17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
Preference to Ex-servicemen - Training Courses.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : - 1 to 3. On the 20th June, the Chief Justice of the High Court made an order transferring the proceedings instituted against the Commonwealth by or on behalf of the Commonwealth munition worker to the New South Wales Registry of the High Court and directed that the case be placed first on the list for the sittings of the High Court commencing in Sydney on the 23rd July. Under such circumstances, some of the matters referred to by the honorable senator are sub judice and it would not be proper to comment on themat this juncture. The Re-establishment and Employment Act most emphatically binds the Commonwealth. The actsaysso in express terms and the Commonwealth Government has at all times applied the act both in letter and in spirit. However, it may be that the civil remedies available in cases where the Crown is the employer do not adequately meet the case, and the Acting Attorney-General has under consideration asuggestion that the act should be amended to provide a simpler, cheaper and more expeditious civil remedy than that provided in the act. If this suggestion is adopted, an employee of the Crown will be in just as favorable a position as an employee of a private employer.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
In view of the many reported delays in providing ex-service personnel with promised courses in trainingin accordance with the policyof the Ministry of PostwarReconstruction, will the Minister supply the Senate with answers to the following questions in regard to the accountancy and secretarial professions -
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has supplied the following answers: -
Debate resumed from the 27th June (vide page 1903), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That thebill be now read a first time.
– The introduction of a supply bill is, in effect, the presentation ofa progress report by the head of the na tional household accompanied by a request for authority to carry on existing services until the Budget is passed. Apparently, the Government does not intend to present its Budget before the forthcoming general elections. Itwould be inexcusable for the directors of a public company to hold an annual meeting of shareholders without first supplying to them a complete statement of the company’s accounts. I liken members of the Parliament to the directors of a company. It is our duty to guard the interests of the country. And the public, who elect us, are the shareholders in this organization. They have a right to know exactly how the finances of the country stand. Particularly is this so at present, because during the years of war they have had many heavy calls made upon them. Taxation has risen to unprecedented levels, and the nation’s credit has been used extensively. If these calls had not been made the people would have enjoyed higher incomes. However, they carried this burden willingly because the country was at war.
Up to date sales of surplus war material amount to £45,000,000, and it is estimated that sales of this material will ultimately realize £500,000,000. The people have the right to know what the Government intends to do with this money. Does it intend to place it into Consolidated Revenue, or to use it to relieve the strain on national credit? What does the Government intend to do with it?The unbiased critic will agree that the Government’s policy of appeasement towards the coal-miners and those who disrupt industry generally is open to criticism. During the war the Government always fell back on the excuse that we were at war, but that excuse can not now be used when the people demand a full explanation of the state of the country’sfinances.
The Government intends to undertake its project for the standardization of railway gauges. A few days ago members of the Parliament received a full report of its intentions in this matter. The opening remarks of Sir Harold Clapp’s report on the project to the effect that the railways are the best means of transport, because we do not need to import fuel for the railways, are somewhat ironical. Anyone who has read this morning’s press will agree that we have very little fuel to-day for the running of the railways. This project is too ambitious. It is essential for defence purposes to establish efficient railway communications throughout the Commonwealth, but one line running east to west, and another running north to south, of the continent would be sufficient to meet those needs. Many railway lines in some of the States have never shown a surplus, and can never be made to pay in the new era of road-transport upon which we are now entering. Road transport is more mobile, and is quicker ami cheaper. We must also bear in mind the rapid development of air travel. In not many years, the airlines will supersede railways as the chief means of transporting passengers. Therefore, the standardization of railway gauges is desirable mainly .from a defence point of view, and for the carriage of heavy traffic such as live stock. The necessity for standardization is’ emphasized by Sir Harold Clapp, who, in his report on this work, states that defence considerations far outweigh economic considerations. Sir Harold also expresses the view that the establishment of new railways in hitherto undeveloped area’s will save the nation vast sums of money by providing transport for live stock in time of drought. Whilst I agree that there are times when it becomes necessary to move drought-stricken stock from one part of the Commonwealth to another, that applies largely to what are known as our “ inside “ areas, which are already served by railways. Sheep and cattleraisers in our outback areas are usually optomists. They are prepared to take a chance on the .seasons, and although much weather information is available by wireless, they hike little heed of it, prefering to gamble on the prospect of rain. Often this means that the stage is reached when the condition .of stock is too poor to allow it to be driven long distances to the railheads.
The standardization scheme is estimated to cost approximately £260,000,000. Added to that there will be £15,000,000 for the replacement of existing rollingMock and the provision of additional equipment. This expenditure will be spread over a period of eight years; but, 1 maintain that the burden’ will be too great for our present population. There is an urgent need, however, for the improvement of existing rail services. For instance, the .completion of the rail link from Hay, in New South Wales, to Ouyen, in Victoria, a distance of 190 miles, would save 200 miles . in the journey between Sydney and Adelaide, and reduce the cost of this service because, by avoiding the steeper grades on the old route, the same engines could draw heavier loads. With the exception, perhaps of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator J. M. Fraser), we all agree that the provision of rail facilities are an incentive to production. The Minister said last night that coal had nothing to do with production; but I fail to see how the railways could be operated without coal. “ Production “ must be the slogan in this country if we are to progress. The Government apparently believes that to increase production to any appreciable degree regimentation of the people is necessary. In fact, an appeal will be made to the people shortly to’ confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to impose regimentation. The belief that regimentation is necessary for the progress of a community is unfounded. In this connexion, it is interesting to note the views of Mr. J. J. Maloney, former Australian Minister to Moscow, who was able to learn quite a lot about the effect of regimentation in the country which most favours it. Mr. Maloney’s opinions are as follows: -
With nil its planning by exports, mid nil its iron discipline, the Soviet economic system cannot produce enough to provide even the most favoured section of workers with n standard of living anywhere near comparable with Australian workers on the basie wage.
The effects can bo seen in the large numbers of beggars that a person living in the Soviet Union encounters at railway stations, outside churches, ‘in the streets and the open market places. These things of which I have, spoken are not just war-time happenings: they aru part of the normal economics of the Soviet Union.
That is the country that is held up to us as a pattern for regimentation. The Russians believed in community effort in preference to .individual effort; but I maintain that if this country is to progress as it has progressed during the last 100 years - probably more than any other country in the world - individual effort must be encouraged. Producers, secondary and primary, must be imbued with the spirit of individual initiative. We must also remove the heavy burden of taxation, and find for farmers and industrialists new markets overseas for their products, and speedier and more efficient transport from factory and farm to the consumer. We must also encourage the workers to realize that their responsibility to the community must be compatible with their power. During the past few weeks, there has been considerable talk of Australian representation in foreign countries. We must find markets for our surplus products. This is an urgent matter. If ever there was a time when the old slogan “ Time is of the essence of the contract “ applied, it is to-day. The allocation of finance to increase production must be made having in mind, not, to-morrow’s needs, but to-day’s needs. The world is hungry and ill clad. If -we ignore our present opportunities to establish new markets overseas, the chance may never come again. I ask the Government: are we taking advantage of our opportunities? I am afraid that we are not. The workers claim that wages, hours, and industrial conditions generally are the only considerations. Our objective should be to maintain our standard of living, but that can be done only if every member of the community realizes his responsibility to the nation. We are in keen competition with other nations, and if we are to be successful production must be high in quality and quantity, and outlets for our surplus goods must be found. Great Britain has been Australia’s best customer in the past, but under present conditions we may find that where it has been our customer it will become our competitor. Britain is getting back to full production somewhat more quickly than is Australia. In May it contributed to the world’s production of motor cars no fewer than 17,400 vehicles, and that, is more than half the number produced in that period before the war. It had- also increased its electrical supplies 900 times since the conclusion of hostilities. Australia will be sorry to lose Britain a,s a client, but, since it has been so successful in its return to peace-time production, we wish, it well if it becomes an exporter rather than an importer. Australia has unlimited possibilities nearer home, in the Netherlands East Indies, the Malayan Peninsula, Burma, India and China.
– Once we had a prospect of valuable trade with Java.
Senator JAMES MCLACHLAN.Yes; but unfortunately the Government lias been too busy with referendums, the 40-hour week, and social services. Therefore it is unprepared to solve many of the problems now confronting us. There has been an epidemic of industrial dis- p u tes on the coal-fields and on the waterfront, as well as in the iron and steel industry. We have also had industrial stoppages in the meat industry, but these are regarded by the Government as minor details, although they cause untold suffering to dumb animals, which have been practically starved while awaiting slaughter. Cattle, of course, have no votes.
Labour troubles such as those experienced in Australia recently are not unexpected. When the Labour party is in office, the Labour forces outside this Parliament usually take control. The trade unionists have little fear of interference with them by a Labour government. In the last few years, they have carried out, their policy much to their own way of thinking. The fact that nothing succeeds like success has no doubt prompted the outside labour forces, not only to attend to affairs at home, but to arrogate to itself the right to frame the foreign policy of this country. It was prompted to that end probably by the fact that- the present Government had not a definite foreign policy. It seemed to be opposed to the .policy of the British Commonwealth of Nations, which I think was quite satisfactory. Australia has sent representatives to many foreign countries and two of them have been returned with thanks. Another who was stationed on the other side of the world took with him sufficient foodstuffs to make himself a welcome guest in any country to which he might go. I have not forgotten that that political haberdashery pedlar, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), who has stumped the world-
– Honorable senators opposite are afraid of him.
– Of course we are not. The Minister is travelling all over, the world apparently seeking kudos from any nation willing to give it to him, irrespective of standing solidly behind the people of Great Britain and the United States of America, who did so much for us in the recent war. Had it not been for them the Government would not have had the semblance of a foreign policy.
I shall not discuss the motives of the Government in its attitude to the quarrel between the Dutch and Indonesians, but the Dutch were our loyal allies in the war. Another fact is that the Indonesians fought with the Japanese, and Japanese are now fighting with Indonesians to-day. Incidentally, I may mention that the Indonesians have murdered three men who distinguished themselves in fighting for Australia, but these matters are immaterial to the Labour party. For the last six or seven months Dutch boats have been tied up in Australian ports. They want these ships to carry foodstuffs for ex-prisoners of war in Java and hospital requisites.
– Who told the honorable senator that?
– I am telling it to the supporters of the Government. People in Java are starving and Dutch vessels are waiting for food to take to them. The Government claims no responsibility in the matter and does not exercise any authority. It is not under orders from the Prime Minister or any other responsible Minister that these boats are held up. In fact, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said in the House of Representatives a few days ago, in reply to a statement by the Dutch Minister, that he did not understand the full circumstances of thecase. If he does not understand them who should know them? The general public thinks that it was necessary for the Prime Minister to have a full knowledge before rebuking the Dutch Minister. This important matter has been taken out of the hands of the Government by the four big trade union bosses-Thornton, Healy, Wells, and Elliott. Short of declaring war, these men have done everything to antagonize the Dutch. I was astounded when I read a. press report a few days ago stating that, if the President of Indonesia told Mr. Thornton and his colleagues to go back to work, they would do so. That is the position. These men will obey the President of Indonesia but not the Prime Minister of Australia. I can scarcely imagine that any government would continue to suffer such indignityat the hands of a small group of citizens. If that will not goad the Government into action I do not know what will. The troubleis already extending further afield, and I am sure that the restof the world must be looking on in astonishment at the way in which this Government is treating a loyal ally who fought with us to defend our country. The war in Europe ended in May, 1945, and the war in the Pacific ended in August, 1945. Between 1940 and 1945 we heard much about what would be done for our ex-servicemen when peace returned. Many pledges were made to them. In the months since the cessation of hostilities, the job of rehabilitating ex-service men and women should have been well advanced, but, so far, very little has been done by the Government. Some men have started vocational training, and others have returned to their former occupations, a fact for which the Government unreasonably takes credit. Most of those men returned to their former jobs without assistance from the Government. Frequently, figures are published by the Government to show how the numbers of people engaged in industry have increased. These statements do not take into consideration the natural increase of the employable population. Probably there are 100,000 more workers in Australia to-day than there were before the war. Nevertheless, the Government claims that it has placed all of these people in employment. There are many unemployed at the present time, but that fact is not particularly significant because men who served abroad for a considerable period naturally consider that they are now entitled to a period of rest. I agree with them. For some time to come the demand for labour will be so great that there will be little difficulty in placing men in employment. However, I want to know when the Government will begin to establish men in manufacturing businesses and on farms. After World War I. there was a great deal of criticism by the Labour party of the scheme implemented by the government of the day for establishing: men on the land. That scheme was not a complete success, and some mistakes were made, but the most severe critics must agree that the then Government did get to work and establish exservicemen on the land. In fact exsoldiers of World War I. were established on farm properties before the war ended, and the Government was ready to put the scheme into full operation as soon as hostilities ceased.
– Many of those men were starving shortly afterwards.
– That sounds like a terrible calamity, but ic is only the honorable senator’s description of the state of affairs. It is another press account. It is one-sided. I ask the Government, in all sincerity, how many ex-servicemen of World War II. have been settled on the land ? I have made many inquiries and, as far as I can learn, very few have been settled up to date. A statement was made in this chamber a day or two ago that two ex-servicemen had returned to their farms and had applied to the Government for licences to grow wheat, and that their applications were rejected. I have substantiated that statement. What will happen to the nation if this sort of thing continues? Are these men to be told what they must grow and how they must grow it? Must they be subservient to government officials, who probably know little or nothing about primary production? I hope that the Leader of the Senate will, before the debate concludes, give some indication of the date when the Government expects to commence the land settlement of exservicemen in earnest.
The housing problem is a very grave one. The shortage of accommodation throughout Australia is interfering seriously with the domestic and the social lives of the people. Some time ago, I advocated in the Senate that military camps should be made available at least to ex-servicemen. The suggestion was scouted by the Government on the ground that the camps would not be good enough for use as homes. I know that they are not good enough for permanent residences, but let the people judge whether they would be satisfactory .for temporary accommodation. Offer their, the camps and see whether they will gladly accept them or not. Under existing conditions, a great deal of harm is being done to thousands of families throughout the country. Married couples, many of them with children, are being herded together in rooms or are living with relations. The result is that trouble is being stirred up and may well wreck the happiness of people who, under reasonable conditions, would live together in harmony throughout their lives. The people have been deprived of so many of the ordinary amenities of life for so long that they will seek to regain their liberty at the earliest possible moment. I hope that they will remember the indignities to which they have been subjected since the war ended. People are beginning to ask: “ Must we, for the rest of our lives, carry wherever we go, ration coupons for this commodity and that commodity, with officialdom always intruding into our everyday affairs “. They will soon have an opportunity to express their opinion of the present Government. The Opposition has frequently been asked by. Ministers and their supporters, “What would you do?” How often have we heard that, cry since ‘the present Government has occupied the treasury bench? Honorable senators on this side are. always willing to help the Government, but when we try to do so by asking a question, the Minister addressed rises in his place and says, “ A matter of Government policy is involved, and it is not usual to disclose Government policy in answer to a question “. To-day I have been asked by Government supporters, “ What would the honorable senator do? “. I reply that it is not the practice of the Opposition to disclose its policy in answer to an interjection. That policy will, however, be told to the electors within the next few months, and I am sure that the result of the appeal to them will he that the new government which will occupy the treasury bench will legislate for the whole of the people of Australia, not for one section only.
.- Although I have listened carefully to the debate, I still do not understand what honorable senators opposite have in mind. It is true that the people of Australia are being inconvenienced by the rationing of electricity, the curtailment of rail and road transport, the loss of the use of their radio receiving sets, and in other ways, but it is not true that all the fault lies with the coalminers. These inconveniences have’ been brought about in order to justify a filthy debate in which the coal-miners of this country have been adversely criticized. The long speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McL’eay) did not contain one word in favour of the miners. In 1940 the then Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, visited the coal-fields and the miners told him of their many difficulties. They told him of the avaricious outlook of many mine-owners whose only aim was to extract as much coal as possible by the quickest means at their disposal, leaving large pillars in the mines, which, as a result of the draught in the mines, became brittle. The miners then appealed to Mr. Menzies, as they previously had appealed to the owners, that water be provided to play upon the columns in order to keep down the dust. Has that water been provided ? Has the Leader of the Opposition even inquired whether it has been provided? Only by such means can the tremendous risk to the health of the miners due to dust be abated. The danger from dust is as great as the danger from silicosis. It should be possible to force the mine-owners to use water to minimize the dust nuisance and so reduce the risk to the health of the miners. Every mine on the South Coast of New South Wales is badly affected by dus’t, and miners become “ dusted “ very quickly. Should a miner who has become “ dusted “ go to a doctor, he is likely to be told, “ I am sorry. You are ‘ dusted ‘, but not sufficiently ‘ dusted ‘ to justify me in recommending you for a pension “.
– Why does not the Government alter that?
– What control has the Government over the doctor? He works for the mining company. The owners have refused to take effective action to abate the dust nuisance, with the result that men who work in coalmines are literally condemned to death. Yet honorable senators opposite wail when the coal-owners are criticized. The coal-owners control not only the mines but also ships, banks, insurance companies, and the Colonial Sugar Henning Company Limited. Their only purpose in life seems to be to keep the miners in the lowest state of degradation possible, while they themselves pile up wealth. The chief complaint of the miners is in connexion with their conditions of employment. It will be generally agreed that the conditions under which they work compare most unfavorably with those of employees in other industries.
Miners are not provided with the showers, change rooms, and other amenities which many other workers enjoy; they are unable to travel to and from their work in any clothes other than those worn by them in the mines. It has been said that the Government has no policy for the coal-mil’ling industry and does not know how to secure more coal. The Leader of the Opposition said that the adoption of the Davidson report would provide an additional 1,500,000 tons of coal each year, if the miners would work on Saturday mornings. There was a time when the present Leader of the Australian Country party in the House of Representatives (Mr. Fadden) and the right honorable, member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had a plan to win coal. Let us see what Sir Percival Halse Rogers, who acted as a royal commissioner in an important inquiry into the circumstances in which certain public moneys were handled .by Mr. Fadden and his colleagues in a previous government, had to say. One of those colleagues is now the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber. On page 7 of his report the royal commissions:1 stated -
We have an extraordinary series of contradictions. On vital matters and on many incidental matters we find oath being pledged against oath. In some cases recollection only is involved, in others there must be deliberate perjury. There is no doubt that one or more of the witnesses lied valiantly.
One of the great difficul tes in the case from my point of view as Commissioner is that some of the witnesses have given definite answers on matters of <> recollection and. later, when their attention has been directed to certain other evidence and to certain approved facts which are inconsistent, with their testimony, they have been forced to admit that what they had previously sworn could not be correct.
I -pointed out that both Mr. Hughes and Mr. Fadden had been asked many questions on matters of detail, and in several instances had given replies which were subsequently shown to be incorrect.
Consequently Mr. Hughes made several mistakes. -Mr. Fadden possibly made more. Their testimony as to matters incidental to the transaction cannot be relied on. They have increased the difficulties of counsel appearing before the Commission and of myself because they have made harder the task and caused greater difficulty in piecing together a connected narrative.
The commissioner was appointed to investigate the purposes for which certain funds provided out of the vote for the Prime Minister’s .Department had been paid to an organization something similar to the organization operating in Sydney to-day. That organization was known as the Australian Democratic Front and the government of the day paid certain funds to it for the following purpose, as set out in the commissioner’s report: -
Thu expenditure has relation to the promise by Executive officers in the coal industry that there would be freedom from further strikes during the war.
That was the only plan which the Fadden and Menzies Governments could devise to increase the production of coal. It is true that some miners have not worked as much as they might have worked ; but it is also true tha; the industry is producing more coal to-day than it did before the war. The miners are doing that under great difficulties. I have been down the John Darling mine, which is one of the best-equipped coal-mines in the world. But I found that in that mine the driver of the skip on the 800-ft. or 900-ft. level had to take care that his brains were not bashed out against a protruding rock. The wealthy Broken Hill -Proprietary Company Limited, which owns the mine, would not remove that obstruction and provide a clear channel. It preferred to leave the obstruction even though it endangered the life of the skip driver. A government of which honorable senators opposite were members introduced the National Security Act which was passed by the Parliament. They said that coal was essential to the nation ; but what did they do to increase production? That government allowed capable young men who were expert miners to enlist in the armed forces, and, at the same time, permitted all sorts of inexperienced people to enter the industry, which caused most of the trouble in the industry during the war. When the Menzies Government declared that, Britain was at war and that, consequently, Australia was at war with Germany, it took no steps to safeguard thi1 interest’s of the nation iri the’ emergency by dealing with coal-mine owners who were holding up production. Honorable senators opposite have never said one word against that avaricious crowd whose only objective is to take out every ounce of coal at a certain rate. To-day they declare that this Government should force the miners to take out pillars in abandoned workings; but they say nothing about providing water to lay the coal dust which cuts the miners’ lungs to pieces.
Senator James Mclachlan said that two ex.servicemen had gone on the land, and that after doing so, the Government had refused to grant them a licence to grow wheat. I remind him that governments which he and his colleagues supported forced thousands of farmers off the land. They sentenced children to submit to malnutrition and rickets. Such governments, the coalowners and the* press of this country use a. good party political football, and, apparently, Mr, Hartigan, the Commissioner for Railways in New South Wales, and Councillor Cramer are in line with the Liberal party in its efforts in this direction. . Whilst restrictions on the use of coal for producing gas have been lifted in Victoria, all sorts of restrictions are still imposed on the tuc of coal for essential purposes in New South Wales, although S2 per cent, of Australia’s total coal is produced in New South Wales. I can only conclude that the Commissioner for Railways in New South Wales is using additional coal to take extra quantities to Victoria. This is being done, obviously, in order to provide a case for those who represent the coal-mine owners in this Parliament to attack the Government.
Honorable senators opposite have also attacked the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). I remind the people of this country of the’ day when this fair land was in danger of invasion. Perhaps the people do not. know that the Minister was despatched to the United States pf America to obtain aid for Australia in that, emergency. To-day, he is doing a very great service overseas on behalf of this country. This country v.- ill always be grateful to him for his work in saving the women and children of Australia from the terrible ordeal suffered by the women and children of Germany, France, Holland, the Philippines and the Pacific islands. But, of course, honorable senators” opposite are becoming mo’re troubled as polling-day approaches. Senator James McLachlan asked what would be the decision of the people on polling-day. He and his colleagues are very troubled over the failure of governments which they supported to safeguard .the interests of this country. They are troubled because those governments failed to make adequate provision for our defence.’ But what troubles them most is the fact that this Government has done a wonderful job in the interests of all sections of the community, not only in the prosecution of the war, but also in the provision of social services to our people, and in assisting our rural population. The people know that this Government set up a bank to save the primary producer from disaster, and that it established a branch of the Commonwealth Bank to provide assistance to the industrial community. It made available to the primary producer essential requirements such as wire, superphosphate and wheat sacks. It has also enabled the potato-grower to obtain a fair return for his product, and by cutting out the middleman, has enabled the consumer, including old-age pensioners, to buy that product. “When honorable senators opposite place their record before the electors of this country later this year, the only accomplishment they will be able to claim, apart from the offering of constant carping criticism of the Labour Government, will be that they changed the name of the party.
– We started this morning in quite a friendly conversational atmosphere, with little notice being taken of any one, until Senator Amour arose and made some rather peculiar assertions. The value of his first statement was destroyed by its very absurdity. He claimed that the inconveniences caused by the coal shortage had been brought about to justify a filthy debate in this chamber. Surely the honorable senator’s hearers did not believe that. The honorable senator also claimed by interjection that during the term of office of the present Government, more coal had been mined than during any similar period. If so, why is it that the daily newspapers are full of reports of coal shortages, men being stood down because no coal is available for industrial purposes, and dislocation of domestic fuel services ? Undoubtedly there are many gullible people in this country but the honorable senator cannot get away with such obviously false statements as he has made this morning. Unfortunately one of the main causes of industrial trouble in this country, is the extraordinary gullibility of the average citizen. For instance in to-day’s newspapers there is a report that a band of workers virtually stormed the Arbitration Court building in Melbourne to protest against alleged delay in the hearing of the 40-hour week case. I point out that, so far, proceedings have been confined to the hearing of evidence given on behalf of the workers, and that even now the case for the unions is only half finished. Who is to blame then for any delay that there may be in the hearing of the claim? Is there any end to the gullibility of the ordinary citizen? Is there any end to the impudence of the leaders of the workers ?
The, bill that we are now discussing provides for certain expenditure, and when we discuss proposed expenditure we like to know the source of revenue. In effect, this measure is a bill payable two months in advance. We have not yet been told, although there has been some “ kite-flying “ in the newspapers, how the Government proposes to raise the money. I suppose this is norma.! parliamentary procedure, but I am afraid many people in this country are gravely concerned about expenditure by this Government, and would like to know if any of the money , to be provided by this measure will be wasted. The first responsibility of any government is to reduce expenditure to the minimum, and then to explore avenues through which revenue to meet that expenditure may be obtained. I shall give one instance of the things that are gravely perturbing the ordinary man who devotes some thought to government finance. In Tasmania recently some cargo ships of 300 tons, that, cost £68,000 each to build - an average of about £226 a ton compared with the highest American price .of £63 a ton - were offered for sale by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, and the highest bid was £6,000 each. People are coming to the conclusion that any government that carries on its finances in this stupid manner is not taking adequate steps to safeguard the economy of this country. I recall that on a recent occasion the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings), who was formerly Minister for the Interior, and assumed responsibility for the construction of the Captain Cook Graving Dock in Sydney, said that on that project it had been necessary to employ three men to do the work of one. Is it any wonder that in the minds of Australian citizens who take an intelligent interest in their country’s financial affairs, there is some worry about the apparent willingness of this Government to spend money recklessly, and without taking proper steps to insure that it shall receive full value in return. To pay for the war, and for the benefits that the people of this country expect receive as the result of victory, production must be increased. “When the income of the country is not gradually increasing, the taxation burden becomes progressively heavier. The production of the national income is the greatest problem that faces this or any other government, and the source of practically all income is the supply of coal. That is the basis of almost every industry and of transport. The only way in which the income of this country can be increased is by the maintenance of adequate supplies of coal for industries and the finding of markets for primary products. Government supporters, talk of the necessity for markets, but the evidence shows that they desire to destroy markets which have already been obtained. The Government makes no effort to retain existing markets, but merely talks about them. The only two sources of revenue, therefore, are markets for our primary products and coal to enable the secondary industries to be carried on successfully.
I am perturbed about the statement made in the House ‘ of Representatives by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that, even if the’ coal-miners and colliery- owners worked in closest collaboration, it was apparent that they could not, under present methods, produce enough coal to meet current demands. That was a plain statement that, whatever the Government did, sufficient coal could not be produced, but I doubt the accuracy of the assertion. In 1942, the average number of days lost for each employee in the industry was 13.3, and in 1945 the average loss was 36.1 days. .Yet the Prime Minister says that in present circumstances we cannot produce sufficient coal. The statement has been made that the position in Great Britain is similar to that in Australia. The average number of days lost for each employee in Great Britain in 1942, amongst 709,000 employees, was 1.18 as compared with 13.3 days in Australia, and in 1945, with 700,000 employees, the average loss in Great Britain was .9 days, as compared with 36.1 days in Australia. Therefore the comparison glibly made by honorable senators opposite needs clarification. As to the statement by the Prime Minister that sufficient coal cannot be produced under present methods, we find that 2,000,000 tons less coal was produced in 1945 than in 1942. The explanation is apparent - absenteeism and strikes ! There was an average loss of 36.1 day3 by each employee in the industry in Australia in 1945, but less than one day in Great Britain.
Senator Amour gave us a lurid picture of the conditions of the coal-miners, but. do we forget that the present Government has been in power for five years? Does he forget, and must the Opposition forget, that during three-fourths of that time, if not all of it, the Government had, under the National Security Act, any power it chose to use to deal with the position in the coal-mining industry and with all the difficulties of which he spoke? When the Government supporters ask members .of the Opposition, “ What have you done about this”, I reply to them”, “What have you done about it, since you have had absolute power, and complete superiority of numbers, in both the House of Representatives and the Senate? “ if the picture painted by the honorable senator be correct - and I think it is not - he has innocently made the greatest ch argc that has ever been levelled against the Government of which he is a supporter. For five years it had absolute power, but it allowed conditions like those alleged by the .honorable senator to prevail in the industry.
There is no need for heroics in this matter. We merely need to apply common sense. The trouble regarding coal is not a fight between the employers and the employees. The coal-miners, like the slaughtermen and wharf labourers, are merely holding the community to ransom. When wo examine the position we find that the reason is apparent. The Government not only does not do anything about the coal shortage but, in its anxiety lc shift the onus from itself to somebody else, it makes foolish statements. Let mc refer to the pathetic appeal made by the .Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), when he was Acting Prime Minister, to unionists in Sydney. He urged them to save the Government, at the next general elections. He said that if the strikes and the consequent hardships of the people continued the Government would have a hard time at the elections. The only thing that he could think of was to appeal pathetically to the workers to return to work, because if they did not, do so the Government would be in political danger. Is that the action of a strong man or a weak man? The coal-miners and other workers smile, and say about Ministers, “We have these fellows on the run. They are afraid of their skins. The elections are coming. All we have to do now is to force them and they will grant us anything we ask “. Is it, surprising that, after being publicly asked to force their demands to the full, they have accepted the invitation, and,’ having got, the Government on the run, they propose to extort, anything they can?
At some time in future the coal-mining industry will, no doubt, go out of existence. In the face of happenings which the people cannot tolerate, there will he a search for alternate methods of producing heat and power. Industries are now looking in that direction. In Victoria consideration is being given to the further development of brown coal deposits, and schemes are contemplated for the development of additional hydroelectric power. Honorable senators on both sides have been talking about. these matters, but these sources of production cannot be availed of for the next four or five years. The immediate task of the Government, is to provide coal for the industries of Australia in order to prevent hardship and misery among the people.
Everybody is being inconvenienced. Children cannot have hot meals, the travelling public is being inconvenienced in every possible way, there is a state of anarchy in Queensland and of nearanarchy almost everywhere else, and misery and exasperation are the prevailing feelings throughout Australia. No government which permits such a state of affairs to persist can long remain in charge of the affairs of the nation. We must put aside political considerations and look after the welfare of the people of Australia. In spite of previous allegiances, there will come a time when the people will say : “ I believed in those principles when the Labour party advocated them, but where are they leading us?”. The Government is sowing the seeds of absolute turmoil, which will sweep the nation clear of all recognized forms of government unless the people are made happy, comfortable and prosperous.
– I refer to a matter in which the State of Tasmania is vitally interested. A. rumour is circulating in Tasmania that the Government intends to abandon- the apple and pear acquisition scheme. I hope that it is not true. Yesterday, I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator J. M. Fraser) who represents the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Government intended to continue this scheme or not, and he, with his usual courtesy, told me that he would consult the Minister for . Commerce and Agriculture and let, me know the position. I, have not received any information from the Minister since then. I hope that, if the Government is considering the abandonment of the apple and pear acquisition scheme, it will first give the representatives of the Tasmanian people an opportunity to submit, the case in favour of continuing the scheme. I am sure that their claim is irresistible. The Minister referred frequently yesterday to the “Government’s referendum proposal in regard to the organized marketing of primary products. He said that, if we wanted the acquisition scheme to continue, we should support the Government’s proposal. I have just examined the recently passed legislation in relation to the marketing proposal tobesubmitted at the referendum. It seeks to obtain power to enable Parliament to make laws for the organized marketing of primary products. The apple and pear acquisition scheme, which has operated For the last five years, is simply an acquisition scheme. In other words, it authorizes the Government to buy apples and pears. There is not one word in the legislation which I have mentioned which seeks to secure for the Government power to buy apples and pears. In any case, I believe that the Government already has such power. Iamnot a constitutional lawyer, but I know that the Constitution invests the Government with power to acquire property, and surely apples and pears constitute property! The Government has found that it has power to acquire the potato crop. It realizes that the abandonment of the potato-growing industry before a new scheme has been evolved would be disastrous to the growers. Therefore, it has rightly decided to acquire the potato crop this yea r. Why then, should there be any talk of abandoning the apple and pear industry, which is vital to the prosperity of Tasmania? The referendum legislation relates to the organized marketing of primary products on an Australia-wide basis. The apple and pear scheme relates to only two States. Owing to wartime shipping losses, the Government rightly determined to help the orchardists in Tasmania and Western Australia by buying their crops. Even with this measure of government assistance, the growers in Tasmania are not nearly so well off as those in the mainland States in which assistance is not given. The newspapers report that growers in Tasmania are paid 5s. or6s. a bushel for apples, whereas growers in the mainland States other than Western Australia receive probably 17s. or18s. a bushel. We do not quibble about that, because we know that the Government can pay only a limited amount to the growers, and we realize that the scheme has saved the industry. The abandonment of the scheme at this time wouldundo all the good work that has been done. Yesterday the Minister said that probably three or four years would elapse before shipping services to England would become normal again. In these circumstances, it is absolutely essential for the Government to continue to assist the Tasmanian apple and pear growers. Tasmania is different from the other States. It has a tremendous natural handicap, namely, Bass Strait. Victorian orchardists have a wonderful market in Melbourne, which has a population of over 1,000,000, and the New South Wales orchardists have a wonderful market in Sydney, which has a population of 1,250,000. The Tasmanian growers have to ship almost all of their crop either to England or across Bass Strait in order to reach markets. The local markets are not large. My colleagues from Tasmania and I have frequently called on the Minister to ask him to assist Tasmania by providing greater shipping facilities. The honorable gentleman has always been fair to us and has done what he could to help us, but he is bound by the fact that sufficient ships are not available. Many of the ships which formerly carried apples and pears from Tasmania to the mainland and to Great Britain are now at the bottom of the sea. Because of this isolation, the Government must throw a lifeline to Tasmania. The acquisition of apples and pears, at a very moderate price, has been a life-line. Therefore,I hope that the Government does not intend to abandon the scheme. However, if stress of circumstances has forced it to such a decision, I hope that it will allow the representatives of Tasmania in this Parliament to submit their claims. I am sure that they can induce the Governmen t to do simple justice, which it is always willing to do, by continuing the scheme until normal shipping services both to the mainland and to Great Britain are restored.
. -As honorable senators are aware, I had the privilege recently to visit a number of other countries. Although I made the trip primarily to attend to my own business interests, I took advantage of every opportunity to meet officers of Commonwealth departments stationed overseas. I draw attention to the work being done by these officers and to the handicaps under which they are working The department responsible for the appointment of trade commissioners is expanding very rapidly, and Australia is now represented in countries with which it had very little trade before the war, but which we hope will engage in profitable trade with Australia as it becomes better known and as avenues for trade are opened. At present, the work being clone by trade commissioners and representatives of the Department of Information is of very little value, except from a. goodwill point of view, because they are unable to achieve results and are unlikely to be able to do so for some time. Officers of the Department of Information in Great Britain are doing splendid work in the interests of migration to Australia. Many of them were previously associated with the press, and they have been able to secure a great deal oi publicity for Australia, throughout the United Kingdom, and also on the continent of Europe. In London, after I had received, publicity in consequence of statements I made in connexion with future developments in Queensland, I was virtually inundated with correspondence from people wishing to come to Australia. Most of them were skilled tradesmen who had good positions in England. They wanted to bring their families out of the poisonous war atmosphere which has blanketed Europe for the last few years to this land of freedom and sunshine. They all asked a number of questions. They were anxious to learn of their chances of employment in Australia. They also wanted to know to what degree their rights under the social service scheme operating in Great Britain would be protected if they came here. There is not now the same inducement for people from Britain to emigrate to the Dominions as existed in the boyhood days of Senator Collings, or even when I came to Australia, inasmuch as economic conditions in the homeland have improved to such a degree that there is little, if any, difference between the basic wage in the two countries.
– Thanks to a Labour Government in Britain.
– There has been a steady improvement of conditions there for a number of years. I visited a number of large industrial concerns in the Midlands of England, and from the works director of one of them I obtained a tabulated list showing the wages paid to its employees. I found -that in -most English factories work is being done at piece-work rates. There is not the same objection by unions in the Old Country to piece-work as there is in Australia. The ruling rate of wages in Britain is approximately the same as in Australia.
– How does the cost of living there compare with the cost in Australia?
– During the war the cost of living in Britain rose considerably. The complaint there is not so much about the rate of pay as that there are not sufficient goods available for purchase. I may be permitted to digress for a moment to point out that conditions in the homes of the people in England, particularly those people who must live on rationed goods, is grim indeed. I found great appreciation of the parcels of foodstuffs sent from Australia. t New Zealand. Canada and the United States of America. Those parcels, which mean a tremendous lot to the British people, have this further advantage, that Australian goods are going .into homes which they previously did not enter. Australian brands are becoming known and the high quality of Australian goods is being appreciated, so that, quite apart from the humanitarian aspect, we are creating a potential market for many Australian products.
Reverting to the subject of immigration, I found in Great Britain that large numbers of people are most anxious to emigrate to Australia. Major Wheeler, who is in charge of the Immigration Department in London, told me that his department had large numbers of applications from would-be migrants, but that on account of shipping difficulties they had been informed .that there was little likelihood of any really active migration scheme being put into operation for about two years. I do not know whether that is the considered opinion of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), but an announcement to that- effect was made in the British’ press, and attributed to the Minister, while I was there. Should there be a lag of two years, the bulk of the people who are desirous of migrating to Australia will never come here. Now is the time .to obtain immigrants from not only England but also continental European countries. I confess that I am at a loss to understand the shipping position. I know that there have been difficulties, but I understand that, .the arrears have been practically overtaken, and that the accumulation of would-be ships’ passengers is rapidly diminishing. While abroad I travelled on Aquitania, which for some time has carried troops and war brides. The vessel is fitted for the easy conveyance of many thousands of passengers. Information in my possession - I do not know whether or not it is correct - is to the effect that senior men on Aquitania say that the ship will be taken off the run as soon as Queen Elizabeth resumes normal running,, and will then be broken up. There is plenty of life still in Aquitania. and if the vessel could be employed to bring people to Australia the shipping arrears would soon be overtaken. I suggest that inquiries be made to ascertain whether the position is as I have set out. One of the first arguments used against an active immigration policy u that our own service men and women have not yet been settled in jobs.” Another argument is that houses are not available for those who would come. If these arguments are to be advanced whenever a real proposal to bring migrants to Australia is made we shall not get anywhere. There is ample accommodation for many men in the back blocks of Australia. Men from European countries would welcome an opportunity to work in such districts, and would be happy to utilize the accommodation already there.
– Where are houses available in outback districts?
– The pioneers of Australia, who laid the foundations of this country’s greatness, did not wait until some government provided ready-made houses fitted with electric light and all modern conveniences before venturing into outback areas. I have received letters from people living in the southwestern district of Queensland saying that they are fighting a terrific battle, not only with drought- conditions themselves, but also with their effect on the labour market. They say that it is impossible to get labour. I have a son-in-law, a re turned soldier, who is trying to develop a tract of virgin country, but he is finding it almost impossible to get labour.Fortunately, one of his mates, who served with him in New Guinea, has now gone to his assistance. That is not an isolated case, because throughout the agricultural areas of Australia there is a great shortage of labour. Any one who has visited Europe lately can understand the desire of the people there to get away. to such a land as Australia. As the result of arrangements kindly made by the Australian Resident Minister in London, Mr. Beasley, it was my privilege to visit Germany for seven or eight days. While there I attended the Nuremburg trials on two sitting days. That was a unique experience which I regard as a great privilege. In a newspaper this morning, I saw a report which stated that some of the Australian victory contingent which had visited Germany had expressed amazement at the conditions which they found on the Continent. They said that it was impossible to describe the conditions in cities which were little more than heaps of rubble. The Government has already received a report from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in which the opportunities for obtaining large numbers of immigrants from European countries are set out. Although considerable numbers of people in Great Britain wish to come to Australia, they will not be sufficient to develop Australia, and so we must look to other countries also for immigrants. That means that Australians will have to adopt a more friendly attitude towards foreigners than they have shown in the past. One has only to visit the United States of America, as I did recently, to see how people of all nationalities in that country now regard themselves, not as Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Germans, but as Americans. I was in California when “ IamanAmerican “ Day was celebrated, and T witnessed a moving demonstration of loyalty to the Stars and Stripes. Men originally of different nationalities united in saying, “ I am an American “ ; and they were proud to do so. We should encourage a similar spirit in this country, but, unfortunately, too many Australians when they see a foreigner say, “ He is a Greek “, or “ He is a dago or “ He is a Him”, and so on. Let us all be Australians. Great opportunities await us if we will only work together and a ttempt great things. When people begin to arrive in Australia under any scheme to encourage immigrants that may be evolved I suggest that we should have committees to extend the hand of welcome to them. I know from my own experience that one can be very lonely in a strange country. I recall that when J was in New York recently I rang Senator Finlay one day and said, ‘” What are you doing to-day, Alec? I am feeling rather lonely “. Senator Finlay replied, “ I a.m feeling that way, too “. And so. we decided to have. a. look around together. During the war the hand of welcome was extended to the fighting men of other nations which were our allies. Honorable senators know that in various cities British and American centres were established. If we could do that when sailors, soldiers and airmen from other countries visited this country, we can do the same when immigrants from other countries come here. [ have suggested to the Minister for Immigration that when it is apparent that people who have applied to enter Australia are really desirous of coming here, but are likely to be delayed for some time, they should be kept in touch with Australia and Australian conditions by having information about this country mailed to them from time to time. If that were done, many of them would become Australia-minded before their arrival. In letters that I have received from people in the Old Country, great disappointment, has been expressed because, after hearing of Australia’s need for settlers and that immigrants would be welcomed here, they learned that two years might elapse before they could obtain a passage to Australia. That means that the bulk of them will be lost to Australia, because other countries are urgently looking for migrants. If we delay for two years our efforts to obtain, migrants from war-stricken countries in Europe, we shall find that when we are ready to take them we shall not be able to get people of the type we require. Instead of getting the best, we shall get the worst. Other countries are looking to Europe for migrants in order to increase their white population. The United States of America and Canada are already active in that direction. South American countries also have put migration schemes into operation. If we lag behind, we shall find that we shall be able to obtain only classes of people which are not the most desirable. Therefore, I urge the Government to approach this problem with courage, resolved to remove all obstacles; because we cannot possibly develop this country as it should be developed without increasing our population as rapidly as we can. The Department of Information has a fairly extensive organization in New York, and is obtaining much valuable publicity for Australia, in various media, in the United States of America. We should devote more attention, however, to publicity in San Francisco, on the west coast of the United .States of America. I was glad to learn upon my return from overseas that the Government had decided to appoint a Consul-General in San’ Francisco, because our only representative in that city at present is one officer of the Department of Information, whose staff ‘ consists of two stenographers. People on the west coast of. the United States of America are much more inclined to turn their minds towards Australia than people living in other parts of that country. They desire to know more about us than do the people living in the eastern portion of the United States of America. When I was in San Francisco the sole representative of the Department of Information was doing the work of a consul, and attending to migration and any other matters which came to his notice as a representative of this country. This work was fairly heavy because a large number of Australians are now travelling to and from America, and in most cases San Francisco is their first port of call. Therefore, additional office accommodation should be provided in that city in order to provide a haven for Australians in a strange land. As the result of my suggestion, the Division of Import Procurement opened a register for the recording of names of Australians who called at its office. Such a register enables all Australians on their arrival to contact their countrymen already in America ; and it will prove of great assistance to menvisiting that country on either business or pleasure. Already, difficulty has been experienced because of the absence of a consular representative in San Francisco. Inquiries are constantly being made by Americans for information about facilities to enable Americans to migrate to Australia. Many Americans approached me personally for such information. I learned that they had been informed officially that under normal conditions it might take from four to six months before they could obtain a’ vise to enable them to come to Australia, even if their entrance to this country be approved. During the war many Americans formed friendships in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands, whilst some married Australian women. Thus, they tend more than ever to turn their attention to the prospects of life in Australia. For this reason numerous inquiries are made concerning prospects of commencing in business by those who have sufficient funds for that purpose. A common inquiry also deals with conditions governing naturalization. The American, like the British citizen, is jealoi.13 of his citizenship. Americans who come here to settle would very likely become naturalized. However, proper facilities are not yet provided in San Francisco to supply this information to inquirers. I repeat that life on the west coast of America is practically a thing apart from life on the east coast of that country. However, if we are to sit idly by and defer initiating an active migration policy until all our own internal troubles are solved we shall probably not deal with the problem at all.
Another subject to which great prominence is given in the United States of America, causing much misunderstanding, is the controversy surrounding the desire of the American Government to obtain Manus Island for use as a naval base. Statements by a number of people in opposition to the proposal were given wide publicity. I have in mind statements made by the ex-Commander in Chief of our Military Forces, General Sir Thomas Blarney, whose latest statement on this subject is reported in this morning’s press. When such statements appear in the name of prominent people the average American citizen imagines that they represent government policy and, therefore, they carry . more weight than would views expressed by ordinary Australians. We must make a realistic approach to the problem of the future defence policy in the Pacific. We see what is going on in the world to-day. The United Nations representatives are finding it difficult to agree on any subject whatever. Even trivial subjects seem to evoke the exercise of the veto, or at least disclose general disagreement. In any case, a nation like Australia with its small population cannot put its trust wholly and solely in the United Nations. I am not criticizing that body. All of us want to see it succeed, because should it fail the prospect for the future of mankind will be very dark indeed. However, the disagreements which have occurred among the United Nations representatives should at least indicate that we cannot rely solely on that organization to guarantee the maintenance of world peace. We must be realistic in this matter. The Government prides itself upon the fact that it has made a defence arrangement with our sister dominion of New Zealand. Such an arrangement must be all to the good so far as our defence is concerned. But Australia, with its 7,000,000, and New .Zealand with only 1,750,000 people, will not be able by their own efforts to guarantee their security, even if both countries are prepared to apply all their resources to this end. Even if every citizen who Gould be spared were put in uniform, the forces of the two countries would be helpless against a major foe, without other assistance. Members of previous governments are aware of the great assistance rendered by the United States of America to this country and the British Commonwealth before . the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. I recall how we welcomed the news that President Roosevelt had decided to send a squadron of the American fleet on a goodwill mission to this country. It was a great relief to us at that time to see those ships in our harbours. That is not to say that we would not have preferred to see British ships; but w<; knew that
Britain could not spare vessels for that purpose.. That, action .was a wonderful demonstration of the friendship of the American nation towards us. Again, the United States of America, before it came into the war, arranged to transfer portion of its fleet from the Atlantic to the Pacific. We knew that so far as the defence of the Pacific zone was concerned, we depended largely upon the American fleet based on Pearl Harbour. Long before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, the United States of America rendered valuable assistance to us and our allies in making available ships .and goods. We were in close consultation with the American Government in respect of many problems before the Japanese came into the war. I want to see that friendship, which started before the attack on Pearl Harbour, fostered and maintained as long as possible in the future, because I believe that our security in the Pacific can be maintained only by the closest possible co-operation with the United States of America.
– We can still have that friendship and not be anti-British.
– Yes. Indeed, we can still have the friendship and be very pro-, British. As the result of the great burden which has been placed upon the British taxpayer, it is doubtful whether Britain can continue to maintain adequate military, naval and air forces in all parts of the Empire as it did in days gone by. Although much misunderstanding exists among the American people towards Britain, due mainly to the policies of certain newspapers, in both countries, nevertheless some of the finest compliments which I have heard paid to Britain and its achievements during, the war were paid by American citizens. Much misunderstanding exists among Americans concerning the status of the dominions within the British Commonwealth of Nations. For instance, Americans have asked me why Australia still pays taxes to. Britain, and allows itself to be subservient to Britain. Officers of the Department of Information in the United States of America are doing excellent work in clearing up those misconceptions. Every Saturday morning, the offices of the ‘ department in New York and San Francisco arrange a broadcast dealing with matters of this kind which come to notice during the preceding week. I hope that whatever dispute may exist in regard to the’ establishment of an American base on Man us Island will be cleared up as soon as possible. Whilst I was in the United States of America, particularly New York, the question that I heard asked most frequently was, “ Why is America being denied the use of Manus Island for the establishment of a base? Why is Australia against the proposal ? “ In my view nothing would assist the defence of this country more than to have an American base in our near north, co-operating with Australia and New Zealand in a general defence scheme. I understand that during the war America established a large base on Manus Island. Honorable senators opposite may ask, “ Why can we not have a base there ourselves? “The answer obviously is that in our present state of development we are not in a position to set up or maintain huge defence bases outside our own country. Only in the last two or three weeks - less than a year after the cessation of hostilities - we have heard criticism in this Parliament of the amount of money that is being spent on ‘defence. Also, we are all aware of the widespread demand for a reduction of taxes. With our vast coastline and comparatively small population, we cannot contemplate spending hundreds of millions of pounds on the establishment of defence bases, nor could we afford to maintain such bases. Obviously, it is not sufficient merely to construct a defence base ; it must be manned by troops, and adequately provided with naval vessels and aeroplanes. We should not mislead ourselves by believing that Australia will establish defence bases at various points in the South- We3t Pacific Area. When we have a population of 25,000,000 we shall, be able to speak with a different voice. I am sure that Queensland - one of the most vulnerable portions of the Common wealth, as was demonstrated during the war - would welcome the establishment of an American base on Manns Island. We should not imagine for one moment that just because Japan has been beaten Australia will never again have to face a coloured menace in the Pacific. We all know the developments that are occurring, and that nations which at the moment may appear not to be likely enemies may be our foes in the years to come. What happened after the last war? We thought that we did not have any more enemies, and that we could disarm; but we found that we had a host of enemies, and that the quicker we disarmed the more enemies we had. The Pacific area cannotbe regarded as safe any more than can any other part of the world. I trust that the Security Council conference will be a success, and that the United Nations will function effectively; but certainly we have not yet reached the stage when we can afford to fall out with friendly nations. Particularly should we keep very close to the United States of America. I make that statement without prejudice to our association with the British Empire. I hope that the Government will make clear very soon its policy in relation to the establishment of American bases in the Pacific islands. I hope that a base will be established on Manns Island so that it will be available to us, or to our allies, should the need arise.
There is an urgent need for a stocktaking ofrural labour in this country and an investigation of the possibility of placing rural migrants on the land. I understand that the Government Employment Bureau is now functioning satisfactorily, and that branches have been established in various centres. One of the first jobs of that organization should be to review our primary industries to ascertain just what labour is required. Should such an inquiry reveal a. serious shortage of rural labour, consideration should be given to bringing to this country migrants who have had some experience of work on the land. It may be essential in fact to give priority to these people, even over skilled tradesmen, so that primary production may be stepped up.
– Could Aquitania travel via the Suez Canal ?
– I do not know. It may be too big for the canal, and may have to take the alternate route via the Cape. It is a vessel between 45,000 and 50,000 tons, and, although it is old, it provides comfortable accommodation and can carry a large number of passengers. It would be a longer trip round the Cape, but after all, during the war we had to transport our troops by that route for several years.
At the end of this year, I shall have been a member of the Senate for 29 years, and I think that during at least28½ of them, Australia has been looking overseas for markets, and wondering what can be done with its surplus primary products and manufactured goods. With the exception of a period shortly after the last war, this is the first occasion on which there has been a world seller’s market. Everything we can grow or manufacture is in urgent demand by other countries. Whilst I was overseas, many people approached me and inquired as to the kind of goods that could be bought from Australia. At present we have very little surplus for export, but I believe that even now, it would be advisable to send to those countries in which we have trade representatives, token shipments of our products, so that the people of other nations may know what the produce of this country is like. This matter came to my notice first whilst I was in the United. States of America and an article was published in a newspaper about Australian products. People communicated with me personally, or by telephone, to find out what goods they could obtain from this country under normal conditions. I suggest to the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) that consideration be given to the wisdom of having placed on display in the offices of our trade representatives overseas, samples of what Australia can produce and what will be available for export when conditions return to normal and the great demands of European countries are satisfied. For instance there are many lines of footwear for which a ready market is available overseas. Also, there is a golden opportunity for the export of foodstuffs which in the past we have been unable to sell on the world’s markets because of competition by other countries in which production is cheaper. Australia can be very proud indeed of the success of its price-fixing organization. Like other honorable senators, I criticized our former Prices Commissioner, Professor
Copland, from time to time; but when one sees the manner in which prices have got out of hand in other countries, one can only be grateful that we have had a successful price-fixing system in Australia. Professor Copland was appointed Prices Commissioner by the Menzies Government. When war broke out, amongst the first administrative acts of that government, were to fix a low rate of interest and to appoint Professor Copland as Prices Commissioner. I pay a tribute also to the common, sense of the people of Australia who have accepted, with good grace, the principle of price fixation. In Great Britain and America I was particularly struck by the absence of control of the prices of land and houses. In the United States of America rents and building costs have risen by 200 or 300 per cent. Similar conditions exist in Great Britain. I realize that property owners in this country may suffer some hardship because of the ceiling prices placed upon their properties at a. time when building costs have risen considerably. No doubt many of them believe that they should be able to get more for their properties. Perhaps that time will come, but the inconvenience suffered by the Australian community in that regard is insignificant compared with the hardships existing in Great Britain and the United States of America because of the absence of ceiling prices. In Great Britain I saw readymade temporary houses,’ erected in areas where, due to the devastation of aerial attacks, existing buildings had been completely destroyed. These little fourroomed homes, made of corrugated fibro-cement, with low roofs, cost as much as £1,000. I saw one settlement established by the Croydon Corporation just outside London, consisting almost entirely of these temporary structures which cannot possibly afford adequate protection against the cold English winter. The inflated values of rent and homes caused by the scarcity of housing accommodation in Great Britain has to be seen to be believed. We are indeed fortunate to have been saved from such conditions. Costs of production in this country have been kept well in check, and I hope this control will continue, because until now these costs have always been so high that our produce has been unable to compete on the world’s markets. Values on the world’s markets have now risen to such a degree, and theinternal economy of this country is such, that we should be able to place on thosemarkets, a much wider range of productsthan ever before.
I conclude by making a plea, to thepeople of this country, and I make it with, all the sincerity at my command. Let. us have no strikes or lock-outs; nothing that will retard production. There is more than enough work for every Australian man and woman who seeks employment. The people of other nations are waiting to buy the products of our labour in the field and in the factories, and if the Australian people will only realize the great opportunities that exist for the development of this land, instead of plunging Australia into successive industrial crises, they will work hard in the interests of the future welfare of this country.
– In speaking on this measure one is at liberty to deal with almost any subject, and there are many matters to which I should like to devote some attention, but I propose to confine my remarks to-day to one topic of particular interest. There has been proceeding in this country during the past few months an activity which has almost escaped public notice. I refer to the demobilization of our armed forces which has been carried out in a manner for which the Government can take full credit. This activity has been under the direction of competent officers,, and has been proceeding with celerity and comparative ease. I understand that probably four-fifths of our armed forces have been demobilized ; but that is only half of the Government’s duty. The restoration of the civil community to its normal avocation and habitation is a different matter altogether, and it is not proving so easy, nor it is proceeding under conditions which a. wise government, backed by a strong Parliament, would be expected to impose. Some of the deterrents are the natural ou’.come of a prolonged and destructive war, namely, the non-existence of essential goods. The more serious obstacle arises from the application and control of the labour required for production. Here we seem to have come to a sorry pass. This factor has been fully discussed in the Senate, and I do not propose to make further reference to it, other than to say that the task confronting the Government is one of great complexity . and everybody hopes that a satisfactory solution of the present difficulties will be found at an early date.
I propose to offer brief comment on proceedings taken under the lieestablishment and Employment Act. I do not condemn the Government’s scheme; it is deserving of a full trial. It has been described by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and also referred to by my colleague, Senator Brand, as the ex-serviceman’s charter. The’ analogy is somewhat obscure, except that the bill was forced from a. government headed by another John. To some degree the measure is idealistic, and obviously drawn up by mcn with little practical experience of the roughandtumble of the world. It is not working well, and this may be due, not to the scheme itself, but to faulty administration. In Western Australia the State branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has been examining the scheme in its operation and intention.- The members of ils committee, who are intelligent and reasonable men, and apply themselves closely to the problems arising in the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel, are rather critical of the scheme. They make one exception in favour of the university side, which seems to have been well handled in Western Australia by the Vice-Chancellor of the University at Crawley, Dr. Currie.
The committee of the league has been particularly bitter iii its comment on the progress made under the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act 1945. Not only has no man been provided with a farm, but the administration of the act has the effect, inter alia, of hindering the settlement of ex-servicemen who do not need advice and have not sought government assistance. I understand that this position is due to some degree- to a difficulty encountered by the authorities in Western Australia in securing certain approvals from the Central Administration with regard to the acquisition of the land and the price to be paid for it. I think I am right, in saying that these matters, apart from other submissions, have been the subject of discussions with the Minister’s representatives, yet the future remains obscure. The view is generally held that publicpolicy demanded effective plans for the early absorption of ex-service personnel. The progress under the present method is not promising. If land settlement is to be carried out on a 25-year plan, then it will be 25 years too late. This is not the time to go into alleged shortcomings with regard to rehabilitation activities. Because the future of so many men and women is at stake, the Minister should assure himself that his department is in complete accord with State authorities, and that his officers are provided with the facilities that will make the accomplishment of their tasks practicable. His reluctance to visit the several States and see for himself what is needed is drawing adverse comment from many quarters. In November last the position was such that both Government and” Opposition members of this Parliament from Western Australia requested certain action by the Minister, but he declined to take it. Such an attitude is not justified, and increases the difficulty of the task of the Minister’s staff.
There is need, too, for more care in the preparation of publicity matter. Flamboyant, misleading statements -should be avoided. The departmental handbook, entitled Return to Civil Life, is an instance. In Bulletin No. 5, issued on the 28th March last, the Minister states -
We are now entering the final stage of re-establishment. By this I mean that the scheme is in action. We have had seven months to straighten out the major difficulties, and the next twelve months will decide whether we have succeeded.
I wonder what the answer will be, and what the Minister is thinking to-day.
– The land is under the control of the State governments.
– I am complaining of the lack of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State authorities. I understand that the position in Western Australia was represented to the Minister in a joint letter, and I regret that, although he paid a secret visit to Queensland, he has not yet found time to visit Western Australia. I am reminded oi the complacency of the Government’, as exhibited by its election advertising. Here is an advertisement from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 18th June. It is headed “ The Labour Government is making Full Employment a Reality “. The second paragraph of the advertisement states -
At the end of April this year, reestablishment loans had been grunted by the Labour Government to nearly 5,500 ex-service men and women returning to business and farms; and up to the same date over 27.000 men and women had been accepted for full-time vocational and professional training, a.nd over 00,000 for part-time training.
I invite honorable senators to note the word “ accepted “. The concluding paragraph of the advertisement reads as follows : -
By the decentralization of industry, hy an efficient programme of war service land settlement, by practical assistance to primary and secondary industry and active co-operation ith the States, the Labour Government led by J. B. Chifley is making full employment a futility.
We note that 87,000 men and women have been “accepted” for full and part time training. As a matter of fact the actual number in training is about one-half of that.
Regarding the official land settlement scheme, I offer no comment, but, of the many who have applied to ‘be assisted on the land, how many, have received assistance in a practical form? That reminds me of a remark by Senator Nash, who complained of the misrepresentation of the spoken word. I think Senator Aylett referred to misleading statements in the press. .These are cases in point. Somebody has pleaded that the scheme of rehabilitation should not be made a political football. The real issues, which are of the utmost gravity, justify a plea of that kind, but one of the functions of this Parliament is to direct the Government when it fails in its professed purpose. On the matter of preference in employment to ex-service personnel, the real attitude of the Government is still obscure. Remembering the opposition of supporters of the Ministry during the debate on the Re-establishment and Employment Bill, an indication of its sincerity is clearly’ needed. I confess to some apprehension as to the practical results of the scheme.
I hope that any doubt that may remain in the minds of ex-service men and women, particularly regarding preference in employment, will be cleared up by the Government.
Silting suspended from 12.43 to 2 p.m.
– It has been refreshing to listen to honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber expressing themselves freely and at length, and it has been equally refreshing to learn that there are many matters of public importance on which there is diversity of opinion amongst them. I was particularly interested to hear the views of Senator Aylett and the opposing views of Senator Clothier in relation to transport. Senator Aylett pointed out that there is a pressing demand by the public to-day for faster means of travelling. He spoke of the popularity of air-transport and referred to the demand for all first-class mail matter to be carried by air. Senator Clothier spoke of the standardization of railway gauges and mentioned the steps now being taken to extend the transcontinental line from Coolgardie to Perth. Senator Aylett referred to a matter which, up to the present, has not received the attention which its importance warrants. . We are about to embark on a huge programme of expenditure for the purpose of laying standard gauge railway lines throughput the Commonwealth. This naturally gives rise to the question : “ What effect will this have on the proper development of more modern forms of transport?” When heavy governmental expenditure is entailed in a project, there is a. natural tendency to take action to protect the public purse. I am afraid that, if the present proposals are proceeded with, the effect may be to retard the development of modern forms of transport. Senator Clothier expressed concern at the opposition of the Government of Western Australia to ‘the standardization of railway gauges. The cause of this opposition is not far to seek. Western Australia is a big State, and its population is only about 460,000. It is about ten times the size of Victoria, which has a population of approximately 2,000,000, but strangely enough, the railway system of the two States cover an almost identical mileage. Railway revenue in Victoria is at least four times as great as that in Western Australia. Each year for a long period the railway system in Western Australia bas suffered a financial loss. That has been common to all States.
– Is the method of accounting the same in each State?
– Probably. Freight charges in Victoria are lower than in Western Australia. In Western Australia, after World War I., steps were taken to develop what is known as the Lakes District, and an area was set aside there for the rehabilitation of exservicemen and others, who were to engage in wheat production. A promise was made that, if the area were settled, the railway system would be extended to it.
– -That was under the migration agreement.
– That is so. However, it was. found that this would not be an economic proposition. Therefore, for the purpose of keeping faith with the settlers, the Government of Western Australia has been subsidizing the shipment of wheat and fertilizers by road over distances varying between 50 and 100 miles. This has involved the expenditure of many thousands of pounds annually. Nevertheless, the loss has been small in comparison with the loss that would have been sustained as the result of extending the railway service. That is why the Western Australian Government is not anxious to implement the scheme for the standardization of railway gauges as quickly as some of us might like. At present, it seems that the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have entered into an arrangement with the Commonwealth Government regarding the standardization of railway gauges. In South Australia, a special set, of circumstances exists. There are already three different railway gauges in use in that. State, and much of the mileage is already covered by 4-ft. 84-in. gauge tracks. The chief concern of South Australia, has been the fulfilment of the promise made by the Commonwealth Government in 1910 that, after taking over the Northern Territory from South Australia, it would complete the north-south railway line. I believe that the Commonwealth Government has now agreed to proceed with that work, and therefore South Australia, has much to gain from acquiescing in the agreement. I do not know what the position is in Victoria. I agree in principal with a large number of railway experts that the standardization of railway, gauges is essential. However, I should like some independent authority to examine the proposals from an economic point of view in order to decide whether they can be accomplished without unduly retarding the development of other forms of transport, and whether the revenue derived from the system would justify the expense entailed.
Last night the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator J. M. Fraser) referred to the fact, that he and I were associated for some time in the control of liquid fuel supplies. In reply to his statements, I need say no more than that the service which I gave in .that capacity was without reward and that, in carrying out my responsibilities, I merely implemented the policy laid down by the Commonwealth Government. The honorable senator expressed some doubt as to the probable duration of my membership of the Senate. Honorable senators probably have already realized that we Frasers are peculiar people, and, judging by the manner which the Minister and I are “ shaping up “ to one another, we shall be fast friends during my term as a senator. We both speak the same language, and before long we may be hailing each other in Gaelic. If not, we’ may use another sort of language, which is just as expressive. Above all, we shall be good friends. The Minister also made some kindly references’ to Senator Herbert Hays. He said that the honorable senator had made a worthwhile contribution to the debate on the coalmining industry.
– Senator Herbert Hays paid a compliment to the Minister for Supply and Shipping.
-The Minister also interjected when I was addressing the Senate on the same matter, and in reply I indicated that, if he would curb his impatience and listen carefully, I might be able to present him with a. solution of the problems of the coal-mining industry. I said that more tolerance and sympathy were required on all sides, and suggested that the Government should arrange for conferences between the miners and all parties directly concerned to be held in the open. The people would then know what was taking place and would have more confidence in decisions reached than they are likely to have while conferences continue to be held behind closed doors. I regret that Senator Herbert Hays was not present when the Minister spoke, because, for the first time, the honorable gentleman answered questions which he had asked regarding the future of the apple and pear acquisition scheme. The Minister said that the Government had made no decision in the matter, which was still under consideration. There is still. hope for orchardists in Tasmania and Western Australia. However, the Minister also said that, if Senator Herbert Hays were sincerely concerned about the welfare of the orchardists, he would support the Government’s organized marketing proposal at the referendum. He claimed that this would be the only way of giving the Government power to assist the growers. ‘ The difficulties of apple and pear growers in Tasmania and Western Australia are due to shipping .shortages caused by the war. The growers are war casualties. If ships were available to transport their products to Great Britain, they would not require assistance. If, as the result of war conditions, ships are not available to them, then they have a just claim on the remainder of the people of Australia for assistance. The natural alternative to shipping their apples and pears to Great Britain is to ?end them to the mainland from Tasmania, and overland to the eastern States from Western Australia.
– They are doing that now.
– Yes, and that affects ‘producers in the eastern States. It can be done to a certain degree, but beyond that there is a detrimental effect on prices. Having regard to these circumstances, it would be proper for the Commonwealth Government to treat the apple and pear growers of Western Australia and Tasmania as it treats other producers, and either buy the surplus stocks at a fixed price and dispose of them as it considers fit or compensate
The growers for the unmarketable portion of their produce. The Minister for Trade and Customs criticized a statement which T made regarding the disabilities of primary producers due to the inability of the Railways Department in Victoria to provide trucks to transport superphosphate to the farmers. I said that the shortage of trucks arose from depleted coal stocks. In order to support my statement, J now refer to the following portion of the official report of debates in the Victorian Parliament on the 1st May: -
Mr. Dunstan. ; I direct the attention of the Minister of Transport to the desirability of expediting deliveries of superphosphate. I have been in touch with the honorable- gentleman and also the .Railway Department, and 1 am satisfied that they realize the urgency of the situation, particularly in northern areas. 1 have received many letters from farmers stating that their cropping operations are entirely suspended because they cannot obtain deliveries of superphosphate which was purchased three months ago. The Railways Commissioners contend that the reason for the delay is that they are not able to supply trucks.
– They say nothing about coal.
– The Melbourne Herald of yesterday contained the following paragraph relating to the shortage of firewood, which has been accentuated by a. scarcity pf railway trucks: -
The Railways Commissioners said to-day that all through the summer they supplied as many trucks as possible for firewood, but many items had a higher priority.
They were replying to a statement yesterday by the secretary of the Victorian Firewood Sawmillers Association (Mr. M. J. O’Connell) that they had been warned in December about the probable shortage.
Since December, the Commissioners said, coal stocks had been diminishing, and during December and the greater part of January only a skeleton wood- service could be provided.
– The honorable senator will remember that, as Acting Minister for the Army, I had to supply trucks in Western Australia for the cartage of wheat. That was not due to any shortage of coal.
– As a representative of the Commonwealth in Victoria, I had to authorize road transport in that State because railway trucks were not available.
– The position on that occasion was not due to any lack of coal, but to a shortage of railway trucks.
– When I spoke, a few days ago, on the coal situation; the Minister for Supply and Shipping said, by interjection, that because of a shortage of coal stocks in Victoria it had been found necessary to convey large quantities of coal overland, and that, as a consequence, extra transport costs, amounting to about £200,000 per annum, had been incurred. He added that the Commonwealth paid a subsidy to the State to reimburse some of that extra cost. The inference which one would draw from the Minister’s remarks was that the greater part, if not the whole, of the extra cost was borne by the Commonwealth. That is not the position, however. Only a small subsidy is paid by the Commonwealth Government, under certain conditions. The extra cost to the Victorian railways is considerable, despite the subsidy.
– Would the honorable senator regard 7s. 6d. a ton a small subsidy?
– Yes, in view of the total extra cost, compared with the cost of transporting coal by sea. I do not suggest that the Minister endeavoured to mislead the Senate. I regard his interjection as quite proper, but, as a wrong interpretation might be placed upon it, I consider it desirable to clarify the position. I shall not say any more about the coal position except to point out that during last year the Government did a good thing when it appointed a body to inquire into the coal-mining industry. From the Parliamentary Library I have obtained a copy of the report, and, as I understand the figures contained in it were supplied by the Prime Minister’s Department, they can be regarded as official. I suggest that all the answers to this problem, which is so serious, are contained in the first four pages of that report.
In Victoria there is a great shortage of such materials as galvanized iron, piping, wire netting and wire. Only yesterday the Minister for Housing in Victoria said that the situation in regard to housing constituted a national tragedy. In yesterday’s press there appeared a statement that, although the Victorian Housing Commission had completed some hundreds of homes, those houses were unoccupied because certain necessary services had not been connected. I have here a statement from the builders’ representative pointing out that the building of homes had been held up , because of shortages of supplies. All Victorians know that farmers in that State are in urgent need of wire netting, wire and galvanized iron for the repair of fences and outbuildings which were neglected during the war. To-day, however, supplies are greater; but, unfortunately, transport difficulties account for the shortage of these materials in the southern States. I have been informed, on what I regard as good authority, that the Newcastle manufacturers of these materials have increased their facilities for making them; but that the number of men available for such work has not increased. On numbers of occasions appeals have been made to the men to work overtime, or engage in two shifts a day, or, alternatively, that other men should be brought into the industry, but they have not been prepared to co-operate. The result is that several ships which are available for the transport of those commodities are being delayed at Newcastle. Ships which should be cleared in from four to five days are sometimes held up for fourteen days. Those vessels are used to transport ore from South Australia to Newcastle for treatment, and so it will be recognized that this is an important matter. As I indicated earlier, the Minister for Supply and Shipping has given a good deal of attention to this matter. I believe that recently he arranged for Mr. Healy, an official of the Wharf Labourers Union of Sydney, to visit Newcastle to discuss matters with union members there. I hope that his efforts will be successful.
– I have not made any such arrangements with Mr.Healy.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance without any reservation, butI was informed that action along those lines had been taken by him. We are glad that the Minister is giving attention to this matter, and any action taken by him to improve the existing state of affairs will have our support.
In view of the proposals for the standardization of railway gauges, it is proper to direct attention to a proposal to construct a railway from Hay in New South Wales to Ouyen in Victoria.
Senatorherbert Hays. - Melbourne people will not agreeto that being done.
-I agree that the construction of such a connecting link would divert traffic, and cause Melbourne to be by-passed.
– That would enable a connexion to be made with Portland also.
– T ha t is so. The construction of the suggested railway would open up a large and important area of land in two States, and would give to producers there the choice of three important markets. I urge that the proposal be given consideration before the standardization programme proceeds too far. As to such a line causing Melbourne to be by-passed, I point out that already an important road connexion follows almost the same route as the suggested railway. It connects with roads to Sydney, Canberra, Albury, and towns in the Murray Valley to Mildura, and extending to Adelaide. It is because of the public demand! for alternative means of communication that I suggest that this matter be considered carefully.
For some months the people of Australia have had their attention drawn to advertisements such as that which appears in a newspaper which I hold in my hand. It is headed, “ The Seven Pillars of Wisdom “ and depicts a building in which seven long columns, or pillars, are prominent. The advertisement emphasizes the slogan, “Be asaver not a spender; help keep prices down”. I am in accord with that advice, because I fear that not many in the community have the courage to tell the people of Australia what they believe the future holds for them. Such advice is necessary, but as example is better than precept, I suggest that the Government which sponsors such advertisements should set an example by reducing its expenditure. On all sides there is a demand for reduced taxes. That demand will have to be met. Taxes can be reduced by either increasing production or reducing government expenditure, or both. A few days ago the Minister for Supply and Shipping supplied me with certain information relating to liquid fuel. From such information it is clear that the time has arrived for consideration being given to the discontinuance of petrol-rationing, particularly in view of its cost to the community. I do not condemn the Government for instituting petrolrationing. By and large a worth-while job was performed during the war years, but not all the credit for what has been accomplished should be given to the present Government, because in many respects it merely implemented plans laid down by previous governments. During recent years Ministers have had their time so fully occupied with important problems that they have necessarily delegated some of their functions to heads of departments and others. It may he that it is for that reason there has not always been that careful scrutiny of expenditure as is exercised in normal times. As thewar has now been over for nearly a year, and because of the urgent need to reduce taxes, I urge that a definite effort be made to reduce government expenditure. The secretary of the Taxpayers Association of Victoria directed attention in yesterday’s press to the large expenditure being incurred by the Department of Information. His association urged that a saving of £1,000 a day could be effected by theabolition of that department. There is much merit in the proposal put forward by Senator Brand that the Government should reconstitute the Public Accounts Committee for the purpose of scrutinizing government expenditure with a view to effecting necessary economies. I heartily support that proposal.
.- Owing to the lateness of the hour I do riot propose to deal in detail with many subjects which I should like to discuss at this juncture. I take this opportunity to deal with questions which I have addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) through the Minister- for Trade and Customs (Senator j. M. Fraser), regarding our meat contract with the United Kingdom. I have not yet received replies to those questions although I asked one of them as long ago as the 5th April. This is what has happened: Having asked these questions concerning matters of very great importance to primary producers I am informed, “The information is being obtained and will be furnished to the honorable senator as soon as possible “. The question was then removed from the notice-paper, .and any reply which may come to hand will not be published in Hansard.
– I have issued instructions that the question to which the honorable senator refers be replaced on the notice-paper.
– I am pleased to hear that. The subject I have in mind is the contract which was entered into between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government with regard to the sale of beef, lamb and mutton.* To my question on that matter the Minister replied by interjection, “Mr. Menzies made that agreement”.That contract was made between the Menzies Government and. the United Kingdom Government six years ago. Tb is Government should now revise the contract with n view to bringing the prices up to date. An extraordinary position has arisen. Under that contract, Australia is placed -at a great disadvantage compared with Argentina. Why should Argentina producers receive better prices on the London market than Australian growers? The position is absurd. Any advantage should be in favour of the Australian producers. I have not been able to find any disparity in the exchange rate so far as it affects Australia or Argentina. I take it that in relation to sterling the two conn tries are in much the same position. Let me cite what happened a few days ago. No doubt, some honorable senators read the report of the incident in the press. A man in. the Benalla district sent two trucks of bullocks to market to be treated on the weight and grade basis provided for under the contract with the United Kingdom. . Government. For his bullocks, which wereof exceptional quality, averaging 1,172” lb. each, he received £30 9s. 3d. each. Had those bullocks been shipped by an exporter to the London market the return for each bullock would have been £4.1 10s., or a difference of £11 0s. 9d. a head. Obviously., there is something radically wrong. I now ask the Minister to account for that difference, and to explain who receives it. I repeat that the sale is transacted between, two governments; and I am certain that the freight to London from Australiawould not cost over £11 a carcass. For a bullock weighing SOO lb. the price is £2’ 10s. per 100 lb.’, plus £2 for the skin, making a total price of £22. On t heLondon market a. bullock is sold at S4-d. i per lb., or £28 6s. Sd., which after allowing exchange at £7, makes a total of £35- 6s., or a difference of £13. In view of these facts, it is. time that the contract was revised. It is useless for the Ministerto say that the Menzies Government madethe agreement. This Government is perpetuating the agreement, and in justice tothe producer it should revise it in view of the altered wholesale prices on the London market. I have also asked, whether an exporter can export beef and mutton to London on his own account, or whether he is compelled* to place the wholeof his meat under the British contract. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture should have been able to give an immediate reply, “Tes” or “No”, tothat question; but I have not yet received a reply to it from the Minister. Theexporter receives Id. per lb., or a total of £3 6s. 8d. a head for killing, plus thefollowing perquisites: - 9id. per lb. for tongues, 5-Jd. per lb. for tails, 8id. per lb. for kidneys, 3i-d. per lb. for hearts, 6-kl. per lb. for livers, 5£d. per lb. for necks, 3£d per lb. for cheeks, 4-Jd..per lb. for skirts, ls. 1½d. per lb. for tripe, and somuch for offal fat, making a total price tothe exporter of £35 a head compared with £22 received by the grower. A lamb weighing 50 lb. returns to theproducer £1 4s. 9d. net, whereas on theLondon market ‘ the price realized is £2 3.2s. 3d. I ask the Minister to explain what accounts for this difference, and who receives it. The Minister should state these facts frankly and let the pro- *ducer know exactly where he stands. Without going into further details, I have given sufficient evidence to prove that the producer is not receiving what he is entitled to. The differences I have cited are accentuated when we remember that the Argentina producer pays lower production costs and lower freight rates to the London market.
Previously, I have referred to the ^granting of licences to grow wheat. Notwithstanding what the Minister said in reply to my earlier statement,. I repeat that, licences for growing wheat this year have been given to men after they have’ actually sown the wheat. If required, I can supply the Minister with the names of the men to whom I refer. I again emphasize that the farmer plants for the future. He has to fallow his ground and plan a season ahead. Licences should be issued bearing those facts in mind. It is most unjust when, under the present system, many farmers, after ploughing and working their land, find that they are refused licences to grow wheat. That has happened in my own case. I agree with Senator A. J. Eraser that primary producers cannot now get their stock to market because of the shortage of coal. Only a very small number of trucks are being sent to the Melbourne market, not because there is a shortage of trucks but because there is a shortage of coal; The result is that the cattle are on the hoof in the paddocks. I shall take full advantage of later opportunities to deal more fully with these matters.
– in reply - Although in a debate on a measure of this kind honorable senators are permitted to discuss almost any subject they wish to raise, I cannot recall a previous debate in which honorable senators opposite have worked so energetically at the parish pump -as on this occasion. Honorable senator;! opposite dealt with the Western Australian gold mines, the apple and pear industry in Tasmania, and the dingo- menace in Queensland, interspersing their remarks with attacks upon the Government in respect of the shortage of coal. Already placards have appeared on the hoardings alining the Labour party with the Communist party. I do not blame the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and his colleagues for indulging in election propaganda in this debate; such tactics show clearly that they have no ground for legitimate criticism of the Government. To-day, the bogy is communism; a few years ago it was socialism. I well remember the days when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was pictured on the hoardings as the “ socialist tiger “. In those days, opponents of the Labour party did their utmost to aline it with the International Workers of the World. Therefore, we are not surprised when they attempt to tie up the Labour party with the Communist party.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the meat strike in Queensland. This Government hears- no responsibility in respect of that dispute. It is the responsibility of the Queensland Governme.it. In to-day’s press, the newspapers acclaim the Premier of Queensland, for the action he has taken to deal with that dispute. In the brief time at my disposal I shall answer the criticism levelled by honorable senators opposite against the Government. The Leader of the Opposition again referred to the Coalcliff coal mine and the expenditure of £69,000 on that mine. I thought that I had made the position clear when dealing with this matter on a previous occasion. Mr. Justice Davidson in his report upon the coal-mining industry stated that had the Coalcliff mine remained under private control, the owners would have been obliged to obtain government assistance. The Government has taken steps to eliminate the dust menace in that mine, and that was the reason for much of the expenditure incurred, the object being to protect the health of the miners. These experiments have proved so successful that similar experiments are now being carried out in coal mines in England and Wales. Almost every clay one hears quoted in this chamber statistics taken from newspapers relating -to .the coalmining industry. It is claimed, for instance, that although there are more employees in the coal-mining industry today than there were a few years ago, production is less. That is quite true, and I thought that I had made a satisfactory explanation of that matter a couple of days ago, and would not hear it mentioned again so soon. I pointed out that coal-mining requires a certain degree of skill. It has been a tradition in the industry that sons have followed fathers. The practice has been for a lad to enter the mines as a clipper, then become a wheeler, and so on, until he finally reaches the coal face. However, because of general mining conditions and the dangers of disease that have been emphasized after scientific investigations, miners are now very reluctant to permit their sons to follow them in the industry. The result is that instead of having miners trained from boyhood in the pits, there are in the mines to-day hundreds of men who have not the capacity or the ability to perform efficiently the work required of them. For that reason production of coal has decreased, despite the increase of the number of men working in the mines. The dust menace is so bad in the South Coast mines that no young men are entering the industry at ali. Experienced miners at the face are being taken from mining coal to do other work, such as wheeling, &c, which is usually done by youths with the result that there is a loss of production.
The Leader of the Opposition referred, also, to the dispute over the handling of double-dumped bales pf wool. I point out that when attention was first drawn to this matter, and there was no indication that an industrial dispute of such magnitude would result, almost every newspaper in Australia stated that there was no need to double-dump wool bales, and that there should not be any industrial dispute in that regard. But when the ship-owners, who are the only ones that benefit by double-dumping, brought pressure to bear, the press changed its tune and opposed the claims of the wharf labourers. This dispute has not yet been finally settled, but I hope that as a result of action taken by the Government a. satisfactory agreement will he reached.
When the Leader of the Opposition returned from his visit overseas he said that no country had better prospects than Australia. I appreciate what the honorable senator has said, in regard to this country.’ It is quite correct; but he omitted to give some credit to the Government which has been in occupation of thetreasury bench for five years. If this Administration had not been doing ‘ its job, Australia’s prospects would not. be nearly so favorable as they are to-day.
I thank Senator Herbert Hays for hisreferences to myself in connexion with the coal-mining industry and also for hissuggestion for a solution of our industrial problems. The honorable senator suggested that a conference should be held between the miners’ leaders, the Prim, Minister (Mr. Chifley) the Leader of” the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies), the Leaderof the Opposition in this chamber,, and myself. If I thought that such a conference would be of any real value I would call it to-morrow,, but I am sure that it would not. result in the production of one additional ton of coal. All the talk in the world will not increase the production of coal. There is only one solution of the problem and that is an improvement of workingconditions in the mines, and the full mechanization of the mines from the tunnel entrance, to the coal face. Theremust be a complete elimination of the dust in the tunnels through w’hich theminers have to walk, inhaling dust intotheir lungs, and running the risk of diseases which almost invariably mean an, early death. When congenial working conditions are established in the coal mines, the problem of coal production will have been solved.
– What about mechanizing the filling of skips.
– I favour complete mechanization, and there is no objection to that from the miners’ federation. Honorable senators opposite constantly ask, “ What is the Government doing to bring about peace in industry? “~ But they know as well as I do that thereis a constitutional impediment to Commonwealth intervention in State disputes..
Previous administrations have encountered the difficulties now being experienced by this Government. However, this Government has taken a definite step. -.It has reached an agreement with the Government of New South. “Wales - the State in which over SO per cent, of all the coal produced in the Commonwealth is mined - and I hope that as the result of that agreement, production will increase, and there will be an end to the complaints that we have had in the past concerning the coal-mining industry. The Government is doing its best to develop open-cut mining, and proposes to expend a considerable sum of money in that direction, so that men engaged in the production of coal - a commodity essential to our entire economy- - may work in the open air and sunshine.
Senator Herbert Hays claimed that some ships had been held up because of the lack of coal. I should like to know to what vessels he was referring, because E think he is making a mistake. I do not know of any ships being held up as a result of the coal shortage.
Senator Cooper made a worthwhile suggestion in regard to a reduction of the price of petrol in the outback districts of this continent. I shall bring his representations to the notice of the Government and ascertain whether any relief can be given. I agree that the man who pioneers the outback regions should be able to purchase the commodities necessary for him to continue his work, at prices comparable with those ruling in the more densely populated areas, t shall also see what can be done to make wire netting available to protect stock from the depredations of dingoes.
Senator James McLachlan said that sales by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission had already yielded £4.5,000,000 and that the ultimate total was expected to reach £500,000,000. I am not sure about the latter figure, but it is true that £45,000,000 has been yielded so far. The honorable senator asked whether the proceeds from those sales were going into Consolidated Revenue, or were being used to reduce our national indebtedness. I suggest that the money will go into’ Consolidated Revenue.
Reference’ was ako made by Senator James McLachlan to’ the fact that certain Dutch vessels were held up in Australian ports. I thought that every one knew the story of that dispute. The tie-up of the Dutch vessels occurred as the result of a dispute between the Dutch authorities and the Indonesian seamen employed on the vessels. They declared the ships “black”. When they walked off the vessels, the Dutch authorities substituted Lascar crows, but they too refused to man the ships. . Both the Indonesians and Lascars were members of seamen’s organizations. I am not prepared to tie up all Australian ports merely because there is an argument between the Dutch people and the Indonesians.
Reference was made by Senator Leckie this morning to the gullibility of the workers.. They may have been gullible in the depression period, when they had to work for particularly low wages. In the heavy industries, such as the iron and steel industry, in waterside work and in the mining industry, there is not so great an incentive for the workers to exert themselves to the utmost as there is for those engaged in other avocations such as primary production. In most cf the heavy industries wages are regulated by industrial tribunals whose decisions practically determine how much the worker shall . eat, and how they shall dress. During the war period, a firm in Western Australia engaged in the manufacture of screws closed its business be-, cause an industrial tribunal had given an increase of wages to its employees.
– Only a small increase at that.
– Yes. _ If it be right for a capitalist who invests his money in industry to refuse to supply the needs of the community the worker is equally entitled to decline to supply his labour, which is -all that he has to sell’.
Senator Leckie also referred to the high cost of ship construction in Tasmania. He said that a vessel bad cost £6S,000, and that a bid of only £6,000 had been made for it, but he did not say whether the vessel was sold at that figure. Like all other requisites during the war period, ships were costly. When the war commenced the wealthy people said to the Government, “ You can have all we possess “. All they were concerned about was the welfare of themselves and their families. Money had to be expended quickly for defence purposes. It was said in this debate that the high cost of the Captain Cook Graving Dock was attributable to the poor class of labour available for that work. Men were taken out of whitecollar occupations. It may be correct to say that in some instances three men were capable of doing only the work of one man experienced in that class of labour. It is not fair or honest to compare the cost of ship construction in Australia with the cost in the United States of America, where there are many skilled ship-builders and where the most modern machinery in the world is available, whilst Australia was trying to build ships with obsolete machinery.
Senator Leckie drew attention to the statement by the Prime Minister that, even with collaboration between employers and employees, it would not be possible to produce enough coal to meet the requirements of industry; but the right honorable gentleman did not say that the position was quite hopeless. If there were the utmost cooperation, and even if the miners were kept in full production, there would still be a reduction of output, and coal stocks would diminish. The Prime Minister is fully aware of the plans that have been made for the maintenance of coal supplies, and he would not commit himself by saying that the position was hopeless.
Reference was made by Senator J. B. Hayes to the possible abandonment of the apple and pear acquisition scheme, andI appreciate the moderation with which he presented his case. . But when it was decided to abandon the scheme partially, the Government did not desert Western Australia and Tasmania. In the determination of the question whether the scheme shall continue in operation, the interests of these States may be safely left in the hands of the Government.
Senator A. J. Fraser remarked that the subsidy on coal sent by rail to Victoria represented only a small sum. I was surprised that an honorable senator who is said to be of Scotch origin should make that statement. The quantity of coal allocated to Victoria weekly amounts to 35,000 tons, and the subsidy of 7s. 6d. a ton paid on coal transported by rail from Newcastle to Victoria when shipsare not available amounts to over £500,000:
– Over and above that, the cost to Victoria is about £200,000 per annum.
– I interjected that I had not arranged for Mr. Healy to visit Newcastle. Possibly there has been some talk of the industrial officer or Mr. Healy visiting that centre, but I would as readily accept the word of “ Jim “ Healy as that of any other man in Australia. I have found him absolutely reliable and helpful regarding industrial disputes on the waterfront.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to secure the necessary appropriation of moneys to carry on the normal services of government for the first two months of the financial year 1946-47. The amount required is £44,826,000, and the provision may be summarized under the following heads: -
The bill provides only for the estimated requirements to carry on the essential services on the basis of the provision in the Appropriation Bill passed by Parliament for the current year 1945-46. With minor exceptions, the amount set down for ordinary services represents approximately one-sixth of the 1945-46 appropriations. After excluding special appropriations for debt charges and war pensions, war expenditure in the first two months of 1946-47 will amount to approximately £34,151,000. This is greater than the anticipated average monthly expenditure for the year, principally to meet deferred pay and other commitments arising from the discharge of service personnel.
In this bill the general set-up of the 1945-46 Estimates in relation to war expenditure has been followed, but a rearrangement of the votes as between war and peace-time sections will be made when the annual Estimates are being submitted. The sum of £32,000,000 provided for war services represents the estimated amount which will be available from revenue receipts for the first two months of the year to meet war expenditure, after making due allowance for other obligations. The balance of. war expenditure will be met from loan appropriations. The usual provision is made in the bill for “ Advance to the Treasurer “, the amount being £5,000,000. This amount is required mainly to carry on uncompleted civil works, which will be in progress at the 30th June, and also to cover unforeseen and miscellaneous expenditure. No provision has been made for any new expenditure, and there is no departure from existing policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
The bill .
.- Will a statement be made on behalf of the Government as to its attitude with regard to a naval base at Manus Island? In view of statements by irresponsible persons, the absence of a clarification of the position may do much harm to Australia.
– I appreciate the importance of that matter, and I shall take it up with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the other members of the Government.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move-
Thatthe bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide £16,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of war pensions. The balance now remaining of the appropriation of £13,000,000 granted last August is sufficient only to meet war pension payments to the end of August. The amount now requested will cover approximately one year’s expenditure. Although the amount required for payment of pensions arising out of the 1914-18 war is declining, the casualties of the recent war have resulted in a substantial increase of pension payments. The trend in both cases is indicated in the following table: -
Parliament is now asked to approve the amount c-f £16,000,000 to permit revenue to be withdrawn for payment to the War Pensions Trust Account as required to enable pension payments to be made as they become due. This bill has no bearing on- rates of pension. The pension rates have already been approved by the Parliament and this measure merely appropriates the amount required to effect payment at those rates.
– The Government wants this bill to be passed to-day, and I do not propose to delay its passage. It. is merely a formal appropriation measure dealing with war pensions, and when a statement of the financial position for the year just ending is made at a later date, we shall have an opportunity to raise matters that we wish to discuss in relation to this subject.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without
Amendment or debate*
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time,
.- I move-
That thu bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to obtain parliamentary appropriation for the expenditure of an additional amount of £20,000,000 of revenue for war purposes. In the budget presented to the Parliament in September last, the total revenue was estimated to be £374,000,000. The budget was framed to provide an appropriation from revenue of £166,000,000 for nonwar items. The balance of £208,000,000 was appropriated for war purposes. It is now expected that the estimate for some revenue items will be exceeded. A marked buoyancy in customs and excise revenue has followed the end of the war and the relaxation of controls, and indications are that the estimate will be exceeded by £7,000j000. Mainly on account of the demobilization of the forces, increased sales of civilian goods may result in an increase of sales tax,- revenue of £5,000,000. Income tax may - also yield an increased amount of £5,000,000. Estate duty and some other items of revenues-ill show small increases. It is anticipated that non-war expenditure will be approximately the same as the budget estimate. It is somewhat difficult to make an accurate forecast of the total revenue for the financial year, but the improvement will be between £15,000,000 and £30,000,000. It is necessary to provide an additional appropriation to permit this increase of revenue to’ be utilized to meet war expenditure, and therefore parliamentary appropriation for £20,000,000 is sought. The September budget provided for a total war expenditure in 1945-46 of £360,000,000. Due mainly to the acceleration of demobilization.) this estimate will be exceeded. The proposed appropriation of £20,000,000 will enable the actual . improvement of revenue to be applied to war expenditure, thus reducing to this degree the amount chargeable to loan.
– This is a very important measure, and I support the action of the Government in applying the amount involved to what might be termed the reduction of the loan account. I am disappointed that so little time has been given to us to debate this measure. I know that it was impossible for the Leader of the Senate (Senator Ashley) to secure the measure from the House of Representatives earlier; 1 had similar experiences when I was Leader of the Senate in another government. It- is time that the Senate rebuked the members of the House of Representatives for their discourtesy in transmitting such bills to the Senate at so late a date and hour as to preclude proper consideration being given to them in this chamber. I do not attach the blame entirely to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). A full debate on this bill would give honorable senators an opportunity to discuss extravagant and wasteful expenditure. Revenue has exceeded estimates by about £20,000,000 and this amount will be credited to loan account. However, expenditure has not decreased, although the war ended ten months ago. Taxes, are still at a high level, and the Parliament should have some regard for extravagance in government expenditure. Having had experience as a Minister, I do not blame Ministers personally for this extravagance. In my experience, there are ‘ only two kinds of Commonwealth departments - the expensive and the very expensive. During the financial year just about to end, millions of pounds of hard-earned money have been wasted because of the neglect of departmental officials to have serious regard for the urgent need to practise economy so that the Government may reduce the taxes which have been a severe burden on all sections of the community. “We are at the end of June, and this bill must go through to-day. In order to save the Government embarrassment, I am prepared to assist its passage, but I suggest that an opportunity be given to us next week or the following week to express our views, on the matters which I have mentioned.
.- Will- the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), when closing the debate, give some indication of the date when the Budget will be presented to Parliament. There have been occasions when the Budget has been presented in July. It is most important that, as soon as possible after the end of the financial year, the Parliament should have placed before it the balance-sheet of the year’s operations so that it may deal with, important matters arising’ therefrom. At the moment, it appears that the next financial year will be well advanced and that a large amount of money will have been expended before the Budget is submitted to us. Probably the balance-sheet for the year now ending and the estimates of expenditure for the forthcoming year will not be available for consideration until the end of October at the earliest. That is not good government practice. An election is to be held soon, and we have a right to know what the Government’s proposals for the coming financial year are. It should not be very difficult to assemble the necessary information. In my view, it is inexcusable for the Budget not to be presented early in each financial year. If there are any reasons why this cannot be done, I hope that the Minister will inform us of them.
.- I offer no particular . objection to the passage of this measure, because I realize that the surplus revenue involved must be hidden away before the end of the financial year or the State governments will make some claim upon it. However, I am perturbed by a remark made by the Minister for Supply and .Shipping” (Senator Ashley) during the debate on a previous bill in reply to a question asked . by Senator Herbert Hays about the use to be made of an amount of £45,000,000 that has been received in respect of dis- posals of war equipment. The ‘ Minister said that he presumed that the money would go into the ordinary revenue fund. If his presumption be correct, I object strenuously. I should imagine that most of the war material which is being sold at great financial sacrifice was purchased out of loan funds. Therefore any amount that is received when it is sold should be used to reduce- our loan indebtedness. I should like to know whether the £20,000,000 with which this bill deals is portion of the £45,000,000 and whether it is genuine money actually received from taxpayers, or is something else. There is an almost irresistible temptation for a government to make use of money that is, as it were, floating about.
– I also protest at the late introduction of this bill. The Senate has been sitting for two weeks, yet it comes before us at the eleventh hour of the last parliamentary sitting day of the financial year. It deals with a sum of £20,000,000, received as taxes in excess of the estimate for the year. If a private business firm were to attempt to adjust its books in this way, its managing director would remain in office only long enough for him to put on his hat and coat. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) must have known, some time ago about this surplus money. It is not right that the Senate should be treated in this “way, and I suggest that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) arrange with the Treasurer that in future more time shall be given to the Senate to deal with matters of this kind.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales - Minister for Supply and Shipping) 1 3.85]. - in reply - This is an occasion on which there is some justification for the complaint of honorable senators opposite. The difficulty of synchronizing the work of the two branches of the legislature goes back far beyond the life of the present Parliament; it has existed for many years. I agree, however, that, if possible, better arrangements should be made, so. that this chamber may give more consideration to matters of importance. In some degree I am responsible for the curtailment of this debate on what I admit is an important subject, because yesterday I yielded to representations not to sit late last night. Had I not done so, more time could have been devoted to the discussion of this measure to-day. Senator Leckie referred to a previous statement of mine that I assumed that money obtained from the disposal of war equipment would be paid into Consolidated Revenue. The position is that money derived from the disposal of war materials is used to reduce, war debts and reduce loan liabilities. I am not in a position to inform Senator Herbert Hays of the intention of the Treasurer in regard to the presentation of the Budget, but I shall endeavour to obtain information on the subject for his benefit.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– On the 5th April Senator Gibson asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agricul ture the following question, upon notice :-
Will the Minister furnish the Senate with the following information: -
The prices over the hooks by weight for the following classes of meat for export to the United Kingdom: - (i) Beef per lb.; (ii) lamb each grade per lb; (iii) mutton each grade per lb.? 2.. Comparable ceiling prices of the same articles mentioned* in No. 1, above, in the State of Victoria?
Retail prices in Victoria and Great Britain of - (i) beef, (ii) mutton, (iii) lamb, and in Great Britain - (i) wholesale prices, (ii) retail prices?
Are the sales of these Australian meats conducted on a government-to-government basis, or are they effected by Australian meat exporters ?
If the Australian sales are effected by meat exporters, what is the difference in prices* paid by the meat exporter to the producer, and those received - by him from the United Kingdom ?
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture states that the following information was supplied to the honorable sena tor during the recess. As the answer is lengthy, I shall, with the consent of the Senate, incorporate only a portion of it in Hansard.
Issued by The Meal Trades’ ./minmi, 5 Charter.housesquare, E.C.I . 27th March, 1946.
The Deputy Controller of Meat Supplies, New South Wales, Mr. J. L. Shute, announced to-day details of the treatment of sheep and lambs on a weight-and-grade basis at registered works in New South Wales.
A meat order issued under National Security (Meat Industry Control) Regulations, provides thatwhere an owner of stock so requests by giving the prescribed notice, a licensed operator shall slaughter and treat stock on account of the owner on a weight and grade basis for submission for: (a) Export; (b) specific orders issued by the Controller or the Deputy Controller of Meat Supplies, for frozen mutton or for frozen lamb for the Australian and Allied services; (c) mutton for dehydration; or (d) mutton for canning, at the rates and conditions specified from time to time by the Controllerby notice in writing to the operator.
Consignments will not be accepted for treatment on a weight and grade basis for less than one truck lots, excluding mixed lots.
Railage on live-stock sent to worksto be treated on a weight and grade basis will be paid by operators if desired, and deducted by them from account sales. Rejects will be sold by the operator on account of the owner at current market prices less local treatment rates and actual selling costs.
The skins of sheep and lambs remain the property of the owner and will either be purchased by the works at valuation or delivered green f.o.r., or on lorry, to an agent to be nominated by the owner.
A charge of1d. per skin will be made for delivery to owner f.o.r., or on lorry green and 3d. per skin if dried or part dried f.o.r. or on lorry.
All offals become the property of the operators, the value of same having been calculated in assessing the consolidated rates.
Payments shall be made for all carcasses within fourteen days of treatment.
Operators will require owners of live-stock to lodge a deposit of Five pounds (£5) per truck at the time of hooking with an agent or the treatment works or the licensed operator against failure to deliver.
Owners are required to notify works or operator fourteen clear days in advance of the intention to send stock for treatment. Subject to circumstances over which the treatment works or licensed operator may have no control, such as industrial disputes, breakdown of plant, or by reason of force majeure, sheep, and lambs will be processed within 36 hours of arrival at the treatment works in any working week.
Operators are required tomake available 20 per cent. of their killing capacity for treatment of stock on a weight-and-grade basis, but such percentage is subject to review under abnormal conditions.
A list of the meat exporting companies, works, or firms, to whom this order applies may be obtained from the Deputy Controller of Meat Supplies, New South Wales.
Treatment Rates. - The treatment rates within the County of Cumberland have been determined for -
Lambs and hoggets at 1d. per lb., frozen weight.( Based upon a minimum weight of 28 lb., but no maximum.) The same rates will apply at country works, plus freight to the usual export port.
Mutton, at1d. per lb., frozen weight. (Based on a minimum of 38 lb. and a maximum of 60 lb.) The same rates will apply at country works, plus freight to the usual export port.
Reject lamb, hogget and mutton. - The rate for carcasses for local trade will be 625d. per lb. chilled weight, subject to a minimum charge of1s. 5¾d. per carcass delivered to hanging room at works.
Consignments. - Owners may, if they so desire, forward their stock through live-stock agents.
Returns to Owners. - While the prevailing government purchase prices continue, the effect of this order is that owners should receive approximately the net prices per lb. frozen weight as shownin the third column of the schedule covering export lambs, hoggets, and mutton, subject to minimum and maximum charges operating in this State.
The above-mentioned returns to the owners are based upon a minimum average of a consignment weighing 28 lb. frozen weight, but no maximum, in the case of lambs and hoggets, and a minimum average weight of 38 lb., and a maximum of60 lb. in the case ofmutton, treated at works in County of Cumberland.
It should be understood that if the average weight of a consignment be lower than 28 lb., for lamb and hoggets, and 38 lb. for mutton, the proceeds will be correspondingly reduced, or should the average weight of the consignment he in excess of 60 lb. for mutton the proceeds will be correspondingly increased.
The return from country works is similar to the above less cost of transport to usual export port.
Mutton for Dehydration. - Price delivered to dehydrator per lb. frozen weight - All weights, 3d. Subject to the minimum and maximum weight clause the owner is entitled to this price less treatment charge at rate of½d. per lb. frozen weight and cost of transport of frozen carcasses to nearestdehydrator.
Mutton for Export Canning. - Price delivered to canning works per lb. frozen weight - All weights, 3d. Subject to the minimum and maximum weight clause the owner is entitled to this price less treatment charge at rate of ½d. per lb. frozen weight and cost of transport of frozen carcasses to nearest canning works.
Announcement Regarding Weight and Grade Schedule for Beef. - It is hoped to announce in the near future details of schedule applying to rates and conditions for treatment of cattle on a weight-and-grade basis.
– Earlier to-day Senator Collett asked me, as the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, the following question, upon notice : -
With regard to the proposed unification of railway gauges (a) are negotiations with State governments still proceeding; (b) if so, what is the position in regard to the Western Australian portion of this national work?
The Minister for Transport has supplied the following answer: -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
Senate adjourned at 3.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 June 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19460628_senate_17_187/>.