16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for a statement of the position regarding apples and pear3 grown in a State where the acquisition scheme operates as compared with fruit grown in States where no such control is exercised. I also asked what would he the position with regard to the transfer of fruit from States where the acquisition scheme does not operate to States where that fruit is required.
– I shall obtain a report as soon as possible in reply to the representations of the honorable senator.
– On the 27th January last, Senator Leckie asked me the following question : -
Will the Minister for Trade ami Customs inform the Senate whether householders who desire the sugar ration of 6 lb. a head for jam-making purposes have first to make applanation in writing to the rationing authorities? That would involve the- use of a 21d. stamp, and the reply would further increase the cost of correspondence to 3d. which would add practically Id. a lb. to the cost of the sugar. Do householders also have to sign a declaration before a Justice of the Peace, ‘ which, in the
CR.se of a person living in the country, would sometimes involve a long journey, whereas in metropolitan areas it would probably involve a train or tram journey, thus still further increasing the cost of the sugar. If that bc mi. will the Minister stir the rationing authorities into such activity as to find a better method of dealing with such a simple matter?
As promised, I have had inquiries made from the Director of Rationing, and I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that, in addition to the normal sugar ration, an allowance of 6 lb. a head was made, for the purpose of jam making, to every holder of a ration book. This was obtainable without application to any authority and merely by surrendering to the store-keeper a slip from sheet B of the ration book. In some cases this allowance of sugar was insufficient for jam-making purposes. To deal with such cases in such a way as to prevent purchase by persons not requiring sugar for this purpose, and at the same time to avoid the great wastage of paper involved in having forms available throughout the Commonwealth, a comparatively simple procedure was adopted under which a person requiring this concession had to declare before a justice of the Peace, or alternatively a State school headmaster, a police officer, a postmaster oi other specified official, that the application was bona fide. One or other of these officials would be found even in the smaller centres. If a householder really required the additional sugar for jam making, it caused little hardship to require him to write to the Commission for a form which, on completion, had merely to be handed to the store-keeper. Only one application form was required for all persons in a household, so that the honorable senator’s calculation as to the effect of postage on the price would in the majority of cases be incorrect. It was not possible to follow the procedure adopted with the initial issue of 6 lb. a head to every person in the community, having regard to th« transport and other difficulties associated with the general sugar supply position. Considering the. changing nature of the supply position, the Rationing Commission may be said to have handled this matter in a manner which mct the public interest and at the same time provided the necessary safeguard. That this control of sugar rationing has been at all times- sympathetic to the public is shown by the fact that, when the supply position recently improved through the provision of additional transport facilities, the Rationing Commission, with my approval, provided for a third issue of 6 lb. a head in cases where it could be shown that this issue was justified.
– On the 7th January last, Senator Foll asked me the following question: -
Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that because of the limited issue of clothing to members of the Volunteer Defence Corps many of these men are obliged to purchase tropical clothes and working clothes at their own expense? The men are not complaining, but would the Minister ask the Rationing Commission to make available a small additional issue of coupons to cover such purchases?
As promised, the matter was referred to the Rationing Commission, and I am informed that representations have already been made to the commission which has arranged to discuss the matter with the Department of the Army.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army inform the Senate whether members of the Citizen Military Forces are still being encouraged to join the Australian Imperial Force?
– Nothing is being done to prevent them from doing so.
Duty on Tobacco and Cinema Projectors.
– On the 29th January last, Senator Sampson asked me the following questions, upon notice : -
As promised, the matters raised have been inquired into, and’ I am now in a position to advise the honorable senator that the answers to his questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister far Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer : - 1 and 2. The Government was actuated by thu desire to ensure a continuity of production. The resumption has been made on a tentative basis which includes the payment to the company of an annual rental of £1,352 for the plant and the property. In addition, the Government is providing £3,000 for further development and extra equipment for the mine. These arrangements are tentative pending consideration of a report to be submitted by the Tasmanian Department of Mines, whereupon the whole matter will be reviewed as necessary.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The Minister for Munitions has supplied the following answers : -
Yes. 2 and 3. The work is in the preliminary stages, and the Government of Western Australia is proceeding with the task of erecting shipbuilding yard and facilities. Until the yard is completed, the actual construction of ships cannot be commenced.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
-The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Skipping , has supplied the following answers: -
Amsa Medical Officers - Hospital at Campbelltown.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice. -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice- -
Will the Minister take up with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research the question of the elimination of the Cabbage Moth, which has become a pest in all the southern States ?
– The Minister in Charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has supplied the following answer : -
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research carried out some investigations on the Cabbage Moth between 1936 and 1939. A parasite was introduced from New Zealand and also from England, and small numbers were liberated both in New South Wales and Victoria. However, the parasite failed to establish itself. Although it became established in New Zealand, it exercised very little control on the moth there, partly because the parasite was itself, attacked by a secondary parasite. As a closely related secondary parasite is also present in Australia, it is doubtful whether control of the Cabbage Moth would have been obtained even had the primary parasite been established. In view of the unpromising outlook of parasite control, work along these lines was allowed to lapse, and attention was transferred to the Cabbage White Butterfly, which entered this country ; few years ago and has been spreading rapidly. Two different parasites of this species have been introduced from England and Canada, and are being multiplied at Canberra prior to liberation. In normal times both the Cabbage Moth and the Cabbage Butterfly could be controlled very satisfactorily by means of derris dust, which had to be imported. Now that derris is in such short supply, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been investigating possible Australian sources, but this work has not yet reached a stage where any substitute can be recommended.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
How many members of the Second Australian Imperial Force discharged medically unfit after service abroad have been granted war pensions, and how many have been refused such pensions on the grounds that the alleged disability was not due to war service?
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers : -
The total number of 1939 war pension claims dealt with up to 31st December, 1942, is as follows : -
The war pension statistics kept do not differentiate between those who -
To obtain the separate figures would involve much time and labour in inspecting many thousands of files at a time when the whole staff finds great difficulty in coping with current work. Service figures, however, reveal that of the 41,285 men discharged from the forces as medically unfit as at 31st December. 1942, more than 32,000 saw no service outside Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The Minister for Air has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of allegations that cigarettes have recently been sold at auction sales held under instruction from the Department of Trade and Customs at prices ranging up to 6d. a piece, will the Minister state whether the rates paid at these sales come under the regulation of the Prices Commissioner, and whether such sales assist in the maintenance of supplies to black marketeers?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
At the auction sale referred to by the honorable senator the auctioneer before the sale read out the retail prices at which cigarettes could be sold. Despite this fact certain people bid sums in excess of these prices. The sale of the lot in which prices far in excess of those announced by the auctioneer were bid did not eventuate, the successful bidder not taking the goods within the specified time. Arrangements have been made whereby a similar occurrence is not likely to happen in the future.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers : -
The gross and net returns to growers at the various mills were -
Dissection between mills is not practicable as most products lose their identity in final grading and baling at central denote in each State.
– I move -
That the National Security (Australian Meat Industry Commission) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rule No. 480 of 1942, and made under the National Security Act 1.939-1940, be disallowed.
This statutory rule contains 42 regulations which are of far-reaching importance. They override legislation dealing with the Meat Export Control Board. That legislation has been on the statutebook since 1935. I urge that far-reaching changes of this character should be effected by act of Parliament, and not by regulations. During 1942, no fewer than 557 statutory rules, containing nearly 3,000 regulations, were issued. I find from the records that under those statutory rules over 7,000 orders were issued. Senator A. J. McLachlan and others have stated here that it is a physical impossibility for people to follow the ramifications of those regulations and orders. I therefore suggest to the Government that such a far-reaching legislative change should have been introduced into Parliament by way of a bill. I do not propose to go through all the regulation?, but draw attention to one or two of the most important, in order to give honorable senators an idea of how far.reaching the proposals are. Regulation 4 provides -
The object of these Regulations is to secure in Australia the production of stock and the supply of fresh, frozen, canned and dehydrated meat in sufficient quantities to meet the essential needs of the fighting services of the Commonwealth, of allied forces in Australia or elsewhere, and of the civil community of Australia, and to provide an export surplus for the purpose of contributing towards the meat supplies of the United Kingdom and of the fighting services of the Commonwealth and allied forces overseas, and these Regulations shall be administered accordingly.
Regulation7 sets out the constitution of the Australian Meat Industry Commission. I shall revert to that later. I particularly wish to draw attention to regulation 39, which provides, among other things -
1 ) The operation of these Regulations, and of orders, requirements and directions made or given thereunder, shall not be affected by -
The Senate will see how far-reaching that regulation is, and appreciate its ramifications. Under regulation 26 the commission has the right to cancel contracts and the owner of stock is denied any right of action against the Commonwealth in any Commonwealth or State court. It has been noticed from time to time that under the abuse of bureaucratic control the rights of individuals are overridden by such drastic provisions as are contained in regulation 26 of this statutory rule. I particularly direct, the attention of Senator Fraser, the Minister in charge of this branch of the Government’s activities, to the necessity of explaining why the owners of stock are denied any rights whatever under State or Commonwealth law. I hope that when the Minister is replying he will give the reason, if there is one. Under regulation 19 stock are not to be slaughtered in a controlled area without a licence. That, too, is far-reaching, and finally the commission takes power to control the movement of stock, and all matters connected with the acquisition, purchase, storage and disposal of meat. I think that the Senate will agree, after studying the regulations contained in this statutory rule, that it is very desirable that both Houses of Parliament should have an opportunity to discuss powers of this kind which should be embodied in a bill, and that by bringing them in by means of regulations the Executive is abusing the powers it pos sesses under the National Security Act. One of the reasons, and indeed the principal reason, for moving the disallowance of the statutory rule, is that the commission set up is not as qualified as the Australian Meat Board to handle this problem. Under the Meat Export Control Act of 1935-1938 the Australian Meat Board was appointed consisting of eight producers, one from each State and one from the Riverina and the Northern Territory respectively, one pig producer, one representative of a cooperative mutton and lamb organization, one Government representative - Sir Frederick Tout, who was at that time vice-president of the New South Wales Graziers Association, was appointed by the Government in that capacity - four representatives from abattoirs, nominated by the State government, and three exporters elected by the Exporters Association. In that set-up every part of Australia had representation. The producers of Australia had the control on the board and as they were handling their products and representing the owners of the meat produced in this country their interests were fully protected. That board was appointed following the agreement reached at Ottawa, under which Australia was given by the British Government certain quotas of meat. The Senate will remember that on that occasion, in addition to quotas, Australia was given certain preferences and the board was brought into being to handle the export and sale of all themeat from Australia, in keeping with the conditions laid down by the British Government and agreed to at the Ottawa Conference. That was a task of very far-reaching importance. When we look at the export figures for the years 1938 and 1939, prior to the outbreak of the war, we find that Australia exported between £10,000,000 and £11,000,000 worth of meat. When the war broke out, the Australian Meat Board was given the task of organizing the sale of meat to Great Britain, and Senator McBride and I had the opportunity of coming into very close contact with the board. I can assure honorablesenators that some hours were spent in negotiations with the British Government over the sale of Australia’s surplus; meat. The British Government had agreed to purchase the whole of our export surplus and the board was entrusted with the task of carrying out that job, and did it exceptionally well. We have to remember too, when considering that fact, how important it was to see that Great Britain got all the meat for which it could supply ships. Whilst I appreciate the difficulties, it has been reported in some places that the Commonwealth Government has fallen down on its job in regard to some of those contracts. By refusing to introduce the rationing of meat in Australia, the Government has not supplied to the British Government all the meat for which that Government had provided shipping, and we know that the people of Great Britain have been short of meat on many occasions.
– The honorable senator knows that that is not correct, and that the transport difficulty was the trouble.
– I am informed that the Government did not supply to the British Government all the meat that the ships could take, and that it was afraid1 to introduce meat rationing in Australia.
– That is definitely incorrect.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to inform, the Senate whether it is correct to say that ships sent here went away from Australia not fully loaded.
– The answer is “ No.”
– Iri my opinion, the Australian Meat Board carried out its duties exceptionally well. It was representative of the producers and of all parts of Australia. When the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) took office he had a. look at the problem, which had been increased by the need in Australia to provide extra meat for fighting forces which had come from overseas and our own troops, and he was forced to seek a conference to consider the new position that had arisen. Present at that conference were some members of the Australian Meat Board and representatives of other meat interests in Australia. It was decided to extend control over the meat industry to ensure the provision of adequate supplies of fresh, frozen, canned and dehydrated meat, for the fighting services in Australia and overseas, Allied forces in Australia and elsewhere, the civil community, and the United Kingdom. On the 1st October, 1942, after that conference had been held, the Australian Meat Board met in Sydney, and after conferring with various sections of the trade in New South Wales, drew up a scheme which, it was thought, would be the best way of handling this problem. The chairman of the board, of course, was Mr. Fisken, and the representative of outside interests was Mr. Hodgson. The only reply received to a request by Mr. Fisken and Mr. Hodgson that the Minister receive a deputation to place the scheme before him, was a letter from ‘the Minister stating that he had set up the Australian Meat Industry Commission. That was all the courtesy shown to these people who had been handling the export problems for so long. What is the personnel of the body set up by the Minister to tackle this job? After an examination of this matter one can only come to the conclusion that by means of these regulations the Minister has substituted bureaucratic control for producer control of this industry. On the new commission there is one representative of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, one representative from the Prices Commission, one from the Department of Supply and Shipping, one from the Department of War Organization of Industry and one from the Rationing Commission. Also, the Minister in his wisdom has made provision in these regulations for a member of Parliament to sit on the commission, and has insulted the primary producers of Australia by appointing the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) for this job. I understand that Mr. Clark is a tailor by trade, and no doubt he could have been much better employed by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) in connexion with the manufacture of victory suits.
– And cutting the tails of shirts.
– Yes. The Minister has decided, probably in an endeavour to appease the honorable member for Darling, to make him deputy chairman of the commission, and under these regulations he will have the right to draw travelling expenses and so on.
– A special regulation was passed to enable him to do that.
– That is so. I raised that question in this chamber on a previous occasion, and in reply I was informed that no fewer than eleven members of the Labour party had been appointed to assist Ministers. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) was appointed to assist the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in regard to the wheat industry, and since that honorable member has been acting in that capacity, the wheatfarmers have received a worse deal than they have ever received since the war started.
– And they are saying so in no uncertain voice.
– That is true. All that has been forthcoming since, the honorable member for Wimmera started his job is a report on weevils, the appointment of the Wheat Harvest Employment Commission, and a refusal by the Government to pay an adequate price for wheat delivered since the Labour Administration assumed office, and for barley delivered in December, 1941. Then there was the appointment of a member of the trade union movement as an employers’ representative on a certain tribunal.
– That explains all these tears.
– No. I say to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) that the appointment of Labour members of Parliament to various governmental jobs is being done purely for propaganda purposes. They are all paid travelling allowances and out of pocket expenses. In the months of July and. August the Treasury paid to these people no less than £503 in order to give them an opportunity to visit their electorates and organize for their party. On the one hand the Government preaches austerity, and on the other it practices political racketeering.
On the Australian Meat Industry Commission there is one exporter’s representative, one representative from country meat works, one representative of retailers and four representatives of primary producers. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has said on many occasions that he favours producer-control; but, whereas on the Australian Meat Board there were eleven producers’ representatives out of a total of eighteen, on this commission there are only four producers’ representatives out of a total of fourteen.
– No interests have been overlooked.
– Yes. The interests of meat-producing States where problems are entirely different from those in New South Wales have been overlooked entirely. Seven of the members of the commission are from New South Wales.
– It is the most important State in the Commonwealth.
– One would expect such, an interjection from a one-eyed person like the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley). This is an Australiawide problem, and in Victoria the production and export of lamb is greater than in any other State, yet Victoria has no representative on the commission. Apart from the five departmental representatives, seven members of the commission are from New South Wales, one from Queensland, one from the Northern Territory, and only two from the Australian Meat Board.
– The people of Western Australia are not growling.
– Those who know the problems associated with the meat industry are; they claim that it is most unfair that a State in which the problems are entirely different from those existing in New South Wales should not be represented on this central authority, which is directing the policy of the meat industry throughout Australia. I enter a most emphatic protest against the fact that Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania are not represented on the commission. I discussed this matter with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture recently and he said that he was prepared to appoint Mr. Fisken, from Victoria.
– Then all your troubles are over.
– No.Western Australia deserves special consideration in regard to the question of the acquisition of meat, because it is a most difficult problem inthat State, and I am satisfied from reports that have been received up to date that before long the commission will get the meat industry into an unholy muddle. The appointment of inexperienced men to tackle a job such as this is a retrograde step, and I urge the Government to give to the Australian Meat Board, which is still functioning - I believe that itis meeting in Melbourne to-day - the extra powers necessary to meet the situation and to organize the industry.
– The Australian Meat Board has very little to do now.
– As Senator Spicer says, the Australian Meat Board has very little to do in view of the appointment of this commission.
– It is in a state of suspended animation.
– Yes. These regulations override its authority. Members of the Australian Meat Board know the trade thoroughly. During the seven years the board has been established it has given general satisfaction and a fair deal to the meat producers of Australia. It has handled the meat contract with Great Britain exceptionally well, and if it were given extended powers. Australia would not suffer. In the post-war period it will be of the utmost importance to Australia to retain its British preferences, and the way in which Great Britain is treated during the period immediately ahead will have an important bearing on its attitude to Australia at the economic conference which will be held after the war, when important problems relating to food supplies are being discussed. I urge the Government to pay particular attention to the matter from that aspect. My objections to the regulations may be summarized as follows : - I object to the supersession of the well established and satisfactory Australian Meat Boardby an untried and unqualified commission. I object to the abolition of producer control and its replacement by inexperienced bureaucratic administration. As to the composition of the new commission, the personnel represents mainly New South Wales’ interests. The meat interests of the remaining States have obviously been disregarded. The appointment of the commission furnishes further proof of government by regulations. Such an important change from an existing law should be brought about by legislation authorized by Parliament and not by regulations. The action taken amounts to political racketeering. The appointment as deputy chairman of the commission of a Labour member of this Parliament, who is completely inexperienced in matters affecting the meat industry, merely amounts to the granting of a political plum to a party supporter. The importance of our meat exports during the war and after makes it imperative that the handling of such matters be entrusted to a board which has already proved its ability to deal with them. The Australian Meat Board has handled our meat marketing and the associated problems with considerable success for the last seven years, and any other phases of meat control either during the war or after it should be entrusted to that board.
Debate (on motion by Senator Fraser) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 29th January (vide page 189) on motion , by Senator Collings -
That the Senate, at this its first meeting in the year 1943, in the fourth year of war with Germany and Italy, and in the second year of war with Japan, declares -
1 ) Australia’s indissoluble unity with the British Commonwealth of Nations, its unswerving loyalty to the cause of the United Nations and its admiration for the heroic efforts of the Allied forces ;
Its pride in the bravery and achievements of the Australian forces, in all theatres, and its intention to make provision for their re-instatement and advancement and for the dependants of those who have died or been disabled as n consequence of the war; and (‘A) its determination to use the whole of the man-power and material resources of the nation in order to ensure the maximum war effort necessary to bring about victory, and arising therefrom to provide the requisite measures to promote the national welfare of the whole of the Australian people.
Senator COURTICE (Queensland) j3.53”. - The ‘waging of the war has necessitated tremendous changes in the economic conditions of Australia. The Government has been confronted with a gigantic task in organizing the manpower and industries of this country in order to place them on a satisfactory war basis, but a good deal more remains to be done. I do not believe that the war will end either this year or next year. lt will be necessary for us to go much more closely than hitherto into the problem of organizing our resources for total war, and the Government would be well advised to seek the support, as far as possible, of organized industry. Australia needs the maximum amount of assistance of all who are charged with the responsibility of carrying on the war and of producing foodstuffs and other essential commodities. The task is a colossal one. Up to the present the Government has done extremely well in the matter, although much dislocation of industry and hardship have been caused. In some instances this might have been avoided by more sympathetic administration. It must be admitted, however, that in placing this country on a war footing in an extremely short period the infliction of hardship was inevitable. It is necessary for every body to give his best efforts to assist in so organizing our industries that the war may be brought to a victorious conclusion.
The production of foodstuffs will have to receive greater attention than hitherto. Owing to the demand made by the defence authorities on the man-power of this country the supply of efficient men in many sections of industry has been seriously depleted. Although at the outbreak of the war many young men in country districts had voluntarily enlisted and gone overseas, the military authorities continued to make recruiting drives, and further depleted the country districts of their efficient man-power, with the result that rural industries are now in a. serious plight and great hardship is imposed on the comparatively few men left in the country areas to carry on primary production. I hope that the Government will realize the importance of making adequate provision for a satisfactory supply of satisfactory labour for the rural industries, which I believe will play an important part in our war and post-war economy. At present the people of Queensland are paying from ls. 6d. to 2s. per lb. for vegetables grown in southern States although Queensland has thousands of acres of land suitable for the production of all the commodities it requires. I had intended to refer to Australia’s achievements since Japan entered the war, but I shall not do so now, because I am convinced that honorable senators generally know of the splendid work that has been done. Various works which have been carried’ out in Queensland during the last six or eight months reflect great credit on those who were responsible for them. Roads, runways and other works have been constructed where previously such facilities did not exist. These undertakings have been carried out efficiently and expeditiously, and have done rauch to strengthen Australia’s defences. Remembering these things, I can only assume that those who disparage Australia’s war effort cannot be acquainted with what has been accomplished. A great job has been done. Should the war last for any considerable time, our resources will be taxed to the utmost, and therefore it is incumbent on the Government to see that no wastage occurs. Particularly is that so in connexion with the man-power of this country. Essentia] industries must be carried on in the most efficient way if our war effort is to be as effective as possible.
I shall not impinge on a debate which is to take place in connexion with our war effort, but when I hear people talk about sending more men out of this country, I am reminded that only a short time ago, when the danger of invasion was imminent, we faced a great problem in bringing some of them back to defend this country. I believe that Australia is not yet out of the wood.
– I am not so concerned about the Government as I am for the safety of Australia. I believe that we are still in grave danger of an invasion by Japanese forces. Japan is a country with tremendous resources, and those directing its affairs would not be concerned greatly at the loss of a few thousand men, should it be found that an invading force could not hold this country. As a motion which has been foreshadowed will give every honorable senator an opportunity to discuss Australia’s war effort, I shall not say more on that subject at this stage. I shall content myself with saying that there is need for the greatest care to be exercised in the defence of Australia. In this crisis, the newspapers of Australia have not given either the Government or the nation fair treatment. At no time in Australia’s history have its newspapers sunk so low in the criticism of public men and of politics generally.
– They have given the present Government a wonderful spin.
– It is regrettable that influential interests should act as they have done. I do not believe that all the patriotism and. intelligence of this Parliament is concentrated in supporters of the Government; I believe that every honorable senator, irrespective of party, is genuinely concerned about the future of this country. I also believe that, because of the bitterness of the struggle in which we are now engaged, it will take the best endeavours of every Australian for us to retain our freedom. I am not one who believes that the Avar must soon end in a victory for Britain and its allies. I do believe that Ave shall eventually win, because the people of Australia and their allies are prepared to make every sacrifice necessary to retain their freedom ; but it is a time for calm reasoning. The Government has endeavoured to secure the assistance of all sections of the community. It has been particularly concerned that the workers in organized industries shall realize the danger confronting Australia and the tremendous task that lies ahead. I am convinced that, if the position be made clear to the people, they will make whatever effort is necessary for success, so that Australia may become the great country which we all wish it to be.
– I shall direct my remarks particularly to matters relating to man-power problems. I should like the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) to bring before his colleagues in the Cabinet, particularly those who, either directly or indirectly, are concerned with man-power problems, some aspects of this subject. In my opinion, the available man-power is not being put to its best use. Last year, the harvesting of the various fruit crops in Tasmania caused considerable difficulties, and I fear a repetition of those difficulties this year. Already, the small fruits crop is practically finished, but soon the apple and pear crop will be ready for picking. In the River Murray irrigation areas a similar problem will soon arise, if it has not already arisen, in connexion with the dried fruits industry. In this connexion, the Government would do well to follow the example set by the authorities in the United Kingdom, where last year troops were used to harvest various crops. In Kent, for instance, certain regiments were given leave from military duties for periods up to five weeks in order to harvest various crops. In a report which I read recently, the Army authorities in Great Britain stated that, not only had the men done an extraordinarily fine job in the harvesting of various crops, but also that the break from military routine had improved them physically, mentally and morally. That was because they knew that they were doing a job of vital importance. The whole scheme was carried out without undue interference with their training. We hear a good deal about co-operation and co-ordination in our war effort. Here is one way in which the services of men in the Army could be utilized with advantage to themselves and the nation. I say with regret that in some units in Tasmania the men are pretty nearly bored stiff. In many instances they- are not getting the training they should be getting. Such men should be switched over to do this job of work. It would do both the nation and the troops themselves a lot of good. It would overcome the difficulty which arose last year, when hundreds of thousands of bushels of firstclass fruit had to be left lying on the ground because of lack of sufficient labour for harvesting and packing. I urge the Leader of the Senate to take up this matter with responsible Ministers. I am certain that, having regard to the fact that the Army mind, as a rule, is ultraconservative, the Army authorities will be inclined to say that troops cannot be released for this purpose. That is utter nonsense, because, if any organization is able to carry out a job of national importance it is the Army. The Army leaders can say to the men, “Growl you may, but go you must”. It is simply a matter of cooperation between the Army authorities and the various Ministers associated with the direction of man-power. By doing as I suggest we shall save the tremendous waste which, unfortunately, took place last year. Now is the time to get on with this job, because the position in the orchards is very acute, particularly in the Murray River district. The fruit will not wait to be taken off. I believe that this job can be done with the cooperation of the Army authorities in the way I suggest.
– I shall make a note of the honorable member’s suggestion.
. - First, I wish to express my appreciation to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) for his courtesy in making available to all honorable senators a copy of his speech on this motion the day after he delivered it. I, personally, appreciate that action very much. It has been of great assistance to me. The motion reads -
That the Senate, at this its first meeting in the year 1943, in the fourth year of war with Germany and Italy, and in the second year of war with Japan, declares -
1 ) Australia’s indissoluble unity with the British Commonwealth of Nations, its unswerving loyalty to the cause of the United Nations and its admiration for the heroic efforts of the allied forces ;
All honorable senators will agree with that part of the motion. Personally, I feel proud of the work that has been done and the victories that have been gained by our allied forces during the last few weeks. The second part of the motion reads -
That statement is very far reaching, and one with which every body in Australia will agree. We are justly proud of the achievements of our forces, particularly the victories which have been gained by our own soldiers in Papua and New Guinea as well as overseas, at sea and in the air. We express unbounded thanks for all that they have done for “this country and for us. Therefore, all will agree that everything should be done for the rehabilitation of those men and women who will return and for the dependants of those who fall by the wayside. I take this opportunity to. bring to the notice of the Government a matter dealing with repatriation which requires immediate attention and which I hope will be provided for in the proposed amending Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill. This matter has been brought to my notice on a number of occasions. It concerns the difficult position of a man who has not been in an operational area, but is discharged as medically unfit. Under the present act, I am informed, he cannot be assisted by the Repatriation Department, and, at the same time, he cannot be assisted by the Army authorities during the period in which he is convalescing. This matter concerns quite a number of men who were accepted as medically fit. When they are discharged as medically unfit, they are thrown upon their own meagre resources. That anomaly must be rectified. I am sure that no government meant to overlook such cases. Therefore, I hope that provision to cover these men will be made in the amending repatriation legislation. The repatriation authorities should be enabled to help them, or they should be continued on the strength of the Army, until they are fit to work.
I pay tribute to the excellent work that is being done by the Volunteer Defence Corps, and, particularly, to the members of that organization for voluntarily undertaking military training. When first formed quite a number of people looked upon the Volunteer Defence Corps as a sop to returned soldier organizations to enable them to build up some sort of a force. That body has now proved its worth. I am glad to say that in the majority of centres, the members of the Volunteer Defence Corps are now well equipped as well as being well trained. However, some difficulty is presented in dealing with a few men who have joined the Volunteer Defence Corps, and who, after attending a few drills, decline to continue to show full interest in their training. Some method should be evolved by which these men can be disciplined. I realize, of course, that it is very difficult to discipline members of a voluntary organization. Unfortunately, these men take advantage of their membership of the Volunteer Defence Corps and its uniform, but, at the same time, are not prepared to undertake their full obligations as members of that body. Mention of the work done by the Australian forces in this country reminds me of a remark I overheard on a railway station when I was coming down to Canberra for these sittings of Parliament. An American Army officer, an American naval officer and another man were talking, and I could not help overhearing what they said. The American officer, who has just come down from the north, said, “ What is this man Makin talking about, when he says that the Australian Labour party has saved Australia? Australia has been saved by the Australian soldiers and American aircraft”. I thought that that was true. I do not wish to criticize the Government or individual Ministers, but that casual conversation which I overheard on a railway station showed what wa3 thought by one of our allied service men of continuous claims made in the press and over the air by responsible Ministers, such as the Minister for the Navy, that the Labour Government was solely responsible for saving Aus tralia. In those few words that American officer put the position very truthfully and concisely.
The third paragraph of the motion expresses our determination to use the whole of the man-power and material resources of the nation in order to ensure the maximum war effort necessary to bring about victory, and, arising therefrom, to provide the requisite measures to promote the national welfare of the whole of the Australian people. We can all definitely agree with that. Whilst my ideas of giving effect to it may not coincide with those of the Government, I do not wish any criticism that I may make to be construed as hostile, but I want, if possible, to do my share in giving effect to the motion, and to assist those who are giving their all to - save this country and our allies in this global war. Equality of sacrifice as mentioned by Senator Brown is highly desirable, but it is impossible to obtain equality of sacrifice in a war such as we are now waging. There can be no sacrifice equal to that of the man or woman who gives his or her life. Few sacrifices can be equal to those made by some who are maimed, disfigured or blinded, but we can aim at some equality of sacrifice in the money that we contribute, the work that we do, the production for which we are responsible, and the general contribution that we make to the common pool for waging this war from behind the lines. In those directions, we must give the utmost- of which we are capable. We must have finance to carry on the manufacture of munitions, and to provide the necessary equipment. There is at present, however, no equality of sacrifice as regards finding finance for the common pool. The national income of the Commonwealth for the last year was . estimated at £850,000,000, about £590,000,000 of which was earned by approximately 2,780,000 wage-earners with incomes under £400 a year. The total number of income-earners in the Commonwealth is approximately 3,100,000, and they provide in direct’ taxation approximately £92,000,000. The 320,000 income-earners receiving £400 a year and over made a contribution of approximately £70,000,000 towards that £92,000,000, which works out at roughly three-quarters of the amount.
In other words, one-tenth of the incomeearners supplied three-quarters of the total amount of approximately £92,000,000 put into the common pool by direct taxation. Government supporters will say that many of the incomes above the £400 mark were large and those earning them could afford to put more into the pool, which I grant, but we should compare contributions with what corresponding income-earning groups in Great Britain and New Zealand have paid into their common pools. Those in the £100 a year group in Australia do not contribute anything under our uniform taxation legislation; in the United Kingdom, with its income tax and post-war credit legislation, they do not pay anything; and in New Zealand they pay £13. On the £200 a year group the uniform tax in Australia is £8, the income tax and postwar credit contribution in Great Britain is £33, and in New Zealand it is £25. From the £300 a year group the contribution in Australia is £32, in Great Britain £66, and in New Zealand, £54. A person on an income of £400 a year paying £57 under the uniform taxation scheme in this country would pay fillin the United Kingdom by way of income tax and contributions to post-war credits, and £83 in New Zealand. On those figures I claim that most people in this country are not making a sacrifice equal to that being made by the people of other allied nations. On the higher income ranges, however, the position is rather different. I shall cite for the information of honorable senators a particularly glaring case which has come to my notice. It concerns a resident of Queensland who received a very high income, namely, £10,291. His State income tax amounted to £3,652 12s. 6d., State development tax, £376 9s. 3d., and federal income tax, £7,002 8s. lid. As the total taxation exceeded the 18s. in the £1, he received a rebate on his federal income tax of £865 2s. Id., making his final contribution to federal taxation revenue £6,137 16s. lOd. Thus his total taxes amounted to £10,166 18s. 7d., which left him a net income of approximately £125. I cite that case to show that from a purely financial point of view, there is no equality of sacrifice in this country. I have the greatest sympathy for men and women who during the depression years either had no jobs at all, or had only limited employment, and who to-day receive substantial wages. No doubt they wish to purchase all the things that they were denied in earlier years, but at a time like this we cannot afford to risk leaving large amounts of money in the hands of the people. The country needs all surplus moneys to provide war equipment. Also, the supply of goods is not adequate to meet the demands, that fact and the existence of a large surplus of spending power in the community forces the prices up to extraordinary levels. As an instance of that, I draw attention to a report which appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail recently, stating that five enamel saucepans had brought £6 8s. at a lost property auction sale. That shows that the money is available and that the people having ample spending power are prepared to pay extraordinary prices. Only a limited quantity of hardware goods such as saucepans is available to the community, and on following this matter up, I have found that the difficulty, at least so far as small wholesalers are concerned, is in distribution. In the case of one wholesaler, the Prices Commissioner issued an instruction that he must not uncase or re-sort any lots sent from the manufacturers in Sydney. As only large retailers want case lots, the small business man is not able to get any supplies at all. Representations have been made in regard to the matter, and I have brought the question to the notice, of the Minister for Trade and Customs. It has been pointed out by these people that their clients are scattered throughout Queensland, and if they are not allowed to break case lots, it will mean that only the large firms in the cities will receive supplies. The distribution of essential commodities will be seriously curtailed, with the result that people in country districts will not be able to obtain Ohe goods at all.
I should like to say a few words with regard to the Allied Works Council, which I consider is undoubtedly doing a remarkable job. I have found, however, that members of our military forces feel that the payment of high wages to the Civil Constructional Corps is creating class distinction. They say, “ We are doing the same work as the members of the Civil Constructional Corps in the north of Australia. We are under strict military discipline, and we receive a fixed rate of pay, with no extra for overtime, yet we read in the newspapers that workmen engaged on undertakings for the Allied Works Council are receiving very high wages “. According to a newspaper report it was stated at the Allied Works Council inquiry at Sydney that a canteen manager was receiving £17 2s., his assistant £15, a chef £32, a butcher £24 and kitchen men up to £23 a week. I am merely dealing with this matter to show that our soldiers, many of whom have been compulsorily enlisted., have a cause for discontent when they read of the huge sums that are being earned by civilians who are doing similar work. No doubt the men whose wages I have quoted had to work long hours of overtime to make such large sums, but that does not come into ray argument at all. The fact is that they are doing the same work as our soldiers and are receiving very much more for it. Once again it is a demonstration of the lack of equality of sacrifice, and such a state of affairs is not calculated to spread a feeling of unity. The soldiers feel that they arc doing their share, but that many others are profiting by the fact that the country is at war. I would suggest the formation of a labour corps with provision for the payment of higher rates similar to those paid in the Army, for technical and skilled work. Such a corps could be under a form of military control, and I am sure that a much better feeling would be created throughout Australia. I deplore the fact that members of the present Government sometimes claim credit for everything that has been done in connexion with Australia’s magnificent war effort. It must be admitted, however, that prior to the advent of the present Government to office fifteen months ago, the foundations for the war effort were laid by its predecessor. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 2nd February, stated -
Australian-built Planes. - In just two years Australian factories manufactured their first Beaufort torpedo bomber. No bomber has been built from drawing-board to test flight in such fi short period in Britain, the United States, or Canada.
We all feel proud of Australia’s great record in aircraft production, which has been made possible because of the skill aud initiative of Australian technicians, but surely the whole of the planning for the production of the Beaufort torpedo bomber and the training of the necessary technical staff occurred during the regime of the previous Government. Instead of Ministers trying to take the credit for what lias been accomplished in the past, they should concentrate their attention on building for the future. Only twelve or eighteen months ago certain members of the present Ministry spoke of taking over the whole of the works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, but nothing has been done in that direction. I am sure that even the present Government realizes that those large engineering and steel works have been of immense benefit to the Commonwealth, particularly in its war effort.
On the subject of man-power, I propose to refer to the shipyard strike which occurred in Brisbane on the 9th January last. Although many strikes have occurred in this country, I should say that fully 90 per cent, of the workers who unfortunately have been called out on strike, are 100 per cent, behind the war effort, and desire to do their utmost to. assist in the prosecution, of the war. They do not realize how serious a matter is a strike among a body of men engaged in an essential industry. I have no doubt that in many instances the hold-ups have been caused by discontented leaders. If these leaders could be severely dealt with there would be little or no disruption of industry. The dispute in Brisbane to which I have referred was between members of the Ironworkers and Boilermakers Unions and a sub-contractor at a fittingout basin at the shipyard over the rostering of “ block “ work. A report published in the press read as follows : -
A statement issued last night by officials of the Ironworkers and Boilermakers’ Unions declared that the members thought that the bold-up could have been avoided if the employers and man-power officials had taken a realistic view of the original question in dispute. “ Although one of the unions has received advice from the south that the man-power authorities will suggest a course of action to overcome the difficulty, the suggested action has not yet been placed before the unions,” the statement added. “ Despite the fact that it is alleged that a conference will be held on Monday afternoon, our members are convinced that the time for strike action decided on by the Ironworkers’ Union gave the employers and manpower officials ample time to arrange a conference before the strike takes place on Monday. “ The unions would welcome a conference, because they already have had numerous delegations wait on the man-power officials and the employer concerned with solutions to settle the dispute, but none of these has met with success.”
That dispute originated between two unionists over the rostering of “block” work. A compulsory conference was called on Wednesday, the 13th January, and by that time 700 men. were idle. On the 15th January the union leaders refused to allow the union to go before the Arbitration Court, and on the 16th January 1,000 men were out of work. A report was called for by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), and on the 21st January a compulsory conference, presided over by Sir William Webb, was held, and an order was made that the men should return to work. Eventually, on the 23rd January, the work was resumed. During that period 35,000 man-hours were lost on a most important job. About that time the Sydney Daily Telegraph published the following news item from New York:-
The Germans are building submarines faster than the Allies can destroy them, says Hanson Baldwin in the Vew York Times. . . Discussing anti-submarine measures, Baldwin adds : “ We must speed up production of escort vessels. Hundreds have been planned, but scarcely any have been delivered.”
It seems extraordinary that when the world is desperately short of the vessels needed to escort merchant ships, and when we in Australia are hard pressed for shipping, we should lose 35,000 manhours because of a dispute caused by two unionists. The man-power authorities should endeavour to do realistic work by preventing such disputes. As Sir William Webb pointed out, those who cause men to stop work are sabotaging the war effort. If the Labour organizers who induce men to go out on strike were made an example of, such disastrous losses could be avoided. I agree wholeheartedly with the Leader of the Senate that it is not right that children should be brought into this world merely to be used as “cannon fodder” - a term that I greatly dislike. All of us who are of the last war generation are in some measure responsible for present world conditions; some are more to blame than are others. During the last twenty years many have refused to face facts ; they have been content to believe that everything would come out all right. Now they find almost the whole world engaged in a terrific conflict which is making heavy demands on the peoples of all countries. If we learn from the mistakes made during the last twenty years, and put those lessons into practice in the future, we shall do well. My own opinion is that, for some generations at least, it will be necessary to maintain armed forces in order to secure freedom from further wars; I believe that we shall have to be thoroughly prepared if we are to avoid further conflicts. If we learn that lesson, the present war will not have been entirely in vain.
From time to time members of the Labour party use the slogan “One in, all in “. I, too, am a great believer in that principle. Particularly at this time in the history of our nation it should be a case of “ One in, all in “. If all political parties shared the responsibilities of government in war-time, we should get better results than are now being obtained. In such an event the happenings of the last week-end would not have occurred; we should have been able to iron out our difficulties by discussing them in a friendly manner. I urge the members of the Labour party to give effect to the principle underlying their slogan by joining with other parties in governing the country at least for the duration of the war.
– The statement before us appears to be somewhat like a bare bone, on which there is not much at which we can bite - something given to us to fill in time while major measures are being prepared by the Government for submission to the Parliament. It is true that the statement contains phrases to which no exception can be taken; there is some’ evidence of a proper humility on the part of the Government, and gratitude to those who are defending this country and preserving the freedom of its people; as well as a spirit of loyalty. These and other sentiments in the statement should not be challenged.
The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) was good enough to suggest that honorable senators might regard the statement as offering something in the nature of an address-in-reply debate. I, therefore, take the opportunity to offer a few observations on matters which, I think, should exercise the minds of public men, and all who have been watching world events during recent years. I listened with interest to Senator Cooper who, in his own delightful and inimitable manner, reviewed the world situation and expressed hopes for the future - ‘hopes which also were expressed in eloquent language in the statement submitted to us on behalf of the Government. Similar high aspirations were voiced 2,000 years before Christ. In the days of Hammurabi some endeavour was made to provide a measure of social security to the people, and since then efforts have been made from time to time to ensure peace among the peoples of the world. In our own time, the nations made what many thought was a practical step in that direction ; but in our day, as in earlier periods of the world’s history, disturbers in the persons of men like Hitler, Mussolini, and Togo have arisen. From time immemorial men like them have disturbed the world. They had been actuated by a desire for world domination, by jealousy or some equally unworthy motive. They have attempted to inflict their will on the people by force. Men and women who wish to see civilization move forward smoothly towards Che desired goal, particularly those of us who are responsible for the government of this and other countries and, as such, are charged with influencing the minds of the people and deciding the methods to be adopted, should be careful to see that nothing is done which will undermine the institutions and traditions of the British people. We have inherited that love of freedom which gave to our ancestors Magna Charta and, with it, a judicial system which recognizes the right of every man. We should be jealous to preserve those institutions, particularly, the supremacy and integrity of parliament. I feel a certain amount of humiliation in this respect when I have regard for some recent events. Upon us has been thrust the responsibility of governing the people, and any action which tends to weaken our position must be entirely deprecated. It will only react upon the whole system of government throughout the community. I deplore the fact that some recent events have brought about a weakening of parliamentary authority in this country. One cannot help noticing that decline spreading throughout the length and breadth of the land. Men refuse to exercise certain powers; they are becoming afraid of each other in connexion with the administration of affairs. We should reflect upon this matter, and without consideration of party or the persons handling the affairs of government, we should be very careful indeed not to obtrude into our governmental system the rule of any body outside Parliament.
Much has been said in this debate concerning the problem of man-power. Honorable senators will recollect that many months before the present Government assumed office I pointed out the danger that was overtaking us in this respect. That danger is now manifest at every turn, but, probably, to a greater degree in the primary industries than in any other industries. I happen to live in a dairying district. Recently, in that district, one of the finest herds of cattle in Victoria, consisting of from 250 to 300 stud beasts, which had been tested and proved free from every defect, was broken up and disposed of because the owner was unable to obtain sufficient man-power to look after it. Bearing in mind the difficulties besetting the dairying industry through lack of man-power, one cannot help wondering whither we are heading; whether there is any national survey being made with respect to manpower. This is a global war; our efforts in these matters should be on a global plane also. We propose to do this and that, and to manufacture numerous articles. To-day, we are already experiencing a shortage of steel for certain military and civilian purposes. At the same time, despite our shortage of manpower, we are embarking upon shipbuilding. Such a state of affairs makes one wonder whether those in authority realize that ‘this is a global war. India, which is only a. few thousand miles away, has one of the greatest steel works in the world; but, although that country possesses the necessary man-power, it has millions of unemployed. Those people must be harnessed to the war effort because India produces many commodities which we need here and cannot produce in sufficient quantity, whilst, at the same time, it looks to us for supplies of foodstuffs. Why should we embark on shipbuilding, in which we have had little or no experience, and, at the same time, ignore our primary industries the products of which are needed throughout the world, and will certainly be required to relieve starvation in occupied countries ax the conclusion of hostilities ? Why should we embark upon industries which are alien to our economy, and, at the same time, fail to give due attention to those industries which are capable of producing the food that will be required for the relief of starvation throughout the world in the years to come? I agree with Senator Cooper that some of our industrialists are doing a marvellous job on work that is absolutely essential to our defence and our conduct of the war. But it does not seem wise that we should embark upon new industries of this kind when millions of unemployed are available in India to undertake them, and at a time when we are scraping to obtain sufficient men to produce foodstuffs. In view of these facts we should revise our policy with respect to man-power for primary industries. I have just studied a brochure issued last month in New York under it reliable authority which visualizes that the great United States of America might soon experience a shortage of food supplies for its own people. The urgency of that view is emphasized by reason of the proximity of the United States to Argentina and Brazil which are big producers of food. Such a state of affairs should make us reflect upon our position in this respect, and should awaken us to a realization of our responsibility to our kith and kin overseas. I suppose we have done all we can, having regard to the shipping facilities available; but the time is fast coming, as this war runs to its end, when we shall witness a heartrending spectacle brought about by starvation in the occupied countries of Europe. We know already of the deprivations which citizens of those countries have suffered under the rule of the enemy. We readily recall Goering’s statement that whoever starves the Germans will not. Incidentally, the Germans are having a taste of their own medicine in Russia, where they have experienced shortages of food supplies. I was amazed to note during this debate a hint that our chief enemy was making peace gestures to China. I am happy to say that the Chinese Generalissimo and his advisers have rejected those overtures. It will be exceedingly dangerous for us and our allies if China is forced out of the war. China needs food from us just as much as India. Due to starvation people are dying like flies in China. We have had ample evidence of China’s difficulties to-day owing to shortages of food brought about by the ravages of war. Yet China has millions of unemployed who could be harnessed to the allied war production effort if we could only devise some organization for that purpose in that country.
Another subject which I mention with some diffidence and delicacy concerns the payment of overtime in industry. Under the stress of urgent production it may be necessary for a time to provide for such payments. This overtime business appears to me to-day to be an inducement to people not to give an all-out effort during the ordinary hours of work, but to look for that extra remuneration which may be got by working overtime. To the young man without home responsibilities and affiliations this undoubtedly makes an appeal. No one in this chamber or elsewhere can deny that that sort of thing is happening. It is a question which the Government will shortly have to take into most careful consideration, in order to decide what is to be done in regard to it. Payment for overtime is an excellent principle, but it has that real and present danger behind it which is having its effect upon the war effort of Australia.
Senator Brown discussed .the question of releasing accurate information on the progress of the war. It is one on which I personally hold strong views, which I have expressed to members of the Government and in this chamber. I feel that a great number of our people do not quite understand yet the full significance of what, we are fighting for and the fatal effect, that defeat of the allies and ourselves would have upon their freedom, and the future of this country. Occasionally J see published in the press accounts of grave things done by the men whom we are fighting against in the north.- They are supposed to be civilized. They have a veneer of civilization but it is very shallow, and I hate to contemplate the results to the civilian population of this country in the event of its conquest. Our people, however, seem to feel a great degree of security. They are confident, that the old Mother Country and the United States of America are invincible in these waters. I think that they are, but I put it to the Prime Minister that if a war effort is wanted he must inform the public of the facts. He must make every man, v.’ oman and child understand what will happen to them if we lose the war. Some of us know the fate that would await them. We know what this country stands for. We heard that distinguished gentleman who represented this country so well in Japan describe the outlook and ideals of the Japanese people. We have already had a taste of how difficult it is to displace them from the islands they have occupied. Recently I read an account by a man named Parr, an electrical engineer, who travelled across the Pacific just before the war, of the wonderful works that the Americans put up in the Philippine Islands, which they occupied and financed. When one thinks of the materials that are available to these enemies of our3 in the north, and of what they did in Buna, which we recently recaptured from them, the resistance they put up when they fought on for twenty days without food, we must realize that they are people with whom we have to deal in a manner that will prevent them coming into the arena again. These things are not brought home to our people. There is no necessity for scare-mongering, but people should know the fate that awaits this country and New Zealand if the Allies fail in this war. That is not brought home to them. The atrocities that the Japanese have already perpetrated are not sufficiently described. Our people are not told of the treatment received. by prisoners of war from the Japanese, and it is not realized how cunning they are. I have heard of a man who was associated with me in business and who was managing a company in Singapore. When the war broke out he refused to leave his post and is in Singapore to-day. We endeavoured to broadcast to him from Calcutta, and some of our staff, all of whom got away from Singapore, sent messages to him, but for weeks there was no word from him, until last week when news came over the air from him that he was still alive but had lost weight, and a few other details which I will not go into. The fact remains that our enemies have taken possession of all our equipment at Singapore, saying to all those who remained, “ Go on and work those things for us ; we will use them for the defence of this country “. The Japanese are raising the British floating dock which was sunk at Singapore and are going to try to establish themselves there as a strong nation in that area. There is, of course, another method of strategy, which an honorable senator mentioned, of striking right home at their vitals. That is the strategy I believe in that will bring the Japanese to their knees; *“it in the meantime I join with Senator Brown in pressing the Government to bring the war more realistically before the people of Australia, so that they may understand .what we and their sons are endeavouring to preserve for them
There is a reference on this “ bone “ to postwar reconstruction. He would be an extraordinarily wise man who could visualize the after-war world. If, as Senator Cooper suggests, we are to have peace for all time, that will be one thing; but if, on the other hand, it is to be an armed, world - and I am inclined to the opinion at the moment that for some considerable time it will be - that is another problem altogether. The great Atlantic Charter to which the Prime
Minister has subscribed on behalf of the Commonwealth, in common with the representatives of other dominions, practically dictates the policy that we must adopt after the war, but it does not grapple with that problem at all. It appears to assume that the world is going to be one of peace. . I suggest that whatever inquiries are made regarding post-war reconstruction should be made on statistical lines. We should not commit ourselves to any active policy in regard to it. It may be, as I indicated in this chamber on other occasions, that our primary industries will flourish under the Atlantic Charter. I notice in my letter-box this morning a warning from the new secretary of the Australian Industries Preservation League regarding the future of our secondary industries, some of which have of necessity been built up owing to the urgency of our war situation. It may be that, whilst our primary industries will flourish, the fate of some of our secondary ones will be very different. If we are going to maintain an even balance in the world, and to keep those friendships which we have made, the nations which are our friends will expect to trade with this country. They are much more highly industrialized than we are, and the trade which they will expect to do with us will cause considerable trouble to some of our minor industries at all events. Under the Atlantic Charter there is going to be, in regard to tariffs and all that sort of thing, a modicum of control which may place it beyond our power to protect some of those industries. The problem is an extraordinarily difficult one. The Government has already taken some steps in regard to the repatriation of our soldiers, but to try to visualize what the world is going to be after this war defies the cleverest in our ranks or in those of our allies. Having said so much in a general way, I shall offer some criticism of the Government’s administration. It appears to me that the present occupants of the treasury bench are completely lacking in business acumen. We have had the example of the handling of the wheat industry. Apparently that industry is in a serious condition, but I venture to suggest that the situation could be easily and swiftly remedied. Then there is the meat industry, in connexion with which we have heard something this afternoon. There is also the potato industry, conditions in which illustrate the folly of permitting men to deal with matters, about which they know practically nothing. A few months ago it was impossible to get a potato in any of the leading hotels in Melbourne and Sydney, and the Government entered into an agreement to pay growers £8 a ton for potatoes. What would any ordinary man expect to happen iri these circumstances ? He would expect just what has happened. At that time a man came to me and said that if he could have a. piece of my land to plant potatoes he would halve the proceeds with me. I was not keen to have potatoes planted, although the land may have been quite suitable, and I informed him that he might strike some trouble in his venture. He said that everything would be all right because the Government had guaranteed £8 a ton. He added that if I did not like the proposition of going halves with him in the venture, he would lease the land at £4 an acre and carry out the project himself. I told him that I would think the matter over after he had obtained the Government’s sanction and the promise of an adequate supply of seed. The land he wanted was only about 20 or 30 acres in extent. As it turned out he did not get the seed, ‘but just let us examine for a moment what his proposal was. The land was worth probably £20 an acre, yet, incited by the Government’s promise of £8 a ton for potatoes, he was prepared to pay a rental of £4 an acre. The same trouble arose a few years ago when there was a “grow more wheat “ campaign. The farmers were not promised any specific price, except that, as ex-member for Calare, Mr. Gibbons, who was not a Minister, told them that they would get 6s. or 7s. a bushel. The result was that the farmers grew much more wheat than was required. No doubt the Government will pay £8 a ton for potatoes as it has contracted to do, but I would not like to be the farmer who has to put his potatoes on the grid on which they are graded by a government inspector. Probably, like the apple crop, the potatoes will be ploughed into the soil during the ensuing winter. Every man who knows how to handle a spade is growing potatoes in suitable, and even unsuitable, localities.
– The Government will lose one-half of the potatoes.
– The Government will be lucky if it gets out of the present situation without having to face a series of lawsuits. The bluepeas crop also is a remarkable example of incapacity in matters of administration, and if the growers have their wits about them, the Government will be compelled by judicial tribunals to pay a just price. I am told that the Government paid considerably more to get ‘blue peas into this country than it has given to the Tasmanian growers. These men have the law on their side, for which they can thank the Constitution of Australia which has not yet been altered, and they are in a position to obtain redress. Matters such as that show a shocking lack of common business knowledge. There is another gentleman whose departmental administration, particularly in regard to clothing, has caused considerable confusion. In fact, I am reminded of the following very appropriate lines by W. S. Gilbert : -
A house without a roof, my friend,
A ship without a sail;
But the funniest thing of all I saw
Was a shirt without a tail.
Stupid little interferences with industry achieve nothing. The absence of cuffs on the bottoms of trousers matters very little, although it saves some cloth, but the confusion which has occurred in connexion with the provision of waistcoats is inexcusable.When the “ Victory suit “ style was first introduced, tailors were not permitted to supply waistcoats, but not long afterwards that order was countermanded and tailors were frantically ringingup customers telling them that they could have waistcoats if they so desired. That is the type of maladministration from which this country is suffering. Unfortunately, much of the administration of these matters is in the hands of bureaucrats in Canberra who know nothing about the outside world. I. realize that Ministers are heavily burdened by war-time duties, but heaven knows they have enough followers and advisers who have had some business experience to put them wise regarding the effect of their various acts upon the public generally. I am afraid that Ministers frequently act without thinking. I mention these matters because they are typical of the problems which are disturbing the public mind. Another example is to be found in rationing, and the Minister for Trade and Customs is not entirely blameless in that regard. I understand that on the 15th June the present ration books will become invalid.What will be the result of that? I venture to say that at least in the metropolitan centres of Australia people will rush to the shops prior to that date and buy large quantities of goods that they do not require. The orgy of spending prior to the introduction of rationing is still fresh in our minds. No doubt rationing is essential in war-time, but it should have been introduced without prior notification.
The Government has given an indication of what it proposes to do for our returned soldiers. I am heartily in accord with doing something for them, because I regard the men who have gone overseas as the salt of this country. They deserve well of us, and we should be doing something for them to-day. We must realize how poorly they are paid compared with the men and women employed in the munitions factories. The latter are rolling in wealth as compared with the men who have been fighting our battles in Buna and elsewhere overseas. Our soldiers should be the best paid of all Australians, yet they are the worst paid. The men who have been shouldering tommy guns and other automatic weapons, and crawling through the jungles of Papua and New Guinea, ought to be respected, andI have no doubt that on an appropriate occasion they will make themselves respected in the affairs of this country. We say pleasant things about the members of the fighting services, and give decorations to them, but they are not to be bought by promises. We should look at this matter in the broadest possible way, and see that justice is done to these men. while they are still living. I was about to say that the soldiers had asked for bread and had received a stone. I have never heard them clamour for anything, but they are to receive an ornamental stone. I sincerely trust that it will not be a headstone.
I implore the Government to give most earnest attention to the man-power problem. The fa-ct that the people engaged in the dairying industry are disposing of their herds bears eloquent testimony to the gravity of the situation. That industry cannot be carried on because the necessary labour is not available. Members of the Women’s Land Army have, to a slight degree, overcome the shortage of labour on the farms, but some of the work is scarcely suitable for women. I cannot help expressing my sympathy with those engaged in the dairying industry. The position is particularly serious in Victoria, and South Australia. Complaints are heard about rural industrial awards, but grievances of that kind could be adjusted if only the necessary labour were available. It is most important in the interests of the health of the rising generation that an adequate milk supply should be provided. Senator Gibson informed me a few days ago that many Victorian dairymen were turning out their cows and calves. According to Senator Uppill, much of the hay in South Australia has not yet been carted owing to the shortage of labour. Of course, the hay is not for human consumption. These matters, although not of great importance politically, are of great importance to the world, because when the war has ended all the resources of every country will be needed to preserve civilization against such an upheaval in Europe, and possibly in the United States of America also, as the world has never previously known.
– in reply - The speech to which we have just listened strikes me as being one of the least valuable, as well as the most insincere, which has ever been delivered in this chamber. The honorable senator spoke for about three-quarters of an hour, but he did not offer ‘one item of constructive criticism. His speech can only be -described as words, words, words. As the Minister who initiated this discussion I have -the duty to reply to the honorable senators who have spoken, and I propose to do so.
I shall take ‘first the speech of Senator A. J. McLachlan. The honorable senator began by saying that there was no occasion to express our loyalty because no one doubted it ; but during the course of his speech he said that something was necessary in order to awaken the people of Australia to the seriousness of the situation confronting them. Obviously in the opinion of the honorable senator the loyalty of some persons in the community needs to be stirred up, even if it be not necessary to pass a definite resolution in this chamber affirming our loyalty.
– The Minister misunderstood me. I referred to the need to stir up the people, not to a sense of loyalty, but to a sense of danger.
– Having said that, the honorable senator then switched his remarks to post-war reconstruction; and in order that no enthusiasm should be left in any one who has ideas on the subject, he drew attention to the fact that similar pious aspirations had been voiced many centuries before Christ. He then proceeded to show that after the last war the late President Wilson of the United States of America was actuated by a similar purpose, but that despite his efforts nothing worth while was accomplished. If h’onora’ble senators can think of anything more diabolical in the way of rhetoric than to endeavour to destroy the enthusiasm of Ministers and of people outside the Parliament who have aspirations in regard to the period of post-war reconstruction I cannot. The honorable senator then referred to my statement about children being raised merely to provide “ cannon-fodder “ for the next war. I shall return to that subject later. He proceeded to speak of man-Dower matters, and referred to the difficulties experienced in the dairying industry and in connexion with the raising and selling of stud stock. He told us many things which we already knew - things which have been the subject of exhaustive investigation by the Government with a view to rectifying matters. He spoke as though he and his colleagues on the other side of the chamber possessed all «the wisdom in the temple of knowledge, and insinuated that we on this side, who are charged with the responsibility of government, are ignoramuses who bungle everything we handle.
– “What has the Government done about these things?
– I shall deal with that matter in a moment. The honorable senator went on to say that in India there is a vast population which could be harnessed to manufacture steel, and that therefore we should give up “ monkeying about “ with Beaufort bombers.
– I did not mention Beaufort bombers.
– I admit the honorable senator did not use the term “monkeying about”. He did not at any stage use plain language, but indulged in linguistic pyrotechnics which did not mean anything. I made a note of the honorable member’s remarks while he was speaking, so let us see what he did say. He drew attention to the anarchy associated with production under the capitalist order of society. In every capitalist country production proceeds without any plan or rule, and consequently we find a country producing steel when it is more fitted to produce pineapples. The honorable senator himself is a shining example of the capitalist order. He said, “Why make certain things in this country ? “ In reply, I ask, “ Why make Hume pipes in this country ? “ On the honorable member’s reasoning there is no special reason why such pipes should be made in Australia, when there are gangs of slaves in semicivilized countries who could do the job more cheaply than we can do it here. For three-quarters of an hour the honorable senator recited the horrors associated with capitalist production, for which he stands. Having said that the Japanese were at our gates and that this country is in grave danger of invasion, he proceeded to relate what horrors would be perpetrated if the Japanese came here. He told us what would happen to our women and children. And because there happens to be in office at the moment a Labour government, he said, “Don’t worry about making steel “. We shall get on with the job of rectifying the errors which have accumulated during the centuries of rule by interests which the honorable senator represents and supports.
– I rise to a point of order. I take exception to the Minister’s misstatements. I did not use the words attributed to me.
– The honorable senator is not in order in interrupting the Minister. He should wait until the Minister has completed his speech, and should he then take exception to what has been said, I shall consider his objection.
– These interruptions are exceedingly clever.
– They at least give the Minister a chance to regain his ‘breath.
- Senator McBride is smiling now, but I shall deal with him later. Senator A. J. McLachlan is so disturbed at my criticism that he wilts under it. He cannot “take it”. He talked about the starvation that is imminent in Europe. He has not told us of anything we did not already know. We know all about that; but there was a good deal of actual starvation in this country for years during the regime of the government of which he was a member, and the best that government could do to find a way out of the difficulty of. actual local starvation was to provide the dole. The honorable senator also spoke of the difference between the pay of the soldiers and that of men employed by the Allied Works Council. He knows perfectly well that his comparisons in that respect are utterly unreasonable having regard to logic. He knows perfectly well that food, clothing and shelter are not provided for the men employed by the Allied Works Council, and that where these must be provided as is necessary in many camps the men pay for them. He knows perfectly well that the soldiers of to-day are being paid better by this Government than they were paid by the Government of which he was a member, and which dictated their wages for the first two years of the war.
– What did the Fisher Government pay to the soldiers?
- Senator A. J. McLachlan went back to a period before Christ. I shall not go back so far. In the Crimean War, the British Government paid its soldiers at the rate of 3d. a day ; and I am old enough to have seen the heroes of that war with legs and arms off, and eyes out, begging in the streets, and selling bootlaces in order to eke out an existence. Yet, for threequarters of an hour this afternoon, we have had to submit to the indignity of listening to the honorable senator’s sepulchral tones, raised now, then dropped, making our flesh creep at the injustice that this Government is inflicting upon our fighting men. This Government is the first in the history of this country to give the fighting man any hope. What did the Government, which honorable senators opposite supported, do for our fighting men? It sent them into battle ill equipped and untrained. It was left to this Government to supply them with equipment. Senator A. J. McLachlan then switched to the exceedingly ordinary subject of potatoes. He asked what had happened with respect to potatoes. What did happen? The fact is that the ordinary supply of potatoes in this country fell off considerably as the result of bad seasonal conditions. Another factor was that there came to this country, for which we were very grateful, tens of thousands of soldiers from overseas. They had to be fed. In addition, the shipping which was ordinarily available for coastal transport was either at the bottom of the sea, or engaged in carrying fighting men, munitions, and the engines of war, to distant parts of the continent. Much the same can he said about the railways. There was not so much a serious shortage of potatoes, as a shortage of the means of transport. The honorable senator knows that to be the truth, but he misrepresents it in order to paint a false picture for no higher motive .than to discredit politically the Government which he hates because it is a working-class government. The honorable senator went from potatoes to the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman). If there is one Minister in the present Government who is entitled to all that can be said in eulogy of his wonderful activities it is Mr. Dedman.
– He runs true to name.
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry is not the Cabinet; he is but one of nineteen Ministers. He has never done anything as Mr. Dedman. Everything he has done has been done with the full knowledge and approval of the Cabinet, and under Cabinet instructions. We have nothing but admiration for the wonderful job which he has done as head of the Department of War Organization of Industry. Senator A. J. McLachlan is very grieved because, on the occasion of visiting his tailor, which he could do without having to worry whether he would be able to pay the tailor, he found that the latter could not make him a suit with a waistcoat. I cannot think of a more diabolical calamity that could happen to man in this war, with the Japanese threatening to invade this country, than the fact that he has to sacrifice a waistcoat. But suddenly, as a result of the wisdom of this Government, the tailor was able to say to him : “ Do not worry; the Empire is not crumbling. Gabriel will not be abroad next week. The war is still on, but you can still get your waistcoat.” What a relief from horror for the honorable senator ! Let us see what actually happened with regard to waistcoats. We had to make sure that we should have sufficient uniforms for the ‘members of the fighting services.
– Those uniforms are not made of the same material as waistcoats.
– But they are made by the same class of labour, and honorable senators opposite say that we have not worried about that aspect. We decided that waistcoats should be dispensed with, along with mock bottoms on trousers, in order to conserve man-power and material. Finally, the Army authorities informed us that they had sufficient material and man-power on hand to meet the requirements of the members of the fighting services, and could see no reason why the Government could not release material for the manufacture of waistcoats. In order that I shall not be deprived of this opportunity to answer other honorable senators, I shall not waste further powder and shot on the honorable senator. I wish to pay a tribute to the speech delivered this afternoon by Senator Sampson. I am sure that some of his kind colleagues will convey to him the sad intelligence that at last he has earned the approval of the Leader of the Senate. He made an entirely thoughtful speech. He did not say one provocative word. He mentioned the question of man-power and of the difficulties with regard to labour for the orchards in Victoria and Tasmania, both as regards apples and pears, and soft fruits. He said that in the county of Kent, in the Old Country, the Army had made enough men available to go into the orchards and pick the fruit, that it was splendidly done, that the men, who were entirely bored with their humdrum existence, came back physically, morally and mentally better men. I thank Senator Sampson for that exceedingly valuable contribution to the debate. I have made a note of it, and can assure him that we are in constant touch with the chiefs of the fighting services to see just to what extent it is possible to continue our fighting effort at full capacity and at the same time release men for primary production. I wish also to pay a meed of praise to my Queensland colleague, Senator Cooper. He also made an exceedingly thoughtful speech, in which there was not a provocative word but some exceedingly good suggestions. These will not be lost sight of, although on the question of repatriation I assure him that the Minister (Mr. Frost) is exceedingly sympathetic, and that the whole of the Cabinet is watching matters very closely. I was also interested when Senator Cooper referred to the splendid work being done by the Volunteer Defence Corps, and the fact that some members of it seemed to be not quite so enthusiastic as they might be, and that perhaps something might be done to make them realize more thoroughly the great value of the contribution they are making to the war effort, in order that there should not be any suggestion of even those engaged in that arm of the work being slighted.
A good deal of use is being made in debate of the contributions made to the national revenue by the huge section of income earners at the bottom of the income scale. Senator Cooper, I think, fell quite unwittingly into what appears to me to be the error of making a comparison that has become quite usual, between the contributions made by those on similar rates of pay in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, and endeavouring to prove, as a final knockout, that one section of the community, although it gets a large percentage of the total national income, pays only a small proportion into the Consolidated Revenue. The facts with regard to this matter are very easily understandable. It is not what a man actually gets, what he parts with in the way of taxes, or whether we make him contribute something in the form of deferred payment which he collects later on, but how much he has when we are finished with him.
– What about the £125 that was left to a taxpayer out of an income of £10,000, as mentioned by Senator Cooper? He had a little over £2 a week to support himself and possibly a wife and family.
– I should like to have a look at those figures. There must be some error there - I am sure an unwitting error as far as Senator Cooper is concerned. If a man in Australia has an income of £10,000 a year, and we have taken from him everything but £125, he deserves the Victoria Cross, because he is making a wonderful contribution to the country’s war effort. Senator Cooper gave one illustration which I can understand - that at a recent sale of lost property in Brisbane a buyer paid £6 8s. for five enamelled saucepans. It was most unwise to pay so much, but enamelled saucepans have been “ frozen “, and. cannot be obtained except with the greatest difficulty. This was probably a housewife with a married daughter and a couple of married sons, who saw an opportunity to get some. The price did not matter, so long as she could relieve the absence of those saucepans from the families where babies’ food could not be safely cooked in anything else. Never a word of disapproval comes from any one on the Opposition side about the well-dressed unemployed who travel around the antique sales and pay hundreds of pounds for a Louis XIV. chair or something else. The press does not follow up such people. No remarks are made about them such as are made about a poor wife who gives £6 8s. for five enamelled saucepans. No remark is made about, shall I say, Lady Smith, who attends antique sales, and who in previous years, when transport was easier, visited foreign countries and paid huge sums for articles of very doubtful utility. Why are we not fair in matters of this kind ?I read only to-day that Miss Linda Darnell, one of the stars in Hollywood, gets £315 a week. Nobody decries that, although her country is at war, but when some worker, slaving his soulcase out on overtime at the request of the Government because of our need of his work, earns up to £25 or £30 as a week’s wages, our hands go up in pious horror and we say, “ This thing ought to be stopped “. Senator Cooper did not say that, but somebody else did, and I will reach him a little later. Senator Cooper, however, did speak of the shipyard strike in Queensland. That was very bad. All strikes while there is a war on are greatly to be regretted, but why not be honest? Why not tell all the story, because honorable senators opposite know it quite as well as I do? The miners have been on strike, and have lost so many hundred man-hours. The shipyard men have been on strike, and there is a great argument as to what it is all about, but it has been fixed up, and they have gone back to work after so many thousand man-hours have been lost. The fact, however, remains that the workers of this country are making a greater contribution per man to the war effort than are the workers of any other country. People who come to this country from overseas pay immediate tribute to the wonderful work that our people are doing. What is the truth in regard to coal production in Australia to-day? Production during the last twelve months has been a record. In spite of the strikes, in spite of the man-hours that have been lost, and in spite of the rotten, untruthful and unkind publicity that has been given to these matters by the press of this country, the fact remains that this year the miners have produced a greater quantity of coal than ever before in the history of this continent. It is true that there ha ve been strikes, but in Great Britain during this war there have been strikes not of hundreds, but of 12,000 miners at a time.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I ask the indulgence of the Senate, under Standing Order 408 to give me an opportunity to correct a statement which has been made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings). Apparently, the Minister misunderstood my observations, because at no time in the course of the speech which I delivered this afternoon did I suggest that we should not produce steel in this country. My suggestion was that because there were steelworks in India which could supply ample steel for the building of ships, shipbuilding could be embarked upon there more easily than in a country such as Australia, which had bad very little experience in shipbuilding. I point out, also, that in that connexion I made no reference to the construction in Australia of Beaufort bombers, or any other bombers. My remarks were directed entirely to shipbuilding.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 28th January (vide page 98), on motion by Senator
That in view of the Government’s action in fixing, through the Wheat Harvest Employment Commission, the wages and conditions of harvest employees, the Senate urges and recommends the Government to immediately determine and guarantee a fixed payable price to farmers for their products.
– Every honorable senator can support a motion such as this, but if the object of the mover be merely to appease the wheat-farmers, this motion will not suffice. I do not know whether the honorable senator intends to apply the principle embodied in the motion to every phase of agriculture, or only to wheat-growing. It would be more advantageous if we had before us a motion dealing with every kind of primary production. Does the honorable senator imagine that to-morrow or next week the
Government could fix a price for wheat that would satisfy all farmers engaged in the wheat industry? That would not solve the problem of the industry. For many years the interests of all primary producers have been neglected. I have always favoured prices for primary products that would compensate the farmers for their production costs and provide them with a sufficient margin to enable them to enjoy a reasonable standard of living; but we have yet to evolve a scheme that would enable those desirable conditions to be realized. If the price of wheat were increased by 4s. or os. a bushel, the production, of that commodity would be greatly increased, but the problems of the industry would remain with us, because we should be unable to find markets for the whole of the wheat. It is of no use to allow an increased production of wheat and to expect prices that will be payable to the farmers, unless the production is so controlled that it. does not exceed the quantity for which a market is obtainable.
Sufficient thought has not been given in the past to the subject of primary production. If the hardware merchants’ stores were full of pick handles, the manufacturers of those goods would not continue to produce them, and it is equally desirable that we should not produce wheat for which no market i3 available.
– Compare wheat with sugar.
– Many years ago an embargo was placed on the importation of sugar, and, because of the price fixed for sugar produced in Australia, the production of that article increased; but there has been no increase of the price paid for sugar in the last eight or ten years, despite a considerable increase of the cost of its production. The growers in Queensland produce more sugar than the people of Australia can consume, and a large proportion of the crop has had to be sold overseas at a low price, thus bringing down the average price to the grower to a level which does not make sufficient allowance for the high cost of production. I remember when the sugar industry was carried on by kanaka labour and when the conditions of the workers employed in the industry were much worse than those of the people working in the wheat industry to-day. Employees in the sugar industry then worked 64 hours a week for a wage of 22s. 6d. The government of the day said to the representatives of the sugar industry, “ “We must have a White Australia. We shall give to you a sufficient price for your sugar to enable you to transfer from cheap coloured labour to white labour, and to pay reasonable rates of wages “. It was possible to organize the sugar industry and place it on a fairly satisfactory footing, because it is carried on in one part of Australia only, whereas the wheat industry is conducted in most of the States.
Would Senator Latham favour the granting of increased powers to the Commonwealth Parliament to enable the primary industries to be organized and controlled so that all of the people engaged in them could receive fair prices for their products? The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) was Minister of Commerce for a considerable period, but neither he, nor the government with which he was associated, was able to evolve a satisfactory scheme for the stabilization of the wheat industry. In a country like Australia it would btmost difficult to fix a price for wheat at which production could be pegged, and at which the producers would be able to enjoy satisfactory conditions. Most of the small wheat-growers will not be seriously affected by the new harvesting award rates fixed for employees, although I realize that growers who employ a number of farm hands will be called upon to foot a substantially increased wages bill. The object of the Government in fixing the price of 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels was to ensure that the comparatively small farmers would, remain on their holdings and at least get a living from the industry. I do not know whether many side-lines are engaged in by wheat-farmers, but farmers in Queensland who produce a small quantity of sugar may be doing well from dairying carried on as a sideline. I know that the Government desired to alleviate the serious position of a large number of the growers producing wheat on a small scale and many thousands of them appreciate its action in guaranteeing a fixed price for at least a certain volume of their production.
This Government has been accused of being responsible for the plight of the wheat-growers, although the parties which honorable senatoi’3 opposite represent had control of the affairs of this country for .a quarter of a century and did very little in that period towards the stabilization of the wheat industry. I look forward to the time when all of the primary industries will be under sufficiently effective control to enable the prices of the farmers’ products to be stabilized at a reasonable level. “We cannot carry on our primary industries if the farmers are to be wholly dependent on the prices ruling in the overseas markets. The control of sugar production in Australia has presented great difficulty, and to-day that industry is badly in need of assistance. Because of the increased cost of producing sugar and the fact that the prices received by the growers have not increased for many years, I have no doubt that representatives of the industry will shortly seek the assistance of the Government in improving the conditions in the iudustry. We cannot allow our primary industries to develop along haphazard lines. From time to time we hear a good deal about marginal wheat lands. A guaranteed price for wheat might encourage the development of those areas, and lead to an aggregate production which would leave us with a huge surplus of wheat for which there would be no market. In view of existing man-power problems, is it economical to produce excess quantities of wheat which cannot be disposed of and in time may be affected by weevils? I am in complete accord with the motion in so far a3 it advocates a fair deal to all persons engaged in primary production, and the provision of a reasonable return on the money invested in the industry, but honorable senators opposite who urge the present Government to do more to assist primary production have a poor record of achievement, notwithstanding the long period that governments which they supported were in office. The problems associated with primary production can be met only by granting to a central government nation-wide powers to deal with the industries concerned, yet those interests in the community which speak of granting better conditions to farmers oppose the granting of those powers to the only authority which could improve conditions. Although I sympathize with the purpose of the motion, I should not be doing my duty if I advocated increased production and a guaranteed price for primary products in the absence of an assured market. The time is long overdue for our primary industries to be controlled in a national way. I do not believe that any honorable senator is opposed to primary producers getting a fair return for their labour, but that state of affairs depends mainly on a proper system of control. Especially in respect of commodities which depend on the export market is the control of production necessary. Some years ago the sugar industry overcame a similar problem by controlling production. Large portions of Queensland are devoted to the growing of sugar-cane, and the industry is on a fairly sound footing. That is due mainly to the efforts of the people engaged in the production of sugar; they have organized the industry on a most efficient basis, until to-day the Australian sugar industry, although not so big as in some other countries, is probably more efficiently controlled than in other countries. For that reason the Australian sugar industry is able to carry on, notwithstanding that the price of sugar is lower than it was ten or twelve years ago and in spite of increased costs of production. Only by dealing with primary industries in the light of all the facts can we hope to put them on a satisfactory basis. A guaranteed price is not a permanent solution of the difficulty, and no government should commit itself to such a policy unless there is controlled production and an assured market for the product.
I do not say that in his speech on the wheat industry a short time ago the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) handled his facts carelessly, but I do say that he did not set out the position correctly. The honorable senator referred in scathing terms to the present Government because it appointed primary producers to certain boards, yet to-day he criticized it for not appointing primary producers to such bodies.
– I criticized the Government for dispensing with the services of Mr. Harold Darling when the job to be done was the selling of wheat, with which he was thoroughly familiar.
– The honorable senator objected to primary producers being appointed to the Australian Wheat Board. He knows the difficulties associated with primary production, and I will say that while he was in office he did his best to handle a difficult situation in regard to wheat. The honorable senator, however, did not stand in so favorable a light when he attempted to discredit the present Government by remarks which were not altogether in accordance with the facts. The present Government is making an honest attempt to deal with a serious situation.
In this motion Senator Latham asks for a guaranteed price for wheat - a price which will be satisfactory to the wheatgrowers - but the honorable senator himself would have difficulty in deciding what would be a satisfactory price over a period of years. I do not think that any one could do that at the present time. I hope that the time is not far distant when the Commonwealth Parliament will be empowered to deal with all phases of primary production, because until that time comes it will be exceedingly difficult to ensure satisfactory conditions in primary industries.
– The motion before the Senate directs attention to prices in connexion with the wheat industry.
– It refers to other phases of primary production besides wheat.
– Most of the discussion has been directed to the wheat industry. The first pr;ce to which exception was taken by Senator Latham was that fixed for labour power used in the harvesting of wheat. The honorable senator implied that fi 6s. a day or £7 16s. a week, plus keep was too high in comparison with the value of the work done. To make such a statement and not to explain the degree to which the rate is in excess of the value of the work done indicates either a lack of knowledge or a disinclination to set out the position clearly. I remind the Senate that this so-called exorbitant wage is the amount paid to a casual or seasonal worker in the wheat industry; it is not a wage which is guaranteed for any considerable period of continuous work. A casual worker in the wheat industry may be employed for a few weeks and then be out of work. Neither the Parliament nor society generally is greatly concerned about the casual worker and his dependants, and I am inclined to think that Senator Latham also is not greatly concerned about them. The honorable senator merely says that, in his judgment, the price paid to such a worker for his labour is too high. I have said many times in this chamber that it is not so much what a man is paid that matters as what that money enables him to buy. A casual worker might receive £20 a week for his services, but if he could not buy with that sum more commodities than he can buy to-day on his present wage he would not be any better off. In those circumstances, he would not receive any real increase of wages, although in terms of money he would do so. In our consideration of wages paid to casual workers we must allow for periods of idleness. At the conclusion of one job a seasonal worker may have to travel a hundred miles, or even more, to his next job, and pay his own fare and expenses. I cannot imagine Senator Latham being satisfied with such conditions. Rather do I think that the honorable senator would be so thoroughly dissatisfied with such conditions that he would soon be branded as an agitator or a strike leader. He might even join the Communist party, or in some way make himself a nuisance until he received better treatment. He would be perfectly entitled to do so if he considered that he was being unfairly treated. In any consideration of a payment of £7 16s. a week to wheat-harvest workers we must have regard to increased capital charges. I have directed attention to that fact on previous occasions. If we reduce the amount of capital charges, we shall find that, even in terms of money, the wage is indeed very small. For example, the price of a pound of butter includes 9d. for interest alone, as well as other capital charges. Likewise the prices of clothing, food and shelter include capital charges which are constantly increasing, because, under existing conditions, the Prices Commissioner sees to that as pant and parcel of the policy laid down by the previous Government. Thus, the alleged high wage is not high at all when it is viewed, first, as a wage paid for seasonal work, and, secondly, in the light of the increasing capital charges included in the prices of clothing, food and shelter. If any one of us worked in a particular place for two or three weeks, and a month or two later worked s’omewhere else, how much of our wage would we be able to send to our wives and families in order to maintain them in decent conditions? We could pay very little to them. Whilst Senator Courtice has mentioned ‘over-production, I direct attention to the lack of purchasing power on the part of those who are not’ able to buy the commodities they desire, or should have. When there is a lack of purchasing power on the one hand, and an alleged surplus of production on the other, we realize the need to establish economic equilibrium. Today, the purchasing power of the community is not sufficient to pay the prices of our products. Thus, we have a disparity to which one honorable senator directed attention this evening, in so much as one section of the community has a great deal in excess of its actual needs, whilst the workers, who are the biggest and most valuable section, receive less than their needs.
– Does the honorable senator say that there is a lack of purchasing power in the community to-day?
– The honorable senator does not agree with the Treasurer, who says that there is too much purchasing power to-day.
– I am simply expressing my opinion. Dealing with the wheat industry, we find the unfortunate grower is being robbed and fooled even to a greater degree than the man. he employs. For every 4s. a bushel the grower receives for the first 3.,000 bushels he produces, and from every 2s. a bushel for wheat in excess of that production, approximately ls. 9d. a bushel is deducted for interest. That is a capital charge which is deducted from the price which the grower received for his wheat. In addition, like the worker he employs, the prices which the grower pays for the commodities he requires include increasing capital charges. That is the system by which the wage-earners, on the one hand, and the primary producers on the other, are being systematically robbed year after year with the blessing and assistance of an alleged Country party. Actually, the Country party is bell.wethering the wheat-farmers into a position where they will either be starved out, or bought out, of their farms; and, ultimately, we shall create a position similar to that which has arisen in other countries, particularly the United States of America, where primary production has been capitalized and mechanized to such a degree that practically all the small men have ceased to exist. Before the war, they were living a nomadic life on the dole, almost to the same degree as the Australian aborigines. How can we adjust that state of affairs? Undoubtedly, we produce more than we need for our population, but at the same time quite a number of people are not able to purchase the primary products which they need. How can that position be adjusted ? Senator Latham did not suggest any remedy. When I suggested that an immediate way out would be to reduce, or abolish, capital charges in the form of interest, the honorable senator hesitated for a moment, and then said that he would be pleased to give the matter his attention. That is all the Country party has been doing for years past. The reason for that attitude on the part of the Country party is that most of its candidates dare not stand up against vested interests, which are operating- on the same principle as the monkey did with the cats and the cheese.
Any who protested would not receive money to finance their election campaigns; or the newspapers, if they did not remain completely silent as far as such candidates were concerned, would condemn them as extremists. Thus members of the Country party are constantly apologizing for their existence, and, consciously or unconsciously, are bell.wethering the farmers into a position where most of them will lose their farms.
– What is the honorable senator going to do about it?
– I shall do quite a lot when I have an opportunity; but it will be difficult for this Government to take remedial action along the lines 1 have suggested, because honorable senators opposite, who represent vested interests, have been able to make the position of the Government very difficult indeed. However, if the Government had its way, one of the first things it would do, in my judgment, would be to control primary production through the medium of increased powers received from the people. While the States are working at cross purposes with the Commonwealth Government, and the powers of this Government are limited as they are at present, it is most difficult for it to do more than it is doing. If my colleagues were prepared to be influenced by me, I should take a bigger risk than the Government has already taken under the National Security Act and deal with the matter as I have suggested. One of the first things I would do would be to instruct the Prices Commissioner to inquire into all capital charges that are included in, and collected through, prices. If he did that he would find that the financial institutions, the landlords and lessors are receiving from the general pool of national wealth a great deal more than they are entitled to receive, and, by receiving so much money, and controlling so much of our primary production, they are actually an obstacle to progress. This is so much the case that had, the war not broken out, I believe that in the United States of America and other countries revolutions would have occurred by now. Figures which are substantiated by reliable records show that in the United States of America there were over 10,000,000, consisting mainly of small farmers, who had been starved off their holdings, and were living from hand to mouth, with, no homes, but driven from one place to another by the authorities. It stands to reason that if that sort of thing continued for very much longer the position would have become unmanageable, and a revolution would have occurred. That is obvious. Such conditions in the past have caused revolutions, and revolutions will arise from similar causes in the future if more attention is not paid to these matters, and unless, as Senator Courtice has said, a more intelligent approach is made to the problem with the object of doing justice both to the primary producers generally and the workers. Surely, it u not asking too much that the worker who receives this £7 16s., to which so much objection has been taken, should be able to live under reasonably decent conditions in a country like Australia. He should be enabled to provide for his wife and family the food, clothing and shelter so essential in order to make them useful citizens. That problem is not insurmountable; but it has never been attacked as intelligently as it should be, mainly because of the opposition of vested interests. Our primary industries can provide, without the slightest difficulty, a much better standard of living for the wheat-growers and the workers than they provide to-day. Those industries can produce greatly in excess of our needs, even after actually giving away their excess production to the starving millions overseas. But our national economy must first be organized as it should be, and not on a catchascatchcan, or beggar-your-neighbour system. Senator Gibson declared that there, is likely to be a famine in overseas countries. I agree with him. The famine will be caused as the result of this systematic starving out of the small man. What will happen will be that the financial institutions which are now collecting these ever-increasing capital charges will obtain complete control of primary production. Before they obtain complete control there will probably be something like a famine. Then they will do as they are doing in other countries - regulate production, not to provide the maximum of what is needed, but the minimum on which the working man can live, so that he may not receive too much and become too independent. The way in which that is done is to limit, so far as is humanly possible, the essentials needed by the worker to maintain his own life and the lives of the members of his family. That is what will be done when primary production is controlled by the monopolist to the extent that secondary production is controlled to-day. If the Government said, “All right, we will pay 4s. a bushel all round “, what would happen? First, the bank manager would demand that outstanding debts be liquidated right away, and those primary producers who were in debt would have no benefit from the increase. Next they would be told : “You are getting a higher price for wheat; what about a higher price for our flour and other products from wheat ? “. Then those prices would be increased. Where lands were leased, and it could be done, rents would be raised. Where land was to be purchased, its price would be increased, and ultimately the whole of the increase which the Government so generously gave to the primary producers would find its way into the pockets of the banks and other private financial institutions, and we should find the casual and the seasonal wage-earner and the farmer in precisely the same position as to-day, or possibly worse. If, therefore, we are to improve the situation, we must as a Government have a greater measure of control. If we have that, then the private financial institutions, which now mainly exercise it, will have less control, or possibly none at. all. They cannot have it both ways. The Government cannot improve the position, whether in primary or secondary production or anywhere else, without having control in order to ensure that the assistance given will be used for the purpose for which it is intended. The Leader of the Opposition (.Senator McLeay) rightly deprecates the fact that under existing conditions there is no future worth while for the sons of farmers. Unless we improve the conditions under which primary producers work and live, there will be very little future for their sons, except possibly the dole. They will be starved off the land, and driven down to the cities to offer themselves to the employer at any price he likes to pay, particularly after the war. I am therefore in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition when he directs attention to that fact. I say to him, in answer to the question that he put, that granting 4s. a bushel all round for wheat will not save the farmers’ sons, unless the Opposition is prepared to go to the extent of allowing the Government, through the medium of increased constitutional powers, to control the position to a far greater extent than it does to-day. The Leader of the Opposition has made a special appeal to the Government. I suggest that he should make a special appeal to those financial institutions which, now that the war is on and prices are going up, are in a better position than they were before, and will, I venture to suggest, after the war is over find themselves financially in a much stronger position even than to-day. If there is any altruism in them, any desire at all to improve conditions and make a gesture of goodwill, they will, I hope, be prepared to meet the Government and, by a process of peaceful negotiation, effect progressive adjustments so that the casual or seasonal worker on the farm, and the farmer himself, will be guaranteed the necessary protection, financially and in every other way, to enable him to live under much more congenial and more secure conditions than now exist. That should be done, but no special appeal has been made to them. Senator Latham did not attempt to make it. He said, in effect, that he would give the matter attention, which indicates to me that he does not intend to do anything practical.
– He said that the men should be well paid, but he objected to their getting £7 16s. a week.
– If he said that, he contradicted himself. He either was not aware of the significance of his remarks, or he does not mean what he says. Senator Aylett said that he felt that the motion could be improved by an amendment. I also feel that it could be improved, particularly by the addition of the following words after the word “ products “ -
Provided that all capital charges such as rent, interest or the increase in the cost of land above its real value, which primary producers are being compelled to pay, are either reduced substantially or abolished.
If Senator Latham really intended to do the job as it should be done his motion would have included those words, so that, as the result of a progressive reduction of capital charges such as rent, interest and the price of land, whatever the farmer received from the Government could bc used entirely for his benefit, and not for the purpose of paying debts, increased rents, higher prices for land or anything of that sort. If Senator Latham followed those lines, I should say that he was attempting to tackle the problem in an intelligent and equitable way, but merely to say, as he has said, “ Guarantee a fixed payable price to farmers for their products “, means little or nothing. What is a payable price? When he replies, I hope he will tell me exactly what he means by that phrase. Does he mean that the farmer is to have enough money to pay all his debts with a working balance left over, or barely enough to carry on?
– The honorable senator ought to know something about the cost-plus system.
– I want to know what the honorable senator means. What he means and what he says are two different propositions. He sets out in this motion something in very general terms, and I ask him exactly and precisely what he means, because in our Parliamentary proceedings we must use precise terms. If we do not, we find afterwards that all sorts of meanings are read into what we say. I do know something about the cost-plus system. One gentleman says that he must have cost plus 10 per cent, otherwise he cannot possibly pay his way. Another says that he cannot do it under 15 per cent., but when we question them closely and examine their books we find that if they received cost plus 5 per cent, it would be a payable price, and they would certainly receive a great deal more in return for their own labour power than does the average worker whom they employ. We therefore have different concepts of what constitutes a payable price. One wants 10 per cent., another 15 per cent., and some would not be satisfied with 100 per cent. If Senator Latham wants the job so done that the Government, the farmers and the workers may be protected, he must tell us exactly what he means by a payable price. Certainly it has been stated in the course of the discussion that 4s. a bushel all round would pay. We then have the position of the small farmer as compared with the big one, who can work on a lower margin of profit. What would pay the one would not pay the other. When we speak in round terms, it sounds all right to the unsophisticated farmer and worker, but it does not mean very much.
– The small man often makes far more than the big man does.
– Then how is it that so many small farmers are being starved off the land?
– So are the big ones.
– In 1939 or 1940 I asked the then Minister for Commerce how many farmers controlled land of an area exceeding 10,000 acres. I think the answer was 350. These gentlemen hold huge areas of land on which, with up-to-date machinery and methods of growing wheat, including the use of superphosphates, they can produce it cheaper than can the small man, who has not the capital to cultivate the land in the same efficient and economical way. I hardly think that Senator Latham will deny that more small farmers than big ones are going off the land. As it is in primary production, so it is in secondary production. We find it everywhere we look. Take as an example what happened when the Government zoned the deliveries of milk and bread as a war-time expedient. It had to be done if we were to maintain production and distribution and at the same time increase man-power for our war-time industries and the fighting forces. But what did we find? We found that, in terms of money, there was a saving of £70,000 throughout Australia, and in terms of man-power, a saving of 1,500 employees; but the price of bread has not been reduced, nor has the price of milk. The position is that those individuals who were in possession of the best equipped bakeries and dairies now have a monopoly of those trades. We all know that when monopolist control is secured, the first act of the monopolists is to increase prices as much as possible and to reduce wages as much as possible. Monopolies operate on the principle of obtaining the maximum profit for the minimum cost, and unless action be taken by the Government private monopolists virtually will be in control. The small trader will go out of business, and the consuming public will be faced with the alternative of taking the products at higher prices or going without them. What has been happening in this country with regard to bread and milk has been happening also in regard to other primary and secondary products. Chain stores such as those controlled by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), are adding to the already wide variety of goods that they sell such things as vegetables, fruit and eggs, which they can offer at lower prices because of the relatively small margin of profit on which they operate. To the extent that these chain-store organizations dispose of their products, the small trader goes out of business, and when that happens the monopolists will tell us exactly what the tobacco monopoly, the brewery monopoly and the sugar monopoly told us in years gone by, namely, that we either agree to their terms or go without. Obviously the Government must interfere with such methods, because if it does not, it will cease to exist as a Government; it will be merely a name. I agree with every honorable senator on both sides of the chamber that the wheat-farmer, particularly the struggling wheat-farmer with a family, must be assisted to the very best of our ability, but in giving that assistance steps must be taken to ensure that the money he receives in return for his product, is not appropriated in the form of capital charges already due, or capital charges to be added to the produce which he sells or the commodities which he purchases. Provided that safeguards are applied, the Government can go ahead and give the fullest possible assistance to the farmers, but, without safeguards, I am afraid that the primary producers will not benefit very much from the passing of a motion of this kind.
.- Ir was not my intention to intervene in this debate but for the fact that for the last three-quarters of an hour we have had served up to us more bushels of nonsense than we are accustomed to hear, even from the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron). It was rather amusing that the Minister should suggest that it was desirable that we should use precise terms when dealing with matters of this kind - he even went so far as to accuse my colleague, Senator Latham, of having used vague language in moving this motion - because there is no man in this chamber who has been guilty more consistently of using vague language which has no precise meaning than the Minister for Aircraft Production himself. He is adept at the art. Let us consider for a moment the speech that the Minister has just delivered. When he suggested that there existed in the realm of primary production all sorts of evils I asked him, by way of interjection, to tell us the remedy.
– The Minister is not a lawyer.
– No, but he was speaking as a member of the Government. He endeavoured to hide behind the suggestion “We have not got the power”, but he knows that this Government ha? interfered with almost every industrial activity in this country under the guise of war emergency. When it has desired to take action, it has not been deterred by any regard for the question of whether it has or has not the power. Ever since it has been in office it has assumed that under the National Security Act it can do anything, and it has acted upon that basis whenever it has so desired. When it comes to a question of providing special privileges for trade unionists on the waterfront, the National Security Act is quite good enough, whether it has anything to do with the war or not, but when the Government is faced with the problem of giving fair treatment to primary producers, it, tries to hide behind the suggestion that it has not sufficient power. Of course it, has the power.
– Who said that it has not the power?
– The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) said that.
– I said that we required more constitutional power.
– That is what I am saying. The Minister said that the Government could not deal with this problem unless it had more constitutional power, yet this Ministry, which says that it has no power to deal with the wheat industry or the dairying industry, is prepared to take control of, and disorganize, every other industry in the community if such action be in accordance with the wishes of the dictators of the Trades Hall. Either the Minister for Aircraft Production felt that he was not altogether on safe ground in. suggesting that the Government did not have constitutional power, or he thought that he would throw in another suggestion for luck - it is a device that the Minister has resorted to on almost every occasion on which he has spoken - because he then endeavoured to throw the blame on to the private financial institutions. After all, what are the private financial institutions?
-Well, what are they ?
– I thought that the Minister would know, but, as apparently he has no idea, I shall tell him. When he talks glibly of the private institutions which provide finance for theprimary producers of this country, to a large degree, he is talking about mutual life assurance societies and savings banks. His suggestion is, as I understand it, that the remedy for this position is that the primary producer should be relieved of the obligation to pay any interest to what the Minister is pleased to call the private financial institutions.
– What is wrong with that?
– I am sorry if there is a Minister of this Government who is really so dull that he cannot see what is wrong with such a suggestion. I should have thought that it was perfectly plain. When the Minister says : “ I want to relieve the primary producers of the obligation to pay interest to private financial interests “, he is saying, in effect: “I want to see that the saving members of this community - consisting very largely of the middleclass people - are deprived of the benefits of their savings.”
– Utter nonsense.
– That is what the Minister’s proposition means in plain language. He is talking about the loans that the primary producers have obtained from, for instance, the Australian Mutual Provident Society or a State Savings Bank, and he knows that there are thousands of them. If the Minister says that people who have had money advanced to them by those institutions should not pay interest on that money, he is saying that he agrees with the principle of robbing those who have saved their money and loaned it to others, and that there is no escape from it. We are now talking in precise language; we are using precise terms. It is all very well for the Minister for Aircraft Production to go to the Yarra bank or out toCollingwood where he thinks that kind of talk will be palatable, but it is not a bad idea occasionally to analyse what such propositions mean. That angle of approach, that disregard for reality in these matters, and that use of this vague language which really means nothing, is symptomatic of the Government’s whole approach to this problem. It is a good election cry ; it is likely to catch a lot of votes. Any honorable senator who goes to the people and says : “Iam in favour of higher wages “, is sure to get some support.
– What is wrong with high wages?
– Nothing. I am in favour of paying as high a wage as it is possible for any industry to pay.
– We have never heard the honorable senator advocate that.
– I have advocated it very frequently indeed. What I am not in favour of is that a government should impose upon an industry an obligation to pay something which it cannot afford to pay, in order that the government may thereby catch a few votes, and that is what this means. Senator Latham’s complaint, so far as I understand it - I think it was put to the Senate very clearly - is that if we wish to provide fair living conditions, and I believe that we should, for the man whom honorable senators opposite are pleased to call the worker on the land, we must also see that we preserve fair living conditions for the person who employs him.
– That is what we are after all the time.
– I have not seen much manifestation of it yet. If the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) has been converted by anything I have said I am very pleased indeed. It is easy for a government to promise the people that it will provide this benefit for one section and something else for another section without making any provision for the necessary payment. I am in favour of the improvement of the conditions of many people in this country, but I do not delude myself or the public by saying that we could improve the conditions of one section without taking the money required out of the pockets of another-
– If a man is on the dole, the honorable senator says that he should be kept there.
– Not at all. We should take it from the pockets of those who have, and give it to those who have not; but the Government must accept the responsibility for doing that. This Government does not discharge that responsibility by promising that it will hand out new doles without saying where the money is to come from.
– Then there is no hope for post-war reconstruction, .according to the honorable senator.
– There is no hope unless we realize that every benefit we give to one section must be paid for by the rest of the community. If we provide that the workers in a primary industry are to get a certain rate of wage, the money for that wage must, in the first instance, come out of the pockets of the employers.
– Nonsense ; the worker, not the employer, produces the wealth.
– I dispute the suggestion that employers are not workers. I am sure that some of Senator Latham’s farmer friends will be glad to know that the Leader of the Senate does not regard them as workers. I doubt whether the Minister would be prepared to say that at a gathering of farmers who are employers.
– I am prepared to go before any audience with the honorable senator, and he is at liberty to select his subject.
– I am prepared to accept that challenge. The Leader of the Senate has been accustomed for years to addressing audiences which have never questioned the apparent wisdom of his words.
Members of the Opposition have received communications regarding the serious position of the dairying industry. We were quite familiar with the problem when the Government introduced its ridiculous proposal last December for the granting of assistance to the dairying industry. It is supposed to be unpopular to allow the cost of living to rise if that can be avoided. Of course my friends opposite forget that the cost of living in this country has risen more rapidly since they have been in office than during the previous two years of administration by the United Australia party and Country party, but if they can do it without creating electoral dangers they will try to keep down the cost of living as much as possible.
– Does not the honorable senator believe in keeping it down?
– Yes, but not at the expense of one section of the community. That is what the Government is doing largely with regard to the dairying and all other primary industries. One way in which the Government has kept clown the cost of living is by preventing the cost of butter to the consumer being increased to the level to which it should rise, having regard to the increased cost of production. To that degree the Government is keeping down the cost of living at the expense of the dairymen.
– That is not the full story, and the honorable senator knows it.
– It is the whole story.
– The Government, by its legislation, has improved the position of the dairymen.
– The dairyman has not noticed it. The Government refuses to look at the realities and to proceed to consider -what it really could do to put the primary producers on an improved basis. We have gone through a period in which those associated with the Trades Hall have had a good “ spin,” but the rest of the community will not put up with that forever. The Government must realize the political danger to itself underlying a proposal of this kind, and I am not surprised that it rushes in and agrees to support the motion. The Opposition is glad to have that support, and as the Government has all the power required for the purpose, it should now implement Senator Latham’s proposal.
– Previous speakers have not dealt with the economics of this subject. There is an axiom in economics that all costs have to be considered in relation to prices and have to be recovered by means of prices. Senator Latham rightly pointed out that it is a mistake for any Government to fix the price of a commodity and then raise the costs of producing it. It is also a wellknown economic fact that the price of all commodities, including wheat, depends on the amount of purchasing power in the hands of the people. During the depression the price of wheat was lowest in the middle of that period. Senator Latham referred to that fact, but he did not draw attention to the finding of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry, the report of which stated that the ‘banking and financial institutions held mortgages over the wheat lands of Australia amounting to £161,000,000. If an increase of the amount of money coming into circulation causes inflation - and we know that it does, unless it. is properly controlled - the withdrawal of money from circulation has the effect of reducing prices. A commo*; practice during the depression was for the banks to encourage farmers to increase their acreage under cultivation by promising them the necessary financial advance for that purpose, but when the price of wheat dropped from 5s. to 2s. 6d. and 2s. a bushel, owing to the banks calling in overdrafts, the farmers lost their properties. When I was in Western Australia four years ago the farmers were walking off the land. They had mortgaged their land when wheat was fetching 5s. and 6s. a bushel, but when the price dropped to 2s. a bushel, and the banks refused to grant them further credit, they had no choice but to leave their holdings. When the Western Australian Legislative Assembly, in which Senator Latham was Leader of the Opposition, passed a measure to relieve the farmers in that State by advancing money to them through the Commonwealth Bank, he opposed the proposal. The honorable senator preferred to see the farmers walk off their land rather than assist them through the Commonwealth Bank.
– That proposal was not submitted by the Western Australian Government.
– The Parliament of that State proposed to use the Commonwealth Bank in order to finance the war with interest-free money and to assist primary producers.
– I was in favour of helping the farmers, but was not in agreement with the platitudes which the honorable senator frequently expresses.
– The Commonwealth Bank can lend interest-free money to either the Government or to others, as is stated in paragraph 504 of the report of the Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems. Senator Spicer apparently knows nothing about economics. He said that the banks lend money to the farmers, but they do nothing of the kind. They create credit, but they do not lend money. Honorable senators can verify that by referring to the Encyclopedia Britannica in which Mr. R. G. Hawtry, an ex-secretary of the British Treasury has stated that “ Banks are institutions for the creation of credit which they create out of nothing “. At an important street intersection in Hobart there are three large banks, and the Australian Mutual Provident Society’s building. The general opinion of the public is that those institutions are chock full of money which they are waiting to lend to people who have sufficient security.
There is no greater fallacy. Banks do not lend money. Most of the money in their vaults belongs to their depositors; and that money cannot be lent. One of the greatest authorities on this, subject is Mr. Graham Towers, the manager of the Canadian Government Bank, who has said that the banks cannot lend their deposits, because those deposits represent liabilities. I cannot lend my debts to any one, but if I have £5 cash in my pocket I could lend it. The banks are in the same position. A man with a keen analytical mind who has had twenty years in Parliament at Canberra and is a director of many Victorian companies, said to me recently that the only money that the banks can lend is that which is entrusted to them by the public. I replied, “Lord help this country if that is all you have learned in twenty years “. I have addressed people in various parts of the Commonwealth as far apart as Cairns and Perth, but I have not, found many business men with more than a kindergarten knowledge of the fundamentals of banking. I repeat that the banks do not lend money. The Government can finance the primary producers of this nation with interest-free money. The people own the Commonwealth Bank, and all of its profits go to the nation. “Why charge ourselves interest on our own money?
– I agree to that, if it is done.
– Yet the honorable senator voted against it being done when he was in the Parliament of Western Australia. He is a conservative who believes that the banks are benevolent institutions. The only way to cause a financial depression is by calling up overdrafts and refusing credit. As 99 per cent, of the world’s business is conducted on the basis of credit all that the banks have to do is to call up overdrafts and refuse credit, thereby reducing the purchasing power of the people, and prices will fall. By an amendment of the Commonwealth Bank Act during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, the banks were enabled to refuse financial assistance to the producers of Western Australia. Does Senator Latham know that? The result was that the Wholesale Co-operative Society in London was asked to supply the money necessary to export
Western Australian produce. But instead of getting that money through the Commonwealth Bank in which it was deposited, it was forwarded through five private banks, which charged over £60,000 for sending the money to Australia. That is what private banking means. How can persons who do not understand the economics of banking hope to deal with the private banks? A few days ago I attended a meeting of milk producers in Hobart. The price of milk in Hobart has been fixed, but the costs of production have so increased that the dairymen say that they will have to sell their herds unless some relief is given to them. Prices are determined by the amount of purchasing power in the hands of the people; that purchasing power is controlled by the banks. Some years ago wheat-farmers were urged to “ grow more wheat”. They did so, with the result that the price of wheat fell to 2s. a bushel.
– It fell to ls. a bushel.
– That was because the purchasing power of the people was taken from them by the banks. There was no other reason. During the depression, when hundreds of thousands of children in this country were underfed’ because their parents were unable to buy wholesome food for them, higher pricescould have been paid for wheat. Every increase of purchasing power in the hands of the people, from whatever sourceit comes, will result in higher prices,, unless prices are controlled. The samerule applies when money is withdrawn from circulation. That is why wheat prices fell. I believe in a fair price beingpaid for all work performed on farms. During the depression of 1929 and later the people who suffered most were the primary producers. So acute was their suffering that the Lyons Government decided to advance £12,000,000 for the rehabilitation of the wheat-growing industry. I believe that the rate of interest charged was 5 per cent. The banks created that £12,000,000 out of nothing. I again repeat that banks do not lend money, but create credit out of nothing.. On that occasion, the liability of the.farmers to the banks was assessed, but no» assessment was made of their liabilities to storekeepers and other unsecured creditors. Cheques were sent to the farmers aud passed on by them to the banks. In that way the fanners were able to pay a portion of their interest bill. Interest is still being paid on that £12,000,000, but, the farmers did hot receive any actual cash at all. The banks would not advance them any money until they had sold their wheat or wool, and the money was ‘deposited with the banks.- In spite of these facts, we still hear of the poor widow who has invested her money and depends on the interest. There is a difference between an institution like the Australian Mutual Provident Society and a. private bank; the former must have real money before it can advance money. I have read much of the literature issued by the banks during the depression. In one article a professor of an Australian university, who is a Master of Arts, said, “ Banking is a business. A banker sells credit in the same way as a butcher sells beef “. That is not so. If a banker has £1 in his vaults he can issue credit amounting to £7 or £8, but if a butcher has one bullock in his yard he can sell only as much meat as one bullock will produce. He cannot sell the meat of seven or eight bullocks unless he buys that number of animals on the hoof and slaughters them. A. bank does not sell money as a butcher sells meat. Until the Government controls money, no real help can be given to the primary producers. It is possible to grow wheat or potatoes, but it is not possible for farmers to grow money to purchase them. The only people who under our present system create credit are the private banks. The Commonwealth Bank is the only bank ever started by the people in the interest of the people. We are .the luckiest people in the world, but it, took ten years of continued effort on the part of Mr. King O’Malley to pass through the Parliament legislation to establish that bank. I regard that achievement as one of the greatest pieces of constructive statesmanship that the world has known. The establishment of the Commonwealth Bank was fought strenuously by the private banks. They even went so far as to threaten not to clear cheques issued by the Commonwealth Bank, and, as everyone knows, a bank whose cheques are not cleared cannot engage in banking. I do not know what induced the Bank of New South Wales to agree to clear cheques issued by the Commonwealth Bank, but eventually it agreed to do so. Perhaps the Bank of New South Wales was told that it .would lose its charter if it would not agree. I remember how the bank-controlled press ridiculed “ Fisher’s flimsies “, but last year the Commonwealth Bank made a profit of £2,000,000. That result was achieved notwithstanding that the Commonwealth Bank refuses business every day. An instance of banking methods came to my notice some time ago. An engineering establishment, which is solely engaged on war work and whose plant was valued by the banks at £60,000 and had an overdraft of £17,000, wished to add another department to its works so that its output of war material could be increased. The directors approached a private bank for a £10,000 increase of its overdraft, but met with a refusal. The bank said that it could not increase the overdraft unless such overdraft was guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government. The position was that the bank had a lien on the plant of the company, and would have been paid interest at 6 per <‘,ent. on the overdraft of £27,000. It forced the Government to “ carry the baby “. I suggested to the Government some time ago that every Government contract should contain a provision requiring the contractor to obtain any necessary finance from the Commonwealth Bank. That would be only insisting on reciprocal business. We must not lose sight of the fact that all the profits of the Commonwealth Bank belong to the nation. I challenge any honorable senator to show that I am wrong. Senator Spicer laughs. The honorable senator is one who believes that banks lend money. He has not profited by what I have said many times in this chamber nor has he taken any notice of the authorities whom I have cited in support of my statement. We hear a good deal from time to time of the freedom of the press, but I say that the press deliberately misleads the people. We are also told that the people get the kind of government that they deserve. That is not so. The people are entirely mislead by the bank-ridden press. Last year, a section of the Australian press made a malicious attack on the Senate. That attack was so strongly resented by the Senate that representatives of the newspaper in question were excluded from . the precincts of the chamber. On a previous occasion I told honorable senators of my interview with the proprietors of the Sydney Daily Telegraph. When the proprietors of that newspaper found that they could not traduce honorable senators as a whole, they commenced to attack us individually. I am their first victim. That newspaper devoted a leading article to me which it headed, “ Victory without tears “. Mr. Churchill said, “ I can only promise you sweat, blood and tears “. In that article it stated that, supported by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and others, I had brought forward a scheme with a grand title. It said that I proposed nationalization of credit, and that I claimed we could do away with taxation; that we should print more notes, and ask for no personal sacrifice or anything disagreeable. The article concluded by referring to “cheer-chasing good old ‘ Eddie ‘ Ward, who loves playing to the mob”, and “sincere but pigheaded Senator Darcey, who thinks he can hang himself by his heels and pay for the war without paying for it “. In reply to that article I wrote the following letter to the editor of that newspaper : -
On my return from Tasmania to Canberra my attention was drawn to a leading article in your paper concerning my actions in the Senate. I was charged with wanting to nationalize credit; that I wanted an issue of notes to replace all taxation and to pay for the war without paying for it. You finished this abuse and misrepresentation by saying, “ Sincere but pig-headed Senator Darcey thinks he can hang himself up by his heels “.
I have never advocated the nationalization of either banks, creditor industry. I have never advocated the printing of bank-notes to replace taxation. I have urged the use of the national credit, and I was pleased to read in the Sydney Morning Herald that a committee appointed by the United Australia party have recommended the use of the national credit judiciously for Government reproductive works and that a system of finance be introduced that will cause credit to flow freely at the lowest taxable level, which proves that the present monetary system will not meet present or post-war reconstruction.
What you mean by “ paying for the war without paying for it “ I do not know, and as to thinking I can hang myself up by the heels -if some editors were hung up by the heels, the rush of blood to the head might vitalize their anaemic brains. We then might get sense, if not honesty, in their papers.
The servile bank-ridden press is Australia’s greatest enemy.
That newspaper which failed in an attempt to traduce honorable senators as a body now intends, apparently, to attack us individually. I am wondering whose turn it will be next. I feel sure, however, that it will not be any honorable senator opposite. The Sydney Daily Telegraph is a bank-ridden newspaper, which does not believe in the policy of lending money through the Commonwealth Bank to the farmers. I agree with Senator Latham that it is useless for the Government to fix the price of any primary product and, subsequently, to alter the cost of production of that product. However, our first duty is to review the economic situation as a whole and ascertain the reason for the continuance of prices for primary products which do not enable the producer to make a fair living. One reason, which I have explained on many previous occasions, is that the price of wheat and every other product depends upon the amount of purchasing power in the hands of individuals who use wheat in various forms.
– I think that every honorable senator agrees with the terms of the motion. Perhaps, it is somewhat vague. That impression was confirmed in my mind when I read Senator Latham’s speech. The honorable senator criticized the recent award concerning farm workers, and also the composition of the commission that made the award. I agree that the man on the land, who creates wealth for the nation, is just as much entitled to a stabilized price for his product as the employee is entitled to a guaranteed wage for his labour. I agree with Senator Latham that we cannot object to the payment of a fair wage in the industry. However, he pointed out that the industry cannot afford to pay the wage that has been awarded by the commission. I do not think that any honorable senator opposite would suggest that the present Government is responsible for the return which the wheat-growers have received during the last ten or fifteen years. This Government has no responsibility whatever in that respect. The present Government realizes that the farmers have not been receiving a fair price for their products. For that reason it has guaranteed 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels. Let us compare that with the return received by the growers from the 1939-40 pool which averaged about 2s. a bushel. On the basis of the present guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel a farmer will receive, this year, in respect of his first 3,000 bushels, £600 compared with £300 which he received from the 1939-40 pool, when his return averaged 2s. a bushel.
– The return from the 1939-4)0 pool averaged 3s. 3£d. a bushel.
– But allowance must be made for costs. Why was this commission appointed? It was not appointed merely because the Government desired to appoint it, but at the request of the wheat-growers themselves, following the position created by the shortage of man-power. I think that Senator Latham will agree with that statement. Like other primary producers, the wheat-grower could foresee a shortage of man-power, and, consequently, he made an appeal to the Government. That shortage was caused not only as the result of enlistments in the fighting forces but also by the migration of employees from primary industries to newly established munitions factories. For those reasons, the pool of labour ordinarily available for harvesting was depleted. Following the request made by the wheat-growers to deal with the problem the Government, arranged a conference in Canberra, which recommended the appointment of a commission consisting of two representatives of the employees and two representatives of the Wheat Growers Federation with a conciliation commissioner as an independent chairman. Senator Latham takes umbrage at the fact that Mr. Blakeley, a conciliation commissioner, was appointed chairman of that body. Mr. Blakeley, after an honorable and able record as a member of the House of Representatives, was appointed a conciliation commissioner by the late Mr. Lyons when he was Prime Minister. The Government of the day recognized his work and ability; and he carried out his duties as a conciliation commissioner to its satisfaction, and with credit to himself. That is the man whom Senator Latham has criticized. He said that the commission is “ loaded “.
Undoubtedly, the commission is fairly constituted with two representatives of the employees and two representatives of the wheat-growers, whilst Mr. Blakeley’s ability and impartiality has been recognized by a United Australia party Government. Therefore, the honorable senator has been most unfair in his reference to this public servant. I point out that the total payments made from the No. 1 Pool of 1939-40, averaged 2s. lOd. a bushel, less freight and other charges, giving a return to the grower of approximately 2s. a bushel. On those figures the final returns to the growers for 1,000 bags or 3,000 bushels would be £300. On the basis of the present guaranteed price of 4s. for 1,000 bags or 3,000 bushels, the grower will receive a final return of £600, or an increase of 100 per cent. I agree that when wheat was only 2s. a bushel under the United Australia party Governments which controlled Australia for years, the producer was not in a position to pay a fair wage to the farm worker, whereas to-day, when he is given an increase of 100 per cent., he can pay the just wages awarded by the commission. Senator Latham said that in Western Australia there were more growers of over 3,000 bushels than under that quantity, but 1 questioned that statement, and asked the department to supply me with the figures. Senator Latham carefully avoided in his speech any reference to compensation for limitation of acreage. That is an important factor in converting the big grower into a producer of 3,000 bushels or under. The man who previously grew 4),500 bushels, and by the limitation of acreage had his crop curtailed by one-third, came back into the pool as a producer of 3,000 bushels. When those figures are calculated on a fair basis, it is revealed that 67 per cent, of the wheatgrowers of “Western Australia are producing 3,000 bushels or under.
– What about the big growers of over 3,000 bushels ?
– They will receive 4s. a bushel net up to 3,000 bushels. That is really more than 4s. a bushel under previous pools, because there is no charge for expenses. In previous pools the farmer ,had to pay various costs, ineluding freight. Under the Scully scheme he receives 4s. net, and, if he produces over 3,000 bushels, he will be paid 2s. i bushel for the excess quantity as a first instalment.
– Because it is the policy of the Government to protect thi small growers. That is a correct policy, because immediately the price of wheat improves, the large grower who owns a large property, and is in a position to purchase tractors, has them working day and night putting many thousands of acres under wheat, and by means o* mass production is able to make his operations pay at 2s. a bushel, whereas the small man has no chance at all.
– Who told the honorable senator that?
– ‘Common sense suggests it. The chief complaint of the mover of the motion is in regard to the wages, but I noticed that in analysing the wages position he selected the most skilled man, of whom there was only one, and showed that he received £9 odd a week, but he did not tell the Senate that the lower-paid men, who constitute the great majority of the workers on a farm, received, including keep, only £6 14s. 6d. a week.
– I mentioned them.
– But the honorable senator stressed the case of one employee who got £9 odd a week.
– I did not stress his case more than the others.
– In fact, the honorable senator went on to say that he was not such a highly skilled man, because he had done the work himself, and would sooner do the job on top of the stack than the hard1 work of throwing up the sheaves. I have done the work, although it was a long time ago, and I know what it is like. It is strange that in New South Wales, despite the fact that, according to Senator Latham, the industry is not in a position to pay the prescribed wages, advertisements have appeared in the press offering much higher wages. For instance, in the Northern Daily Leader published at Tamworth on the 10th November last an advertisement appeared asking for an extension header at £1 10s. a day and keep. The award: rate for that position is £9 7s. 6d. a week, but the farmer was prepared to pay £10 6s. 6d. a week. Another Tamworth farmer sought a bag-sewer at £1 6s. a day and keep. The award rate is £6 14s. 6d. a week, and the amount offered in that case was £9 2s. 6d. a week. A man named Mr. Norman Tindale, of Loomberah, advertised on the 1st December last for a man for platform work at £2 a day, or £12 a week. The award rate for that work is £6 14s. 6d. a week. At Byamee appeared an advertisement for a man to sew bags on the ground al. £1 a hundred and keep. I understand that an average smart man will sew 150 bags a day of eight hours.
– He would need to bt very smart.
– I have known men to do more than that.
– I have not, with the bags now in use.
– Sewing 150 bags a day would, at £1 a hundred and keep, return £10 6s. 6d. a week, as against £6 14s. 6d. a week under the award.
– The farmers would not, be rushed with workers at those rates, because the men are not available.
– That shows the scarcity of farm hands, and the necessity of an appeal to the Government to do something to improve the position.
– Tell the Senate what the Government did. What is the advantage of the high wages prescribed by the commission?
– I have explained that, under United Australia party governments, when wheat was 2s. a bushel, there was no chance of the farmer paying award wages. It is made a condition of every contract let by the Government that award rates shall be paid. Where governmental assistance of any kind is given to an industry, award wages and conditions should be insisted upon. Senator Latham assured the Senate that no one desired to see people living under bad conditions, but that those who had suffered most in Australia were the men who had been carrying on the wheat industry. The advertisements which I have quoted do not show that the wheat industry, at least in New South Wales, is in such a perilous condition.
– Tell the wheatgrowers that, and see what they say.
– I am prepared to meet them at any time. Attention was drawn by Senator Latham to the fact that, in Western Australia, he did not give support to the payment of 4s. a bushel which was advocated by supporters of the Government and has now become an actuality. The honorable senator did not press for the payment and the Government is solely responsible for protecting the industry and giving it improved conditions, enabling the wheat-growers to pay the wages which the commission awarded. It should not be forgotten that the commission included two representatives of the wheat-growers, who supported the rates adopted.
– The wheat-growers asked for them.
– Yes, they asked for the appointment of the tribunal. The debate to-night has moved from wheat to primary products generally. Senator Spicer dealt with our financial position, but every honorable senator realizes that the fundamental difficulties of wheat-farmers and most other primary producers are due to the inflated prices they paid for their land in the first place, and the high interest charges which they have been compelled to meet. I am sure that Senator Latham will admit that that is the trouble. I remember that, when the price of wheat in New South Wales was high, fabulous prices were paid for wheat-lands by experienced farmers from Victoria, who often had their own finance, and did not have to seek assistance. It has often been most unjustly said that the farmers who had to walk off their land in those days were inexperienced. These men were far from inexperienced, but they were placed on marginal lands which did not have an assured rainfall, and when wheat prices returned to normal, they were in trouble. The main cause of their difficulty, as in the case of most farmers to-day, was the inflated price of their land. Until a solution of that trouble is found, the farmers’ problems will never be solved, although this Government by guaranteeing a price of 4s. a bushel for wheat has contributed towards improved conditions.
– If the price of land is such a vital factor, what does the Minister propose to do about it? What can any of us do?
– The first requisite would be a re-appraisement of land, and consequent adjustments, because no land is worth a penny more than its productive value, whether pumpkins, asparagus, wheat or fat lambs are grown on it. The problem of land values has contributed to the difficulties of primary producers during many years in which governments which the honorable senator supported were in power, and did nothing. I am sure that the motion, which has the support of honorable senators on this side of the chamber, will be carried.
– in reply - I am pleased with the reception that has been given to my motion, particularly by those honorable senators who have voiced their support of it. The only note of discord in the debate was that introduced by the Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser), and I regret that he saw fit to adopt such an attitude. In reply to an interjection that he made, I made the innocent remark that I would tell a story about him. I did not wish to indicate by that that I would indulge in personalities. During my 22 years in public life, I have always endeavoured to play my part without introducing personal matters, and I wish to make it quite clear to the Minister that I know nothing whatever about his record, except that he served his city very well as a councillor. His own personal conduct is a matter entirely for himself.
The Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) was very fair in his remarks. He said that there were certain factors which created difficulties for the primary producers, and he instanced the high price of land, high interest rates, and other charges. I point out however that these are not the only factors. Very often it is a question of markets. To-day, many primary products are being produced in excess of the demand. Prior to the war our surplus production was. sold on the world’s markets where every other country was dumping its surplus production, and until very recently there was no fixed Australian price for the commodities that were produced here. It is pleasing to note that in recent years, through education, governments have met these conditions by fixing an Australian price for most commodities. That, of course, is not a complete remedy, and the problem is not so easy to solve as some people would have us to believe. In some countries an attempt has been made to meet the situation, by fixing a price proportionate to the cost of production plus a margin of profit for the farmer. That is what I have advocated. The PostmasterGeneral also said that the Government appointed. a Wheat Harvesting Employment Commission to fix wages because of the difficulties created by the labour shortage, but I do not see how the commission has helped in any way. It has not fixed a maximum wage, but a minimum wage.
– At the request of the growers.
– I shall read extracts at a later stage to show just who those growers were. The important point is that labour is not available. Country districts have been combed out. First of all they were depleted by the volunteers who enlisted in the services early in the war. Then, when the flow of these volunteers declined, recruiting officers toured the country districts in an endeavour to whip up enthusiasm for voluntary enlistments. Finally, there has been the compulsory calling up of men for -military service, and a further combing out by man-power officers.
– Some soldiers engaged in harvesting were paid 2s. 6d. an hour.
– I do not know about the soldiers. Some may have been released in New South Wales, but not in Western Australia.
– A few were released for harvesting in Western Australia.
– I know of very few cases except where the released men were sons or relatives of farmers.
Then we come to the question of prices. It must not be forgotten that the wheatfarmers have carried a load of debt for many years. Adverse conditions commenced in 1929 and it was a Labour Prime Minister at that time who, realizing the value of wheat in providing credits abroad, introduced the “ Grow More Wheat “ campaign. The wheatfarmers responded remarkably to the appeal and of course their difficulties started. The price of wheat decreased as did the prices of all other primary products, with the result that a heavy load of debt was placed upon the industry. Since then, governments have assisted materially in the reduction of that debt and in the course of this debate, reference has been made to the £12,000,000 that was provided for the purpose of assisting wheat-farmers. Most of that money has been spent in reducing the farmers’ debts. Also, £21,000,000 odd has been paid by way of bounties. That was quite right, but we should endeavour to arrive, at a basis upon which the farmer will know what his financial position will be in the future. Let us examine what took place last year. It is true, as the Postmaster-General pointed out, that Western Australia was treated differently from the eastern States because, being a small consuming State, it was deemed necessary to reduce production. Wheat areas in that State were reduced by approximately onethird, in respect of which I presume compensation will be paid at the rate of 12s. an acre. I am not sure whether that money has been paid already. Perhaps the Minister for External Territories can clear up that point.
– The money has been paid to the Australian Wheat Board and will be passed on to the wheat-growers.
– I hope that further information in that regard will be forthcoming a little more speedily than has been the case in respect of information that I have sought in regard to costs. 1 asked for certain figures relating to costs nearly a month, ago, and although they should be obtainable from Melbourne within a couple of days at the most, I have not yet had them. There should be no difficulty in getting that information, because it is available in the annual returns.
My chief complaint is that the wheatfarmers were led to sbw their crops without any definite knowledge of what they would receive for them. They only knew that there was a guaranteed price of 3s. lOd. a bushel, f.o.b. at ports, which, so far as they knew, would be carried on over an unlimited period. Unfortunately with the change of government there was also a change of policy. It was not until quite recently, when their wheat crops were well advanced, that wheat-farmers learned that they would get 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels, and 2s. a bushel for all wheat in excess of that quantity. Compare that return with the average prices for the last three years as shown in the Commonwealth Year-Booh. The following were the actual prices paid per bushel, without any deduction whatever. I assume that the deduction would be equivalent to about lOd. a bushel :- 1939, 3s. 5d. a bushel ; 1940, 4s. 1 1/2d. a bushel ; 1941, 4s. 0£d. a bushel; 1942, 4s. lOd. a bushel - it will be noticed that I have allowed lOd. as the amount covering rail freight and handling charges - for the first 3,000 bags, and 2s. lOd. a bushel for any quantity in excess of that. The average is well below that for the last two years.
– The 2s. to which the honorable senator is referring is only the first advance.
– The Government should take the farmers into its confidence and clear up that point. Will the 4s. be paid direct from the Treasury, irrespective of what the wheat is sold for, and then, when the sales are effected, will the Government credit the 2s. wheat with whatever the sales have realized, or will it recoup itself?
– Whatever the 2s. wheat realizes will be paid to the farmers. If it brings 6s. a bushel, the farmers will be paid 6s.
– On a production of 6,000 bushels, the average will be 3s. a bushel. After the wheat is sold and that 3s. a bushel has been reached, will the Government pay on the lower amount or will it recoup itself for the ls. extra that it has paid for the 4s. wheat ? I hope that the Minister will clear up that point either by making a statement to the press or in this chamber so that the farmers will know what their return is likely to be. They are continually worrying me about this matter.
– The farmers have never worried me. They have congratulated the Government upon what it has done.
– Some of them have not been very complimentary about the Government in their telegrams and letters to me. Recently I asked them to send some of their letters to Labour senators, so that they may understand the views that are being expressed.
So far a.s Mr. Blakeley is concerned, as a conciliation commissioner no doubt he is an expert, but, obviously, when he sits in judgment upon the wheat industry, he cannot get away from his political opinions any more than I could. For that reason, the commission was loaded from the start. I cannot get that impression out of ray mind, and I am sure that honorable senators opposite would have held the same views had the positions been reversed. As a matter of fact, in many instances the Government has replaced anti-Labour members of various bodies with its own supporters.
– That is not altogether correct.
– There have been very few exceptions. This is one instance of that tendency. The same applies to the two representatives of Western Australia on the Australian Wheat Board. On the 5th October, 1942, it was announced over the air that the services of these two members had been dispensed with. Confirmation of that fact appeared in the West Australian newspaper. On the 14th October, a letter was written by the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to each of them in the following terms : - lt is regretted that the reconstitution of the Australian Wheat Board results in a severance of 3Tour connexion with the board. 1 wish, however, to take this opportunity of thanking you for the work which you have performed in the past as a member of the board.
The duties carried out by you have been of great value to the Commonwealth, and as the Minister in charge of the department which has had the responsibility for marketing of Australia’s produce, I wish to convey to you the Government’s appreciation of the services rendered by you and other members of the board.
You and your colleagues have assisted materially in overcoming the problems of marketing with which the Commonwealth has been confronted since the outbreak of war; and the wheat-growers of Australia must recognize that the satisfactory results from the wheat pools to date can be attributed in a large measure to the unremitting attention of board members to the task which they accepted as a public duty.
If those men were so capable, why were they removed from office. That letter is an acknowledgment of the fact that they have rendered valuable service and that their knowledge has been of great benefit to the Government, yet they are to be displaced by men who have had very little business experience.
– One is an experienced farmer.
– But not an experienced business man.
– The honorable senator would not regard one of the appointees as an inexperienced business man.
– He was trained at the Trades Hall.
The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) stresses the disadvantage to the worker of the reduced purchasing power of money. Why did he not apply that argument to the wheatgrowers. The worker can go to the Arbitration Court, but the primary producer has no body to which to appeal except this Parliament. The chambers of manufacturers and other bodies have organizations through which the prices of commodities produced by their members are fixed. If a man were producing an article and was forced to sell it at a rate below the cost of production, his only alternative would be bankruptcy. The only reason why the farmer has not become bankrupt is that assistance has been handed out to him in the past by governments. I desire to alter that position and I am pleased to have the assurance of the ‘Government that it will assist the farmer by placing him on an improved basis.
It has been said that I was not sufficiently clear in setting out in the motion that it was desirable to give a fixed payable price to the farmers for their products. In the matter of wheat I may say that in 1939 the Ministers for Agriculture in the State Parliaments met in conference at Canberra with the then Commonwealth Minister for Commerce, and the conference decided that the price of wheat should be 4s. 8d. a bushel. Without any authority from the farmers I would be pleased to accept that price on their behalf to-day. I do not say that I would accept it for the future because the depreciation of the value of the currency is so rapid that within a year or more the value of the £1 may have so much depreciated that it would not purchase more than one-half as much as it does to-day.
– The Government has steadied interest rates.
– If the Minister for External Territories had busied himself as much about the activities of the Country party as he has about ascertaining something which he desired to tell the Senate about me personally, he would have found out that at the last two general elections my party has gone to the country with a policy of lower interest rates. It favours ;t rate of 3 per cent. It is all very well for the Minister to select a few points from my speeches to which he has directed the attention of the Senate.
– They were facts.
– They were not facts at all. When the financial emergency legislation was passed, all interest rates were reduced to 5 per cent. The clients of the Western Australian Agricultural Bank were paying only 5& percent. at the time, and the rate to returned soldiers and group settlers was reduced to 4-J per cent. When I was asked to reduce all other rates to 4i per cent., the Government with which I was associated had not the necessary money to enable it to do so, because it was dependent upon the money made available to it through the Australian Loan Council. The Minister must have been acquainted with what happened then, but he resurrected some old stories. One was that 47 charges had been laid against farmers for stealing wheat, and he suggested that I, as a Minister of the Crown, should have intervened. I have never done anything like that in my life, and I do not intend to do so now.
– I suggested that the honorable senator had an opportunity to do something for the farmers.
– Those people had been sent out by a Labour Minister to produce on marginal areas, and was I to excuse them for having violated the law? When the Minister has had as much experience as I have had he will know that it is his duty to enforce the law as it stands, and if the law be bad he must try to have it amended. I had no right to interfere in the matter to which the Minister referred, and I would not interfere in such a case in future. If a person steals anything he must accept the responsibility for his own action. I had nothing to do with the matter.
– The farmers concorned were starving.
– They were not, because every one of them was in receipt of an allowance on practically the same basis as to-day, although the cost of living was then considerably below what it now is. There were no starving farmers. They were in receipt of a regular payment. At that time, as far as money was available for the purpose, an allowance was paid to farmers and unemployed alike. The Minister should not charge me in connexion with a matter for which I was npt responsible because the Agricultural Bank was transferred to the control of another authority in the May following the April in which I was appointed as a Minister of the Crown.
The Minister also said that a Labour government had not introduced legislation fixing the price of wheat, but I point out that section 5 of the Wheat Advances Act 1930 provides as follows: -
The rate of advance payable under this act in respect of wheat of fair average quality shall be 3s. per bushel less -
– The bill was passed in the House of Representatives.
– It was placed upon the statute-book. Does not the Minister admit that, although the measure became law, effect was never given to it? The Labour Government was in power for one year after the act was passed. It is useless for the Minister to try to mislead the Senate. Ministers in State Parliaments have great responsibilities, but Ministers in dominion parliaments, where matters of national importance are dealt, with, have even greater responsibilities, and ought to be particularly careful that the statements made by them are accurate.
– Then it will be necessary for a change to be made on the Opposition side.
– I shall not knowingly make an inaccurate statement. I appreciate the honesty of the PostmasterGeneral in that respect. He said that he would be careful to state the position accurately, but the Minister for External Territories made no attempt to verify some of his statements. When he was reading an extract from Ilansard, he accused me of having altered the report of my speech, but I have never altered a Hansard report in my life. I did not alter one word of the first speech I made on this subject in this chamber. I challenge the Minister to disprove that. I did not alter one word and I do not propose to do so, although one remark made by me about the Minister was omitted from the Hansard report. Evidently the reporter did not consider it worth recording.
– I thought that it was very important.
– No doubt. The Minister felt justified in saying that I had deleted a portion of the report. The Minister and I will get on well together if he appreciates the fact that when he desires to present a case it should be truthful. I have left the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia with an excellent reputation on both sides of that chamber, and, whilst I shall not say that tears were shed at my departure, I have the satisfaction of knowing that high compliments were paid to me. I appreciate the attitude adopted by the Senate towards this motion, and I was glad to hear the remarks of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) that when an individual Minister speaks, he expresses the views of the Government. The Minister for External Territories, the Postmaster-General and the Minister for Aircraft Production have all supported the motion, and therefore the .Senate can cast upon the Government the responsibility for giving effect to it. I .make no exorbitant request, but merely ask that a reasonable price be paid for the farmers’ wheat.
– Does the honorable senator accept the price of 4s. a bushel all round, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition?
– I think that is little enough. The price decided on some time ago was 4s. 8d. a bushel, and that is probably nearer the price which should be paid to give the farmer a sufficient margin to enable him to discharge debts incurred during periods of drought and low prices. The wool-growers are in a similar position to that of the wheatfarmers. They are receiving a reasonable price at present, but not sufficient to enable them to reduce their bank overdrafts. “A similar remark applies to the producers of butter and almost all other primary products. I am pleased to have the assurance that the Senate will support the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Strike at Rossiter’s Limited- Queensland: Price of Foodstuffs - Alien Cafe Proprietors - Tasmania : Transport of Soldiers on Leave.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I recently directed a question upon notice to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) relating to a strike at the boot factory of Rossiter’s Limited, at Unley, South Australia, and I now enter an emphatic protest against the Minister’s reply, which reads -
If the refusal of female employees to work under a foreman whose attitude is objectionable is regarded as a strike there has been some slight disruption of work so caused at Rossiter’s Limited, Unley, South Australia, but this has had no serious effect on defence supplies.
That is an example of the despotic methods adopted by the Minister, who knows that the Arbitration Court decided that the complaints against the foreman and the company were frivolous. Although the strikers undertook to abide by the decision of the Court, they did not do so, but again went on strike when the Court’s verdict was announced by Judge O’Mara. The position has, undoubtedly, been reached in which extreme elements in the community, knowing that they will receive complete support from the Minister when they refuse to obey arbitration decisions, will endeavour to sow seeds of discontent in the minds of loyal unionists engaged on war work. If the Minister continues to make such inflammatory statements all semblance of discipline on the production front will completely disappear. I urge the Leader of the Senate to prevent his irresponsible and fanatical colleagues from making such wild statements.
– Even at this late hour I am constrained to rise in order to refer to a matter seriously affecting the north of Queensland. The honorable member for Kennedy in the Queensland Parliament, Mr. Jesson, has recently visited Canberra, and has mentioned a number of rather startling facts concerning serious food shortages which are affecting the health of the people, especially the children. I was recently in North Queensland, together with Senator Courtice and the honorable member for Kennedy in the House of Representatives (Mr. Riordan). While there we made certain investigations and met a number of people who voiced their grievances. The demand on foodstuffs made by the troops in North Queensland has meant a shortage of supplies to civilians. These people are willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary for the defence of Australia, but it is not right that children should go short of essential foodstuffs. There is a scarcity of milk and ice as well as of fruit and biscuits. Vegetables, even if procurable, are costly, beans cost ls. 6d. a lb. and peas are unprocurable. Fabulous prices are asked for cabbages. These people are in the front line and should be assisted. It is pleasant to enjoy the glorious climate of Canberra, and to discourse on what various political parties have done or failed to do, but in our enjoyment of such discussions we must not neglect the people of North Queensland and of Western Australia who are suffering great disabilities arising out of the war. I urge the Government to take all possible steps to overcome transport difficulties and to assist the people of North Queensland to grow those commodities which are necessary for their health and welfare. They are prepared to do their best as a community to provide funds for the establishment of a canning factory and dehydration plant. In that part of Queensland it is possible to grow various vegetables arid fruits, and if such a plant were established supplies would be available in the event of that portion of Queensland being cut off from districts farther south. I hope that the Government will assist in the establishment of such a plant in order to ensure food supplies to that portion of Australia.
.- I draw attention to what appears to be the policy of the Department of Labour and National Service, under which foreigners engaged in the cafe business are encouraged and assisted to the detriment of Australians. At an early date two cafes controlled by foreigners will be opened in Collins-street, Melbourne. One of them, which is being enlarged and renovated, is situated a few doors from Scott’s Hotel. The building has not been occupied for some months. In view of the shortage of carpenters, timber and essential shop fittings, as well as the embargo on refrigerators, I should like to know how these foreigners are able to obtain supplies and services for such a modern and up-to-date cafe when ample places for refreshment, many of them conducted by Australians, already exist. No doubt these two cafes will be open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., which will necessitate working two shifts, and employing a double staff. One Australian proprietor said to me that he could not get enough staff for one shift. It is a mystery how foreigners can set up new and expensive businesses. This infiltration by foreigners is causing deep concern among businessmen generally. I hope that the Minister will look into this matter with a view to having a check made of the activities of foreigners who are growing rich at the expense of our own people.
– I desire to bring to the notice of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) and of Ministers representing the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Air two matters which affect soldiers on leave. Between Tasmania and the mainland there are not the same travelling facilities as between the various States on the mainland. There is a boat and aeroplane service to Tasmania, but the boat is often taken over by the Army authorities, and the aeroplane, too, is sometimes taken off the run and put to other uses. I suggest that members of the forces who are returning on sick leave to Tasmania should be allowed to travel by the quickest means available. They should not be required to hang around Melbourne, and then travel by boat on what is often a very rough crossing, during which they are tossed about for twelve and sometimes twenty hours. It should be possible to arrange that they travel by aeroplane, thus making the crossing in comfort in two hours. Seats on the aeroplane are frequently taken by women and children on holiday bent, and those seats might well be reserved for sick soldiers.
Tasmanian members of the fighting forces in camps and at action stations on the mainland are sometimes given limited leave for six or seven days. If they have sufficient notice they can ring the booking agent for a seat on the aeroplane to Tasmania, themselves paying the difference between the cost of a passage by air and the cost by boat. However, even if the agent in Melbourne forwards the money to the agent in Tasmania, he cannot reserve a passage on the return flight though seats may be available, because the soldier has not made the journey across. Here is a circular issued by the Australian National Airways, dated the 22nd January, 1943 -
Some sub-agents are forwarding return concession vouchers to their own offices in another State, prior to the passenger’s departure on the forward section of the journey, return bookings are being made. This procedureis contrary to the instructions. Return reservations cannot be made and will not be accepted until the passenger has made the forward flight. This will apply to all services and no exceptions are made.
The effect of this is to prevent men on short leave from getting home to see their people, from whom they may have been absent for months. I suggest that the Leader of the Senate look into these matters with a view to having them remedied. There is no priority of travel on the Tasmanian air service, except in the case of Ministers of the Crown and their private secretaries, and members of the forces travelling on essential business.
– Ministers do not use it much.
– No, except the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), Ministers do not use it as much as we in Tasmania would like them to. I know that the position is as I have described it, because my own boy was, on one occasion, unable to get home when he had seven days leave because he could not book his return passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presen ted : - .
Apple and Pear Organization Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 534.
Sixteenth Annual Report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, for year 1941-42, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 532.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 479; 1943, No. 11.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 530.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 533.
Excise Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, No. 22.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes at -
Glen Davis, New South Wales.
Pascoe Vale, Victoria.
Pat’s River, Flinders Island, Tasmania.
Young, New South Wales.
Meat Export Control Act -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 529.
National Security Act -
National Security (Civil Defence Workers’ Compensation ) Regulations - Order by State Premier - Tasmania.
National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations - Orders - Military powers during emergency (2).
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Air Restrictions (No. 3).
Control of -
Electricity Generator and Engine Investigation.
Prohibited places (4).
Prohibiting work on land (7).
Taking possession of land, &c. (339).
Use of land (26).
National Security (Land Transport) Regulations - Order No. 12.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, Nos. 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of the reservation of certain lands near Alice Springs (Jay Creek Aboriginal Reserve).
Wine Overseas Marketing Act -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 531.
Senate adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 February 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1943/19430210_senate_16_173/>.