9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Deputy President (Senator Newland) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Prime Minister is it a fact, as reported in the press this morning, that the Prime Minister has definitely stated that no order has yet been placed for the building of a cruiser, either in Great Britain or in Australia ? If so, how does the Minister reconcile that report with the statement made by him that arrangements had . been made to build one cruiser in Great Britain?
– The honorable senator is basing his question on wrong premises. I did not say that arrangements had been made to build one cruiser in Great Britain. What I said was that the Prime Minister had intimated that it was the intention of the Government to place an order for one of the cruisers in Great Britain.
– Are we to understand from the Minister’s statement recently that the Senate will be given an opportunity to assent to or dissent from the proposals of the Ministry ?
– The statement referred to by the honorable senator related to the report of Sir John Monash concerning the estimates for the construction of a second cruiser in Australia. I said that that report would be placed before Parliament, together with a statement as to the intentions of the Government in time to enable Parliament to express an opinion thereon.
Case of Oliver John Thompson
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
With reference to the questions asked of the Minister for Home and Territories in this Senate, on the 20th June last, in connexion with the case of Oliver John Thompson, an official of New Guinea, and the Minister’s replies thereto, will the Minister now inform the Senate -
Has the board of inquiry appointed to deal with Thompson yet met; and, if so, has it concluded its inquiry, and with what result?
Is Thompson still an officer of the Commonwealth; and, if so, is he still being paid salary? If not, when did he cease to be an officer, and under what circumstances?
If the inquiry into Thompson’s case has been concluded, will the Minister lay on the table of this Senate the papers in connexion with such inquiry?
Has the Commonwealth or the Administrator for the Territory of New Guinea proceeded further, and in what manner, with the prosecution of Thompson on the charge of taking out of the Territory plumage of birds of paradise ?
If further proceedings have been instituted, what stage have the proceedings reached ?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow . -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Minister lay on the table of the Senate or the Library all the papers relating to the negotiations that have taken place between the Commonwealth” Government and the State of New South Wales with reference to the construction and improvement of the railway line between South Grafton, Grafton, and Beaudesert?
– The papers will be made available for the honorable senator’s perusal at the Prime Minister’s department.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
We all regret the necessity for this mea sure, but action is necessary in the interests of large numbers of men who are engaged in the dried fruits industry. A few years ago Australia was able to absorb practically the whole of the local production, and the association created for the organization of the industry and the distribution of its products was strong enough financially to do all that was required of it. As a result of the expenditure of a large amount of public money in reclaiming and irrigating suitable lands along the Murray river and the settlement there of a considerable number of returned soldiers, as well as other settlers, there has been an enormous expansion in production within the last few years. The growers are now in a serious position, because of the difficulty in marketing their products. “Last summer was probably the worst experienced in the industry, and as a consequence considerable proportions of the currants, sultanas, and lexias are second and third grade, thus increasing the difficulty of marketing. Owing to the large numbers now engaged in the industry, the merchants, or packing companies, are unable to continue with the monthly advances or sustenance payments against growing crops to enable the growers to carry on.
– Has it been the practice for a number of years to make that sustenance allowance to settlers?
– Yes. Almost from the beginning of the settlements advances have been made against growing crops. The position at the present time is so serious that no government could turn a deaf ear to appeals from the people concerned for assistance until the 1925 crop is marketed. This bill is designed to give immediate relief. At a later date, and, I hope, before the session closes, the Government proposes to submit a scheme for the marketing of dried fruits. This bill is not a permanent solution of the difficulties in which the returned soldiers and other settlers find themselves. It is intended as an encouragement to them to carry on and look after their properties.
– Is the assistance intended only for returned soldier settlers?
– It will be given to all those who have an exportable surplus production of dried fruits. The increase in the production of dried fruits in Australia has exceeded all expectations. Although the states have played their part in encouraging settlement on the river Murray, there has been no concerted attempt to find, increased markets. In the last six years the production has expanded from 14,000 to 40,000 tons, and it is estimated that within the next five years the annual output will have reached almost 50.000 tons. This is due to the fact that 2.000 repatriated soldiers have been established in the industry along the river Murray.
– Why is there so much second-grade fruit to be disposed of?
– Last summer was most unfavorable for the sun-drying of fruit, and that accounted for the large proportion of second-grade products. Five or six years ago Australia exported only 20 per cent, of the total output of dried fruit, but now it exports no less than 80 per cent, of it. I am satisfied, however, that with proper organization the consumption of this article in Australia can be considerably increased. When I was in the country recently I asked at my hotel- for almonds and raisins, and the request was apparently regarded as outrageous. The Australian Dried Fruits Association has served a useful purpose. It embraces 90 per cent, of the growers, and it determines both the price to be charged in Australia and the proportion of the crop to be exported. Care is exercised to see that no individual grower takes advantage of the local market at the expense of his fellow orchardists, and each is- compelled to export a certain proportion of Lis crop. Generally speaking, the industry was satisfactorily carried on until a few years ago, but this year, owing to the low price of fruit and the financial stringency, there is imminent danger of the growers getting into very grave difficulties if assistance is not given. It would be a great mistake to allow second-grade fruit to be exported, for the damage it would do to the reputation of the Australian article would be incalculable. The whole trouble in regard to the marketing of our primary products has been the absence of any guarantee to the buyers in Great Britain that the goods will always be of a uniformly high grade. A butter buyer in the old country informed me that New Zealand butter had always been of standard quality, but that the Australian product was not so reliable. I am pleased to be able to say that Australia has now remedied that defect in its butter export trade. We can produce a good article, and we must take care that it is marketed in an attractive manner. I think that the Government was justified in the stand it took with respect to the canned fruit industry. There is now a keen demand in Great Britain for the Australian article. In the past the price of our canned fruit has been from ls. 6d. to 2s. a dozen tins below that of the Californian product, owing entirely to the fact that the latter fruit hasbeen more attractively presented. I am delighted to know that the canned fruit now being marketed by Australia is equalinevery respect to the Californianproduct. When in England recently, I opened about 40 tins of our canned fruit at Australia House and I invited experts to offer all the criticism that could be levelled against it. Ihad taken the precaution to have a case of Californian fruit in readiness for the purpose of comparison, and it was generally agreed that Australia’s last pack left nothing to be said in favour of the Californian article. The Australian apricots were not quite equal to the Californian, but we held our ground with respect to pears and peaches, and Australian pears were decidedly superior to the Californian. There is now atremendous demand in Londonfor Australian canned fruit. Canners here have been offered Californian parity, and in many cases 3d. or6d. a dozen more than the Californian price. That is no mean achievement for Australia. Exporters of dried fruit who are prevented from sending a second-rate article out of the country naturally feel aggrieved, but when we begin to standardize we at once tread on somebody’s toes. In building up our overseas trade it is necessary at all costs to export only the best quality products. Our canning andour labelling have considerably improved, and all the talk about our canned fruitnot being up to the overseas standard has no application at present. As Ihave mentioned already, it is now being sold at the Calif ornian parity, and even offers in excess ofthat parity have been received,. Never before has it approached within1s. 6d. a dozen tinsof that price. The increase obtained is almost sufficient to cover shipping charges. When the serious position of the growers, more particularly those newly engaged in the industry, was brought under the notice of the Government, I visited Mildura, and travelled through the Murray settlements makingexhaustive inquiries into the conditions there. When I made my report to Cabinet it was felt that something must be done to aid the industry and enable the growers to carry on until the next crop was available. There hasbeen some delay in making inquiries and in submitting a detailed scheme for the consideration of Parliament, but Ican assurehonorable senators that there has not been a moment’s delay that could have been avoided. The Prime Minister has taken a great personal interest inthe matter, and ‘has urged every expedition. Cabinet felt that the least it could do was to allow the growers a sustenance until their 1925 crop was ready. The extent of that sustenance is set out in the bill. It is 5s. a month on each ton of currants exported, and 30s. a month on each ton of sultanas and lexias exported.
– Did the Minister visit Red Cliffs?
-How can the growers atRed Cliffs be helped if their crops are notlikely to be bearing until 1925 ?
SenatorWILSON.- The settlers there are receiving sustenance from another source until their crops come into hearing. Thebill applies to man who are depending on their own resources, and whose vines are in bearing.They willbe given sustenance to keep them going until their 1925 crop is available.
SenatorDrake-Brockman. - The men whose vines have not come intobearing are provided for under the land settle ment schemes of the states..
– That is so. Some basis had to be fixed for giving this sustenance, and the Government decidedto give it only to membersof the organization to which 90 per cent. of the growers belong. Theother 10 per cent. are not to receive ; any aid unless they export. They are generally men who handle and use the local market, and secure a very good price for their product. It is the men in the organization, whose produce has to find a market overseas, who are in difficulty. A goodunionist whom I met onthe Murray rawer applied to the 10 per cent. of the growers who are not in the organization anuncomplimentary term more familiar to honorable senators opposite than to myself . In any case, when 90 per cent. of the growers are in a certain organization, surely the other 10 per cent., who have already been paid a good price for this year’s crop, cannot expect to reap advantage from the efforts of that body to improve their position. The Government propose to pay this sustenanceaccording to theexportable quantity of dried fruits: For instance, a man who exports 10’ tons will be entitled to an allowance of. 5a. a month, on each ton.; that is to- say,. £2 10s. a mo-nth in all. The man who exports sultanas: or lexiaswill be allowed 30s. a month for each ton exported.. It wasno light task to arrive at a proper basis on which to estimate what sustenance should be allowed against a crop six months ahead. As- a business proposition, the Government’s proposal may stand’ condemned,, but at the same time the 4,000 or 5,000 men engaged in this industry are iff a very difficult position.
– Yet the Government are inducing new settlerstocome here and engage in this industry.
– Weneed more settlers.
– In this particular industry?
– That is informative to the man who is now struggling in this industry.
– When the honorable senator and I were travelling the road with a damper and billy we used to say,” If it doesn’t rain to-morrow everything will go to the dogs”; but the world is still going on, and” so it will go on. California supplies the London market with 2,800,000 cases of canned fruit each season. Australia, supplies the same- market with 200,000 or 300,000 cases.
– How much does California send into Australia ?
Sentor WILSON. - Practically nothing. It would be ten times easier to dispose of our canned fruit on the London market if we supplied it with 1,500,000 cases than it is to dispose of 200,000 or 300,000 cases..
– The first requirement is to maintain the quality.
– I have already dealt with that , aspect of the question. At: the Wembley Exhibition, and at the big sale conducted through- the retail shops, we created a demand for Australian -canned fruit; but, as we are off the;- London market . for four; or five months of the year,, when the- next crop, comes along we shall have to start again to build, up another market,, and create among the British public a fresh demand for Australian fruits.If, however, we had sufficient to export to keep the market continuously supplied, we should- have a stable market,, amd as long as the quality was maintained the fruit would sell itself, and would be very much easier to handle than, is the case when. . we are practically selling what the London merchants described to me as “ job lots.”’ Last week, Sir Joseph Cook, the High. Commissioner, cabled that the growth of our trade in London in dried fruits had been tremendous. He quoted the statement of the representative of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, to the effect that directly Australia had a larger quantity to put on the market it would be easier to control and command’ that market. It is difficult on this side of the. world to realize just what is meant by such a statement. We must learn to market our produce overseas more effectively than we have’ been able to do in the past. Here I propose to anticipate Senator Gardiner’s remark that private enterprise in this regard has failed.
– It has absolutely failed, according to- the honorable senator’s own. admission.
– Desperate circumstances need desperate remedies. We haverall to admit that private enterprise, which could, dispose of the dried fruits produced in Australia when there wasno need to seek an overseas market, has not been able to meet the position that has now arisen,, owing partly to financial difficulties and adverse seasons but mainly to the fact that moat of the men engaged in growing the fruit commenced operations with very small capital.
– The Government do not propose to socialize the industry, but merely to assist private enterprise to get on a proper footing’.
– I always understood that private enterprise wanted to be left alone, and did not believe in state paternalism or in appealing, to the Government for assistance..
– Private individuals believe in- collective ownership when it is a case of gettiing money out of tha Government.
– I hope that party feeling will not prevail when, we are seeking to render assistance to avery deserving body of men. If I am askedin general terms whether I believe in government interference or not, of course, my reply is that I do not; but could the Government shut their eyes to the abnormal circumstances of 4,000 or 5,000 men ?
– In this case, apparently government interference is absolutely essential.
– The honorable senator has put the position very nicely, as he always does. It is absolutely necessary to come to the aid of these men. I can assure honorable senators that the Government have looked into the matter thoroughly, and I ask them to let their criticism be constructive, not destructive. If a better scheme can be submitted than the one I am putting forward, the Government will be willing to consider it, but if nothing better can be suggested to help these men through the trying period through which they are passing, I hope that the Senate will support the bill. It will help the men concerned to hel themselves. Of our currants, 75 per cent, are exported; of sultanas, 82£ per cent.; and of lexias, 50 per cent. Those are the actual figures of last year’s crop. The matter is urgent. The industry has been virtually carried off its legs. Only a few years ago it was difficult to obtain adequate supplies of sultanas, but notwithstanding the shortage which then existed 82£ per cent, of the quantity now produced has to be exported. The position in regard to lexias is somewhat similar, as 50 per cent, of the total production is sent overseas. The tonnage of currants on which the payment is to be paid is 8,450; of sultanas, 17,789; and of lexias, 2,108 ; or a total of 28,347 tons, involving an expenditure on the basis proposed of £191,748. As I have already stated, the money will be paid direct to the grower, and every reasonable precaution will be taken to see that the assistance thus rendered is given to persons entitled to it. The first payment will be available on the 1st September, and before the advance is paid the growers will have to give an undertaking that they intend to continue to occupy and work their blocks on a satisfactory basis. Care will be taken to ensure that payments are made to bona fide growers, who will thus be assisted in overcoming their financial difficulties until the 1925 crop is harvested.
– What scheme of organization have the Government adopted to deal with individuals?
– The question of organization can be more effectively dealt with in committee. We are in a position, however, to deal with 90 per cent, of the exportable tonnage through the Australian Dried Fruits Association, which has been able to supply the Government with the names of the growers to whom advances should be paid, and the quantity which they have delivered to the packing sheds.
– In what way do the Government propose to deal with the remainder of the growers?
– Many of them are not in any financial difficulties, and our principal desire is to assist those who are members of the dried fruit-growers’ organization. The further we investigate the question the more perplexing it becomes, but it has been found that the growers who have not exported their surplus have disposed of their product for cash within the Commonwealth at a higher price than would have been obtained overseas.
– They sold their fruit in the best market.
– It would be advantageous if all we produced could be sold locally, but the local consumption represents only 20 per cent, of the whole crop. When our production was considerably smaller, and we were able to consume practically all we produced, there was no occasion to assist the growers, but we have now reached that point when the surplus is of such magnitude that it must be exported and marketed in the best possible way. Our overseas trade in dried fruits is developing, but as insufficient provision has been made for successful marketing on the other side of the world those growers who, on the advice and with the help of the Government, have developed and extended their holdings now need assistance.
– It does not appear that if the slogan, “Produce! Produce! Produce!” was a wise one.
– It is to our advantage to increase production, but provision must also be made for marketing. The dried fruits industry is developing, and if efficiently handled will be most; valuable to the Commonwealth.
– Increased production and effective marketing should go together.
– Production has increased to a remarkable extent, but facilities for marketing have not received adequate attention. The proposed payments are to be made to the growers for a period of only six months, or until the new crop comes in. In the meantime the Government hope to place a proposal before Parliament embodying a larger scheme for the development of our overseas markets. We have already been in communication with two or three other countries in regard to reciprocal trade arrangements, and it is hoped that a definite scheme will be evolved before the expiration of the period which this temporary measure of relief covers. “Unless some assistance is given, many fruit-growers, particularly the smaller men, will be compelled to leave their holdings and take whatever work is available. If vineyards and orchards, on which a good deal of public money has been spent, were deserted, the loss to the Government and to the settler would be considerable. If effect is given to the provisions of the bill, between 4,000 and 5,000 settlers, including over 2,000 returned soldiers, will benefit.
– How many exImperial service men are included ?
– They are included in the 2,000 I have mentioned. I have not the exact number, but on a previous occasion I stated that of 2,000 ex-service men engaged in the industry, about 1 per cent, consisted of ex-Imperial service men.
– Was not an amount set aside by the British Government to assist ex-Imperial service men engaged in the fruit-growing industry ?
– No. The Victorian Government has been asked to afford some relief in the matter of water rates, which, as honorable senators are aware, entail a heavy expenditure on the part of the grower, and I am pleased to say that it has agreed to postpone its claim . in this respect until the end of the season. The South Australian Government has not agreed to postpone the collection of water rates, but has promised that growers who are unable to pay will not be pressed. We have reached the stage when co-opera tion is necessary, and I am sure honorable senators will not deal with this matter from a party aspect.
– We have reached the stage where there should be cooperation of capital.
– Perhaps, but we are still living under abnormal conditions. For many years it has been the practice to merely ship our products overseas without making any provision for their effective marketing. As a result of experience, we have learnt that we must follow them to the centres at which they are marketed. I shall be pleased to give honorable senators any information they desire concerning the methods which the Government proposes to adopt in dealing with this problem. If a more satisfactory system can be suggested we are prepared to give it our earnest consideration. I ask honorable senators not to delay the bill. The Government hopes to make the first payment to the men on the Murray river by the 1st September next.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the Minister’s speech, and enjoyed, as I always do, being held up as a shocking example of a freetrader. It is sufficient for any protectionist to be able to say that arguments advanced in opposition to his own are advanced by a freetrader. Although a freetrader, I hope that I can still sympathize with Australian industries. My objection to high tariffs - or to what is called protection - is not because of a desire to help the foreigner as against the Australian, but because of the firmly fixed opinion that high tariffs will not permanently help industry. If ever a highly protected industry sent out an Sl.O.S. signal, that signal was sent out this morning by the Minister on behalf of the dried fruits industry.For over twenty years this industry has been one of the most highly protected in Australia; yet, at the end of that period, the Minister tells the Federal Parliament that the position of the industry is such that money must be advanced to save it. I believe that prottection to the extent of about 3d. per lb. has been granted in the case of dried fruits.
– That is so.
– We must get down to bed-rock in these cases. At the present high prices charged for dried fruits the limit of the Australian market has been reached. If the prices were reduced the present consumption could be doubled.
– Hear., hear !
– The same efforts should be made to develop the Australian market as are being made to establish markets in London.
– The same applies to wheat, butter, . and other products.
– The Minister hassent out an S.O.S. signal on behalf of 3,000 or 4,000 men who, he says, must be helped over abnormal times. I am stressing the point that, notwithstanding that this industry has been fostered by a protective duty for twenty years, it is now in the deplorable position referred to . by the Minister. What remedy does the Minister propose ? He suggests a stimulant. In effect. he says, “ The poor fellow is very depressed and worried ; he is down in the mouth and down-hearted - -give him a whisky.” That is the nature of the remedy which it. is proposed . to apply to this industry. Because these men . are short of cash and depressed., they must be assisted over the next six months. The . Commonwealth Government, therefore., introduces a loanbill to help- them. Let us imagine that the Labour party occupied the Government benches, and that there was a shearers’ strike. Let us suppose, further, that the shearers came to the Government and said, “ We are passing through a depressing time; we will not accept the miserable rates of pay which are offered to us, and therefore ask the Government for an advance. When we go back to work we will repay it.” Senator Wilson would not be in favour of assistance being given to those men.
– How does the honorable senator know that ?
– I realize that the honorable senator’s chief characteristic is to “ do good by stealth and blush to find it fame.” It is difficult for a man like Senator Thompson, representing the interests of the wealthy classes, to look at life from my point of view. I desire not only to criticize this measure and to show that the proposed remedy is a false one, but also to ask how much further the Government intends to go in the direction of introducing similarly wrong legislation into this Parliament. Where is this kind of thing to end? If we are to make advances to the dried fruits combine when in need, whatcourse of action should be followed toy a section of the . community that hasnot been represented on the Treasury bench for eight years when it returns to power . and is askedto assist in abnormal times those who placed it there? Is legislation such as we are nowasked to pass to be taken as a precedent to be followed them? When conditions change and the workers of this country whoare affected byabnormal conditions ask a Labour Government to pass legislation in their interests - legislation identical with the measure now before us - what answer will they get?
SenatorCox. - We will help them.
– I hope that we shalllongcontinue here to help one another. The fighting programme honorable . senators on the . other side during the last election campaign, was that if returned to power they would wash their hands of all Government interference with private enterprise.Those were the instructions issued by the central organization.
– I did not receive them.
– Senator Wilson was in the position that neither the Nationalist partynor the Country party could issue instructions to him.. If the National party approached him, and said, “ We want you to fight against the Country party,” the honorable senator would answer, “ But I am not a Nationalist.” Similarly, if approached by the Country party to fight against the Nationalists, he would answer, “ I am not a member of the Country party.” The position of the honorable senator reminds me of the battle between the birds and the beasts inAesop’s fables. The birds approached the bats, and asked them to fight on their side, but the bats replied, “ Look at our bodies, and you will see that we are not birds, but belong to the beasts. We cannot, therefore, fight for you.” When the beasts approached them, the” bats replied, “Look at our wings; we are birds, and cannot fight for the beasts.” Later, when peace between the contending parties was made, and the feast was spread, the bats desired to partake of it, but both sides turned upon them. That is the reason that bats now fly only by night. When the time comes for another pitched battle between the parties, Senator Wilson will again stand aloof from both, andl let them fight it. out between themselves. The honorable senator anticipated my attitude towards this, biil. Probably: that was not at difficult, matter,, as my attitude towards all measures that are introduced in this chamber is. always basedon fixed principles. The maim battle-cry of those now forming the Composite Government at tha last election was, “ No interference with private- enterprise.”’ In a desire to carry out that’ electron pledge, they no sooner were returned to office than they disposed of the magnificent woollen, mills at Geelong. There was- an. industry which was highly profitable; but, because it interfered with private enterprise, it had. to be disposed of. How that the Government, find’s private enterprise in. a bad way,, it is anxious to interfere on its behalf-
– Assistance is not interference.. They are. glad: of assistance.
– I thought that the traders wanted to be left alone-:
– I am not certain that for the Government to advance money to these people ait 6 per cent, is not interfering with the enterprise of the private money lenders. If some one is prepared’ to advance money on reasonably good security, for the Government to step in and advance that money on no security is an- interference with private Business.
– The action of the Government might cause a strike among the money, lenders.
– There has always been a. lockout among them because of their desire to; get the last shilling by way of interest. The Government is prepared to. interfere with the interests of the banking institutions who usually make these advances, because the people who’ want the advances are unable to offer sufficient security. Senator Wilson says that we should not be blind to the interests of the returned soldiers. Yet, when I asked for some support for a returned munition worker, Senator Pearce depicted me as a man who, while in opposition, was willing to spend any amount of Government money.
– The party to which the honorable- senator belongs has refused preference to returned soldiers in Queens-land and elsewhere.
SenatorGARDINER - AMuaugh that matter does not. come within the scope of this bill, I reply that this . party bas: dona nothing of the* kind. I travelled through a large portion of thei honorable senator’s state, and at every meeting which I addressed. I asked amy returned soldiers, present who had not received preference to staaid up>; but on no occasion did a returned soldier rise to- his: feet. We are told. that, the men who are producing dried fruits for sale overseas must get an advance from the. Government to tide them over their present, difficulties. This statement merits the gravest consideration at the hands of any government. But’ surely there is a better remedy than this proposal to advance money to about 4,000 people who are engaged in the industry. Surely an effective method’ can be devised for the assistance of our primary producers ? This proposal goes only half the distance. On Labour’s platform there is a plank for the socialization of industry. Let us see how it would- apply to this industry. Under a socialized system we should be able to. take charge of the product and place it upon the markets of the world:
– Would not the grower have to be socialized also ?
– Not necessarily. The Labour conference decided thait the plank for the socialization of industry should not apply to- those industries that were not exploiting the public. I do not. think even Senator’ Pearce will say that the growers of dried fruits are doing that.
– But the honorable senator did. He said they were charging too much for their currants.
- Senator Pearce missed the point entirely. I have said that the- output of currants could be doubled and yet consumed by the people of Australia if prices were reduced. I did not say that the growers- were charging too- much for their products. The present position is the outcome of that absurd system under- which the primary producer cannot grow and market his commodities within the purchasing power of the people. But let me get along. I feel that Senator Wilson needs criticism of a helpful nature, and I put it to him that the socialization of the dried: fruits industrywould be a simple and permanent solution of the present difficulties of thoseengaged in the industry. It would afford relief also to the primary producers in all the states. Under a socialized system the distribution of all primary’ products would be entirely controlled by the Government. The middleman would be entirely eliminated.
– The Queensland Government socialized the fish industry, with the result that the price of fish was higher than ever.
– When Senator Crawford mentions the failures of the Queensland Government, I turn to the statistician’s figures to see what is really happening in that state. I have done so on other occasions, and as I remember them the figures disclose that Victoria, the smallest of the mainland states, a country with the best rainfall and the most fertile soil, to-day has 28 per cent, of the population, compared with the 33 per cent, in pre-federation days. On the other hand, the population of Queensland, which has enjoyed Labour administration for several years, has advanced from 13 per cent, to 15 per cent., and New South Wales has increased its percentage from 35 to 38 per cent.
– Queensland is succeeding in spite of, not because* of, Labour administration.
– This bill is further evidence that protection has failed. The time has arrived when we should give the most thoughtful consideration to all forms of experimental legislation that are not based upon sound principles. This proposal to advance money to private individuals engaged in a primary industry is not one that I can support. We should remember that we are handling the finances of the people, and should not discriminate between man and man. We should not agree to make a monetary advance to certain men because they happen to be in a tight corner, and refuse the same assistance to other men who have been in tighter corners all their lives and cannot even get work. If the Minister, when introducing this bill, had intimated also that the Government intended to bring in a proposal whereby every man in Australia who was willing to work would get it, I should have said that the proposal was comprehensive and worthy of support. What does the Minister say to that?
– “ One step enough for me.”
– Is it not a 1 fact that this proposal will relieve unemployment?
– It is a proposal to help a number of primary producers who, through no fault of their own, are in financial difficulties. If this is a sound proposition, why not make advances to men who are out of work until they get employment again? I do not suggest, of course, that this would be a sound proposition from the point of view of the Government’s expectation of repayment. This measure would not have been brought before us if the interests of returned soldiers only were at stake. It has been -introduced more in the interests of the combine which exports our dried fruits, and which has been manipulating marktes for its own interest and profitthan in the interests of the men who grow the fruit. I quoted some time ago figures from a speech delivered by Mr. Gabb in another place, showing that the grower of grapes was getting only 1/4d per lib. for varieties required for the production of wine. The Government’ should bring in a comprehensive scheme dealing with all our primary products, including wool, wheat, butter, wine, and cheese. This must be done eventually, because under the present high protective tariff our primary producers are so heavily taxed that it is almost impossible for them to compete in overseas markets. Every implement that the primary producer uses, every article of clothing he wears, every particle of food that he consumes, even the pipe, of tobacco that he smokes or the glass of beer that he drinks to refresh his weary system, is heavily taxed. The manufacturing industries charge him high prices for everything he requires. Protection has enabled the gentleman who controls the immense establishment at Sunshine to purchase the magnificent mansion once owned by Sir Rupert Clark. I have no objection to men who, under existing conditions, make fortunes. In my opinion they are rather admirable in their way, but I object to a system that enables one man to make a fortune and compels another man to go in rags.
– The dried fruits industry is highly protected.
– It has been highly protected for twenty years, and protection having failed, the men engaged in that industry are’ now sending out S.O.S. signals for help. Protection in that industry has failed because the home market is now over-supplied, and the producers have to dispose of their surplus in the markets of the world. The people of Australia, who under protection have been paying high prices for everything they use, will now be required to finance the dried fruits producers for a little while longer until they can capture the markets of the world. The subject which this debate opens up might very well occupy Parliament for an entire session. We should consider how far we are prepared to go in government assistance to individuals, and in financing private enterprise. Protection, as I have said, has enabled Mr. McKay to purchase Sir Rupert Clark’s mansion in Melbourne. In Sydney, from the top of the Commonwealth Bank, one may see an immense building now- owned by Mr. Hoskins, and paid for, shall I say, out of the bounties given to him by the people of Australia for the development of his business.
– And he said that the iron and steel industry was going to ruin.
– It is difficult to understand how a man with hundreds of thousands of pounds can be ruined. The worker, who is asked to help the producers of dried fruits, is engaged in production six days a week, and can only afford to buy about sixpenny-worth of dried fruit a week for his family. I believe that the dried fruit industry is in a sorry plight, and that practically every primary producer in Australia is in a serious position, but I do not intend to favour the first remedy that the Government happens to suggest. If all our primary industries are in a bad way, surely it is time to return to first principles, and try to discover the cause. Let us ask ourselves whether our preconceived idea that protection means work and prosperity, and a growing trade with the other side of the world, is wrong. I arn, so loyal to Great Britain that I would trade with her on a freetrade basis. I would tell her that we can manufacture in Australia anything that can be produced in Great Britain, and that we do .not want protection. While Great Britain may have fine machinery and wide experience, Australia enjoys such climatic advantages that its artisans can produce more than British workmen.
– There is a difference between the practical and the ideal.
– Nobody will dispute the fact that the average Australian is at least equal to the average Britisher in that respect. Nature has so endowed this country that the workmen born here are superior to those born in the Old Country, and those Britishers who come to Australia very soon improve in productive capacity. Australia is my homeland, but I have probably as much love for England as anybody who was not born there. It is, indeed, a great country, and it has a wonderful people, but the stage it has reached as a manufacturing country has not been attained by means of bounties. What legislation has been passed in Great Britain in the last 75 years for the purpose of giving assistance to private people? Such a policy does not even promise safety to the community. Honorable senators will remember the hard conditions that formerly obtained in the fruit-growing industry. It was contended that an increased tariff was required to give adequate protection to the industry, but the growers in certain branches of it also declared that they could only carry on by working women and children all hours of the day, and paying them a starvation wage. If only one operative in every five is engaged in a protected industry, it means that four out of every five workers agree to help the manufacturer by granting him duties for the_ purpose of shutting out foreign competition. It also means a struggle for the worker to obtain a fair wage for himself. I recognize that I am old-fashioned, but I should like to be able to convince the working section where protection is leading them. I contend that protection should be threefold. It should first give protection to the workers. We should then see that the interests of consumers, are safeguarded, and, lastly, we should look to the profits of the manufacturers or producers. That is the new protection, and it is part of the Labour party’s policy to-day. The number of industries that have asked for Government assistance shows to what an extent the accepted fiscal policy of Australia has failed. Senator Wilson can well afford to view matters free from party trammels, since he belongs neither to the National nor the Country party, and has gained his position in the Ministry because of his great business experience and ability.
– That is very nicely said.
– I am sorry the honorable- senator has interjected, because it makes my remark appear sarcastic. J am merely pointing out that he is not responsible for what was urged by the National and Country parties at the last election, when their cry was for “ Production, production,, and more production.” “ There must be more work,”- they claimed, “ and more production in this country.” The producers of Australia have been raising more produce, and> how do. the Government get, tha value of thieu: production out of them? If they smoke, they are taxed 5s. 4d. per lb-, on their tobacco, or Ils. per lb. on their, cigarettes. If they drink a glass of bear; they are charged-, because- of excise, double: the price they ought to’ pay. All these charges are imposed, to enable the wealthy men, who* never feel the pinch, to escape paying their just share of the cost ofthe war.. When it is’- discovered that’ the primary producers, who’ are less” able than any one else to> pass on taxation, and have to carry the biggest and heaviestloads, are- over-burdened’ by the taxation imposed on- them, the Government come along with a. temporary expedient to try to do the. right thing for 4,000’ or 5,00b men, among whom are many returned soldiers. It is our duty to do. the right thing, not only to returned soldiers,, but also to every one in the country, but we have to seriously consider what is the right thing:. Can Senator Wilson convince me that this measure of temporary relief wilL not prevent these, men from asking next year for a further instalment of temporary relief? I fail! to see. how this method can place theprimary producers concerned’ in a better position next year than they occupy al present. The honorable senator has compared the’ quantity of fruit exported by Australia with that exported . by California. But he must remember that Australia is a long way behind California in the development of fruit-growing, fruit canning, and the dried fruits industry. Hitherto it has been an easy matter for Australian fruit-growers to live without engaging in arduous labour all the year round. It is only of recent years that they have been forced’ to give close attention throughout the whole of the year to their orchards. Hitherto Australia, has been practically . free from fruit pests, but to-day the Australian fruit-grower has to watch day and night to- keep his orchard* free from the things- that would destroy it if he’ relaxed Ms: vigilance. I realize that the more people we have- in- our country, the more railways we build’, the: more road’s we- develop, and the. more industries we establish, the more severe must become the pressure on the man that have to work. The fight is harder on them to-day than it was in our boyhood. Some may say that, our fathers did not receive the wages which our children are earning to-day. That is true, but with, what they got they purchased a great, deal more than qui: children are able to purchase, and they, lived under better conditions, and with- a degree of. freedom, that will never again come to Autralia.. Despite all the developments o£ science,, and all- the advantages that modem* civilization gives,, the struggle for existence to-day is: worse than it has ever: been.’
– -Then there has been no reform?
– There has been any amount of. reform’, but too much of it has been along the wrong lines. There has been too much resort to expedients instead of working along, fixed’ principles. Our children have tiptoed a great deal higher than their fathers reached in the matter of education.. I. am not an opponent, of education;. I am a most ardent supporter of it;; but sometimes I doubt, whether our present system gives more brain power than, did” the system of the old days, under which, blain power was. developed although the grammatical construction, of sentences might have- been somewhat faulty.
– Education does not gree brain power ; it merely develops natural intelligence.
– I wonder sometimes” whether the present system of education is not restrictive of brain power. Forty years ago we would have thought that with the spread of railways, the development of good roads, and the construction of telephone lines everywhere, the condition of the ‘people who did the world’s work would be improved, and that Australians would be the best equipped and cared for people in the world, especially when the administration of the country was placed absolutely in their hands. But such- is not the case. I can1 remember’ seeing the reaper wielding his reaping-hook, and the man who could reap an acre a day was a first class worker. Men who could put up records in swinging the scythe were jUSt as proud as was the “ ringer “ of the shed in the days of hand shearing. With drills, worked by air-compressors, doing in a few minutes what men formerly did in a day, would we not think it possible for the mining industry to be carried on with success? But the community has developed a system which makes it difficult for .men engaged in primary industries to avail themselves of the best machinery that science and mechanics have provided for them. The farmers are compelled to pay more for the implements they need, and in return they are handed out a little bit of compensation or given a loan at 6 per cent, interest. I do not like this 6 per cent, interest Shylock touch ! J do not think that the rate of interest should exceed 3 per cent. Some one has declared that capital must have its share of production. In the present instance the Commonwealth Government is advancing so much capital to enable, people engaged in the dried fruits industry to carry on, and it proposes to charge them 6 per cent, as interest, which may be said to represent capital’s share of the production of the industry. What is the worker’s share ? Is it 6 per cent. ? Taking what a worker pays to live and to rear more wage-earners to take his place, he gets absolutely nothing. He gets only enough to live on, and not enough to house himself as we would like to see him housed. Can any one say that the toiling masses of this community are getting more out of the production of wealth than the men who control the industry of the country? We know that the worker, be he miner, farm labourer, ironworker, machinery maker, or warehouse employee, grows old and grey before his time, and in many cases has to dye his hair lest he may show his age and lose his position. The old day of the sympathetic touch between employers and employees has gone, and the age of increased production has arrived. But Labour will alter all this. It will see that combined labour controls industry from the producer to the consumer, and that the rewards of production are proportioned to the effort made in producing. It will be the effort of labour to secure to all producers the results of their industry, free from any demand made by the owner of property or the need to pay 6 per cent, as capital’s share of production. I wonder if honorable senators would agree to an Arbitration Act which would provide that the wages - for the employee should bc enough to permit him to feed and clothe himself and rear a family, and to give him 6 per cent, of the value of production.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Sitting suspended from 1 te. 2 p.m.
.- The method adopted by the Government in this instance is of a temporary character, pending the introduction of a bill to provide greater assistance to the dried fruits industry and kindred industries than is contemplated in this measure. The remarks made by the Minister (Senator Wilson) have opened up an exceedingly important question in relation to Australian primary production. It would appear that in dealing with the dried fruits industry and other primary industries we have been placing the cart before the horse. It is only a little while ago that an ex-Prime Minister suggested that we should adopt the slogan, “ Produce ! Produce ! Produce.” Large sums of money have been spent on irrigation and immigration, mainly for increasing primary production throughout the Commonwealth, but apparently greater attention has been devoted to placing more land under cultivation than to finding markets for the commodities which settlers have been encouraged to produce. In spite of the fact that a ready local market is available for only 20 per cent, of the crop of sultanas, and that the remaining 80 per cent, is, so to speak, in the lap of the gods, the Minister still thinks we should continue to open up .additional areas in order to make even larger quantities available. The sound business way in which to deal with this matter is to evolve some definite marketing (scheme before increasing the area now under1 cultivation. The conditions which exist in the fruitgrowing industry apply not only to the river Murray, but to .practically every state in -the Commonwealth. In Queensland an ambitious scheme was formulated for the growing and canning of pineapples. The prospects were encouraging, and exsoldiers who took up country at Beerburrum were told that provision had been made for the marketing of their output, and that there was every likelihood of their becoming wealthy settlers.
– They ought to have had their brains brushed for- going on with it.
– I cannot agree with that opinion, because many of the men who took up the land had but recently returned from the war and were inexperienced in the production of this class of fruit. Many were unable to judge the quality of the land or the possibilities of making the industry successful. Those who selected the land should have had their brains brushed and not the unfortunate settlers.
– I do not know who was responsible.
– Mainly the officers of the State Lands Department.
– It was a scandalous business.
– It was. In parts of the Beerburrum country fair crops of pineapples have been grown, but although there are good ridges the country generally is patchy. Some good crops have been obtained as the result of the extensive use of fertilizers, but those who are still in the business are confronted with the difficulties which are being encountered by those engaged in growing fruits for drying. Having produced the crop, what are they to do with it?
– Is the country in the Beerburrum district devoted wholly to the production of pineapples ?
– Most of it has been abandoned.
– No. Some settlers are still there, and if reasonable facilities are provided, they will pull through. The Stanthorpe district, in Queensland, is capable of producing some of the finest apples and peaches in the world.
– Sufficient fruit could be grown in the Stanthorpe district to supply the whole of Australia.
– Possibly. The position there is similar to that on the river Murray. Large tracts of country were cleared, orchards were planted, and assistance was given to the settlers; but to-day a number of the holdings have been aban doned. In some cases, the weeds arc higher than the fruit trees, because there is no market for the fruit. I do not intend to oppose the bill, but I think its provisions should apply to soldier settlements generally instead of being confined to those on the river Murray. If a little more money had been made available by the Government, possibly many of the soldier settlers would have pulled through. By limiting the amount of assistance to £625 per settler, we could not expect them to succeed, as several years must necessarily elapse before the trees come into bearing. In this instance, a monthly advance is to be made for six months on the exportable surplus of dried fruits produced. Senator Findley aptly interjected, when this explanation was being made, 1 And in spite of that, you are asking more people to settle on the land.” The point is an important one, because further provision should be made for an adequate marketing system before additional areas -are opened up. The Minister said that no doubt the whole difficulty now confronting the industry would be overcome; but there is no ground upon which he can assure us that the European market will absorb the whole of our surplus of dried fruits.
– It is an expanding industry in other countries.
– Yes. A similar position exists in connexion with our meat export industry. A number of persons in Great Britain would purchase our meat if it were obtainable at a reasonable price. Unless we can place our dried fruits on the European markets at a price which will enable them to compete with similar products from other countries, there is very little likelihood of them finding a ready market. It is useless to adhere to the idea that the British consumers will purchase our products unless we can sell them at as cheap a rate as those from other countries.
– The question of quality has to be considered.
– Yes, to an extent; but where the purchasing power of the individual is limited, as it is in many European countries to-day, it is only reasonable to assume that the cheapest article will be purchased. In these circumstances, it is unwise to send huge quantities of Australian foodstuffs to Europe believing that the European consumers will purchase it merely because it is of Australian production. We know by the votes recorded at the last British general elections, and by the debates in the House of Commons, that the British people place produce from the dominions on practically the same basis as that from other countries. If we wish to dispose of our surplus primary products in the European markets, we must sell them at a rate which will compare favorably with that obtained for those from other countries. The proposal of the Government is a temporary expedient covering only six months; but when that period has expired, what is to be done to enable those who receive this help to repay the money advanced?
– Why not make it available in respect of dried fruits for Australian consumption ?
– It is not possible to make the whole amount available for advances in respect of the consumption- in Australia, because of the great increase in production during recent years. I agree with the honorable senator that it would be much better for the industry if it could place its . products on the Australian market at a much lower figure than at present.
– Does the honorable senator not think that that could be done?
– If something ic. that direction could be done, it would, to some extent, overcome the difficulty which has arisen by reason of the supply being greater than the Australian demand; but when we consider the extent of our irrigation schemes we cannot possibly hope to consume in Australia the whole of their products, and must, therefore, look for an export market. Perhaps the Minister, when replying, will tell us something more of what will happen to these settlers after this temporary difficulty has been overcome. He has asked us to pass this bill to relieve the present situation, but, after all, it will be only a temporary relief. After the money is paid, we do not know, nor do the settlers themselves know, what will happen. It may be that they will find themselves in a worse position than at present, and that they may again approach the Federal Government for further assistance. We are simply piling up an overdraft which the settlers will have to carry. From many points of view we cannot well refuse to make advances to these settlers in the direction indicated by the Minister. Already both the State and Federal Governments have invested large sums of money in these settlements, and in order to save that money, it is necessary to make further sums available. Before the Minister closes the secondreading debate he should give us some indication of the probable fate of these settlers after the six months have elapsed and the money has been expended.
– A proposal of this nature opens up a very big question. This industry has had liberal support from the Government in the past, but nevertheless it now finds itself in very deep water. The Government has asked the Senate to come to the assistance of these people during a period of stress. The industry must, indeed, be in a bad way if the financial institutions will not .go to their rescue. Such a state of affairs does not bear out the predictions which were made in this Parliament on many occasions, namely, that the future prospects of this industry were particularly rosy. Honorable senators may remember that Parliament some time ago was asked to agree to a very substantial measure of protection being given to the dried fruits industry. It and other protected industries were to be assisted; and it was prophesied that after a short time they would proceed to their inevitable favorable destiny without further assistance. Now comes this proposal for the Federal Government to do something which the financial institutions bluntly refuse to do. Even if we grant the temporary assistance asked for, we have no assurance that the present difficulty will not develop into a permanent one. The outlook certainly is not encouraging. The Minister stated that, whereas, at one time, 80 per cent, of our production of sultanas was consumed in Australia, to-day only 20 per cent, is consumed here, and that we must rely on overseas markets for the disposal of the balance. The fact that this industry, which has been so liberally assisted in the past, is in such a serious condition to-day gives cause for serious reflection. At the same time, I see no real difference between assistance being granted to this industry and patronage being extended to other industries. The men who are trying to grow crops on the watershed of the Murray have as much right to government patronage as have the manufacturers of boots .in Melbourne, or of agricultural implements in Sydney, or those who make motor bodies in Adelaide. They are all engaged in industry, and if it is proved that they cannot carry on successfully without for a time receiving government assistance, there is no reason why one should be refused it any more than another. But while that is so, and while all industries are entitled to a measure of assistance in order that Australia may become a self-contained country, we must remember that this particular industry has reached the point where it is not a matter of Australia being self-contained, but where expansion must be provided for. The maxim “ self-contained “ should have its complement, “ self -expansive,” if we are to progressively develop this country. We must look beyond our own country to find markets for these products. The question then arises whether we should go in for further measures of assistance and protection to give the overseas and foreign consumers a cheaper product. That is what it amounts to. Are we justified in taxing ourselves to reduce the price to the foreigner ? The amount of the reduction may be almost imperceptible, but it is- there. We must realize also that we cannot grant assistance to this industry and withhold it from others with similar needs. Every section of the community is entitled to equal consideration. We have only one source from which any assistance can be granted - the earnings of the people, which m>ust bo taxed if concessions of this -nature are to be continued. Honorable senators all know that there is a limit to which Ave can go in taxing our people and in extending patronage to industry. ‘ Their ability to pay taxation is not like a bottomless well, or a perennial spring. I do not say that this industry will need assistance permanently, but the fact that this bill is before us is not a hopeful sign. That brings me to this : Is it well for us to continue this industry at all ? Is the present unsatisfactory position due to any cause which is removable? Is the land selected for settlement unsuitable, or are wrong methods of cultivation adopted ? The dried fruits from the Murray ‘basin have to compete against the products of California and other places, where the quality is at least equal to that of Austra- lian fruit. If the Californian dried fruit producers, with the high wages which prevail there, can make not only a living but a profit also, we should be able to do the same in this country without government assistance. The question arises whether we should not examine the conditions in this industry very carefully, to see whether it cannot stand upon its own legs. We cannot go on for ever granting assistance to this or any other industry. To tide the beef, industry over a temporary depression was found to be a good investment, but if Parliament were asked to grant continuous patronage to that industry we could not do it, because there is a pronounced limit to our resources. If we find that the land is not unsuitable, that wrong methods of cultivation are not in use, that transport facilities are not insufficient, but that, nevertheless, this industry cannot compete in the world’s markets, then we must seriously consider whether it is worth our while continuing it at all. A warning of this nature is not out of place at this stage. I do not know the merits of this industry, and would be very loth to fold my arms and look upon a body of men engaged in an endeavour to win a living from the soil without giving them some reasonable assistance. At the same, time, we must look at the possible consequences of our action. If we give assistance in this instance, we cannot withhold it in other cases. Other industries, such as dairying and wheat-growing, have done much without government assistance.
– This industry exists in other parts of Australia besides the- Murray valley.
– I am .aware of that, but I do not know whether it is proposed to .extend this assistance to other parts of Australia.
– I said that it was.
– If we grant the assistance asked for in -this case, we cannot refuse to assist other industries, many of which do not, so far as I know, receive a farthing in the way of assistance from the Government.
– The wheat industry in New South Wales got something when the- State Government had to make up the amount of the .guarantee some years ago.
– That was the result of a political move for the purpose of securing the farmers’ vote for a certain party. The: wheat industry,, as it is carried, on. to-day on the lighter- andl inferior soils of. the Commonwealth,, audi under, more adverse conditions- fihan. apply to any other, industry,, supplies, not only the. local market- at world’s parity, but also sells: its surplusi overseas in competition; with every country in the world’. Since the wheat industry is doing that, I aiw- at a loss; to- understand’ why fruitgrowers, in the Murray valley, which is> certainly a more- pleasant situation than many localities where wheat is- grown-, cannot do likewise-.
– When the fruit industry is as well established it will be able to carry its own load.
– It is a pretty old’ industry already.
– The plea was: put. forward that this, was an. infant, industry , TJafbrtunately, it is our experience that, as infant, industries’ grow, instead of the; spoon with which, they were fed originally being withdrawn,, it is increased in siase,, and. sustenance,, in the way of protection,, is increased in. volume for the purpose apparently of providing, cheaper products for. foreign consumers.. We cannot continue this, course indefinitely, for the simple reason that the source of. supply, namely, taxation wrung from the people, is not without limit. I am prepared to support this bill as a. temporary measuredesigned to help the- producers- of dried fruits- in an abnormally difficult situation. It is no credit to those people who have been assisting the growers- hitherto to step out. of the business and allow the growers to sink unless the Government comes to their rescue. They have made fortunes, probably, out of the growers in the past. This appeal demonstrates the wisdom of having, a democratic parliamentary institution available to sustain a worthy section of its citizens, who, if left to their fate, would undoubtedly sink and drown for want of a sympathetic hand. If this debate has the effect of directing attention to such dangers, some good will be done. Clearly we cannot continue giving assistance first to one industry and then to another, because, as I have shown, the source from which this financial assistance may be drawn has its limits. Our primary producers have not benefited from- the high rates of duty imposed by the 1920 tariff. On the contrary, the prices for all their requirements have been’ piling up all the time.. With the exception os£ the- wool, and, until quite lately,, wheat, the primary industries, of the Commonwealth have beem having a bad time.. Nevertheless, the- farming interests, as- the statistician’s figures show, pay 11 per cent, of the- total taxation - a truly wonderful record. The farming, industry can do this only because- those engaged in it work from early in- the morning till late at night, and under conditions unknown in. any of our- secondary- industries. For the last ten or- fifteen years,, our manufacturers have not. been delivering thegoods.
– The- honorable, senator is- now spoiling- his speech..
– Had I the time I could- quote figures in. support of- my. contention that would spoil the assertion of- the honorable senator. I -do not depend upon declamation and. sophistry for the strength of my arguments.. I depend upon facts and figures, which, are available to all honorable senators, and I repeat that for the last ten or fifteen years the secondary industries of the- Commonwealth- have not been delivering the goods compared, with those engaged -in. our primary industries-
SenatorHANnan. - The employers of Australia- will not endorse that statement.
– The facts, nevertheless, are there. I am- not opposing the bill. I am merely sounding a note of warning as to the effect of this legislation if persisted in, and if it becomes part of the permanent policy of the Government. I hope that it will be regarded as only a temporary measure to help those who according to the ministerial statement, are sadly in need of help.
– I hope to be able to state my views on this proposal in a few words. I have always been opposed to the bounty system.
– This is not a proposal for the payment of a bounty, but for a loan at a definite rate of interest.
– So much the worse. The Minister admitted that it was intended to make advances to help certain primary producers over their present difficulties. If this temporary assistance will help the people concerned I shall have no objection. The Minister has: invited, honorable senators to make suggestions. I reiterate that the most effective assistance for the primary producers is the establishment of secondary industries. Mr. Donald Mackinnon, the Australian representative at Washington, in a recent report, stated that Canada is exporting to Australia a considerable quantity of goods, principally canned foodstuffs. Our people should be encouraged to give preference to products of Australian origin. In this way we are more, likely to assist those engaged in our primary industries. At present 60 per cent, of the primary products of Australia have to be exported. It is clear that we must have more people in Australia, and the only way to get them is by establishing a greater number of secondary industries. The Government is contemplating placing an order in Britain for the construction of a cruiser. If, instead of doing that, the Ministry decided to have both vessels built in Australia, even at an additional cost of £500,000, that certainly would be better than extending this system of bounties to our primary industries, because the construction of both cruisers in Australia would lead to the introduction of a large number of artisans, and a consequent enlargement of the home market for primary products. A few years ago the Government of Victoria imported an experienced manager for its railways. He immediately launched an extensive advertising campaign, with the object of inducing the people of this state to eat more of the products of their own land. Certain wiseacres and “know-alls” ridiculed that plan, but we now find that it was sound policy, because an increased demand in the home market has led to an increase in railway revenue, and now the Victorian system is beginning to pay. At the principal railway stations in Victoria one may see beautiful cases made of Victorian woods, highly polished, with a number of packets of dried fruits inside. These commodities are also displayed in the hairdressing saloons and shops. After making purchases the purchaser frequently accepts, in lieu of small change, a small packet of raisins, but one probably finds that the fruit is badly packed, and that the packet contains a good deal of dirt. Senator Gardiner recently purchased at the Seymour railway station a packet of sultanas for ls. 3d., and found that they were full of worms. If Australian dried fruits are expected to command a good market in other countries, a wholesome and attractive article, well packed, and of first quality, should be exported, and it is the duty of the Government to see that only such fruit is sent away. It would be an effective way of promoting sales in other lands. We should also, have an advertising campaign to encourage our people to eat the products of their own country, and every effort should be made to ensure that the fruit is carefully selected and attractively presented. A day or two ago a deputation waited on the new Labour Premier of Victoria, asking for assistance to a private woollen mill.. It is unfair that the people who are clamouring for the establishment of new states in New South Wales should refrain from purchasing the goods produced in their own districts. Instead of doing so, they send their orders to the big advertising city firms to save a few pence on a £1 order. One reason why the returned soldiers on the fruit blocks find themselves in difficulties is that the land has been over-valued. In my opinion, the value should be written down considerably. One’ objectionable feature of the bill is contained in clause 3, sub-clause 1 of which states -
The Minister may arrange with any banking corporation carrying on business in the Commonwealth, for the making, by that corporation, of advances, in accordance with this A.ct, to growers of dried fruits, and may guarantee to that banking corporation the repayment of any advance made by the corporation in pursuance of the arrangement, with interest thereon at the rate of 6 per centum per annum.
If the Government advanced the money through the Commonwealth Bank, it would eliminate the profits of the private money lenders, and thus benefit the growers. I shall attempt to have that remedied when the bill is. in committee. Mr. Donald Mackinnon, the Commissioner for Australia in the United States of America, in an address before the Canadian Club, at Ottawa, in April last, stated that Australia, with a” population of 6,000,000, could produce the whole of the requirements of 60,000,000 people. In 1914, the products Canada exported to Australia were valued at $4,705,822, while the Canadian imports from Australia totalled only $713,111. In 1923, the Canadian exports to this country had increased to $18,783,766; but the imports from Australia to Canada had only increased to $1,457,921. It will be seen that the ratio in 1923 was 18f to lt. Unless that disparity is modified,. Australian trade with Canada must go to the wall. Great Britain cannot adjust our balance of trade. She has to pay her debts to the United States of America in gold or Liberty bonds; but all Australia receives for what she exports is a certain amount of credit, since the balance of trade is against her. It is foolish to suppose that, within six months, the fruit-growers will bo able to pay the interest on the money advanced to them, lot alone the principal. As time goes on, they will find themselves further in the mire unless a better scheme than that propounded by the Government is devised. It seems to me that the remedy lies in adopting the system of the United States of America, and insisting on every article used in the country being manufactured or grown hero.
Debate (on motion by Senator Duncan) adjourned
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Department - Statement explanatory of Estimates of Expenditure, 1924-25.
National Debt Commission’ - First Annual Report - period ended 30th June, 1924.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1024, Nos. 121, 122, 123.
War Service Homes Act - Notifications of land acquired in New South Wales at - North Sydney; Orange.
Senate adjourned at 2.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 August 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1924/19240829_senate_9_108/>.