12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon.. W. Kingsmill) took, thechair at 3 p.m., and road prayers.
– I should like to know if there is any truth in the rumour in circulation this morning in two of the State capitals that it is not the intention of the Government during, the present-sittings of Parliament to proceed with the bills, amending the Sales-; Tax Assessment Acts?
– The honorable senator was good enough to inform me that he proposed to ask this question;but, unfortunately,I have not yet been able to meet the. ActingPrime Minister (Mr . Fenton). On. the adjournment, I shall make a statement, on the subject afterhaving, in the. meantime, consulted with, the Acting,Prime Minister.
– Will theLeader of the Government in the Senate make available to honorable’ senators a copy of the opinion of the Acting Crown Solicitor on the validity of debt adjustment acts of’ various States, having regard to the Commonwealth Bankruptcy Act?
-I shall lay a copy of the opinion on the table of the Senate for the convenience of honorable senators.
– On the 14th November Senator Ogden asked the following question, upon notice -
Whether the committee which is inquiring into the sugar industry will take evidence in Tasmania, or in other States than Queensland?
The committee has advised’ that it proposes taking evidence in all States. It expects’ to complete its’ inquiries in all’ the mainland States before Christmas, and to visit Tasmania during the second week in January.
SenatorBARNES- On the 13th November Senator Sampson asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator as follows: -
– On the 14th Novem ber Senator Chapman asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following informs tion : -
– On the 14th November, Senator Chapman asked the fol- lowing questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : - l and 2. AsI understand the questions, the answer would simply be a quotation from a book published by the gentlemen mentioned. The hook has been freely circulated and necessarily represents the personal views of the writers and no good purpose would seem to be served by quoting from it.
– I have to report the receipt of the following letter -
Prime Minister’s Office,
Dear Mr. President -
The resolution of the Senate in connexion with the destruction of the airship R.101, which was embodied in your letter tome dated the 14th November, 1930, was conveyed by cablegram to the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The following message from the Prime Minister of Great Britain has been received by cablegram from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs dated London, 22nd November, for communication to you. On behalf of His Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom. “I sincerely thank the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia for their resolution of sympathy in connexion with the disaster to airship R.101. I know that it will be deeply appreciated by the relatives of those who lost their lives in the disaster. -
ADJOURNMENT (Formal) .
– I have to report the receipt of the following letter -
Canberra, November 25th, 1930. Mr. President -
It is my intention to move this afternoon, under Standing Order 64, that the Senate at its rising adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow for the purpose of discussing the following urgent matter of public importance, viz: - The present grave position of the wheat-growers of the Commonwealth and the unfortunate refusal of the Government to come to their rescue.
Four honorable senators having risen in theirplaces.
– I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow.
I do not think that I am overstating the position by using the word “ urgent “ in connexion with this motion. This subject, which has been under discussion for some time, and in which the wheat-growers are vitally concerned, is still an unsettled question in this country. Honorable senators will recall it was reported in the daily press that the price of wheat in London yesterday was 22s.11d. per quarter, which is a world’s record in the matter of low prices. In considering the quantity available for consumption, which is an important factor in connexion with this subject, I find from inquiry from authentic sources that the world’s supply of wheat this year is very much greater than it has been for many years. The Department of Markets and Transport has supplied me with the following figures which will give honorable senators some idea of the position in this regard. ‘ Taking 1920 as the starting point I find that for nine years - from that year to 1928 - the average carry-over of the world’s production of wheat for each year was 316,000,000 bushels. In 1929 and 1930 the carryover was very much greater, the figures being 591,000,000 bushels and 540,000,000 bushels. The estimate for this year is 488,000,000 bushels. In yesterday’s press it was reported that the Argentine Republic, which is always a strong competitor with Australia and produces as much wheat as we do has been struck by a natural visitation in the form of red rust. According to the report, this will be responsible for a loss of 2,000,000 tons, which represents from 70,000,000 to 80,000,000 bushels, and when deducted from the difference between the average for nine years and the estimate for this year, leaves the present estimate of 488,000,000 bushels over 100,000,000 bushels above the average for the previous nine years.
The entry of Russia into the world’s wheat market is something of a mystery. It is reported in this morning’s newspaper that M. Stalin, head of the government of that country, which, in the past, has been the world’s greatest exporter of wheat, says that Russia will once more gain world preeminence in the matter of wheat exports. He said, “All this talk of exporting wheat below cost, and of forced labour in Russia is sheer nonsense.” I. have before quoted in this chamber the testimony of the crew of a Russian ship in Glasgow, and I shall repeat it in order to show that M. Stalin is telling the world something which has been directly contradicted by the crew of a steamer belonging to his own country. In a Glasgow newspaper of September 27th, the following paragraph appeared : -
Members of the crew nf the vessel that recently discharged 2,000 tons of Soviet wheat in Glasgow, relate how they had to pay ls. per 211). for very indifferent’ bread in Russian ports. Yet Russia is selling us wheat at prices that make a British 41b. loaf costing 74tl. in. Edinburgh, and Hd. in Glasgow.
On the testimony of these Russian seamen it is quite clear that the Russian people are paying in their own country three times more for wheat than the price at which it is being sold to Great Britain to-day.
– And they are eating black- bread.
– Yes, the quality of the bread is not comparable. As I have said, the members of the crew of this vessel stated that the Russian authorities are dumping Russian wheat into Great Britain and selling it at one-third of the price at which it is being supplied at the Black Sea ports. If these statements are placed alongside those of M. Stalin, honorable senators will see that all this talk that Russian wheat is not being supplied under cost is so much nonsense.
What is the position of the farmers engaged in wheat production in Australia? Happily, we are in for a bountiful year, which is a relief. The estimated production is in the neighbourhood of 210,000,000 bushels, which is a record for this country; but when we compare the value of this year’s crop with preceding years how disappointing it is.
In 1927, the value of our wheat production was £42,000,000; in 1928 it was £31,000,000; in 1929, £33,000,000, and this year on an estimated crop of 210,000,000 bushels at the present rate of 2s. a bushel, which is an outside figure, it will be as low as £20,000,000. It is useless comparing that figure with the records of past years when it was worth as much as £64,000,000 and £50,000,000. The important point is that, although this year we shall have a record crop as to quantity, the return from it will probably be £20,000,000 less than the return from last year’s crop. It is well to have a record crop; but, after all, its value is more important than its quantity. A fair estimate of the cost of producing wheat is from 3s. 6d. to 4s. a bushel. With the price of wheat at 2s. a bushel, it is clear that, on every bushel produced, the wheat-growers of this country stand to lose ls. 6d. or 2s. How can they carry on in such circumstances? Already they are so heavily involved that it is difficult to foresee how they can obtain further assistance to carry them through. Unfortunately, the position is much the same in all the wheat-producing States. Hitherto, the wheat-growers of Australia have made a fair living; but they have now reached a time when, on account of the heavy burdens placed on them, coupled with the low prices for their product, they are faced with enormous losses. Unless something is done to assist them, many wheat-growers will be forced off the land as a matter of dire necessity. I believe that the Government is earnest in its desire to help the farmers; but, unfortunately, it has done nothing to fulfil its promises to them. At such times, deeds, not words, are wanted. The Acting Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Forde) recently told a conference representative of the wheat industry that the Government had requested the management of the Commonwealth Bank to advance 2s. a bushel on this season’s crop, only to be told that, even were the advance backed by the Commonwealth and State Governments, the Commonwealth Bank could not possibly accede to the request. Such, a statement naturally gives rise to a suspicion that we have been misled in the past. Only a few months ago, we were assured that the Commonwealth Bank was ready and willing to finance this season’s wheat crop to the extent of 4s. a bushel; now, we are informed that that institution refuses to accept a responsibility of only 2s. a. bushel, even though the advance were backed by the credit of the Commonwealth and the States combined. These conflicting statements leave a nasty impression. We are forced to ask what importance can be attached to the statement that the Commonwealth Bank a few months ago was able and willing to finance up to 4s. a bushel for our wheat.
– The bank said that it was willing.
– This matter needs clearing up. I am pleased that Senator Daly recognizes the gravity of the situation, and the peril confronting the wheatgrowers of this country. I appreciate his recent action in permitting me to move a motion dealing with the wheatgrowing industry before the Government business on the notice-paper had been disposed of. The Acting Minister for Markets and Transport, when addressing the recent conference, described the difficulties confronting the wheat industry as a “ national problem.” In another place recently, several supporters of the Government, including the honorable members for Indi (Mr. Jones), Bendigo (Mr. Keane), and Angas (Mr. Gabb), stated that, in their opinions, the wheatgrowers of the Commonwealth had a “ moral claim on the Government “ for some substantial assistance by way of compensation for having complied with its request that they should grow more wheat. Nothing has been done. Why is effect not given to the promises of the Government, especially in view of the dire need which exists? In view of the danger which threatens so many wheatgrowers, and the probability of holdings being abandoned, the Government should strain every nerve to honour its promise to come to their assistance.
– What was the outcome of the conference?
– Three resolutions were carried at the conference. First, the delegates agreed that the price of wheat for home consumption should be increased and the proceeds devoted to raising the general level of prices for the whole of the wheat marketed. Secondly, they advocated a straight-out guarantee of 3s. a bushel on railway sidings, and, thirdly, there was a suggestion by the honorable member for Wimmera in another place (Mr. Stewart) that 4s. 9d. a bushed should be paid for wheat at railway terminals. We have since been told that the Government cannot see its way clear to accept any of those proposals.
– Was not the 4s. 9d. a bushel to apply only to the wheat consumed in Australia?
– Yes. A good deal was said about providing an amount for equalizing purposes. The Acting Minister made it clear to the conference that the Government was considering a proposal to raise the price of wheat to local consumers in order to provide a better price for the whole of the marketable product. His actual words as given on page 5 of the statement were : -
Ministers yesterday gave long and careful consideration to the proposal that a price should be arranged above export parity for wheat required for local consumption. Had the Wheat Marketing Bill submitted by the Com- mon wealth Government to Parliament this year been carried there would have been little or no difficulty in giving effect to this suggestion.
On the one hand we are told that, “had the Wheat Marketing Bill been agreed to, no trouble would have been experienced in financing the crop, and, on the other, that a proposal for a much smaller guarantee has been rejected. What is the explanation? There is no use sheltering behind the rejection of the Wheat Marketing Bill. If the Government was in earnest it could get the necessary legislation put through now in a few days. The Government cannot go on fooling the wheat-growers. No longer can we feed them with an empty spoon. I do not charge the Labour party with being indifferent to the needs of the farmers of Australia - I believe that in its ranks there are many who entertain the kindest of feelings for them - but those members of the party who would assist the wheatgrowers are outvoted on every occasion by representatives of industrial districts who are afraid to raise the price of wheat or flour for fear that they themselves would be brought into disfavour.
– What did the city interests suggest at the last conference?
– What, indeed? Mr. Curtin, M.P., the Editor of the Western Australian Worker, was there, and by his unusual silence fully supported the sales tax expedient as a temporary relief to the farmers. The question is, what is to be done!? If some action is not taken the problem will resolve itself in a very simple way. A considerable percentage of these worthy sons of the soil will be forced into city areas. At a very reasonable estimate, there are 60,000 wheat-growers in Australia, and it is a fair thing to claim that every man engaged in that basic industry is responsible for the support of five other persons in the community. I have seen it proved repeatedly in isolated mining communities in Australia, that the activities of one miner meant the support of five other persons. If the necessary relief is not forthcoming 20 per cent, of those 60,000 wheat-growers will be forced into the cities of Australia. That means that the Government would have to keep 12,000 erstwhile wheat-growers and their families and children. At 10s. per week per person, that would amount to something like £1,500,000 which would have to be found annually by the Government in the form of relief.
– The honorable senator mentions 10s. a week as sustenance. Unemployed workers claim the basic wage.
– I am modest in my calculations. If the Government does not act promptly it will be faced with an unemployment problem compared with which the existing one will be mere child’s play. The wheat industry is the foundation of our industrial and communal prosperity. The first inquiry that is levelled at a wheat-grower when he reaches town and the season is doubtful, is, “How is the season and the crops?” Town dwellers feel instinctively that they depend upon this product of mother earth. Now a combination of world events has brought about something worse than a bad season, and these worthy sons of industry are reduced to dire poverty. Can any government be so callous-hearted as not to hold out a helping hand to . them in their hour of need?
– Was nothing evolved at the last conference?
– Nothing. This is a government of negation so far as the wheat-growers are concerned. While it is prompt to extend sympathy and assistance to the city dwellers, it fails in its duty to those who have frequently proved themselves to be the hope, aye the salvation, of the country. Senator Guthrie gave incontestible figures as to the value of the wheat industry to Australia. Unless the people knuckle down to it and take off their coats when carrying out the intermediary processes of manufacture and distribution, as the farmers have to do in the primary processes, the whole community, by a process of economic attrition, will be reduced to the necessity of doing their fair share of work in the general effort to recover our lost prosperity. Men in the baking trade demand a 44-hour week, while the farmers have to work 54 and 64 hours a week ! Employees in the city industries also have their basic wage, while the wheat-growers earn infinitely less than that sum. In the rich and prosperous State of New South Wales it was shown the other day that £6,000,000 was owing by the wheat-growers to their country creditors. The growers in Victoria and South Australia have been drought-stricken for three years. Just imagine the position that they must he in. A recent ministerial statement intimated that, even in the younger State of Western Australia, at least 8,000 of its 10,000 whea t-growers will shortly ‘ have to seek government aid. Some effective solution of the problem must be found. It is up to this Government to strain every nerve to extend the helping hand to these producers. I know that there are other speakers who wish to address themselves to the subject, and I shall not encroach upon their time. Time, if ever it was the essence of any contract, is the essence of this contract. We cannot follow the example of the ostrich and bury our heads in the sand in the hope that the matter will right itself. If the Government does not take prompt action it will result in dire consequences to the country.
– What does the honorable senator suggest should be done?
– I support the proposal put forward by Professor Perkins: the imposition of a duty of 3s. per bushel on wheat used for home consumption as one alternative. If this is not acceptable, then something could be done to help the wheat-growers to put in next season’s crop. That gentleman stated that his scheme would raise the price of a 4-lb. loaf by 1-Jd., hut I do not think that the increase would be as high as that. Further, there is ample room for improvement in the intermediate processes of manufacture. It requires more work and more economy in those processes. I appeal to those concerned to put their shoulders to the wheel and work as the farmers do, so effecting economies, which would make it unnecessary to increase prices to the consumer, so as to give the farmers a living wage. They now turn to the people of our cities in the hope that, for the first time, they will act as comrades. In the exclusive preserves of city employment, where by awards of arbitration courts and special tribunals, the citizens are assured pleasant times and easy conditions, it is an easy matter for employees to address one another as comrades in industry and social intercourse. If the same treatment is not now given to our rural workers, the movement from the country to our cities will be much accelerated.
– When wheat was 7s. 6d. a bushel the price of bread was the same as to-day, and even in New Zealand, with wheat at 6s. 3d. a- bushel, bread is cheaper than in Australia.
Senator LYNCH. That is so. In New Zealand, with flour at £16 a ton, the price of the 4-lb. loaf is lid., whereas in Australia, with flour at £9 a ton, the 4-lb. loaf is ls. It is a disgrace that the baking industry - those engaged in the intermediary processes of manufacture - should be making such enormous profits.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I move -
That Senator Lynch be granted an extension of time.
– Apparently there is no provision in the Standing Orders of the Senate for an extension of time to be granted to an honorable senator to debate a motion of this kind.
Senator Sit GEORGE PEARCE (West ern Australia) [3.43]. - Since Senator Lynch raised this very important question in the Senate a few days ago, I have read several statements in the press on the subject by Ministers, and I have to confess that I am puzzled to know what i3 the Government’s view of it. At the conference, held in Canberra a few weeks ago, certain proposals were made to overcome the difficulty in which our wheat-growers find themselves to-day. One w’as that the Government should impose a sales tax on flour to enable a sum of money to be realized from the locally consumed wheat which, spread over the whole field of production, would increase the price of wheat by about 7d. a bushel. Honorable senators will recall that, when the Wheat Marketing Bill was under discussion in this chamber, I suggested an amendment, the effect of which would have been to increase the price of wheat by 6d. a bushel. The later proposal for a sales tax on flour would realize about the same amount, with this difference: The additional revenue would he obtained not from taxation but from the consumption of bread ; but since bread is a staple article of diet the two proposals are practically the same. In both cases the additional revenue would be derived from the people. On the face of it the proposal for a bounty on wheat seems to he a fairly simple one. No one questions that it would mean an increase in the price of bread.
– Not to any extent.
– Does it matter very much whether the individual makes his contribution to the revenue by means of taxation or by an increase in the cost of bread? Accordingly, I do not find myself in any difficulty with regard to the motion. I have definitely committed myself to the principle that some action is necessary to assist our wheat-farmers. When the Government’s wheat marketing proposals were before the Senate, I was prepared to support the payment of a bounty on wheat, but my amendment for a bounty was ruled out of order. We have on record a statement made by the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney), at the first conference in Canberra convened by him, to the effect that the scheme which he outlined as the Government’s proposal included the appointment of State wheat boards., which, he said quite plainly, would have the power to fix the price of wheat for home consumption. The Government, we assume, believed in the scheme then and, a3 the Minister ‘ indicated, it contemplated the payment of the difference between the guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel and world’s parity. As the difference was to be made up by an increase in the price of locally consumed wheat, obviously that would have meant an increase in the price of bread. It would be ridiculous to argue that if the proposed State wheat boards fixed the price of wheat at 7d. above world’s parity it would not increase the price of bread, but that if the Government imposed a sales tax on locally consumed wheat it would mean an increase in the price of bread. And yet, apparently, that is the Government’s view. It should be remembered also that, when the Minister submitted his proposals at the first conference, the general belief was that the price of wheat would be 3s. 6d. per bushel. To-day, it is in the vicinity of 2s. a bushel, so the position of the farmer is now infinitely worse. Prom this it is clear that if the Government’s scheme had been adopted the State wheat boards would have been compelled to increase the price of locally consumed wheat, not by 7d. a bushel, but by three times that amount to make up the’ difference between the guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel and world’s parity which, to-day, is about 2s. a bushel. Nevertheless, the Government contemplated that as a possibility, not knowing, of .course, any more than any one else did, that a tremendous drop in the price of “wheat was then pending. One has only to read the speeches of the Minister at about that time to realize that he believed then that the price of locally consumed wheat would have to be increased by about 6d. a bushel above world’s parity. The Government, I repeat. was prepared to back that scheme; but to-day it declines to endorse a proposal to impose a sales tax on flour, which would have precisely the same effect, with the difference that the liability would be limited to 7d. a bushel.
– If we re-introduced the Wheat Marketing Bill to-morrow would the right honorable gentleman support it?
– Certainly not, because it is an unjust scheme. But I am not going to be led astray by the Minister’s interjections.
– The Government could not give effect to its wheat marketing proposals.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I remind the Minister that members of the Opposition are not arraigned at the bar of public opinion. It is the Government which has to answer before that tribunal, and it is no defence for the Leader of the Senate to ask me to explain my action. I am prepared to do that at the proper place - before my constituents, when the time comes. But the Government is responsible for administering the affairs of the Commonwealth, and in that capacity, when introducing the Wheat Marketing Bill, it professed that it was prepared to assist the farmers.
Mr. Parker Moloney having made that statement, how can Ministers reconcile their attitude then with their present decision to turn down the proposal to impose a sales tax on flour, which would not amount to more than 7d. a bushel on the price of wheat?
– It should not increase the price of bread.
The Government has turned down the proposal on the ground that it would increase the price of bread. Assuming that it would, although Senator Guthrie says if should not, would not the same result have followed from the proposal to give State wheat boards power to fix a price for wheat for local consumption ?
I hope that this debate will throw some light upon the supposed guarantee. In his second-reading speech on the Wheat Marketing Bill, Mr. Parker Moloney did not say that the Commonwealth Bank would guarantee 4s. a bushel. The general assumption was, and debates have always proceeded on the lines, that the Commonwealth Bank would guarantee 4s.
– The Commonwealth Bank did guarantee 4s.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Mr. Parker Moloney did not say so.
– I make that statement deliberately now.
– The statement Mr. Parker Moloney made was that the Commonwealth Government . would guarantee the Commonwealth Bank 4s. a bushel - quite a different thing from the Commonwealth Bank guaranteeing that it would find 4s. a bushel.
– But the Commonwealth Bank agreed to finance us up to 4s. a bushel. It amounts to the same thing.
– The most that was ever said by the Government in another place was that the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank had agreed to the financing of the wheat pool on terms satisfactory to the Government, and that the execution of a formal agreement would necessarily have to await the passage of the Wheat Marketing Bill. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin ) said : “ The rejection of the Bill by the Senate prevents any further action for the present,” and when he was asked if he would make the agreement available so that honorable members could really understand what it actually said, he replied, “ See reply to question No. 1.” That agreement has never been made available. I hope that a request I shall make to-morrow for its production will be more successful. Will Senator Daly tell us exactly what was the understanding between the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Bank? As I read the speech delivered by Mr. Parker Moloney, the Commonwealth Government said to the Commonwealth Bank, “ We are going to guarantee the farmers 4s. a bushel for their wheat, andwe want you to find the money. We will guarantee to find you the money.”
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Then what did Mr. Parker Moloney mean when he said, “ The Commonwealth Government will guarantee to the Commonwealth Bank the payment of the 4s.?”
– All that we said to the Commonwealth Bankwas, “ We expect you to find the money,” and the bank said, “ Your expectations will be realized.”
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.It meant that, at a time when it could not find £2,000,000, the Commonwealth Government would have been called upon to find for the Commonwealth Bank £20,000,000, representing the difference between the price of wheat to-day and the guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel at the siding. Evidently the Government said to the Commonwealth Bank, “W e shall guarantee 4s. No matter what it costs, we shall guarantee to find you the money. Allwe want you to do is to advance from time to time as the wheat is delivered “. The Commonwealth Bank, probably said. “Very well”. But Sir Frank Clarke, the President of the Legislative Council of Victoria, has made the statement, which I have not yet seen repudiated, that all that the Commonwealth Bank really said was that it would find the money as the wheat was sold; that is to say, it would make an advance not of 4s. but up to the 4s. as the wheat was sold. If wheat realized 4s. from sales overseas, or partly from that source, and partly as the result of the fixing of an increased price for local consumption. the Commonwealth Bank would simply be the vehicle through which the money was passed. The Commonwealth Government, as the tax-gatherer, would be supplying the money partly from the sales of wheat overseas and partly from the increased price for locally sold wheat. That would be quite different from the Commonwealth Bank being put forward as having committed itself to the finding of an unknown sum of money. The correspondence which passed between the bank and the Government is the only thing that can really tell us what it did undertake to do. I second the motion.
– The honorable senator who has brought this matter forward, would lead the people of Australia to believe that the present Commonwealth Government has no sympathy with the man on the land; but the Government has given ample demonstration of where its sympathies lie, and of what it is prepared to do to help the man on the land. Reference has already been made to the conference held in the earlier part of the year at the request of the Commonwealth Government. At that conference, representatives of all the wheat interests met at Canberra and devised a scheme for the orderly marketing of the wheat production of Australia by which the wheat-grower would secure a decent price for his product. At that time, the world’s wheat crop was not supposed to be as large s.s it has turned out to be, and it was reasonable to suppose that the Australian farmer would get a fair price for his wheat; but the situation has altered tremendously, and it is now feared that he will get a miserably low price, instead of one that would enable him to make a decent living. Personally, I do not think the wheat-grower has any chance of making a decent living with wheat at 2s. a bushel. The Government has not ceased in its efforts to do something to help the farmers, but its hands have been tied, lit came into office with £5,000,000 deficit on its hands, and since then, the world-wide .depression has caused the position to go from bad to worse. Honorable senators opposite expect us to get rid of that load of deficit and work miracles they themselves could not perform although they had ample funds at their disposal with which they could have done anything they liked. Where does the blame rest? On the present Government or on the late administration which so mismanaged affairs as to bring the country into the fearful hole in which it now finds itself? In an effort to do something for the farmers, the Acting Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Forde) has conferred with th?’ Ministers for Agriculture in the various States to find out what really can b« done, and whatever suggestions they can put before him, and through him to the present Government, will receive the serious and sympathetic consideration of Ministers. The Acting Minister has also asked the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank what the bank is prepared to advance for the wheat crop. The bank’s definite reply has been that it would not advance more than ls. 6d. a bushel. If honorable senators, who are criticizing the Government, would suggest some means by which the Government could do anything, Ministers would be very glad to hear them. It is easy to rise in the Senate and, in a tirade of talk, blame the Government. To offer suggestions for a way out of our present difficulties is not so easy. Every one knows the position of the Government. It has not a “ bob “ to spend on anything. Tens of thousands of men are walking the roads looking for work, and the Government cannot get sufficient money to give them an opportunity to earn something. Such is the position of the workers. The farmer will, at least, get his 2s.. a bushel for his wheat - if the price does not improve - and our first consideration should be to help the fellow who has nothing. If we had the means to do it, we should have.no objection to making opportunities available for employment to those who are now idle, and we should have no hesitation in giving a fair amount of assistance to the farmers, because we know how indispensable the wheat-growing community is to the progress of the country. It is, however, useless to waste the time of the Senate by talking about what the Government has, or has not, done. I notice that honorable senators opposite keep wide of the mark as to what they did when in office to bring about the present position. Even now Ministers are doing all they possibly can ; but they have not received very great assistance from honorable senators opposite. How did we fare when we endeavoured to get the Wheat Marketing Bill through Parliament? Senator Lynch says that the Labour party has great consideration for the industrial centres, but very little for rural districts. As a matter of fact, it was the representatives of the industrial centres, who, by their unanimous vote, put the Wheat Marketing Bill through another place.
– Why did not the Government carry it?
– If I remember aright the honorable senator, who was unfortunately unable to attend the sittings of the Senate when the measure was under consideration owing to sickness in his family, paired against the second redding of the bill, which honorable senators opposite opposed tooth and nail. It appeared to me at the time, that the Government was offering the farmer more than the p rod n fit would realize in the market.
– More than could be paid.
– The Government was taking that responsibility. If it had had the assistance of honorable senators opposite in passing the measure, the organizations which were to be set up under it would have been operating to-day in the interests of the primary producer. That is the position in a nutshell. The responsibility rests with honorable senators opposite, and not with the Government, which was, and still is, anxious to do all it could to assist the wheat-growers. It is useless for honorable senators opposite to be so hypocritical as to endeavour to make it appear that they are the friends of the farmers, when their votes against the Wheat Marketing Bill are on record. They simply nailed that bill to the cross. I repeat, with a full understanding of the position, that, there is little ground for complaints made by honorable senators opposite against the Government. Personally, I cannot see any immediate way in which the wheatgrowers can be assisted. It appears that they will have to take their share of the unfortunate results that ‘ accompany depression, and to carry their share of the burden which is being borne to-day, especially by the underdog in this country. On any road in any part of Australia, one may see hundreds of men, and, unfortunately, many young men, searching for work, many of whom have not even a swag with which to cover themselves on cold nights. I do not know where they can obtain a crust, because many of the settlers alongside the road on which they are travelling are in as bad a position as they are. I do not know what remedy can be applied. The Government is at its wits’ end to help the wheat-growers to overcome the difficulties confronting them to-day. It is practically helpless in this matter, and its helplessness was brought about, as everyone knows, by the action of the previous Administration, and by the unfortunate world-wide depression. I regret that Senator Lynch should have brought forward this wail, and I hope that the farmers of this country will not get it into their minds that the Government is unsympathetic towards them, because it proposes to go to any length it can to give them all the assistance and relief that is possible.
– Had it not been for the fierce manner in which the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) addressed himself to this subject, I should not have obtruded in the debate. The subject introduced by Senator Lynch should not involve recrimination; but, if recriminations are to be engaged in the present situation certainly calls for some remarks from me, which I did not intend to make regarding the attitude of the Government towards the primary producers, and particularly the wheatgrowers in this country. It is a parallel with their attitude in regard to the financial position of the Commonwealth. The Government has been dawdling, when it should have been most active.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the motion before the Senate.
– I merely wish to draw a parallel between the way in which the Government is handling the finances of this country, and its conduct in the matter of assisting the wheatgrowers and primary producers generally. All that we can get from the Minister is a. promise that the wheat-growers will have sympathetic consideration. It is the same old cry that we have heard for some time. Not one of the concrete proposals submitted ata conference attended by representatives of the wheatgrowers has been accepted by the Government. The wheat season is upon us, and the position of the man on the land is most depressing. The primary producers, and the wheat-growers particularly, who are the backbone of this country, have never shared in the benefits obtained by those for whom the Assistant Minister has so much sympathy in the matter of the basic wage. The wheat-growers have worked long hours at very low rates of wages, and in doing so have materially assisted in maintaining the rest of the community. A concrete proposal was submitted involving the imposition of an excise on flour which would have increased the costa little to the people, as has been done in connexion with butter and other primary products. But’ this is rejected. The Government has sought to drag a red herring across the track by referring to the rejection of the Wheat Marketing Bill in the Senate. Its rejection was undoubtedly in the interests of the primary producers. I do not intend, by any vote I record, to hand over the control of the products of the wheatgrowers to governmental management. If the Government could guarantee the wheat-growers 4s. a bushel for their wheat, as was proposed under the Wheat Marketing Bill, why has it not the courage to levy a tax on flour, which would be equivalent to only 7d. a bushel, in order to help them over the stile? It is between Scylla and Charybdis. It professes to be anxious to help the primary producers, but on the other hand it is afraid of those in the great industrial centres, whom it has to reckon with politically. Surely there was no justification for many of the remarks of the Assistant Minister in replying to the mover of the motion, whose speech, I venture to say, was marked, not only by the mover’s cus-. tomary eloquence, but by moderation. Surely there was no occasion for the
Assistant Minister to launch this tirade against honorable senators who conscientiously voted against the Wheat Marketing Bill, which I believe the Government submitted with its tongue in its cheek, and which they knew the Senate would defeat.
SenatorOgden. -no one was more pleased than the Government and its supporters when the measure was defeated.
– Of course. The Commonwealth Government was powerless to give the stipulated guarantee at that stage, and to-day it is not prepared to assist the farmers to one-fourth of the extent which it previously promised. It is incapable of making the rest of Australia contribute another 6d. a bushel to the price of the farmers’ wheat. The whole position is ridiculous. The Government has called conference after conference - reached agreements, signed agreements, and some of its members have repudiated agreements that have been signed by executive heads. We are now informed that another conference is to be” held. What is the use of that? The farmers wish to know where they stand in this matter. It is merely dodging the issue, and it is time the Government declared itself, unless, as Senator Lynch put it, this great industry is going to fail. That it should fail is unthinkable; but if it does, it will be due to the inactivity of the Government. Everything points to the factthat the Government cannot make up its mind to grapple with this problem in any shape or form. Whatever course it intends to take, whether it be in accordance with the desire of honorable senators on this side of the chamber, or with the proposals which Senator Lynch submitted, for heaven’s sake, let the 60,000 wheatgrowers of this country know at once where they stand. Promptitude is everything in this case. The harvest is upon us, the wheat-growers do not know what provision to make for the ensuing year. I should not have spoken had’ not the Minister introduced into the debate so much venom. It is not characteristic of him, and should not have been introduced, having regard to the importance of the motion moved by Senator Lynch.
– I agree with the opinion expressed by Senator McLachlan that the Senate should be able to discuss this motion, without any exhibition of undue heat. I assure Senator Lynch that the Government is perfectly sympathetic towards the motion. I am also certain that Senator McLachlan, in his annoyance with my colleague, completely overlooked the difficulties of the position confronting the Government in connexion with the proposals submitted to the conference recently held in Canberra. Three alternative proposals were submitted. One related to a sales tax on flour, another a guaranteed price of 3s. a bushel, and a third to the unpegging of the exchange. I can dispose of the second and third proposals very briefly. So far as the exchange is concerned, honorable senators recognize that the Government has no control over the position whatever. Whatever opinion the Government might hold as to the exchange being allowed to follow its natural course, in the interests qf the primary producer, it is powerless.
– Is not the exchange pegged in the interests of the Government?
– I admit that due consideration to the wishes of the Government is given by the banking institutions when dealing with exchange. Senator McLachlan, who is an ex-Minister, knows that the Commonwealth Bank will not submit to the political dictation of any party, and until the people of this country decide otherwise, that policy will be continued. In these circumstances, what control has the Government over the Commonwealth Bank in the matter of exchange?
– Why should it have any control?
– The honorable senator is like the fox which, having lost its tail in a trap, wished to know why foxes needed tails. The honorable senator’s question should have been addressed, not to me, but to honorable senators opposite. I am attempting to show that, so far as the third proposal is concerned, the Government has no power to do what was suggested at the conference.
– The action benefits the Government but injures the primary producers.
– I admit that the Government’s inability to deal with the exchange position does affect the primary producers. Before the end of this season, the honorable senator may have an opportunity of giving the Government greater control over the credits of this country, which would enable it to deal with such a position.
– Would the Government like exchange to he made free now?
– I cannot speak for the Government ; but, personally, I should like exchange to be free in the interests of the primary producers. But whatever our personal opinions, neither Senator Lynch nor I can alter the exchange position. The same thing applies to the guarantee of 3s. Honorable senators opposite have said that Government members spoke with their tongues in their cheeks when they urged the claims of the Wheat Marketing Bill. That was not so. The Government made a definite promise to the farmers of this country, after having approached the management of the Commonwealth Bank, arid had that bill become law it would have carried out its promise, despite the consequences.
– How could the £20,000,000 have been raised?
– It is not for me to say how the Commonwealth Bank would have raised the money. The bank was, however, prepared to raise the money then, and I do not know why it could not raise it now.
– Did the management of the Commonwealth Bank say that it would find the money?
– Certainly. A statement to that effect was made deliberately by the Prime Minister after a conference with the management of the Commonwealth Bank. The bank agreed to a certain guarantee on .condition that a pooling system was put into operation. Evidently, it had greater faith in that system than had honorable senators opposite when they were considering the bill.- The proposal of the later conference to which reference has been made was not that there should be a pool.
TheleaderoftheOpposition(Senator Pearce)saidthattheGovernmentwas notnowinfavourofa guaranteed price forwheat because it would involve an increase in the price of flour. In the billtowhichIhavereferredtheGovernmentattemptedtodosomethingtopre vent the dumpingof wheat. The State boards would have considered all these othermatters. The Government considers that the imposition of a sales tax on flour is not the remedy for the present position, that on the contrary such : a tax would be a grave injustice tothe farmers of this country.
Honorable senators will agree that both of the other two proposals made atthe conference were beyond the power of the Government to deal with. The Leader of the Opposition, although criticizing the Government for refusingto carry out those proposals, suggested, by interjection, that theCommonwealth Bankwould not be prepared to finance a guarantee of 3s. a bushel.
– I did not blame the Government for not giving theguarantee; I referred only to the sales tax proposed.
– I thought that the right honorable gentleman criticized the Government for not accepting any of the three proposals of the conference. In view of his explanation I apologize for having misinterpreted hisremarks. Of the three proposals placed before the conference the only one concerning which there might be a ground for criticism of the Government is that relating to the sales tax.
– That was the main recommendation, and it should have been accepted.
-Ithoughtthatthe Senatemighthavediscussedthesecond andthirdproposals.Personally,I thinkthattheGovernmentwouldbe pleasedtohavetheadviceofhonorable senatorsregardingthefirstproposal.If itis practicable I am sure that the Government is prepared to give it further consideration, with a view to deciding whether it would be the best form of relief to give to the primary producers. I assure Senator Lynch that there has been no refusal by the Government, in the true sense of the term, to do anything to assistthe primary producers;on the contrary, it has explored, and is exploring, everyavenue by which assistance anight begranted. If as a result of this discussion, itcan be shown that the first proposalof theconferenceis practicable, I give an assurance that the Government willgive it the most careful consideration.
– It will haveto make taste.
– I admit that the matter is one of extremeurgency. The Acting Minister for Markets (Mr. Forde) is alive to the seriousness of the position,but the difficulty is to determine the practicability or otherwise of the first proposal. I hope that other honorable senators will express their views as to thepracticabilityofthefirstproposal,in orderthat I may bring them beforemy colleagues in Cabinet with a view to some assistance being granted to the primary producers of this country.
Senator Sir HALCOLEBATCH (Western Australia) [4.28]. - I join issue with the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) on the subject of exchange. I do not think that the honorable gentleman can be correctly informed as to what has taken place in connexion with the fixing of the rate of exchange. It will be within the recollection of honorable senators that the rate ofexchange was fixed some little time ago ‘at£6 10s. per cent. That rate Was fixedasthe Result of aconference between representatives of the Commonwealth Bank, the private banking institutions and the Treasury. Subsequently, when it was found that too large a volume of the exchange was going past the bank’s and that the arrangement entered into by the banks to provide £3,000,000 each month at Home, to meet London obligations, was in danger of being defeated in that way, the rate of exchange was again raised in the same way.
-To meet the convenience of theGovernment.
– The Leader of the Senate said ‘that the Government had no control over the exchange rate. Is he not aware that it is fixed in the manner I have just indicated ? I remind him that after the conference between the representatives of the financial institutions and the Treasury, letters were sent by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to all the large exporting houses which were likely to exercise the privilege of setting up their own exchange, not at the request of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank, but at the request of the Prime Minister, asking them to put their exchange through the batiks at the rates fixed. The concluding paragraph of that letter - of which, unfortunately, I have not a copy with me at the moment, although I have one in my possession - stated that, unless the exporters did what the letter asked, the Government would be compelled to take other steps. It is all very well to say that the Government does not fix exchange rates; but it has an overriding power. When the Treasurer, the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks in conference have fixed the rate of exchange it is still open to any private person to go outside that arrangement. The Government may not be responsible for fixing the rate of exchange; but it has told the exporters of primary products that if they go outside the rates fixed by the banks, it will exercise its prerogative of prohibiting them from exporting.
– How could that be done with wheat?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.It has been done in the case of wheat; the private wheat merchants have been communicated with asking them to put their wheat through the banks at the fixed rates of exchange and informed that, unless they do so, the Government will have to adopt other means of dealing with them. The only other means at the disposal of the Government would be the prohibition of exports except under licence. No matter how the rate of exchange is actually arrived at, it is idle to say that the Government is not absolutely compelling the export of all primary products at the rate of exchange fixed by the representatives of the banking institutions in consultation with the Government-
– Could the Government compel the banks to raise the rate of exchange?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The banks could raise the rate with the consent of the Government. The point is that it is the Government which is preventing any export of products at other than the fixed rate of exchange.
With regard to the suggestion that the first of the requests of the conference might be carried out, I point out that the Acting Minister for Markets and Transport suggested that the imposition of an extra £7 4s. a ton on the flour locally consumed would involve an increase of 2d. in the price of a 4-lb. loaf of bread. Had the Government set out - as was the obvious intention of the Wheat Marketing Bill - to recover the loss between the 4s. advanced and the actual price realized for the wheat by increasing the price against the local consumer, it would have involved an increase of 7d. in the price of a 4-lb. loaf of bread. A few months ago, the Government was prepared to allow the price of a 4-lb. loaf of bread to be increase it by 7d. ; but it is not prepared now to increase it by 2d. An increase of £7 4s. a ton in the price of flour would not mean an increase of 2d. in the cost of a loaf of bread; it would mean only that there would be no reduction in the price of bread, resulting from the fall in the price of wheat. The Minister asks for suggestions as to the practicability of the first of the proposals of the. conference. I can only echo the sentiments expressed by the mover of this motion, that the consumers of bread, particularly those in the cities, in the interests of the primary producers should be prepared to forgo the advantage which a fall in the price of wheat would mean to them, thereby returning to the primary producers a very small moiety of what they have been compelled to give up in the interests of city dwellers who have received the protection of tariffs for many years. I cannot imagine any sane person in the metropolitan areas refusing to forgo a decrease in the price of bread in order that the wheat producers may be kept upon their legs, particularly in view of the ultimate effect of unemployment that would result from any decrease in our wheat-growing areas. It is obvious that, had the Wheat Marketing Bill been passed, only one or two methods could have been adopted to meet the position. Senator Pearce pointed out that whereas the guarantee now sought would involve the country in a loss of £10,000,000, the acceptance of the Wheat Marketing Bill would have involved it in a loss of £20,000,000. If we could have faced the greater loss, surely we can face the smaller. As a matter of fact, the Government exchequer could not have faced either loss. The loss, whatever it was, would have had to be recovered by an increase, in the price to the consumer. Whilst I entirely agree that the increase that would have been rendered necessary by a guarantee of 4s. would have been altogether impracticable, I cannot see that the increase which would be necessary to pay an increase of 7d. a bushel on wheat would be impossible. In any case, it would he merely a temporary expedient, and one which would have much to justify it at the present juncture.
I do not want to question the bona fides of the Government, and I do hope that the closing remarks of the VicePresident of the Executive Council indicate that the Government is prepared to do something for the wheat-growers.’ If it fails, what is the public to think? Previously, there was a proposal for a guarantee of 4s. a bushel for one year, the condition being compulsory pooling for three years. Some of the highest constitutional authorities in Australia set out, with good reason and vigorous argument, that the payment of that 4s. a bushel would be contrary to the Constitution of the Commonwealth. After that objection had been taken to the bill, and it had passed its secondreading in another place, an amendment was introduced providing that, if any portion of the hill was held to be unconstitutional, the remainder should stand with full force and effect. Unless the Government is prepared to do something substantial now, -the suspicion will undoubtedly lie in the public mind that the payment of 4s. a bushel would have been declared to be unconstitutional; that the Government would have achieved its object of obtaining the compulsory pooling of the wheat for the next three years, under government control, in pursuance of the Labour policy of the socialization of all the means of production, distribution, and exchange. If the Government likes to lay itself open to that charge, well and good’; but I do hope that, instead, we shall have some practical relief along the lines indicated by the
Leader of the Senate in his closing remarks.
.- My contribution to the debate will be a small one. First, I desire to express my gratification at the introduction of this motion by Senator Lynch. Without doubt, it is the most important matter that we could now discuss. All other problems should be set aside, for the time being, while we endeavour to evolve a method by which the wheat-growing industry may be kept going. So much depends upon the industry that those engaged in it should be afforded an opportunity to Continue the good work, which has enhanced the reputation of Australia.
I regret very much, indeed, that Senator Barnes should have resorted to recrimination. The matter is of vital concern to Australia, and such tactics were unnecessary. I shall not attempt to reply to the statements made by the honorable senator. I merely advise him and his associates to get to work and do something to relieve the position of our wheat-growers. What has happened in the past has nothing to do with the present problem. I am prepared to co-operate with the Government in an endeavour to evolve a solution, and I quite agree with Senator Colebatch that the masses in the metropolitan areas should assist. That could be done without unduly increasing the burden of those in the cities, as the suggested assistance is so small that it would scarcely be felt when spread over the whole community. I believe that any measure that is evolved by the Government to relieve the wheatgrowers will have the approval of the community generally. There is no time for delay. The matter must be settled one way or the other, and promptly, and I urge the Government to get to work at once.
– I am glad that Senator Lynch brought this matter up this afternoon. There is not the slightest doubt that the condition of the wheat-growers of Australia is very critical. If they fail a very serious blow will be struck at the financial stability of Australia, which will do much to destroy the confidence reposed in the country. Our 60,000 wheat-growers work very long hours. They are probably the most efficient wheat-growers in the world, as they produce more wheat for a given rainfall .than do those of any other .country. Also, .their -grain brings 2s. .a quarter more than .that of .any other- nation. Yet, (because of a collapse in world prices, our growers are faced with ruin on the eve of harvesting the most bounteous crop that we have ever had in Australia. They do not work 34 or 44 hours a week ; more frequently they work 70 -hours a week. I am associated with sharefarmers who, for months at a stretch, work two shifts of twelve hours each, daily, operating throughout the hours of darkness with the aid of headlights from tractors. Our growers were exhorted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), Mr. Hogan, and others, to “ Grow more wheat.” The appeal was broadcast night after night until it became almost nauseating to those who were bending their backs to the task and already doing their utmost. What encouragement has the Government given them to grow more wheat ? An absurdly high tariff has been placed on all their requirements, with the result that they have to pay £610 for a tractor, £112 for a plough, and in like ratio for other tools of production. They have been loaded with high prices for their superphosphates and with high railway freights. Further, owing to our tariffs necessitating ships coming to Australia almost empty, they have had to pay high freights on the primary products that have been despatched to the markets of the -world. Our primary producers, and particularly the wheat-growers, have borne the burden.
I voted for the Wheat Marketing Bill when it was brought down by the Government. I thought that it would grant our growers 4s. a bushel for their product I believed that part of the guarantee would have to be met by the city dwellers, but considered that it was about time that they did something to assist our primary producers. Some of our manufacturers are spoon-fed with prohibitive tariffs. Some, like Lysaght’s, are granted a monopoly. The wage-earners are protected by Arbitration Court and wages board awards, and enjoy the shortest hours and highest effective wages in the world. Coal-miners in Australia have refused average wages of £14 for a 34-hour week. A tremendous amount of assistance is given to cwn sugar industry - the consumers and taxpayers pay millions of pounds annually for that assistance - to our iron and steel and many other industries, but nothing is done for the wheat and wool growing industries, which carry the people of Australia on their backs. So I make no apology f or having voted for the Wheat Marketing Bill. But I admit that when I did so I did not realize that the world price for wheat was to collapse to such an extraordinary extent, and that had the bill become law, the strain on the taxpayers of Australia would have been very heavy. I thought that the consumers of Australia might have had to bear a contribution of a few million pounds. I now realize that their contribution would have approached £20,000,000. If the Government was sincere with regard to the Wheat Marketing Bill, and was prepared to tax the consumers of Australia to the extent of £20,000,000, why is it now doing nothing to help the wheatgrowers ? It is no use calling conferences, and merely passing motions. The whole thing is so simple. If previously the Government could have financed our crop to the extent of 4s. a bushel, it surely can guarantee the growers 3s. a bushel now. The Government has a mania for taxing ; it has taxed practically everything, with the exception of fresh air. Surely it could put a sales tax on flour to increase the price of wheat by 6d. or 7d. a bushel? It is all rot to claim that, by increasing the price of wheat by 7d. a bushel, the price of bread to the consumer would be materially increased. When wheat was 7s. 6d. a bushel in Australia, bread was only lid. a 4-lb. loaf. I am now paying ls. for a 4-lb loaf in one centre and lid. in others. My share-farmers, who, in a week or so, will be delivering wheat at ls. lOd. a bushel at the railway, have to pay ls. for a 4-lb. loaf of bread. It is a crying shame. The people of New Zealand, who have been paying 6s. 2d. a bushel for their wheat, plus another 3d. a bushel for bags, making 6s. 5d. a bushel are charged only lid. for a 4-lb. loaf of bread. It is shameful that the price of bread should be so high in some parts of Australia. Bread could be sold at 6d. the 4-lb. loaf, or even cheaper but for absurd awards and extravagant methods. Recently a contract was let in a northern district of Victoria at 53/4d. the 4-lb. loaf. At present prices for flour, bread should be sold at 5d. or 6d. a loaf. It is absurd to argue that, if the wheat-growers receive a bounty of 6d. or 7d. a bushel, there will be an increase in the price of bread. There would be absolutely no justification for any advance in bread prices. If millers can purchase wheat at 3s. a bushel, which is equivalent to 2s. 4d. or 2s. 6d. a bushel at countryrailway stations, and 6d. a bushel more than most growers are getting to-day, they should be able to sell flour at £8 to £9 a ton, and the price of bread should not be higher than 6d. a 4-lb. loaf.
Too much attention should not be given to the argument that the imposition of a sales tax on flour would materially increase the price of bread. Where does the Government stand in this matter? If it is sincere in its desire to help our wheat-farmers, it should give evidence of its sincerity, because the position of our wheat-growers is extremely grave. I know of a number of sharefarmers who will have to walk off their properties, because, at the present prices, it will not pay them to take off their crops. Surely the Government will realize its obligation and do something, either by offering growers a guaranteed price or by the imposition of a sales tax on flour. Practically every other commodity is protected in some way, so it should not be impossible for the Ministry to assist our wheat-farmers. A sales tax on flour, to enable the payment of a bounty of 6d. or 7d. a bushel, would only ensure to the grower 2s. 6d. a bushel, which is at least1s. a bushel below the actual cost of production, notwithstanding that our farmers use modern machinery, and are as efficient in their methods as are wheat-growers in any other country. It is idle for Ministers and their supporters to shelter behind the excuse that the Senate, in its wisdom - I voted the other way - rejected the Wheat Marketing Bill. The defeat of that measure cannot be advanced as an excuse for the Government’s present indifference to the serious position in which our wheat-farmers find themselves to-day.
– Reference to the defeat of the Wheat Marketing Bill by the Senate appeared five times in a speech delivered by the Acting Minister for Markets (Mr.Forde) the other day.
– It is not right that Ministers should seek to excuse their apathy in this way. If they are sincere in their protestations for the welfare of our primary producers, now is the time to give evidence of it. The eyes of all our wheat-growers are on the Ministry. It is possible to help the growers in many ways; but the simplest and most feasible plan is to impose a sales tax on flour, thus making possible the payment of an additional 6d. a bushel to our wheatgrowers. This should not mean an increase in the price of bread, because for the last six months, at least, many bakers have been profiteering. This is proved by the price charged in open contracts. as I said before. One, in a northern district of Victoria, was 53/4d. for a 4-lb loaf.
I again appeal to the Government, to do something before it is too late. Our wheat-farmers have been working against tremendous odds, and, at the present time, although the harvest is a bountiful one, the price is so low that it will not pay them to take it off. Within the last day or two, I have telegraphed to some share-farmers who, I know, are leaving their holdings, offering them work to take off my crops, although I know that, for every bushel which I garner, I shall lose at least 1s. 6d. I appeal to the Ministry not to delay in coming to the assistance of these magnificent men and women of the soil who have done so much to develop Australia and add to its prosperity. They are the people who have carried so much of the burden of taxation through high tariffs, Arbitration Court awards, high railway freights, high ocean freights, and other charges. If the Government does not help them now, Ministers and their supporters should for ever remain quiet as regards the rejection, by the Senate, of the Wheat Marketing Bill.
– It is not necessary that I should speak at great length to this motion because, prior to the last adjournment, the Senate fully discussed a motion submitted by Senator Lynch, asking the Government to assist our wheat-farmers on lines recommended by . a conference which had been held in this building a day or two previously. It was amazing to me that on the day following the discussion of that motion in the Senate, the Acting Minister for Markets (Mr. Forde) should have announced in the public press the rejection of the recommendations of the’ conference; that the Government did not, in this time of financial stringency, intend to do anything to help our wheat-farmers. In view of the Government’s decision, I should like to know why the conference was summoned. It was one of the most influential gatherings of its kind ever held in Australia. Representatives from all the wheat-growing States attended at the invitation of the Government to consider the wheat position and submit proposals to the Ministry. Some of the delegates travelled a distance of over 2,000 miles. They came from all parts of Australia, and were thoroughly representative of the wheat-growers’ organizations in all States. Naturally, wheatfarmers throughout the Commonwealth assumed that, since the Government convened the conference, it intended to do something of a practical nature to help the wheat industry. But what was the result? Within two or three days after the conference disbanded, and before some of the delegates had time to return to their homes, the Acting Minister for Markets intimated that nothing could be done. The real attitude of the Government was made apparent by the action of the Minister and some of his friends. The conference of Ministers for Agriculture in the wheat-growing States, although summoned prior to the day appointed for the meeting of the Loan Council was, for some reason, postponed until the day when the Loan Council met, with the result that the Premier and Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia (Sir James Mitchell) and the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania (Sir Walter Lee) were unable to attend except for short periods. Consequently, its proceedings were dominated by the Federal Minister and the Ministers representing New South Wales and Victoria.
– Is it not a fact that .the meeting was postponed because Sir
James Mitchell could not attend on the day appointed?
– I do not think that was the reason; hut I speak subject to correction. I know it was most inconvenient for Sir James Mitchell to attend the meeting of Ministers for Agriculture on the day that the Loan Council met. The following motion was carried at that meeting: -
The conference of Ministers for Agriculture in view of the decision of the Commonwealth Bank, cannot agree to the proposals for a bounty or for a guaranteed price owing to the impossibility of finding the necessary finance; but submits that, if possible, there should be formulated an equitable and workable uniform plan to secure an Australian price for wheat above export parity, with reservations for the protection of the consumers.
Ill rejecting, summarily, the recommendations of the conference, the Government, was actuated by its interest for the consumers. But there was no need for this protection, because figures relating to the price of wheat and flour disclose that a bounty to wheat-growers of Cd. or Yd. a bushel should not mean an increase in the price of bread. In Perth, for instance, the ruling retail price for a 2-lb. loaf of bread is 5d., and yet a contract for the supply of bread to the unemployed at Blackboy Hill Camp, situated about 12 or 13 miles from the city, has been let at a trifle over 2½d. for a 2-lb. loaf - to lie exact, 2 9-1 6d. a 2-lb. loaf.
– That is less than 6d. for a 4-lb. loaf.
– Yes. From this it would appear that the imposition of a sales tax on flour should not justify an increase in the price of ‘ bread; but, as Senator Colebatch has already pointed out, it might mean that the consumers would not enjoy that, reduction in the price which they are entitled to expect because of the low price ruling for wheat.
It was made obvious by the Minister (Mr. Forde), that the conference of wheat-growers could not consider any proposal that was not in consonance with the resolution passed by the Ministers for Agriculture on the previous day. It was also made clear that any proposal to tax flour would have to be on a strictly limited basis. It was significant, too, that the Minister should indicate that he intended to souk the approval of the State Governments before levying what would be solely a federal tax. In spite of the opposition from Ministers representing Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, the wheat-growers’ representatives carried three resolutions which had previously been announced. A sales tax of £7 4s. a ton on flour, to permit the payment of a bounty of 7d. a bushel for all marketable wheat produced in Australia, is a reasonable proposal. Although it3 adoption might not help the wheat-farmers to a great extent, it would be something. When the “ Grow more wheat “ campaign was in progress, farmers were led to believe that they would receive a much higher price than is now ruling; and when the Wheat Marketing Bill was under d…cussion, they hoped to get 4s. a bushel. A bounty of 7d. a bushel, as suggested, is little enough, because, from one end of Australia to the other, the wheat-growers’ organizations have been asking for n bounty of ls. a bushel this year, and for that bounty to be extended, as others are that have been paid by the Commonwealth, over a fixed period of years. The decision of the Government will be most disappointing to 60,000 wheat-farmers, of whom 8,000 in Western Australia are at the point of destitution. In spite of a very good season, they cannot pay their way this year, and special legislation has had to he put through the State Parliament to afford them protection from their creditors. The decision, however, will be more disappointing to the wheatfarmers of New South Wales who, a few weeks ago, were misled by a statement broadcast from one end of the State to another as part of the policy of Mr. Lang, the present Premier of New South Wales. In the course of a speech during the recent campaign, Mr. Lang said -
Return Labour and restore the State to tho prosperity of 1925 and 1927. We promised and we paid 7s. 6d. a bushel for wheat. What we did then we can do now.
Of course, Mr. Lang did not do what he said he did in the years mentioned. It was done by the Federal Government. It promised the wheat-growers 5s., and the State guaranteed them an additional 2s. 6d.; but, as the price of wheat overseas was then ‘ considerably higher than 7s. 3d. a bushel, there was no prospect of either the Commonwealth or the State being involved in any loss. At any rate, the farmers of New South Wales now find themselves neglected and abandoned, not only by the Federal Government, which said “ Grow more wheat,” and now says, “ We shall do nothing for you,” but also by Mr. Lang. According to what I have just read, Mr. Lang promised them 7s. 6d. a bushel, but since the election he has maintained a deadly silence upon this and many other extravagant promises he made during the course of the campaign.
The Wheat Marketing Bill was quite useless. It was unconstitutional, and it offered no hope at all to the wheatfarmers of Western Australia, particularly in view of the telegram forwarded to the Prime Minister by the newlyreturned Premier of the State, Sir James Mitchell. Before the bill came forward in either chamber, Sir James Mitchell telegraphed, pointing out that Western Australia would not and could not be a party to a bill which contained the shocking provision that, with its small population and large wheat production per head of the population, it would have to guarantee half of any loss that might have been made. From an Australian point of view, I am sure that it was a very good thing the bill was defeated. I listened with considerable interest to the remarks of Senator Daly and Senator Barnes this afternoon, and it appeared to me that they had only one thing to offer to the wheat-farmers of the Commonwealth, and that was sympathy, which, without assistance, is like mustard without beef - most unsatisfying to those who are looking for something substantial.
– I am asking the honorable senator to show the Government, where the mustard and beef are to be obtained.
– There are people in the wheat belts who are literally starving, and they are offered nothing but sympathy. In spite of the resolution carried at that great influential conference held early this month, preceded as it was by a conference of Ministers of Agriculture of all the States, the Government turned round with remarkable celerity, and a couple of days later announced that nothing whatever would be done to assist the wheat- growers, either on the lines desired by the conference, or in any other way. The statements made by Ministers in this chamber are most depressing. Wheatgrowing is the most important industry of the Commonwealth. We are more dependent upon it to provide employment than upon any other industry; but ever since the inception of federation, through tariffs, and in every other direction, the farmers have had to carry the greater part of the country’s taxation in order to support the cities and their secondary industries. This is the first occasion on which they have asked for assistance- >-for bread - and they are given a stone, because to give the assistance they ask might mean a trifling increase in the price of bread to the consumers. The ministerial statement to-day shows clearly that no assistance whatever to the wheat-growers of the Commonwealth is intended by the Federal Labour Government this season. Either Ministers do not realize the plight of the wheat-farmer, or they have no plans whatever to relieve his difficulties. In this period of national emergency, as in other matters affecting the welfare of the .nation, the present Labour Government has absolutely failed. Ministers confess that they have no plans at all for the assistance of the wheat-growers. So far as they are concerned the wheatgrowers are deserted and abandoned by those who a few months ago were urging them to grow more wheat.
– I support the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), in regard to the attitude taken up by the Government in February last, and its complete rightabout turn at the present time. The Acting Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Forde), in announcing the rejection of the proposal that was put forward early this month at his conference with the representatives of the wheatgrowers; said-.
The discussion at the conference showed that, a sales tax on flur sufficient to return the amount to the growers suggested in the South Australian scheme would increase the price of bread to the consumer by anything from id. to -id-, per lb.; that is, from Id. to 2d’, per loaf. The Government is not prepared to support this additional impost on the people at the present time, with large - numbers out of: work.
It is a very moot point whether the proposed impost of £7 4s. a ton on flour would necessitate an increase in the price of bread. According to the figures I hav9 worked out, no such increase would be necessary. The Acting Minister went on to explain that the present position had arisen entirely as a result of the rejection of the Wheat Marketing Bill by the Senate. The inference to be drawn is that the Government at the time of the introduction of that bill had some scheme for financing its wheat pool which is not now available, and that the scheme would not be open to the objection which the Minister says is fatal to the proposal to put a sales tax on flour. It does not require a very intensive study of the report of the conference between Mr. Parker Moloney and the various wheat organizations held on the 18th and 19th February last to find that the very foundation upon which the Government’s scheme -was built was a proposal to increase the home consumption price of wheat. Every speaker at that conference reverted to that point. Mr. Tod, Chairman of the Queensland Wheat Board,
There is a limit beyond which we cannot go in the raising of local prices, and, in my opinion, ls. per bushel above the world’s parity is the maximum.
Mr. Slater, the Minister for Agriculturein Victoria, said -
My fear is that the attitude of the conference may be misinterpreted by a large section of the community, which may say, with somejustification, that the conference is seeking to bring about wage reduction, on the one hand, while on the other it is attempting tostabilize prices and compel the community largely to contribute to that end.
These are merely quotations taken at random from the speeches delivered! at that conference. They indicate that,, by fixing an increased price for wheat for home consumption, the Government hoped to recoup itself for any loss that might have accrued as the result of giving; a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel. At that time the export price of wheat wasabout 3s. 7d.. or 3s. 8d. a bushel, so that the Government was actually proposing to guarantee about 3d. or 4d. a bushel above- the then market price. And, as it was proposing to shoulder only half of that responsibility, it is easily conceivable that the maximum price of ls-, a bushel! above the world’s parity, mentioned by Mr. Tod, would have proved quite sufficient to pay all that the Government undertook to do. I have no desire to impute motives, or to say that the Government has twisted, or that it never intended to do anything in the matter. Nevertheless, when we compare the statements made by responsible Ministers of that time with those made to-day by others who are equally responsible, we find them difficult to reconcile, and the man in the street becomes rather sceptical about the whole concern. There is no need for me to repeat what other honorable senators have said about the position of the wheat-growers; but I should like to say something about Senator Daly’s remark that a sales tax of £7 4s. a ton on flour might bring about repercussions in connexion with our export trade in flour. There is certainly a possibility of that; but it would be nothing new. We have had quite a lot of that sort of thing in connexion with Australian exports for as long as I can remember. Every day countries are putting up tremendous tariff barriers against Australian products by way of reprisal for what Australia has already done in that direction. If the Government had granted the request of the conference to impose a sales: tax on flour it would have been putting flour in much the same position as some other commodities that are almost as essential to the life of the community. I remind honorable senators that at present the value of a bag of wheat is equivalent to the cost of only 10 to 12 lbs. of sugar. Yet this and preceding Governments have not found any fault with the fact that the Australian price of sugar is greatly in excess of world’s parity. Although we export a tremendous quantity of surplus sugar, which is sold in the world’s markets, we have never heard the Acting Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Forde) offer any objection to this difference in price. If an increase in the price of flour for local consumption is a fatal objection to the proposal, surely such an objection is equally applicable to sugar or any other commodity which we produce and export. But it is only those who wish to support the wheat-growing industry who find themselves up against a stone-wall. We are absolutely at a dead end. If the Government had been honest in the first place and told us, as the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) did to-day, that it could not do anything, because of want of money, we should have had a certain amount of sympathy with it. If the Assistant Minister were honest he would say that, although the Government is unable to find the money to assist the wheatgrowing industry, it will remove some of the burdens piled upon the primary producers by this and other Governments. For instance, a primage duty has been imposed upon cornsacks. An undertaking was given by the Assistant Minister, in another place, that primage duty upon imported butter boxes would be remitted when the boxes containing butter were exported. The Minister was asked to take similar action in connexion with cornsacks when exported with wheat, but he said that that was impracticable because of the difficulty in identifying the bags exported with those upon which primage duty had been collected. That is the substance of a letter which I received in answer to a request I made in that direction. Primage duty is collected upon cornsacks used by primary producers in their endeavour to make a living, and to increase production as they were urged to do by the Prime Minister for the express purpose of assisting to rectify our adverse trade balance; the imposts put upon them have nullified their efforts in every direction. If the Government has not any money to assist the wheat-growing industry, surely it can remit the imposts to which I have referred, and help the industry to that extent. Shortly before the last sittings of the Senate adjourned, I referred to the efficient manner in which I felt that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Daly) had conducted the business of the Senate. What I said on that occasion was honest and sincere. In spite of what has happened I still believe he has more of the milk of human kindness than have some of his colleagues. I appeal to the Minister to use his efforts with his colleagues to see if something cannot be done to assist this very important section of the community.
– A striking belief in the minds of some people in this country is that the wheat-growers have been spoon-fed too long. On the face of it that is manifestly untrue. In submitting the motion I should here mention the outstanding fact that whenever the railway systems of this country are showing a decline in revenue, and Ministers in charge of railways are asked their opinion of the prospects of the railway balance-sheet, they invariably reply that the railways’ finances depend upon the wheat harvest. If there is a bumper harvest the railway revenue in the four principal wheat-producing States will recover; but if there is a poor harvest the balance-sheets will be unsatisfactory. Is not that clear proof that that main instrumentality of government depends upon this great industry as the chief means to balance their accounts? The industry is the back-bone of the balance sheet. From that it follows that those engaged in the industry are the main contributors to the success of our railway systems. Those who have had experience as a Minister in control of works and railways, as I have, know that to be a fact. Therefore, the foolish statement of those who say that persons engaged in rural pursuits have been coddled can be flatly contradicted by the outstanding fact that the railway systems in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia depend to a large extent upon the wheat-growers for their solvency when they are solvent.
– What about Tasmania?
– The Tasmanian Government depends upon the primary producers in the same way for a large portion of its revenue. Senator Dunn has at last found his tongue-string. I should like the honorable senator to visit the wheatgrowing districts in New South Wales and attempt to justify the inactivity of the Government of which he is a supporter. If he did so, he could raise his voice to some purpose. It has been wisely said by some budding philosopher that there are only two classes in any community that cannot be organized - lunatics and farmers. The lunatics, because they do not possess normal reasoning powers, and the farmers, because they are too busily and honestly engaged in production to be associated with the tricks to which organizers of the present day are prone. They are hard down at their jobs every time and all the time. Clocks and watches were not made for the farmers, but for those who have steady jobs in the cities, and who benefit by the production and constant exertion of the rural settlers. The city dwellers, who are always seeking a 44-hour- or shorter working week, and double pay for overtime, “ smokos “ and all the rest, are living in comparative luxury at the expense of the man in the country, who, with bent figure, struggles for an existence every day of his life. Now, when he needs a morsel of sympathy - merely a crumb that falls from the table of those rich gluttons - they will not give it. This drift to the cities will continue unless the policy- is reversed, and we shall reach the position depicted in Goldsmith’s lines, “ 111 fares the land to hastening ills a prey “. It is because of our present policy that many farmers’ sons are to be found in our capital cities, and this in a land with vast areas to work and develop. Finding it impossible to make any progress in rural pursuits, they are attracted to the cities by the easy conditions enjoyed by those who have the audacity to call them “ comrades.” Comrades be hanged ! If any burden is to be borne it should be shared equally by the city and country workers alike. But what is the position to-day? Those in the city have practically no responsibilities, while the poor beggar in the country is bent and worn, and decrepit under the weight of his burden. Compared with fifteen or twenty years ago, the per capita value of our exportable surplus has decreased. In this country protection is afforded to one set of individuals; but what protection is given to the farmers?
– An offer of 6s. 6d. a bushel for wheat.
– In order to secure votes, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) told the farmers that if a Labour Government were returned they would get 6s. 6d. for their wheat. The unfortunate farmers are now the victims of such promises, which were made from one end of the continent to the other by Labour candidates. Now is an opportunity for the Government to act. It is about time, as Senator Guthrie said, that this honest element in the community was fairly treated. That element comprises those who, because of the independence in their make-up, and their anxiety to carve out a livelihood for themselves, turned their backs on the cities. These men are infinitely more valuable members of society than are those who persist in hanging to the city areas, and who thrive on the efforts of those whom they refuse to assist. I have been recalling some of this Government’s proposals. For instance, a sum of £100,000 was placed on the Estimates to repatriate certain coal-miners ; but I understand that that proposal has now been amended. The Government proposed thus to reward coalminers who refused to work at £2 a day; but it resolutely refuses to assist the wheat-producers, who work from sunrise to sunset. That is justice up-to-date. If the Government has changed its policy, it is because it is quailing before the city influences. Compare the action of a government which can provide £100,000 for such men with its attitude towards the wheat-growers, who are working from daylight until dark. There is no offer of £100,000 for these men. All it can do is to give them three cheers and ask for their votes later on at election time. Four months ago this Government was prepared to extend practical sympathy to the wheat-producers; but what has become of that sympathy? How has it been spirited away? Why has it oozed out? The only party worthy of support is that which can show some consistency. If the Government was sympathetically disposed towards the farmers four months ago, its sympathy should be even greater to-day, for the simple reason that the wheat-farmers need assistance even more than they then did. ls the wheat-grower to be left to his fate and to be a pariah in his own country ? I appeal to the Government even at this late hour to give further consideration to the alternative proposals submitted at the conference, and to do the fair thing by these men, who are the main element in our economic construction and at the base of our prosperity. If our very wheatfarmers are compelled to leave the countryside, what will become of our prosperity? If those 60,000 wheat-growers, instead of being scattered throughout the Commonwealth, far removed from the spheres of influence, were concentrated in the suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne, honorable senators opposite would seek their support by doing something to assist them. The Labour party draws its support from the industrialists in the cities, and, therefore, does not extend to the farmers the sympathy- and help that it gives willingly to its supporters in the cities. I might paraphrase the old saying, that the nearer the throne the greater the favours that are bestowed, to read that the nearer the cities the greater the interest of honorable senators opposite.
– The honorable member for Calare in another place (Mr. Gibbons) is a farmer.
– Mr. Gibbons is an artful mau, who got into this Parliament by promising the farmers of Calare something which he knew there was not a dog’s hope - not even a ghost’s hope - of their ever being granted. The latter-day politicians of the Labour party will make promise after promise, knowing that they can depend on the gullibility of the electors and they exploit it for all they are worth. If the farmers of Australia, instead of tilling the soil, were trade unionists employed in the galvanized iron industry or the coal industry, or any manufacturing industry, the Government could not do enough for them. Only the other day, a few unionists employed in the galvanized iron industry received from the Government all that they wanted. I am a trade unionist of 40 years’ standing; but I am not a trade unionist run mad. I have resisted those who have attempted to abuse the trade union movement. For many years I was the secretary of a trade union, receiving 30s. a month - not the £30 a month which impostors in the movement are getting to-day. I repeat that, were the farmers of Australia the producers of galvanized iron, they would get all that they sought from the Government; but because they are buyers of galvanized iron at greatly enhanced prices, they are pariahs in their own country. Like Belisarius, the saviour of his country in the days of ancient Rome, they are, as it were, searching for sustenance in the garbage bins. I can have no patience with the Government, which convenes conferences, expresses hollow sympathy, but turns down every proposal which comes from them. The recommendations of the recent conference have not been accepted by the Government, only because it fears that they would result in an increase in the price of bread, and that, in consequence, it would lose the votes of its supporters in the cities. But for that support, the Government would find its occupation gone.
These are hard things that I am saying; but I feel that I must say them for I can conceive of no other reason for the Government’s extraordinary attitude. Unfortunately, we have in office a flabby Government, which can do no more than make promises. The members of the Senate, representing every part of Australia, are prepared to give the farmers of this country a fair deal. Yet on the first occasion on which that most deserving section of the community has approached the Government for assistance, its request has been turned down. Of what value is the Government’s boast that it will act justly by all sections of the community? What evidence is there of any desire on its part tq show that fair play, which is the pride and boast of every Australian ? The Government would drive the farmers off their holdings rather than deprive the profiteers of their profits, yet it has the audacity to seek the suffrages of the primary producers. Why should the farmers of Australia vote for the Labour party? The wheat-growers of Calare voted for a youngster - a gossoon who does not know a bee from a bull’s foot - merely because he said that a Labour Government would guarantee them 6s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat. The electors of Australia are easily gulled. I am here to raise a voice on their behalf. I do not believe that all the members of the Government and its supporters are bad; but, unfortunately, the good in the party is over-ridden by the bad.
– Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I have ventilated this subject only partly; but my motion has provided honorable senators an opportunity to express their views.
– The honorable senator must not continue his speech after he has exhausted his time.
– Having achieved my object in bringing this matter before the Senate, I now ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The report in question has not been received, consequently I am not in a position to state when it can be made available.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Statistician advises as follows: - 1 and 2 -
Estimate of Private Wealth of Australia as at 30th June, 1927.
The following papers were presented : -
Lighthouses Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 120.
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Seventh Annual Report, year ended 30th June, 1930.
Navigation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 126- No. 127.
New Guinea Act - Ordinance No. 21 of 1930 -Supply (No. 4) 1930-1931.
Public Service Act- Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 121.
Railways Act - Report on Commonwealth Railways. Operations for the year ended 30th June, 1930.
Shipping Act - Commonwealth Shipping Board -
Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers -
Treasury Loan Account and Liquidation Account, 30th April, 1930 ; together with the AuditorGeneral’s reports thereon.
Cockatoo Island -
Balance-sheet as at 31st March, 1930, and Profit and Loss Account for year 1st April, 1929, to 31st March, 1930; together with the AuditorGeneral’s reports thereon.
Air Force Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 135.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act -
Report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1930.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 116.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 118 No. 123- No. 129.
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 136.
Debate resumed from the 14th November (vide page 345) on motion by Senator Daly -
That the paper be printed.
.- I listened attentively to the eloquent speeches by Senators Pearce, Colebatch and Payne on the Acting Treasurer’s financial statement and although I shall find it difficult to follow them, I feel that, according to my ability, I should express my views as to what is necessary to extricate this countryfrom its serious financial position. In his budget speech delivered in July last, the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) said -
Parliament must recognize, however, that no further drift in Commonwealth finances can bo permitted, and that the balancing of the budget is an essential step for the restoration of the credit of Australia.
The financial statement now before the Senate, following a reference to a resolution adopted by the Loan Council, contains this paragraph -
A Premiers’ Conference was accordingly convened and after full consideration of the whole position, the following resolution relating to the budget was unanimously passed: -
That the several Governments represented at this conference declare their fixed determination to balance their respective budgets for the financial year 1930-31 and to maintain a similar balanced budget in future years. This balanced equilibrium will be maintained on such a basis as is consistent with the repayment or conversion in Australia of existing internal debt maturing in the next few years.
That is very definite ; it is a pledge by the Governments of Australia that they will balance their budgets, and meet their financial obligations, here and abroad, as they fall due. How different are the actions to the words. The Prime Minister, who is, no doubt, doing his best, has repeated in several of his speeches in the Old Country the determination of Australia to meet its liabilities and pay its interest and debts on the due dates. But what has this Government done since last July, when those determinations were arrived at? It has done nothing. It has even delayed the calling together of Parliament. It sat on the fence until the New SouthWales elections were finalized. It wasted months, during which our finances drifted alarmingly. So much unnecessary delay has been occasioned that the financial position of the Commonwealth has drifted more than £6,000,000 to the bad since the July statement was presented, and the drift is continuing at the rate of over £50,000 a day. It is endangering the stability and the honour of our country. The good ship Australia seems to have been abandoned by those who should be in charge of it. Apparently, the pirates of the Labour party have taken control and have tied the hands of the captain and his lieutenants. They are perpetuating our financial drift, and the good ship is getting closer and closer to the rocks. She is in roughwater, making heavy weather. Through the neglect of the Government to call Parliament together, face the facts, and carry its promises into effect, the good ship is in peril. If the Governmentwill not take hold of the helm and put it hard about in an endeavour to steer the ship into safe waters, disaster isinevitable.
The following paragraph appears in the financial statement now being debated : -
The Treasurers feel, however, in view of the difficult outlook generally that it is proper and advisable for them to urge upon all governments the need forthe utmost economy in regard to expenditures, and also that it is essential that the budgets of the Commonwealth and the States be balanced for the forthcoming financial year. This is necessary, not only because of the Australian position, but also because of the serious effect which the continued deficits in the accounts of the Commonwealth and States have undoubtedly had upon the credit of Australia abroad.
We all know that the credit of Australia is at a very low ebb. Yet, instead of giving effect to its pledges, the Government has allowed the “ Red “ majority in its caucus to take possession of the situation. The majority, which is controlled by outside organizations, and, in turn, controls the Labour party, has carried resolutionswhich strike a staggering blow at Australia’s good name, and at our credit. Our deficit is now enormous ; yet the Government allows the drift to continue. The Acting Treasurer is reported to have stated that the deficit at the end of the financial year might be from £12,000,000 to £15,000,000, but that, with the restoration of confidence and a revival of trade, it might be reduced from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000. The honorable gentleman is banking on two factors, which appear to be entirely beyond the reach of theGovernment. All will admit that there is nothing so essential for thewelfare of Australia as the restoration of its credit. It, therefore, behoves everybody to do his utmost to make the £28,000,000 conversion loan a success. The security is good, and the rate of interest is high. Everybody should subscribe as much as he can so that the pledge of the country to its bondholders may be fulfilled. If the conver- sion loan is not a success it will be a calamity, and will very materially weaken further the confidence in Australia, which already is at such a low ebb in the eyes of the world. To demonstrate that lack of confidence, which has come about since the advent of this Government, I draw attention to the values of government stock. In July, 1929, when the BrucePage Government was in power, the price of Commonwealth stock in London was £98 5s. Since the accession to power of this Government, with its extravagant policy, its inability to stop the drift, and its domination by the “ Red “ majority, that stock fell as low as £75 5s., and is to-day quoted at about £85.
– What was its price when this Government assumed office?
– In July, 1929, it was quoted at £98 5s. On the other hand, South African stock of the same denomination is quoted as just a little below par, while that of New Zealand is above par. Neither country is comparable with Australia in size, productivity, richness or recuperative power. That is a definite indication that our credit has slumped. Can any one wonder that that should be so after the staggering blows that the “ Red “ majority has dealt to our credit? On the eve of Australia trying to retain her honour and fulfil her pledge to pay her citizen bondholders the money that they loaned under very definite guarantees, the following destructive resolutions were carried by a caucus majority of 22 to 16-
– Will the honorable senator explain why the revolution in India did not affect its stocks?
– I am not going to deal with the revolution in India. To start with there is none. I only hope that there will be no revolution in Australia, through the action of this Government. If it continues its mismanagement much longer, until over 30 per cent. of the people are out of employment and on the verge of starvation heaven alone knows what will happen. These are the repudiation resolutions that were carried by a majority of the members supporting this Government : How difficult they make the task of Mr.
Scullin, Mr.Fenton, Mr. Lyons, and the Government generally -
One would think that there was money to burn. There will be money to burn in Australia if the caucus persists with its inflation policy. The only value of an Australian note will be as a medium to light one’s pipe.
– Bunkum !
– It is not bunkum. The caucus majority favours inflating our note issue, and if it insists upon its crazy idea there will be money to burn in Australia. All Australia now sees through the “ Twenty-two “ movement. The “ twenty-two “ would destroy the country’s contract with the people who trustingly handed over their life’s savings, the result of years of self-denial and thrift, to the care of the Government. Those savings represent the difference between the desire of the honorable citizen to be independent, and the professional cadger. But what about honouring the Melbourne agreement? What about the Government getting on with its job ? Why has it been dilly-dallying for so long, and why were Ministers so busy electioneering to help Lang and his gang? Lang made false promises. Among: other things, he promised farmers 7s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat.
– Why does the honorable senator attack a man who is absent?
– The interjection comes very well from a Minister who so bitterly attacked Sir Otto Nienieyer, a high official of the Bank of England and a financier of world renown, who visited Australia at the invitation of this Government to advise as to the financial position of the Commonwealth. Sir Otto Niemeyer rendered a magnificent service to this country, yet, as soon as his back was turned, certain Ministers in this Government and Labour supporters attacked him like a pack of wolves.
– Several Ministers of this Government gave active support to Mr. Lang in the recent election campaign in New South “Wales notwithstanding his declaration that, he repudiated the Melbourne agreement and, as I have said, promised wheat-growers 7s. 6d. a bushel if he were returned.
– Mr. Lang did not make that promise.
– If he did not make it in definite terms, his supporters did at all events. I know that one Labour candidate approached some of my share farmers and promised them 7s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat if Labour were returned to power; and an advertisement, over Mr. Lang’s signature, appeared in the Sydney Bulletin, stating, “ We have paid 7s. 6d. a bushel for wheat before. What has been done before can be done now.” What was that if it was not a promise to pay wheat-farmers 7s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat, which is now selling at1s.10d. at railway sidings ? It is disgraceful that any , one should have been allowed to perambulate the country making false promises like that.
At the conference between the Prime Minister and the Premiers of all the States on the 21st of August last the following resolution was unanimously adopted: -
That the several Governments represented at this conference declare their fixed determination to balance their respective budgets for the financial year 1930-31, and to maintain a similar balanced budget in future years. This budgetequilibrium will be maintained on such a basis as is consistent with the repayment or conversion in Australia, of the existing internal debt maturing in the next few years. Further,if, during any financial year, there are indications of a failure of revenue to meet expenditure, immediate steps will be taken during the year to ensure that the budgets shall balance.
Immediatelythe Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) left for England we read of an attempt, on the part of certain Ministers, to evade givingeffect to the Melbourne conference decisions. We must, however, giveall credit to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton) and the Acting
Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) for doing their best to stand up to the agreement; but their task has been made extremely difficult by wild statements and stupid resolutions passed by the Labour caucus, which has really been dominated by the Sydney Trades and Labour Council. The situation is extremely grave, because we are on the eve of the conversion of loans amounting to £28,000,000.
– Mr. Lang boasted that he would smash the Melbourne agreement.
– Yes, and from all we hear about caucus doings, he is being assisted by certain Ministers in this Government.
– Mr. Bavin, by his interpretation of the Melbourne conference resolutions, nearly smashed it.
– We know that Australia will never repudiate her liabilities.
– Hear, hear!
– We know that all this wild talk that is being indulged in by the majority in the Labour caucus does not represent the views of the people of Australia; but our creditors in other countries do not know this, and, naturally, they feel very uneasy. If they knew us as well as we know ourselves, they would have more confidence, and our stocks would not be from 10 per cent. to15 per cent. below the value of South African securities.
– The honorable sena tor has indicated the reason for this lack of confidence.
– That is so. How can we expect people in other countries to have confidence in our determination to honour our obligations, if, in the Labour caucus, Federal Ministers move or support motions thatare equivalent to repudiation ?
– Is the honorable senator inorder in stating that any Minister of the Crown, at any time, moved for the repudiation of Australia’s liabilities?
– I think he is. The Leader of the Senate may contradiethim if thestatement is incorrect.
– Then I shall be glad if the honorable senator willname the Minister who submittedtheresolutionto whichherefers.
– I understood that it was moved by Mr. Anstey and supported by Mr. Beasley.
– Will the honorable senator confine his comment to Ministers in the Senate?
– That shows the truth of my assertion.I do not suggest that either the Leader of. the Senate (Senator Daly) or his colleague in this chamber would support such a resolution, which, if accepted by the Government, would have been a clear indication that bondholders were not going to be paid the money due to them on the 15th of December. The subscribers to the loans maturing on that date were definitely promised a certain rate of interest, and also that the loan would be repaid on the date named. In every essential feature, it was a contract between the Commonwealth Government and the citizens of the Commonwealth. Imagine then the feelings of subscribers to that loan when they heard the awful news contained in the Anstey-Beasley resolution. We know, of course, that this Senate and the people of Australia will never allow the Government to dishonour its promise, but our creditors in other countries do not know this.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I was very glad when the Acting Prime Minister (Mr:. Fenton) during his stay in England took exception to the so-called news published in the British press concerning Australian affairs. Nearly everything one sees in the press abroad, particularly in England, having reference to Australia, is. derogatory and damaging to it. The news cablegrams’ sent from Australia to the press abroad are disgraceful. They are calculated to create in the mind’s of those who do not know this; country the idea that Australia is a barren, droughtstricken desolate country inhabited by a dishonorable lot of crooks. This has. gone on for years. Every day the English newspapers tell their readers about, a drought, a flood, a fire, or astrikein Australia, or that Australians are considering; the repudiation of debt’s. There is never anything in praise of Australia. The Australian people are represented to be an inferior race.
– Yet we give Great Britain substantial preference.
– We do. As I shall show later; it was during the regime of theBruce-Page Government, worth £8,000,000 a year to Great Britain, The British newspapers get their informationfrom somewhere. Enemies of Australia must be sending it.
– They are not in the Labour party.
– I am not suggesting that they are and, indeed, I am pleased to recall the fact that Mr. Fenton said that if the truth about Australia could not be published occasionally in the English press, there would need to be a censorship of press cables from Australia. I am strongly in favour of having such a censorship. We have every right to be proud of our country and Great Britain has every reason to be proud of her lusty son. We have one of the most productive countries in the world. There is nothing Australia cannot or does not produce as well as any other continent. We excel in all our produce, they are all of high quality. Of our people 98 per cent, are of British stock. It is a higher percentage than England has. Everyone knows that the east end of London is crowded with foreigners; in fact, every one knows that England is the dumping: ground for foreign goods and foreign people;
– But we have some drawbacks.
– We have, just the same as every country has.
– And one of them is the present Government.
– I have no wish to be personal in these remarks..
– The honorable senator is proud of everything, Australian. He is even proud of its Government..
– I am proud of Australia with all its faults and any temporary drawbacks there may be forthe time being. We never see in the press abroad references to the magnificent war record of Australia. Australians excel at sport. Australia has produced great musicians, like Melba, the world’s greatest aviators, and great scientists and great surgeons. The. personal surgeon to His Majesty the King is a Victorian. My blood boils when I hear the remark of visitors to the Old Country about what they read abroad concerning Australia. The result of it all is that the people of England are ignorant of Australia, its deeds and capabilities. Their ignorance in this respect is about equal to that of the Americans regarding Great Britain’s effort in the world war. “We ourselves are largely to blame. Our press cablegrams to Great Britain are disgraceful. I do not know who sends them. Much of the Australian literature and most of the Australian moving pictures harp on bushrangers. Books dealing with the Kelly gang and the moving picture For the Term of his Natural Life make us out to be descended from English convicts, and that England treated her people with great cruelty. Untruthful rubbish of that type is all too frequent. The other day I was shocked to hear a member of this Parliament - not an honorable senator - say that he knew Armistice Day because it was on the eleventh day of the eleventh month that Australia’s national hero, Ned Kelly, was murdered by the police. He knew Armistice Day and kept it up, not in remembrance of those who fell fighting for their King and country, humanity and liberty, but because on that day of the year, a stealer of sheep, horses and cattle, and a murderer had justly met his death.
It is shameful that our reputations as a people should be blackened by such wild talk as we have heard lately from members of this Parliament, and I trust that the Government will not be so mad as to adopt the suggestion to innate the currency by printing paper money. It would simply mean higher prices for all the goods we require for local consumption, higher costs on all our people in Australia, higher production costs on everything we export, and lower prices for it. Inflation, if indulged in, would inflict hardship on the wage-earner. The position has been put very plainly by James Murray in an excellent little book recently published, and. well received by economists everywhere. It is entitled Auditing the ki Note. Mr. Murray says -
It is surely ‘plain enough that, if the amount of work and produce sold is the same as previously hut the number of units used for exchanging them is increased, more units must be paid for each hour of work and each pound of goods, though no more work is done and no more goods are produced.. The worst sufferers are creditors and wage-earners. The former are paid in money that buys less than that which they lent. The latter, though wages rise with prices, suffer from an inevitable lag between the two so that remuneration does not overtake the cost of living.
Mr. Murray goes on to explain
The ?1 note is a debt due by the Federal Government, payable to bearer on demand, in gold; and that legally the holder of the ?1 note is entitled to demand, in Australia,, woods or services to the value of a sovereign. Gold, coin, or bullion, is, by immemorial custom and by virtue of the metal’s inherent qualities, a debt recognized as due by the civilized world to the holder; legal tender notes and metal tokens are, within the jurisdiction of the country in which they circulate, a debt due by the State, or the issuers, to the holders of the notes and tokens; bank balances are debts due by the bank to the customers.
A great deal has been said by honorable senators opposite about banks locking up money, about freezing credits, and about the release of credits. The statistics of the associated banks of Australia show that close on 99 per cent, of their deposit money has been lent to the people. It is a larger proportion than ever previously in the history of Australian banking. It is well for those who say that the banks are to blame for the present state of trade to remember this. It is absurd for any one .to say that the banks are not lending out their money. Mr. Murray also says -
It cannot be too often reiterated that government notes, before being issued, are printed pieces of paper only; they cost no more than the price of the paper and the printing. Otherwise they have no value at all. The greater the amount of notes in circulation in excess of requirements, the less the value of the notes, until the value of the note is negligible - a ?1,000,000 note is of less value than a packet of cigarettes.
That has been so in countries like Russia, Germany, and, to a certain extent, Prance, where there has been inflation. Mr. Murray sets out the position in this way -
Take a nobbier of Scotch whisky - or, if you baulk at whisky, take a glass of milk; it’s pure: normally dilute with water - it is still good; add more water and drown the miller and the value is negligible. That is inflation. Apply this to the issue of notes; the result is the same. Notes issued against gold are worth 20s. in the ?1 of gold. Notes issued merely against the credit of the State are not worth 20s. in the £1 in gold, and an unlimited issue of notes against the mere credit of the State is worth nothing in gold.
Should these notes be presented for payment, they cannot be redeemed in gold. It i6 a popular fallacy that when the Federal Government issues a £1 note, it gives value with the note; yet it is an obvious, but amazing, truth that when the Federal Government issues a £1 note it does not give value. In every subsequent issue of notes by the Federal Government it is a physical impossibility for the State to give economic value; it cannot give, but on the contrary it must take, and it takes from the community. The only resource on the State is the power to tax, and that is not unlimited. It has already about reached! its limit.
We all know that under the present Government taxation has more than reached its limit. It has become a depressing burden on industry and on the people. Mr. Murray continues -
It will be noted that recently overseas snipowners stipulated that freight prepaid in Australia shall be in British currency, not in the depreciated Australian currency. This is merely an instance of how a depreciated currency reacts on a community. The solution is to reduce the over-issue of notes in circulation and so bring down prices to synchronize with the movement in overseas prices. This essentially necessitates the bringing down of the paper money wages, though not of the real wages, or wages expressed in goods and service. There is no other way. Australia is the only country within the Empire where the policy of the note issue is controlled by the State. If the State borrows from the community by forcing on it free of interest irredeemable £1 bonds or notes, the community pays.
It is time the Government, and the people of Australia generally, faced economic facts which have been ignored, not only in our legislation, but by a majority of the people. We can no more ignore economic facts that we can stem the tide with a piece of string. The facts are simple. Our national income has been reduced from between £100,000,000 and £150,000,000. It is an old truism that one cannot take more out of a bag than has been placed in it. There are some who say that one cannot take more out of a bottle than has been placed in it; but that is hardly accurate, as in addition to the contents, I am told that a headache is sometimes obtained from a bottle. The reduction in our national income should be shared by all sections of the community. Those in a sheltered position in highly protected industries, members of Parlia- ment, and public servants, are obtaining profits or salaries equivalent to those which they received in previous years, while others are not receiving anything. A selfish section insists upon receiving the same wages and salaries, notwithstanding the depleted state of our revenue, with the result that a large proportion of the community have to be rationed or denied employment. It is a cruel uneconomic procedure. When men are rationed their wages are, in effect, reduced ; but the cost of production or of living is not correspondingly reduced. The so-called high standard of living in Australia does not exist. While the cost of production and wages have doubled since pre-war days, real wages, based on their purchasing power, have increased by only 1 per cent. The so-called high standard of living in Australia is enjoyed by only a few, while those who are rationed, or who are out of work, have no standard at all.
The latest statistics disclose that since this Government took office unemployment has increased from 12 per cent, to 20.5 per cent., and that in some States under Labour Governments such as South Australia, it is as high as 25 per cent. The position is probably worse than those figures indicate as they are based on the returns supplied by trade union organizations, with which a large proportion of casual and other workers, who are the first to suffer, are not associated. Probably 25 per cent, of our adult population is out of employment or soon will be.
This awful state of affairs is due to some extent to world-wide depression, and to a degree to our lop-sided legislation. Customs duties have been increased until the fiscal policy of this Government is almost one of prohibition. Moreover, there are striking anomalies in our tariff schedule. One of the latest acts of the Government in this respect is to place an embargo upon importations of galvanized iron, which is used extensively by primary producers and those who desire to build cottages for themselves. All hut those who live in expensive houses must use galvanized iron. The action of the Government in this respect has resulted in granting one firm a complete monopoly.
– The honorable senator must not anticipate debate on an item appearingonthe notice-paper.
– Many seem to overlook the fact that 98 per cent, of our total exports is produced by the man on the land. The costs of production have, however, become so high that it is now unremunerative to produce wool,wheat, manymetals, fruit, or any other primary product. I was surprised toread in the financial statement -submitted by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) that - after admitting the importance of our wheat crop and the wool clip, and stating that the decrease in the value of these commodities was largely -responsible for the , general slackness of trade- wool was selling at 9d. a lb.;that last year it brought 16d. a lb., and the previous year it was 19d. a lb. It is an absurd statement. The facts are that at the time that statement was made about 500,000 bales of this year’s wool clip had been disposed of at a gross price of 8d. a lb., which is equivalent to 7d. a lb. at country railway stations. Even that miserably low price was obtained only because the poorer grades of wool had not been placed on the market. Had the clipbeen disposed of as it came to hand, the net price obtained by the growers would have been only 6d. a lb., less than halfthe cost ofproduction. The Acting Treasurer, who was in error to the extent of 15 per cent, regarding this year’s clip, said that last year’s clip realized 16d. ; but the average price was only 10.4d., and the previous year’s price16.ld,and not 19d., as -stated. Unfortunately, our trade in these commodities has been very much disturbed, : and it is to be regretted that Australian primary products are selling in the world’s -markets ata price much below -.the cost of production. On previous occasions I have stated that it costs 13d. alb. to produce wool in Australia, but Chief Judge Dethridge, who arranged for an inquiry by 50 certified -accountants, who obtained expert evidence on the subject, stated . that the cost of producing wool was 14d. a lb.
What encouragement is there for primary producers “ to grow more wheat as they were exhorted to by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the various State Premiers, particularly Mr. Hogan, of Victoria, in order to rectify . our adverse . tradebalance? A record wheat crop has now been produced, hut it is saleable at country stations . at from1s. l0d. to 2s. a bushel. In fact my last season’s wheat has just been sold’ ex-silo in New ‘South Wales at 1s. 71/2d. a bushel. The concensus of opinion . among experts is that it costs about 3s. 6d. a bushel to produce wheat.
– That is including interest on the cost of the bags.
– In the investigation conducted at the request of Chief Judge Dethridge into the cost of producing -wool, interest -on , the- value . of the property on which it was : produced was not taken into consideration;but the interest on the money borrowed on the property was debited. The same procedure was followed with respect to wheat. If the property was free from any encumbrance, interest was not debited. Wheat which is costing 3s. 6d. a bushel to produce is now being sold at from1s. l0d. a bushel at country railway sidings. It ‘is astounding to realize that the’ valueof three bags of wheat is equivalent to that of only one pound of tobacco. Notwithstanding -this, no encouragement has been given to our wheat-producers, who have for years been penalized by high customs duties, excessive freights, and high wages. The value of a bag of wheat is equivalent to that of three pounds of tea, upon which this Government, -which prof esses to be , a friend of . theworkers, has imposed a tax of 4d. a lb. It has placed this . -additional tax on a necessary , and harmless beverage used in every household. One bag of wheat is equivalent in value to 14 lb. ofsugar. While the wheat-growing industry has for years been heavily penalized, the sugar industry, which has been costing the people of Australia millions of pounds annually, is spoonfed and highly protected. When it was suggested that a sales tax should be imposed on flour to assist the wheat-growing industry, the Government said that such a tax would result in increasing -theprice of a 4-lb. loaf of bread by1d. Nothing is said concerning the price which consumers are paying for sugar, galvanized iron, or the products of other highly protected industries. As the farmers who are receiving ls. lOd. a bushel for their wheat at country railway sidings have to give in the bag which costs them approximately 9d., they are receiving only ls. lOd. a bushel less the cost of the ‘ bag, say ls. Yd. a bushel. This Government, which a few months ago led the wheat-growers to believe that it would guarantee them 4s. a bushel for their wheat, is now declining to impose a sales tax- on flour, although by so doing it could increase the return to the farmer by 6d. a bushel, [t is afraid to run the risk of increasing the price of bread, as by so doing it would lose votes. It cares nothing for the primary producers except at election time. There is no justification for any increase in the price of bread. Almost everything that we produce in Australia is produced at a loss. I have already dealt with the position as it affects wheat and wool. Let us now turn to minerals. There is sufficient mineral wealth in Australia to’ pay off our national debt if the cost of production were brought down. Look at the tragedy of Mount Morgan. Although minerals to the value of £16,000,000 were in sight the Mount Morgan mines closed down, throwing thousands of men out of work. The town- is rapidly becoming decadent because the miners have accepted the teaching that if the very high money wages are brought down the standard of living will be reduced. After all money is only a token. If we could win the wealth which exists in our mines and reduce the cost of producing the commodities which we have to sell in the world’s markets every one would be better off. There would then be little or no1 unemployment. [Extension of time granted.]
I thank honorable senators for granting me an extension of time. If only the miners of Australia could be brought to see that, if they accepted slightly reduced wages our mines would continue to produce wealth for Australia, how different things would be! What is the position in Broken Hill and other mining centres to-day? North Broken Hill has” ceased to produce zinc and is concentrating onsilver and lead. In 1913 lead was £18 6s.. 2d. a ton; zinc £22 14s. 3d. a ton and silver 2s-. 3£d. an ounce. To-day lead is £15 a ton or less;, zinc £14 to £15 a ton1,, and silver ls. 6d. an ounce. In 1913 when the prices of these products were much higher than they are to-day,, the basic wage for underground miners was 57s. a week of 48 hours as against the present rate of 95s. a week for a week of 35 hours. The result is that mines which ought to be still producing wealth have closed down. This calamity is recurring all over Australia.
During the last election campaign the people were promised that a Labour Government would open mines which had been closed and provide employment for all, but statistics show that during the present Government’s term of office unemployment has increased from 12 per cent, to 20.5 per cent, of the population. In one State in which a Labour Government is in power 25 per cent, of the registered unionists are unemployed. In a country bursting with real wealth in the form df food, and cheap wool foiclothing, large numbers of people are on the verge of starvation. Clothing should be very cheap because the price of wool is very low ; bread should be very cheap because the price- of wheat is’ very low, yet many thousands are illclad and ill-fed. Although all our primary products are cheap to-day, the cost of the finished article is so high that the prices of commodities to the consumer have not been reduced to any appreciable extent. “Last week I saw splendid fish sold at 3d. a lb., and Yorkshire Hero peas for 4s. per 100 lb. Vegetables are cheap and the price of butter is relatively low. Producers are obtaining only 2d. per lb. for prime mutton. But the reduced cost of all these commodities has not affected the cost of living by more than a few per cent. At the present time Australia should be one of the cheapest countries in the world in which to live. Something is wrong when people are starving in. the midst of plenty. The problems of unemployment and poverty should; be tackled courageously without party bias.-
Some economists, in whose opinions I have considerable faith, attribute the prei sent world-wide depression to the locking up of the world’s gold, which is the real medium of trade. During the past five years the value of the gold hold in Germany has increased from £59,000,000 to £112,000,000, and that of France from £164,000,000- to £362,000,000. The United States of America holds gold, to the value of between £800,000,000 and £900,000,000, while the value of the gold held in Great Britain amounts to £146,000,000. France and the United States of America together hold in their vaults 55 per cent, of the world’s gold.
– Our gold is locked up in our land.
– Land can be obtained in Western Australia almost for the asking.
– Much gold could be won in Australia if the cost of winning it was reduced.
Australia is not receiving much assistance from the Mother Country because the Labour Government of England prefers to purchase wheat from Russia - a nation which has defaulted to the extent of £940,000,000. Australia, a country which has always paid its debts, is competing in the world’s markets with a defaulting nation. The British Labour Government allows foreign nations to dump wheat into England to the detriment of Australian farmers.
– If Mr. Austey said that he would be branded as a disloyalist.
– What I have said is perfectly true. The British Government prefers to buy wheat from defaulting Russia than from fellow Britons in Australia.
It is, unfortunately, true that the prices now being obtained for our primary products are ruinously low; but I predict that there will be an improvement next year. Wool, which is now being sold at one-half the cost of production, is going into consumption because the low price has increased the demand, and as manufacture is keeping pace with sales there will be no carryover of wool, either in its raw or manufactured state. That condition obtains throughout the world, so that there is reason to believe that the wool outlook is more favorable than it was. If the world’s wool users were to increase their consumption of wool by a1/4 lb. per head there wouldbe a shortage of wool in twelve months. The present low price for wheat is largely due to the heavy carry-over from the huge Canadian crop of the year before last. This year it is reported that the Argentine wheat crop will be 75,000,000 bushels less than was anticipated, because of rust. The American corn crop shows a decrease of 600,000,000 bushels of corn used for feeding pigs. To make up that deficiency wheat is being used. There is no abnormal crop in the northern hemisphere; there . is a reduced crop in the Argentine ; and it is said that, although large quantities of wheat are being shipped from southern Russian ports, that country will soon have to import wheat to feed the starving hundreds of thousands in northern Russia. It may be asked why, in that case, Russia does not retain her wheat for her own starving people instead of exporting it from her southern districts. In conversation recently with a sea captain, he told me that it cost more to transport wheat overland from the south to the north of Russia than to import wheat through Archangel when the northern ports are opened after the ice melts. I feel confident that next, year our primary products will bring higher prices in the world’s markets ; but unless we can reduce production costs we shall still have to sell at a loss.
– Stalin says that the export of wheat from Russia will increase during the next two years.
– I place no reliance on bis statements; he has been proved wrong several times already.
What has become of the Government’s promises? During the election campaign the people were told that a Labour government would not dismiss any of its employees, and that it would find work for all. Yet thousands of men, including many returned soldiers, have been dismissed from government departments during the last twelve months. In the Prime Minister’s Department, 775 men, of whom 335 were returned soldiers, have been dismissed. I notice that 2,292 employees were dismissed from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department; of whom 1,423 were returned soldiers. Nearly all of those employees have been in the service of ‘the Government for approximately two years, and are good men. It is a sad state of affairs when the Government finds it necessary to dismiss returned soldiers in such numbers, men who rendered good service to the country during the war and who have proved efficient servants since their return.
We have been told that it is necessary to balance the budget; that economy is essential; that we must produce more.
I have shown that production costs are altogether too high in Australia, because of our Arbitration Court and Wages Board awards-
– And the interest rates that we have to pay.
– And that, too. While I am a believer in arbitration, I do think that in the interests of Australia, during such abnormal times as these, we should give . the system a holiday and urge the people to go into employment at lower money wages. That does not mean lower real wages. The costs of commodities and of living would come down with a rush, and £2 would then buy as much as £3 does now. It would bring down production costs of minerals and all other commodities that would create real wealth. Trade has been stifled by our ridiculous tariffs and embargoes. We are over-protected, and consequently, have lost millions through decreased customs revenue. The whole thing has become a farce; we are trading with nobody. Our tariff is ridiculous and full of anomalies. A monopoly has been granted to Lysaght’s. Why should monopolies be granted to anybody?
– I ask the honorable senator to avoid the subject-matter of a measure which is already on the noticepaper.
– Our policy has alienated our best customers, with, the result, that Germany has imposed a duty of £9 a ton on our wheat, and subsidizes its own product, which is exported to our natura”! market, Great Britain. France lias placed a special duty on Australian wheat, and, like Germany, subsidizes wheat exported to Britain. We have heard a lot about trade within the Empire, but neither this Government nor the British Labour Government has done anything to foster it. The British Government is trading with foreigners. While the Bruce-Page Government had a tariff that gave Great Britain a preference worth £8,000,000 a year, the present Labour Government has stifled our trade with the Mother Country by imposing a prohibitive tariff. What have we got from Great Britain in the way of preference ?
– The honorable senator is correct. After all the hard work of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) a and the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) to secure preferences, all that they could get was a three years preference for our wine and dried fruits, and for that we owe no thanks to Mr. Snowden. We have notobtained any quota for our wheat, but Great Britain is being flooded with grain from Soviet Russia, a country that repudiated its debt with the Mother Country to the amount of £940,000,000. This Government has done nothing to balance the budget except dismiss returned soldiers, and destroy our policy of defence. Its first budget inflicted an extra burden of direct taxation on the people to the extent of £12,500,000 per annum. This further budget discloses that the returns from customs revenue were overestimated. Of course they were. The tariff was too high. Even the cumbersome and irritating sales tax was a dissappointment. Monopolies have been granted, which must result in a further loss of customs revenue. Then, to cap it all, along comes this cruel tax which penalizes producers and the thrifty citizens of the community - the workers.
– Is the honorable senator attacking the Melbourne agreement?
– I am attacking this extra taxation by the Government which penalizes our producers, and those workers who have been thrifty and have bought homes, while it favours those in soft, safe billets, with short hours, holidays on full pay, and pensions.
– What section is that?
– There are many such sections, including members of Parliament and a portion of the Civil Service. I am not going to be led into.’ saying anything against the civil servants. They are giving good service to their country, and are efficient and worthy of their hire, without being overpaid. I admit that there may be too many of them. It is wrong to give specially favoured treatment to ‘any section, of the community. Instead of stopping at a minimum of £725 a year, I suggest that a minimum of £250 a year would he a fair figure to. start with for the purposes of Public Service taxation. The civil servants of Australia are a loyal and honorable section of the community, and I am confident that they are prepared to bear their fair share of the burden in times such as these. If they are not then they are not good Australians.
In connexion with the crushing taxation on incomes from property I am indebted to Senator Payne for the figures with which he has supplied me, and take the opportunity of congratulating the honorable senator on the magnificent speech that he made last week on the financial statement. It was a constructive and fighting speech which exposed the absurdly exaggerated charges that are too often hurled at the BrucePage Government on the score of extravagance. The honorable senator has informed me that the new taxation will mean that a person who earns £200 by personal exertion will be subjected to the tax of 4d., while one with a similar income from property has to pay1s. 101/2d.–
– That has since been altered. I will supply the honorable senator with authentic figures.
– I am glad that it has been altered owing to pressure from the Opposition in this Parliament. The impost should be wiped out altogether, as it is a cruel tax on the thrifty. I have received the following letter from the Real Estate Association of Victoria : -
I have been instructed by the Central Executive of the Real Estate Association of Victoria to communicate with you, and to lodge a formal protest against the proposed additional property tax of71/2 per cent, now before the House for consideration. It is felt by the members of my association that while all sections of the community have to-day to bear their share of taxation, the proposed further property tax is most unfair in its incidence, and that it would press unduly upon a very large number of people. There are thousands of property-owners, both small and large, whose incomes to-day have been reduced in some cases almost to the point of extinction through the existing depression, which is responsible for a large number of houses becoming vacant. In addition to this, which is a direct source of loss of revenue and income, returns from their property have been materially affected for the following reasons : -
In addition to the above, property is already bearing a special tax on income as distinct from income derived from personal exertion.
For the above reasons,I am instructed to express the hope that when this matter comes before the House you will give it your most earnest consideration - not from ‘the point of view of excluding property from taxation, but from the angle of whether the owners, who are suffering to-day to a previously unknown extent, should be so drastically harassed as will be the case under the proposed taxation.
This new property tax practically amounts to confiscation. Then take the tax upon tea, the poor people’s beverage. Why should those who are already rationed, and perhaps out of employment, bear such a tax?
We have heard a lot of abuse showered on the Bruce-Page Administration. The figures supplied to me by Senator Payne prove that the record of- that Government is an admirable one. During its regime, our national debt was reduced by £45,000,000, and £7,000,000 out of revenue was spent on defence. It also spent a great deal of money on reproductive works. The facts are that on the 30th of June, 1922, when the Bruce-Page Government took office, our war debt was £333,093,834, while on the 30th of June, 1929, it was £287,817,746, a reduction of £45,276,088. The works debt increased from £31,745,756 to £89,803,827, a difference of £58,058,071. That was an expenditure on reproductive works, such as the River Murray scheme, roads, post office, extensions of telegraphic and wireless com- munication throughout the land, and so on. Despite all that expenditure on reproductive works, the total public debt of thi3 Commonwealth increased by only £12,731,983 during the term of office of the Bruce-Page Government. When it assumed office the Commonwealth per capita debt was £66 4s. 3d., and when it relinquished office £59 lis. lOd,, or a reduction of £6 12s. 5d. That Government reduced taxation. This Government has heaped on the tariff with a shovel and knocked on taxation with a sledge hammer. , We also hear a lot about the BrucePage Government having allowed what are by Labour senators and some others termed “Dagoes” into the country. Actually, the percentage of foreigners allowed into Australia during its regime was 19 per cent., while the figures under the present Government were 20 per cent, for the last quarter - actually greater than, those of the Bruce-Page Government. We are being crushed by tariffs, monopolies, and taxes, and living is altogether too dear. Where are the promised economies? There are none at all. We must face the facts. .There should be drastic and immediate economies. I have heard some suggestion, that the salaries of Ministers and private members should be cut by from 10 to 15 per cent. I should like to see the members of the Federal Parliament give a lead to the people of Australia and submit to a salary cut of 20 per cent, at once.
– Would the honorablesenator agree to payment by results; the payment of sitting fees ?
– That might be considered too. I would be quite agreeable, it would suit me; but payment for real service would be even better. We cannot expect the civil servants and workers to submit to a reduction of their salaries and wages if we do not set an example. We are out to do the best that we can for the country. We all want to help to balance the budget. But what are we doing?
– Why stop at a 20 per cent reduction?
– I think that that is a fair thing. The higher-paid civil servants would be called upon to submit to a reduction in like ratio, and the lower-paid employees on a sliding scale. I would not ask those on the breadline to reduce their wages.
Take the extravagance of the upkeep of Australia House, which is not a very efficient institution. I note that it costs £84,000 per annum for salaries. I hope that amount will be cut by half. The Government .has said, “ You criticize us. Show us the way to economize.” Did not the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) show how the Government could cut down expenditure by £4,000,000 ? But his suggestion, after ali, meant merely that expenditure should be brought down to the level of 1928-29, one of the boom years in Commonwealth expenditure. At present it is much above that point. The Bruce-Page Administration has been accused of being extravagant in administration, but, strange as it may seem, this Government is spending even more money, and to meet the difficult situation that has arisen, the Leader of the Opposition in another place offered a number of valuable suggestions to the end that the Government might balance the budget.
I hope that a more genuine effort will be made to trade with our own people. Let us give preference, first to Australian goods and secondly to the Mother Country out of consideration for all that she has done for us, although I must confess that I am disappointed with the trend of the recent events in Great Britain under a Labour Government. Our trade position with the United States of America is wholly unsatisfactory. In the last ten years, we have imported from that country goods to the value of £332,000,000, and our exports, including gold, have totalled only £95,000,000.
– The adverse trade balance during the Bruce-Page regime was more pronounced.
– I admit that it was, but the position has become worse. During the last twelve months our adverse balance of trade was over £25,000,000, and for the ten years period it has amounted to £236,729,583. For heaven’s sake let us face facts - work, produce, and retain our honour.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
.. - I have listened with interest to the speeches of honorable senators opposite on the financial statement presented by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly), and, while I do not agree with all their statements, I must congratulate them on the presentation of facts as seen by them. I cannot, however, accept as accurate their views of the position in New South Wales. We have heard a great deal about the promises which Mr. Lang is alleged to have made to the farmers in that State. Senator Guthrie was particularly severe on the Premier of New South Wales aud the party supporting him. I believe that the return of Mr. Lang has saved the Labour movement in Australia. After three years of administration Mr. Bavin and his Nationalist and Country party supporters left a deficit of £15,000,000. The Bruce-Page Government put up a similar record in Commonwealth administration.
– The honorable senator is not too particular about his facts.
– It is no use for honorable senators opposite to endeavour to camouflage the financial position of the Commonwealth. I should not be surprised if posterity erected, at the entrance to Sydney Harbour, a monument to Mr. Lang, similar in some respects to the statue of Liberty at the entrance to New York.
– It would be the monument of debt.
– I ask leave to continue my speech at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That this bill be now read a second time.
This is a small measure designed to tighten up certain provisions of the Immigration Act in order to make effective the intention of Parliament. Section 5, which deals with the illegal entry of immigrants into the Commonwealth, was amended in 1924 to cast uponthe person charged with being a prohibited immigrant, the onus of proving that he was rightfully in the Commonwealth. Honorable senators will realize that this is a very necessary precaution to take for the safety of the country, particularly in time of war. The utility of the amended provisions of section 5 was practically destroyed, by a recent decision of the High Court. The effect of this decision is that the amended provisions apply only in the case of a person who has entered the Commonwealth in contravention of the act after the passing of those amendments: Consequently these provisions cannot be used in the case of prohibited immigrants who gained entrance to the Commonwealth prior to 1924. In the case to which I have referred, Ah You versus Gleeson, the Court found that Ah You had obtained entrance to the Commonwealth about 1906, but as the Commonwealth was unable to prove that “ he had evaded an officer “ the case against him failed, and he cannot be deported. The law requires that persons entering the Commonwealth shall submit themselves to the recognized procedure and must be passed by officials of the Immigration Department. In the case of Ah You, it was apparently the intention of the Government to deport him, but because of the High Court, decision, this could not be done.
– The Government intends to make the act retrospective to 1901.
– Yes. It is proposed to amend the defective sub-section (1) of section 5 of the act to embrace all persons who have entered Australia since 1901 - the date of commencement of our immigration power - in contravention of the act.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [9.12]. - I do not intend to ask for an. adjournment of the debate because, having been Minister for Home and Territories, and having been responsible for the administration of the Immigration Act, I am familar with the facts as related by the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes). The previous Government did amend the law with the idea of stopping loopholes that were discovered in it; but apparently, as soon as one loophole was stopped, another was found. I have perused the memorandum distributed by the Minister in charge of the bill, and I agree that it is desirable that the law should be so amended. I, therefore, support the action of the Government.
– I assume that the bill is a noncontentious measure, but it appears to me, from a study of the statistics relate ing to immigration, that there is greater need to impose restrictions on emigration than on immigration, for the very good reason, that at present there is no immigration.
– Yes; there is.
– The latest figures show, in the last three months, an excess of departures over arrivals of 11,000, so I suggest that if any action is to be taken at all, it should be in the direction of inducing people not to fly out of this country by hook or by crook at every chance they get. It is interesting to recall that, as the outcome of an amicable arrangement between the Commonwealth and the Government of South Australia as high contracting parties, there was recently . an influx of two domestic servants per month to a State covering 500,000 square miles!
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the proposed amendment of section 5 of the Immigration Act.
– The bill proposes to make the law retrospective to 1901. I doubt that the position of affairs warrants us in allowing the long arm of the law to reach back 30 years. The proportion of aliens improperly in Australia cannot be said to be large enough to dilute the race so badly and so warrant this proposal. If these people are here and are law abiding let them stay here. Before federation was established that principle was agreed to by every Colonial Parliament. In Queensland there was no question about the residential qualifications of any Chinaman, . or any other foreigner for that matter, who had entered the colony before the exclusion laws were brought into operation there. But now in this twentieth century we have arrived at the point where it is necessary for the poor wretch who landed in Australia 30 years ago, and has since given honest service to the country, lived up to every obligation, paid 20s. in the £1 and obeyed its laws, to explain why he did not enter the country in a proper way.
– He may be an excellent citizen.
– Of course. I asked the Minister on that point, and he had no better reason to offer for this bill than that a man may have entered the country improperly. Could the Minister explain his conduct of 30 years ago? Could any honorable senator afford to have thrown on the screen his every action of 30 years ago? It is a matter of man to mau relationship. It should be regarded purely from a humane stand-point, and to ask the Senate so to amend the law regarding immigration that an unfortunate wretch who entered the country 30 years ago must explain how he got here, the company he kept, and name the ship that brought him is to ask too much of it. The fact that a man has no blemish on Ms character should be ample proof that he has been a law-abiding citizen, and it should be ample reward for him to get the verdict in his favour. Why condemn him? Why put the brand of Cain upon him? Has the Government nothing better to do than to reach out after an unfortunate derelict who landed here 30 years ago? Surely it has mountainous difficulties to surmount. There are the requirements of 60,000 wheat-growers and 60,000 reasons why the Government should be doing some real honest serviceable work instead of paltry work of this kind. In any case, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions was allied to a foreign body that openly denounced our White Australia policy. But they cannot be attended to. What a dignified proceeding it is for the Government to be chasing a Chinaman, who landed in this country 30 years ago, while 60,000 good Australians cannot keep the bailiff away from their doors! But such is the equality of conditions in this country at the present time. Can the Ministry say that this Chinaman has broken the law - that he has robbed some one that he has in any way offended? Can it say that he has been anything but a law-abiding citizen ? If so, I shall vote for the bill.
But asthings are going now, when there may be some doubt sought to be cast on the way I got into Australia 45 years ago, when the Government begins on the law-abiding citizen, there is no knowing where it will finish. This bill, in short, is a gross outrage upon the liberty of the subject. It is not British justice, the standard under which I hope every honorable senator will enrol himself. But I had better not start on the brand of Australian justice or some of it abroad at the present time. All I am concerned with now is the fair name of Australia and its reputation, and particularly the fair name of the Government for which a soft spot exists in my heart. I want Ministers to do the right thing. I may speak severely of them at times, but I have a great respect for them personally, and socially, because I believe that if they behave themselves they are capable of only great good. When, however, they bring in a bill to chase a Chinaman who landed in Australia 30 years ago, and a law-abiding citizen, it is to my mind a mean, paltry achievement that can bring no credit on this country, the Government, or this honorable Senate. I feel that I shall have to vote againt thebill if forno other reason than that the Minister has given no rational grounds for asking the sanction of the Senate to it. I would deport those who are not law-abiding citizens, but the fact that men have been law-abiding for 30 years should be sufficient warrant for letting them remain in, Australia.
– I regret the necessity for having to defend this particular proposal, but in case honorable senators may have been misled by the outburst of Senator Lynch, I may explain that the bill proposes no alteration in the substantive law. It certainly does alter the matter of procedure, but it will not affect any person who obeyed the law prior to 1924. The Government has been castigated by Senator Lynch for having brought in a bill which, in his opinion, amounts to an abrogation of the principles of British justice. I can assure him that for years he sat behind a government that administered the law in a manner which it then thought to be in accordance with the law, and as expressed in this amending bill. The High Court, however, said, “If that is what was the intention of Parliament, it had better use better language to express its intention.” The present Government has not altered the procedure followed by the previous Government in dealing with this immigration matter, and no injustice has been meted out to any one; but there came a time when difficulty of proof arose and the High Court held that the procedure adopted by the previous Government was not the right one to adopt. The court said that if the intention of Parliament was that that particular procedure should be adopted, it should be expressed in clearer language in the act. I had no hand in the framing of the law in force in 1924, but Senator Lynch supported it.
– Who took the action against the Chinaman whose case was before the High Court?
– The Commonwealth authorities took the action and the High Court held, in effect, that the particular section of the Immigration Act did not truly express the intention of Parliament. But every day the High Court justices differ from parliamentarians as to the language which should be used in the construction of a law. The Commonwealth took action against this particular Chinaman following a procedure which had been in operation for years, and to which previously no one had taken exception.
– How many years had this Chinaman been in Australia?
– I am not sure, but that does not affect the principle. We are not dealing with that particular point. In effect, the High Court has advised Parliament that if its intention was that the procedure followed by the Government for years was to be adopted, the language of the act would need to he altered. Accordingly, the Government has altered the language only to call forth the language used by Senator Lynch. No alteration in the substantive law has been proposed. The bill simply alters the words governing the procedure, and actually does not alter that, procedure which had been followed without causing any comment until this particular case came before the High Court. There is no possible chance of any injustice being meted out to any one. The bill, in unmistakable language, simply shifts the onus of proof on to the immigrant, and renders it possible for the department to administer the act as our predecessors had it in mind to do in framing their legislation.
– It makes the law what it was thought to be.
– Exactly. Senator Lynch has raised a storm in a tea cup. The bill simply makes the law what Parliament thought it was.
– There are two angles to this matter. As regards one, Senator Daly has relieved my mind by saying that this legislation will have no application to Ah You, who took his case from the humblest tribunal in Western Australia right up to the High Court and succeeded in convincing that august tribunal that his contentions were right. Pursuant to the policy always adopted by governments., I take it that the legislation the Senate is now asked to pass will not be applied to Ah You unless there is some very definite reason within the ministerial knowledge to depart from that principle. We can, therefore, ‘ eliminate from this discussion all reference to the personal equation or to any possibility of injustice towards this individual. The proceedings in this particular case in which honorable senators appear to have taken some interest, are summarized in the Argus Law Reports in this way -
Under the “Immigration Act 1901-1925,” the defendant was charged that lie being an immigrant who, on 21st March, 1930, failed to pass the required dictation test, was a prohibited immigrant and had evaded an officer. The information was laid under section 5 (1) of the act, which enacts that any immigrant who evades an officer may, if found at any time thereafter within the Commonwealth, be required to pass the dictation test, and if he fails he shall bo deemed a prohibited immigrant. It was established that the defendant was in Australia in 1906; and there was some evidence that he had entered the Commonwealth in 1895. There was no evidence that lie had evaded an officer, but the information relied upon section 5 (3) of the act as rendering the aderments in the information prima facie proof of that fact.
Held that, though the relevant provisions <>f 5. (i) of the Immigrant Act 1901-25 are identical with the relevant provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901-1908 (the enactment in force at the time of the alleged evasion of an office) ), yet, as the provisions of section 5 (3.) of the Immigration Act 1901-25 were not enacted until after the alleged evasion they were inapplicable to the case and there being no proof of any evasion the prosecution failed.
On appeal to the High Court the law was held not to have the effect which this Parliament intended.
– We are asked to amend that.
– Yes, so as” to give full effect to the intention of Parliament. The effect of this legislation was discussed when the principal act was under discussion. While I agree that this is a hard case, subject to the Minister’s assurance that- it will not apply to this person, I shall support the bill. Action is not taken without reason; but it seems that as this person escaped the vigilance of the law for 24 or 25 years, he might be allowed to remain here. The gist of the judgment of three distinguished members of the High Court Bench is -
The “Immigration Act, 1901-1925,” only operates and applies to immigrants, who enter Australia after the date of its enactment.
Having regard to the exposed condition of our Australian coast, the Government has introduced this drastic provision regarding the onus of proof. Having the assurance of the Minister that this person will not be affected-
– There may be others.
– Other cases can be dealt with as they arise. I suggest that honorable senators support the measure, which is very essential, because at present proof of evasion, in the strict sense of the term, has been found utterly impossible.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [9.37]. - I sympathize entirely with the views expressed by Senator Lynch on this subject. If the case quoted by Senator McLachlan is the only reason, for bringing forward this amending measure, it is entirely inadequate. This provision is intended to deal only with law abiding people; it has no specific reference to offences against the law. Without the amendment now proposed any immigrant who entered the Commonwealth since the 1924 act was passed, is undoubtedly subject to that act, so that the only persons to whom this amending measure can apply are those who entered the Commonwealth prior to 1924. I think it is generally held that only the strongest possible reasons justify the provision in an act of Parliament of an obligation upon n defendant to prove his innocence.
– Is it not possible for such persons to submit false evidence that they were in Australia before 1924?
– They have to establish the fact that they were in Australia before 1924. The purpose of the bill is to make the amendment apply to the 1924 act, which is in itself sufficient to deal with an immigrant coming to Australia subsequent to 1924.
– Such persons could bring false evidence to show that they were in Australia before 1924.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.They would have to bring evidence that would satisfy the court. The court can use its discretion. It is a highly objectionable practice to compel any defendant to establish his innocence, and one which should be resorted to only in extreme cases.
– We wish to make it effective without that.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The law at present provides that any person who has entered Australia after the passing qf the 1924 act has to establish his innocence. The bill provides that the amendment effected in this section shall be deemed to have commenced on the date of the commencement of the Immigration Act of 1924. This is to embrace people who entered Australia before 1924. We should have stronger reasons than those quoted by Senator McLachlan for imposing upon people who have been in the country for more than six years the obligation to prove their innocence.
– They may have entered in defiance of the law.
– Surely there must, be some point at which the Crown should prove that such persons acted illegally.
– Parliament intended such action tobe illegal since 1901.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.But Parliament has amended the act. on half a dozen different occasions, and as it stands to-day it is clear that the onus of proof is upon any person who enters Australia after 1924.
– In 1924 it was intended that it should he retrospective to 1901.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.This Parliament sitting in the year 1930, with no otherevidence before it than the case the Government cited, should not legislate in this way, particularly as the Government has power under other legislation to deport undesirable persons. In the case of persons who have been here for a great number of years the onus should he upon the Crown to prove when they came into this country.
– The onus will not be upon him. The Minister said that the Government does not intend to interfere in this case.
– Then who is it to affect?
– It is to strengthen the law.
Senator Sir HAL . COLEBATCH.I shall want stronger reasons than those already furnished before I support retrospective legislation which will place upon persons the obligation of proving their innocence.
.- Senator Lynch is justified in directing the attention of the Senate to the fact that this measure will make certain sections of the principal act restrospective to 1901.
– Parliament thought that had already been clone.
– The position was clearly put by Senator Lynch. Certain persons who by some means may have evaded the customs officer in 1901, 1902, or 1903, and have since become reputable citizens, will be affected. It is quite wrong to make the law retrospective so that persons who came to Australia 25 or 30 years ago can be traced, and be liable to deportation unless they prove that they did not “ evade an officer.” Some of those men may have contracted family ties and entered into business relationships in Australia, and it is intolerable that they should now be liable to deportation. If the clause were made retrospective a few years, I should be inclined to support it; but I shall not support it in its present form. Clause 2 proposes to amend section 5 of the act of 1901, which reads -
Any immigrant who evades an officeror who enters the Commonwealth at any place where no officer is stationed ‘ may . . .
The proposal hero is to insert after the word “ evades “ the words “ or has, since the commencement of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, evaded”.
– The bill proposes to amend the act of 1924, not thai; of 1901.
– The same words appear in the 1924 act that appear in the legislation of 1901. As the purpose of the bill is to make the penalty retrospective to 1901, I am not prepared to support the second reading.
– I did not expect to have to defend this measure further. It appeared to me to be so simple and equitable that there would be no opposition to it. I remind honorable senators that Australia has adopted a White Australia policy.
– Even that- policy should be fair.
– That policy has received legislative enactment in order that this country may be reserved for the white races. The late Government attempted to accomplish the purpose which this Government hopes to achieve by this legislation, but owing to a High Court ruling it failed to do so. At that time, Senator Lynch, if I remember aright, supported the proposal in an eloquent speech. The bill will enable any government which may be in office to carry out the White Australia policy effectively. If any honorable senator objects to that policy let him say openly on the hustings that he is prepared to wipe it out and to allow foreigners to flood this country.
– The Minister knows that that is nonsense - that we object only to a person who entered Australia twenty years ago, and has lived a reputable life since then, being brought within the scope of this measure.
– This legislation will not interfere with any person who entered Australia legally and has conducted himself properly since his arrival.
– To how many persons will the measure apply?
– I do not know. In introducing this legislation, the Government had no particular individual or individuals in mind. The bill has been introduced to safeguard the country.
– Every year a return is laid on the table showing the number of prosecutions under the various sections.
– I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of the Senate.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided. (President - Sbnator the Hon. W. KlNGSMILL.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Motion by Senator Daly proposed -
That theSenate do now adjourn.
– Probably the Minister has forgotten that he promised to supply an answer to a question that I asked regarding the intention of the Government in connexion with amendments of the sales tax.
: - A measure to amend the Sales Tax Act will he introduced this session, but through pressure of other business I have notyet had an opportunity of discussing with the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) the effect of the proposed amendments. I . shall, however, be in a position at question time to-morrow to reply to the honorable senator’s question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate, adjourned at 10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 November 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19301125_senate_12_127/>.