few weeks will make no difference. Let them have time. Let the Bill be drawn so as to prescribe a date, which shall not be before a date that the Minister can name provided it is a reasonable date. Some time in December perhaps would be a reasonable date. The wool growers should have a few weeks to look at this proposal. Why this insane desire to rush them into a decision before they know the real facts?
What about the rolls? There may be a precedent for this, but if there is it is a wrong principle. The rolls are not to close before the taking of the vote; they are to remain flexible during the whole of the taking of the vote. There is no provision in the Bill - I understand that the Minister may be making one - for the exhibition of rolls. People will not know whether they are on the roll and they will not know other people are improperly on the roll. There is no provision for secrecy of the ballot. Perhaps it will be contained in the regulations, and perhaps the Minister will tell us about that.
I am not concerned with the controversy that has been stirred up concerning the small man and the big man. I am not very impressed by it one way or the other, because I do not believe there is any difference in interest between the small man and the big man. They are both interested in sustaining high wool prices and I do not see that there is any cleavage between them. I am not really frightened in any way that the small man will carry a “ Yes “ vote, because I think that the small man, although not always so well informed on these matters as his more experienced neighbour, is a responsible man. His livelihood is just as much at stake as that of the big man. I am not frightened of the small man’s vote; rather do I welcome it. because I believe there is much practical common sense among small wool growers. We should not say, as some people have said, that the small man in this respect will be different from the big man. They both have the same interests. Indeed, the small man may be even more concerned than the big man, because the small man’s whole livelihood may be involved whereas the big man may have other interests to fall back on.
– What is a big man?
– Sir William Gunn, for example, with his big interests in cattle and tobacco. Has he still interests in rice since the Humpty Doo fiasco? I cannot remember. He has big interests in tobacco, cattle and other things. It will not affect him very much if this scheme turns out disastrously. He has another room - another refuge - to fly to, but the small man may not be in the same comfortable position. I do not very much appreciate Sir William Gunn’s going around pretending to be the friend of the small man. One gets a little tired of this synthetic hayseed. He is not a small man; he is a big man. When he comes forward as the champion of the small man against the big man, when there is really no difference or cleavage of interest between the two in this matter, one suspects the worst. He has other interests. He is trying to make the wool bale his stepping stone to political power. This Bill is his baby, even though he has prevailed on Uncle Charlie to adopt it.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member withdraw that remark.
– Very well, Sir. It is his baby, even though he has prevailed upon the Minister for Primary Industry to adopt it.
– I must be pretty influential if I can persuade the whole Cabinet to adopt it.
– Yes. I think in this case the Minister may have said a mouthful. I do not think that this Bill is really designed for the wool growers; rather have we seen some jockeying for positions inside the formal organisation of the Country Party. As politicians we cannot always frown on this. We know that jockeying for position inside a party must go on, but I do not see why this should be the cause of sacrificing the interests of the Australian wool industry. As we well know, mC3t ot the members of the Country Party arc not in the wool growing industry. The main wealth of the country may be in wool growing but the numbers lie with sugar, dried fruits, tobacco and things of that character, so it is not really the wool growers who are deciding Country Party policy, even though the Country Party may be keeping a solid front and a stiff upper lip in regard to this.
I support entirely the principle of a referendum. At the Committee stage I shall be moving - and I hope I shall have some support for them - some reasonable amendments directed only at making the referendum a little fairer and in ensuring that wool growers are able to cast proper, free and informed votes. For my own part, I think that although the scheme has some very well-intentioned supporters - and I can see their viewpoint- on balance it is a scheme where the dangers outweigh the advantages. I think it is being prosecuted by some of its sponsors not entirely for disinterested motives. I can only say to the wool growers: “Do not go down Gunn’s Gully; you might get done over down there”.
– I must confess that I share the view of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that he knows very little about the wool industry. The fact that I have been engaged in the industry since the end of the First World War is beside the point. It has, of course, enabled me to maintain a family and keep a wife alive, as well as myself, despite the vagaries of such an occupation. In those years I have learned a few things about the life of those engaged in the wool industry, but only as a small farmer - a small grazier. I have found that the wool growers know what they want, but they do not know how to get it. They have tried in many ways to improve their position. They look for lower costs. They look for higher prices. They look for stability and profitability. Now they have come to this Government with a proposition that they believe is going to help them in their search for a better life. It is up to this Government to do what it can to give them that better life.
We are discussing - although one might not believe it from the last speech we heard - “A Bill for an Act to provide for a referendum for the purpose of ascertaining whether the wool growers of Australia approve a certain plan for maintaining reserve prices for Australian wool sold at auction.”
I have read the preamble to the Bill in detail because it gives the key to the whole discussion that has taken place. We are not strictly debating the plan at all. We are debating a bill that provides for the holding of a referendum. We are debating a bill for an act to discover whether the wool growers of Australia approve a certain plan. We are debating a bill for an act which will refer to maintaining reserve prices for Australian wool sold at auction. I mention these detailed points because many careless references have been made over the past few months to this plan as a completely new plan. We have been told that it is entirely new and that we have not had a plan like it before. It is not new. This is a referendum to enable the wool growers to approve or disapprove of a plan that provides for the maintenance of reserve prices within the present auction system.
The interpretation clause of the Bill should give the key to the debate. The clause includes these words - “ the Plan “ means the plan for maintaining reserve prices for Australian wool sold at auction -
I ask honorable members to note the next words - that has been formulated in consultation between the Australian Wool Industry Conference and tha Government of the Commonwealth;
Suggestions have been made that this is a plan of the Australian Country Party. The honorable member for Mackellar suggested that the Country Party was sponsoring this plan. If he had taken the care to read the Bill he would have seen that this plan has been formulated in consultation between the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Government of the Commonwealth.
– This is a wool growers’ plan.
– That is so. It is not a Country Party plan, a Liberal Party plan, a Labour Party plan or a Government plan. It is a plan agreed upon between the industry and the Government.
– It has not been agreed upon.
– It has been agreed upon between the industry and the Government. If the honorable member denies that it has been agreed upon, he does not know what he is talking about. The plan has been formulated in consultation between the Conference and the Government. Does the honorable member for Mackellar say that the statement published in the Bill is not correct? If he wants to say this, he is welcome to do so.
– I say it is not published in the Bill. That is all I said.
– If he says the Bill is not correct, nobody in the House would agree with him. I emphasise that this plan follows a policy that has been in force for some years. The policy gives the wool growing industry and other primary industries an opportunity to decide what they want and then to come to the Government and say: “ We ask you to support us in a scheme that we believe will assist our industry and assist Australia.” The records of “ Hansard “ show that this policy has been repeated time and time again. It has always been the policy of the Australian Country Party and the policy of the Government to provide for the orderly marketing of primary products, using the system of orderly marketing decided upon by those engaged in the industry. This is the principle embodied in the policy of the Australian Country Party and it is the principle that has been adopted by the Government in its approach to primary industries. We believe that the Government has a right to protect the interests of the electorate and of the taxpayers. These interests are protected by giving the people concerned the opportunity to take part in the deliberations.
As I have said, the Bill deals primarily with the holding of a referendum and not with the plan that has been formulated. I want to say a few words about that point now. The holding of a referendum is the prime issue to be debated here, but other points are associated with this issue. I have in mind such matters as the form of the referendum, whether it will be a compulsory referendum, whether it will be by postal vote and so on. Another consideration is the qualification of voters, and this has exercised the minds of many honorable members and has caused a lot of trouble. Then there is the question of approval - whether the plan will be approved by a simple majority or in some other way. Associated with all this is the plan itself. After all, those who have the right to vote should know what they are voting about. Therefore, the plan will be put forward, not necessarily for discussion at this stage but for the benefit of voters so that when they record their votes they will know that they are voting “Yes” for a specific plan or “No” against that plan. Provision is made so that when a voter casts his vote he will know what he is voting about, because a copy of the plan will be included with his ballot paper.
Before we go into detail on these matters, I want to refer to the history of the wool industry. This has been mentioned by other honorable members. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) yesterday spoke of efforts some years ago to free the industry from the problems associated with it. Other honorable members have also referred to the problems of the industry. We know that in 1950 and 1951 prices were high and the industry was thriving. Then prices started to fall and costs increased, and the industry fell on bad days. In 1962, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) introduced the Wool Industry Bill. Incidentally, this Bill was opposed by my friend the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), who was interjecting a little while ago. He asked the Parliament to support an amendment that had been moved by his party. However, I am pleased to say that the Bill survived and is now law. The Wool
Industry Bill adopted recommendations made by the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry, which is known as the Philp Committee. The Commitee recommended that some alterations be made in the structure of the Australian Wool Bureau, as it was in those days, and its associated bodies, the Wool Research Committee and the Australian Wool Testing Authority. It recommended that the functions of these bodies be taken over by the Australian Wool Board, which was a new organisation, and that research into marketing be continued. The Wool Industry Bill, in giving effect to the recommendations of the Committee, established the system as we know it today.
Another recommendation of the Philp Committee was adopted and this resulted in the establishment of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Conference had an effect that was rather remarkable for the wool industry. It brought together into one organisation a. number of groups that were not associated at that time and it reduced the number of individual organiations in the industry to two. They were the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. I quite agree with my friend, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon), that another organisation, the Australian Primary Producers Union, should be given an opportunity to join the Conference and I hope that as time goes on the Union will join the Conference so that, as I have said before, all wool growing organisations will be represented in this Conference of 50 members.
– Fifty wool growers.
– That is right. The Australian Wool Board is a statutory organisation. The Australian Wool Industry Conference is not a statutory organisation, but it is one voice speaking for the industry. I remind honorable members that the crux of the legislation that is now before us is a plan that was formulated in consultation between the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Government of the Commonwealth. This, in many respects, is the key to much of the argument that has taken place up to the present. By the way, the industry decides the constitution and composition of the Australian Wool Industry
Conference. Therefore, the Conference is well capable of speaking for the industry.
The stated policy of the Federal wool grower organisations is that no fundamental change should be made in the present system of wool marketing without the approval of wool growers at a referendum. A referendum has now been asked for by the Wool Industry Conference. A bill has been formulated by the Conference and the Government to provide for a referendum.
Certain criticisms of this Bill have been made in the face of the fact that the wool grower organisations have asked for this referendum and have agreed on quite a number of the matters that have been discussed during this debate. I wish to deal very briefly with some of those matters. The Bill has been debated very fully, but I believe that we should review some of the matters that have been raised over the last month or so.
– Is the honorable member for the plan or against it?
– In reply to that interjection I will say exactly what previous speakers have said. I am not advocating a vote in favour of the plan or against it.
As the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Armstrong) said, our great concern should be not whether or not this referendum will be carried, but that the great wool industry is not split in halves. It has been threatened with being split because of the impassioned and bitter objections that have been raised by various people. This industry and the organisation that has been built up by the Minister for Primary Industry are too valuable to be destroyed in that way. It is for the industry to decide whether or not it wants this plan. I do not believe that it is for politicians to try to tell the industry whether or not it should have this plan. This plan is the industry’s conception. I agree with the honorable member for Mackellar who said that this is a matter for decision by the wool growers and the main reason why we are here is to ensure that the referendum is square and above board. In my mind there is no doubt that the referendum will be square and above board.
Let me deal with matters connected with the referendum. First, there is the form of the referendum. There has been no quibble at all about its being held in the form that is laid down in this Bill. I have not heard any objection at all to that form. Secondly, there are the conditions, such as whether the referendum should be compulsory and whether it should be held by postal ballot. I have not heard any complaints at all on that score. Some people have said that they cannot see why it should be compulsory. The Minister said in his second reading speech that he believed it should be compulsory because it is such a vital matter that everybody concerned with it should vote on it. I subscribe to that view.
The qualifications of voters is a matter on which there is quite a diversity of opinion. Some people ask these questions: Why should the grower with 10 bales be entitled to a vote? Why should not the minimum be 20 bales or 30 bales? Some people have contended that a grower should have one vote for every so many bales; say, every 10 bales or every 300 bales. On that basis growers would have a varying number of votes. I wish to make one or two points that have a decided bearing on this matter. There is no qualification for a member of a wool grower organisation, except that of being a grower within the true meaning of the word. As a member of an organisation, a grower has only one vote, no matter whether he has 100 sheep or 10,000 sheep. So, I cannot see why in this referendum it should be reasonable for a grower to have votes according to the number of sheep that he has.
The qualifications of voters were also questioned with reference to 19 bale partnerships. How many 19 bale partnerships will be affected by this plan? I venture to suggest that there will be only a handful. If the qualification were altered to 15 bales people would talk about 29 bale partnerships. If it were altered to 20 bales, people would talk about 39 bale partnerships. If the qualification were altered to conform with the views of those people, more anomalies would be created. So, why argue the point about it?
Let us get this straight in our minds: In dealing with a problem as tremendous as a referendum on a plan for this enormous industry, there will be anomalies. We just have to put up with them. We have to compromise. We have to have a system under which the industry says to the Government: “This is what we believe should be in your bill; “ and if the Government says: “We do not agree with that”, somebody has to compromise sooner or later so that the industry and the Government can say: “ All right, we agree on that “. If we turn around at this stage and alter the whole plan, we will only start all over again. Some times I begin to wonder whether that has not been the objective of some people in this instance. An attempt has been made to confuse the issue so much that we will not quite know where we stand.
I also draw attention to what has happened in other industries. Quite a number of boards have been established in respect of other industries. A number of plans have been brought before this House. A little while ago the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) reminded me that the heat that has been generated in this debate is remarkable. We did not have anything like the same heat generated or the same concern shown in debates on hens and egg boards or in debates on bees and honey boards. There has not been the same concern when stabilisation plans have been introduced in respect of the wheat industry about which my friend, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), knows so much. Honorable members have not stood up and said that a wheat grower should have at least 150, 200 or 500 acres under wheat before he will be entitled to vote for a member of the Australian Wheat Board. It has not been suggested that a wheatgrower should have one vote for every 100 acres that he has under wheat. These matters have not been considered in respect of other industries. Why should this industry be the one to attract all this trouble to it?
Another question that has been raised is whether the majority required should be a simple majority, a 60-40 majority or some other majority. The Australian Wool Industry Conference has asked for a simple majority, just as it has asked for a ten bale qualification and that a grower with ten bales should have one vote and a grower with 200 bales should have one vote. The industry has asked for these things and the Government has agreed to them. I believe that the results should be determined by a simple majority. I confess that I had some doubts about this matter at first. But now I find that the constitution of the Australian Wool Industry Conference can be altered by a simple majority. If it is good enough for the Conference to alter its constitution by a simple majority, I believe that it is good enough for this referendum to be carried by a simple majority.
One could continue to talk about this matter for a long time without getting anywhere at all. There are always great problems affecting this industry. The industry believes that some of those problems can be solved by the adoption of this plan. During the short period of this debate quite a number of varied matters have been raised. There has been considerable debate on the plan itself. As I said earlier, I do not wish to take any part in that part of the debate. I believe that it is up to the industry itself to make a decision on the plan. The function of the Government is to give the industry what it asks for. The Government has promised to do that. It has promised that if the industry decides in favour of this plan it will introduce legislation to implement the plan. The industry has asked for a referendum in this instance and I believe that it is the function of the Government to agree to that request. The stated policy of the wool growers’ organisations is that no fundamental change should be made in the present system of wool marketing without the approval of wool growers at a referendum. If the wool growers come to the Minister and say that they want a referendum to decide whether this plan should be approved then I think it is up to us to approve of their application for a referendum and grant their request without quibbling so much about the details. The proposal originated in the industry as a result of the action of the Minister for Primary Industry in formulating the Australian Wool Board and making it possible for the Australian Wool Industry Conference to be formed. This is the first time in my recollection, going back a long way, that the wool industry of Australia has been able to speak with one voice. It is a wonderful achievement of which the Minister may be proud. If this were a plan it would go down in history as the Adermann Plan. But it is not. It will simply go down in history as the Australian Wool Industry Conference, but it will not be forgotten that it was the Minister’s creation.
I deplore that associations in the Australian Wool Industry Conference are so vocal, not only in publicity but through their representatives, in criticising suggestions put forward by their own industry organisation, the Australian Wool Industry Conference. If it is good enough for the Conference to speak for them, it is good enough for them to stand by the Conference. I make no apology for that statement. The plan has been approved by the executive of the industry and by the Government. It has been approved by the Conference. Details of the referendum have been formulated by the industry and the Government and it is for this Parliament to pass this legislation. Let us get on with the job.
.- The Opposition supports this Bill, which confers upon wool growers the opportunity to vote for a reserve price plan for the sale of Australia’s wool clip. The Labour Party considers that an affirmative vote by the growers will be in the best interests of the industry and of the nation. The defeat of the referendum proposal will mean the continuance of the present system. The Opposition’s primary consideration is that there should be a just price for our wool clip and that the producers should be protected against the operations of those who manipulate the market.
As far as the Opposition is concerned the issues are clearcut. It will be a vote for either a reserve price plan or for the continuance of the present system with all its difficulties, all its problems, all its hazards and all the frightening consequences it has had for the man on the land - the wool grower - over the years. The Opposition is not giving blanket approval to any cognate bill that may be submitted subsequently to the Parliament. The attitude of members of the Opposition is that the growers should be entitled to determine this matter and we believe also that a reserve price plan for orderly marketing is in the best interests of the growers and the nation. Orderly marketing has been accepted in regard to wheat, dried fruits, dairy products and a number of other primary products. We believe that it is in the best interests of the man on the land, and the nation, that a fair and just price should be obtained for the nation’s clip.
I say quite clearly that I believe that the fullest information should always be given to the Parliament and to those engaged in the industry. I was pleased to hear from the
Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) that additional information will be going out to growers to enable them to decide this question that is of such importance to them and to the country. They will be armed with information that will be most valuable to them. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) referred to the desirability of having annexed to the Bill a copy of the proposal. That would be a very fine thing and few of us would disagree with such a procedure. However, I wonder at times, when opposition is raised against proposals such as this by certain members on the Government side - most of whom represent metropolitan electorates - why they have such faith in their Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), their Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and the Government at election time, when policy speeches are made. There are no annexures then. There is nothing to show how what is promised is going to be underwritten. There is only the bald promise of something which members on the Government side go on to the hustings and uphold as the correct course for the nation and something which should be accepted by the people. If honorable members opposite can do that at election time without demur and without question, why do they question this proposal now? Is the government that is bringing in the proposal any different from the one which made the promises at election time? Do different people comprise the Government on this occasion? Is it not the same Prime Minister, the same Deputy Prime Minister and the same Minister for Primary Industry who are making these promises now? Yet, despite all the additional information, the people who represent city seats do not seem prepared to accept the statements of their leaders. These honorable members are opposed to the referendum. They raise all Sorts of doubts and difficulties. They want to know how these things are going to be financed.
In these difficult days the country is faced with a balance of payments problem. Last year we were £375 million down, and had it not been for the inflow of capital from overseas we would, as a Parliament, be trying to find every way we could to gain an additional pound to help balance our accounts or at least provide a more even balance between what we sell and what we buy. Yet Government supporters who oppose this proposal seem to disregard this fact. I regret that we have these doubting Thomases who notwithstanding all the information we have been given, are not prepared to accept the proposal. As the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) quite rightly said, when important pieces of legislation have been discussed and debated in this Parliament - bills dealing with orderly marketing for wheat, meat, dried fruits and all the rest - there have been no complaints and no argument, but now honorable members representing seats in the capital cities of Australia bring forward such a flood of pressurised opposition as we have not had in recent times.
The petition that was brought to this Parliament was not brought by a Country Party member, a Labour Party member or even a Liberal member for a country seat. It is a member from a metropolitan constituency who has brought his prize of a lot of names into the Parliament - the voice of Phillip Street presenting a petition on behalf of the wool growers of this country.
– What is wrong with that?
– I think there is something not particularly wholesome about it. Let us leave it at that. I would be much happier if such a petition were presented by an honorable member on the Government side who represents a country electorate. He would be speaking for people whom he knows and represents, and would be doing a job for the men on the land with whom he rubbed shoulders and whom he meets at agricultural shows and other functions in country districts. This is the attitude that we take. I leave the matter now, but I shall deal with some aspects of it later. This pressure campaign is a campaign of a type that I regret vary much, and I hope that the Parliament will adopt a national attitude towards these matters.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), in a refreshingly interesting and valuable contribution, dealt with the industry in a detailed manner. He dealt with the problems of the past, he gave the history of the attitude of former governments to reserve prices and orderly marketing and he explained how the industry itself felt towards these matters. His summary left no doubt as to who are the friends of the man on the land and who support his case in this Parliament. It is a matter of record that the Australian Labour Party has pioneered orderly marketing in this country, but we are happy to see that now other people have joined us in supporting sensible, workmanlike proposals for the protection of the man on the land and for the advancement and development of this country. The honorable member for Lalor dealt with this point in such a way as to make it unnecessary for me to elaborate it further. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
It is nearly two years since I introduced the Currency Bill 1963 into the House in October 1963. Since then the authorities concerned appear to have made excellent progress in their preparations for a smooth changeover to a decimal currency system in Australia on 14th February next. The two principal co-ordinating bodies - the Decimal Currency Board and the Commonwealth Treasury - have had long and detailed discussions with the large numbers of interested Commonwealth and State Government departments and instrumentalities, with the Australian banks, with the principal distributors and users of monetary machines and, in fact, with each of the major organisations and institutional groups which are concerned with the paying, receiving and recording of amounts of money. The new Currency Bill which I am now presenting results to a large degree from these discussions. It will establish a set of guiding rules which should reduce to a minimum any inconvenience which the community in general might suffer as a result of the changeover.
The new Bill, together with the Decimal Currency Board Bill, which I shall be introducing shortly, will incorporate most of the provisions of the Currency Act 1963. It will settle the changeover date as 14th February 1966. It will provide for the period of up to two years after that date during which it will be permissible to conduct transactions in either the new or the old currencies. This period of flexibility will be necessary until all £ s. d. monetary machines are either converted to decimal operation or replaced by new decimal machines. I may add that the substance of the Bill and much of its detail have been discussed with such bodies as the Australian Inter-Bank Decimal Currency Committee, The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Manufactures, the Australian Council of Retailers, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the National Employers Policy Committee, the Life Offices Association of Australia, the Australian Associated Stock Exchanges, the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers, the Australian Society of Accountants, the Institutes of Chartered Accountants and of Cost Accountants, and the Chartered Institute of Secretaries. All are now in general agreement that the approach proposed is satisfactory from their points of view.
There have also been conferences with the State Parliamentary Draftsmen, who will be concerned with the complementary task of preparing legislation to cover matters which are the concern of State Governments - for example, references to £ s. d. amounts in State legislation including stamp duties, rates and taxes, and so on.
The Currency Act 1963 provided for the introduction of a decimal currency system into Australia on a date to be proclaimed. It established the dollar as the name of the new monetary unit. It settled the denominations and composition of the new decimal coins. Finally, it gave statutory effect to the appointment of the Decimal Currency Board, which is charged with supervising the main aspects of the changeover arrangements. Part V of the Currency Act, which was mainly concerned with the responsibilities of the Decimal Currency Board, came into effect as soon as the Act received Royal Assent in October 1963. This was to enable the Board to proceed with the complex arrangements leading up to the changeover date, including negotiations with the companies which will be converting some hundreds of thousands of £ s. d. machines to decimal operation during a period of up to two years following C Day. Part II-IV and VI of the Act were to come into effect on the proclaimed date, since agreed as 14th February 1966. These parts would repeal the Coinage Act 1909-1947 and would make decimal coins legal tender on and after that date. It was realised at the time - and I made this clear in my second reading speech - that further legislation would be needed later to cover the two-year “ transition “ period after C Day.
Some thought was given at the time to the possibility of including the “ transitional “ provisions in the original Currency Act, but it was considered safer to defer this exercise until more was known about the problems likely to be encountered. This has proved to have been the wisest course, and discussions which the Treasury, the Decimal Currency Board and the Parliamentary Draftsman have had with numbers of interested parties over the past two years have indicated not only the best form which the transitional provisions should take, but also shown that several new provisions are desirable additional to those already in the Currency Act itself.
While experience has shown that a few of the original provisions of the Currency Act could with advantage be further clarified, there would be no need in normal circumstances to have more than an amending Act in order to provide clarification where desirable, to introduce new provisions the need for which was not realised in 1963, and to provide for the transition period. However, so many parties are closely affected, and there is therefore such a wide and active interest in the precise terms of the decimal currency legislation, that the public could be decidedly inconvenienced if it were necessary to refer to two separate pieces of legislation - the original Currency Act and an amending Act.
It is therefore proposed that the Currency Act 1963 be repealed except for those sections dealing with the functions of the Decimal Currency Board, which must obviously have continuing effect from 1963. The Act would then be renamed the Decimal Currency Board Act. I shall shortly be introducing a Decimal Currency Board Bill to give effect to this. No changes are proposed from the original provisions relating to the Board, and the Bill therefore does not call for any special comment.
The other provisions of the Currency Act 1963, which were not due to come into force until C Day, will be incorporated in the new Currency Bill, which will then cover currency, coinage, and associated matters only, firstly during the transition period and later on a permanent basis after the transition period is completed. There will indeed be an advantage in excluding Decimal Currency Board matters from an Act which will have continuing effect long after the Board has ceased to function.
In general terms, Part II (Currency) of the Currency Act 1963 established the new monetary unit and provided that, after a date to be proclaimed, all cheques, contracts and monetary transactions would be in terms of decmial currency. All references to amounts of money expressed in £ s. d. prior to C Day in Commonwealth acts, ordinances, instruments, etc., and in contracts, cheques, etc. would be construed as references to exactly equivalent amounts in decimal currency. Honorable members will be aware that all coins of sixpence - or five cents - and above, and all notes, will have exactly equal counterparts in both the new and the old currencies.
All £ s. d. amounts actually owing at C Day will be converted into decimal currency to the nearest cent in accordance with a table set out in the Act wherever odd pence amounts are involved. All percentages expressed in money terms - for example, £5 per cent, per annum - will be construed as equivalent percentages expressed in dollars and cents - that is, $5 per cent., not $10 per cent. As a result of these blanket provisions, very few Commonwealth, acts, ordinances, etc., require specific amendment immediately, although they will clearly have to be brought up to date as opportunities arise. Most private contracts will continue in force without any revisions being necessary.
Part II of the Currency Act 1963 will continue as Part II of the Currency Bill with the changeover date now confirmed as 14th February 1966. There will be a number of minor drafting changes in the interests of clarification, together with a new provision that wills and other testamentary documents will not be invalidated if written in £s. d. after C Day. There will also be a provision that certain amounts payable periodically in accordance with pre C Day contracts, such as life insurance premiums and hire purchase instalments, will be payable to the nearest cent, as in the table already included in the Currency Act. The exact conversion basis will apply after C Day to references to amounts in £ s. d. in other contracts entered into before C Day.
No changes are proposed to Part III (Coinage) of the Currency Act, which establishes the composition of the new coins and provides for their dimensions and designs to be prescribed. No changes are proposed either, to Part IV (Legal Tender) except to the extent that this is modified during the transition period by the new Part V (Transitional Provisions).
Until a date to be proclaimed - probably about two years after C Day - it will be permissible to execute contracts and all other forms of monetary transactions, except cheques, other bills of exchange and promissory notes, in terms of £ s. d. The purpose of this is to enable businesses - particularly those which have not had their monetary machines changed over to decimal operation - to continue to work in £s. d. during the transitional period if they so desire. One of the main features of the changeover will be the complete conversion of all bank operations from £ s. d. to decimals in the four days prior to C Day. It will therefore be necessary for all cheques to be written in dollars and cents after C Day. The same will apply to other bills of exchange and to promissory notes.
I turn now to cash transactions. Part IV (Legal Tender) of the present Currency Act made the new bronze 1-cent and 2-cent coins legal tender for the payment of amounts up to 20 cents, and the new cupronickel 5, 10 and 20-cent coins and silver 50-cent coins legal tender up to five dollars. The new Bill will provide that mixed lots of £ s. d. and decimal coins will similarly be legal tender for amounts with these values, whether expressed in £ s. d. or decimals, during the transition period - as well as being legal tender for decimal amounts, only, after the end of the transition period. The main limitation is that it will be legally permissible to tender £ s. d. coins only in multiples of 6d. in payment of decimal amounts, and to tender decimal coins only in multiples of five cents in payment of £ s. d. amounts. A shopkeeper who sells an article at 7s. 4d. will therefore be able to insist, if he so wishes, on receiving precisely 7s. 4d. rather than the nearest decimal amount of 73 cents, or 7s. 3.6d., and one selling an article at 72 cents will be able to insist on that amount rather than 7s. 2d., or 7 If cents, the nearest £ s. d. amount.
Undoubtedly there will be a few misunderstandings and petty arguments in this area, but none of them should be any more difficult of solution than the problem we often face at present when writing a cheque for a grocer’s bill which ends in a halfpenny. Some of us disregard the halfpenny and a probably lesser number of us round up to the next penny. - But our relationships with our grocers and other shopkeepers seem to have survived reasonably well over the years, and I see no reason why they should not continue to do so after decimal currency is introduced. There is indeed no problem of this nature which cannot be solved by the customer tendering a higher amount in either currency - a multiple of either 6d. or five cents - and taking the exact change, just as most transactions are settled now in retail stores, supermarkets, etc. For example, the shopkeeper selling an article for 7s. 4d. would give 2s. 8d. change for a dollar note or a 10s. note, and the one selling an article at 72 cents would give 8 cents change for 80 cents made up from four 2s. pieces, or four 20 cent coins, or a mixture of both coins.
The conversion of wage and salary payments is a matter of some concern. Industrial awards which are laws of a State will be outside the ambit of the Commonwealth’s legislation but, by virtue of clause 10 (3.) of the new Bill, references to £ s. d. amounts in all other awards and wage contracts will be automatically construed after C Day as their exact decimal currency equivalents. In many cases this will involve fractions of a cent. The Australian Council of Trade Unions and the National Employers Policy Committee have been conferring on the conversion of these amounts and have agreed on an approach aimed at minimising complications in making wage calculations. The Decimal
Currency Board, too, has examined this matter and found that for practical purposes wage calculations would in most circumstances not need to be taken beyond two decimal places of a cent. There will be no question of rounding unit wage rates, such as hourly rates, to the nearest cent and then multiplying. Just as with wage calculations made at present under £ s. d. awards and contracts, all calculations will be carried through to the final amount with as much precision as necessary and it is this amount which will, if necessary, be rounded to a whole cent. Except for payments by cheque, it will be permissible for employers to continue making their wage calculations and payments in £ s. d. during the transition period. For that purpose it may be necessary to convert decimal currency amounts into their £ s. d. equivalents for a time when existing awards are re-issued in decimal currency or new awards are made in the new currency. This should be no more difficult than the reverse process.
There are two new provisions relating to banking which are worthy of comment. The first of these will provide that, notwithstanding section 98 (3.) of the Bills of Exchange Act, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10th to 12th February 1966, will be “nonbusiness “ days for banks. This is to enable banks to close for general banking business during the four days preceding C Day while their machines and banking records are being converted. The second provision relates to post-dated cheques, which are used extensively in hire purchase and similar agreements. There will be numbers of such cheques in existence after C Day still expressed in £ s. d. These will be validated provided they are certified by a banker to have been drawn before C Day. It will be desirable to ensure that cheques do not unnecessarily become stale by virtue of this procedure. After the end of the transition period, all transactions will need to be conducted in dollars and cents. Any references to amounts of £ s. d. in contracts, instruments, etc., entered into or made during the transition period, under the terms of clause 18(1.), will then be automatically converted into dollars and cents on an exact basis under the terms of clause 10. All payments after the end of the transition period will have to be in terms of dollars and cents, and clause 19 provides for any amounts of £ s. d. to be converted for this purpose on a nearest cent basis.
It may help if I summarise the arrangements in the various stages of the conversion operation. Before C Day no decimal coins or notes will be legal tender and no document written in terms of dollars and cents will have any legal basis unless it is dated 14th February 1966 or later. At C Day all £ s. d. amounts then actually owing will be converted into decimal currency on the nearest cent basis. References to £ s. d. amounts contained in laws, contracts, etc., with continuing force will be converted to decimals on an exact basis. Decimal currency will become the official currency on C Day, and decimal notes and coins will become legal tender from that time. From C Day onwards, all cheques and other bills of exchange, and all promissory notes, must be executed in dollars and cents.
During the transition period, contracts and other monetary transactions may be arranged in terms of either £ s. d. or dollars and cents. The amounts owing under such contracts and transactions must be settled in terms of dollars and cents if payment is made by cheque. If payment is made by cash, and the amount owing is a multiple of sixpence or five cents, either £ s. d. or decimal notes and coins may be used, as these will be completely interchangeable for such amounts - the 5, 10 and 20-cent coins will, in fact, not only have exactly the same value as the existing sixpence, shilling and florin, but they will have exactly the same weight and will be virtually indistinguishable in diameter and colour. If odd pennies or cents are involved in cash payments due during the transition period, it will only be legally possible to settle these with the appropriate coins, that is threepences, pennies and halfpennies in payment of amounts less than sixpence and 1-cent and 2-cent coins in payment of decimal amounts less than 5 cents.
After the end of the transition period all references to £ s. d. in contracts with continuing effect will be converted into decimals on an exact basis. Payments of amounts owing in terms of £ s. d. will however be made on a nearest-cent basis. After the end of the transition period, no contract or other document written in £ s. d. will have legal effect and threepences, pennies and halfpennies will be legal tender only in multiples of sixpence - as will have been the case during the transition period for banking transactions and for cash payments of decimal amounts. All £ s. d. notes and coins from sixpence upwards will continue to be legal tender on the same basis as decimal notes and coins.
One minor change which has been made in the new BDI is the deletion of the previous sections 34 and 35 of the Currency Act 1963. These dealt with the use of the Trust Fund for the purchase of metal for coinage and the inclusion of unissued coin in the Treasurer’s statements and accounts. It has been considered that these provisions would more conveniently be included in the Audit Act 1901-1964. An appropriate revision to that Act will be introduced later.
I have already mentioned that most references to £ s. d. amounts in existing Commonwealth legislation can be construed after C Day as references to dollars and cents by virtue of the blanket provisions of the Currency Act, i.e., that all such references to £ s. d. amounts are in general to be converted on an exact basis, except that percentages expressed in money terms are to be construed as equivalent percentages in decimal currency.
There are, however, a number of laws in which money references need to be specifically amended. A simple example is a reference to a return being submitted to the nearest pound; future returns in decimals will obviously need to be to the nearest dollar, rather than the nearest two dollars. There are several cases where references to odd amounts of pence need to be separately replaced by references to new decimal currency amounts rather than by their exact equivalent - for example, postal charges. About 30 acts will require minor revision in this way. Appropriate legislation will be introduced later in the session after a complete examination has been made of each and every reference to amounts of money in every act of Parliament. There are also a number of acts which will need specific amendment in due course to adjust rates and tariffs which are now expressed in £ s. d. amounts which do not convert easily into decimals. Separate legislation covering these matters will also be introduced later in the session. The Currency Bill has no application to the new decimal notes. I shall shortly be introducing a new Reserve Bank Bill to authorise the issue of demical notes on and after C Day.
Honorable members would probably appreciate a brief run-down on progress made to date on the change-over arrangements. After its establishment in mid-1963 the Decimal Currency Board concentrated in the first place on the arrangements for converting £ s. d. cash registers, adding machines and accounting machines to decimal operation and, after settling most of the procedures for these and other monetary machines requiring conversion, has now reached a position where a public education programme over the period immediately preceding C Day - 14th February 1966 - is one of its principal concerns.
The machine conversion programme involves the free conversion - or replacement - at Government expense of more than 360,000 machines and the payment of cash compensation to owners of more than 120,000 machines. Owners will be able to apply this cash compensation either towards the conversion costs of existing £ s. d. machines or towards the cost of new decimal machines. Thus, the owners of nearly 500,000 machines will be receiving Government assistance in one form or another. The cost to last year’s Budget was approximately £2 million - largely expenses associated with pre-conversion preparations - and a further £15 million could be involved this year. We are hopeful that the cost to the Budget in the next two years combined will be kept below £10 million. These totals are considerably below the original estimate we made of the likely cost of the operation.
The great bulk of the costs to the Government will be for the conversion of 240,000 cash registers, adding machines and accounting machines. As an indication of the variety of the other machines involved, free conversion or cash compensation will be available to owners of 100,000 petrol pumps, 80,000 price computing scales, and lesser numbers of franking machines, deposit recording machines, punched card tabulators and electronic computers, cheque writers, parking meters, ticket-issuing machines, price-computing fabric measuring machines, self service petrol pumps, coin counting machines and coin tube machines. Machines which will not be eligible for Government assistance include most coin vending machines, poker machines, gas meters, electricity meters and totalisators. The usual grounds for the exclusion of these machines have been the low unit cost for what in most cases is a comparatively simple conversion operation, or the impossibility of controlling and administering suitable compensation arrangements, remembering that the expenditure of public money would be involved.
As the banks will be changing over completely to decimal operation by C Day, they have been given priority in the machine conversion arrangements. Conversion of bank machines has already commenced and the way now seems clear for the banks to operate in £ s. d. up to Wednesday, 9th February 1966, and, after closing down for normal business on Thursday, 10th February and Friday, 11th February, to re-open in full decimal operation on Monday, 14th February.
The most time-consuming part of the Decimal Currency Board’s operations has been the negotiations with machine companies on conversion costs. Machine conversion costs to be met by the Government have largely been determined by the Board following detailed negotiations with the machine companies on the appropriate rates for cost elements such as direct labour and overhead, on prices for the machine parts needed, and on conversion times for each type of machine - estimated by actual conversion studies using approved engineering techniques. When total costs for each group of machines have been ascertained, the cost will be spread over the number of machines to be converted, and payment will be made to the companies for each machine converted on the basis of a unit conversion rate.
Because of the extent of the preparations required for machine conversion - leasing and equipping of premises, training of staff, ordering machine parts and “loan” machines from overseas, and so on - and because of the limited capital resources of some of the converting companies, the Board is assisting them with temporary finance. These advances will be recouped by deductions from payments to be made later for conversion work. lt is planned to replace certain machines with new decimal models, instead of con verting them. This applies mainly to the less expensive models, and only where the cost of replacement does not exceed the estimated cost of conversion. The Board has so far approved the replacement of some 60,000 £ s. d. machines which would otherwise have been eligible for free conversion. The Board has authorised machine companies to order agreed quantities of “ loan “ cash registers, adding machines and accounting machines. These will be provided free to machine owners while their eligible £ s. d. machines are being converted at Government expense.
Cash registers, adding machines and accounting machines will be converted on a regional zone basis, supervised by the Decimal Currency Board. The Board’s plans for determining the zone programme are well advanced and should be published in the near future. Conversion of the machines will commence in each State simultaneously, and probably in three areas of each State at the same time - city, suburban and country. Detailed maps will be drawn up so that each machine owner will get a reasonable idea when his machines are likely to be picked up for conversion or replacement. Machines other than cash registers, adding machines and accounting machines will be converted separately from the zoning arrangements.
Cash compensation payable to owners of cash registers, adding machines and accounting machines will be a proportion of the cost of converting a younger machine, the proportion payable diminishing as the age of the machine increases. Negotiations on conversion costs for this purpose have been completed with most companies and compensation rates for some 40,000 machines have already been published. Other rates will be published as soon as the conversion costs are settled with the companies concerned. It is planned to commence paying this cash compensation before the end of 1965.
All details of Government decisions on free conversion and cash compensation, on decimal coins and notes, and on the changeover generally have been published and made available through the Decimal Currency Board’s mailing list, through Commonwealth Treasury offices in each State and through banks, as well as through a large network of voluntary speakers set up by the Decimal Currency Board. The supply of material produced especially for schools commenced at the beginning of 1965. In all, it is planned to distribute 15,600,000 letters to school children, 160,000 manuals to their teachers and 120,000 posters to all schools throughout the country. A booklet designed to assist smaller businesses was recently distributed to approximately 50,000 businessmen who responded to newspaper advertisements placed by the Board.
The Board’s programme to inform the general public of the changeover arrangements involves a steady stream of information via newspapers, television, radio and other media which will culminate in a large scale publicity effort during January and February 1966. The concentration of effort during this latter period has been decided on the advice of an expert advisory committee. Every household in the country will receive at the time a special brochure describing the new arrangements, together with a conversion card suitable for shopping purposes. The results of a nation wide survey designed to measure the awareness of the general public and small businesses have been analysed, and the Board’s forthcoming intensified education programme is being framed in the light of the information gained.
Most Commonwealth departments will change over to decimal operation on C Day in all transactions with the public and in all accounting arrangements with the Treasury. In particular, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will change over completely. The principal exception will be in the taxation field where returns in respect of income earned in 1964-65 and earlier years will continue in £ s. d. until 30th June 1966. Most State authorities will also be changing over completely at C Day. For example, all railways throughout the Commonwealth will be operating in decimals from C Day and most other transport authorities are expected to follow suit. The changeover arrangements for private enterprise will depend largely on the timing of the machine conversion zoning programme. As this programme may take up to two years to complete, some companies may still be operating in £ s. d. until late 1967, but large numbers of them are making special arrangements to change over from C Day.
The three Australian mints are now producing more than 10 million decimal coins weekly and have already stockpiled more than 300 million 1-cent and 2-cent coins. Six months after it was opened last February by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, the new Royal Australian Mint had struck its 100 millionth coin. By C Day approximately 550 million decimal coins should be available, or nearly twice as many as the banks have requested by the changeover date. About 450 million of these coins will be 1-cent and 2-cent bronze coins produced in Canberra, Melbourne and Perth. In addition, there will be 30 million each of the 5, 10 and 20-cent cupro-nickel coins, produced in London, and 10-20 million of the silver 50-cent coin, to be minted in Canberra. Distribution of these coins to the banks will commence before Christmas, and the banks will commence distributing them to major bulk users of coins during the week before C Day. The testing time will come in the weeks following C Day, when the extent of the general public’s demand for each of the new coins will first become evident. However, the three mints will be able to produce another 500 million or more coins in the following twelve months and this is expected to be adequate in the circumstances.
It is expected that’ the present threepences, pennies and halfpennies, which will have no counterparts in the new system, will have been almost completely replaced by 1-cent and 2-cent coins by late 1967 or early 1968. The sixpences, shillings and florins may remain in active circulation for several years longer, as the banks will have no incentive to sort them from the new 5, 10 and 20-cent coins, with which they will be completely interchangeable, and the general public will find they have a continuing use for them both in shopping transactions and in the operation of parking meters, vending machines, public telephones, &c.
The production programme for the new decimal notes is progressing well. I shall refer in more detail to this subject when introducing the new Reserve Bank Bill to authorise the issue of these notes.
Generally speaking then, the arrangements for the changeover appear to be proceeding satisfactorily and there seems every prospect that all preparations necessary before C Day will be completed on time. The passage of the legislation before the House will assist all those members of the community actively concerned in the changeover to complete their plans with confidence as to the arrangements ahead. I have gone into some detail because, as the House will have noticed, there is a large public interest in this matter as well as a specialised interest on the part of a great many people and organisations. 1 shall shortly be introducing the Decimal Currency Board Bill. It might have seemed more appropriate to have paid some tribute there to the work of the Decimal Currency Board, but as this will be the key narrative to be read by those interested in the legislation, I feel that this is the place where I should make a grateful acknowledgment of the splendid, devoted and most able work carried out by the Board and its officers under the chairmanship of Mr. Walter Scott. Having said that I must, because of my great admiration for what they have done, add a tribute to the work of the Treasury officers who have been allocated to this great responsibility.
We are, in the outline that 1 have given tonight to the House, taking a share as members of this Parliament in what is in a very real sense an historical change not merely in the currency but in the economic organisation of this country. I am quite certain that just as it has been many hundreds of years since such a change was made previously it will be a long time, if my experience of the work involved is any guide, before another government will essay this task in the future. So here we are debating a currency which will endure, T am convinced, for very many years - perhaps centuries - to come. Because of that, I feel that the House may share something of my own gratification that we have reached this stage successfully. I heard only today that a dear lady, not getting it quite right, had described it as the “dismal currency “. 1 hope it will not prove to be a dismal currency for this country, but a currency which will facilitate commercial transactions, which will prove a matter of convenience to the general public and which will facilitate the education of younger members of our own community. In that spirit I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
As I have already explained in my second reading speech on the Currency Bill 1965, the purpose of this Bill, which I commend to honorable members, is merely to give continuing effect to the provisions relating to the Decimal Currency Board in the Currency Act 1963.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– 1 move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill, which is complementary to the Currency Bill, is to amend the provisions of the Reserve Bank Act relating to the note issue to authorise the issue of decimal currency notes on and after 14th February 1966, the date of the changeover to a decimal currency system in Australia. Under the present Act the Reserve Bank of Australia is authorised to issue, through its Note Issue Department, Australian notes in denominations of 5s., 10s., £1, £5 and £10 or any multiple of £10. By clause 4 of the Bill, the provision specifying the denominations in which notes may be issued will be repealed and replaced from C-day by a new provision authorising the issue of Australian notes in any of the denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20 or $50 or in such other denominations as the Treasurer determines.
As I announced in August 1964 it is proposed initially to issue decimal currency notes in denominations of $1, $2, $10 and $20, the exact equivalents of the denominations of notes at present on issue. However, as I have indicated, the relevant new provision will leave scope for the issue of notes in additional denominations. In particular, consideration will be given to the issue of a $5 note should that become desirable. It is possible that there will be a continuing need to issue notes in existing denominations during the transition period. Accordingly clause 7 of the Bill provides for the necessary authority for their continued issue from C Day until a date to be fixed by proclamation.
The present Act provides that Australian notes are a legal tender throughout Australia. This provision will continue to apply to notes in existing denominations issued prior to C Day and, by virtue of a proposed amendment in the Bill to the definition of “Australian note”, will apply to the new decimal currency notes. The Bill also provides that notes in existing denominations issued during the transition period will be legal tender. Printing of the new design decimal notes commenced earlier this year and the production schedule of the Reserve Bank’s Note Printing Branch provides for adequate supplies of all denominations to be available to meet requirements from C Day. For security reasons, full details of the new notes, including official reproductions, will not be issued until shortly before C Day. Unless notes of existing denominations are specially requested, banks will confine issues from C Day to the new decimal notes, and it is expected that the majority of the notes at present in circulation will be replaced by the new decimal notes in a relatively short period. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House that the Government has now reached a decision on proposals submitted for the development of the main bauxite deposits at Gove in the Northern Territory.
In June 1964 the Government rejected proposals before it at that time for the development of these deposits on the grounds that no one proposal sufficiently met the Government’s major policy requirements. The Government therefore invited interested companies to submit new or revised proposals and stipulated that they should be lodged by 1st December 1964. The closing date was subsequently extended to 15th March 1965. The policy objectives then stated by the Government included an immediate firm commitment for an alumina plant in the Northern Territory of not less than 300,000 tons conditional only on the ore body proving to meet certain requirements with regard to quantity and quality of ore; provision for Australian equity participation in the project; a clear demonstration of availability of adequate market outlets and ability to organise and finance the project; a willingness by applicants to establish an aluminium smelter in the Territory when this could be done on a demonstrably economic basis; and a preparedness to respect the rights of the Aborigines in the area.
The Government recognised the very real advantages in having one or more major and experienced Australian organisations sharing in the development rather than leaving it entirely to overseas interests. In the event two Australian groups of companies submitted proposals. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Ltd. submitted a proposal in association with Reynolds Metals Company of the United States of America and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd. as the major Australian company in Nabalco Pty. Ltd., comprising several Australian companies, submitted a proposal in association with Swiss Aluminium Ltd.
Each of these proposals involved firm commitments for the development of the bauxite deposits which were considerably more comprehensive than those contained in any of the earlier rejected proposals. After careful deliberation the Government decided that the proposal by Nabalco Pty. Ltd. should be preferred and is discussing with the company the detailed arrangements to give effect to their proposal. Swiss Aluminium Ltd. is the oldest and ranks amongst the largest integrated aluminium companies in the world.
The company has undertaken to construct at Gove by 1971 an alumina plant with an annual capacity of not less than 500,000 tons. The completed alumina plant, plus associated mining, wharf and township facilities, is expected to cost nearly £50 million. It will provide direct employment for about 800 people and support a population of about 3,000. It will yield export income at an estimated rate in excess of £10 million per annum. Nabalco will also examine and report on the economic feasibility of aluminium smelting in the Northern Territory, and will build a smelter if an adequate supply of continuous low cost electricity is available.
The Australian companies which together with the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. at present hold a 50 per cent, interest in Nabalco Pty. Ltd. are: -
Under their agreement with Swiss Aluminium Ltd. these companies have committed themselves to participate in the overall alumina project to the extent of 50 per cent, provided the project shows an indicated profitability of not less than71/2 per cent, return on equity capital after tax. The level of royalty rates on bauxite will be dealt with in the detailed negotiations with the company. Under the existing statutory provisions the royalty would be about1s. per ton of bauxite mined and would be paid into a trust fund for the general benefit of the Aborigines in the Territory. The company has undertaken to respect the rights of Aborigines in the Gove area and will provide them with suitable employment opportunities.
The main bauxite deposits referred to above are also known as the central lease or former Special Mineral Lease No. 1. The perimeter leases, Nos. 2, 3 and 4, are held by Gove Mining and Industrial Corporation Ltd., a subsidiary of the Pechiney Co. of France, who have been unable to meet the conditions in these leases. This company has been granted a short additional period to submit to the Government an alternative development proposal.
The Gove project is an historical event for the Northern Territory. It assures establishment in the Northern Territory of an important and major industrial complex.
It will introduce into Australia and the Northern Territory a large overseas company of world standing and offers to a strong group of Australian business enterprises an important stake in northern development.
I present the following paper -
Northern Territory - Gove Bauxite DepositsMinisterial Statement, 15th September 1965 - and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
Debate resumed (vide page 916).
The Australian Labour Party is pledged to a policy to protect the workers and the producers in Australia. For that reason, we support this Bill which gives the growers an opportunity to adopt an enlightened plan for the disposal of their wool clip. It must be acknowledged that many people in the industry are uncertain about what they should do at the coming referendum. Some believe that they are now paying a sufficient amount for promotion and research in the wool industry and are reluctant to pay the additional 1 per cent, that they would be required to pay for the wool reserve prices plan. There are big men in the industry whose financial ties to commerce are stronger than their ties to the wool earning capacity of their industry. It must always be remembered that the little men are the ones who are hurt when wool prices fall. Obviously, the correct course is being followed in referring this question to the wool growers so that, by their votes at the referendum, they may determine whether to adopt the reserve prices plan or to continue with the present system.
Many self-appointed experts today presume to speak for the industry. Some of them are nominees of vested interests who seek to intimidate the Government and honorable members of this House. An incessant publicity campaign throughout Australia has been directing attention to alleged weaknesses, raising doubts, causing confusion and generally creating uncertainty. This opposition has undoubtedly caused uncertainty in many places and it is to be hoped that, with the distribution of information, both in favour of the plan and against it, wool growers will be able to make up their minds calmly, coolly and dispassionately on a matter of very great concern to this country. The subject we are considering at this time is the holding of a referendum. It is not the reserve prices plan, but the referendum. We are considering whether there should be a referendum, whether the growers should have an opportunity to vote upon this matter and whether they should be given the opportunity to determine which scheme they want.
Opposition has been whipped up in a synthetic way. Who are the leaders of the opposition to the scheme? As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said, they are the brokers, the merchants, the land and agricultural companies and vested interests in the big cities who seem more concerned about the course of events that would follow acceptance by the growers of a scheme that will protect them than they are about the advancement of the industry and the protection of Australia’s economy. To continue with the present situation, without looking forward to a reserve price, would leave the growers to the whims of chance or the planned operations of buyers who, by engaging in pies, have destroyed the basis of the auction system.
The opponents of the reserve prices plan declare that they favour the retention of the present system and its improvement. They admit, therefore, that the present system is not satisfactory and needs to be improved. But when, over all the years, have these people, who are now so vocal in their advocacy of a change because of the weaknesses in the present scheme, come forward with a better scheme?. When have they said that the auction system has failed in certain respects because of pies, the buying and splitting of lots and other restrictive practices, and that some corrective action must be taken? They have been as silent as the Brave on these matters. But now that the industry has proposed remedies for these injustices and weaknesses in the system of selling Australia’s wool clip, they are most vocal and active. They say that the scheme must be improved, but they do not say how they would improve it. They have not said how they would eliminate the nefarious operator who exploits the growers and cheats the nation with his pies and arrangements.
In the main, the people who oppose the reserve price plan also oppose restrictive trade practices legislation. They have been opposed to every progressive action m respect of the wool industry. One can look back over the years and see that they were opposed to the scouring of wool, the carbonising of wool and the spinning of wool; they did not want appraisal centres in country areas; and they opposed the retention of Goulburn as a wool selling centre, lt was left to the Labour Government of New South Wales to appoint Mr. Justice Cook to hold ari inquiry into that matter. Also, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who represents his electorate with meticulous care and diligence, worked indefatigably in constantly advocating the claims of Goulburn, just as an honorable member opposite has constantly advocated the claims of the port of Portland. In the end, the advocacy of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro won its reward and Goulburn was retained as a wool selling centre. These people opposed all of those proposals. In the main, it is the same type of people who today are in favour of the export of merino rams. They want to get their hands on the money as quickly as they can. They would sell out our heritage in wool for the mess of pottage of an immediate return, regardless of the nation’s wellbeing.
There is a need for legislation to protect the wool growers and this nation. The unceasing fluctuation of prices is causing uncertainty and hurt to the people who grow the wool and the people who use the fibre. One has only to consider the viewpoint of the people engaged in using our wool, whether in Australia or overseas, to realise that there is unmistakable evidence to prove that there is a need for this industry to adopt new and enlightened methods. The International Wool Textile Organisation has adopted the following principle -
That the Reserve Price shall not be moved up or down during the selling season and shall not be moved down in subsequent years. Whilst it may be possible to increase a Reserve Price without immediate consequences in times of good demand and rising prices, the possibility of a reduction in times of slack demand would shatter the confidence of wool users in the stability of this scheme and so defeat its own end.
That statement is an important and authoritative one. It is the view of people who use the fibre. Responsible people in Australia are putting forward similar points of view. There is the view of the growers. Then there are men, such as Sir John Crawford, who advocate a reserve price plan. There is also the unanimous viewpoint of the members of the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association, supporting a reserve price plan and realising the necessity to hold a referendum.
I quote the following from an article which appeared in the “ On The Land “ section of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 30th August of this year under the headline “ U.K. concern at wool price fluctuation “-
Concern about the effects of fluctuating wool prices on the future of wool as a textile fibre is expressed in the annual report of the British Wool Marketing Board.
All of these people pay attention to the urgent need to deal with this matter not only in the interests of the growers but in the interests of the industry itself. Everyone who has given any thought at all to this matter must realise that, whereas the synthetic fibre has a constant price and the people who use it can look ahead for months or years with certainty as to price, that cannot be done in regard to wool.
When we look at the wool industry we see a constant fall- in the price of wool in recent times. This staggering and disturbing situation has been brought about by the operation of pies. As we all know, the inquiry conducted by Mr. Justice. Cook proved beyond any shadow of doubt the operation of pies. Wool growers must judge whether they should consider what was revealed by that inquiry. The Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry, under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Philp, could only invite evidence, whereas the Cook inquiry was a judicial hearing with powers to summon witnesses and to compel evidence Mr. Justice Cook said in his report -
One witness, Mr. Monier, who is an executive of a leading wool buying firm, was examined in the witness box during the Cook inquiry. He said that, if any buying firm found that it was being regularly subjected to competition from other buyers for particular types of wool, it sought to join with those competitors in a pie. He said clearly that the sole purpose of doing that was to obtain wool more cheaply.
That is the sort of system that some honorable members opposite want to perpetuate in this country. Surely the time has come to get rid of this nefarious practice which robs the growers and the nation and deprives Australia of an income to which it is entitled. Further evidence given in the Cook inquiry indicated that many pies consisted of twelve or more buying firms and that a very large proportion of the pies included up to five of the six leading buyers, who between them purchase nearly half of the wool at auction. Where is the free auction? Where is this system of competition? Of course, it does not exist.
The. consequence of all of this is that the price of wool has been falling constantly to the detriment of the growers and of the nation. Last year the price of wool fell by ls. per lb. on the previous year’s price. That cost Australia £72 million; in other words, it reduced our national income by that amount. In the previous year income from wool represented 35 per cent, of our national income. Last year income from wool represented 31 per cent, of our national income. I shall quote some very interesting figures from “ Wool Facts “, which is compiled by the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council. The average price per lb. of greasy wool, as provided by the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers, fell from 59.64d. in 1964-65 to 51.36d. in 1965-66. The wool price index, based on a figure of 100 in 1946-47, fell from 229.6 in 1964-65 to 208.2 in 1965-66. The figures for the quantity of wool sold and the amount realised show that our income from wool is diminishing. The quantity and value of wool exported in the month of July, as shown in Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics figures, moved from 124 million lb. valued at £33 million in 1964-65 to 138 million lb. valued at £31 million, or £2 million less, in 1965-66. Those figures are indicative of the whole of the unhappy picture in regard to the fall in wool prices.
The time has long since passed when the Parliament should have done something about this matter. The honorable member for Lalor pointed out that in 19S1 there was a proposal for a levy of 7£ per cent, of the income of the industry in order to finance a reserve price plan. But at that time the wool growers of Australia were raided by the Commonwealth Treasurer of the day, Sir Arthur Fadden, who took 20 per cent, of the wool growers’ income. That impost yielded £114 million. So the wool growers were not in a happy mood to receive a wool marketing scheme at that time. These proposals clearly give the growers an opportunity to put their House in order and to assist the nation. It must be remembered that the Australian Wool Board is the creation of the growers themselves. It was established by this Parliament by a measure passed in 1962. The Act required the Board to establish a Wool Marketing Committee. Following investigations, the Committee reported to the Board and made recommendations which were placed for consideration before the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Conference comprises SO people engaged in the industry. It is, in effect, the parliament of the wool growers. It accepted the proposals by 45 votes to 5. These are the proposals touching the Bill we are now dealing with.
We have to consider what is required by the industry for the industry. One honorable member expressed regret that a representative of the Australian Primary Producers Union has not been included on the Conference. Personally, I should like to think that such a representative would be included, because we want strength on that body. We want all of the people in the industry to be able to speak for the industry.
The financial proposals submitted by the Government are, to my mind, satisfactory in the circumstances. The Commonwealth is to provide the funds necessary to establish the reserve price plan. This is not a give away plan. It has to be paid for. The growers will impose upon their incomes a levy of 1 per cent, to raise £30 million over seven years and the Government will find £50 million through the financial institutions of the Commonwealth. These moneys will be in the nature of a revolving fund and will help to develop the wool selling organisation.
I am concerned about those who attack this scheme by advocating procrastination and delay. There are always some who want further inquiries. We have had inquiry upon inquiry and investigation upon investigation, but these people are not satisfied with that; they want more. One of the amazing things that I heard in the course of this debate came from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes). He had to resort to Argentina to bolster up his case in opposition to this scheme. He went on record as saying -
If one wants an eloquent testimony of the risks involved in stockpiling, one has only to look at what happened in Argentina and Paraguay early in 1964. It has been said in some quarterswhether rightly so or not I would not be qualified to judge-
But he said it - that the stockpiling that occurred in those two South American countries at that time has played a large part in the general depression of world wool prices since that time. What happened in those two countries early in 1964? The marketing authorities stockpiled 1,500,000 bales of wool. Since then we have seen a steady and consistent decline in the market.
The honorable member for Parkes should know that Argentina has no marketing authority. It has a flexible exchange rate, and it has moved its rate of exchange from time to time, but it has no marketing authority. Yet we get the honorable member from Phillip Street representing his graziers down there. How one can be misled when off the property. The honorable member comes to this House and speaks as if he were an authority on this matter. He spoke about errors of judgment. It can be said quite fairly and reasonably that no scheme of marketing that has yet been devised is absolutely foolproof. You cannot guarantee any plan to the last detail, whether it be a wheat plan, a dried fruits plan, a dairying plan or anything else. AH plans are subject to some error. But have we lost heart? Have we lost faith? Have we lost the confidence that we can manage this plan?
In conclusion I say that the Government side is in disarray. Some _honorable members opposite find themselves in a strange situation. They will vote for this plan, but still they talk against it. The Opposition confidently leaves the matter to the commonsense of the wool growers. We are satisfied that approval of the plan will be given by the wool growers and by the industry generally in the interests of the growers themselves and of this country.
.- Perhaps I may put the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) right, at the very outset, by giving him some information that I have received from my adviser on the Argentine. The fact is that whether there is a marketing authority in the Argentine or not, wool has been stockpiled there, due, as I understand, to the imposition of an export tax on wool. Whether this has been done through marketing authority or through an export tax is not important. What is important is that there has been a stockpiling of wool, for whatever reason, and that that has had a depressing effect on the market. The honorable gentleman has advanced a curious and quite fascinating argument. He has suggested that those who oppose the reserve price plan are sowers of confusion, architects of chaos, gunmen in the midst of peace. This is a curious argument to come from him, because if it is right, what has the Opposition in this House been doing for years? It has been the sower of confusion; it has been the peddler and the promoter of national disaster.
It is of the very essence of the conduct of our affairs in this House that there are differences of opinion, that these are argued out on the floor of the House and that better policies - we hope - emerge as a result. It is to me strange and fascinating that it should be suggested that anybody who holds a view different from the honorable member’s view on this matter is a sower of confusion, or that anybody who opposes the marketing plan at present being put forward is in that category. Many people in this place, and outside, have impugned the motives of those who have expressed disapproval of the plan. I do not want to enter into this argument that suggests all kinds of sinister motives. I think that my own reputation in this place suggests that I have never been the tool of any vested interest at any time. I would resent that kind of imputation but for the fact that I think there is nobody in this House who would attach the slightest credence to it. I suggest that this would apply to many people who hold, for the best of reasons, views different from those expressed by the honorable member or from the views that have been expressed by many of my friends to the right of me.
Let us deal with the arguments involved and not suggest improper motives. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), in the course of his speech, referred to eminent people in the wool industry whose good faith is beyond dispute and who oppose this plan. Let us rid ourselves of these stupid accusations of lack of good faith and let us look to the arguments and the facts involved.
It has been suggested that only wool growers, or only members of the Australian Country Party who sit in the corner and are wool growers, are entitled to speak on this matter. If that is so, then if a bill dealing with the steel industry is introduced into the House only iron masters and ironworkers in this place ought to express a view about it. If we were debating a bill about labour on the waterfront only the shipowners, stevedores and waterside workers among us would be entitled to express a view. If we were dealing with some medical matter, things would be exceedingly simple. Only the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) would be able to rise and speak in this place. I suppose the Minister for Health himself could not even introduce a bill. This would reduce our proceedings to something very simple indeed. But that would be quite absurd. It is quite plain that when a matter of some consequence comes before this chamber it is the duty of members, whatever their background may be, to apply their minds to the problem and, in accordance with reason and the facts that they can ascertain, to come to some conclusions about it. That is the only way in which matters can be conducted in this House.
If this were not a matter of controversy, why have a referendum at all? If it were not a matter of controversy there would be nothing to decide. If there is only one side to this matter, there is no need for any vote on it; the matter is concluded. But, of course, it is a matter of great controversy, and that is the very reason why there is to be a referendum.
What are the matters to which this Parliament should direct its attention in connection with the proposed measure? First of all, to use a phrase used by the honorable member for Mackellar, there should be a fair and square choice so far as the growers are concerned. That is a matter that this House must determine. It must see to it that the measure will ensure that there is a fair and square choice for the wool growers. Nobody here suggests that the matter should not be determined by the wool growers, but we must ensure that these conditions do obtain.
Secondly, I suggest that not only the wool industry but also this Parliament should be concerned to see that the public purse is properly safeguarded, because the taxpayer is to be called upon to provide very substantial sums of money for the plan. I suppose that any sensible person would conclude that this should not be a matter of the wool growers filling in a blank cheque. This is a matter for the Parliament, as the guardian of the taxpayers - including even the constituents of Bradfield. This is a proper and legitimate matter for the concern of every member of this Parliament.
The wool industry is a great industry, perhaps the greatest industry in this country. Its export earnings amount to something of the order of £400 million pounds a year. Therefore, it is legitimate for all responsible people in this community - I hope that members of this Parliament are among them - to look to the welfare of the industry. However, so far as this aspect of the matter is concerned, I do not think that we here should claim to be wiser than the -growers themselves, whose own interests are likely to coincide with the interests of the community. Therefore, I will not address myself to the third point but I will indeed address myself to the other two points - that the referendum should be fair and square and that the public purse should be safeguarded.
There should be a fair choice. It is said that the Australian Wool Industry Conference is representative of the industry and that the franchise that is proposed for those who are to take part in this referendum emerges from the deliberations and decisions of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. I do not want to canvass this, although some honorable members have done so, but I am indeed delighted to find that the members of the Country Party have at last come to the conclusion that the view they took of the redistribution proposals was wrong. On that occasion they took the view - I did not agree with them and I expressed my disagreement - that a person who happened to live in a country area should have a more valuable vote than one who lived in a city. Now they are being democratic. They say that, irrespective of whether a man produces 10 bales or 100 bales of wool, he is entitled to one vote. They now agree with the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. I am delighted with this change of heart because I have no doubt that, with the consistency that I would expect of them, they will now alter their view on the question of redistribution. If they do not, I shall certainly direct attention to their lack of consistency. I have no objection to what is proposed now but I did have a very strong objection to what they did in connection in the other matter.
As to the informed nature of the choice, I have in one hand the report of what has been briefly called the Philp Committee. It is the report of the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry, which comprised Sir Roslyn Philp, as Chairman, and two other distinguished gentlemen. The report is quite a sizeable volume. In fact, it runs into something like 186 pages. That Committee went at some length into the question of the marketing of wool by the means at present proposed and advanced a reasoned case. Honorable members, if they wish, may do as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) did and dismiss the report by saying that it was prepared by conservative minded gentlemen. But those of us who pay some regard to a reasoned case coming from impartial people will attach some weight to this report. In . my other hand I have the report and recommendations of the Australian Wool Board. That is a rather slim volume, running into 23 pages, and that part of it which deals with a marketing scheme of the kind that is now proposed runs into precisely one and a half pages. It is not what one would call a reasoned report, but the wool growers are now supposed to make up their minds on the basis of one and a half pages in that report. Of course, under the relevant legislation the Australian Wool Board was required to seek the advice and opinion of a special committee, consisting partly of members of itself and partly of other people.
I am not an expert on the wool industry, but I did notice one or two distinguished names amongst the members of that committee. For instance, I noticed that Sir John Crawford was one of the members.
– How many sheep has he?
– I do not know how many sheep he has, but he has plenty of brains. I noticed also the name of my distinguished constituent, David Campbell, who happens to live in Bradfield. I do not know whether that would put him out of court. I do not know the other gentlemen, but I imagine that they were people of some consequence. We have sought to get a copy of the report of that committee. We presume that it is a reasoned report. This is a very important matter to the wool industry and to the whole economy of Australia, but this report has never been produced, nor has any good reason been advanced- I do not want to go through the rather foolish reasons that have been advanced - as to why it should not have been produced. Are the wool growers, then, being given a fair opportunity to form a proper judgment? They have been denied the opportunity of seeing the report of that committee.
There have been suggestions in some quarters that the report differs only in three words - what those three words are nobody knows - from the one and a half pages in the report of the Australian Wool Board. I do not know what the three words are, but I can imagine that they could make a substantial difference. For example, three of the Ten Commandments say “ThOu shalt not kill”, “Thou shalt not steal” and “ Thou shalt not commit adultery “. You have only to leave out three words and the sense is substantially altered.
I am still dealing with the opportunity that the wool growers have to form a proper judgment on this matter. I submit it is the responsibility of this Parliament to see that they are given an opportunity to do this. A high pressure campaign - I think that would be a fair description - has been conducted by the Australian Wool Board and . by a gentleman who is alleged in some sections of the Press to have referred to my friend the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes), my friend the honorable member for Mackellar and. even myself as being fools. This, of course, I cannot understand. I find it very difficult to believe, although sometimes I have been able to withhold unqualified admiration of the mental capacity of the gentleman who is alleged to have made that statement. I am still speaking about the opportunity that wool growers have had of being fully informed, or rather the opportunity that has been denied them. I have in my hand here a cutting of a letter addressed to the Melbourne “ Age “ on Tuesday 7th September 1965. The letter says this -
When the draft of the Wool Board’s wool marketing report was issued last May, the introduction contained the following passage: - “ The board has no desire to withhold any information it has on wool marketing from wool growers, and it would be a considerable help to the board if industry leaders and organisations will ask for all the information which they need to help the growers make an informed vote “.
The writer goes on -
I took note of this appeal for help, and on June 2, 1965, addressed a letter to the chairman of the board seeking additional information - on certain matters -
To date I have received none of the information I have sought.
The writer continued -
I note the above passage has been dropped from the revised report, dated July, 1965, which the board is now distributing to wool growers . . .
The letter was signed by Cecil H. Lander who described himself as President of the Graziers Association of Riverina.
So, the Board no longer wishes to provide information that growers might wish to have. This suggests a high pressure campaign. I understand - my knowledge of the industry is, of course, small; I do not profess ir is great - that a good deal of this campaign has been financed by funds from the Aus.ralian Wool Board. Further, I understand that there was a suggestion that the Wool Board had no mandate to use its funds for this purpose. Many wool growers who are opposed to this scheme subscribed their funds for the promotion of wool but they found that these funds were being used for the promotion of a case with which they disagreed. But the Attorney-General, I understand, refused his fiat, as the lawyers would call it. 1 think this is a Latin expression, fiat justitia, which means that he writes “ let justice be done “ and then there is permission.
– Would the honorable member have given his consent if he had been Attorney-General?
– I would think it very appropriate that it should be given and that this matter should have been tested.
The Government at long last has come forward and is now prepared - I say now prepared - to submit the “Yes” and the “ No “ case to the wool growers at the time when they are called upon to exercise their franchise. Well, this does some measure of justice at this stage. I applaud it. I congratulate the Government on doing this. But why has this action been so long delayed? This is something that is done in every constitutional referendum. Both cases are always put. Why has it been delayed up to this point of time? In other words, 1 am trying to say this: The wool growers are entitled to know both sides of the case. There are two sides to it; otherwise there would be no need for a referendum. It appears to me that every obstacle has been put in the way of the . presentation of one side of this matter. The Parliament is not concerned with which is the right side, although individual members may have their views. But the Parliament should be very much concerned with wool growers knowing the whole of the story and seeing both sides of the case if they are to exercise their franchise properly.
Now I come to the question of the public purse which is another matter of legitimate concern, T think, to honorable members. This plan could be what is called a conservative plan involving relatively small funds whether provided by wool growers or by the Government; or it could be a radical plan involving considerable sums whether provided by wool growers or the Government. Now, statements have been made by Sir William Gunn, whose name has been mentioned once or twice in the course of this debate. There is no need for me to repeat them. Anybody who is interested can find the reference and the full quotations in the speech of the honorable member for Parkes in “ Hansard “ dated 14th September 1965 at pages 850 and 851. 1 simply accept the fact that statements have been made by Sir William Gunn suggesting that, as this plan gets into gear, it will become less conservative and more radical.
What is involved in this scheme so far as the funds are concerned and, particularly, the taxpayers’ funds upon which wool growers are not entitled to fill in a blank cheque? In the Philp report which is, as I said, a reasoned report, at page 60 the Committee comes to this conclusion -
On the whole, we think £100,000,000 is a reasonable estimate of the resources that would need to be available to the authority to give adequate support to even a conservative scheme.
It is presumed by some that at least part of the available resources would be provided by the Reserve Bank or by trading bank overdraft, and that the Government would provide a guarantee.
So, it is at least £100 million for a conservative scheme. But Sir William indicates it is to be a radical scheme involving considerably more than £100 million. The Philp report at page 69 states -
The risks of a reserve price scheme are primarily with the grower– and I want to underline these following words - and may be with the community.
We are concerned - and legitimately concerned - as members of this Parliament with the community. The Philp report continues -
The risks are that: the authority may mistake a downward trend for a temporary slump; large stocks may be accumulated; stocks held by the authority may impair confidence in the market; substitution of synthetics for wool may be induced by the authority holding wool; the ultimate winding up of the scheme at a loss may be enforced.
I wish to underline that last phrase again - the ultimate winding up of the scheme at a loss may be enforced.
If the Government has been putting money into a radical scheme - and the sum will be vastly in excess of £100 million - and that scheme fails, as such schemes have failed in the past - the honorable member for Mackellar pointed out what happened in the case of the coffee scheme in Brazil - then I suggest that the taxpayer will be up for very considerable amounts to meet the losses. This is a matter of concern to the whole of the community. The Philp Committee goes on to say -
Historically, such schemes for other commodities in world trade have had little success and have encountered the difficulties attendant upon the accumulation of heavy stocks, especially when substitutes were readily available.
As a result of this, the Philp Committee proceeds to say -
After anxiously considering the matter, including the varying opinions placed before us, we conclude that the introduction of a reserve price scheme is not advisable.
Let us have a look at long term trends. Here I wish to speak about something that as member for Bradfield I may be presumed to know. I am talking about the wool industry but about things I know. I know, for example, that wool is being used less today than it was in days gone by. I know this from personal experience. My wife is able to shrink a pair of woollen socks to the size of a baby’s bootees in three simple washes. I have not used woollen socks for years. I hope Sir William will suppose that I know this intimate detail myself even though I am a member for a city electorate. Again, I have sometimes tried to wash a woollen garment, and 1 can shrink it as well as my wife can. Some people suffer from the tickling effect of wool. I know that wool is not the only thing that tickles. But this is a trouble that some people have when they wear wool. Again I can never keep creases in my trousers. If I go out on a wet day, the creases disappear and the trousers have to be sent to the dry cleaner. Whenever I go to the cupboard at the end of the season to take my suit out I wonder whether the moths have corrupted it. Wool therefore is not the wonderful thing that many people think. It is for this and other reasons - steady prices and so forth - that more and more synthetics are being used.
I hope Sir William will even suppose that I have some elementary knowledge of economics - very elementary; it relates to simple matters of supply and demand. If wool were a monopoly, it may be that we could demand something like our own price or a price that would give us the maximum profit. It is true to say that the supply of wool cannot be regulated as readily as the supply of many manufactured products can be regulated, for the fact is that wool has not a monopoly, because it is in competition with synthetics. The same sort of thing happened with coal. For years after the war, the people of New South Wales were held to ransom by the coal miners, particularly those of Newcastle, because the miners were able to regulate the supply of coal, since they had a monopoly. But since fuel oil has become freely available, this monopoly has disappeared and the supply and the price of coal to the consumer can no longer be regulated by the miners in this way.
I come to the conclusion, therefore, that there are very great dangers that if this scheme escalates - “ evolves “, I think, is the word that Sir William Gunn has used - into a radical scheme, the taxpayers may well be called on to provide large sums to finance it. This is the kind of thing that happens in political communities. If this happens, there may well be very substantial losses as a result. This is a serious matter for the community as a whole. But let it not be thought that this can happen easily. There is, of course, one kind of auction with which, I think, some of my friends agree - the auctioning of votes. If it is thought that millions can be got out of the taxpayers, then the auction is on. But wool is not like wheat, butter and sugar. We consume a considerable proportion of our wheat - unless we send it to our friends in Red China, of course - our dairy products and our sugar in this country. We can impose special home consumption prices to provide funds out of which producers can be paid subsidies. But we use only a relatively small proportion of our wool on the home market.
Even if I were compelled to wear woollen socks, and if all of us were compelled to wear woollen socks and other woollen clothing so as to boost our consumption of wool as far as we could in this country, the proportion of our output consumed here would be small, and taxes, so to speak, of the kind that can be imposed by special home consumption prices on other commodities could not be imposed in respect of wool. There would come a time when the taxpayer, if he had to provide subsidies out of Consolidated Revenue, might find that he was breaking down under the burden. So let it not be thought that if a radical scheme should prove to involve losses the taxpayers can be called on to bear them. This simply cannot happen. I suppose that if wool - the product of the last great primary industry - becomes the subject of a subsidy, one might say, slightly paraphrasing the words of Gilbert: “When everybody subsidises somebody, then nobody subsidises anybody “.
We are now waiting for the report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry, commonly known as the Vernon Committee, Sir. I hope that that Committee will have something to say about continually rising costs in Australia and their effect on our exports. I hoped that the Government, before introducing a measure that could alter the very nature of our greatest industry, would wait till it had produced the Vernon Committee’s report in this Parliament. But it has not thought fit to do so. These are great considerations that are important to all of us as members of the Parliament: The wool growers should have a fair opportunity. They should hear all sides of the case. And they should vote accordingly. I believe that their best interests are the best interests of this country, and there need be no clash in this. But I make no apology whatever, though I am the representative of Bradfield, for saying a few words on this matter.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have much pleasure in supporting this Bill, which provides for a referendum of wool growers to determine whether they accept a reserve price plan. Without doubt, the wool industry is the greatest industry that Australia has seen up to this point in our history. I believe that it will remain so for a considerable time. This industry has not been without its problems since it was established in Australia many years ago. Indeed, it has had many ups and downs. The fluctuations that have been with us for many years have affected not only the growers but also Australia as a whole. They have been reflected in our general economy and in the very nature of Australia as a nation, and there has been much detriment to the grazing industry as a whole. Prices have fluctuated widely from time to time and on many occasions we have seen extremely low wool prices, both before and since World War II. In these circumstances, there has been a tendency to mine out to some extent in order to keep going. This is said not only by me. It has been said by many people in the past. I bring it to the attention of the House tonight because I believe that we have no right to sell commodities such as wool overseas at prices which are not adequate and which do not give the grower a reasonable return and thereby enable him to operate in a businesslike manner.
The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) has given to me and probably to other honorable members the impression that he believes that wool is not the great commodity that we think it is. Let me assure him that wool is selling today in more places throughout the world and in bigger quantities than ever before. There is a tremendous demand for wool. Let us not underestimate the value of this remarkable fibre, not only to Australia but also to the rest of the world. I consider that this situation will continue, Sir. I do not believe that there has been at any time a falling off in the demand for wool. At the end of the last war, there was a tremendous stockpile of wool, not only in Australia but throughout the world. Today, in general terms, no such stockpile is available. Our wool is going almost straight from the sheep’s back to the final user. This situation speaks for itself. There has been a great demand over the years for this fibre, but this demand has not been reflected in the prices that we have obtained, except at certain times. I believe that this is because of the methods adopted in the marketing of wool.
Here, I should like to say something about the various systems of marketing primary products. The return received depends largely on the system adopted. We know that various marketing systems are associated with a variety of commodities. The choosing of the right method of marketing is an important exercise. So it is an important exercise that we have before us in discussing this measure. There is plenty of evidence in various parts of the world to show that wrong methods of marketing are reflected not only in the economy of the country concerned but also in the situation of the individual producers, whether the commodity concerned be a grain, a food or a fibre. It is important to bear in mind that any marketing system that we adopt should not adversely affect the individual producer. This can and will happen if the wrong system is chosen.
Australia has accepted certain marketing proposals over the years. These marketing schemes have been built up by the producers themselves through their organisationsHere, I wish to make the important point that these schemes have not been brought about as a result of political pressure or pressure from governments or outside bodies. And pressure should not be allowed to influence any decision on the proposed reserve price plan for wool. The Government looks to the organisations of wool producers for advice on this matter. It has said that it does this, and it does do it. The Australian Wool Industry Conference was established in 1962 and was accepted by the Government and subsequently recognised in legislation. Through this organisation the line goes right back to the individual grower. We know that many wool growers throughout Australia do not belong to the organisations represented in the Wool Industry Conference, but there is nothing in this wide world to compel them to do so. This Wool Industry Conference, or the organisations which make it up, composed finally of individual wool growers, is an important factor in determining any marketing programme that might be brought before this House. The wool growers themselves, in other words, have told the Government that they consider that it is time that this country introduced a different system of marketing for the disposal of the Australian wool clip, and it is on this that the whole legislation is based. The Government itself has not said that a new system should be introduced, it has simply supported the views of the wool producers. While we continue to listen to the growers and maintain a system of orderly marketing through growers’ organisations, placing the responsibility on the practical people who understand primary industries, we will not in any way damage primary industries nor will we damage the economy of Australia.
In this connection I ask honorable members to cast their minds back a number of years to the time when we had a similar proposal in respect of wheat marketing. Some honorable members and many people outside this Parliament have said that there is no similarity between wheat and wool, but I maintain there is a similarity in the matter of organised marketing. It is the system we adopt that is important. We have heard of various systems that have been adopted in many parts of the world. We have been told of huge surpluses having been built up. But if we look closely at those marketing systems we find that they are entirely different from the systems in Australia.
We were told years ago when we introduced an orderly marketing system for wheat that there would be tremendous stockpiles. People said that the system would not work. At that time there were vast quantities of wheat in Australia and it did appear to the outsider that the new system would not work, but this has proved to be completely wrong. Although the last season was almost a record wheat season for Australia, we have sold the entire wheat crop, and I think that Australia at present is somewhat short of wheat, and certainly has not a surplus. This position has been brought about by the introduction of a certain marketing system. That is the point I wish to stress because it is important in relation to wool.
Many people have been saying that the proposed plan is a bad one. The bullets are being fired at the Wool Industry Conference and at the representatives of the Australian wool growers. Let me say that there are some jolly fine men in these organisations, men who have spent a tremendous amount of time for the good of the industry and the good of Australia. These men should receive consideration and backing because they know the real crux of the trouble in the wool industry. If they do not know it nobody else does. In some cases these men have spent a lifetime in studying the problems of the wool industry. If we continue to look to the growers in Australia to devise a marketing plan we will not make a mistake. But if, as some people suggest we should, we do the reverse, do not look to the growers and do not accept their views on the kind of system that should be introduced we may finally wreck the growers’ organisations. This would represent a complete tragedy, and the onus would be entirely on the Government to rectify a position that would then amount to utter chaos. There have been similar results in other parts of the world and this Government does not wish to be placed in such an invidious position. I am convinced that those who express opposition to the plan and to the Wool Industry Conference should consider this point very closely. Do they believe that they can set themselves up as being above the industry itself?
This proposal, as I have said, is in the national interest. We cannot afford to allow wool to come onto the market regardless of the demand at a particular time. Much has been said about the free auction system which operates at the moment and which will continue to operate for a considerable time if this plan is tossed out by the growers at’ the forthcoming referendum. As to the free auction system I merely ask: Freedom for whom? Has the wool grower any freedom, any choice as to what he may do with his wool? What freedom has he? He can put a reserve price on his wool if he likes, but people who know the industry as I do, having been in it all my life, realise that such a move is almost fatal. No wool grower in Australia would argue that point. The only thing the grower can do is put a reserve price on his wool, but he has no protection whatsoever. The only freedom in the system, as 1 see it, is for the handful of buyers who can pay for the product whatever they feel it is worth to them at the time. There is no other freedom at all. You have a hundred thousand or so individuals in Australia trying to sell a commodity, and what chance have they against world competition? Is this good enough in today’s circumstances? Have we not an obligation in the national interest to sell our grain or our fibre, in whatever market it is sold, in some sort of orderly fashion, to suit not only the producer but also the end user, the manufacturer at the other end? This we have not been doing.
There has been a lot of talk about stockpiling. Raw material industries, or other industries for that matter, never seem to have serious worries about stockpiling. As a matter of fact if one cares to analyse the situation one finds that most industries cannot operate without some reserves. This applies in practically every field.
In considering the desirability or otherwise of orderly marketing it is well to look at the position in various industries. Oil is a raw material. Would the oil companies last five minutes if they had no orderly system for selling their product? There are fixed prices in the oil industry. There is, if you like, competition between different oil companies, but the industry as a whole has a system of marketing to combat the effects of fluctuations in demands throughout Australia. The consumers know that they can get a drum of oil when they want it. This is a system of orderly selling at a price. The steel industry would not last five minutes if it had an auction system for selling its product on world markets or the Australian market. Experience has shown us that fluctuations in price would be fatal to the wheat industry if Australian growers were not protected by an orderly marketing system. Tremendous quantities of superphosphate are used throughout Australia. Here we have a raw material which is fed onto the market from time to time, not in regular quantities throughout the year but according to seasonal requirements. In respect of that commodity there is a system of orderly marketing at a price. Many other commodities are in a similar position. I could refer to the timber industry the cement industry and many others. Any of those industries that function on a businesslike basis have some system of orderly marketing that is reasonably sound.
One of the most important aspects of this proposal is that the growers themselves should make the final decision, and this, of course, is what the Bill is about. A considerable amount of propaganda of various types has come from various sources, one of which was Pitt Street. One piece of propaganda is headed: “Don’t let the Wool Board treat us like sheep”. I do not know whether that is a reference to Pitt Street or to us. However, the wool growers of Australia have been through many adverse conditions and I feel that when the day comes to make a decision on this scheme they will not consider that they have been treated like sheep. I believe that wool growers throughout Australia - there are almost 100,000 of them - will sit down and think about the plan. Many men will remember what happened in 1951, and many will remember what has happened since then because they have been through some rather difficult times since 1951.
The wool growers realise that they are producing a fibre which is of great value, which is required in many parts of the world and which has a great future. Through research and promotion, and with assistance from the Government, the industry can improve the situation for wool. The industry has already been doing so. As I have mentioned previously, there is a great and ever increasing demand for wool. In discussions and negotiations with end users overseas, when I have asked for their opinion of the present situation in Australia in relation to the marketing of this great product they have said that they cannot function as businessmen while they are buying a raw material which fluctuates in price to the extent that wool does. They know, as we know, that they must budget for a raw material and must be able to budget for a year ahead in order to be able to run a business properly. But when they are buying wool from Australia they cannot do this, for a number of reasons. They cannot place an order in Australia for large quantities of wool because at the moment it becomes available it simply goes to the market and is sold. But what price it will fetch is anybody’s guess.
There is no relation between the price of the finished article and the price paid for the raw product. This is another important point. If the price of wool falls by 20 per cent, we do not see a corresponding fall of 20 per cent, in the price of suits. The price of the wool in a suit or in any other article made from wool is very small when compared with the price of that commodity. Because of price fluctuations the manufacturer does not know where he stands. As I have already pointed out, so far as I know wool is the only commodity among the raw materials which fluctuates in price from day to day and week to week. The competitor of wool, as honorable members know, is synthetics. There is room for wool and for synthetics. We must accept that there is room for all these products. The competition from synthetics does not worry me to any great extent. Although we must bear in mind the importance of synthetics, I feel that wool will have a place with us for many years.
If honorable members look at graphs and other information which is available they will see that synthetics do not fluctuate in price from week to week. Their price is quite stable and has been stable for some considerable time. As a result, the manufacturer who uses synthetics has an advantage because he can budget from year to year. He knows exactly what he will have to pay for his raw material. This is an important point in relation to this Bill. But the main point is that the growers have proposed this scheme. They have requested the Government to assist them by introducing this legislation so as to bring some order out of chaos, which is the only word that can be used to describe the present marketing system in the wool industry. In recent years the average wool grower in Australia has faced difficult times because of the prices he has received for his product. The very big growers have not been affected to nearly the same extent.
When looking at this reserve price scheme I ask honorable members to consider what was wrong with the reserve price system in the period under the Joint Organisation. What difficulties would prevent the reintroduction of that system at this point of time? We have had some experience of this system. Many statements have been made to suggest that we do not know enough about the plan that is proposed, but this plan has been with us for many years so those in the wool industry have had an opportunity to study it. There may have been some alterations to the plan and there will be further alterations. No plan is perfect when it is first introduced. But the principle and the system of orderly marketing using a reserve price plan have been with us. They were with us in 1951 when a referendum was held. We knew the general principles of the scheme. Of course, there are financial aspects which have been mentioned and which I agree are extremely important, but if the wool industry of Australia is not a good guarantee for security, I would like to know what is.
I have not heard during the debate mention of some of the other machinery which will be necessary to bring the wool scheme to a satisfactory conclusion if it is introduced by the growers. To mention one matter, I point out that wool stores will be required. We have had them since the last war. It has not been easy at times to hang on to these stores. They have been quite profitable to the wool industry and they have been of great use to Australia as a whole. But it is one aspect of the marketing of wool that these stores have been maintained and kept in good order and condition throughout Australia and are there ready for use if required.
I say to the House and to the wool growers: Let us not be frightened at the prospect of a little surplus of wool being held in Australia. I believe that a surplus will do more good than harm. This has been proved in practically every other organised industry within Australia. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
.- I would be grateful if you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would give me your indulgence and the House would give me its indulgence for a moment or two to say a word about the late Sir Roslyn Philp because his name has been used very much during the course of this debate. I am sure that it would not be out of place or untoward if some reference was made to this very distinguished Australian. Sir Roslyn Philp was a person of remarkable intellectual refinement. He had great personal charm, and he served his State of Queensland and Australia in a number of ways. It was no ordeal for a junior and inexperienced member of the Bar to appear before him because he was the very essence of understanding. He knew the sense of timidity that beset a person in an environment for the first time. But, by the same token, woe betide any counsel who appeared before him with any evidence of slipshod homework or with any idea of taking a rise out of the Court.
It fell to my great fortune to know Sir Roslyn Philp very well. I saw him in the closing weeks of his life. He was a person who showed tremendous courage. I have never seen such courage displayed by any one man. He knew he was dying and he accepted that, not with any regret at all but with that sort of grace that literally shames one that a person can be so resigned in mind and body. Now he is gone and he stands in the history of this country as a person who was a remarkable and a very devoted servant of it. It is not for me to spell out his life’s work, but the collection of words “ Honour above all “ - it was not his personal motto - might account for his life’s attainment. This country is certainly much poorer for his passing, and I have no doubt that another world has been very much enriched by his presence.
Turning to the Bill, may I say that it is a measure for which I have remarkably little enthusiasm? I hope in saying that that no person on either side of the House will draw the conclusion that I am opposed to any proposition being put to a collection of people and asking them for their adjudication. I should hope that my old friend the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr.
Adermann) - and if he will pardon me for saying so, I have probably known him a little longer than the majority of persons in this place, and it will probably strike a homely note if I say, without telling tales out of school, that we first met in the back bar of Butler’s pub in Surat - will not be upset by my saying that I have little enthusiasm for this Bill. My lack of enthusiasm is not for the aspect of putting the question before the wool growers of Australia and asking them to say whether they are for it or against it; my reluctance springs from the fact that the Bill is a most extraordinary conglomeration of quaint principles and stark shortcomings.
The Bill deals with what I submit is Australia’s most important industry. I think it would be a tolerable display of presumption for me to say that that being the case the Bill should have been drafted with precision being uppermost in the mind of every person involved. Unhappily, I find in so many respects such a quality of impreciseness that I wonder very deeply about the ultimate consequences of this lack of capacity to draw a line between A and B.
May I interrupt myself and punctuate my remarks by making a reference or two here and there to that august body the Australian Wool Board? The Board was set up by a statute of this Parliament. That may seem nothing very earth shattering, but I think it deserves to be stated that it was set up by a statute of this Parliament, and that in a very real sense the proposals that find themselves residing in this Bill find, in turn, their fountain of origin in the Australian Wool Board. For my part, I admit that the omnipresence of the Chairman of the Wool Board would lead one to the possible conclusion that a familiar biblical precept is now to be changed and henceforth will be: “ God and the Wool Board temper the wind to the shorn lamb.” Nevertheless, I am reluctant to concede that the Wool Board should be regarded as a sort of venerated sheep. Indeed, what may be today’s venerated sheep could turn out to be tomorrow’s cold chump chop. The Chairman of the Wool Board, if I may say with very great respect to him, presumably regards himself as part of the fauna of Australia. He takes the view that he may make all sorts of extravagant statements about people.
– What did he call the honorable member?
– Look, my dear fellow, one always knows when one is out in front and the mob is throwing stones. The Chairman of the Wool Board makes all sorts of extravagant statements and then hands are raised.
– What did he say about the honorable member?
– The honorable member is bleating over there. He always bleats, and I wonder why.
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair and take no notice of interjections.
– Thank you, Sir. I interrupt myself to say to the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) - I want to cheer him up- that if I were drafting sheep and he came down the race I would unhesitatingly let him through - with the wethers. I was dealing with the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board who has taken it upon himself to say some rather extravagant things about various members of this Parliament. I do not think there can reasonably be any complaint from him or from any of his colleagues if his extravagance is called into check. Having said that, I bring myself to say that in recent times the Australian Wool Board has been engaging in activities which, in my respectful submission, are completely outside its powers. It has employed public relations officers for the purpose of encouraging people to support one attitude with respect to the reserve price plan. In the normal course of events one could have no complaint about this, but I remind the House that we are dealing with a statutory board - a board set up by a statute of this Parliament. This is a board that has resorted to advertising to bill its principal speaker. It is a board that has, I am informed, employed a psychologist, and even a sociologist for the purpose of encouraging people to support one particular attitude. In the normal course of events there could be no cause for complaint about this at all, but this is a statutory board and I hope that honorable members will be seised of the importance of recognising the nature of a statutory board.
The Australian Wool Board is using wool growers’ funds and it so happens that many wool growers have views that are in complete opposition to those of the Chairman of the Board and of various members of the Board. It is their entitlement to be in opposition. I venture the view that it is more than passing strange to see one’s money being spent by a board on purposes for which that board was not set up. I invite the House to look at section 24 of the Wool Industry Act to try to find a comfortable resting place for the various activities in which the Australian Wool Board has engaged. This, in my view, is a matter of substance and of plain principle. No board can exercise powers that it has not got. If a board is set up by a statute of Parliament it is bound to the powers given to it, and to none other. It cannot pretend to exercise any powers not explicitly given to it.
– Should not the Minister curb it then?
– If my honorable friend will allow me, I will deal precisely with that point. This is good law. I should have thought that was not doubted. It was certainly laid down in the celebrated case of Ashbury Railway Carriage & Iron Co. v. Riche reported in 1875 Law Reports, 7 House of Lords at page 653. It may be unimportant to some people - something to produce sniggers - but nevertheless it underlines an important principle: No statutory corporation or board can pretend to use any powers not given to it. The good sense of this in a matter of politics should not be doubted. If this Parliament, by statute, sets up a board and the board goes off on an infinite variety of errands which it thinks should be carried out, we come to the question of how the board can be restrained when it so behaves. Some of the wool growers in this instance wanted to challenge the validity of the expenditure of funds, and the only way they could do so was to secure the Attorney-General’s fiat. He refused to give it. In my view, he was completely wrong. My understanding of the law is that, if counsel makes out a prima facie case for the fiat to be given by the Attorney-General, he should give it. I invite my honorable and learned friend to state a reasoned case to this Parliament for refusing to give it. I go a little further. There may be very sound reasons for refusing to give it, but this Parliament should be acquainted with those reasons and should not be left in any doubt.
I will deal with this question of doubt. I hope that my friend the Minister for Primary Industry will not be affronted if I remind him of what was laid down by the Privy Council as the duty of the Crown and of the Executive with respect to obeying the law when there is doubt. I ask the House to remember that my basic submission is that in this case there was clear doubt. I will read what Sir George Farnell had to say in the case of Eastern Trust Co. against McKenzie, reported in  Appeal Cases. He said - lt is the duty of the Crown and of every branch of the Executive to abide by the law. If there is any difficulty in ascertaining it, the Courts are open to the Crown to sue, and it is the duty of the Executive in cases of doubt to ascertain the law, in order to obey it, not to disregard it.
In this case, the Board has not been restrained, Presumably, there is no limit to the sort of activity in which the Board will engage. It has not been reined in by the Executive or by the Courts, and I submit with great respect that that is wrong. For my part, temptation is always there and I thought it would be a little Unfair if the Australian Wool Board escaped completely unscathed. So, with apologies to Rogers and Hammerstein and with a statement that possibly at a later hour this day I shall give a more robust rendition, this is my sanction upon the Board -
I now return to the Bill.
– This is no better than the honorable member’s usual speech.
– Order! t think we will get on with the Bill.
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Scullin has some noogoora burr in his pants or whether he is senile. I come to what seems to me to be one of the major defects in the Bill, and that is that no plan is attached to it. My friend the Minister for Primary Industry said this afternoon by way of courteous and gentle interjection when one of my colleagues was speaking: “ Ah, but I explained the plan in my second reading speech.” With very great respect to him . that is no place for a person to turn to in order to find the plan. One should not be obliged to go on a tour of exploration through “ Hansard “ to find the meaning of the plan. I know that there are some people whose minds are so completely and so utterly blocked that they refuse to concede the validity of this point, but one is entitled to turn to an act of Parliament in order to find the full meaning of that act and should not have to go to the second reading speech. I ask my friend the Minister for Primary Industry, through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to face up to the problems that confront a person who tries to understand the significance of legislation by looking at second reading speeches. He, of course, usually explains his legislation plainly, clearly and to the point. However, on this occasion, I submit that, even in his own speech, there are areas of considerable doubt as to the full implications of the plan.
I submit that the plan should be attached to the Bill. I go further. I say that it is not attached to the Bill at this point of time because there is no complete plan. This, I submit, is proved by the fact that, as of now, considerable negotiations and discussions are still going on concerning the source of the finance that is needed for the plan. This may to some comfortable minds be mere detail, but I venture to say that in the mind of a person sitting in this House it is reasonable to ask for the plan. But still it is not there. I would say it would probably be easier to find a solitary sheep in 20,000 acres of mulga country than it is to find the reserve prices plan. It is all very fine for some of my friends in the Australian Country Party to say: “ Here is the plan. It is the reserve price plan for wool marketing authorised by the Australian Wool Industry Conference.” I describe that plan as a collection of slogans - political slogans and some of them pretty poor at that. To describe that as a plan is a complete caricature of the truth. I hope we will not be pressed to accept this document, a copy of which, I point out to the House, was not available from the Brisbane office of the Australian Wool Board as of Friday of last week. It is nonsense to suggest that this should be accepted as a plan. But presumably the Government, the Establishment, has determined that it is the plan.
I hesitate to contemplate the possible repercussions that could flow from this attitude. It sets an incredibly dangerous precedent to ask this Parliament to approve of something without giving the full details to the Parliament. That is where I stand, and whether people agree or disagree with me I will not budge from that stand. I have come across too many gilgai holes to be disturbed by a person such as the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board, who has lived in a lucerne paddock all his life, and I will not be silenced on this issue. I say to the House that this is a very dangerous precedent indeed.
I turn to what in my view is the second major defect in the Bill. This is the voting qualification, and it is to be found in clause 6. As all honorable members know, the qualification for a vote is 10 bales or 300 sheep. I wonder how many people who are enthusiastic for this sort of voting qualification would reveal the same measure of enthusiasm if every shareholder in a public company in which they had invested money, whether such shareholder held one share or 1,000 shares, had the same voting power. As another Shepherd discovered only last week, when it comes to a poll you depend on votes. It is a very quaint principle, in my view, to introduce into legislation a provision that all persons, whether they produce 10 bales or 500 bales, will have just one vote.
– The sheer absurdity of this surely needs no pressing upon the House. My friend, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) says: “ Nonsense “. We will agree to disagree on this. 1 have given my views. I think it is completely wrong to say to a person who may have 300 sheep: “You have the same voting strength as has the Haddon Rig stud “. Surely the absurdity of that is clear. Now let me say something about the qualification of 300 sheep. The arrangement of the provisions of the Bill in relation to this qualification is curious. First of all, a person is entitled to vote if he owns 300 sheep. Such a person gets on to the roll of wool growers under clause 8 of the Bill. When does he have to own the 300 sheep? From clause 14, which deals with offences, you can draw the inference - I submit that it is a reasonable inference - that he must own the 300 sheep on polling day. But I put this to the Minister: What happens if, 21 days before polling day a person owns the required number of sheep and gets on to the roll, and between that time and polling day one sheep happens to die or he happens to kill one gummy old ewe for meat for his dog? I point out to the Minister that there is no provision in the Bill in relation to that sort of contingency. 1 say with very great respect to the Minister that it offends me to think that he is down on such a limit. I point out another absurdity. It may be said to be trivial. I ask him this question: Who counts the sheep? Clause 8 (1.) reads -
The Secretary to the Department of Primary Industry shall, on the basis of information obtained by him from wool-brokers and wool-dealers and any other available information . . .
The Secretary has to accept implicitly the word of a person who says that he has 300 sheep. The Minister may say that he is entitled to presume that everything is done regularly and properly. That may be so in the great majority of cases. But I believe that he puts a little too much trust in everything being done regularly and properly. Misdemeanours are committed at times.
I recall that years ago, out on the outer Barcoo, there was a case of sheep stealing. The trial judge was given to quoting Latin maxims which did not seem to have much relevance and, what is more to the point, which very few people seemed to understand. He turned to counsel appearing for the person accused of sheep stealing and said: “ I presume that your client is familiar with the maxim, omnia praesumuntur rite et solemmiter esse acta “. Counsel looked at him and said: “ Familiar with it, Your Honour? I would like you to know that out here on the outer Barcoo they can talk of nothing else.” The Minister is presuming that everything will be done regularly and properly, but I ask him to look a little further into this matter.
The third defect is the requirement of compulsory voting. The Minister is determined on a clean muster. He does not want to go round again. He wants to get in every vote the first time. However, one very curious provision of this Bill is that the Crown, in right of the Commonwealth, has a vote. I ask the Minister this question: How will the Crown vote? It is all very fine for the honorable gentleman to say that the Government will riot take sides on this matter. But the definitions clause of the Bill states - the Crown in right of the Commonwealth shall be deemed to be a person ordinarily resident in the Australian Capital Territory. lt so happens that the Crown owns, sheep. The Crown owns “ Gilruth Plains “, “ Chiswick “ and other large sheep stations. How will the Crown vote? The Minister’s statement seems to me to be a rather blissful expression of the view taken by the gentleman who, referring to Cabinet government, said: “ Gentlemen, we either hang together or hang separately “. In this instance, it is not merely a case of members of the Cabinet voting together. Who would have suspected up to this moment that members of the Cabinet also shear together? I hope that before this debate concludes the Minister will be able to tell the House precisely how the Crown will vote on this issue.
I refer now to the reserve price plan itself. This is my last comment on this matter. The Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry, under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Philp, reported, I thought purposefully, against the adoption of a reserve price plan for wool marketing. But the Australian Wool Board takes only four paragraphs to refute the report of the Philp Committee on such a plan. I describe that as a piece of gross impertinence on the part of the Australian Wool Board. The Board’s report is not based on any reasoned explanation of why it is not prepared to adopt the report of the Philp Committee. As my friend, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes), has pointed out, the chairman of the Australian Wool Board is now prepared to seize desperately upon part of a resolution.
He is prepared to resort to all sorts of hearsay in order to prop up his case. I believe that the activities of the Wool -Board during this present controversy reflect no credit at all on the men who sit on the Board and, in particular, on the man who presides over the Board. There have been serious deficiencies in the conduct of the Board during this controversy. I hope that the wool growers of Australia, when they are considering the implications of this scheme, will certainly look to the pros and the cons of it but also will take into account the people who have campaigned for the scheme and the manner in which they have campaigned for it.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– Is the honorable member speaking in reply?
– We have had a very interesting two days of discussion of this all-important Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill. The Leader of the Opposition, by interjection, has asked me whether I will spaak in reply. It is customary for members on the Government side of the chamber to reply to members of the Opposition. On the rare occasions on which a member of the Government parties follows another member of the Government parties, he invariably agrees with his colleague. Let me commence my remarks by saying that I agree with the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) on only one point; that is, that this is a very important piece of legislation. We have heard from all sorts of speakers. We have heard the legal interpretation. We have heard from the economists. We have heard from the banking fraternity. We have even heard representatives of wool growers speaking in this important debate. Only a few minutes ago we heard a speaker representing a washerwoman, and we have just heard a poet. All of them claim to know as much about this matter as do the 50 members of the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
Like other members of the party that I represent, I have always believed - in fact this has always been our policy - that we should not interfere with the rights and freedoms of the individual. In other words, if an individual or an organisation wishes to do something, provided it does not interfere with the rest of the community that individual or organisation should be at liberty to do it. I believe that this issue is a typical example of that. If the wool growers wish to introduce a scheme or, for that matter, to throw out a scheme, they are at liberty to do so. It is not for us, as legislators, to tell them what is good for them. Rather is it for them, not for us, to decide what they want. We have a responsibility to raise issues or point out problems involved in their requests, but we certainly should not dictate to them. After all, that is the difference between dictatorship and democracy.
As a wool grower and a representative of wool growers, I have certain personal views on wool growing and certainly on wool marketing. I say that I represent a wool growing electorate because the part of Victoria that I represent has at least onesixth, if not one-fifth, of the total sheep population of that State. I speak in this House from time to time on wool matters as a representative of a large wool growing area. Unfortunately, many speakers have taken part in the debate on this Bill who represent few or even no wool growers whatsoever. Of course, they could represent wool consumers, wool brokers, wool manufacturers and possibly even people who maybe interested only in wool futures. I do not mind these people contributing to the debate provided they do not dictate to the growers about what is good for them.
The subject of a reserve price plan has been in the air for quite some time, contrary to assertion of some people that the scheme is being forced on the growers in a hurry. It is certainly not a quick decision. It is some years since the plan was first suggested in Australia. During the last few months particularly I have attended many meetings of wool growers. I have listened with great interest to many cases put both for and against the scheme. I have never got up on the stump, as it were, to encourage or even discourage growers on how they should vote on this issue, but I have answered questions to the best of my ability. I think, however, that I have reached the stage once reached by the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack) when he said that he could remain silent no longer.
I am very disturbed to see and hear some of the propaganda that is. being circulated.
To my mind it is most unfair, and its accuracy is doubtful. I refer chiefly to advertisements that are appearing in a number of newspapers. I think that my colleague, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) mentioned the matter this afternoon. An advertisement appeared in the “ Warracknabeal Herald “ on Friday, 20th August 1965. It takes up five-sixths of a page of the newspaper. From my observation of the newspapers in my electorate - and 1 have no doubt the same thing is occurring in other electorates - similar advertisements are appearing in a number of newspapers. This advertisement is headed “ Don’t Let the Wool Board Treat Us Like Sheep” and reads -
The Australian Wool Board is splashing money around right and left to try to stampede woolgrowers into voting “ Yes “ in the coming referendum on the Reserve Price Scheme. It is using the woolgrowers’ own money in its reckless attempt to brainwash them with vague, contradictory and misleading propaganda. It wants to push the marketing scheme through quickly before growers can learn all the facts.
I was interested to hear the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) this afternoon. I felt that he spoke with some great knowledge for one who is supposed not to know anything about the plan. This advertisement went on -
Give yourself and Australia a fair go. Wire or write to your Federal M.P. - now!
It is vitally important to every woolgrower . . and every Australian . . . that no referendum should be held on this scheme until the full facts are available and understood.
The advertisement contains this statement -
These are the facts the Wool Board does not tell us.
I do not know from where these people are getting their facts if they have not been told them and if the growers have not been told them. 1 want to analyse some of the statements in the advertisement. Firstly, where is the Wool Board splashing the money around? I thought the complaint of the people who are fighting the plan was that they did not know enough about’ it, as is said towards the end of the advertisement. They talk of the money that is being splashed around. The Board makes no pretence about where the money is coming from. Certainly some of it is wool growers’ money. Some comes from the Board’s investments, and naturally quite a lot of it comes from growers who are prepared to support the plan. If honorable members look at some of the newspapers they will find actual lists of donations from growers.
These advertisements are appearing in many newspapers, and booklets have also been printed. I have come across three, but heaven only knows how many more there are. I should like to know where the money is coming from to pay for these publications. One hears all sorts of reports. One report is that one particular publication cost somewhere in the vicinity of £5,000. I do not know, but 1 should like to know how much of the cost of these articles, booklets and advertisements is paid for out of wool growers’ money. I think honorable members will find that a very high percentage of the money is not wool growers’ money at all.
Many of these advertisements appeal to growers to write to their members of Parliament. To date I have received two letters of protest, two verbal protests and have found literally dozens of people wanting to know who is running and paying for the campaign of opposition to the plan. It has been said, too, that growers would be contributing about 10 per cent, of the cost of the anti campaign and that the rest of the money is coming from vested interests. When I say vested interests 1 refer to interests other than wool growing interests which could include those engaged in the manufacture of man made fibres.
I think it was my colleague, the honorable member for Gippsland, who referred to the establishment of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Australian Wool Industry Conference was constituted in October 1962. It comprises 25 members from the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and 25 from the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council plus an independent chairman. At the time that the legislation was being debated I did not hear many honorable members oppose the principle on which the Conference was established. Some honorable members certainly wanted to have included on the Conference representation of the Australian Primary Producers Union, hut, in the main, honorable members wanted the Australian Wool Industry Conference to be the spokesman for the industry. Today, strange as it may seem, the situation is different. Some people now say that the Australian Wool
Industry Conference is not the spokesman of the industry. Why? The reason is that they do not believe that the Conference’s actions serve the purposes that they as individuals desire to be served. In other words, these people have adopted the principle: “ If you don’t do what I want you to do, you can’t do anything at all “.
Recently the Conference agreed, by 45 votes to five, to support a referendum of growers. A section of the Conference, from what I am led to believe - graziers chiefly - was very vocal in saying that it did not agree that the referendum should go on. What has changed the minds of those comprising that section? Can we perhaps analyse the numbers? If only five members voted against the proposal surely there must have been at least 20, or - if you assume that the five stud breeders on the Conference would be in favour - at least 15 graziers who would have supported it. That is 15 out of 20. That is a pretty fair majority. Somewhere along the line there appears to have been a division in the ranks of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council. Over the years there have always been problems arising amongst the three wool growers’ organisations - the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Primary Producers Union. When the Conference was first formed - and two of the three organisations agreed to participate - we all thought that we had the beginning of a situation where one organisation would speak with one voice for the wool industry. That situation now appears to have broken down. It also appears that some members of the Conference are not prepared to accept the recommendations pf the Wool Board and the Australian Wool Industry Conference in support of a referendum on the issue of marketing. In mv opinion, these people are doing the industry a great disservice. Although they are members of the Conference, they are not working for the decisions of the Conference; they are working against its decisions. I challenge them to make their position perfectly clear to the wool growers. I am not making any personal attack on any individual, but I believe that the growers are entitled to know why some of their representatives are not prepared to support the decisions of the Conference. As members, they either accept or oppose the decisions of the Conference. If they oppose the decisions, the question arises: Have they a right to continue as members of the Conference or should they get out? After all, there are many who are prepared to take their places. As to additional membership of the Conference, I, like a number of other members of the Australian Country Party, believe that the Conference should give sympathetic consideration to admitting the Australian Primary Producers Union to membership. In my opinion, that organisation has co-operated in every way, and it certainly represents a very large number of wool growers.
As to the actual scheme that the Australian Wool Board is placing before the growers, the question is not whether the scheme is perfect or otherwise. The question is the adoption of the principle of controlled, guided or even regulated marketing. The Bill before us does not deal with the plan, as some of its critics would have us believe that it does; it is designed to give authority to the Government to hold a referendum of wool growers in order to obtain their views on the plan that the Government will be distributing with the ballot papers.
Speaking of marketing, I am naturally reminded of wheat stabilisation. No doubt some will argue that the wheat stabilisation plan cannot be compared with the plan now under consideration. I agree that it cannot, but I say that if the wheat growers were asked today whether they preferred the present wheat stabilisation plan to the old system of selling through merchants, 99 per cent., if not 100 per cent., of them would say that they were in favour of the present plan, although when the original vote was taken there was a very different story. When that vote was taken, I think in 1947 or 1948, those favouring the proposal represented nothing like 100 per cent, of the growers.
In Victoria, which some honorable members describe as a very radical State, 11,275 voted for the stabilisation scheme and 3,495 voted against it. In that State, 76 per cent, of the growers were in favour of the proposal. In Western Australia, 3,957 voted for the scheme and 2,427 voted against it. There 61.9 per cent, of the growers were in favour. In New South Wales, the voting was 8,951 for the scheme and 6,260 against it, so 58.5 per cent, of the growers favoured it. In South Australia, the figures were 5,729 in favour of the scheme and 4,090 against it, so 58.3 per cent, of the growers supported the scheme. The total number of votes recorded for the scheme throughout Australia was 29,912 and the total number cast against it was 16,371, so 63.7 per cent, of the growers of Australia supported the scheme. Results have proved that on that occasion the growers of Victoria were right in their opinion. It would appear that Victoria is taking the lead in connection with this referendum on the wool reserve prices plan. We shall see whether Victoria is right again. I might point out that New South Wales, in which the percentage favouring the wheat stabilisation plan was fairly low, is the State from which is coming some of the strongest opposition to the plan now proposed.
Some mention has been made of the schemes that are in operation in New Zealand and South Africa. I think the New Zealand plan was introduced in 1952. Either last month or the month before, the Electoral College there, which is really the equivalent of the Australian Wool Industry Conference here, voted unanimously in favour of a continuation of the plan. The South African scheme was introduced in the year 1957-58 and, to the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence of disagreement with it by the growers of that country.
On the question of eligibility to vote, two issues appear to be worrying members of this House as well as the growers. The first relates to the year in which a grower has to have wool or sheep and the second relates to the amount of wool a grower must produce or the number of sheep he must own. The confusion in relation to the year arises from the fact that, as was stated quite clearly by the Minister in his second reading speech, the year 1963-64 was selected, for convenience, for the purpose of preparing the rolls, but the following year will be the one taken as the basis for qualification. If a grower produced 10 bales in 1964-65, he will qualify, but if he produced 10 bales in 1963-64 and less than that in 1964-65, he will not qualify. The provision for granting a vote to the producer of 10 bales of wool is very contentious. At the last referendum, which was taken in 1951, eligibility to vote was based on a production of five bales, and on that occasion the larger growers wanted to restrict the vote to those with a minimum of 20 bales. The 10-bale requirement in this instance can, therefore, be said to be a compromise.
The proposal in relation to partnerships and companies is perfectly straightforward, to my mind, although I feel that to class as ineligible a partnership of three which produces 29 bales or a partnership of two which produces 19 bales is a little unrealistic. Nevertheless, each of the growers, provided they have equal shares, would be producing less than 10 bales. On the other hand, if the partnership produced 30 or 20 bales, as the case may be, each partner would be the producer of 10 bales and therefore would be entitled to a vote.
I come now to the classification of rural holdings and refer to Bulletin No. 7 issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. It relates to the year 1959-60. It is very difficult to know exactly how many wool growers will not have a vote because of the classification. If we look at this Bulletin we will find that there were something like 31,235 holdings with fewer than 300 sheep. The total number of holdings in Australia was 118,587. If we deduct the number of holdings with fewer than 300 sheep, we arrive at a figure of 87,352. I think the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Maisey) referred to similar figures. These are figures for holdings, not wool growers, lt has been estimated that between 90,000 and 100,000 wool growers will be eligible to vote, and we can assume that approximately 30,000 wool growers will not have the privilege of casting a vote. However, this is a recommendation of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, as are all the others that appear to be contentious. If this House, in its wisdom, decided to amend the Bill, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), it might not be accepted by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. With that thought in mind, I certainly support the Minister in this particular matter.
I wish to refer now to a letter sent to me by Mr. Macarthur Onslow, dated 23rd August 1965, in which he sets out a report by Mr. Ashton who, prior to that date, had visited certain rural areas. I have not suf ficient time to go right through the letter, so I will deal with a few relevant portions of it. Mr. Ashton said in his report that there was already evidence that a large proportion of wool growers, as well as city business and professional groups and major newspapers, were gravely concerned over legislation introduced by the Minister for Primary Industry. I think that is worth looking at - . . “ city business and professional groups and major newspapers were gravely concerned . . . “. Personally I do not see why the city business and professional groups should be terribly concerned about the wool growers making a wrong decision. After all, it is their own product that is involved and, naturally, they should be entitled to voice their opinion as to what they would like done with their particular product.
Criticising the legislation, Mr. Ashton said that it was particularly vague in relation to the basic question of the voting qualification. I believe, Sir, that if a person reads the Bill and the Minister’s second reading speech with any intelligence at all he can fully appreciate what is meant in this Bill. However, declaring that there were “ glaring inconsistencies “ in the voting qualification, Mr. Ashton pointed out that a bona fide wool grower who had been growing wool for 40 years or more could be refused a vote because, owing to prolonged drought conditions, he was temporarily without the minimum 300 sheep or was not producing ten bales of wool a year. As I said earlier, the qualification would be based on the year 1964-65. To my knowledge, the preceding year was a pretty good one. I can hardly imagine that many people would be affected by the drought unless they were in the central part of Australia.
Paragraph 4 of Mr. Ashton’s letter reads -
The 300 sheep qualification also meant that anyone could buy a small flock of sheep and resell them without shearing them but, in the meantime, claim a vote on the wool marketing issue.
If anyone is prepared to buy 300 sheep with a view to getting a vote, I think he is entitled to a vote. One Government member - it might have been the honorable member for Mackellar - said today that it would be possible for a person to purchase a nock of 300 sheep for £15.
Well, 1 should say that by the time the honorable member went and looked at those sheep, he would not get them for £15. Mr. Ashton said it was quite improper that bona fide wool growers could be excluded on a technicality while people who, by chance, happened to fall at a particular moment within the definition in the legislation, but who had no real interest in wool growing, could be allowed to vote. I think that argument answers itself.
In paragraph 6 of this letter, it is stated -
The introduction of the provision that the possession of 300 sheep would qualify a penton to vote made complete nonsense of the 10 bales qualification previously agreed to by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. This was because, in many cases, 300 sheep might not produce more than five bales of wool.
Mr. Ashton comes from New South Wales. I am a Victorian. If Mr. Ashton likes to come down to the western part of Victoria and tell the growers there that 300 of their sheep would produce only five bales of wool, I think he would insult those growers for all time, and they would not be interested from that point of time in what he had to say. The average clip per sheep is about 10 lb. Certainly, a sheep which gave a clip of 5 lb. would be an inferior type.
Mr. Ashton pointed out that the Minister for Primary Industry, in his speech introducing the referendum legislation, referred to the fact that the Government had agreed to the voting qualification recommended by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. Heavens above! To whom would honorable members expect the Minister to go if it was not the A.W.I.C.?
– Mr. Ashton, of course.
– That is a good point. He might finish up by going along to some of these other advisers. Of course, the Minister had to go to the A.W.I.C. for his information. This is the organisation that we recognise and which is the mouthpiece of the wool industry.
May I now say a few words about the request by the retention committee that the actual vote be delayed. The committee says, first, delay the referendum until all the facts are known and, secondly, oppose the spending of the wool growers’ money. If the growers wish to be informed on this issue and on all the facts that they are claiming they should know, surely to goodness somebody must spend some money to notify them of the facts. This, to my mind, is one of the simple little exercises in which these people engage in order to confuse the growers. Anyone knows that the creation of suspicion is the easiest way to kill anything, particularly a referendum. That is exactly what the retention committee is trying to do.
Although I would like to see this issue settled as quickly as possible, I believe that the longer we talk about it and argue about it - particularly after listening to some of the speakers in this House over the last two days - before the actual vote is taken, the bigger the majority for a “ Yes “ vote will be. I support this legislation. I wish to make sure that the people who are interested know where I stand in relation to this issue. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not going to sit on the fence. I am a wool grower. I hope to have a vote, and my vote will certainly be a “ Yes “ vote.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11,7 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
River Gauging Stations. (Question No. 1048.)
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The information which the honorable member sought has been obtained from the various stream gauging authorities, and is set out in the attached table.
It will be noted that the differences in the total numbers of stations operating in consecutive years do not agree with the numbers of new stations established. While gauging authorities are con tinually expanding their gauging networks, from time to time some existing gauging stations may be closed down. This occurs particularly in areas such as the Snowy Mountains where an intensive network may be established for only a few years in connection with investigations for a particular phase of the scheme; several stations are then closed leaving only a basic network necessary for long term recording.
Included in the tabulated figures are gauging stations maintained on experimental catchments by the University of New South Wales, the Soil Conservation Authority of Victoria and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for research purposes. The total numbers of stations operated for these purposes in each of the years shown were 9, 17, 41, 52 and 52.
In addition to the numbers of stations given in the table, the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology operates stream gauging stations for flood forecasting purposes. Figures were readily available only for 1962 and 1964; the totals for each of these years were 278 and 441 respectively.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information - 1. (a) Western Australia has passed an act (Damage by Aircraft Act 1964). No legislation on the subject has been passed in Queensland, South Australia or in any of the Territories,
No. The Attorney-General for Tasmania has announced that a Bill to deal with crimes on aircraft operating within Tasmania will be introduced in the current session of the Tasmanian Parliament which commenced on 23rd August. No territorial legislation is necessary as the Commonwealth Crimes (Aircraft) Act applies to aircraft while engaged in flights within a Territory or to or from a Territory.
r asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows- 1. (a) Payments made to registered medical benefits organisations by their members during the financial year 1963-64 amounted to £20,874,089. Figures for 1964-65 are not yet available,
Claims were rejected by the Funds in respect of 246,003 services.
These figures do not include payments in respect of contract medical organisations.
The principal reasons for refusing payment of Fund benefits were -
Details of the total number of persons employed by the registered organisations are not available.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 September 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19650915_reps_25_hor47/>.