16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from the Governor-General a message informing the Senate that the proposed law, an act to amend Part IX. of the Navigation Act 1912-35, relating to Courts of Marine Inquiry, which was reserved for His Majesty’s pleasure, has been laid before His Majesty in ‘Council, and that His Majesty has, by an order in Council dated the sixteenth day of December, one thousand, nine hundred and forty-two, confirmed , approved and declared his assent to it. The Governor-General has caused theKing’s assent to be proclaimed in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 31, dated the 10th February, 1943.
Refrigerators for Staff
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that there is an urgent demand by Commonwealth railway employees on the TransAustralian line for small keroseneoperated refrigerators, and that owing to the demands of the defence forces these refrigerators are not available for civilian use? Immediately the military demands have been overtaken, will the Minister ensure that railway employees who live in one of the hottest regions in Australia are given an opportunity to purchase the refrigerators under the departmental hire purchase scheme, as these machines are essential to the comfort of the employees and their wives and families?
– I am glad to be able to inform the honorable senator that consideration has been given to this matter for a considerable period. The particular machines to which he has referred are practically unprocurable for civilian use, because of the greater needs in other directions, but the Minister for Trade and Customs has been asked to consider the possibility of making at least some of these refrigerators available for the relief of the families to which the honorable senator has referred.
– by leave - read a copy of the financial statement delivered in the House of Representatives by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) (vide page 548), laid on the table the following papers : -
Financial statement by the Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P. Treasurer and moved -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McBride) adjourned.
– On Friday, the 29th January, Senator Brand asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
Will the Government consider calling a conference of representatives of the Soldiers Land Settlement Committee in each State with the object of assisting the Government in formulating a policy of land settlement as a means of repatriating ex-servicemen of this war?
At the time, it was stated that an answer would be supplied. I am now able to say that the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction has supplied the following answer : -
The Government has recently set up the Rural Reconstruction Commission, which will consider at an early date the question of land settlement in relation to repatriation. Representatives of the Soldiers Land Settlement Committee will have the opportunity of giving evidence before the commission.
– by leave - In response to the request made yesterday by Senator Herbert Hays for information relating to the acquisition of apples and pears for the present season, the following statement has been furnished by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture : -
An order has been issued acquiring all Apples and pears (except William Bon Chretien) grown in the States of Western Australia and Tasmania during the 1943 season by commercial growers and harvested after the 1st January, 1943. The crops in those two States will be marketed or disposed of through the Apple and Pear Marketing Board in the same manner as in the preceding acquisition years. In the other States the crops will not be subject to acquisition or any market control by the board and growers are free to market their fruit through normal channels of distribution. The acquisition arrangements will be administered by the same board as in 1942, but State committees will continue only In the two acquisition States. In addition, local or district advisory committees are being set up where deemed necessary by the board to furnish advice in regard to particular aspects of the board’s operations. The growers will be paid advances in respect of apples and pears acquired by the Commonwealth at 1942 rates plus an additional allowance of 4d. a bushel on fruit harvested and delivered under board direction. The previous deduction of 2d. a bushel on fruit not required to be harvested will be maintained. The Apple and Pear Marketing Board will, as hitherto, move fruit from Tasmania and Western Australia to the various large consuming centres and markets to ensure that all markets are supplied with apples and pears to their full absorptive capacity, insofar as the existing transport arrangements and cool-storage facilities permit.
Censorship of Address Script
– I ask the Leader of the Senatewhy, in view of the reported statement of the Prime Minister on censorship policy that no censorship is exercised over any matter other than that affecting security, the censor at Perth censored the script of an addressbroadcast on the 22nd January last by Mrs.Cardell Oliver, the member for Subiaco in the Legislative Assembly of “Western Australia? That address in no way dealt with the military defence of Australia, but was simply an effective criticism of the Commonwealth Powers Bill.
– If the honorable senator will let me have the details of the matter to which he refers, I shall have inquiries made and obtain a reply for him.
Fruit-picking at Mildura.
– Will the Government favorably consider the temporary employment of 1,000 members of the fighting services as fruit-pickers in the Mildura area for a period of two weeks? The number of fruit-pickers now employed is 1,000 short of the number needed to complete the harvest which commenced this week and will be in full swing next week.
– I assure the honorable senator that the matter referred to by him is under consideration by the Government, and steps are being taken to see that as far as possible the needs of primary industries with regard to man-power are properly attended to.
– I referred to Mildura, not Shepparton.
– What I have said applies particularly to fruit-picking at Mildura.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– This matter is now under consideration by the Australian Potato Committee. A statement will be made in connexion with it at an early date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
As the story of the enemy aerial attack at Broome has been given to the press, will the Government now make available for publication a full account of the bombardment by the Japanese of the port of Darwin?
– An account of the bombing by the Japanese of the port of Darwin in February, 1942, appears in an article in Soldiering On, published by the Australian War Memorial Board. Copies of Soldiering On were made available to the press and I understand that the story of the raid was published in newspapers throughout the Commonwealth on or about 9 th December. It is not in the public interest to publish a fuller account at present.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the National Security Act 1939-1040.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 10th February, vide page 401, on motion by Senator McLeay -
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 1939-1940, be disallowed.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has moved the disallowance of the National Security (Australian Meat Industry Commission) Regulations contained in Statutory Rule No. 480 of the 30th October, 1942, under which the Government has set up the Australian Meat Industry Commission and has given it extensive powers and functions in order to deal with the control of the meat industry in Australia. It will be appreciated by members of the Opposition that the Government did not take action in connexion with this industry until conditions became such that it was forced to take certain steps if it were to meet the pressing demands which were being made upon the industry not only by the service departments in Australia in respect of Australian and allied troops, but also to meet our commitments to the United Kingdom. For some time prior to the gazettal of these regulations the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) and officials of his department had been in consultation with those engaged in the industry regarding the best methods which could be adopted in order to meet the position. Admittedly there were objections by certain sections of the industry to the suggestion of governmental control. This, however, is not unusual and members of the Opposition who have had ministerial experience will recall that in every instance where regulations have been promulgated for the control of industry there have been strenuous objections by certain sections for reasons which are known to them. The meat industry was no exception to this general rule, but following a conference - I particularly ask the Leader of the Opposition to note this point - which was held at Canberra, and which was convened by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, it was agreed that action by the Commonwealth Government was imperative if the position which was rapidly developing was to be handled satisfactorily.
I have already referred to the demands which have been made on this industry on behalf of service departments. These can only be described as colossal, and if I were able to give honorable senators details they would be astounded at the quantities of frozen and canned meats which will be required during 1943 to meet these demands. In addition there are the service requirements of dehydrated mutton, which in turn will absorb some quantity of fresh carcass mutton. Opposition senators will realize that the
Government could not afford to take any risks in regard to these demands, which must be met in full as and when required. Any delay in connexion with the fulfilment of any order may have serious repercussions which would be damaging to the national interest. These demands have always been given first priority and have been closely followed by the demands which we have received from the United Kingdom. Very few of us realize the terrific changes which have occurred in connexion with this industry since the outbreak of war with Japan. Previously portion of the output was consumed locally; the balance was exported to available markets overseas in the frozen and chilled form. This condition was maintained for the first two years of the war, but recently it has changed considerably and to such a degree that there is the possibility that in order to meet our commitments for the services and for export in full there may have to be some curtailment of supplies of meat for the civilian population. No doubt honorable senators are aware of the huge canning programme which was undertaken last year; the programme for this year has increased considerably and will ‘tax our canning plants almost to capacity. The bulk of the canned product will be taken by__the service departments, but a fairly large percentage will also be exported to the United Kingdom. We have agreed to make available to Great Britain the carcass equivalent of 190,000 tons of meat during 1943. This includes frozen carcass meat, canned meat and dehydrated mutton.
The foregoing facts have been submitted in order to give honorable senators some idea of the position. I shall now detail the steps which have already been taken by the Australian Meat Industry Commission. The commission has evolved and is ready to put into effect at a very early date a pig-meat plan which has become absolutely necessary because of a relative shortage of pig-meats due in the first place to heavy demands followed by lessened production owing to outbreaks of swine fever in Western Australia and New South Wales. The plan has as its objective the stabilization of pig prices to pig producers during the years 1943 and 1944, and, generally speaking, meets all requests which have been submitted to the Commonwealth Government by pig producers’ associations for a stabilized plan for that particular industry. The commission is directly responsible for a canning programme which will approximate 90,000 tons of canned products during 1943. The canning programme is entrusted to the care of the Meat Canning Committee and it will be noted from regulation 3 of the National Security (Australian Meat Industry Commission) Regulations that the regulations under which the Canning Committee functions continue in force but subject to the regulations under Statutory Rule No. 480 of the 30th October, i942. It will be seen, therefore, that the commission must ensure that the canning programme as determined by the Commonwealth Government is adequately protected, with particular reference to the supplies of carcass meat of all classes which will be required to complete the programme. The commission has also assumed responsibility for an extensive dehydration programme which the Commonwealth Government has sponsored. The first dehydration unit will commence operations on Monday next, and three other plants will commence to operate at weekly intervals thereafter. Two further plants are expected to be in operation before the end of March. In this connexion the Commonwealth Government has undertaken to secure production at the rate of 5,000 tons per annum by the end of 1943, and has agreed to ship 3,000 tons of the dehydrated product to Great Britain during this year. This is additional to the needs of the services, the bulk of which is met by the plant operating in New South Wales, but production from some of the new units will also be required for the services. It is one of the functions of the commission to ensure distribution of all classes of meat to those channels where it is most needed. Details have already been announced of the commission’s plan to purchase mutton for canning and for dehydration at fixed, prices, f.o.r., canneries and dehydrators, and also pay freezing and storing charges in respect of those classes of mutton which are placed in store and held as reserve stocks against periods of short supply. The commission has already made preliminary inquiries and taken some action in regard to the control of mutton and mutton prices, and is pursuing investigations in regard to beef. It will be noted, therefore, that the commission’s activities are already extensive and are such that if the regulations are disallowed at this stage chaos must be caused within the industry. Notwithstanding the statement by the Leader of the Opposition regarding the Australian Meat Board, there is no organization at present in Australia which could readily take over the functions of the commission. This must mean that the work already performed by the commission and the plans which it has in train in regard to its canning and. dehydration programmes and the procurement of supplies of fresh meat must cease. In this event the service departments will have to go short of foodstuffs which are vitally necessary for our troops.
The Leader of the Opposition made six points on which he based his motion for the disallowance of the regulations. His first point deals with the supersession of the Australian Meat Board by an untried and unqualified commission. I point out to honorable senators that the Australian Meat Board has been .concerned only with the export of meat from Australia. It is a statutory board comprising eighteen members, and although it is admitted that it has carried out, its functions efficiently it has had no experience whatever of the control and implementation of plans for canning, dehydration and fresh and frozen meats for the Australian market. Moreover, it has had no experience whatever of control of the industry which is the objective of the Government to-day. The board as at present constituted is too big and too cumbersome, and at times like the present when travel is so difficult it would not be possible to get the board together as and when required to deal with the urgent problems which arise from day to day. Even though the Minister agreed to the suggestion that the board be given additional powers, it is obvious that its membership would have to be reduced substantially, and that representatives of government departments would have to be added. That was why the Government appointed this so-called untried and unqualified commission which, strangely enough, has certain members of the Australian Meat Board included in its personnel. Far from its members being untried and unqualified, I point out that the commission consists of members who have had far greater and wider experience in the control of industry than have present members of the Australian Meat Board. Honorable senators have only to examine the plan submitted by the commission in respect of pig-meats, and the action which it has taken in connexion with mutton for dehydration and canning, to disprove the assertion by the Leader of the Opposition that the commission is untried and unqualified.
The second point taken by the honorable senator refers to the abolition of producer control and its replacement by inexperienced and bureaucratic administration. One is forced to the conclusion that the honorable senator, in making that point, has used words, the meaning of which he does not quite understand. Alternatively, he has not considered the personnel of the commission, or of the State Meat Advisory Committees which have been set up in conjunction with the commission. This brings me to his third point which, from what I can gather, is the real reason for his motion, namely, the personnel of the commission. Here again the Leader of the Opposition is grievously in error. The personnel of the commission covers all sections of the meat industry, with the addition of representatives of certain Commonwealth Government departments which are vitally interested in this industry. I mentioned previously that certain members of the commission are also members of the Australian Meat Board. It is admitted that the personnel of the commission does comprise a number of men who reside in New South Wales, but it cannot be claimed that they represent only the interests of New South Wales. Let us examine the position from the point of view of producer representation. Mutton and lamb interests are represented on the commission by the president of the Federal Graziers Council of Australia. In addition, there is a representative of the Graziers Council of New
South. Wales. Beef interests have been covered by the president of the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association, who has attended practically all meetings of the commission. Pig producers are represented by a member of the Federal Pig Council. There is one other point which the honorable senator has overlooked, namely, that the deputy of the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, Mr. W. S. Kelly, of South Australia, who is recognized as one of the best fat-lamb breeders in Australia has attended all meetings of the commission, and it is known that in addition to his departmental interests, he has had in mind the interests of the lamb producers. The Commonwealth Government officials who are members of the commission represent particular departments, and it will be noted that in each instance the representative is an official who has had extensive experience, not only of the meat industry, but also of other primary industries.
I might direct the attention of honorable senators to the report of a recent meeting of the Federal Graziers Council, which has made certain recommendations to the Commonwealth Government in regard to the activities of the commission. It is worthy of note that this organization, which is representative of many primary producers in Australia, has not made any comment regarding the apparent lack of producer representation on the commission. I have been informed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) that he is prepared to add to the personnel of the commission by the appointment of a representative of fat lamb producers in the southern Australian States. The Federal Graziers Council has agreed to this proposal, and has submitted to the Minister a nominee for appointment. In dealing further with the subject of producer representation, I suggest that an examination of the personnel of the State Meat Advisory Committees, under the direction of Deputy Controllers of Meat Supplies, will reveal that producers are adequately represented. On each of the State committees there is one representative of pig producers, two representatives of beef producers and two representatives of mutton and lamb producers. The remaining members of State committees are representatives of all sections of the industry. I feel sure that now that the facts have been placed before the Leader of the Opposition he will appreciate that the contentions advanced in his second and third points cannot be sustained. An examination of the set-up of the State Committees and of the commission itself must reveal that there are no grounds for complaint regarding an organization established by the Commonwealth Government to handle one of the most important and complicated industries in Australia.
The fourth point made by the Leader of the Opposition is interesting, and relates to what is called further proof of government by regulations. Members of the Opposition should cast their minds back to certain boards and committees which were established by them to deal with particular industries before Japan entered the war. Two which readily come to mind are the Apple and Pear Marketing Board aud the Dairy Produce Control .Committee, both of which were set up by the previous Government under National Security Regulations, notwithstanding that in both instances statutory boards were already in existence. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition could explain why the action taken then was correct whilst similar action taken by the present Government in more pressing circumstances is incorrect. It is difficult to follow the Opposition’s line of reasoning with regard to this industry. One further point advanced by the Leader of the Opposition refers to the importance of our meat exports during the war and in the postwar period. That statement is correct up to a point. I have already stated that the Australian Meat Board has handled export problems well, but the Australian Meat Industry Commission is concerned with much more than export; it has to ensure supplies of meat to Australian and American troops in Australia and in the Pacific. It is concerned also with ensuring adequate supplies of meat to the civilian population. It is also vitally interested in ensuring that Great Britainreceives from Australia as much meat as it is possible to export to that country. The charge has been made that Australia has not exported all available meat to the United Kingdom. That is incorrect and the honorable senator knows that that is so. All meat that has been available for export to the United Kingdom has been shipped to that country. On one or two occasions ships have been diverted from Australia because we did not have readily available supplies of meat to fill the refrigerated shipping space. Such meat was required to meet urgent service demands in Australia or to be held in this country as reserves against the possibility of an emergency situation arising. The Commonwealth Government has undertaken to supply specific quantities of meat to the United Kingdom during 1943. Nobody appreciates more than the present Government, Great Britain’s needs for meat from Australia at the present time following the comparative failure of South. American countries to meet their export commitments to Great Britain owing to adverse seasonal conditions. The Commonwealth Government will send to Great Britain all the meat that is available and in the forms in which it is needed. These forms, in their order of preference, are canned, dried and frozen. The significance of this preference will be appreciated when one takes into consideration the difficulties of the British Ministry of Shipping in providing refrigerated shipping space for the carriage of our perishable products. It is surprising that the Leader of the Opposition should charge this Government with falling down on its obligations when he knows the difficulties which have confronted Great Britain in the provision of adequate shipping space for the carriage of our exportable surpluses.
Owing to the very heavy increase of demand, meat prices have risen substantially; they are higher to-day than before the war. Between December, 1939, and December, 1942, wholesale prices of beef in Sydney rose by 40 per cent., wholesale prices of pork by over 45 per cent., and wholesale prices of mutton by 15 per cent. In respect of retail prices, the average rise between December, 1939, and December, 1942, was 18.7 per cent. With the heavy increase of demand and the disorganized condition of supply and distribution, no relief from these high prices will be possible unless some form of control is established. Any endeavour to control the price of meat without proper control of supply and distribution, and without offering a guaranteed price to producers, is both impracticable and unfair to the producers. The Government’s plan involves the payment of a minimum price as well as the determination of maximum prices. This ‘distinguishes it from normal price control activities. In order to operate the plan, it is essential that an organization representative of all the interests in the industry shall be established.
The Government cannot allow the price of meat to consumers to rise to uneconomic levels. Apart from the injustice to many classes of people whose incomes are not rapidly adjusted to the cost of living, a rise in the price of meat has a very significant influence on the index number on which adjustments in the basic wage are made. An increase of 10 per cent, in the price of meat raises the cost of living by an amount that requires an adjustment of approximately ls. a week in the basic wage. If meat prices are allowed to rise to the high levels that would obtain under present conditions of short supply, an unnecessary increase of the cost of living and of the costs in Australia generally will be permitted. It is generally agreed that price control should operate to prevent unnecessary increases of costs. The Government would be failing in its duty if it did not make some effort to control so important an element in costs as the price of meat. Its plan, however, is not based upon the mere determination of a maximum price without accepting any responsibility for supplies and distribution and for guaranteeing the producer against low prices that might operate later owing to seasonal conditions, or to a temporary decline of demand. If the Australian Meat Industry Commission is not to continue in operation, the whole of this equitable plan for the control of meat prices will be lost.
For the first time the meat producers of Australia, as well as the consumers of meat, are offered protection against the activities of middle-men. and speculators in meat products. The Government’s plan involves the determination of margins at all stages of processing and distribution, so that both producer and consumer will know that the costs of handling the meat will be fair and reasonable, and will permit no scope for the operations of speculators. In fact, the Australian Meat Industry Commission, whilst leaving all the normal agencies handling meat to render the services’ for which they have been responsible in the past, places the industry under Government control, as it ought to be in war-time.
In his speech the Leader of the Opposition said: - :
The Senate will see how far-reaching that regulation is, and appreciate its ramifications. Under regulation 20 the commission lias the right to cancel contracts and the owner of stock is denied any right of action against the Commonwealth in any Federal or State court.
The honorable senator objects to such a regulation when issued by a Minister in a Labour Government, but similar language is embodied in a regulation dealing with the acquisition of butter and cheese which was issued by himself when a Minister in p. former government. I shall ask the Clerk of the Senate to read that regulation.
– Why does not the Minister read it himself?
– I am prepared to read it so long as the Opposition will take my word that I am reading it correctly.
– We are prepared to accept the Minister’s reading, although we often doubt his judgment.
– Regulation 26 of Statutory Rules 1942, No, 480 issued by Mr. Scully, f or and on behalf of the Minister of State for Defence, reads -
As the honorable senator takes exception to that regulation, I shall read Regulation 12 of Statutory Rules 1939 No. 145 issued by himself for the Minister of State for Defence. It is as follows : - (3.) No action for the enforcement or for damages for breach of any contract of the kind specified in sub-regulation (1.) or (2.) of this regulation, whether the contract was entered into or is to be performed in Australia or elsewhere, shall, insofar as that contract has not been completed by delivery prior to the acquisition of the butter or cheese, he brought in any Federal or State Court or Court of a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth.
Why does the Leader of the Opposition now object to the issue of a regulation in identical terms to one issued by himself on a former occasion?
– I ask the Minister to explain why this power was needed in connexion with this industry.
– That is only begging the question.
I now draw attention to another error made by the honorable gentleman in relation to a conference held at Canberra. He said -
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.
As a matter of fact, the conference convened by the Minister was attended by the two gentlemen named by the honorable senator. How, therefore, can he say that they did not even receive a reply to their letter?
– They did not receive any reply concerning the scheme which they put up to the Minister.
SenatorFRASER.- The Minister had already convened the conference when the scheme was placed before him. I think that I have replied effectively to all the points raised by the honorable senator. He has not advanced one sound reason why these regulations should be disallowed. The decision of the Government to take control of the meat industry was reached after a careful investigation of the whole position. The present form of control is not only the best that con be devised, but is also one which, as it becomes better known, is meeting with the approval of all sections of the industry. Every one associated with the industry, with the sole exception of honorable senators opposite, realize that the position of the meat industry in Australia is such that if no control be exercised, we shall not be able to meet the obligations we have undertaken. I cannot over-emphasize that point. The present state of affairs is most serious. “I have already indicated that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is prepared to meet the wish of honor- able senators opposite that an additional member be appointed to the Australian Meat Industry Commission, but, at the same time, is not prepared to withdraw the present regulations and to enact fresh legislation in order to enable the Australian Meat Board to carry out the functions now performed by the Australian Meat Industry Commission. The Minister has intimated to me that he will not grant any additional powers to the Australian Meat Board, and that this chamber must be prepared to accept responsibility for the position which will ensue it these regulations are disallowed. Honorable senators opposite must accept responsibility for the chaos that will be caused if the motion be carried. I have already informed honorable senators of the vital need of supplies for the service departments. Their demands includethe requirements of American forces in Australia and in the Pacific area. I again emphasize the danger of a shortage of supplies for these forces for which honorable senators opposite must accept responsibility’ and account to the Australian people if the action which they now contemplate, should cause a breakdown in supplies to our fighting forces. I point out that the Government is committed to service requirements and to its export programme to the United Kingdom. Roughly these commitments will absorb 45 per cent of the available meat supplies in Australia, and they will be met even though it may be necessary at a very early date to curtail supplies of meat to the consuming public of Australia. I hope that honorable senators realize the significance of that statement. The motion to disallow these regulations at this stage may be construed as a deliberate attempt to interfere with the procurement of supplies which are vitally necessary for the feeding of our troops who are engaged in so many theatres of war to-day and in areas where it is absolutely essential that adequate supplies of canned and dehydrated meats be made available. The contention that the Australian Meat Board could carry on these functions is not a correct statement in that honorable senators know that if at this stage the present organization were disrupted there would be considerable danger that the programme already laid down would lag behind, and there would be a danger of shortage of supplies of an essential foodstuff for our troops. I, therefore, appeal to honorable senators to allow the regulations to stand in their present form so that the Australian Meat Industry Commission can continue with the splendid work with which it has made such great progress in such a short time.
– Honorable senators, on this side of the chamber fully appreciate the problems that confront the Government in connexion with the meat industry. We are well aware that, because circumstances are constantly changing, it is impossible to envisage future requirements for any considerable period ahead, and, consequently, plans must be materially altered from time to time. For that reason we do not say that most of the things that the Government is endeavouring to do are not necessary. Indeed, we believe that they are very necessary. As a matter of fact the Minister for External Territories (Senator Eraser) has only just indicated further steps which it is now proposed to take. At the same time, however, I am not disturbed in the slightest by the threat which the Minister made in his diatribe against honorable senators on this side. I assure him that his threats will not influence me one iota, unless it be in the direction of strengthening my opposition to the Government’s proposals, because the fact remains that, although the Minister told us many things, he did not attempt to give one instance in which the present Australian Meat Board could not carry out the functions - and with greater chances of success - that are now being performed by the commission. Although the commission is completely inexperienced in these matters, it has been asked to attend to them at the eleventh hour. Consequently, we are entitled to examine the Government’s proposals, and the commission which has been set up to give effect to them. The Minister’s statement that the Government has received no protest against the appointment of that body, but that all sections of the meat industry approve of it is not correct. Indeed, only to-day I received a telegram which states -
Victorian pig-raisers convention representing 20,000 working producers solidly support your fight against Meat Industry Regulations. Mass meeting Melbourne on Tuesday condemned plan and requested Minister Scully immediately abandon it on grounds price unpayable to great majority.
That telegram goes on to say that the convention challenges the Minister to prove that any section of producers is in favour of the plan. I have referred to that telegram in order to show that the Minister’s statement that no protest was being raised against the Government’s proposals is incorrect. I do not subscribe to all that is contained in it, because as I have already said I believe that it is probably essential to organize the industry, and that the producers throughout the Commonwealth are prepared to come behind the Government or the Minister in endeavouring to meet what he calls our essential service, civil and overseas commitments. I draw attention to the far-reaching nature of the regulations themselves. They may be necessary, but any commission or board clothed with the powers contained in them should have the complete confidence of the producers in order that the working of the organization may have their absolute sympathy and loyal co-operation. I have no hesitation in saying that a commission constituted as this one is does not possess the full confidence of the producers, in spite of the belated admission of the Minister that two more producers are to be appointed to it. His action comes too late to meet the objections to the general personnel and constitution of the commission.
– ‘Who are they to be ?
– We are told that Mr. Brodie has been appointed, and I understand, subject to correction by the Minister, that he has agreed to appoint Mr. Fisken.
– This is the first we have heard of that appointment.
– I believe that my statement is right, but if the Minister says that it is not I am prepared to accept his denial. With those two additions we shall have a commission of sixteen, as against eighteen on the Australian Meat Board which, according to the Minister, was far too large to handle the problems of the industry efficiently. I agree with the Minister that both the Australian Meat Board and the new commission are too large to work as a complete body, but I understand that the board made a recommendation to the Government, prior to the appoint ment of the commission, that an executive committee of the board should be formed to carry out the administrative side of the organization. It is futile for the Minister to talk about the board being too large, when the commission which the Government has now appointed is of practically the same size. That is all flapdoodle and humbug. What is more, one of the reasons why the commission will not satisfy the producers is that they remember certain interests in New South Wales, during a certain period of the war being most articulate against the Australian Meat Board, which was representative of all the States, because the board did not allow them to dominate the whole of the organization throughout Australia. We find that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) who represents a New South Wales constituency, with his very limited vision, can never see over the borders of hia own State. ‘Consequently we have a commission, composed almost entirely of New South Wales members, which is not calculated to command the confidence of producers throughout the Commonwealth. The powers contained in the regulations are very wide. My colleague the Leader of the Opposition quoted certain of them, but I wish to call attention to others.
– I hope that the honorable senator has a better case than his leader had.
– Even if my leader’s case was poor, the Minister made no attempt to answer it, so that it appears to me that I do not need to do any better than my leader did. Regulation 11 is as follows : -
Notwithstanding anything contained in these regulations (other than sub-regulation (2.) of regulation 39) but subject to any directions of the Minister, the commission shall, without prejudice to any other powers conferred on it by these regulations or delegated to it by the Minister, have power to make orders for or in relation to the regulation and control of the meat industry and meat trade, and, in particular, for or in relation to the regulation and ~ control of the production, supply, treatment, storage, distribution, sale, use and consumption of stock and meat.
The powers contained there are very wide and complete, and should give the commission, or as we would desire the Australian Meat Board, everything necessary for_the proper organization and control of the meat industry in all its phases throughout Australia. Then by regulation 12-
The commission may, by writing under its seal, delegate any of its powers and functions under these regulations in relation to any matters or class of matters, or to any locality, so that the delegated powers and functions may be exercised by the delegate as fully and effectually as by the commission, with respect to the matters or class of matters specified, or the locality defined, in the instrument of delegation.
That is a fairly full power of delegation, because it does not prescribe a limitation of the class of person to whom the powers may be delegated. Although we may have complete confidence in the central authority, a power of delegation as wide as that is rather dangerous. Some limitation should be placed on the delegation of such very wide powers to any individual or group of individuals. The further regulations rather amplify than extend regulation 11, because so far as I can see that regulation is so complete that it cannot very well be extended to any substantial degree. Regulation 15 provides that-
Notwithstanding anything contained in any law of any State or Territory of the Commonwealth, the Minister may, by order in writing, or by order published in the Gazette, require any person who produces or has control of any stock to supply and deliver to the Minister or to a person specified in the order, at such marketing place, slaughtering establishment or other place, and in such condition, as is so specified, such of the stock as is so specified, and that person shall, within such period as is specified in the order, supply and deliver that stock accordingly.
That is a very wide power, which I should expect to be exercised with great discretion, because as a man with a knowledge of stock I know the difficulty of complying with any such order. To suggest that any person located at a distance from the marketing place or slaughtering establishment must deliver a certain number of stock in a certain condition at a certain time is going rather far. With the best intentions in the world, he may not be able to do what is provided for. You, Mr. President, as a primary producer will recognize that fact. I mention it because attention should ‘be drawn to it, although I do not suggest that the Minister would be unreasonable in the administration of this very wide power, because if it were not sympathetically administered, it could, be extremely harsh, and it would be almost impossible for the persons specified to comply with the provisions.
I should like to say a few words now in connexion with the general question of control of this industry. I make these comments in an endeavour to show how necessary it is that members of the commission should be conversant with the industry and experienced in the type of administration which they will be called upon to undertake in connexion with such a tremendous job as the organization of the meat industry throughout Australia. It is recognized that the meat trade is one of the largest and most complicated trades in this country. It has been built up under a system which, over the years, has proved most successful and most suitable. I do not suggest that the existing set up is perfect. Indeed, in support of my contention that there should be representatives of all States on a body such as this, I shall show that conditions vary considerably in different States. Whilst we recognize that it is impossible for the Minister, the Government, or the commission, to know precisely what quantities of the various types of meat will be required at any particular time, it should .be possible to arrive at a reasonable assessment of future requirements. Of course, any such assessment might be upset by unexpected changes in Avar conditions, and I frankly admit that the organization which existed in this industry prior to December last was not adequate to meet the entirely different export problems, and other varied conditions, resulting from the advent of Japan into the war. Also, calculations were upset considerably by the presence of American troops in this country. Therefore I am not prepared to suggest that no difficulty has been experienced in fulfilling the increasing demands which have been made upon the industry without any warning. I do say, however, that this commission, or whatever authority is given the job of organizing our meat supplies, should realize to what degree the production of meat in this country is determined by seasonal conditions. It is perfectly obvious that whatever the requirements may, be, they must be fulfilled largely during the flush months of the season. That, of course, is what occur in regard to the export of meat. Our export trade is not carried on throughout the entire year, but is confined largely to three or four months of the year. Consequently, our reserve supplies for civil or service requirements also must be built up very largely during those months. It is stated that to assist the primary producers, the commission has stabilized prices in the meat industry, but honorable senators will realize just how inequitable is a price stabilization system under which the minimum price is also a maximum price, and what the effect of such a system will be on the primary producers. Obviously all primary producers will be asked to supply pork at S-Jd. a lb. all the year round, and those fortunate individuals who get their supplies in during the flush period when foodstuffs are plentiful or cheap, will be in a much better position than other producers who have to put their supplies on the market during the lean period of the year. The same thing applies in respect of lamb, mutton and beef, and to suggest that the prices of meat throughout Australia should be pegged as a means of meeting the essential needs of the producers, is just a travesty of the facts. I do not know where the suggestion came from, but if it were sponsored by the commission, there will be cause for great unrest in the industry. Primary producers cannot have confidence in a body which says to them, blandly, “ We shall stabilize your prices; we shall give you 8 1/2 d. a lb. for fresh meat, gid. a lb. for meat for canning, and 2 7/8 d. a lb. for meat for dehydrating, but these prices are to be the minimum as well as the maximum “. The meat trade has been built up on the basis of export prices. Under the present arrangement our export requirements are met largely during the flush season, and throughout the rest of the year prices fluctuate considerably. If the producers, irrespective of seasonal conditions and individual responsibilities, have to supply mutton at 2 3/4 d. a lb. all the year round, great hardship will be inflicted upon them. I put it to the Government that if it wishes to obtain the large quantities of meat which it envisages, it will be well advised to fix these prices as minimum prices and not as maximum prices. I suggest also that in its intense desire for organization the Government should be extremely careful not to bring about disorganization. The only inference that one can draw from these regulations is that the present system of selling by auction, wholesale buying and retail buying throughout Australia is to be abandoned, perhaps not as the result of the direct intention of the Government, but certainly as a result of the conditions which will .be set up. If the primary producers know that whether they send their stock to the auction sale yards, to produce depots, or to the specified selling places, they will receive fixed prices for it, the general trend will be to send it straight to the works. If the Government is to try to organize this industry by saying arbitrarily to the producer, “ You send your stock in on the 10th of the month” and to another producer, “ You send your stock in on the 20 th of the month”, and so on, it will be undertaking a herculean task, and a large quantity of man-power will be required to examine the position of each individual producer in order to assess the time at which he can send his meat in. The necessity for that could be obviated entirely if the Government, the Australian Meat Board, the commission, or whatever authority is set up, would work through the existing organization, and in co-operation with existing agencies in order to get as large a quantity of stock to the market as possible. Then the organization would work much more smoothly than if stock-owners were required to send their stock in at specified times. It would be impossible in two or three months to handle the whole of the stock under the commitments mentioned, and, unless a premium were given to the holders of stock who delivered at a later period, they would be harshly treated. If a stock-breeder were to receive a certain price at any time of the year at which he delivered stock, it would be of no advantage to him to hold it longer than necessary, merely to meet the convenience of. the authorities.
The Minister laid emphasis on the need for such an organization as this commission for the control of the meat prices charged to the consumers. We all agree that it is necessary in time of war to keep the cost of living down as much as possible. The previous Government appointed the Prices Commissioner for that purpose. I am astonished at the statement by the Minister, having regard to the charges proposed to be levied in respect of the acquisition ofpork. For killing, chilling and delivery, the charge is to be3/4d. per lb.,1/4d. per lb. being collected by the commission and1/2d. per lb. by the wholesaler, making the total charges lid. per lb. In Adelaide at present, without interference by this commission, the whole of these services are rendered for id. per lb. This great organization was to cut out the middleman, reduce the cost to the consumer and maintain the price to the producer, but in one State the immediate loading will be1d. per lb.
– The honorable senator cannot say that yet, because the Prices Commissioner has not dealt with the matter.
– I hope that my forecast will prove incorrect. The killing and chilling of meat in Sydney now costs1/2d. per lb., and the cost ofdelivery and other charges in connexion with the distribution of meat to the retailers ranges from1/2d. to3/4d. per lb. Therefore, the charges in Sydney are over twice as much as those which generally obtain in South Australia. I understand that the charges in Sydney are under review at present, but I believe that the examination is likely to result in an increase rather than a reduction. I understand that the abattoirs in Sydney claim that at the prices now ruling they are losing a considerable sum every year. I understand that the Prices Commissioner is considering the present charges, not with the idea of reducing them, but with a view to a possible increase. It must be clear to honorable senators that this commission is not likely to prove the boon to the country that the Government would have us believe it to be. It has been shown, particularly during the last twelve or eighteen months, that the consumers do not want cheap meat. The great majority of buyers who flock into the retail shops insist on being supplied with the choicest cuts of meat. Consequently the retailers are compelled to inflate the prices of the choice cuts, because of their inability to sell the less choice meats. Unfortunately, the position has become so acute in recent months that retailers have been compelled to use for the manufacture of small goods classes of meat which should never be put into such products. If the Government is anxious to control the industry in the most efficient and economical way, and if it fears a shortage of meat as a result of the demand to meet service, civil and overseas commitments, it should immediately introduce meat rationing. Nothing would keep down the price of meat more effectively than a reduction of the demand for it. That is not an unreasonable suggestion seeing that the United States of America, which has not been at war as long as Australia has been, has already found it necessary to ration meat for home consumption. I believe that the most economical way to deal with this problem in Australia would be by a system of rationing. One of the great problems facing Australia is that of manpower. The way the Government is tackling this matter will not conserve man-power; on the contrary, it will1 lead to waste and chaos. For these reasons I am confident that honorable senators on this side will support the motion for the disallowance of the regulations. We have no fear that should the Australian Meat Industry Commission go out of existence the Australian Meat Board, which has had five years’ experience, could not just as effectively handle the problems associated with the industry. I therefore hope that the Senate will take this opportunity to abolish the commission.
– The subject before us is one which ought to be discussed calmly.. I can understand an Opposition believing that it is its duty to oppose anything brought forward by the government of the day.
– That is not fair.
– In saying that 1 am not saying anything which is in the slightest degree provocative, because, under our parliamentary system, it is hardly to be expected that proposals which are contrary to the basic principles in which the Opposition believes will not be brought forward. The proposal before us is not one which should stir the animosity of individuals, unless it be that the motion discloses the personal interests of its supporters. What is the position which has led to the promulgation of these regulations?
– The best man in Queensland for the job was not appointed, to the commission.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) knows that the personnel of the commission was not an obstacle, because the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) expressed a desire to1 meet him in that connexion. But if the Leader of the Opposition now suggests that the Government cannot set up any board or commission until it has placated various interests in six separate States I tell him that a war cannot be prosecuted in that way. The regulations referred to in the motion are closely associated with Australia’s war effort. Indeed, no regulations at all would have been necessary were it not that there has been superimposed upon the ordinary population of Australia a large additional population consisting of men in the fighting forces of our Allies. Honorable senators opposite know that that is the need for the regulations. Let us consider what will happen if the motion before the Senate be carried, as it may be carried unless a little sweet reasonableness is introduced into the discussion. It is within the competency of the Opposition to defeat the Government on this or any other, proposal ; but surely we- can decide that, that situation will not arise until some proposal embodying a definite principle with which the. Opposition cannot possibly be. expected to agree is brought forward. The motion before us does not involve any such principle. The fact is that previously the Australian Meat Board had certain powers vested in it. In pre-war days its duties’ consisted of disposing of our surplus meat production.
– It also dealt with the processing of meat in Australia.
– That board had nothing whatever to do with the control of prices. That was a matter which arose out of the war; it would have arisen whatever government was in office. The suggestion is that there was no need to interfere with that .board. I agree, that there is- ito room for heated debate on that subject. Honorable senators- opposite may fancy a board consisting of Brown, Smith and Robinson in preference to- one consisting of Green, Black and White. If the motion has been moved only because of the abounding affection, honorable senators opposite have for certain individuals,, such action is unworthy of them.
– It is a matter, not of individuals, but of States.
– That is not so. The Leader of the Opposition had a good deal to say about the special qualifications of the men who constitute the Australian Meat Board. Let us consider
Regulation 7 which the Opposition seeks to disallow so- that we may see what villainy has been exercised, and what principle has been outraged, by the establishment of a commission to replace the board which was constituted to do certain things that are not now required to be done.
– Yes they are. The export trade is still important.
– The honorable senator knows that the problems of the export trade are mainly transport difficulties. The commission is just as capable of dealing with that difficult situation, especially overseas transport, as is the Australian Meat Board.
– Is there no problem of getting the meat for export?
– The problem is not how to get the meat, but how to export it. It is a matter of transport.
– There are problems associated with getting the meat.
– Of course, the meat must be obtained before it can be either consumed locally or exported. There is no need for the honorable senator to ‘be silly just because he is annoyed. Sub-regulation 2 of regulation 7 reads -
The Commission shall consist of -
A representative of the Department of Commerce.
That is the department involved; and it should have a representative on the commission. Do honorable Senators opposite complain about that?
– Not at all.
– Paragraph 6 of the same sub-regulation provides for the appointment of a representative of the Commonwealth Government. Is there anything wrong with that?
– Yes; the person appointed is a tailor.
– Of course, honorable senators opposite have a particular affection for one individual, and do not like the gentleman whom the Government has appointed to be its representative. That is an unworthy motive on which to base a motion for the disallowance of regulations which are essential under war-time conditions.
Paragraph c provides for the appointment of the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner. Is there anything wrong with that?
– Honorable senators do not want him.
– He is not on the commission ; he has delegated his powers.
- Senator Gibson knows very well that there is no logic behind that argument. In carrying out the immense project which this commission has to do, it would be impossible to operate without clothing that body with powers to delegate powers not inconsistent with the requirements of the regulations. Paragraph e provides for the appointment of a representative of the Department of War Organization of Industry. Is there anything wrong with that?
– Obviously, honorable senators opposite do not think that the Department of War Organization of Industry should be represented on the commission.
– It is not necessary.
– The Government thinks that is most important; and the only reason why honorable senators opposite object to the appointment of a representative of that department is because they have a great dislike for the Minister controlling that department and are afraid that he, or the person to whom he delegates his powers, will have something to say about the very important problem of supplying members of the fighting forces with meat. Paragraph / provides for the appointment of a representative of the Rationing Commission. Senator McBride is in favour of that; he says that he is in favour of rationing. We have not had any serious disagreement down to paragraph /. Paragraph g provides for the appointment of a representative of country meat works and country slaughtering establishments. Honorable senators opposite cannot reasonably object to that provision. I notice that they have a lot of grievances, but are not agreed among themselves about those grievances. Senator Gibson disagrees with a provision with which
Senator McBride agrees, and so on. It is clear that honorable senators opposite have decided that this motion must be carried, ‘because they do not like the Government which has enacted these regulations. Paragraph i provides for the appointment of a representative of employees in the meat industry. I can understand that considerable feeling may exist among honorable senators opposite with respect to that particular provision ; but I am almost sure that at last they will agree that on important boards of this kind there should be a representative of the employees without whose whole-hearted co-operation nothing can be continued for very long. Paragraph j provides for the appointment of three members representing respectively producers of beef, producers of pig-meats, and producers of mutton and lamb. Surely, there can be no objection to that. Thus, no real objection has been raised to the constitution of the commission. I shall now deal with the work which that body has been appointed to do. Incidentally, Senator McBride deliberately threw a dead pig into the discussion. He raised difficulties in order to create confusion, his statements having no existence in fact. He did something which I think he was not entitled to do. He saw that the Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser) was making an effective reply to the Leader of the Opposition, and was creating a good impression among some honorable senators opposite. He saw that the Minister, by his persistence, had worn down quite a number of objections which some honorable senators opposite had previously held to be very serious. Senator McBride decided that the Minister should not be allowed to get away with it. He decided to make their flesh creep by telling them of the prices the producers were going to receive; and he dealt with the expenses to be incurred in this, that, and in other directions. He knows perfectly well that at the moment all of those matters are under review by the commission, and that before the commission can commence to do effective work it must acquaint itself with all factors having a bearing on the matter.
– Certain prices have been published.
– The honorable senator knows that nothing authoritative has been published. But not only prices have to be considered; there is also the problem of continuity of supplies. The honorable senator had much to say about flush seasons and lean seasons. We know that they occur. The honorable senator knows, as I know, that unless the Government through a board or commission, exercises a measure of control during wartime over all these commodities, it cannot make sure that supplies may not be withheld by interested parties in order to create a bear market, and then rushed in to create another kind of market when prices are rising.
– Is the Minister suggesting that that is being done?
– I am not suggesting anything of the kind. All I suggest is that in the regulations which the honorable senator is so anxious to disallow the Government takes power to ensure an orderly process of meat marketing, with continuity of supply, and with all the necessary machinery so well arranged and geared that the meat regularly reaches the fighting men, who are the people to be considered almost entirely. If we can ensure that orderly and continuous supply, we shall have no difficulty in seeing that the troops are fed. What do honorable senators opposite imagine that the Australian Meat Industry Commission is going to do? They want to disallow these regulations because they are afraid of something which the commission may do. We have gone through the personnel of the commission, and I am sure that no one can see any reason for fear. All its members are men with considerable responsibilities in carrying on the affairs of the industry and of the Government. The position is as follows: -
The Australian Meat Industry Commission, in its plans for the various classes of meat, will recommend to the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner prices to the producer-
That I suggest is the process with regard to prices and to all those figures at which Senator McBride was attempting to make a guess - and from these he in turn will control prices to the consumer.
There is nothing unfair about that.
It is impossible to control the price of meat without proper control of supply and distribution and without offering a guaranteed price to the producer.
We must have a guaranteed price. We must be able to control the prices paid to the producer and by the consumer. In peace-time we can afford to allow the age-old principle of supply and demand to operate, and to say to the consumer, “ There is the meat, you pay your money and you ta’ke your choice”. But in war-time, with all the unprecedented difficulties surrounding the subject, we cannot allow those haphazard methods to come into play. No matter how unpalatable it may be, we must take and exercise such a measure of control as will ensure that the arrangements for supplying the fighttag forces with food shall not break down.
– That’ is one point on which we are in agreement with the Minister.
– I am delighted to have that admission. Honorable senators opposite agree that we must have the power owing to the exigencies of war, but they still persist in the motion to disallow the regulations, simply because they are not satisfied with the personnel of the commission which the Government has appointed to carry its desires into effect. I cannot believe that the Opposition really takes up that attitude. I am sure that it does not mean it. The first and most important demand upon the meat industry is to meet the needs of the ser- vices for canned meats and dehydrated mutton. The dehydration of meat on such a large scale, or indeed on any scale, has never been attempted before in Australia. The new process is rendered necessary by the requirements of the fighting services. I appeal to the members of the Opposition not to quibble about the personnel of the commission, but to “help us to .get on with the job. If they disallow the regulations, the Government will have to find a way out of the difficulty. All that they will do by disallowing them is to hamper the war effort, and face the Government with the .possibility of a break-down in the contract it has made with the .fighting men to see that they are .not .short of food.
The regulations are also necessary to enable us to keep our commitments with the United Kingdom Government for the export of meat. Surely the Opposition does not suggest, even in its anxiety to score a poor sort of win, that the Government should take any risks in keeping its promise to the Government of the United Kingdom? Are honorable senators opposite aware of the fact that the people of Great Britain, who stood the blitzkrieg in 1940, are to-day reduced to eating horseflesh? I am willing to believe that there is nothing wrong with it, but it is repugnant to the palate of the average Australian citizen. We have undertaken to .send to Great Britain as much wholesome meat as we can possibly transport. Surely we do not want to see the people of that country reduced to the extremity of eating so unpalatable a food as horseflesh. I cannot believe that the Opposition is prepared to risk .a break-down in our contract with the United Kingdom. I am not making this speech because I think that any great question of policy is involved. The position is this: At the moment we are the Government of this country. We have inherited a condition of affairs with which no previous Government has had to contend. We have to cope with the fact that Japan has come into the war against us, and with the further fact that Australia is in greater danger of invasion than most other countries. The Government has to take over all these responsibilities, and our first .and paramount duty is to keep up the food supplies to the fighting services and to the people of the United Kingdom. I tell the Opposition, not in a spirit of party antagonism, hut in ,a sober appreciation of all .the facts of the situation, that -without this power we shall be faced with the serious possibility of a break-down of supplies in both those directions. The more intently I listen to speeches by honorable senators opposite the more I am at a loss to understand why this motion was ever moved, and I feel that even at this late .stage, it would be an act of exceedingly good grace, and would ‘show a spirit of willingness to ‘assist the Government, if the Leader of the Opposition were to withdraw it. Let honorable .senators opposite forget for a moment that the
Government happens to be a Labour government, and that the hated Minister for the Interior happens to be addressing the Senate; let them say to themselves, “ This job has to be done somehow or other; if this machinery be rejected, some other similar machinery will have to be devised. Therefore, why should we waste any further time on this motion?” Just because the Opposition does not like the set up of the commission, is it determined to fight to the last ditch even although, in the final analysis, the carrying of the motion would succeed only in holding up the operation of this machinery until the Government substitutes something else which may not be any more acceptable to honorable senators opposite? Why not let this job be carried out without any further interruption. This is the first time in the whole of my parliamentary experience that 1 have suggested to any honorable senator opposite that he should do as I suggested. My nature is such that I am inclined to fight on and take the risk of defeat, but is this fight worth while? Is there anything at stake which would entitle the Opposition to seek a division on this matter? There is not, and that the right thing to do in the interests of Australia - the proper, decorous and dignified thing to do - is to withdraw the motion. Such an action would show the people outside Parliament, who, after all, are the judges of the righteousness or otherwise of any action taken in this Parliament, that there are times when we can reconcile our views in the interests of the country. I trust that honorable senators opposite are prepared to agree, that there should not be even one day’s interruption in the operation of these regulations. I am sure that they do not wish our fighting men or the people of the United Kingdom to be short of food.” After all, there is nothing new in the suggestion that prices should be regulated. It has been done before in the course of war, and it must be done again. The Leader of the Opposition will bring credit to himself and to his party if he admits that there is no need for further discussion on this matter, and withdraws the motion.
.- Following the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator McBride I do not propose to say very much on this subject, but it seems to me that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) is seeking to vie with the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) in an endeavour to create as much chaos as possible in the industries of this country. I say to the Minister for the Interior (SenatorCollings) that all the powers necessary to control this industry could be given to the Australian Meat Board. The Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser) went out of his way to say that the Australian Meat Board had not had any experience of this type of work. That was a very unfair thing to say about an organization, which for the past seven years has been controlling approximately £10,000,000 worth of exports a year. The Minister also said that nobody on the Australian Meat Board had expert knowledge of canning, but what about the Western Australian representatives?
– And what about Mr. Bowater? He was on the Australian Meat Board.
– If Mr. Bowater was also on the Australian Meat Board I say that the representation of the canners on that body was very much greater than it is on this commission. I do not object to the control of this industry; but the control envisaged by the Government is very unfair and unjust to the producers. The Minister for the Interior said that it was proposed to fix the price of meat to the consumers, with special reference to canning and dehydration, but what is the position? Statement after statement has been made by the Minister for ‘Commerce and Agriculture to the effect that he intended to guarantee producers 23/4d. per lb. for canning mutton, and 21/2d. per lb. for dehydrating mutton, but can honorable senators opposite tell me of one producer who has received those prices? There is not a canner in Australia to-day who will buy the meat delivered at his cannery. They all go to the markets, buy their stock and have it slaughtered. Producers have not received l1/2d. per lb. for canning or dehydrating mutton from sales of sheep. The stupidity of the proposal is made more obvious by the differentiation in the prices for canning mutton and dehydrating mutton. No one can tell the difference between mutton valued at 2 3/4 d. a lb. and mutton valued at 2$d. a lb.
The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Eraser) made a statement in regard to the pig industry; but let us see what has been done in regard to that industry. The price of a pig weighing 150 lb. has been fixed at £5, but if a grower is compelled to feed a pig for say a week longer before putting it on the market owing to lack of transport, and it turns the scales at 151 lbs. he receives only £4 8s. Id.
– It is necessary to have some standard.
– Yes, but there could be a sliding scale as is the case with export lamb, the price of which varies from the 27 lb. lamb right up to the 40-lb. lamb. Evidently those who have drawn up this scheme know very little about meat. “Where could any primary producer obtain 2 3/4 d. per lb. for canning mutton? He could go into any market and buy as much as he needed for l£d. per lb.
Regulation 7 provides that the commission shall include, first, a representative of the Department of Commerce. I agree that that department should be represented, and the representative chosen is Mr. J. A. Tonkin, the Assistant Secretary of the department. We know that the Secretary, Mr. Murphy, is already a member of eleven different committees, and has been overloaded with work. The next member of the commission is a representative of the Commonwealth Government, and the Government has chosen for that position a member of this Parliament. I challenge the Leader of the Senate to refer me to one instance where a member of Parliament has previously been appointed to represent the Government on a commission. The Minister cannot do so. To appoint as a member of this commission a member of Parliament, who is inexperienced in the matters with which he will be called upon to deal, and to make him deputychairman of the commission, is absolutely wrong. The next man placed on the commission is the Prices Commissioner. If Professor Copland is to be a member of this commission, why has he not been made a member of the Apple and Pear Board and every other body of that kind ? He should remain in his own office, and not be a member of the commission. He delegates his power, fortunately, to a primary producer. The next member of the commission is a representative of the Department of Supply and Shipping, and I agree that that is essential, but I fail to see why it is necessary for the commission to include a representative of the Department of War Organization of Industry. I should like to know, also, why it is considered necessary to include a representative of the Rationing Commission. The primary producers are also represented on the commission, but they have only three representatives out of a total of twelve.
The Australian Meat Board consists of representatives of every State and the members are well known. The representatives of the stock producers include the Honorable H. S. Hanley, M.L.C., of New South Wales, Mr. J. H. Patterson, of Southern Riverina, and Mr. A. C. W. Fisken, of Victoria. The last mentioned did a good job as chairman of the board, and I understand that he is a member of the new commission and was appointed since this motion was moved. South Australia is represented on the board by Mr. W. J. Dawkins, Western Australia by Mr. R. B. Williamson, the Northern Territory by Mr. F. A. Brodie, and Tasmania by Mr. S. R. Adams. Other members are Mr. J. J. Farrell, general manager of the Western Australian Government Meat Works at Wyndham, and Mr. E. J. Bowater, of Queensland, is one of the representatives of the meat-exporting companies. I was under the impression that the present Government stood for the representation of the producers on boards having to deal with primary production, but its action in this instance showed that it is prepared to allow the primary producers to be represented by men inexperienced in the matters to be dealt with. In 1937, more sheep and lambs were slaughtered in Victoria than in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania together. Yet Victoria has no representation whatever on the commission.
– Although it may not have geographical representation, it has technical representation.
– The whole of the representation on the commission is from New South Wales.
Under regulation 12, the commission is empowered to make appointments in regional areas so that any of its powers and functions under the regulations may be exercised by its delegate in any locality. That seems, to me to be an extreme step to take. Does the Government desire to control country butchers’ shops? How could it fix the price at which butchers shall purchase stock and sell their meat? Such action would be impracticable. Stock prices in abattoirs in the* capital cities could be fixed, but I do not think that that would be possible in country markets. Senator McBride has referred to the marketing of products in the capital cities and in some of the large provincial centres. That matter is very effectively regulated at present. If I, as a farmer, order a railway truck for the transfer to market of some of my stock, a month may elapse before I can obtain it, because sufficient trucks may have been made available to meet the requirements of the Melbourne market for a certain period. Regulation 15 empowers somebody who is perhaps inexperienced in stock matters to require me to send, say,’ 500 sheep to market within a week. Such a power should only be placed in the hands of an authority who is thoroughly conversant with stockmarketing and the needs of the stockbreeder. The public to-day wants only lamb or two-toothed mutton, with the result that a two-toothed wether is worth 5s. more than a four-toothed wether. It might be necessary to extend the powers of the Australian Meat Board, but it could do all that is required under these regulations. These matters could best be dealt with by representatives of the producers.
– The honorable senator’s objection is to the personnel of the commission?
– Yes, and also to some of the regulations. We object to the taking oyer of stock, the appraisal of stock, and matters of that kind. The Leader of the Opposition and Senator
McBride have rendered valuable service to this country in bringing this matter before the Senate. As the Minister has said that there is no objection to these regulations, I shall read an extract from a letter which the Leader of the Opposition received this morning from 100 organizations in Victoria, which are affiliated with the Chamber of Agriculture in that State, in which they unanimously support the disallowance of the regulations -
I have to assure you that all southern meat producers are behind you in your move for the disallowance of the Meat Industry Commission’s regulations.
That extract indicates the attitude of the meat industry in Victoria, and I have no doubt that the position is much the same in the other States. I ask the Minister to repeal the regulations so that the Australian Meat Board may continue to deal with the meat. It has had seven years’ experience in the export of meat.
– Almost everything that can be said in support of this motion has already been said effectively. I admit that when it first came before the Senate I regarded it with some diffidence, because the regulations had then been in operation for about three months and I naturally concluded that the Australian Meat Industry Commission had done a considerable amount of work. However, the position was made clear by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) this afternoon, when he told Senator McBride that prices had not yet been fixed and that until that had been done little effective work could be accomplished by the commission. I take that statement to mean that the commission has not yet done much effective work. The regulations referred to in the motion were promulgated in October,- 1942, and were laid on the table of the Senate on the 10th December last. As the Senate had then risen for the Christmas recess, this is the first opportunity that we’ have had to deal with them. The Australian Meat Board, which has been in existence for seven or eight years, worked satisfactorily. As both the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and the Leader of the Senate have pointed out, the functions of that board were to control the export of meat. I take it that the export of meat is still one of the biggest problems associated with the industry.
– The new commission has had no experience in the export of meat.
– Before the war Australia exported about 90,000 tons of meat each year. Whether that meat be exported in the carcass or in cans, the procedure in connexion with its export is much the same.
– Except that in dehydrated form it occupies less space.
– In whatever form the meat is exported the same men would be able to arrange for its shipment. The Australian Meat Board is competent todeal with the export of carcass meat and it ought to be able to handle the export trade under existing conditions. I regard the constitution of the Australian Meat Industry Commission as unfair, seeing that nearly all its members are from one State. The position is aggravated when we remember that the regulations apply to stock as well as meat. It is ridiculous for a man in New South Wales to issue an order requiring a pastoralist in the northern part of South Australia to put 1,000 fat sheep on the market on a certain day. Regulation 15 reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in any law of any State or Territory of the Commonwealth, the Minister may, by order in writing, or by order published in the Gazette, require any person who produces or has control of any stock to supply and deliver to the Minister or to a person specified in the order, at such marketing place, slaughtering establishment or other place, and in such condition, as is so specified, such of the stock as is so specified, and that person shall, within such period as is specified in the order, supply and deliver that stock accordingly.
That is ridiculous. A man cannot place 500 fat sheep on the market if he has not got them. The person who issues such an order may be entirely ignorant of conditions in the country to which his order applies. The man on the spot may temporarily overstock his land in the expectation of early rain. Moreover, most of his fat sheep may be breeding ewes. Australia has an abundance of meat, and will always have ample supplies, if pastoralists are allowed to run their businesses in their own way, as in the past. Prior to the war, Australia exported the carcasses of 4,000,000 great and small cattle each year. Shipping space is not now available for that quantity of meat, but considerable quantities of meat in dehydrated form may still be sent abroad. Despite the influx of men from overseas, there has been no great increase of Australia’s population, because large numbers of Australian men have left this country. Australian flocks total about 120,000,000 sheep, about half of which are breeding ewes. Therefore, it is safe to say that our annual increase of sheep is 50,000,000. At a time when we are confronted with more urgent problems, it is absurd to talk about controlling meat production and prices under conditions which exist in Australia.
– Such control is always exercised in war-time.
– Regardless of the war, this industry, in view of its peculiar conditions, should be allowed to expand under normal conditions. It is only natural that at set seasons the prices of meat should soar. Senator McBride has pointed out that in South Australia fat lambs bring good prices for only a limited , period of the year. However, when prices rise, the consumers of meat in this country begin to squeal. The Government has taken advantage of that position in order to control the industry. Herein lies the explanation of the origin of this commission.
– And the same consumers always want the choicest cuts.
– Yes. At the same time, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) tells the producers that they are going to receive high prices. The producers will receive the prices which they have always received, namely, those dictated by the market. No producer will receive the prices forecast by the Minister.
– They will receive just about one half of those prices.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.It cannot be said that the commission is doing any real good. It is badly constituted, because, virtually, it is representative only of the industry in New
South Wales. It is not representative of the fat lamb industry in Victoria, South Australia or Western Australia, although each of those States has a big export trade in fat lambs. I support the motion.
– During the discussion which took place in this chamber last evening on the prices of primary products, Senator .Spicer said that the Government possessed all the powers it required to enable it to do what it liked. That statement, by omission, i.° grossly inaccurate; and this motion iproof of its inaccuracy. The Government is not able to do exactly what it likes. It can act only within the limitations laid down by this chamber. For that reason I direct particular attention to Senator
Spacer’s statement because it is of the kind which mislead people who, carelessly, take too much for granted, particularly in respect of statements made by representatives of the legal profession, or persons occupying high and responsible positions. The motion, which will very likely be carried, is proof of the inaccuracy of the honorable senator’s statement. This Government assumed office not directly as the result of the votes of the people, but because the supporters of the’ previous Government, which had ? majority in both Houses, were divided amongst themselves. The supporters of the previous Government were not satisfied with the way in which the affairs of the nation were being managed under highly critical and dangerous war-time conditions. When this Government assumed office, it set to work immediately, as it was expected to do, to improve U,Pol the methods of its predecessor. It set up the Australian Meat Industry Commission, holding the view that the Australian Meat Board was not qualified to carry out the duties resulting from the increased demands which were being made to provide meat for members of our fighting forces and the civilian population. That was why th< commission was set up; and it is now proceeding to do the work allotted to it. However, this motion to disallow these regulations has .now been moved. With respect to motions of this kind, I have noticed that the case presented by honorable senators opposite is based upon pure assumption. Neither the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) noi- any of his colleagues who have spoken in support of the motion, has given a specific instance to show that the commission has failed to carry out the task allotted to it. Honorable senators opposite have also based their attacks against the personnel of the commission on mere .assumption. They have alleged that certain members of the commission are biased, or incompetent or inefficient; they have not adduced any facts in support of those allegations-. # Consequently, we should be recreant to our duty, and unworthy of the positions we occupy, if we support a motion based on mere assumption, and in support of which no concrete evidence whatever is presented. I was very interested in some of the remarks made by Senator McBride. He said in effect that the conditions which the Government would create under its proposal for the control of the meat .industry would be opposed by the stock-breeders if they thought fit to oppose them. He meant that if the stockbreeders were dissatisfied with those conditions they would ensure that they would not continue. However, he failed to show in what respect the conditions are unfair. He simply assumed that because the commission has been given very wide powers it would abuse them. He also said that he was opposed to compulsion, that he was in favour of cooperation. However, if he were dealing with the wages of workers who objected to the price offered to them for their labour, and the conditions under which they were expected to work, he would undoubtedly be in favour of compulsion against the workers. On many occasions, from his place in this chamber, the honorable senator has vehemently declaimed against wage-workers who demanded an increase of their wages or an improvement of their working conditions. According to him, compulsion is proper for the workers, but it is highly improper, and will be resisted, so far as the stockbreeders are concerned.
– Of course I did not say anything of the kind.
– What is the implication? The honorable senator said that he was opposed to compulsion.
– I suggested that voluntary means should be tried first.
– The honorable senator now begins to qualify his remarks. I advise him to cultivate the useful habit of thinking first and speaking afterwards. At present he speaks first and thinks afterwards, with the result that he generally makes statements which, according to his own account, convey quite a wrong impression. I distinctly heard the honorable senator, as I feel sure every one else in the chamber did, declare himself opposed to compulsion so far as the stock-breeders were concerned. He went on to say that if they were to receive the fixed price only, they would not supply the stock, thus in so many words justifying something in the nature of a strike on their part. “When workers go on strike, they withhold their commodity, which is their labour power, and no honorable senator is so ready to condemn such actions on their part as Senator McBride, with all the invective and innuendo of which he is capable. But when stock-breeders are dissatisfied with the prices that they are likely to receive for the live stock or carcasses which they sell, the honorable senator is prepared to justify a strike on their part. This shows how illogical, inconsistent and even biased the honorable senator is, because he would deny to the workers the right to take similar action. In these circumstances there is on his part a lack of knowledge, or of sincerity, or of a proper appreciation of the task which confronts the Government when a motion such as this is moved. I agree with the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) that honorable senators opposite are much more concerned about using the regulations as a means of justifying themselves as an Opposition than they are with their merits. The Minister went through the regulations paragraph by paragraph, and put up what in my opinion was an unanswerable case. Summed up, what he said was that, because of the failure of a previous government to carry out its task satisfactorily, the present Government is to be indicted and opposed in every way for attempting to do what the other government left undone. The mo tion is not worthy of the support of any one who claims to be intelligent or impartial, particularly at a time like the present. In times of peace, when the struggle for political supremacy and the fight for economic domination goes on, objection could not be taken to what the Opposition is doing, but we are now in the midst of an. unprecedented war.
– The honorable senator is making a welter of it, too.
– I am trying to bring home to the honorable senator as dispassionately as I can the responsibility which rests on the Government. In doing that I am meeting, as best I may within the limits of the time allowed to me, the arguments that he has advanced. Up to date I have proved thathe is illogical and inconsistent. He claims for the stock-breeders on the one hand the rights that he would deny to the workers, so that when he accuses me of making a welter of the war position he displays the workings of a guilty conscience, proving that it is he who is trying to make a welter of it. He and those supporting him are trying to make against the Government a case based upon mere assumption. He says that the personnel of the commission can not be trusted, but attention has not been directed to one action by any member of it betraying the trust of the Government. This Government, like all Governments, has from time to time to delegate powers to certain people to carry out tasks in its name. Some of them may be very loyal and competent, and others may not be, but we cannot judge them until some overt act has been committed indicating whether they have or have not carried out their task in accordance with the policy laid down. Can the Opposition point to anything done by the commission to which objection can be taken? It is the honorable senator and those supporting him who are making a welter of the issue, because they have built up, out of the figment of their imagination, a case behind which are political bias and an almost insatiable desire to justify their existence at the expense of the Government. In times of peace we can make due allowances for such conduct, but when the enemy is at our very doors we are entitled to demand from the Opposition a reasonable measure of support, seeing that the previous Government, being divided against itself, was unable to carry out its task. The honorable senator remarked that the price of meat was high because people insisted upon purchasing the choicest cuts. That statement is not borne out by the facts. The fact is that those individuals who are in a position topay highest prices for the choicest cuts usually get those cuts, and those who are not in a position to pay high prices, get the inferior cuts. If honorable senators opposite want any evidence of that fact, they need only to go to a market such as the Victoria Market in Melbourne. There they will see scraggy mutton sold at certain stalls at a low price, whilst at other stalls, superior mutton is sold at a much higher figure. If one watches these stalls carefully one will see that the people who obviously possess the least amount of purchasing power buy the inferior cuts, whereas those with more money buy the choice cuts. Probably the very practice that Senator McBride condemns is one which he himself follows. I suggest to him that when he selects cloth for a suit he does not choose dungaree material, khaki drill, or canvas. I think that honorable senators will agree that he is one of the best dressed men in the Senate. He wears superior clothing because he is in a position to purchase the best cloth, and [ do not blame him for doing so. What I take exception to, however, is his attempt to cloud the issue by telling such an intellectual assembly as there is in this chamber that the cause of the high price of meat is that people always purchase choice cuts of meat. He did not qualify his statement, and the only construction one can place upon it is that people purchase only choice cuts and that inferior cuts are left on the stalls. The high price of meat is caused by the ratio of supply to demand ; by the high capital charges included in and collected through prices, and by the holding up of supplies in an endeavour to keep up prices, in the same manner as Senator Gibson would prevent the marketing of Werribee beef.
– For the sake of the health of the people, yes.
– If people wish to buy Werribee beef why should they not be allowed to do so? Why should the honorable senator deny to some individuals that freedom of action which he claims for himself?
– If the people are told that it is Werribee beef that they are buying then it is all right.
– Other people are just as qualified to judge as is the honorable senator, and they should be permitted to please themselves.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– When the demand for meat is considerably in excess of the supply, high prices rule. We also experience high prices for meat when the capital charges are included in and collected through prices, and when the supply of meat is restricted, as it is in many instances. The real reason for the prohibition of the sale of Werribee beef was a desire to keep prices higher than they would be if that beef were sold. Senator James McLachlan said that there would always be a sufficient supply of meat if primary producers were allowed to conduct their own industry as they had in the past. I join issue with the honorable senator and contend that businesses will never be conducted in the future in the same way as they have been conducted in the past. That should be obvious to any. body who watches closely the trend of events. Owing to wartime requirements, production and distribution, both in primary and secondary industries, are being organized on a more efficient and economic basis than heretofore, with the result that small and unnecessary producers are being eliminated and services which cause a duplication or multiplication of existing services are being abolished. The objective is to maintain and increase primary and secondary production with a minimum of labour power.
After the war it will be found that, although an attempt may be made, none will succeed in bringing about a restoration of the status quo ante. It is absurd to suggest that the production and distribution of meat could be carried on in future in the same way as in the past. It will be necessary to make the adjustments that will be demanded under post-war conditions either in a peaceful and intelligent way or in a manner that will be regarded as unconstitutional. The people are being compelled, through the medium of their governments, to enforce an increased measure of control over primary production. This commission may have been given wider powers than are really necessary, but it need not fully use them. The commission has to deal with the position that has arisen as a result of the war, and, if its members are wise, they will not use any more power, particularly in an arbitrary way, than is necessary. If changes can be brought about as the result of conferences and agreements with stock-breeders, well and good ; but, if the breeders declare that they will withhold their stock unless the Government agrees to their terms, a certain amount of compulsion may have to be applied. If the average stock-breeder were informed of the needs of the Government in the matter of fresh, canned and dehydrated meat-
– The stock-breeders know that better than the Government.
– They cannot know the requirements of the Governrnent, because they have not been conducting negotiations with representatives of the British Government or with the chiefs of the fighting services. The Government must be regarded as the supreme authority, and its policy must prevail. It must be prepared to stand or fall by that policy.
– The less the Government interferes in this matter the better it will be.
S enator CAMERON. - According to the honorable senator’s argument, all governments should pass out of existence and the conflicting interests in the community should be a law to themselves. Governments have come into existence as the result of a state of affairs known as the anarchy of production, which has resulted in endless disputes, as it did even in the thirteenth century, when the barons forced King John to sign Magna Charta. When conditions change, governments necessarily alter their methods of administration. The trouble is that many people have been reared in mental straitjackets, and can see nothing in a point of view that is different from their own. When a change for the better is advocated, the strongest opposition is advanced against it. Every change for the better in the technique of production has been resisted by those who have contended that the old conditions are good enough, and that the people ought to be satisfied with the methods adopted by their grandfathers.
Senator Gibson suggested that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) tried to mislead the people by citing prices. I fail to see the justice of that criticism, and I contend that Senator Gibson submitted no proof of the accuracy of his own assertions. Therefore, I accept what the Minister has said until he is proved to be wrong. Senator Gibson falls within the same category as a man who desires to pull down a house because the chimney is smoking. The Government is charged with the responsibility of meeting wartime requirements. Those requirements are far in excess of the needs of pre-war days and call for a different approach. The Government must stand up fully to its responsibilities, and not allow its administration to be held up by the Opposition. After all, we need results. Whether the methods adopted be classified as bureaucratic or democratic, if the results meet the requirements of the people and give a fair deal to stockbreeders, that is all we are entitled to expect.
One of the points taken by the Leader of the Opposition was that he objected to the supersession of the well-established and satisfactory Australian Meat Board by an untried and unqualified commission. That is mere assumption. The commission has been at work for the last two or three months. Notwithstanding that statement there is no evidence that the commission has failed. The honorable senator also said -
I object to the abolition of producer control and its replacement by inexperienced bureaucratic administration.
That is only so many words. We have always had the same form of administration, and we shall continue to have it so long as the means of production are privately owned, and particularly if they are in the hands of monopolists after all competition, has been eliminated. The Government is not greatly concerned about these theories. If it had been more concerned about its policy than about the needs of the nation and the necessity to resist its enemies, it would have done very little; but because for all practical purposes it has sacrificed its policy rather than risk the safety of the nation, and lias produced results, objections are raised. To use the words of Senator McBride, the Opposition is making a welter of this issue, not for the purpose of assisting the nation’s war effort, but in order to try to justify its political existence, which is not worth the effort.
– I listened with interest to the speech of the Minister for Aircraft Production (Sena.tor Cameron), particularly that portion of it in which he said that the Government was prepared to sacrifice its policy. The policy of the Government is to take businesses out of the hands of those who know how to run them. Ministers think that they can conduct businesses better than any one else can. The Minister said plainly that the Government was prepared to sacrifice its policy. He went on to say that that policy was the elimination of the small producer.
– I did not say anything of the sort; I said that that was what was happening.
– The Minister said that the small producer had to go out of business; that the Government’s policy was that they should be eliminated.
– I said that they would be eliminated by private monopolies.
– The Minister also said that the small producer would never be rehabilitated. We can only gather from the Minister’s remarks that the policy of the Government is the elimination of the small producer. What an extraordinary state of affairs ! On many occasions in this chamber I have heard members of the Labour party cry out against men in business in a big way, but now their cry is that they are to destroy the small producer also. The policy of eliminating the man in business in a small way is apparently to be perpetuated. I do not object to some of these regulations because effect cannot be given to them.
– That is the honorable senator’s opinion.
– A regulation which tells a pastoralist the condition in which his stock must be when delivered is ridiculous. If the Minister for Aircraft Production believes that if a farmer is told to deliver so many fat cattle or fat sheep he will do so, whether or not he has them, it only shows the foolishness of placing the control of business in the hands of people who do not understand its nature. If the Government sees a man with some sheep or cattle on his property, its policy is to say to him, “ In so many weeks’ time you must deliver so many animals at a certain place, and they must be delivered in a condition fit for slaughtering “. The foolishness of such a statement is apparent. The idea that a government or a board, merely because it is a government or a board, can manage any business in Australia better than men who have spent almost a lifetime at such work is most ludicrous. These regulations were conceived in ignorance, and born in suspicion; and now they have ‘been farmed out to foster-parents who know nothing about how to make the best use of them.
– The regulations override an act of Parliament. .
– That is a matter of no concern to the Government.
– A previous government acted in the same way in connexion with butter and cheese.
– I object to the idea underlying these regulations, namely, that the Government has only to establish a board and immediately its members become experts. The reason why various boards which have been established in Great Britain have been a success is that persons in the industry concerned have been allowed to work in co-operation with representatives of the Government in order that financial and other affairs shall be conducted on sound lines and in accordance with government policy. Here in Australia, the Government seems to think that it must manage things itself rather than leave them in the hands of producers and managers who are experts.
Of the twelve members of the commission to which these regulations refer, seven have practically no connexion with the producers.
– That is not so. The honorable senator cannot have read the regulations.
– There are twelve members on the board, and six of them have no connexion with or interest in primary production. The chairman is interested only to the degree that he is an official of the Government and has a casting vote. Even if the other members were primary producers, they would be out-voted.
– Does the Minister say that the representatives of the abattoirs have the real interests of the producers at heart?
– If it were not for the producers, they would not have any work to do.
– The producer has to fight those interests moat of his time in order to ensure that they do not take advantage of him. That is one reason why in some industries large co-operative companies have been established. The Government professes to be against the middleman, yet it establishes boards to control primary industries and appoints to them persons who have no particular interest in primary production, whilst the producers, who are experts, have only three representatives on a board of twelve. Even those representatives are not representative of Australia as a whole, but of only one portion of the country. They may be good men - I do not know anything about them - but they are only three out of twelve, and they have not the complete confidence of the primary producers of Australia. Confidence is a most important factor in the success of an enterprise of this kind. Unless those in charge of this immense business have the confidence of the producers the undertaking cannot be a success. The Leader of the Opposition was justified in protesting against such a delegation of ministerial power. The commission is very lop-sided.
I am not greatly concerned about the ridiculous nature of some of the regulations, because even inexperienced men will find after, say, three months, that certain things cannot be done. Nevertheless, an enterprise should start under favorable conditions if success is desired. That means that the management must have the confidence of the producers. If the Government would get rid of the silly idea that it can manage any business in Australia better than experts in the business can manage it, more primary producers would have been appointed to this commission. I am thankful that this debate has taken place. I am particularly thankful that the Minister for Aircraft Production spoke, because he made it clear that he and his colleagues are seeking the elimination of the small producer, so thatVesteys Limited and the great meat and wool companies may have control. That policy is contrary to what Labour candidates have expressed on the hustings. Hitherto the Labour party has professed to cater for the man in business in a small way and the small producer, and it has gained a good deal of support from such quarters. Now the Government, having got into office largely as the result of the votes of these people, desires to eliminate them. What will be the effect of these regulations? They provide for the fixation of prices. One price is to be fixed in respect of both mutton and beef. How can that system work when, approximately, 40 different classes of beef and mutton are sold?
– And the prices range from1d. a lb. to1s. 3d. a lb.
– The effect of fixing one price in respect of both beef and mutton will be to eliminate first-class meat. Under such a system, breeders and producers will naturally want to get rid of their stock as soon as they can. They will have no incentive to keep stock, say, for three months longer, in order to fatten them. They will rush their stock off to the abattoirs in order to get them off their property as soon as possible.
– Does not the honorable senator believe in fixed prices for primary products?
– We are now talking about minimum prices. Some honorable senators opposite have the silly notion that everything can be placed on the one level; that a lamb chop should be sold at the same price as a hit of scraggy mutton off the neck. The Minister for Aircraft Production made quite a song about what he fancied would be Senator McBride’s attitude towards employees who stopped work, as compared with his attitude towards producers who refused to carry on under the conditions imposed by these regulations. He said that the man who refused to sell his mutton or beef would actually be striking. That is not the position at all. As soon as the man on the land finds that it does not pay him to breed a particular class of stock he will go in for wool. He will supply all the fat’ cattle he has on hand, but should it not pay him to fatten any more he will not do so; and I do not know in what way any government can make him do so. He could run more stock but would not fatten them. Through the medium of these regulations the Government has implemented proposals which will not survive open examination by Parliament. Indeed, the Government must have been conscious of that fact, because it kept them a. secret for as long as possible, and the only plea it can now advance in favour of their retention is that it would be very awkward to abolish the scheme after it has been in operation for some months. The Government enacted these regulations in October, and kept them secret until December.
– They were enacted the day after Parliament adjourned for the recess.
– Yes, and that has meant that this is the first opportunity given to us to protest against them. The Government proceeded on the basis that after these regulations had been in force for five months the Opposition would surely not upset them. No necessity exists for these regulations insofar as the export and canning of meat is concerned. Those phases of the industry have been carried on in this .country for a generation. The only new process involved is the dehydration of mutton; but the appointment of this commission in order to deal with dehydration has upset the whole of the meat-producing industry. I support the motion because these regulations are not necessary. They simply perpetuate the Government’s crazy belief that it can manage all phases of primary and secondary production better than those who have spent a lifetime in those industries. Although that view will, inevitably, be proved unsound, the primary producers, unfortunately, will suffer most under a scheme of this kind.
– I regret that the Opposition has brought this motion forward. These regulations have been designed for the purpose of controlling the economic side of our war effort, which to-day is under severe strain. The Government has found it necessary to adopt this course, and should the new system of control be dislocated, the Government’s plans for the supply of meat- to the members of our fighting forces and the civilian population will be jeopardized. I was very much concerned at the statement made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that the Government was not able to keep up supplies of meat to Great Britain, because it had refused to ration meat to the Australian population. I have since inquired into that matter, and have found that the statement that the Australian Meat Industry Commission .allowed ships to leave Australian ports not fully loaded, when space was available for meat cargoes, is totally incorrect. The fact is that on many occasions the commission was unable to obtain sufficient shipping for the despatch of meat it had on hand, with the result that large quantities are now in cold storage.
– The Minister for External Territories said, that at times insufficient meat was on hand to take advantage of the shipping space available.
– That is incorrect. The main argument advanced by honorable senators opposite in support of the motion is that the constitution of the commission does not give the representation which they desire. The remainder of their objections to the regulations were advanced half-heartedly, and would be met provided the Government granted the representation now asked for. Dur ing the suspension of the sitting, I discussed the personnel of the commission with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), who informed me that the interests of the primary producershave been effectively safeguarded in the selection of members. The first member is Mr. R. J. F. Boyer, who is general president of the Graziers Association of Australia.
– He was not nominated by that organization.
– That may be so ; but, obviously, the graziers of Australia have confidence in him as the president of the association. It is equally obvious that they will retain that confidence in him as their representative on the commission. I understand that he has extensive pastoral interests in Queensland. Therefore, I can see no reason why he would not be eager to look after the interests of the producers in his capacity as a member of this body. Another member is Mr. C. C. Bradley, who has represented the New South Wales Graziers Association on various bodies during the last twenty years. I am sure that, like Mr. Boyer, he will retain the confidence of the members of that organization in his capacity as a member of the commission. The representative of the Northern Territory primary production interests is Mr. F. A. Brodie, who is one of the best-known figures in the cattle industry. Another member is Mr. W. S. Kelly, a well-known grazier in South Australia, who is associated with the prices branch.
– He is not a member of the commission.
– The Minister informed me that he has publicly stated that Mr. Kelly has been appointed to the commission at his direction, and shall not be removed from that body at the direction of the Prices Commissioner or any body else. The Minister also told me that it is proposed to appoint Mr. A. C. Fisken the chairman of the Australian Meat Board. Mr. Fisken is the representative of the Victorian lamb industry. Another member is Mr. J. Graham, who is a member of the executive of the Australian Pig Industry Council, and one of the most prominent pig breeders in Australia.
– This last-minute repentance on the part of the Minister will not retrieve the position.
– I regret to hear that, because I believe that the primary producers have been given very effective representation on the commission. I believe that the men who represent such well-known organizations and occupy such prominent positions in primary industry in Australia are well fitted to represent the primary producers on the commission. The objects of the regulations are set out in the fourth regulation which reads -
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.
Honorable senators opposite say that they do not object to that. What then is their objective in moving to disallow it?
– To sabotage the war effort.
– They have already done too much to help the Government to carry on the war effort to allow me to believe that they have any such objective. I am sure that they are just as loyal as the members of the Government are. What will be the effect of disallowing the regulations? What do they hope to achieve?
– A better commission-
– Once the regulations are disallowed they cannot be gazetted again for some time. The Government is faced at the moment with the serious problem of supplying the fighting forces and the civilian population with necessary foodstuffs. It cannot slacken in its effort to plan the necessary moves for conserving our food supplies, and for tinning and dehydrating meats so that they will be available in the coming months for our own and the allied forces. Do honorable senators opposite think that the Government will sit down and wait until it finds some way of setting up a new commission that will receive their blessing, and then begin again to plan to do the job that it has already set out to do? I suggest that these regulations must continue in force, and that the commission). must go on. If the regulations are not disallowed we shall have the benefitof the advice and help of the primary producers’ representatives who are already members of the commission in organizing the meat industry. The only effect of disallowance will be to force- the Government to carry on the work of the commission, if necessary, with its departmental officers. The control of the industry will be taken away from the primary producers, the people whom the Opposition says it is protecting. I suggest to the Opposition that this is not the time to take such a serious step, or to dislocate so vital an industry.
or the Minister for External Territories (Senator Eraser) on this very important question, but I am interested because I happen to be for the moment the Minister in control of the price- fixing branch, which has a representative on the Australian Meat Industry Commission. I hope that the Senate will not disallow the regulations. The meat industry is most important. The commission was appointed under regulations which were found necessary because of the dire urgency of combing over the meatindustry throughout Australia. The producer under this scheme is guaranteed a price when the price has been fixed. We intimated in December of last year that the price would be fixed to the producer and the consumer, that those in the slaughtering industry would get a fair rate, and that a margin equitable to both the producer and the consumer would be arrived at. On one occasion in this chamber I interjected that the price of meat to the consumer was shameful. I said that lamb at1s. 3d. a. lb. was an outrage, knowing that the grower was not getting a fair share of that alarmingly high price. Meat plays a tremendously important part in our social economy and public finance. A slight increase of the priceof meat represents an increase of 1 per cent, in the costof living. I think every honorable senator agrees that the man producing it should get a right price for it, that the men handling it should get a fair return for their labour, and that the consumer should receive it at a reasonable rate. Every increase of the basic wage increases State and Commonwealth governmental expenditure to an enormous degree. The last increases swelled the Commonwealth expenditure under the budget by many millions of pounds. An increase of the basic wage of1d. a day to the railway men of Victoria, who are only a small section, means an extra expenditure of £25,000 a year by the Railways Commissioners of that State. An increase of 2s. was given some weeks ago, so that this is an industry in which a stabilization of price is most imperative if the much discussed inflationary trend in public finance is to be checked. I suggest that the disallowance of these regulations will do a distinct injury to the producer, who will not be assured of the guaranteed price that he should get. The Minister has already assured the Senate that that guarantee will extend over a year, and apply to all classes of meat known in the industry. The aspect of the price to the consumer was the subject of a very fine address by the Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, at a meeting of pigbreeders in Melbourne yesterday. Referring to the whole plan, he said -
The Commonwealth meat plan, for which the Meat Industry Commission was primarily responsible, was the most ambitious and farreaching plan of meat control ever attempted in the Commonwealth. It would undoubtedly he to the benefit of the producer in the long run, because it contained a guarantee to the producer of a fixed price for all meats, and rigid control of the margins for slaughtering and retailing. In the case of pig meats producers had been guaranteed the price of81/4d. per lb. for best quality pork, with prices ranging down for inferior qualities. This price had been guaranteed for a year, with the promise that the question of a guarantee for a further year would be considered at an early date. Stability of prices throughout all States had also been agreed upon. These prices were lower than the high peaks that had been reached recently owing to the very heavy demand, but they were substantially higher than the prices that had prevailed since the beginning of the war, or before the war. Due notice had been given early in December of the intention to fix prices at these levels, and current values had now been adjusted to the new level of fixed prices. It was hoped within a few days to announce retail prices, after the margins for processing and wholesale and retail distribution had been determined. “ These arrangements”saidprofessor Copland, “will ensure that the charges for slaughtering, processing, and distribution will be a minimum, and that speculative activities will be eliminated. The prices are not low, as some producers have contended, but consumers may be assured that the level of retail prices will be substantially below the peak reached recently, and certainly very much below what prices in an open and uncontrolled market would be at the present time. “ The principles that have been adopted in connexion with pig meats will also be adopted in regard to mutton and lamb prices and beef meat “, Professor Copland continued. “ It should be remembered that price of meat plays an important part in the cost of living. A rise of 10 per cent, in meat prices involves an increase of approximately 1 per cent, in the cost of living. If costs are to be controlled in Australia it is essential that meat prices should be controlled, but they can only be controlled by providing guaranteed prices to producers under a plan that will be Commonwealthwide.”
That speech, I suggest, gives a fair resume of what after all is probably the most important aspect of the immediate work of the Australian Meat Industry Commission. At this late hour, when the commission is in active operation and the meat producers of Australia are looking for something tangible, to abolish the commission will do a decided injury to the Commonwealth for the reasons I have mentioned. Honorable senators should remember the effects which disallowance will have upon the meat industry of Australia, with particular reference to prices to producers and consumers,, and the possibility of a break-down in supplies of urgently needed canned and dehydrated meat for Australian and allied soldiers. Without giving anything away, honorable senators, particularly ex-Ministers, know that, in addition to the. allied forces here, there is an enormous number who probably will have to be fed by this country, and if they want anything they want meat. Besides feeding the men who are defending Australia, we must meet our export commitments to the Government of the United Kingdom. The export of meat and sugar is giving the Government almost a perpetual headache. We know that our kinsmen in Great Britain are not getting what we should like to see them get, through no fault of the last Government or of this Government. Packs of U-boats sweeping through the oceans are taking heavy toll of our shipping, of which we have lost 19,000,000 tons since the war started. The onus is on us to do all we can to help the Old Country by supplying it with our wonderful meat, butter and cheese. This we are finding difficult through no fault of the Government or anybody else, but simply because for the nonce we have not been able to master the U-boat menace. Another drawback of the disallowance of the regulations will be the undesirable conditions which will arise in the local market to the detriment of the consuming public of Australia. I agree with the Minister for Aircraft Production that while the Government has to cater for its fighting men, the wants of the civilian population have still to be considered. If there is anything in my work which causes me almost daily annoyance it is the abuse I find going on, with suppliers of goods overcharging the people. It is impossible to police this throughout Australia and to punish those individuals who, knowing that prices have been fixed, are deliberately profiteering by overcharging the wives and children of the men who are away fighting.
– How does the Minister think that the quality of meat retailed in butchers’ shops could be policed ?
– The same point was raised by Senator Leckie. Is it suggested that the Prices Commissioner would fix a flat rate for all meat? I say “No”. That would not be done to any greater degree than it is to-day. As the honorable senator knows, certain qualities of meat are supplied to certain neighbourhoods. That is an unfortunate state of affairs. The average man and woman want the choicest joints. When I was a boy, meat was much cheaper than it is to-day.Rump steak in the district where I live to-day is 2s. 4d. per lb., but when I was a lad it was only 8d. a lb. Like my leader, I speak without heat in regard to this matter. The carrying of this motion would not be in the interests of the nation generally. It would not be in the interests of the primary producers, who are represented in this chamber by honorable senators opposite as well as by members of the Labour party, and most certainly it would not be in the interests of the consumers. Therefore, it would not be helpful to the war effort. I can assure honorable senators opposite that if the regulations be disallowed, the matter will not rest there, because there is an urgent necessity for control over this industry. The organization of the industry is going ahead, and should reach fruition within a day or two. It is most important that meat prices should be fixed in order to give to the primary producer a guaran-teed return for his product. He has never had that before under any Government. I am not suggesting that this Government is the only administration with statesmanlike ideas, but it so happens that this Government is in office at a time when the meat industry must be controlled. The appointment of this commission, which gives reasonable representation to all sections of the industry, is an urgent necessity, and I trust that the regulations will not be disallowed.
– I speak in this debate merely to make an appeal to the Opposition not to proceed with this motion. The appointment of the commission is an urgent war necessity. The Government has to make every possible effort to organize food production and distribution so that our troops at least will be assured of adequate supplies while they are fighting our battles. Honorable senators opposite claim to represent primary producers, and yesterday a discussion took place in this chamber during which it was agreed unanimously that in order to give primary industry a fair spin and to ensure that a fair price was paid for all products, it was essential that some authority should be set up to safeguard their interests. It is to that end that the Australian Meat Industry Commission has been appointed - to safeguard supplies of meat for men in the fighting services and for the civil population, and also to protect the producing interests. The commission has been in operation only for a very short period, and it has not yet had an opportunity to get into its stride, although a certain amount of basic organization has been accomplished. I ask honorable senators opposite to give this body a chance; to let it function for a while before pronouncing judgment upon it. It is most unfair to move for the abolition of the commission merely because some honorable senators opposite object to certain of its members. For many years there has been strong agitation by the people engaged in this industry for the establishment of a controlling authority, particularly in connexion with the export of meat.
– There has been a controlling authority for years - the Australian Meat Board.
– Conditions today are exceptional. The war situation is serious, and every phase of industry should be scrutinized closely to ensure that the interests of all sections of the community are safeguarded adequately. I have no desire to make what might be regarded as a fighting speech in regard to this matter. I agree with a good deal of what Senator Arnold said. The honorable senator indicated that certain appointments would be made to the commission which probably would be acceptable to honorable senators opposite. The Opposition claims - and I am sure that there is every justification for the claim - that it desires to assist the Government in every way possible. The Government has not set up this commission just for fun; it has done it for a very definite purpose. Surely honorable senators opposite do not question the Government’s sincerity? The only real objection to the commission that has been raised is that some members of it are not acceptable to the Opposition.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture did not go beyond New South Wales when appointing the members of the commission; that is one objection to it.
– I believe that Queensland, which produces 90 per cent, of Australia’s export meat, should have greater representation, but it is far better to have an authority, whatever its personnel may be, controlling every phase of the industry, than to have no control at all. The commission is well qualified to set up machinery for the organization of the industry. I appeal to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) to give the commission a chance to function for a while, at any rate. It can then be judged by the results that it has achieved, and if those results be not regarded as satisfactory, honorable senators opposite may then, if they so desire, draw the attention of the Government to whatever weaknesses or disabilities are apparent. There is an urgent need for a controlling authority in the meat industry.
– There is one, the Australian Meat Board.
– The primary producers did not agree entirely with their representation on that body. The Australian Meat Board was not free from criticism. No doubt there will be some criticism of the Australian Meat Industry Commission al30, but I feel sure that.it is capable of doing the job thoroughly and will prove of great value to the economic organization of this country.
– I should not have participated in this debate had it not been for the appeal made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) and supported by other honorable senators opposite, for the withdrawal of this motion on the ground that the disallowance of these regulations would cause a great disturbance in the industry. I draw the attention of the Government to the fact that it runs a risk when it introduces any regulations which have such farreaching effects upon the community. There was no need for this new organization when there was already in existence a body which had proved itself capable of dealing with at least one phase of the industry, namely, the export trade. As Senator Courtice pointed out, the commission has been in existence for only a short while, and therefore I cannot see that any great disturbance would be caused in the industry if these regulations were disallowed. This is the only way that honorable senators who disagree with the Government’s action in setting up this commission can have the matter rectified. Even though these regulations be disallowed on this occasion, there is nothing to prevent the Government from promulgating new ones immediately, but I do suggest that in cases of this kind - the same thing applied to the appointment of the Women’s Employment Board - the Government should follow the practice adopted by the British Parliament, which, although it has as wide powers under its national security legislation as this Government has under the National
Security Act to deal with urgent matters by means of regulation, has preferred to tackle these problems by means of legislative enactment. Had the appointment of this commission been made the subject of a bill, the whole question of representation could have been threshed out fully in the House of Representatives and this chamber. My own feeling is that too many supererogatory boards are being appointed where statutory authority is already in existence. I do not wish to descend to the lower stratum of criticism in regard to this matter, but I see no reason why there should be a representative of the Commonwealth Government on the commission. Provision is made for the attendance of the Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and there is no justification for political interference. The intricacies of the meat trade are such that it is quite impossible for a layman to have a complete grasp of them, and I speak’ now with some knowledge- of the matter. The practised stockman, the practised pig buyer; and the practised sheep and cattle buyer can evaluate quickly the quality of a beast, but such a task is beyond the capability of any one who has not an intimate knowledge of the industry. I admit that the problems of the industry are exceedingly difficult, but there are serious objections to this commission which Senator McBride has voiced clearly. I am confident that whatever difficulties, exist could be overcome in the absence of the commission by means of co-operation. It is idle talk to say that the disallowance of these regulations would, create chaos in the meat industry ; it would do nothing of the sort. My own personal view is that there will be added to the personnel of the commission other members who will know as much about the meat industry as the average man knows about the Einstein theory. A name that has been mentioned is that of Mr. W. S. Kelly. That gentleman has been associated with the Tariff Board for many years, but although he is a farmer and has some knowledge of stock, he has not the qualifications to deal with a matter such as this. He has had no experience of meat buying or retail selling. An intimation came from Senator
Arnold to-night that Mr. Fisken, chairman of the Australian Meat Board, is to he appointed a member of the commission. Of course, special provision will have to be made to enable that to be done.
– Has the honorable senator any objection to his appointment ?
– None whatever. He has years of experience in dealing with the overseas meat trade, and I know that he is exceptionally well qualified for such a position. I have supported the proposal for the dehydration of mutton because it would ensure necessary supplies for our friends overseas and for people living in outback places, as well as help to overcome the freight difficulty. There need be no disturbance of the industry if the Government would exercise some of that sweet reasonableness which sometimes emerges in this chamber and which this afternoon protruded from the Leader of the Senate. Every member of the Opposition desires that the meat industry shall be assisted as much as possible. Since we have the Australian Meat Board now dealing with the meat export trade, why should not the practically minded members of that body be called upon to deal with the problem that has been given to the commission?
– There is an entirely new set of conditions to-day.
– ‘But meat is meat, and those who have had experience of the export trade are familiar with every phase of the industry, from the purchase of the stock in the sale yards to its processing, whether by chilling, freezing or canning. All of those processes are well known, and the only new phase is dehydration. I fail to see why a representative of the Government should be a member of the commission.
– it is not unusual to appoint a representative of the Government to a board.
– I do not recall any such appointment. It certainly creates an embarrassing situation. I do not object to the appointment of the Prices Commissioner if he can be helpful. As a member of this commission, he will have a heavier task than any he has had to undertake in the ordinary course of his departmental duties. If he person ally attends the meetings of the commission, the problems to be solved will take up all of his time. If Mr. Kelly be delegated to act for the Prices Commissioner, Heaven help Mr. Kelly!
The Department of Supply and Shipping must be in constant touch with the Australian Meat Board. I understand that the meat export trade is still being controlled by that board. Why a member of the commission should be a representative of the Department of War Organization of Industry I do not know. Probably the ‘Government will say that it is necessary for a representative of the Rationing Commission to be a member. I should have thought that the meat export industry was sufficiently well represented on the Australian Meat Board. If a representative of the employees in the meat industry can contribute to the success of the deliberations of the commission, good luck to him. There are to be three representatives of the producers of beef, pig meats, and mutton and lamb. Those are the men who know their job, but the representation of those interests is insufficient. The Minister has evidently realized the insufficiency.
Members of the Opposition have referred to the selection of members of the commission from New South Wales. My mind goes back to the dispute over the subject of exporting summer lambs from New South Wales. I do not know whether summer lambs are still processed and exported, but the members of the commission should be acquainted with the peculiarities of each industry and of the difference between the conditions prevailing, say, in Tasmania as compared with southern Victoria. Honorable senators, in viewing Southdown, Dorset Horn, Border Leicester and Corriedale sheep in the sale pens, would probably consider that they were all of the same quality, but the experienced buyer would probably pay a good deal more for the Southdown than for any of the others, and probably the next favorite would be the Dorset Horn. It is necessary to know what the consumer desires and what is best for the overseas trade.
SenatorCollings. - The fighting men merely want meat.
– If the members of the commission do not understand the fine points of the industry a certain amount of friction will be created. I shall vote with my leader for the disallowance of the regulations.
– I support the disallowance of these regulations for two reasons. The first is that we now have a duplication of control which I think every body will admit is wrong. A board established by act of Parliament has already been in operation for no less than seven years, and it must be fully qualified for its work, because, even under the present Government control, it has been allowed to carry on its work for over twelve months without fault being found with it. Perhaps its special function has been to deal with the export trade, but in addition it has given consideration to the canning of meat, and it has had members well qualified for that work. I say that Mr. J. J. Farrell, who is a government officer in Western Australia, is probably one of the most experienced men in Australia in that class of work. Dual control such as now operates can lead to nothing but confusion. The proper thing to do is to annul the regulations. Some day the present Ministry will recognize the danger of government by regulation. Only in circumstances such as those brought about by the war can government by regulation be justified. We all know that the worst kind of legislation is that enacted by regulations. Regulations may be in existence for a few months, but unless they are disallowed by Parliament they have the force of law. People are often punished under regulations that should not have been promulgated. For that reason I support the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) in his desire to disallow the regulations now under consideration. My second reason for supporting the motion is that I am here to preserve’ the interests of the taxpayers of Australia as much as I can. I know that when a country is fighting for its very existence there is danger of laxity in the control of its finance; but to the degree that it is possible to do so, finance should be controlled even in war-time. Our duty is to assist by every means possible in the winning of the war. Indeed, that is the duty of every citizen. The determination of policy is a matter for the government of the day, and so long as a sound policy is adopted, the government in office is likely to remain on the treasury bench ; but should it depart from sound principles, it is in danger of being replaced by another government. I listened carefully to the arguments advanced on behalf of the Government for the retention of these regulations, but they were not convincing. It is said that there will be no opportunity to fix prices if these regulations be disallowed, but I point out that they are not necessary for that purpose. It is true that under the regulations there is a fixed price, and that in some instances maximum prices have been fixed, but who will determine values? That is not an easy job. In Western Australia an attempt was made to fix prices for meat sold in butchers’ shops, but a mistake was made in that wholesales prices were fixed and the consumer was not protected. I know something about meat, and can say that it is astonishing how many short loin chops can be obtained out of a side of mutton. Butchers become experienced in cutting them, and are frequently able to mislead the public. On many occasions I have seen ewe mutton sold as lamb. Sometimes it takes an expert to decide whether meat is mutton or lamb. A ewe which is fattened may produce meat which only an expert could say was not lamb. Frequently consumers pay for lamb when they are served with ewe mutton. Only within the last fifteen months have we come in contact with an enemy close to Australia, but the Australian Meat Board had full control in the early days of the war, and it did a wonderful job. At no time since the war began has there been any complaint about a general shortage of meat in Australia. The producers of meat will deal fairly with the people of Australia, particularly with those who are defending the country. No penalty would be too severe for those who would not do so. If I were not convinced that the producers of meat will continue to give a fair deal I should probably support the Government. In the past, the price of primary products has not been fixed other than by sales at public auction. I realize that under that system a producer may fix a reserve price for his products, but once that product has been sent to the market it is not likely to be sent back again, although that has been done on rare occasions. Generally speaking, the farmer must accept the price that is offered to him for his product.
The commission has accumulated a considerable sum of money from deductions made in respect of export lamb. I understand that the fund now amounts to about £1,000,000. The intention was to use the money to improve the prices paid for meat which would be used for canning purposes, but whether or not that has been done I do not know. I understand that there has been some difficulty in obtaining from the Government information as to the amount of money in the fund. Those who provided the money should know how much has accumulated and how it has been used. Mr. Farrell, who is the Deputy Meat Commissioner in “Western Australia, has said that first-grade pig meats will be fixed at Sid. per lb. for a pig weighing between 101 and 150 lb., whilst for a pig weighing between 151 and 180 lb. the price would be 7d. per lb. Those prices appear to have been fixed arbitrarily. Should a beast weigh 151 lb. the owner would receive for it 12s. less than if it weighed 1 lb. less. That is not a logical way to fix prices.
– Prices must be fixed on some basis, and the Government has provided a formula which is in conformity with the principle adopted in connexion with income tax.
– That is not so. I object to public servants being appointed as members of boards and commissions. Instead of being members of such bodies, they should be at call to render assistance if required.
– They are at call.
– They should not be. appointed to boards as members. Some public servants have been appointed to so many different boards that they cannot possibly do justice to any of them. They should be available for consultation and advice, but should not be appointed to such bodies to sit with outsiders.
– Many of them have been trained for years, at considerable expense, so that they may be able to assist as members of boards.
– Their advice should be available to the board. Just as a citizen does not usually keep a surgeon in his house, but consults him at his rooms, so these advisers should be available for consultation without being members of boards.
Many people in the eastern States do not understand conditions in Western Australia. The Minister for Lands and Agriculture in that State (Mr. Wise) is a man for whom I have the greatest respect. Evidently, that is the opinion of the Commonwealth Government also. I regard the choice recently made by the Government as a wise one, although I regret that his services will not be available to Western Australia for some time. On the 14th April, 1942, in the Parliament of Western Australia, the Minister made a speech, which was reported in Hansard of that date, at page 2S68. In it he referred to the difficulties of getting beef from the north. He said that up to that time about 12,000 head of cattle came from the Kimberley district each year, but that last year some difficulties were encountered and the number of cattle was somewhat less. Over a period of five years the average number of cattle produced in that district was 11,508. The Minister for Lands and Agriculture referred to the difficulty associated with cattle production and also the unfair treatment of the industry by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner. On the occasion referred to he said -
Unless the beef position can . be improved we shall face a terrific shortage in the next six months. A review of the consumption of beef per annum in the two countries I refer to will be of interest. In Australia the consumption of beef per head per annum is 112 lb., and in the United States of America 63 lb. In Australia, the consumption of mutton and lamb is 81 lb. and in America 7 lb., while in Australia the consumption of pig meat is 19 lb., whereas in America it is 55 lb. per head per annum. Those figures will give members some indication of the quantity and types of meat required in the two countries.
It is extremely unlikely that 11,000 head of beef will reach the metropolitan area from Derby, while from Wyndham 3,000 frozen carcasses will not be placed on the market and from Broome thu quantity of frozen meat normally available will not be forthcoming. Even if conditions locally were normal regarding the demand for beef supplies, such as it was, say, three years ago, because of the considerations I have mentioned there would still be a very serious shortage. When we take into account the tremendous increase in our population which we can anticipate, we shall have to face a shortage during the next six months of 5,400 tons of beef, or a shortage of carcasses totalling 25,000 regarding beef alone.
Regardless of the number of commissions which may be established, that position cannot be rectified easily. Some time ago the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) said that several thousand cattle on the hoof were being brought from the Kimberleys. Those cattle did not leave the Kimberley district. Any person who thought that they could be brought from there at that time had little knowledge of the difficulties to be encountered. The report of the speech of the Minister for Lands in Western Australia continues -
The Leader of the Opposition touched on the question of the diversity of prices and the effect in this State. The prices are to be fixed as from the Sth March. I have had prices taken out for the relevant months and weeks to indicate the effect of those that have been fixed. Although there will be certain anomalies, except in the price of lamb, I think that if the .price for beef had not been pegged and the shortage as we knew it to be developing had been known, the producer would not have had his costs increased at all and might have expected a standard price much higher than he will now receive. I know that the Leader of the Opposition would not condone or favour exploitation by the producer. Whatever merit there is in the action of the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, who fixed the -price as at the Sth March, if it can be shown that there has been some exploitation of the farmer, I hope we shall be able successfully to arrange to remove the cause of the exploitation.
Mr. Wise’s opinion was that the Prices Commissioner, because of lack of knowledge, fixed the price below a fair level for the producer in Western Australia. Thus a terrific problem confronts any authority charged with the duty of fixing the price of meat so far as Western Australia is concerned.
– And Western Australia is not represented on the new commission.
– No. People who visit Western Australia generally go only to the city of Perth. They obtain no knowledge of the difficulties of the State as a whole. Western Australia is a great State, but its primary producers, particularly, are faced with great difficulties. In the northern parts of New. South Wales, and in many parts of .Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, cattle, under natural conditions, will fatten within a very short period. In Western Australia, however, every acre has to be fertilized even for pasture purposes. We cannot produce stock as cheaply as they can be produced in the eastern States. Consequently, it is not fair to all sections of the producers to fix a price to apply throughout Australia. The least the Government could have done was to have given Western Australia a representative on the commission. Of course, the Minister will reply that Western Australia has a representative on the Advisory Committee. That is true ; but the voice of a representative on that committee cannot be nearly so effective as that of a representative on the commission itself, particularly if he has a full knowledge of the difficulties confronting primary producers in Western Australia. It must be remembered that the commission will not meet very frequently. The proper thing for the Government to do is to allow the Australian Meat Board to continue to function in the interests of the producers. Western Australia’s representative on that body is Mr. Williamson, who knows his work thoroughly, and has devoted much of his time to it. He has had years of experience on the land. I fail to comprehend how the disallowance of these regulations can cause injury to any section of primary producers. These regulations, I repeat, will not produce one more carcass. I am perfectly satisfied about that; but if the price fixed is below a fair price, production will automatically stop. No one can continue producing an article un profitably, unless he receives financial assistance.
– How does the honorable senator think that prices are arrived at? Are not all factors taken into consideration ?
– I have just read the opinion of Mr. Wise, whom the Commonwealth has appointed to a responsible position, that if there was any exploitation in respect of the diversity of prices and their effect on Western Australia it was brought about by the Prices Commissioner. Yet the Prices Commissioner is a man of experience. That aspect must be borne in mind. Some honorable senators, who have had no experience in raising stock, have said that the farmers will not market their stock. The farmers must market their stock. The successful man, having a knowledge of climatic conditions over a number of years, runs only the normal number of stock which his property is capable of carrying. Immediately he gets over his holding, he is overstocking, and, consequently, he finds himself in much greater difficulties than would be the case if he even sold his stock at a price considerably below the normal market value. We cannot expect the farmers to be foolish. The Government would be well advised to allow the work to be done by the Australian Meat Board. No one can persuade me that within three months the new commission could have done very much that could not have been done in the ordinary way by the board mentioned with the assistance of the departmental experts. After all, dehydration, which is the only new process involved, is simple. I suppose that half of Australia has been developed as a result of the canned meat industry; so there is nothing new in that. It may be that the Government, through these regulations, is endeavouring to put into operation its policy of control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. If that be so, it has adopted a very clumsy method, and has acted most unwisely at this particular time.
– But that is Labour’s policy.
– That is so. It is set out in Labour’s book of words. Apparently, this is a short cut in the implementation of that policy. I shall not oppose regulations which I am con vinced are in the national interest. I resent, as I suppose other honorable senators on this side do also, the statement that we are determined to tear down every constructive proposal advanced by the Government. I have endeavoured to piece these regulations together in order to find out exactly what they mean; but I got a headache in the process. I do not know how Ministers manage to handle the multitude of regulations which are now being issued. They are coming out like sausages out of a machine. I repeat that no necessity exists for these regulations. The people can be relied on to do the right thing. Our primary producers will produce all the food we require. We readily recall how the wheat-growers responded to the appeal made by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), when he was Prime Minister, to grow more wheat. I am sure that the primary producers to-day will respond just as effectively to any similar appeal by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), or any other Minister who exercises a little common sense. Very many primary products are being produced at a loss. However, the farmers can be relied on to attend to the production end. If the Government can obtain the necessary shipping space for exports, and can ensure the safe conduct of ships overseas, we shall get rid of our surplus.
– The “ if “ makes all the difference.
– But no regulation can control that. If twelve months, or two years, hence, the Government asks for an increase of stock, it will attain its objective to the degree that the properties permit. I wish to correct the Minister’s statement that the prices of meat have gone up this year in comparison with those of last year. In order to show that bis information is incorrect, I quote the following figures: - 1942 - fat bullocks, the 3rd June, 1942, top price £24 5s.; the 3rd February, 1943, top price £20 3s. 6d., or a decline of £4. Fat cows- 1942, £18 8s.; 1943, £12 16s. Those figures are a very good index of values. The cost now to be considered is not so much the cost of the cattle themselves, but that of handling, and that has gone up considerably, including abattoir and delivery charges. For instance, if the baker were provided with wheat for nothing, a 2-lb. loaf of bread would still cost 4£d. The same observation applies to fat sheep. The average price of crossbred wethers at the 3rd June, 1942, was 29s., compared with 19s. 4d. on the 3rd February last. I should not think that people would be getting rid of their stock now, because there is plenty of feed available at present.
– A fair comparison can only be obtained by averaging prices over the year.
– The averaging of the top and bottom prices gives a better indication of the average price.
– What were the prices of store cattle and store sheep at the dates mentioned by the honorable senator ?
– Prices for the fat stock market only are quoted in the figures which I have available. I support the motion.
– After listening to this long-drawn out debate, I am convinced that the reason why the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) is pressing for the disallowance of these regulations is to be found in the statement which he himself made in this chamber regarding the duties of the Opposition when he quoted the brilliant imperialist and conservative Englishman, Lord Randolph Churchill, who said -
The duty of the Opposition is to oppose everything, propose nothing, and turn the Government out.
That is a policy of negation, which, unfortunately, is applied in our parliaments to-day, and is the cause of most of the distress prevalent in the land. A measure may be introduced by a government with the best of intentions in the world, and its merits and demerits may be discussed for hours; yet any intelligent person who listens to the debate must be convinced that the greatest orator on the Government side cannot win one vote from the Opposition. No matter how much merit there is in the case brought before the Senate, the Opposition seems to feel that its only duty ia expressed in the phrase I have quoted. Senator Arnold this evening read out the names of some of. the members of the commission, and their qualifications. I do not think these can be disputed. I hope that the regulations will not be disallowed. The Government brought them into force with the best intentions, for the benefit of the meat industry and of the people of the Commonwealth. A practical man like Senator Latham thinks that the Australian Meat Board could have done the work just as well, but the commission has not yet had a chance to prove its ability.
– The Australian Meat Board did a good job.
– But the Government thinks it can be improved. Instances can be quoted to show that no matter how good a job is done, some one can do a better one. In the last war, when there was a great shortage of fish in England, an expert named Mr. W. Pott was brought back from active service in France to take charge of the retail distribution of fish, particularly in the north of England, which includes Sheffield. Fried fish and chips form a staple article of the diet of the English people, as is shown by the fact that in that city there are 2,000 registered fried fish shops. One shop had a continual stream of buyers, and queues standing outside. The expert, on making inquiries, found that the proprietor was selling not actual fish, but a synthetic composition which he claimed was just as good. That man made a fortune of £20,000 in the last two years of the war. He gave Mr. Pott the recipe, which I brought to the notice of the Tasmanian Government. It was tested in Tasmania by myself, and also by Mr. Dwyer-Gray, Treasurer of Tasmania, Mr. Pott and the government chemist, and we decided that it was a very palatable food. Mr. Pott is a man of extraordinary ability and knowledge. He sent the recipe to Lord Woolton, who is the controller of food in Great Britain during the present war, but Lord Woolton, instead of using it, put it in the hands of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and it has been pigeonholed ever since. One result is that last year 250,000 tons of potatoes, which cost £13 a ton, were wasted in Great Britain.
That scheme would have been worth millions to the British people, who lack variety in their food. It is not in the interests of the nation for the Opposition to follow the doctrines which disregard the interests of the people. Nothing has .been said in this debate to prove that the Australian Meat Industry Commission will not do a good job. I trust that in casting their vote all honorable senators will consider first the interests of the taxpayers and of the Commonwealth as a whole.
– I also make an appeal to the Opposition to withdraw the motion, not because the Government will be embarrassed if it be carried, but because of the dislocation that will ensue in a very important industry which is playing a major part in our war effort. Much has been said to-night regarding the composition of the commission and of the Australian Meat Board. Not only does the commission have to handle our exportable surplus of meat, but also it controls canning. Only in the last few months has any extensive canning in which the Government is interested taken place. The chairman of the Australian Meat Board “has accepted a position on the Commission. Canning is regarded as a separate function from the export of meat.
– The Australian Meat Board could have done the additional work quite well.
– The honorable senator will admit that before the demand for canned meat for the troops set in, very little, if any, of that sort of work was done by the Government. It was done chiefly by private enterprise and there was no necessity for the Australian Meat Board to have anything to do with it. Opposition senators treat this matter very lightly. Senator A. J”. McLachlan spoke of the difficulties associated with buying stock. Every one realizes that those difficulties exist, but we have been confronted with many problems in the course of this war, and we have overcome them. Similarly, we shall overcome the difficulties associated with the purchasing of stock. No complaint was voiced by honorable senators opposite when the [in] , _ wages of the workers of this country were pegged, but they protest loudly at any attempt at interference with the wealthy grazing interests. Apparently their interests are sacrosanct. I say to the Opposition, and to the people of this country that the graziers must play their part in this war just as the workers have to carry their share of the burden. Senator Gibson said that he had no objections to control of this industry, but in the next breath he objected to the prices that were to be fixed.
– To the difficulty of fixing prices.
– Surely that is a problem which can be overcome. There are many men competent to determine a fair price for meat, whether it is in the yards or in the shops. Is there any reason why the services of such men should not be available to the Government? Have the graziers of this country a monopoly of these people? I say frankly that if the Opposition carries this motion, serious dislocation in the meat industry will result, and as a result our war effort will suffer. Many thousands of men in the fighting services are dependent upon adequate supplies of meat. They are not only our own people, but also the men of allied countries. If this motion be carried the Government will be forced to take other action. It will not permit the needs of the soldiers or of any one else vitally engaged in war activities to be made subservient to the wishes of the graziers. The needs of our fighting forces must be fulfilled; that is the duty of any government. I do not deny that the graziers are entitled to a fair price for their products. The only reasonable complaint that I have heard in the course of this debate was voiced by Senator Latham, who referred to the difference of 12s. in the price of pigs weighing 150 lb. and those weighing 151 lb. ; but surely the graziers and the Prices Commissioner will be able to arrive at a reasonable average. The Government does not desire to inflict an injustice upon any section of the community. Apparently honorable senators opposite were unaware that the Government had proceeded in the determination of prices to the degree outlined by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane). I sincerely trust that the information given to honorable senators by the Minister will lead to the withdrawal of this motion. Honorable senators opposite have the numbers to carry the motion, hut I repeat that should the regulations be disallowed, the Government will be duty bound to take other action.
The need for the appointment of this commission and the importance of the work that it is undertaking, is demonstrated by the fact that whereas last year production of dehydrated and canned meats totalled 50,0Q0 tons, this year requirements total 100,000 tons, and the commission has been set up primarily for the purpose of achieving that objective.
It has been suggested that the commission should have been set up by act of Parliament rather than by regulation, but it is obvious that even had that course been followed, the appointment of the personnel of the commission would have remained in the hands of the Government. It is apparent that pressure has been brought to bear on the Opposition by certain members of the Australian Meat Board, and that honorable senators opposite are prepared to jeopardize this country’s war effort in order to satisfy those individuals who have not been appointed to the commission. In four States there are State committees and deputy controllers. The chairman of the Australian Meat Board,. Mr. A. C. W. Fisken, is the deputy controller for Victoria; in Queensland the deputy controller is Mr. E. Summers, and in Western Australia the position is held by Mr. J. J. Fowler; in Tasmania, Mr. S. R. Adams is deputy controller. The other States have representation on the commission. Honorable senators opposite should not be parochial in regard to this matter. This is not a State question; it is a Commonwealth-wide scheme, and I appeal earnestly to the Opposition to think carefully before- supporting the motion. I am not concerned with the embarrassment that may be caused to the Government by the disallowance of the regulations ; I am concerned only with the dislocation which will occur in an industry which is playing a major part in our war effort.
– The Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) took strong exception to a remark which I passed while he was speaking last night to a motion moved by Senator Latham. Actually what occurred was- this: The PostmasterGeneral said that the farmers’ greatest disability was the price that he paid for his land, and I interjected - in quite a friendly spirit - “ What does the Minister propose to do about that? “. Tonight, when the Postmaster-General admitted that the chairman of the Australian Meat Board, Mr. A. C. W. Fisken, had been appointed to the Australian Meat Industry Commission, I said that the fact that Mr. Fisken had been appointed to the Meat Industry Commission, was proof positive that the Australian Meat Board was capable of doing the work for which this new body has been set up. Upon what has this debate hinged? The important question asked is, “ What justification is there for the appointment of a new organization_when there is already a board in existence? “ It is abundantly clear that the Australian Meat Board carried on successfully for many years. It started off without experience, and built up an expert staff. What duties have been given to the’ commission that could not have been discharged by the Australian Meat Board? The new duties relate chiefly to the canning of meat and the dehydration of mutton. All that would have been necessary was to co-opt the services of expertsin the canning and dehydration processes. Those processes are not new, for they are known throughout the world. The Government has not produced a singleargument in justification of the appointment of the commission. It gave no heed to the fact that the Australian Meat Board had rendered valuable service tothe Commonwealth, but at the last moment it was compelled, in order to ensure some success for the new commission,, to appoint to it Mr. Fisken, the chairman of the Australian Meat Board. That was done as an after-thought and in order to educate the commission in the work of meat control. Apparently the Government thought that the commission was not capable of doing the work required of it without the assistance of Mr. Fisken. I do not say that it is not right for the Government to exercise some control over the meat industry in war-time, in order to ensure that supplies of meat are maintained for the fighting forces and the civil population. My complaint is that the Government has cast aside men with years of experience and has appointed to the commission men who have yet to gain the experience possessed by members of the Australian Meat Board. I am satisfied that meat prices will never be controlled to the satisfaction of the primary producers, because there will be a ‘constant demand for increased rates of pay for the men engaged in the secondary industries, owing to the increasing cost of living. The primary producers never receive a fair deal because they are required to produce foodstuffs under conditions which prevent them fromobtaining a fair remuneration for their labours.
Question put -
That the National Security (Australian Meat Industry Commission) Regulations, as contained in StatutoryRule No. 480 of 1942, and made under the National Security Act 1939-1940, be disallowed.
The Senate divided. (Tans President - Senator the Hon. J.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Forces : Acquisition of Buildings in Brisbane - Flax - Banking System - Australian Army: Correspondence to Troops in New Guinea ; Deterred Pay.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Earlier in the day Senator Latham asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has now supplied the following answers : -
.- On the 28th January, Senator Herbert Hays asked the following question without notice : -
In view of the decision of the Government to impose income tax on the deferred pay of soldiers serving overseas, will the Minister representing the Treasurer statewhether favorable consideration will be given to the payment of interest on such deferred pay?
The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has supplied the following answer: -
Interest on deferred pay is at present credited to the deferred pay accounts of members of the Forces. Interest begins to accrue from one year after a member becomes’ entitled to deferred pay, and compound interest is credited to the member’s deferred pay account annually thereafter.
.- I bring before the Senate a matter which I have already discussed with the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings). It concerns the acquisition of certain buildings at Brisbane by the Allied forces. The latest proposal is that one of the biggest office buildings in Brisbane is to be taken over by the Allied forces for army purposes. At first glance, it may appear that army requirements must be met, and I agree that that should be so if there be no alternative. Nevertheless, the taking over of buildings for army purposes is causing considerable inconvenience to many business people. Some of the tenants in the building at Brisbane to which I have referred are engaged in one-man businesses or professions. They have built up a fairly large connexion, and have established a considerable goodwill, but if they have to vacate the premises much of that will be lost. Moreover, there is practically no other accommodation suitable for their use. In communications which I have received on this subject, my correspondents have stated that some of the city buildings which have already been taken overhave been used as dormitories. If that be so, it is not fair to the business community. Rather than turn out the present tenants of the building, it would be better to provide for the Allied forces temporary accommodation in huts on some vacant land adjoining the city, even if that meant using for the purpose some of the city parks or a portion of the botanical gardens. In normal circumstances, I should be the last person to agree to such reserves being used for the erection of even temporary buildings, but under the conditions which now exist I fail to see any good reason why that should not be done. Similar accommodation is being provided in different parts of Australia cheaply and quickly. I probably should not have raised this matter in the Senate were it not that several of the largest and most convenient buildings in the city of Brisbane have already been taken over for military purposes. As a former Minister for the Interior, I realize the delicacy of the position confronting the present Minister, but I ask him to look into this matter in order that; if possible, business people shall not be driven out of premises which they have occupied, in some instances, for many years. I suggest that the Minister make inquiries in order to ascertain whether buildings which have previously been taken over are used as dormitories, and particularly whether temporary hut accommodation could not be provided for the Army authorities.
– All honorable senators who saw pictures of the Australian flax industry this evening must have been impressed by them, as they indicated clearly that this industry might well become an important one in the post-war period. Those engaged in the growing of flax have done so more from patriotic motives than with a desire for profits, because the price paid to the growers of the flax is below the cost of production. Nevertheless, they should not be asked to grow flax at a loss. In some States adverse seasons have been experienced, and the growers of flax have been hit hard. A similar misfortune may overtake other flax producers in subsequent years. I suggest that the price for the best flax be raised to about £10 a ton, with a reduction for flax of lower grades. If that were done, 1 am confident that those now engaged in producing flax would not only continue to produce it, but would also be induced to improve its quality. I fear that unless some encouragement be given to these farmers the production of flax, instead of becoming a profitable post-war industry, will cease. I trust that this matter will receive serious consideration so that the growing of flax may become a valuable post-war industry.
– I endorse the remarks of Senator Foll regarding the acquisition of buildings in the city of Brisbane for army purposes. In addition to Senator Foll, other Queensland members of this Parliament have received communications on the subject. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) and his colleague in the Ministry, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Lawson), as well as Senator Courtice, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) and myself waited on the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and presented a strong case on behalf of tenants who have received notice to vacate certain buildings. The Minister for the Army promised to give the matter every consideration. As Senator Foll stated, this is somewhat a delicate matter because our relations with the American Army authorities are involved. As honorable senators know, those authorities have a way with them; when they are asked to find another building they may make some inquiries, but usually they come hack with a request for the building for which they originally asked. I have had conversations with some army leaders on this subject, but perhaps it would not be wise to say too much of what occurred. Other buildings in Brisbane have already been taken over by these authorities. One building in Queen-street was practically wrecked internally in order to provide a number of dormitories, and I understand that the building which they now seek is to be used for a similar purpose. In fairness to the American authorities, 1 mention that they approached Mr. Kemp, who has a good deal to do with the Allied “Works Council in Brisbane, and has over 5,000 carpenters under his control, but were informed by him that men could not be spared to build huts for the Americans, but whether that information is correct or not I .do not know. Every effort should be made to provide accommodation for American soldiers and their administrative staffs without requiring tenants of important buildings in the main business centres of the city to vacate premises which many of them have occupied for a number of years. We do not want to cause any ill-feeling between ourselves and the American authorities, but I believe that if the Government proceeds in the right way a satisfactory arrangement oan be arrived at. On other occasions Senator Cooper and I have referred to the acquisition of dwellings by the military authorities, thereby causing considerable inconvenience to the owners or tenants. I realize that, at times, such action cannot be avoided, and also that by the exercise of tact and common sense, difficulties which otherwise might be encountered can be overcome. The tenants of the building to which Senator Foll referred have not been given much time to find other premises. Only to-day I received a telegram from a dentist who occupies rooms in it informing me that he had been given only until the 20th February to vacate his rooms. He and other tenants claim to be rendering a necessary service to the community. I realize that if imperative army needs justify the acquisition of the building for army purposes, tenants must be prepared to vacate the premises occupied by them. But we say that in Queensland, particularly, that has been done; and we feel that if the Government goes about the matter in the right way, and arrives at an understanding with the Americans, we can overcome the difficulty without further trouble. To my own. appeal to the Government, I add that of Senator Courtice, for whom I am now also speaking, to give this ^matter careful consideration, and to play fair with the people affected.
– I support the request made by Senator Aylett on behalf of the producers of flax. It is well known that the countryside in Tasmania was canvassed in order to get farmers to produce this crop. They were asked, as an act of patriotism, to produce flax, because it was imperative that it should be produced. Owners of land which was approved by inspectors, or officers of the State Agricultural Department, readily agreed to do so. They have now had three years’ experience in the industry, but only one of those years has been reasonably profitable, although not so profitable as other crops such as blue peas. These farmers grew flax purely as a patriotic act, because they were ready to do their part in the war effort. Why should they be asked to make a personal sacrifice involving loss in this industry when, like other sections of farmers, they could be growing other crops at a considerable profit? The whole scheme is lop-sided and unfair. When manufacturers are asked to make war equipment, they are paid on * costplus basis, and, whether the article, when it is produced, is wanted by the Government or not, the Government is called upon to pay for it on that basis. Why should any section of primary producers who grow a crop at the special request of the Government as an essential part of our war effort be treated on a different basis? I simply ask that these people be guaranteed a price commensurate with the work they do, which has some relation to the rewards being earned by farmers and others engaged in the production of primary produce and war material generally. The price of £10, which has been mentioned, is reasonable, although averaged over a period of three years it would not be equivalent to the rewards which other primary producers are receiving from other crops. In the first year the price was fixed, although it was low. However, the grower was guaranteed against loss. Now, after these people have been induced to embark upon this industry, and have responded to the Government’s request in a patriotic way, that guarantee has been withdrawn. Nothing could be more unjust. I do not believe that any Government could desire that any one section of the people should make an unfair sacrifice of this kind. Flax-growers have been practically ruined. They are incensed at having to produce a crop which, owing to adverse weather conditions, has meant the loss of a year’s effort to them. These people are not asking for preferential treatment. They desire simple justice. Indeed, wc would not be asking too much of the Government if we asked it to compensate them for their losses up to date. We know that in the production of -war material in secondary industries, so long as the article conforms to specifications, the Government has no alternative but to pay for the article produced whether at the time it is completed the Government requires it or not. The problem of man-power also is involved. Had sufficient manpower been available much of the flax crop could have been salvaged this year by pulling; but what would otherwise have been a valuable crop was destroyed. It is of no value as fodder for stock. It has been a complete loss. I urge the Government to give this matter serious consideration. These people are not asking for preferential treatment, but simply for a price which will give to them a return equivalent to that which other people engaged in the production of war material generally are receiving.
– Yesterday, I had to correct the impression held by honorable senators opposite regarding the banking system. They seem to think that I am the only individual who is asking that the banking system be reformed, whereas this demand is being made throughout Australia, and, indeed, is world-wide. I cite the following from Time : -
All around Winston Churchill, Britain was stirring with hopes that the war would bring great democratic changes. It seemed no more than a minor symptom last week that the Archbishop of Canterbury, plump, vigorous William Temple, should continue the trend of his Malvern conference (Time, 20th January, 1941) by proposing that the Government take over the issuance of credit (i.e. banking). Referring to Britain’s five great banks,* he declared : “ Money, or credit which does duty for money, has become in effect a monopoly
It seems to mc a. primary political principle that wherever you have something which is universally needed, but which is governed as a monopoly, that monopoly should be taken over by the State “.
- Barclays Bans Limited. Lloyds Bank Limited. Midland Bank Limited. National Provincial Bank Limited, Westminster Bank Limited.
I happen to be a member of the Economic Club of London, and I know that many men like myself are continuing to ask the questions which I raise from time to time in this chamber, and are giving to the British Government the same advice which I shall continue to give to this Government. On a previous occasion, I referred to the Bank of International Settlements. Questions have been asked in the House of Commons as to how many members of that bank are living in Axis-occupied countries. . That information is contained in the twelfth annual report of the bank, which last year made a profit of £6,000,000 gold francs. The names and nationality of the present directors of the bank are: -
Kurt Freiherr von Schroder ( German j.
Marquis de Vogue (French).
It is remarkable that for the first two years ofthe last war, Germanbanks carried on business in London. They finished up by “taking down” the British public for nearly £150,000,000. The power of finance is evidenced by the fact that such banks are allowed to carry on in such circumstances. To-day, many people in Great Britain are asking why the Bank of International Settlements has not been dissolved. Questions have also been asked in the House of Commons why the British Government continues to borrow money from the Bank of England, on which it pays interest, when it could obtain the money it requires through the national credit. Replying to questions on this subject the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Kingsley Wood, stated -
We in this country have already devoted much time and thought to the important question of post-war international financial and economic relations, and ourAmerican friends can rely upon our fullest co-operation both with them and with the other United Nations, in seeking and obtaining that common policy which will be such a vital necessity to the whole world after the war.
To-day I have to ask the committee for a further vote of credit rather earlier than I expected. That is not because the last vote is lasting for a shorter period than was estimated. It is merely in order to meet what we think will be the general convenience of honorable members with regard to the arrangements for future business. This further vote of £1,000,000.000 will make a total of £4,000,000,000 for Votes of Credit during the current financial year and a total of £12,090,000.000 sincethe beginning of the war. When I spoke on the last Vote of Credit on 9th September our war expenditure had recently averaged £12,250,000 a day. Since then, the daily average has been about £12,750,000, made up of £.1.0,500,000 on the fighting and supply services and £2.250,000 on miscellaneous war services, and these rates represent, in each case, an increase of £250,000 a day. On last Saturday, 17th October. £544.000.000 remained out of the £1,000,000.000 voted in September, and that sum, together with the further £1,000,000,000 which I ask the committee to vote to-day, is expected to last until about the second week in February . . .
I have explained that banks do not lend money. Their function is to monetize real wealth. In that way, they are exploiting the wealth of Great Britain. They have created all those thousands of millions of pounds against the real wealth of Great Britain. I, personally, had an experience in this respect myself when, just before the war broke out in 1914, I purchased the shop in which I now carry on business. The old owner held a mortgage on the property. I paid several thousand pounds off it, but some ten years later tie mortgagee told me that the mortgage was due. As I could not pay the whole of the balance, I asked my bank manager for £1,500. To get that I transferred my city property to the bank. That gave me the right to write a cheque for £1,500, which I handed to the man whom I had to pay. He could have demanded £1,500 in £1 notes and carried them about in his hip pocket or lost them, but, being a business man, he did what the bank manager expected him to do by paying the cheque to his credit at the bank. Then he bought £900 worth of machines and tools for a contract which he was undertaking, and paid for them with a second cheque. The man from whom he bought the tools bought them from the manufacturer, and paid for them with a third cheque. The man who made the tools bought the raw materials and paid the wages of the men by means of a fourth cheque. There was really no money in the whole transaction. The result to me was that I had to pay £96 a year in return for the right to write my cheque for £1,500. All the bank did was to monetize my real wealth in the form of my city property. That describes the bank swindle all through. In the last war in Great Britain the banks created a credit of £4,000,000,000, on which £100,000,000 interest is still being paid. Monetary reform must come. That it is coming, although slowly, is proved by the following report from Sydney: -
The council of the New South Wales branch of the United Australia party to-night approved recommendations about policy submitted by a special committee. Among them was one in favour of “ The judicious use of national credit for the construction of reproductive public works of a national character Another recommendation adopted was, “It shall be the prime objective of our post-war economic organization to eliminate poverty and secure the maintenance of full employment of all who are able to work. For this purpose monetary methods shall be adjusted to permit credit to flow freely for developmental work, with interest rates fixed at the lowest taxable level
I have, therefore, at last secured the support of the United Australia party, which shows that I am making progress after five years of hard work. The present banking system is about at the end of its tether, and I think that I shall live to see it abolished.
– I wish the Minister representing the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to make inquiries regarding the transit of letters to the forces in New Guinea. I have received a complaint from the father of a young man who gave his life in that country, and whom I knew as a boy. The father, writing to me, said that although nothing can be done in this case, other parents are writing to their sons, and an inquiry may obviate further heart-burnings. The father sent an air mail letter from Mosman Park, Western Australia, on the 8th October, 1942. On the envelope is noted in red ink “ Not H.Q., N.G.F., 22/10/42 “. The letter was in New Guinea for nineteen days or more before the death of this officer was reported on the 10th November, 1942. Under that note is another reading “N.T., 2/12/42”, and the assumption, therefore, is that the letter went to the Northern Territory. Under that is stamped “ Unable to trace, return to sender “. The letter got back to the dead letter office in Perth on the 2nd January, 1943, so that it has been travelling around’ for nearly three months. As I say, the death of the addressee was reported in New Guinea on the 10th November. He did. not receive the letter, and this upset the father, as he was the only son. The father has requested me to ask for information, so that similar occurrences may be obviated.
– I support the representations of Senator Poll and Senator Brown regarding the acquisition of buildings at Brisbane. I have received numerous telegrams and letters and have had the opportunity of making representations to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). This is one telegram that came to me -
My offices in Brisbane impressed. This building one of two remaining suitable buildings available. Leading retail estate agents advise unable secure accommodation for 53 tenants affected. Considerable space offered by retail trade to authorities not accepted.
Evidently there are available other buildings in which retailers have offered some of the floors to the Government. These could be very well .used for the purpose required, instead of important office buildings in the city being taken over.
– I desire to associate myself with the request of Senator Herbert Hays and Senator Aylett, who suggest that the flax-growers of Tasmania should get at least £10 a ton, which I do not think is too much. I pointed out when I spoke on the industry before that the flax-farmers are not getting enough. Flax-growing should be a good post-war industry. In the post-war reconstruction it will be necessary to have industries, especially primary industries, and it is a great pity that something is not done to keep this industry in operation. Those who process the flax at least get the basic wage, which is as it should be, but the farmers actually producing it and doing the hard work on land where they could grow profitable crops are in many cases getting nothing. A gentleman closely associated with the flax industry and capable of giving an opinion on the subject told me recently that in Tasmania probably under 25 per cent, of the flax would be harvested, and that at least 75 per cent, of that grown in northern Tasmania this year would be ploughed in owing to the had season. To be of any use, the flax must be a certain height, I think 30 in. or 32 in. If a wheat-grower strikes a bad season and gets only half a crop, he receives something. So does the potato-grower, but the flax-grower, if he gets half a crop, obtains absolutely nothing for it. The industry should be fostered. These men, as has been pointed out to-night, have grown the flax a? a patriotic duty. I know men who had ground prepared for another crop which would have been profitable, but I have been informed that officers of the department asked them as a war effort to put in flax. They did so, although they might have grown a very profitable crop of peas or potatoes, but they decided to grow flax and owing to the bad season they did not get any return for their labour. The whole of the farmers’ associations in northern Tasmania have appealed to the Government and to their members to obtain some help for them. Anybody else who does work for the Government gets paid for it, and it is not fair that one section of the community should do all the hard work, very often from patriotic motives, and get nothing. It would not be so bad for them if they were paid something, but 75 per cent, of the farmers who put in flax this year will get no payment, although they could have earned some money by putting in another kind of crop. If there was a failure of the wheat crop, millions .of pounds would be spent on relief for the wheat-farmers. I appeal to the Government to sec that these flaxfarmers receive at least their costs of producing or attempting to produce a crop of flax.
. - in reply - I rarely speak on the motion for the adjournment, and do not wish to appear in the light of a school-master to-night, but I suggest that as far as possible honorable senators should not use this motion to ventilate on the floor of this chamber matters which could be much better dealt with by an interview with the particular Minister concerned.
– There have been interviews at various times over the Tasmanian flax-growers.
-I am not referring to the subject in which the honorable senator is interested, but to matters which it is particularly undesirable should be ventilated publicly as they have been this evening, probably quite unwittingly. Senator Allan MacDonald raised a matter which must have been painful to him and his friends, but will also be painful to many other people who read what is published regarding it. There is no reason why the communication referred to should not have been taken quietly to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) or the Minister representing him here. It is also most unwise to discuss- in this chamber the occupation of the T. & G. building in Brisbane.
– I am surprised that the honorable senator, who went through the last war and is doing military work in this one, cannot see that the matter which has been ventilated here, to-night has an angle to it about which the less said the better. The suggestion is that there is difficulty with regard to the action of the forces belonging to one of our Allies. That is entirely wrong. Since the commencement of the war we have been taking compulsorily all kinds of properties all over Australia, and they have not been taken by any one particular force. They have been taken for our Army under exactly the same conditions, and yet the statement is quite openly made here to-night that the sort of action that is going on is creating ill feeling between people amongst whom there should be the very opposite.
– I did not say that I asked that some alternative method should he adopted, if possible.
– Under existing military conditions there is no alternative. If accommodation is required, it is required to-day, and not to-morrow or next week. Honorable senators must realize that there are many facts which cannot be made public. In Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and many other places, educational establishments, hospitals, &c, have been taken over, for other than the particular force to which reference has been made to-night. In future honorable senators should realize that there are many difficulties in the way of making statements in this chamber, and that so far as possible, matters such as this should be discussed in the privacy of the Minister’s own rooms, where facts which, for security reasons, cannot be disclosed publicly, can be given confidentially. In connexion with this particular matter, there was no need for the action that has been taken by some persons; there was no need to flood this chamber with telegrams. The fact is that representations were made at an early stage, and were conveyed to the Minister for the Army, who got to work immediately at my request to ascertain, through Mb officers in Queensland, whether other suitable premises were available. It was found that at present such premises were not available. Honorable senators talk of squeezing certain individuals out of business; we are at war, and many individuals will have to be squeezed out of business, and it matters little who is squeezed out so long as our own fighting men and the fighting men who are coming to this country are given the opportunity to do their work ‘in the most effective way. No interests must be allowed to stand in the way, and no honorable senator should allow fear for his political future to induce him to ventilate matters such as this on the floor of the Senate if adequate satisfaction can be obtained by making recommendations direct to the Minister concerned.
– Surely our constituents have a right to make representations to us when things like this occur. The matter was brought up by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber.
SenatorCOLLINGS. - Any honorable senator who received a telegram could have gone to the Minister for the Army or to his representative in this chamber. There was no need to ventilate the matter publicly. When a matter affecting a particular State is brought up on the motion for the adjournment invariably other honorable senators from that State wish to have their say. Questions which involve important military operations should not be made the basis of an open discussion in this chamber. There are other ways in which these matters can be approached. I trust that I have not hurt anybody’s feelings in making these remarks. It . certainly was not my intention to do so. We must remember that this country is in grave peril, and we should not allow the inconvenience, or even disaster, which certain private interests may suffer, to interfere with out determination to protect this country from invasion and all that it would mean to us. In every part of Australia to-day we are pulling down partitions, not merely to make dormitories,but also to find room for clerks, in order that they may get on with their war work. In Canberra every day I am giving Instructions for the removal of partitions and the erection of new ones in order that Ministers and their staffs may be accommodated. The same thing is going on all over Australia. The thing that really matters is that we should make ample accommodation available for the men who are carrying the greatest burden of our war effort, and making the greatest sacrifice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
National Security Act-
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Requisitioning of Spare parts.
National Security (War-time Banking Control ) Regulations - Order Publication of balance-sheets and profit and long accounts.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinance No. 4 of 1943 - Leases (Special Purposes ) .
Regulation No. 1 of 1943 - Building and Services Ordinance.
Senate adjournedat 11.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 February 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1943/19430211_senate_16_173/>.