9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Deputy President (SenatorNewland) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following paper was presented: -
New Guinea - Report of Board of Inquiry appointed by Administrator, Rabaul, to investigate a charge against District Officer O. J. Thompson.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions axe as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has furnished the following reply : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he make available for senators all papers in the department in connexion with the building, trials, and sale of the s.s.Gunemba?
– The Minister for Defence will make the file available for the honorable senator’s perusal athis convenience, at Parliament House.
Motion (by Senator Wilson) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
. When, a few moments ago, you, Mr. Deputy President, called on this order of the day, and asked whether it was formal or not formal, I replied “ not formal,” because I desired to express my views on the policy of the Government in relation to the dried fruits industry. I say definitely that the difficulties with which the producers of dried fruits in different parts of Australia are confronted to-day are due largely to the administration of the present Government. In its desire to attract to Australia as many people as possible the Government has expended thousands of pounds overseas. Agents are at work in the Old Country who inform likely migrants of the “ golden opportunities “ for land settlement which exist in the different states of the Commonwealth. In addition, this and former Nationalist Governments have loaned to the various states millions of pounds to resume land on which men may engage in the growing of fruit for drying. Much of that land has been purchased at very high prices. Any government that knew its business would, if anxious to advance money to the states for the purpose of settling people on the land, have a definite business understanding with the states as to their land settlement policy; but if any understanding between the Commonwealth and the states exists, one can only say that those concerned have made a sorry mess of the business. If they know anything at all they must have been aware of the fact that from £300 to £450 per acre was paid for some of the land, in dried fruit areas, during the war, and shortly after.
– What control has the Federal Government over that?
– I am coming to that if the Minister will permit me to state my case. They knew high prices were paid for land in these areas, and that abnormally high prices were being received for the fruits being marketed. The Minister now asks in what way the Federal Government was concerned. The Commonwealth Government loaned money to the states to enable men to settle on these areas. The Government must have known that the high prices that were being received would not continue, and, as business men. they have been aware that the prices paid for land were fictitious.
– Does the honorable senator expect the Commonwealth Government topolice the land policies of the states?
– No, the Commonwealth Government advanced money to the State Governments to purchase lands on which fruits were to be grown, and, in doing so, they must have known that the higher prices which were being received for the fruit would not be maintained.
– It is purely a state matter.
– The Commonwealth Government loaned money to the states, and the State Governments’ ought to have known that sooner or later the bottom would fall out of the market. This Government must have been aware of the facts at the time they advanced the money, and the state authorities must have realized that the home market had been captured by the growers of fruit, and the only other markets available were those overseas, in which satisfactory prices for the exportable surplus could not be realized.
– Why blame this Government, which has been in office only eighteen months ?
– I am blaming this Government because the Honorary Minister said yesterday, and on a former occasion, that notwithstanding the difficulties with which these men are confronted, he would still advocate additional men being placed on these and similar areas.
– That is very sound.
– It is very unsound. No honorable senator opposite would invest even one shilling in the industry if he knew there was no profitable overseas market for the fruit produced.
– We do not know anything of the sort.
– If the honorable senator does not, heis not conversant with the conditions existing in the industry.
– That applies to the honorable senator.
– Not at all. I am familiar with what is being done, because I have friends engaged in the industry. I have visited the fruit-growing areas, and have given the whole matter careful consideration since long before the honorable senator was a member of this chamber.
– Probably before I was born.
– No. It was largely as a result of the protective duties imposed on imported dried fruits that the industry was firmly established.
– Will the honorable senator say where £300 per acre is being paid for land ?
– From £300 to £400 was paid for land at Mildura a short time ago.
– To be occupied by returned soldiers?
– I do not know, but land at Mildura waa sold at thai figure.
– Was it to be used for fruit-growing?
– Yes ; and as that is the case is it any wonder that some of the growers are up against a difficult proposition ?
– £400 per acre would be for a small area highly improved.
– Similar i prices, I believe, are paid on areas ranging from 10 acres to 25 acres.
– I paid £3,000 for an area comprising three-quarters of an acre on which my home is situated, but that could not be taken as the value of the land.
– The land I mentioned is, of course, improved.
– If a six-roomed dwelling stands on a 6-acre block the value of the land is greatly increased.
– The prices I have quoted include improvements.
– I admit that exceedingly high prices have been paid.
– I hope I did not convey the impression that unimproved lands were sold at £300 or £400 per acre.
– That was the impression I gained.
– I was referring to improved land. Those engaged in the fruit-growing areas who have paid high prices for land and are receiving low prices for their products are up against a tough proposition. My point is that this Government should not have encouraged the ‘State Governments, and the State Governments should not have assisted ex-soldiers to go on the land when they knew that there was a difficulty in finding markets for the products of these areas. Yesterday when I stated that high prices had been paid for land at Red Cliffs, the Minister and Senator Elliott said that that settlement was on Crown lands.
– Most of it is.
– It is the belief of most people that Red ‘ Cliffs was all Crown lands. .The State Government resumed Red Cliffs at, I believe, £3 5s. per acre unimproved, and I think I am correct in saying that the first settlement took place in 1921. As it take3 at least three years for trees or vines to come into bearing, and as the first crop is only a small one, we can form some idea of the difficulties with which these settlers will have to contend when their crops are prolific. When I referred yesterday to the provision in the bill relating to the repayment of money advanced, the Minister said that the principal and interest would be paid after the coming crop had been gathered. If the crop is a good one, and the price obtained is satisfactory, both principal and interest will doubtless be met; but can any one say that the crop will be sold at a favorable price? When I incidentally mentioned that some of the fruit sold overseas hardly paid expenses, if it did that, the Minister said I was taking a pessimistic view of the matter. Such ari expression does not convey any meaning. We have to be guided by facts and figures. In another place, Mr. Stewart, who represents the Wimmera district, which includes the fruit-growing areas of Mildura, Merbein, and Red Cliffs, stated that a settler at Merbein sent a consignment of dried fruits to London recently. The product realized about £52 per ton, but after paying all charges the net return to the grower was only about £19 per ton, or a fraction over 2d. per lb.
– Some of them get less than that.
– The Minister has confirmed what I said yesterday, that the growers, after meeting all charges in connexion with the marketing of their products, receive little or nothing for themselves. This being so, there will certainly bo difficulty about the re-payment of these advances. There are too many men in the industry to-day. It is .necessary to find a market for 75 per cent, of the production, and, as a good market is not available, this Government proposes to advance to the growers nearly £250,000 to help them out of their present difficulties. There is no guarantee at all that the principal and interest will be repaid next year, or, indeed, the year after.
– What would the honorable senator do? That is what I should like to know.
– I would not have done what this Government and the State anti-Labour governments have done. I would not have borrowed millions of pounds and made advances to the state governments to enable them to re-purchase private lands, and then encourage returned soldiers, who are deserving of every sympathy and practical support, to engage in the industry without first making quite sure that their future was assured. I would not spend thousands of pounds of the taxpayers’ money to induce additional people to engage in the industry. Would the Minister himself go in for fruitgrowing t
– I am in the industry.
– Then, would the Minister advise his friends to become fruit-growers ?
– I am going right on, myself. That is a sufficient reply to the honorable senator.
– Probably the Minister is going right on for the simple reason that he -can do nothing else. Unlike a wheat-grower, a fruit-grower cannot readily move from place to place. If a wheat farmer is dissatisfied with his prospects in one district, he can go somewhere else. However, I have no desire to delay the passage of this bill. I said yesterday that I had very great sympathy for the men engaged in the industry, and I regret very much that this Government is largely responsible for their present position, because many of them would not have been in the industry but for assistance which they obtained from the Commonwealth Government and the State anti-Labour Governments. I doubt very much whether those whose difficulties are greatest will be very much helped by this measure. In. certain of the fruit-growing areas upon which returned men have been settled within the last three or four years, the vines and fruit trees are, to a large extent, non-productive as yet.
– Who is growing all the doradillas, then J
– I understand that a number of returned soldiers are growing doradillas, but those growers are not interested in this measure. Something will have to be done if the men who are producing dried fruits are to be kept ou their blocks, but I hope the taxpayers of Australia will not be called upon from time to time to render them financial assistance. The Government cannot make any invidious distinctions. If growers of dried fruits are helped, other primary producers will feel justified in approaching the Government for similar assistance, and one cannot say where or when the demand will end. As the Government intends later to submit another measure dealing with this problem, I shall reserve what further remarks I have to make until that bill comes before the Senate.
.- I should like the Honorary Minister (Senator Wilson) to let the Senate know how long the Government thinks the industry will need effective protection before it will be able to stand on its own feet. An effort should be made to discover the exact extent of the liabilities incurred in. subsidizing various industries in the hope that some definite action might be taken to make them self-supporting. I pointed out in my second-reading speech, in reply to a direct question, that if the Labour party were in power it would help industries such as this by the socialization of the means of marketing the produce. By collective handling, the producers would obtain the full fruits of their labour, and would not have to provide the profits of the middlemen. Senator Duncan seemed to think that I advocated that socialization of the holdings of the producers of dried fruits. To make my point quite clear, let me draw attention to the objective of the Australian Labour party with regard to the socialization of industry, production, distribution, and exchange. The resolution carried by the Interstate
Labour Conference in 1921 defined the position of the party in the following terms : - collective Ownership.
That this conference declares -
I do not think that any honorable senator can object to that resolution, which showed clearly that it was intended to resort to the socialization of an industry only when that industry was exploiting the public. No one will suggest that the people engaged in the production of dried fruits are exploiting the community. The exporters of the fruit are exploiting the local market, while the growers have to bear the brunt of the cost of disposing of their surplus products in the overseas markets, and on that account they are now compelled to seek Government assistance. The conference that drafted the resolution which I have read was the body best fitted to define what it meant, and it is therefore clear that the Labour party only wishes to socialize those industries that are actually exploiting the community. I have no desire to delay the passage of the bill. My only regret is that it means staving off the evil day, since the relief proposed to be granted cannot be permanent. Certainly, the temporary difficulties of the growers will be removed by a loan, although they will have to pay a high rate of interest for the accommodation. It seems to me that a party that has granted a bonus to the sugar-growers equivalent to 2d. a lb., and has assisted vignerons to the extent of 4s. a gallon on wine that is exported, might have attempted to do something of a practical nature that would permanently assist the dried-fruit industry. Whether the bounties that this Government is so fond of granting; are given in connexion with iron, beef, or dried fruits, there should be some fixed principle embodiedin one act of Parliament, laying down what measure of assistance is to be afforded to all needy industries.I sincerely hope that the bill will result in tiding the dried-fruit producers over the coming year; but I doubt whether their difficulty will then be at an end, for the settling day must eventually come.
– Iamsurprised at the remarks of Senators Findley and Gardiner. I thought that I clearly explained that the assistance wouldbe purely of a temporary nature, and that the bill had been brought down after a most exhaustive inquiry into the position of the industry. The Government was convinced that some action must be taken to keep the growers on their holdings, so that the properties would not fall intoa state of disorder. I pointed out that the past season had been a most unfavorable one during the drying period, and that consequently, a large proportion ofthe fruit was of second and third grade, and decidedly below the usual standard. The high prices of land, of which Senator Findley spoke, have been paid by private buyers, and have no bearing whatever on the policy of government assistance, state or federal, in the fruit-growing settlements. I do not wish to defend every government action taken with respect to the irrigation settlements, for I realize that undue cost has in some instances been heaped upon the occupants of the blocks; but Senator Findley and others appear to have lost sight of the fact that since 1914 wages have increased by 61 per cent. It mustbe remembered that a great deal of labour is employed in the industry. The basic wage in 1914 was£2 14s. a week, and to-day it is£4 8s., which is more than the grower receives weekly on the average for his year’s work. The price of fruit since 1914 has increased by only 35 per cent.
– How many men per acre does the grower employ?
– It all depends upon the area he holds. In the picking season he may have two or three groups of three or four pickers at work. If he holds a small area, and the crop has been so regulated that all the grapes do not ripen at the same time, it may not be necessary to employ very much labour, but in a hot summer, when all the grapes ripen about the same time, even a small man may have to employ at the one time considerable labour for picking. Senator Findley was concerned as to whether Australia could go on producing dried fruits, but when he learns that Great Britain imports 1,139,889 cwt. of dried fruits, of which quantity Australia supplies only 191 cwt., surely he must recognize that there is ample room for Australia to increase its production in this direction. According to a cable received from the High Commissioner, prices for dried fruits have considerably improved on the London market within the last few weeks, and Australia, as a result of the advertising of its fruits at the Wembly Exhibition, and through other means, is supplying approximately 85 per cent. of the British consumption of dried fruits at the present moment. A representative of the Australian dried fruits industry, who is now making inquiries in London, states, according to the High Commissioner’s cablegram, that, if a greater quantity of the Australian commodity were made available, it would be much easier to create and hold a market in London. As a business proposition it is absurd to talk of creating a demand for the Australian article and yet supply only small quantities of it. To hold a market, Australia must be prepared to give continuity of supply. Senator Findley blamed the present Government for the difficulties of the people who are engaged in various fruitgrowing industries. When the Prime Minister and I were in London, we looked into the position of all these industries, and at the instigation of the Prime Minister I devoted a lot of time to an investigation of the possibility of marketing Australian products in Great Britain. We both returned to Australia fully convinced as to what should be done to put these industries on a proper footing. Senator Gardiner would endeavour to do so by socializing them. Our idea was to organize them. Senator Findley must also recognize that the Commonwealth Government has no control over the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. The purchasing of the land, its development, and the high valuations placed upon it, are matters over which the Commonwealth exercises no control. Therefore, the honorable senator was wrong in holding the Government to blame in this regard. He said that men should not have been put on the land to engage in these industries, but I make bold to say that every industry in Aus tralia of any worth has had to pass through just as serious a time as is now being experienced by the dried fruit industry. Until a few years ago, a sheep could be bought for2s., but the man who had the pluck, energy, and industry to carry on through those serious years which were experienced by pastoralists is to-day in an exceptionally fortunate position, and wool growing is now Australia’s greatest industry. When farmers could not realize more than1s. 9d. or1s. l1d. a bushel for their wheat, and people were leaving the land, it was realized that if the wheat industry was to be kept going more scientific methods must be employed. Those scientific methods have since been employed. Where the yield was formerly 4 or 5 bushels an acre, it is now 15 or 16 bushels an acre. The dried fruit industry was handled very well when Australia was consuming all that was produced, but the position is different to-day, when’ 75 per cent. of the output must find a market overseas. That market exists, and can be supplied, but only if the industry is successfully handled and marketing operations on the other side of the world are put on a proper footing. It is true, as the honorable senator says, that the assistance given by this bill to those engaged in the dried fruit industry is of a temporary character only. It is temporary because the circumstances demanded something from the Government of a temporary character, so that the growers might be assisted until a bigger scheme could be brought forward. Various conferences are now being held, and investigations made, in order to submit to Parliament a scheme of a permanent nature, which will put this industry on a proper footing, and I shall be very disappointed if it is not completed before this session ends. The greatest difficulty encountered is that of finance, but another difficulty is the fact that we have lost control of the marketing of our own fruit.
– Did not the honorable senator go to London in order to put the matter right?
– -How could I put the matter right when it was wrong at this end ? One object the Prime Minister and I had in making inquiries in London was that we might tell the people here what should be done. I left no stone unturned so that I might return with a proposition that would remove the difficulties encountered in marketing Australian products in London. Senator Findley drew attention to the prices some growers were receiving. If he were in London he would know what prices the consumers are paying. The trouble is that our products are passing through too many hands before they reach the consumers. The assistance given by this bill will enable the people engaged in the dried fruit industry to carry on until the 1925 crop is marketed. It is a matter of importance to the Commonwealth Government to see that the land upon which millions of public money has been advanced is fully developed. The assistance we are now giving will enable the growers to buy manures and plants in order to keep their areas in proper condition. I can assure honorable senators that ‘ as soon as the negotiations to which I have already made reference come down to what may be regarded as commercial tin tacks, enabling a practical scheme to be evolved for giving permanent assistance to this industry, not a minute’s delay will occur in submitting a bill to put these people and the industry itself on that better and larger footing suggested by the Leader of the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have just completed one speech upon the difficulties of those who are engaged in growing grapes for export as dried fruits. I am now dealing with a bill which provides, for the benefit of another section of growers of grapes, a bounty of 4s. per gallon on exported sweet wine. The excise duty on spirit used in fortifying wines is 6s. a gallon. In 1922-3 the Excise Department collected £255,000 from this duty. It is interesting to trace the various steps taken in applying this duty. In 1906 the excise duty was 6d. a gallon. In 19.14 it, was increased to 8d., and in 1918 there was a further increase to 6s. a gallon. The increase to 6s. a gallon was due to the necessity for obtaining additional revenue in that time of stress and diffi culty. From this industry £255,000 has been obtained in excise duties, so that the bounty of 4s. a gallon now proposed is in the nature of ‘a rebate of money already received. Honorable senators may ask why the Government does not propose to reduce the excise duty, but they will “realize that, if the bounty applies only to wine which is exported, we shall still retain the excise duty of 6s. a gallon on all wines consumed in Australia. The Government prefers to grant a bounty in respect of wines which are exported rather than reduce the excise duty all round. The granting of this bounty will enable those engaged in the sweet wine trade to establish their industry on a sound footing by obtaining markets on the other side of the world. The Government realizes that a great deal of energy has been displayed by those engaged in the wine export trade, and that encouragement should be given to them.
– Have not the winemakers always treated the growers fairly by paying them reasonable prices?
– That is not the generally accepted view. The Government feels that it owes a duty to the small grower, and intends to see that he receives a fair price for his grapes.
– A few years ago £14 a ton was paid for doradilla grapes.
– That was in. the time of the boom, but there is no boom to-day. This bill is to deal with the difficult situation which has since arisen and which may be termed the reaction of the boom.
– The wine-growers have one association and the winemakers another.
– That is true, but the men who grow the grapes have not the power of the other organization. When the Government grants a bounty of 4s. a gallon on fortified wines exported out of an excise duty of 6s. a gallon on the fortifying spirit, it has a right to say that the growers of the grapes shall receive a fair proportion of that rebate. From that attitude we shall not depart.
– Is it intended to fix the price of grapes?
– No ; but clause 10 provides that the Minister must be satisfied that a fair price is given to the grower. During the year ended 30th June last 940,000 gallons of spirit were used for fortifying wine, and 199,000 gallons in the distillation of brandy. As the local market is fully supplied, we must look to the overseas market for the disposal of our products. Last year 10,000,000 gallons of wine were imported into the United Kingdom. None of that wine came from Australia. ‘ This bounty will provide the merchants with an opportunity to cater for that trade. A few days ago I read in this chamber certain correspondence between myself and the authorities in Great .Britain in relation to the effect on the Australian wine trade of the treaties with Portugal and Spain. While we feel that it should not be necessary for us to counteract the advantages now enjoyed by those countries, we must face the facts. On dry wines the British duty is 2s. 6d. per gallon, and Australia is given a preference of ls. a gallon. In the case of sweet wines the duty is 6s. per gallon, and Australia is given a preference of 2s. per gallon. We have a market of 10,000,000 gallons per annum to capture. Only yesterday a largo manufacturer of wine told me that he had a tremendous lot of wine which he could not export. If this bill is passed, he will be able to export it, and thus relieve the pressure on the carrying capacity of his tanks. With this advantage as against Portugal and other countries, and with a 10,000,000- gallon market to work upon, Australia should be able to dispose of her surplus wines. Portugal and Spain, because of their geographical position, can send their wines to England and have it fortified after arrival, but, because of the climatic conditions which are met with between here and the Old Country, Australia cannot do that. Our wine must be fortified to the extent of 34 per cent. I believe that the day is not far distant when Great Britain will realize the injustice to Australia of the present treaties with other countries. Many of her exsoldiers have been settled on the land in Australia, yet their products are not given preference in Great Britain against those of other countries. When I informed the chairman of the Board of Trade in London of the position, he was astounded, but he said that there was a treaty from which they could not depart. I said that there was no necessity to do that, and urged that the duty on Australian wines should be reduced to put us on at least an equality with those countries. He replied : “ We cannot do that at present.” Nevertheless, I am certain that when the British Government realizes the true position, this matter will be adjusted satisfactorily. When in England, the Prime Minister took a very firm stand in regard to this matter, and did everything that was humanly possible to educate the British Government regarding it. They seemed to lose sight of the fact that many of the winegrowers in Australia were exImperial soldiers and repatriated Australian soldiers. Along the river Murray, there are some co-operative societies, which are making spirit. Later, I propose to introduce a bill to give relief to them. Senator Benny raised the question of a bounty in the case of other grapes. That matter was debated in another place. There is a feeling that growers should be given’ the same advantage in respect of the matara grape the position is differthis bill for growers of the doradilla grape. Of the spirit produced in Australia, 70 per cent, is made from doradillas, and that variety is virtually useless for anything but the manufacture of spirit. With the matara grape, the position is different, as it can be used in other ways. The Government desires that the sweetwine trade shall be developed, because it is known that on the other side of the world there is a great demand for that class of wine. We do not .intend that the bounty should benefit any person not entitled to it, but that it should benefit those who have been producing grapes which cannot be used for any other purpose than for the production of spirit used in fortifying wine. According to the cables received ‘during the last week or ten days, there is a strong possibility of Australia securing a fairly large proportion of the English wine trade. The Government have done everything possible, by advertising and by displays at the Empire Exhibition, to increase trade and to bring under the notice of wine consumers the excellence of our production, and the demand in London for
Australian wine has never been greater than it is to-day. The bounty will be a means of assisting those who should benefit, and the distilleries will not derive all the advantage to be obtained bya reduction in the excise duty. The officials of the Customs Department will, of course, exercise due precaution by seeing the quality of the wines are up to standard and contain the correct percentage of spirit. The interests of those directly concerned are fully protected, and the stipulations provided must be strictly observed. There is a feeling in some quarters that clause 10 of the bill should be deleted, but if a reduction in the excise duty is to be made the growers should benefit. Clause 13 provides that a return is to be laid on the table of Parliament showing the manner in which the bounty has been disbursed. Bounties have been paid from time to time to assist industries, some of which I am afraid have not been wisely used, but such an important industry as this should be assisted and developed. The reduction in excise resulting from the bounty will not apply within the Commonwealth, and the Australian trade will remain as it is to-day. We recently increased the protection on brandy, in which a fairly large percentage of spirit is used. I submit the bill to the Senate, and trust that it will be the means of assisting an important Australian industry.
– I congratulate the Minister (Senator Wilson)upon the clear and explicit manner in which he has explained the details of the bill. I also wish to congratulate the Government on having done something to encourage and foster what we hope will be one of Australia’s greatest industries. The wine makers are dissatisfied with the short period during which the bounty will be available, and consider that after a shorttime it will be practically inoperative. The bounty will come into force after the 1925 vintage, and it will be necessary for the wine makers to make arrangements with the banks in the matter of finance, as huge sums will be involved in storing the wines before they can be exported to England. The purport of the bill is to encourage the export of our wines to the Old Country. They have to be kept in store for at least two years, and highclass sweet wines for three years, before they can be exported.
– Are not some in store now?
– Yes, but not sufficient to supply the huge trade “we are anticipating. We must look ahead. I suggest to the Government that the measure should be operative for five years, instead of two years as is proposed, as that period is totally inadequate. If a wine-maker informed his banker that he expected to receive a bounty of 4s. per gallon, the banker would say that the bounty was not payable until after the 1925 vintage, and would be in force for only eighteen months. I have received telegrams from the State which I represent, but I propose to read only one, because the Minister mentioned that there was a dispute pending, and that trouble might arise between the grapegrowers and the wine-makers. The telegram I intend to read is not from the wine-makers, but from the Grape-growers Association, in South Australia, where there is no conflict between the growers and the wine-makers. They each have their own association, hold separate meetings, appoint delegates, and discuss prices to be paid to the growers by the wine-makers.
– The growers will not be affected.
– The exporters are to be paid the bounty. The telegram from the president of the Grape-growers Association reads -
Absolutely essential that Wine Bounties Bill be for a minimum of six years, for financial and trade reasons, and for benefit of growers. Please use your influence1 to support longer term.
That shows that the grape-growers are in favour of the bounty being paid over a longer period.
– Did the honorable senator receive that telgram after my explanation of the reason for what we propose to do?
– I received it yesterday morning after my arrival from South Australia. I am quoting it merely to show that the contention that the Government may he playing into the hands of the wine-makers is not justified, as the growers are satisfied with the proposal, and ask the Government to pay the bounty over a longer term. The bounty is really to be paid by those engaged in the industry. They now pay 6s. a gallon excise, of which 4s. a gallon is to be returned by the Government. Our product has to contend with a good deal of competition in the Old World, as our wines have to be fortified to 34 per cent., which brings them under a higher British duty; whereas those from Portugal, Spain, and the south of Prance are fortified to only 30 per cent. The producers of the wine in the countries I have mentioned pay a duty of only 2s. 6d. per gallon, whereas a duty of 6s. per gallon is imposed on Australian wines. The workmen . engaged in the industry in Portugal, Spain, and the south of Trance work from ten to twelve hours a day, and receive only 8d. to1s. 4d. for their labour, whereas fair wages are paid to those employed in the industry here, and the conditions generally are favorable to the employees. The wines from the countries I have mentioned are fortified with spirit made from all sorts of refuse, such asdecayed apples and potatoes, and are not subject to supervision. The wines from the countries mentioned can be fortified to any percentage, whereas ours have to be fortified to 34 per cent. of spirit proof before they can safely pass through the tropics. Thousands of ex-soldiers, rightly or wrongly acting on expert advice, are engaged in the growing of doradilla grapes, and, as the result, there is a plethora of doradilla grapes on the market.
– Does the Minister think the growers are . satisfied with clause 10 of the bill.
– I pointed out to the Minister that the clause deals only with doradilla grapes, although fortifying spirit is made from other grapes, but I do not know whether that is owing to an oversight on the part of the draftsman. In South Australia 40,000 acres are under vines, and in the whole of the Commonwealth about 105,000 acres. As the cost of conducting a vineyard is about£9 per acre per annum, a very large sum is annually expended, most of which benefits the working men. I hope the Government will consider the point I have raised, and extend the period to at least five years, because I am sure that, although the grape-growers ask for six years, they would be satisfied with five. By doing as I suggest, not only the doradilla grape-growers, but the whole Australian industry will benefit.
– This is another proposal to hand out financial assistance to a section of the people. The Government is giving so much attention to these bounty measures that it has no time to spare for the serious consideration of the larger financial problems confronting the Commonwealth. Ministers have presented bills for the payment of bounties on canned fruit, wine, and cattle, and for advances in the case of dried fruits, and the hop pool. I admit that what has been proposed in these cases is a loan to those interested in the industries. They are not big enough to be given definite gifts. Were the hop-growers in a large way and well organized, as is the case in the wine industry, they too, would probably receive a lump sum from the Consolidated Revenue. We should seriously consider where we are drifting in this class of legislation. I hold that the assistance to be given to many of these industries should be purely a state responsibility.
– Is not this bill practically a remission of the excise duty ?
– Unfortunately it is not. It is a bounty. If the Minister will give me assurance that he will accept an amendment to remove the excise duty, I shall support him. Honorable senators cannot, by interjection, infer that the bill is a remission of excise duty. It is a proposal to subsidize the exporters of wine to the extent of 4s. per gallon. That bounty is about twice the value of the wine itself judged by the prices which the wine-makers pay for the grapes. The following statement, supplied by the Department of Trade and Customs shows the total amount of the bounties paid by the
Commonwealth on. the undermentionedproducts up to the 16th April, 1924 : -
– And the excise on Australian sugar more than pays for the lot.
- Senator Crawford, ever alert to protect the interests of the sugar industry, declares that the excise paid on sugar production has more than paid for the whole of the bounties in the list which I have just read. For the last five years there has been an agreement with the Commonwealth Government under which sugar-growers of Australia have been able to obtain 2d. per lb. more for their sugar than they would have received for it in open competition with sugar producers in other parts of the world.
– The honorable senator’s information about the outside market is not accurate.
-It is a fact that in open competition the sugar-growers in Australia would have been obliged to accept about 2d. per lb. less than they have been getting from the Australian consumer. Under this measure the Government intends to pay a bounty of 4s. a gallon on all wine exported. According to figures quoted by Mr. Gabb in another place, the growers of grapes required for fortifying wines get only about1/4d. per lb. - barely sufficient for the handling of the grapes - leaving nothing for the grower. The bounty should be proportionate to the amount paid to the growers of the grapes.
SenatorWilson. - Can the honorable senator show how that could be done?
– If the winemakers pay1d. a lb. to the growers, for the grapes, the amount of bounty might be 4s. a gallon; if they pay1/2d. a lb. for the grapes, the bounty might be correspondingly reduced to 2s. a gallon; and if they pay only1/4d. a lb. they should get only1s. a gallon bounty.
– I think clause . 10 governs the position referred to by the honorable senator.
– Clause 10 reads -
The Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty if he finds that a price, which in his opinion was less than a reasonable price, was paid for any doradilla grapes used in the production of the fortifying spirit contained in the wine in respect of which the bounty is claimed.
What about the growers of other grapes? I gather that doradilla grapes are required for the production of fortifying, spirit. Is no assistance to be given to the growers of other grapes?
– The doradilla grape is a spirit grape. It cannot be used for any other purpose. Other grapes may be used in the manufacture of wines. If the sweet wine trade is developed, as we anticipate, there will be a tremendous demand for all classes of grapes.
– The bill really does not protect the grape-grower. I have no exact knowledge of the values of wine, but I have been informed by people who live in vine-growing districts that wine at a distillery has about the same value as beer has at a brewery - no real value at all. A man may get almost as much as he wants for about a shilling. The imposition of excise duty gives to it its value.
If the Government really wishes to help the grower, the Minister should agree to insert a clause providing for the payment of a bounty to the wine drinker. In this way, the home market could be developed. Although I am a teetotaller myself, I love liberty so much that I have no desire to place restrictions on other people. There is a big market in Australia for Australian wines, but owing to the imposition of excise duties and the cost of handling and selling, the price of the product is beyond the means of a large number of people who might consume considerable quantities of these lighter wines with advantage to themselves. I object to the payment of a bounty of 4s. a gallon on the wine that is exported simply to provide cheap wine for foreign consumers. My desire is to see a cheap commodity available to the people of this country. Instead of charging an excise duty of 6s., and granting a rebate of 4s. a gallon on the wine that is exported, why not reduce the excise duty to 2s. a gallon?
– I gave the reason for that.
– I doubt whether that explanation is satisfactory. The Government could easily have an excise duty on a sliding scale, and the first consideration should be whether reasonable hours were observed and good wages paid to the workmen engaged in the industry.
– Would the honorable senator limit the hours of the hardworking man who grows the grapes?
– The average man on the land does not work as many hours and as consistently as the ordinary tradesman or factory operative in the city. There is no occasion for a grapegrower to work long hours except during the month or two when the picking season is in progress. If the Government is sincere in its attempt to assist the industry, let it see that the grower receives the full product of his labour, and that the employees are paid fair wages, and let the excise duty be imposed according to the extent to which those conditions are observed. The Government could well have introduced a bill embodying the Labour party’s principle of the new protection, which would meet the requirements of the industry, and at the same time ensure to the consumer a good article at a reasonable price. There would be a satisfactory market in Australia for our wine if the price were brought within the purchasing power of those who do the world’s work. If a workman wants wine, why should he not be assisted to obtain it as cheaply in Australia as the bill will make it possible for Australian wine to be purchased’ in other countries? I can understand the Minister, after his recent visit to the Old Country, imagining that the dominions should carry on production in the interests of the people on the other side of the world.
– I realize that Australia must secure a market for its products.
– More wine could be sold in Australia, but half the market is lost owing to the high prices charged, and everything that this Government has done has tended to accentuate those prices. The cost of the bounties has to be borne by the taxpayers of this country.
– In this case it will come out of the excise.
– The consumer always pays. The producer bears the cost in the first place, and it is passed on to the exporter, but in the long run the man .on the fixed wage pays the bounty. The Minister did not really accept the idea of the Government having anything to do with the fixing of prices. This Government, of course, leaves that to the monopolists, who have the fullest liberty to fix prices to any extent they choose. In committee I shall endeavour to have the excise duty reduced. Wine and beer, and even tobacco, are regarded by the financial mouthpiece of the Government in another place as luxuries. I am surprised that with all our organization and unionism we still allow the articles used in every-day life to bc treated by the Customs authorities as luxuries. Why should the working man be made to pay an exorbitant price for his tobacco? The Government has no hesitation in reducing the taxation of the big man, simply because sufficient revenue can be raised through the Customs by means of indirect taxation. In pre-war days the total excise duty on wine was only 6d. a gallon, and it must have been considered ample in those days. Later on it was deemed that, owing to the needs of government, the charge should be 8d., but now it is increased to 6s. Surely itwould not make much difference to the finances of the country if the excise were made, say, 2s. per gallon, although personally I should not care if it were wiped out entirely. I understand that the whole of the revenue from this source is £255,000. If we reduced it by one-half the loss would not be considerable; it would not be as much as the remission of taxation allowed to big landholders. It would be much less than the sum of £275,000, which the exPrime Minister (Mr.W. M. Hughes) and others declared the Government had no right togrant to Bawra. If the Government can be generous to its wealthy friends, surely it can reduce the excise duty on wine. That would be a sensible method of dealing with the matter. I do not like the idea of first engaging a staff to collect a duty and then employing another staff to distribute it. A saving would he effected by abolishing the excise duty, because there is certainly a loss to the community in employing one set of officers to collect a duty and another set to examine books and test wines, as being fit for export. If we wipe out the excise duty we give an advantage to the grower, the manufacturer, and the exporter, and at the same time relieve the Government of the necessity ofemploying the large number of officers necessary to administer a bill of this kind. I carried on the debate to-day; because I realize that the measure before us forms part of the Government’s programme - that of assisting its friends. It is evident that the wine exporters are friends of the Government, and now that they have been promised the assistance given by the bill, they apparently want it extended for six years. I think the Government should adhere to their original intention. An amendment of the drastic nature suggested by Senator Benny may have the effect of preventing the bill from being passed this session.
– This bill is a companion measure to the Dried Fruits Advances Bill, and the necessity for it is due to the same cause, namely, over production, which rendered necessary the passage of the other measure. On the one hand there has been excessive production of dried fruits. On the other hand there has been excessive production of doradilla grapes. The bill now under consideration applies particularly to the latter. These grapes, I believe, are exclusively grown for making brandy, and spirit used for the fortification of wines, and their excessive production has necessitated the finding of a market for the wines so fortified. Opponents of the bill may say that if the growers produce an excessive quantity of a particular class of grape for which there is no market, that is no reason why Parliament should come to their relief. But the trouble is that returned soldiers, placed on certain irrigation areas, have been compelled by the State Governments, as one of the conditions of their settlement, to grow doradilla grapes. This accounts for the over production. I understand that sweet wines are wines which are fortified beyond 30 per cent., and the spirit used is produced from these doradilla grapes. Before the production of these grapes was so largely increased, home consumption was able to absorb a considerable quantity of these wines, but now a market must be found for the surplus production. I quite agree with Senator Gardiner that the simplest and mostfeasible way to deal with the matter would be to reduce the excise duty on the spirit used in fortifying these wines, but the honorable senator has overlooked one of the main reasons for supporting the bill. It provides that the benefit to be afforded by it shall go to the growers of the grapes, who are the men we want to assist. If the excise duty were reduced, wewould not be able to see that the exporters and wine manufacturers gave reasonable prices for the grapes purchased by them, and my interest in the bill would at once evaporate, because it is the grower, and not the distiller or wine merchant I am anxious to assist. Of course, if the new protection policy of the Labour party could be carried out in its entirety, the best course would be to reduce the excise. Under that policy, if the manufacturer in Australia were to reap the benefit of the imposition of a protective duty, he was also called upon to pay an excise duty, which was withheld if he gave reasonable conditions of employment to his workers, and did not increasethe price of the article he produced beyond what was reasonable. How.ever, the High Court having decided that the new protection legislation was ultra vires, we have no means of providing that the grower, the consumer, and the worker are accorded fair conditions or prices, and if I wish to help the grower I have no option in the matter, and must give him assistance in the form of a bounty. I agree with Senator Benny that the payment of a bounty for two years is quite insufficient. The wine has to mature for three years before it can be exported, so that by the time the growers are ready to avail themselves of the bounty to any extent the time for the payment of it will have expired. If the Government insist on adhering to the limited period set out in the bill the main purpose of the measure - that of encouraging the further export of sweet wines - will be lost.
– How does the honorable senator expect the position to improve ?
– By opening up a market overseas. There are 10,000,000 gallons of sweet wines consumed in Great Britain, but Australia does not share in supplying that demand.
– Australia will have to supply London in competition with other countries which can produce wine more cheaply.
– If this bounty is paid the industry will be placed on its legs.
– It is already on its legs.
– The quality of our sweet wines is known and appreciated in Great Britain. I believe that our wines are better than those of Portugal or Southern European countries, and if our wine-growers are given a chance by receiving this bounty for five years they should in that time make good on the London market. They have asked for six years, but Senator Benny has made a moderate proposal in suggesting that the period should be five years.
– I think five years will satisfy the growers.
– Unless the period is extended the purpose of the bill, to improve the condition of the growers, and create an export trade in sweet wines, will not be achieved. As the honorable senator in charge of the measure repre sents South Australia, which is the largest producer of the best wines in Australia, he is therefore in a position to know fully the reasons for the request for the extension of the period of the payment of the bounty for a further two or three years.
.- I am in an extremely difficult position in approaching a question such as that now under consideration. We have just disposed of a bill dealing with the overproduction of dried fruits, and now we are dealing with another measure which is also based on over production. It is obvious that we are now producing certain primary products for which there is no market in Australia, and which we cannot profitably export to any other country unless the export is carried on with Government assistance. I should like to know how far this principle of giving bounties is to be extended. Since I have been a member of the Senate, I have given my support to every proposal the Government have brought forward to assist different industries, and although I intend to support this bill, I am very diffident about doing so.
– The bill will be of no use without an extension of the period.
– That is not theposition. The growers of doradilla grapes have been induced to plant and cultivate a crop for which there is no market. In another bill we have had to meet the case of another section of grape-growers, who have been induced to produce a crop for which there is no market. As long as wa were producing only sufficient for Australia’s requirements the dried fruit industry was one of the most prosperous in which a person could engage. It is well known to all consumers of dried fruits that the industry was a monopoly, which was in a position to charge high prices for its products, but now, as a result of encouraging the growth of a crop for which there was a profitable market in Australia, there has been so much production that that profitable market in Australia no longer exists. The State Governments have encouraged people to produce crops for which they have not been able to find markets. The bill before as is only a temporary expedient’. We shall have to repeat the action taken in connexion with the dried fruits industry. I do not -think that this is the best way to assist the primary producers of Australia. The wheat-growers of this country have had no such assistance granted to them. They have had to battle their way through adversity, and take the good seasons with the bad. They found it necessary to use modern machinery, and more scientific methods generally in order to make a success of their undertaking.
– The wheat-growers had assistance when their industry was in the same position as this industry is in now. In South Australia, seed wheat advances were made.
– That assistance was not rendered necessary because of an over-production of wheat, but was due to circumstances over which no one had any control. The proposals of the Government are not the remedy for the present unsatisfactory state of affairs.
– What remedy does the honorable senator suggest ?
– These people should engage in some other industry. Notwithstanding any action we may take in this Senate to-day in regard to this bill, or that taken yesterday in relation to a similar measure, these areas will have to be devoted to the production of some other crops than those now grown. I am not a pessimist. On the contrary, I am an optimist, and believe in this country and in its future, but there are other occupations besides (he fruit industry, in which men can engage profitably. By giving bounties of this nature, we are encouraging the production of crops for which we are unable to find markets.
– We can find the markets.
– I say definitely and distinctly that we have not been able to find markets without government subsidies. That applies to all the industries in Australia, with few exceptions. With the exception of the combined harvester, which is exported to the Argentine, and possibly one or two other articles, no article can be manufactured in Australia, under Australian conditions, and sold overseas at a profit. If the position is otherwise, I should like some honorable senator to point it out.
– MacRobertson’s chocolates is an instance to the contrary.
– That may be the position in regard to that one article, but. nevertheless, MacRobertson relies chiefly on the home market. The apple-growers, and those engaged in growing stone-fruits, are in the same position as the growers of doradilla grapes. Only a few days ago a bill was introduced into the Tasmanian Parliament to give assistance to the applegrowers there. With the exception of industries which are more suited to Australian conditions - wool, wheat, and meat - the position is the same in all. I admit that the meat industry was assisted during a temporary depression.
– That is the position in this case.
– I wish that I could think so. Let us consider also the position of the potato-grower. In Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales, crops of potatoes are being produced for which there is no market. Although this is one of the most expensive of crops to produce, the potato-growers of Australia have approached neither the Commonwealth nor the State Parliaments for assistance. That is due to their lack of organization and their inability to speak with a united voice.
– They are too busy working to approach the Government.
– There is no primary industry which requires more labour or which involves more expense than the potato or the hay industry. Yet neither of those crops is to-day being produced at a loss. While I am not opposing this bill, I point out that, in my opinion, we are proceeding along wrong lines. I am sorry for the men who find themselves in the position in which these men are placed to-day. Their condition has been brought about through no fault of their own, as they were induced to go in for this particular class of production. If they were producing wheat or wool, or were engaged in the dairying industry, their position to-day would be much better. It is time that a stock-taking was made of our primary industries, particularly as so many returned soldiers are engaged in them. I know that many returned soldiers in Tasmania, who have gone in for mixed farming, are to-day in a position which is identical with that of the grapegrowers. Throughout the Commonwealth there will be a heavy loss in connexion with our soldier settlement schemes - a loss far greater than any of us anticipated.If this industry is to be continued,
I cannot suggest a better means of assisting it than that embodied in this bill, but I fear that men have been encouraged to engage in an industry, only to find that there is no market for their products. Only this week the Minister stated that, notwithstanding the present difficulty, he would still advise settlers to take up this particular line of production. I am not prepared to do so, as it must be obvious that, so far as fruit for canning and drying purposes is concerned, a commodity is being produced for which, so far, no profitable market has been found.
– There are markets overseas.
– I believe that that is so; but can we in Australia, with our high standard of living, produce these crops, transport them thousands of miles, and sell them in competition with other countries that are producing similar commodities under conditions far inferior to those existing in Australia? Can we compete in the world’s markets with the products of low-wage countries situated close to the big centres of the world’s population ? So far as meat, wheat, and wool are concerned, I think that we can. While not opposing this bill, I view this legislation with a certain amount of misgiving and anxiety. If I felt that there would be no need for further assistance, I should be happy to support this measure, but I am fearful that this legislation will not overcome the difficulty. All my interests are with the man on the land. I know the difficulties with which he has to contend,, and my sympathies are in the direction of giving him every assistance within our power, but in this matter I feel that we are proceeding along wrong lines. It would be better to compensate these men for the losses incurred, and place them on the land to produce commodities for which there is an unlimited demand and a profitable market. With all his hardships, the wheat-grower is in a much better position, and his future is very much brighter than is that of those engaged in this industry.
– What would the honorable senator do with the river Murray lands if not use them to produce fruit?
– Does any one suggest that those lands are suitable for nothing but tlie growing of fruit ? Could they not be used to produce butter? I know that there is a temporary depression in the butter market, but no one need fear an over-production of that commodity, or of wheat, or wool. So long as Australia’s production does not exceed her own requirements, we are all right, but immediately there is a necessity to export the surplus production our difficulties commence. That applies particularly to the fruit industry.
– Wool and wheat seem to be the only things that can be produced in Australia for which we can find a market.
– That seems to be the position. I do not blame the men engaged in thi3 industry. The present position is largely due to the action of the various governments, who induced them to engage in grape-growing and, indeed, insisted that a certain percentage of their holdings should be devoted to doradilla grapes. Last week I travelled to Tasmania with a returned soldier who after his return from the war invested £1,200 of his own money in the banana industry in the Tweed river district. Bunchy top ruined his prospects, and he then engaged in the growing of grapes. He said that he was greatly concerned about the future, as he could see no hope of making a success of his second venture. I am not oppos-ing tha bill, but I have very grave doubts concerning the prospects of the industry it is intended to assist.
.- When the Minister (Senator Wilson) is replying, I trust he will answer some pertinent questions which I intend to submit concerning the manner in which business was conducted at the Australian pavilion at the Empire Exhibition. We were informed that a contract was let to Lyons and Company, the big London caterers, on the understanding that they were to supply Australian wines in the Australian pavilion, but the firm absolutely refused to do so. Recently I had a conversation with a friend who has just returned from a visit to the Wembley Exhibition, and he is not one of those who has been accused of hanging around Australia House to secure the right of entry to functions in connexion with that ex’hibition, as was recently cabled from London. He informed me that he partook of luncheon at Australia House, which consisted of Australian meat, bread made from Australian flour, and fruit, for which he was charged ls. 5Jd. He also called for a bottle of Australian wine, but was informed that it could not be supplied, as the authorities had not a licence to sell alcoholic liquor. The authorities at Australia House could not even inform him where a bottle of Australian wine could be purchased in London. That is certainly not the way to give publicity to the excellence of our Australian product. Generally speaking, I am opposed to the payment of bounties, but, in view of the fact that, as Senator O’Loghlin has mentioned, provision is made whereby those engaged in the growing of doradilla grapes will benefit, I do not intend to offer any objection in this instance. The trade in Australian wines could be largely increased if our people were encouraged as they are in other countries, particularly in France, to consume light wines instead of beer. When engaged on the vessels of the Messageries Maritime line, I know it was customary for some ofthe men to have their “ billies “ filled with wine instead of tea, and it was found that the liquor was so light in strength that it had no ill effects. It is unfortunate that Australian wine cannot be purchased in many of the London stores where other wines are sold, and that the authorities of Australia House are unable to inform visitors where it is procurable. It is true that empty bottles are displayed in show-cases at Australia House, but, when visitors are entertained, French wines are supplied. If our wine trade is to be developed, more extensive advertising must be undertaken, and every care exercised to see that only wines of the best quality are exported. As many settlers who have been advised and assisted by the Commonwealth and State Governments to. grow doradilla grapes are now in a precarious position, it is our duty to assist them in thedirection proposed, but it is useless to suggest that additional areas be placed under crops until markets are available. In travelling from Sydney yesterday, I noticed deserted vineyards on both sides of the line in the Albury district,, which indicates that the market for the grapes grown there is oversupplied.
– I agree with Senator McDougall that, if the trade in Australian wines is to be increased, extensive advertising must be undertaken, and in that direction we have not been, perhaps, as active as we might have been. It is true as the honorable senator states that Australian wine is not available at the buffet in Australia House, which is conducted for the convenience of the officers engaged there, I am sure the honorable senator will admit that it is undesirable to supply alcoholic liquors in a buffet provided for the convenience of the administrative officers. The honorable senator is also correct in saying that there was a controversy with the firm of Lyons and Company owing principally to the fact that the Commonwealth was not in a position to supply sufficient Australian wines to meet the demand. It has been stated that in some directions we are over producing, but in the case of wines our production is totally inadequate. The consumption in Great Britain is approximately 10,000,000 gallons per annum, of which Australia supplies very little, and until greater quantities are available we cannot be expected to develop or hold the market. Honorable senators should remember that on the other products mentioned no excise duty is paid, but the Government collect considerable revenue on wine - in the form of excise on the fortifying spirit. As I have stated, we propose under this bill in effect to reduce the excise for the benefit of the export industry, but Senator Gardiner thinks that the reduction should also apply to Australia. With that contention I do not agree. As the local demand has been met we have to find a means of disposing of our exportable surplus, and that is why assistance is being given in the way proposed. We cannot expect to develop an extensive overseas trade in a year or two.
– That is an argument in favour of extending the period during which the bounty is to be paid.
– I have shown that there is a market for which we should bid, and unless we bid we cannot hope to succeed. It is unreasonable to suggest that producers should confine their efforts to the growing of wheat and wool, when the climatic conditions are suitable for the raising of other products. Many of the other industries mentioned during the debate have experienced adversity, and the difficulty in this instance is not one of over production, but of an inadequate supply. The best commercial authorities in Great Britain believe that with effective marketing arrangements there would be no difficulty in disposing of practically all we produce, provided of course that the quality is right. Thisyear apples cost 9s. per case, after including the cost of ‘ the case, the labour involved in railage to the wharf, and freight, whereas the market price in London was 23s. to 25s. per case .
– That was not an average price.
– No, but if the industry were properly conducted, and the product scientifically marketed supplies would be available in the London market when high prices were being paid.
– One is a perishable product and the other is not.
– Yes, but perishable products are transported on vessels with refrigerated chambers, and if proper care is exercised can be marketed in an excellent condition. Shortly after the Australian pavilion at Wembley was opened a difficulty was experienced in meeting the demand for Australian apples. The subject of meat was discussed in this chamber two years ago when there was no demand for the Australian product.
– In consequence of the big war stocks held.
– No, it was owing to the lack of adequate marketing facilities and to-day that industry is still in difficulty. We shall have to improve our marketing organization, and make our products more attractive. I saw many of our primary products on sale in Smithfield, and I ami glad to say that there has been a considerable improvement. In the case of canned fruits, however, we have been at a disadvantage in that the Australian surplus marketed in London has, up to the present, been regarded as a job lot. California sends to London 2,800,000 cases a year, and Australia only 200,000, which is bought up, as I have said, as a job lot, and we have had to be content with from1s. 6d. to 2s. per dozen below Calif orni an parity. This is all the difference between being able to produce and market successfully or otherwise. As a result of improvements in our marketing arrangements, our canned fruits are now labelled, graded, and presented to the British consumers in such an attractive form that, instead of being under Californian parity, offers have been made for the 1924-5 pack on a basis equal to Californian prices. If on that basis we cannot market our canned fruits profitably, then we must look for the remedy elsewhere. Except that their production is larger, and that they are nearer to the market, Californian growers have no marked advantage over Australian producers. We shall never be able to develop our primary industries if we throw up the sponge simply because we get beaten for a yearor two.
– Will the Government give the same assistance to other primary industries?
– I know of no primary industry that has not received some assistance. The policy of the’ Government is to help those primary industries that are properly organized, and in which there is evidence of efficiency in production. I ask the Senate to assist in the passage of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
The bounty under this act shall be payable in respect of fortified wine exported from the Commonwealth on and after the first day of September, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-four, and on and after the first day of August, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-six.
– I move -
That the House ofRepresentatives be requested to amend the clause by leaving out theword “twenty-six” and inserting in lieu thereof the word “ twenty-nine.”
The effect of this amendment will be to extend the term during which the bounty will be payable, for five years instead of two.
– Make it one year, and we will support the amendment.
– The period I propose is not too long. Both the grower and the wine-maker have to make their financial arrangements. If the clause is passed in its present form, the bounty will be payable for a period of only about eighteen months. It is quite true that some winemakers may have displayed sufficient sagacity to store up a few thousand gallons of wine and have it available for export, but we have to pay regard to the general interests of the grower and the wine-maker. I trust, therefore, that the amendment will be accepted.
– I am indifferent about the term, but as this is experimental legislation, I think that the shorter period stated in the bill is preferable.
– The Government has given this question careful consideration. If the payment of the bounty is extended over a longer period, the interests of the small grower may be jeopardized. I admit that on the other side, those interested in the development of the wine trade require time to perfect their organization, but the view of the Government is that if the period is extended to five years, we may lose control. If that happened, the object of the bill would be defeated. The price paid to the grower is the governing factor. Senator Benny has already told us that the wine-makers meet and agree to certain prices. Unless they pay fair and reasonable rates to the growers, payment of the bounty may be withheld. We wish to see how the scheme works, and we have been advised that it would not be wise to extend the period.
– I suggest that Senator Benny should alter his request by substituting “ 1927 “ for 1929. This would extend the period for the payment of the bounty to three years instead of two, and I think it would be acceptable to the Government. The Ministry would know if the marketing arrangements were proving satisfactory, and it is probable that the extra year would obviate the necessity of growers again applying to the Government for further assistance. I am supporting the bill, because I know what a struggle it is for small growers to make a success of their calling. Every weekend, upon my return to South Australia, I go amongst the growers at Tea Tree Gully, and I know how they are placed. Last season they received only £3 a ton for their grapes. I do not agree with Senator Benny that the wine-makers, as a body, have suffered much. Some of them are sitting behind banking accounts up to as high as £250,000. The grower is the man who has felt the pinch, and he wants assistance.
– The growers have asked for the extension of the term.
– But the Government will not accept an amendment extending the term by three years.
I desire to help the small grape-growers, than whom no producers are more worthy of assistance.
– They have asked for this bounty for six years.
– There is a chance of obtaining an extension of one year, but there is no hope of Senator Benny’s suggestion being adopted. I therefore urge the committee to accept the compromise that I have suggested.
– If the matter is left to the Government, there will be very little chance of obtaining an extension even of one year. As Senator Benny has remarked, the growers have asked that the bounty be payable for six years.
– The Government’s explanation as to why a short period should be fixed had not been communicated to the growers when they made their request.
– What the Government has dignified by calling an explanation is about the weakest argument I have ever heard. The Government suggests that it is afraid it may lose control. I asked the reason, and the only answer from the Minister was that the Government was advised that it would lose control. Why, or in what way, the Minister has utterly failed to show. The period suggested by Senator Benny is a reasonable one, although it does not fully meet the wishes of the growers. If some extension is not granted, the utility of the bill will be destroyed. If the measure is passed in its present form, I am sure that at the end of two years there will be an agitation for an extension, which will have to be granted. I advise the Minister to take the proper action now. There is every probability that, with the firm establishment of the export trade, there may then be no necessity to appeal for a further extension.
– I am inclined to agree with Senator Hoare. I can understand the Minister adhering to the bill as it stands, but if the period were extended to 1927 it would be a fair compromise. By fixing a short period there will be an inducement to the exporters to fulfil the conditions laid down, so that there will be a good chance of the renewal of the bounty. I endorse the sentiment of Senator Hoare that we should protect the small growers. Claimants of the bounty are required, under the bill, to furnish the Minister with particulars of their operations.
– They will be on trial.
– Yes ; and during the next two years they will be more circumspect in their dealings than if the bounty were made payable over a longer period.
– I suggest, asa compromise,that the bounty be paid until 1928. An extension of only one year is far too small. Let meassure Senator Hoare that I have as much sympathy as any other honorable senator for the small growers.
– They are protected under clause 10.
– Of course. The bounty will benefit the small growers and the employees in the industry just as much as the winemakers. It will keep the vineyards in cultivation for the benefit of the whole community. No contest between the big and the small man is involved; their interests are identical. After all, the bounty will be paid out of their own money, which is collected by way of excise duty, and it is not asking too much to extend the period from 1926 to 1928.
– Perhaps I was rather unfortunate in my explanation to Senator O’Loghlin, but I maintain that if a five years’ period is agreed to, Parliament will have no further say as to the manner in which the industry is carried on for the next five years. If the bounty is to be reviewed by Parliament two years hence, however, the growers are likely to see that the conditions laid down are observed. Surely there is good reason for not making the period too long. If my honorable friend, Senator O’Loghlin, does not understand that explanation I am sorry.
– I understand it, and so does the Minister.
– Legislation of this character should be reviewed fromtime to time. As the export trade improves I have no doubt that, if the conditions are reasonably observed, Parliament will extend the period. I ask that the bill be adhered to.
Clause, agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 -
The Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the (bounty if he finds that a price, which in his opinion was less than a reasonable price, was paid for any doradilla grapes used inthe production of the fortifying spirit containedin the wine in respect of which the bounty is claimed.
.- What is meant by a “ reasonable price “? The phrase is extremely vague. The interpretation of “ reasonable “ would vary according to the opinion of the Minister administering the department. A minimum price should be inserted.
– It cannot be done. I wish that it could, for it would save the Minister alot of worry.
– It is expecting a great deal of the Senate to ask it to pass the clause in this vague form.
– In some districts this year men ‘have received prices below the cost of production. In other districts very fair prices have been received. The clausehas been inserted so that the Minister must be assured that those distillers who take advantage of the bounty are paying reasonable prices for ‘the grapes they purchase. In some districts there may be only one distillery to which the grapes when picked must be delivered. This clause provides that the distiller must pay a reasonable price for the grapes if he desires to get the benefit of the bounty payable upon the wine in which his spirit is used.
– Senator Elliott has struck a rather good idea. I think we should insert in the bill a minimum of, say, £5 a ton, which price would, I understand, ensure to the grower a better price than he obtained last year. If we take steps to ensure that the primary producer gets a fair price for what he produces, the price of his product will regulate itself at every subsequent stage it reaches before getting to the consumer. His price could be based on his cost of production while affording him a living wage. The Minister (Senator Wilson), as a practical grower, should have some idea of what theminimum should be, but it should be fixed in the bill. It should not be left to the whim of any Minister who may have an exaggerated idea of the value of the labour of the primary producer, and hot of the share of the bounty that the merchant or distiller should take.
– The danger of fixing a minimum price for grapes is that the minimum may have the tendency to become the maximum. As there is a very early prospect of another party being in power in sympathy with the grower, it is safer to leave the fixing of the price to be paid to the grower to the discretion of the Minister than to lay it down specifically in the bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 14 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
. - I move-
That clause 4 be reconsidered.
There was a misunderstanding on the part of honorable senators in dealing with this clause. When I moved tohave “ 1926 “ struck out, with a view to insert “1929” in lieu thereof, Senator Hoare was anxious to move to insert “ 1927,” which would extend the payment of the bounty for one year beyond the period provided. I realize now that there is no chance of getting the Government to agree to my proposal to extend the payment for three years, but I should like honorable senators who are inclined to agree to an extension for one year to have an opportunity to provide for it by a further consideration of clause 4.
– I ask the Senate to stand by the bill as already agreed to. It has been most carefully explained that the clause as it now stands is a safeguard to the small growers.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Sitting suspended from 6.20 to 8 p.m.
Cost in Australia.
– I move -
That a return be laid on the table of the Senate showing the estimated cost of the construction of the two proposed new cruisers in Australia, detailed as follows : - Cost of hulls, decks, bulkheads, armour, engines, boilers, &c.
I do this in order to obtain for myself and other honorable senators information as to the cost of these portions of the vessels in order to enable us to judge between the diversity of opinion that exists amongst experts as to the relative cost of constructing vessels of the same tonnage in England and in Australia. I hope that honorable senators will support the motion,, so that we may have the desired information placed before us.
– I ask Senator Graham not to press this motion. Even if carried, it would be absolutely impossible to comply with it, for the sufficient reason that before detailed estimates can be prepared, . plans and specifications are necessary. Those plans and specifications are not here. The Shipping Board gave an approximate sum which, from the information at its disposal, it was considered might be the total cost of constructing these cruisers in Australia. The board stated that, because of the paucity of information available, it was impossible to give a definite price. The Navy Board also prepared an estimate, but in that case also no definite information was available, and the estimate was based largely on information obtained from books. Neither the Shipping Board nor the Navy Boardhad plans and specifications upon which to base its estimate. Honorable senators will, therefore, see that even if this motion were carried, it could not be complied with. The only thing is to wait until the report of Sir John Monash is tabled, when honorable senators will be able to see the estimates referred to. Even then they will be unable to obtain the details asked for by Senator Graham. In the circumstances, it is useless for the Senate to pass the motion.
Debate resumed from 28th August(vide page 3707), on motion by Senator Gardiner
That a select committee be appointed to inquire into the case of Mr. William Dunk, with full power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to move from place to place, such committee to consist of Senators Graham, J. B. Hayes, H. Hays, Payne, Thompson, McDougall, and the mover.
.- When this matter was before the Senate on Thursday last, Senator Pearce promised that he would have certain legal points which arose during the discussion referred to the legal advisers of the Commonwealth. That was done, and a report has been forwarded to Senator Pearce, under cover of the following memorandum from the Secretary to the Attorney-General’s Department, Sir Robert Garran: -
With reference to your letter of 29th August, 1924, stating that Senator Pearce desired to be furnished with a report re the case of Munition-worker Dunk. I am forwarding herewith a report by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor on the question, for. Senator Pearce’a information.
The report of the Crown Solicitor reads -
Case of Munition Worker j. P. Dunk.
I acknowledge receipt of your memorandum dated 20th August, 1924, requesting the favour of a report in regard to the above matter.
That this agreement shall not nor shall anything done under or in pursuance of this agreement be deemed to create a contract of service or apprenticeship by the volunteer with the Commonwealth Provided however that if personal injury by accident is caused to the volunteer while on board the vessel during his passage from Australia to Great Britain or from Great Britain to Australia in pursuance of this agreement the Commonwealth shall be liable to pay compensation to him or his dependants in accordance with the Sea men’s Compensation Act 1011 as if he were a seaman in the employment of the Commonwealth on board such vessel during his passage from or to Australia and for that purpose that act and the regulations thereunder shall apply as if they were incorporated in and formed part of this agreement.
The facts of the case, as you are aware, are as follow: -
On the 14th June, 1917, an agreement was entered into between Dunk and the Commonwealth for the conveyance of Dunk to England for the purpose of making munitions.
One of the terms of the agreement was that the said agreement should not nor should anything done under or in pursuance thereof be deemed to create a contract of service or apprenticeship by Dunk with the Commonwealth provided that if personal injury by accident were caused to him while on board the vessel during his passage, the Commonwealth should be liable to pay compensation to him or his dependants in Accordance with the Seamen’s CompensationAct 1911 as if he were a seaman in the employment of the Com- monwealth, and for that purpose that act and the regulations made thereunder should apply as if they were incorporated in and formed part of the agreement.
Dunk was injured on the voyage to England, as a result of which he was totally incapacitated for work.
On arrival in England Dunk was placed in a convalescent home and eventually returned to Australia.
Whilst in England he was paid compensation amounting to about £13 and after his arrival in Australia received weekly payments totalling about £90.
On 1st September, 1920, Dunk, in consideration of the sum of £120 paid to him, executed a release redeeming the Commonwealth’s liability to continue to make payments of compensation to him in respect of his injury and discharging the Commonwealth from all liability in respect of such injury.
The total amount of compensation paid to Dunk was thus about £223.
Dunk was admitted to proceed as a “poor person “ in accordance with the provisions of the District Court Act, and solicitor and counsel were assigned to him for the purpose of applying for an arbitration under the Seamen’s Compensation Act.
A copy of the notice of application that was served on me and a copy of the answer thereto have been forwarded to you.
Mr. Telfer of counsel appeared for the applicant on the hearing of the application, and Mr. A. L. Campbell of counsel for the respondent.
In answer to the judge, counsel for the respondent relied on the following defences to the application: -
He then said that the respondent’s objection amounted to this: that the applicant should have brought a common law action on the contract, and stated that the applicant was so entitled to do.
He stated that he intended to hear the case, and that he would treat the application as a District Court plaint allowing any amendments necessary to bring it into order.
On its being pointed out that the claim was for £500 (the jurisdiction of the District Court only extends to actions for amounts not exceeding £400) counsel for the applicant offered to forgo the balance and limit the claim to £400, but the District Court rules do notallow of this being done at the hearing - it must be done on filing the plaint.
His Honour then remarked that he was determined to hear the case, and for that purpose ruled that he had jurisdiction, observing that he left it to the Commonwealth to correct him later if it thought fit.
Evidence was then given as to the injuries, and an admission was made that the applicant had received £13 in England, £60 in Australia (the military authorities say the amount received in Australia was £90), and £120 under the release.
His Honour then referred to schedule 1 (1) of the Seamen’s Compensation Act, which showed that the maximum amount the applicant would have been entitled to have received would have been 15s. per week (he being in receipt of an old-age pension of 15s. per week) i.e., £156 in all over the period from the accident to date.
That being the case he said he had received more than his allowance, and had no case until the amount received was exhausted by weekly payments of 15s. per week.
Counsel for the applicant then applied for a suspensory order and asked, for the respondent’s consent, which was refused.
His Honour refused to make a suspensory order, stating that the applicant would not be prejudiced in future proceedings after the payments had been exhausted as above mentioned.
He then made an order for an award in favour of the respondent. Afterwards he again stated that the applicant could bring another action later, but this statement was not included in the order.
The judge’s findings in this case are impossible to understand, and I do not attempt to furnish an explanation therefor.
The question now arises as to whether, seeing that the award was made in favour of the respondent, the award can be appealed against, and if so, whether any good purpose would’ be served by appealing against it.
Clause (3) of the second schedule to the act provides that either party may appeal against the court’s decision (see also S.R. 18 No. 163 regulations 36 and 37) and I do not think that a party would be precluded from appealing from an adverse decision on a point of law simply because on the facts the award was in his favour.
In this particular case, however, I do not think any good purpose would be served by appealing, as it may be that the applicant will not bring the matter before the court again, and if he does do so, the question can be determined then as well as now.
As an appeal must be lodged within 21 days after the decision appealed against, I shall be glad to receive your instructions as soon as possible whether or not it is desired to appeal in this instance.
We have been consulted by Mr. J. T. Dunk with reference to the further prosecution of his claim for compensation.
The matter of Mr. Dunk’s claim came before Mr. Justice Scholes on the second day of June, 1921, when His Honour decided that on that date he could not make an award but that at a later stage Mr. Dunk could bring a further affidavit to the court when he would always get the help and sympathy of the court.
Before taking any further proceedings we shall be glad to know whether the Commonwealth is prepared to make any further offer.
The facts of the case are already well known to you and the department and it is clear that Mr. Dunk is entitled to sympathetic consideration and we are writing you in the hope that something will be done so as to avoid any further litigation.
We shall be glad if you will send a copy of this letter to the proper authorities. 21: I was instructed by the Secretary, Department of Defence, to defend any further claim by Dunk against the Commonwealth, and a further application was made by Dunk to the court on 22nd August, 1922. This application was opposedby the Deputy Crown Solicitor under instructions from me, and came on for hearing before His Honour Judge Cohen at the Metropolitan District Court, Sydney, on 18th September, 1922. I quote from the Deputy Crown Solicitor’s report to me in regard to the matteras follows: -
Mr. Telfer of counsel (instructed by. Messrs. Windeyer,Fawl, and Osborne, solicitors, Sydney) appeared for the applicant, and Mr. Hinton of counsel appeared for respondent.
The courtwas informed that the Commonwealth contended that the applicant was not a seaman to whom the act applied, that the court had no jurisdiction to deal with the application, and that the applicant was estopped by the judgment of the court in the previous proceedings instituted by him.
After hearing argument on the above contentions, His Honour requested counsel for the applicant to enter on evidence.
Evidence was given by the applicant as to the extent and nature of his injuries and as to the amount of compensation which had been paid to him.
When the applicant had concluded his evidence, Mr. Hinton referred His Honour to the court record of the previous application which was with the clerk of the court.
After hearing argument on the question of estoppel, His Honour said that on the application he would make an award in favour of the Commonwealth.
On the question of costs, His Honour said that he did not think that the Commonwealth should ask for costs against the applicant, an old-age pensioner, but on counsel for the Commonwealth stating that his instructions were to ask for costs, His Honour allowed costs against the applicant on the lowest scale.
I instructed counsel to ask for costs, because I considered the respondent was legally entitled to costs, and it was as well to have an order for costs.
I propose to have the respondent’s costs taxed and to apply to the solicitors for payment thereof, unless I receive your instructions to the contrary.
Gordon H. Castle,
In view of the opinion of the Crown Law authorities, and the facts of the case as set out in the documents from which I have read, the Government cannot support the motion moved by Senator Gardiner for the appointment of a select committee.
– Did Dunk spontaneously accept that arrangement, or did he do so under duress ?
– He asked for a lump sum.
– It is set out in the documents that he asked for a lump sum, and accepted it. He signed a release from the agreement he had previously entered into. In view of the facts I have submitted, I ask honorable senators to oppose the motion.
– Honorable senators will admit that the case as set out by the Crown Law authorities is stated in a more satisfactory way than it was submitted on a previous occasion by the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce). I intend, in as few words as possible, to put Dunk’s side of the case, and at the outset I shall answer the statement just made concerning a lump sum payment by saying that Dunk was compelled to accept the amount he received, and which was offered, as the statement will show, in February, and accepted conditionally before the 28th August, on which date he was to have left for England with friends. Although the money was available, it was not paid in sufficient time to enable him to join the vessel on which he proposed to sail. I desire to put the case from the beginning. I would not be fair to Dunk if I did not state the full facts, and in order to do so I intend to quote from a newspaper report which has come intomy possession, giving Judge Scholes’ opinion of the case.
– What is the name of the newspaper?
– I shall give it before I conclude. This report coincides in many respects with that of the Crown Solicitor. Its language is particularly favorable to Dunk, and when the paragraph was brought under my notice I decided, in fairness to Dunk, to bring it before the Senate. It reads -
At Nationalists’ Hands. How a Broken Man is Fought. 12th June, 1921.
James Thomas Dunk v. Commonwealth of Australia, before His Honour- Judge Scholes, in the District Court, Sydney, on 2nd June.
This was an application for compensation from the Commonwealth Government in accordance with the provisions of the Seamen’s Compensation Act 1911, brought on behalf of James Thomas Dunk (Dunk was a master builder, and had made an average income of £500 a year prior to joining the forces). He had enlisted as a munition worker in April, 1917, and after waiting for 77 days for a ship in which to embark (during which time he did not receive a penny, in spite of the Government’s promise topay him 5s. a day), sailed for England on the steamer Beltana on the 16th June,1917.
On the 21st June, in the Australian Bight, he met with a very severe accident, being washed by abig sea against one of the winches of the ship. His shoulder was seriously injured, right arm and wrist broken, his hand and fingers damaged, and several ribs were fractured. He also sustained a double hernia. He was placed in hospital on the ship, but was not supplied with trusses. He reached England, and for a short term remained in the military hospitals. Ultimately, however, the military hospital’s had no place for him, and he was” thrown on the charity of some friends, who, incidentally, paid about £40 for his nursing and medical expenses. After a good deal of trouble with the High Commissioner, and much worry and waste of time, Dunk, still suffering pain, and thoroughly shattered in body and spirit, was ordered to embark for Australia. A complete physical wreck, he was invalided home in the middle of 1918 as a cot case, the military authorities allowing him a miserable 10s. for a voyage of 11,000 miles.
Arriving in New South Wales in September, 1918, he was, as “ an act of grace,” placed in theRandwick Hospital, where he was charged £2 2s. a week for his treatment. In January; 1919, he was discharged totally incapacitated, and unable to be cured, in the language of the Military Board’s report. At the present time Dunk is in a hopeless position, and his physical condition is much worse. He still has a double hernia; his right hand, arm, and shoulder are totally useless; in addition, he has a serious cardiac weakness resulting on his injury. He is thus unable to do any work whatsoever. He is homeless, and practically starving. Dunk has an agreement with the Commonwealth Government, in which the Government agreed to compensate him (and all munition workers) under the provisions of the Seamen’s Compensation Act 1911, in the event of his sustaining any injuries on the journey to England.
For four years (1917-21) Dunk hasbeen fighting the battle of the ages to extract from the Commonwealth Government what he is en titled to get as a matter of right and justice under this agreement. His old-age pension, too, has only been given to him at rare intervals, and has always been taken from his compensation moneys, in spite of the repeated statements of His Majesty the King and his Ministers that no pensions were to be used in reduction of compensation moneys. While Dunk was in England he was only allowed £13 as compensation, and since then the Commonwealth Government gave him a lump sum of £120 in satisfaction of all claims against them. Dunk refused to accept this, seeing that for four years alone (to say nothing of the years to come) he was entitled to £312 under his agreement.
The case came on for hearing on 2nd June before His Honour Judge Scholes, in the County Court. The Commonwealth Government took up the very arbitrary attitude of testing the jurisdiction of the court to deal with the matter on highly technical grounds, but under the provisions of the Seamen’s Act, and under the term of their own agreement, Mr. B. F. F. Telfer, counsel for the applicant, told His Honour the history of the case, and pointed out with unmistakable cleverness that the grounds on which the Commonwealth Government intended to rely were ultra-technical, and could not be sustained at law. Referring His Honour to the terms of the agreement, Mr. Telfer went on to show the court that the Commonwealth’s answer to Dunk’s claim was beyondall doubt contrary to the clear spirit and reasonable interpretation, if not the letter, of the agreement, and charged the Commonwealth Government’s defence as mean, shabby, and grossly dishonorable. His Honour agreed with learned counsel, and spoke from the Bench in very strong and forcible terms. “ I am unable,” said His Honour, “to understand the Government’s defence in this matter. I am not a legislator, and cannot go beyond my powers, but I will search all lawful authorities, and, if necessary, stand this case over with a view to meeting the objection set up. The Government should be prosecuted for this action.” His Honour decided to hear the facts, and intimated that at this stage he could not help the applicant on the question of compensation. The Government had mixed Dunk’s compensation and old-age pension moneys in a shameful fashion. “ It seems clear,” said His Honour, “ that Dunk is still owed £70 by the Commonwealth Government to date, probably for old-age pension moneys. His Honour advised Dunk to issue a writ for’ that amount against the Government. He also told Dunk to bring a further application to his court at a later stage on the question of compensation. Ho would always get the help and sympathy of the court.
Mr. Telfer intimated to the learned judge that it was not intended to let the matter rest.
I think that statement appeared in the Sydney Truth. On the 1st September, 1920, Mr. Dunk received a lump sum of £120, but the registrar of the court refused to register the agreement on the ground that the amount paid was wholly inadequate to compensate for the injuries received.
– That is disproved by the Crown Solicitor’s statement.
– I am glad that statement has been read to the Senate. Here is a question which I asked the Senate only this week -
Is it a fact that the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and Mr. Dunk, munition worker, brought the Government under the provisions of the Seamen’s Compensation Act?
The answer to that question was “ No.” I thank the Minister for reading the agreement. It has a direct bearing upon my attitude. This is the view of the Crown Law authorities of the agreement under which Mr. Dunk was working -
One of the terms of the agreement was that the said agreement should not, nor should anything done under or in pursuance thereof be deemed to create a contract of service or apprenticeship by Dunk with the Commonwealth.
That is perfectly clear. I wish honorable senators to note what follows -
Provided thatif personal injury by accident were caused to him while on board the vessel during his passagethe Commonwealth should be liable to pay compensation to him or his dependants in accordance with the Seamen’s Compensation Act 1911,as if he were a seaman in the employment of the Commonwealth, and for that purpose that act and the regulations made thereunder should apply as if they were incorporated in and formed part of the agreement.
That explains why I asked whether the agreement brought the Commonwealth under the Seamen’s Compensation Act. I believe the official answer in the negative was perfectly correct, but it did not state the whole truth. At all events, Dunk was firmly of the opinion that he came under the provisions of the Seamen’s Compensation Act. Honorable senators, I hope, will pay special attention to the proviso which I have just read. The Seamen’s Compensation Act sets out clearly the strength of Mr. Dunk’s claim, notwithstandingthat he had accepted a sum of money in final settlement. In February the Commonwealth asked him to accept £120 in full settlement of his claim. He was not disposed to do so then, but in August he agreed, because he had a chance to go to England with friends. Evidently he accepted the offer in the full knowledge of his rights under the Seamen’s Compen sation Act, clause 9 of schedule 2 of which provides -
An agreement as to the redemption of a weekly payment by a lump sum, if not recorded in accordance with this act, shall not, nor shall the payment of the sumpayable under the agreement, exempt the person by whom the weekly payment is payable from liability to continue to make that weekly payment, ; and an agreement as to the amount of compensation to be paid to a person under a legal disability or to dependants, if not so recorded, shall not, nor shall the payment of the sum payable under the agreement, exempt the person by whom the compensation is payable from liability to pay compensation, unless, in either case he proves that the failure to register was not due to any neglect or default on his part.
What happened? When Mr. Dunk accepted that money as final settlement, the matter was referred to the registrar of the court, and the agreement was turned down on the ground that the compensation was not sufficient for the injuries sustained.
– The Crown Solicitor states that it was turned down because the registrar was not the prescribed authority under the agreement.
– Senator Greene emphasized this point when he was speaking to the motion last week. He quoted a letter on the departmental trial from Messrs. Windeyer, Fawl, Williams, and Osborne, a very reputable firm of solicitors in Sydney. This is what they wrote -
We have been consulted by Mr. J. T. Dunk, of 160 Oxfordstreet, Paddington, Sydney, with reference to his claim againstthe Commonwealthunder the Seamen’s Compensation Act. By agreement dated the 1st September, 1920, the sum of £120 was paid to Mr. Dunk, purporting to be in settlement of his claim. The registrar of the court has refused to register the agreement upon the groundthat the amount stated is wholly inadequate for the injuries received.
– They only repeat Mr. Dunk’s statement.
– This is a dispute between Mr. Dunk and the Crown Law authorities, and I base my claim for the appointment of a select committee on a perusal of the file and my knowledge of Mr. Dunk, who is by no means such an old man as Senator Pearce or the Crown Solicitor would have honorable senators believe he is. The Minister says that Mr. Dunk’s statement is incorrect. A select committee could decide that issue. I am not asking for the appointment of a one-sided committee in order to secure a verdict for Mr. Dunk. Ifhis claim cannot be established fairly on the evidence produced, then I do not want a verdict in his favour. From what I know of Mr. Dunk, I should describe him as a highly intelligent and truthful man. It is admitted, of course, that he told a lie about his age. In 1917 he said he was young enough to enlist as a munition worker. In the circumstances, that was an offence which could easily be overlooked.
– He said he broke his arm on the ship, but the ship’s doctor heard nothing of it.
– At all events, the Commonwealth admitted liability. The Minister, basing his knowledge on departmental documents, declared that Mr. Dunk had never worked for the Commonwealth. That is not true. He worked at Vickers’ steel works in England for thirteen hours a day for a fortnight, until his shoulder gave way. Before he enlisted he was a fine, vigorous type of manhood, and’ he bore a good character, as the following reference from Sir Joseph Cook, High Commissioner for Australia, testifies : - 14 Lower South-road, Bohemia,
St. Leonards-on-Sea. 14th February, 1918.
I know Mr. James Dunk as a resident of Parramatta. His character and reputation are good. I believe him to be honest, trustworthy, and capable. I have much pleasure in recommending him.
The Minister just now said that Mr. Dunk was not injured on the voyage, and I repeat that on the two occasions when the matter came before the committee the Government admitted that he had been injured. The following is a copy of the medical certificate obtained by Mr. Dunk: - 20th February, 1918.
I have this day seen and examined Mr. J. T. Dunk. He is suffering from the result of an accident. He is unable to use his right arm owing to the stiffness of the shoulder joint and pain. He is unable to grip with his hand. I do not consider that he will ever be able to resume work.
– Is it not remarkable that he could not get a certificate from the ship’s doctor?
– I do not know that it is. Is it not rather remarkable that the Commonwealth Government, through Senator Pearce, should now declare he had not been injured?
– The Commonwealth admitted it, and paid him compensation.
– The deputy Crown Solicitor stated the whole of the facts very fairly. In paragraph 5 of his statement, he says -
Dunk was injured on the voyage to England, as the result of which he is totally incapacitated for work.
Senator Pearce, apparently, is under the impression that I was easily persuaded to take up this case. I have been fourteen years in the Senate, and on only one previous occasion have I asked for the appointment of a select committee. It was appointed, . and I am glad to say that my view was wholly substantiated, because the man on whose behalf I spoke got his reward. It cannot be said, therefore, that I am disposed to rush into the Senate with any case, and make a demand for the redress of a grievance.
– The honorable senator had three on the business-paper last week.
– And in respect of one, the Government admitted the justice of the. case by promising to deal with the matter by legislation. Honorable senators are frequently asked to take steps to have injustices remedied, and I would not ask for the appointment of a select committee in this case if I thought there were any other means of obtaining redress for Mr. Dunk. There is difference of opinion between the Minister (Senator Pearce) and myself, as to whether the application was rejected by the registrar, and there is no reply on the file showing that that was not so.
– There is a reply by Judge Cohen.
– He , took the technical view which Judge Scholes refused to accept.
– Judge Scholes gave a verdict against Mr. Dunk.
– The reason was that he could not grant compensation over and above 15s. a week. Sir Robert Garran said that 30s. a week could have been granted.
– After Judge Scholes gave that advice, Mr. Dunk went to the court again, and Judge Cohen, who heard the case, refused his application.
– Counsel for the Government took the same ground of complaint on each occasion, objecting to the jurisdiction of the court, because the applicant was not a seaman within the meaning of the act.
– That was not the ground on which Judge Cohen refused the application.
– Judge Scholes said that he would treat the application as a district court complaint, and allow any amendments necessary to put the application in order. The judge said that he was determined to hear the case. He ruled that he had jurisdiction, and he observed that he would leave it to the Commonwealth to correct him later if it thought fit. He added that Dunk was entitled to the money, but Judge Cohen said that the final agreement settled the matter. In my opinion Judge Cohen settled it on the technicality that Dunk was not a seaman. The question is whether or not such a matter should be determined on a legal technicality, or according to the merits of the application. I contend that this is one of those peculiar cases in which the appointment of a select committee would be justified. I interested myself in it in the first place, through having a newspaper report concerning it sent to me, and since then I have brought the details under the notice of different authorities. I saw the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden), who is a lawyer, and I asked him togive me his opinion of the case on its merits. The Minister said he would do so, and after fully investigating the matter, he wrote a minute recommending that Dunk be paid 12s. 6d. a week, in addition to his old-age pension of 17s. 6d., as from the 1st July. 1923. That recommendation was sent to the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who declined to adopt it. I am willing that the case should be determined byany tribunal. I do not wish the matter to be dealtwith on party lines.
– Why was the recommendation of the Minister for Defence not adopted?
– It was said that Dunk was not legally entitled to the money.
– Was it recommended that the additional 12s. 6d. be granted to Dunk for life?
– Yes. Under the Seamen’s Compensation Act, according to Sir Robert Garran, Dunk might have been awarded 30s. a week for life, and why the Government did not pay the money I fail to see. I do not think it wishes to be a party to any sharp practice.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newland). - The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I shall conclude by asking leave to amend the motion by leaving out the word, “ William “ and inserting in its stead the initials “ J. T.,” and by leaving out the word “ Payne “ and inserting in lieu thereof the word “Reid”.
Leave granted; motion amended accordingly.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
That the committee report to the Senate on Thursday, 11th September.
Debate resumed from 24th July (vide page 2434), on motion by Senator Lynch -
That, inasmuch as the gold-mining industry of the Commonwealth has during late years given unmistakable evidence of alarming decline, and as such decline cannot be said to arise from any fault on the part of the people carrying on the industry, but is entirely due to external causes, including amongst others -
The diminishing margin between the cost of production and realization, rendering the industry unattractive alike to men of small and considerable means;
The compulsory denial of a free market during the war period for the purpose of ensuring that vital necessity - an ample gold reserve - to the Commonwealth and the British Empire;
The double disadvantage involved in such denial in being obliged, on the one hand, to accept a fixed price for its product, and on the other an enhanced cost of production due to war conditions;
The increasing burden of supporting our secondary industries without any countervailing advantage to itself;
The need to go farther out into virgin country and farther down in the older places in the search for fresh reserves of payable ore, thus entailing still heavier expense;
The action of the several State Governments by means of rewards, bonuses, subsidies, and cheap rail, water, and crushing rates in fostering this industry, and thereby increasing its tax-paying capacity; and the failure of successive Federal Governments to do likewise, but, on the contrary, exploiting that capacity to the utmost; the Senatetherefore desires to record its firm expectation that - in order to remedy the present stagnant condition of the industry, renew its vitalizing power in the exploration and settlement of our vast unexplored territory, restore its waning strength as a stalwart buttress of our secondary industries and profitable consumer of our primary products, and repay in Borne measure the nation’s obligation to it for its sterling invaluableaid during the war - the Government will render unto it immediate and substantial assistance.
That, further, the Senate is of opinion that such assistance can best take the form of-
Adequate relief from taxation in the established centresof its activity;
Liberal help to persons going out into new country to search for and obtain undiscovered wealth, thus making a new addition to the assets and resources of the Commonwealth.
– When this motion was previously under discussion Senator Grant remarked that miners “ could find a more healthy occupation, for, as everybody knows, both metalliferous and coal mining are extremely unhealthy callings.” Senator Crawford then interjected - “ Senator Graham says that mining kills a man in two and a half years.” I am reported to have interposed with the remark that “ Gold mining is a healthy occupation.” In justice to myself, and also to Senator Grant, who subsequently remarked that I knew nothing about the matter, I may mention that, although the Hansard staff is usually remarkably careful, a slip was made on this occasion. The words I used were “ coal mining,” not “ gold mining.” It is well known that coal mining, strangely enough, is one of the most healthy occupations. In discussing the necessity for assisting the gold-mining industry, Senator Lynch has pointed out the disabilities under which the industry is carried on in Western Australia, and a few remarks concerning the position of the Mount Morgan Company of Queensland would not be out of place. The Mount Morgan gold mine has been the most important gold mine in the world, and although today it has passed into the phase of being a copper-gold proposition, it is probably still in the same category. Its present position was explained at the last annual general meeting of the company by the chairman of directors, Mr. R. S. Archer, who said -
Mining operations for the last year resulted in a loss of £65,092. This was the third year in succession in which it had been found impossible to obtain from the products of the mine sufficient revenue to meet expenses incurred in its working and the treatment and realization of the metals. The total loss on mining for the three years was£ 191,831. Fortunately for shareholders, and also for the employees, the company’s outside investments had returned the fairly substantial income of £81,416 in that period, so that the net loss to shareholders was reduced to £110,415 for the three years. Since April, 1920, shareholders had received no return whatever on their capitel. This was not encouraging in view of the fact that considerable economies had been effected. The company’s technical staff was continually working on the problems directly connected with the treatment of the ore at minimum cost, and further benefits should be obtained in the current year from ‘ improved treatment practice, whichshould enable some reductions tohe made in concentrating, smelting, and converting costs. The price of copper continued to hover around pre-war levels, but wages and material required in the working of the mine were vastly higher.
For four years the shareholders of this great company have got nothing out of the mine.
– How many men are employed on the mine?
– About 1,700.
– Is not the mine about worked out?
– No. There are 3,000,000 tons of ore in sight, and at the present rate of treatment this quantity should keep the mine going for fully fourteen years.
– But is not theare too low grade to work?
– It is low grade; but the trouble is that the cost of production has gone up.
– And nothing can be done to reduce the cost of production ?
– I am afraid not. The high rate of wages and increased costs in other directions make the mine a non-payable proposition at the present time. But it is just as well for the sake of our honorable friends opposite, who are always declaring that capitalists are not sympathetic persons, to point out that a great concern has been kept going for four years at the expense of its shareholders. It distributes very large sums of money annually inthe shape of wages, and it is the sole support of a township of 10,000 inhabitants. Too much credit cannot be given to the shareholders of the company for the humanitarian policy they have adopted. I am afraid that the proposals which have been put forward to help the gold-mining industry will be of very little assistance to Mount Morgan Company. I understand that the Government are willing to remit a certain percentage of the income tax collected from gold-mining companies, but, as a matter of fact, remission of income taxation is of no practical assistance to a mining company which is making a loss. Another proposal put forward is that a £1 for £1 grant should be made for exploratory work. Thatshould benefit the Mount Morgan Company, because, while there is no likelihood of further development by sinking, there is every likelihood that lateral exploration may produce some new development. The Government could assist the industry by a remission of the duty paid on machinery purchased overseas. As a matter of fact, the Mount Morgan Company, which has occasionally had to order very elaborate machinery from abroad, because it could not be obtained in Australia, has already benefited from a remission of duty in the way I have suggested. The Government might also come to the assistance of this company by a remission of the duty which had to be paid on coke which had to be ordered from England, because a strike in progress in Australia had prevented the company from securing coke locally. The company had exhausted its available resources at the time, and in order to keep the mine going was obliged to place orders for coke in England. One direction in which the Government have given assistanceis in the remission of duty on material required for the manufacture of explosives, which are extensively used in the Mount Morgan mine. I join with Senator Lynch in suggesting that prospecting should be encouraged. I know that in practice it has been found difficult to apply government assistance to prospecting intelligently and properly, but perhaps a good scheme may be evolved by granting this aid through the states which are in a better position to give it proper supervision than the Commonwealth itself would be. I am satisfied that there is gold yet to be discovered in Australia, and anything that can be done to open up fresh fields will greatly benefit the whole community. I hope that the suggestions I have thrown out will receive consideration, and that as much assistance as can be given to the mining industry will be afforded to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1924/19240904_senate_9_108/>.