17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Standardization of . Gauges - YASSCanberra Railway.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Will the Minister representing the Minister for Transport inform the Senate whether, in view of the reported conclusion of an agreement between the Governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia for the standardization of railway gauges, as suggested by the Minister for Transport, the States of Queensland and Western Australia, which have been excluded from the new agreement, will, in the event of a further agreement being made with them, have to pay more for the financial accommodation to be provided by the Commonwealth towards ‘ the cost of standardizing railway gauges in those States?
– I am not able to say exactly what will be the position of the two States which have not yet concluded agreements with the transport authorities on the matter. I imagine thai the terms will not be more favorable, but. I am not able to say that they will be less favorable. I shall make inquiries from, the Minister for Transport, and endeavour to obtain the information which the honorable senator seeks.
– Has the Government considered the advisability of including in its railway construction programme the’ linking of Canberra with the main line at Tass Junction? If not, will he have the matter examined ?
– The question of linking Canberra with Tass Junction by a direct railway line has been considered, but’ I am unable to say what stage has been reached in the delibera-‘ tions. I shall make inquiries on the subject from the Minister for Transport and will supply the honorable senator with the information later.
– On the 25th July, Senator Nash asked a question concerning the allocation of the Welshpool Munitions Factory in Western Australia. I have had .inquiries made and now inform the honorable senator that negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government of Western -Australia have been completed, and the Welshpool Munitions Factory has been leased to the Western Australian Government.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether’ it is a fact that Councillor. Cramer, of the Sydney City Council, has stated that there is now no need for electric light and power restrictions? If that is the position, can the Minister reconcile that statement with the fact that numerous black-outs were experienced in the Sydney municipal area two months ago when coal supplies were greater than they are at present?
-I understand that Councillor Cramer has said that restrictions need not now be imposed upon the use of electric light and power in Sydney. That is hard to understand, in view of the fact that two months ago black-outs occurred in almost every suburb of Sydney, and in the city itself, at most inconvenient hours. After Councillor Cramer’s statement appeared in the press and there had been some discussion of the subject, Councillor Cramer admitted that the black-outs had been instituted deliberately. When I saw that statement in the press I challenged the right of the Sydney City Council or any other body to inconvenience the public unnecessarily, or to accuse the government of the country of having made the blackout necessary because of its failure to maintain coal supplies. It appeared that the black-outs were in the nature of political propaganda, as Councillor Cramer was a candidate for the Senate selection on behalf of the Liberalparty in New SouthWales. However, he failed to win the selection ballot. A significant fact is that, although there has been a greater shortage of coal since then and the weather has not been any warmer, and despite the fact that the load on the electric supply plants is just as heavy as when the black-outs were imposed, there has not been a black-out during the last two months.
– On the 25th July, Senator Amour asked a question concerning import and excise duties on wireless valves. The honorable senator suggested that the Tariff Board report of August, 1939, on this matter had not been implemented.
I now inform the honorable senator that the government of the day implemented, as far as possible, the Tariff Board’s recommendation, which was that the margins between the customs duties and the excise duties on receiver valves for wireless telegraphy and telephony should not be increased.. However, it was found necessary to increase the margin slightly in respect of valves dutiable at intermediate tariff rates in order to meet Australia’s obligations under the Ottawa Agreement. As the honorable senator is aware, the purpose of the import licensing regulations is to conserve Australia’s overseas funds for the purchaseof essential imports, and not to protect Australian industry. Each application for a licence to import wireless receiver valves is dealt with on its merits.
– About a fort night ago I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs a question relating to the suggestion that a surcharge of1d. per lb. be imposed by retail butchers for the delivery of meat. I ask him now if any action has been taken to prohibit the imposition of such a surcharge?
– As I indicated to the Senate recently, the Government has now abolished the quota system, which action, it is hoped, will facilitate the delivery of meat to homes because of the restoration of the competitive element. The Government has examined the proposal that a surcharge be allowed, and has come to the conclusion that the policing of such a charge would require an army of inspectors. It would be necessary to police every delivery made. Consequently, the Government does not propose to permit the imposition of a delivery surcharge.
Land Settlement of ex-Servicemen.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a press statement attributed to the chairman of the Soldier Settlement Commission in Victoria, Mr.
Simpson, to the effect that it waa impossible for the commission to establish exservicemen on the land until the Commonwealth Parliament gave the necessary power ? Tie chairman goes :on to say -
The commission does not have power to place men on the .land but only to purchase and subdivide land.
– .Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to -read, extracts from newspapers. He may refer only briefly to such reports. Senator BRAND. - As the Commonwealth Government has the last word in regard to the approving of land settlement schemes, what action does it propose to take to ensure that approved applicants shall be established on properties without delay?
– I am not familiar with the details of the points raised by the honorable senator, but I shall have inquiries made and furnish him with an answer to his question as soon ..as possible.
– On the 17th July, Senator Nash asked that consideration be given to the exemption of recipients of superannuation, pensions, annuities and other similar payments from liability to pay social services contributions in respect of these .payments. The Prime Minister has now furnished the following reply : -
Careful consideration was given to the. question when, legislation was: being prepared providing for ; the levying pf the social services contribution. The conclusion reached, however, was that there could be no real justification for their exemption whilst income of a-h equal amount from wages or .investments remains subject to . contribution and ‘tax. The social services .contribution .scheme is based on the fundamental principle of the .Commonwealth scheme of taxation -that liability to tax is primarily ‘determined by the quantum of income .derived by the > taxpayer, If the . act were .amended ,to provide the desired exemption such an amendment would represent a serious departure from this principle. Amounts contributed -to the superannuation -funds from year to year were either liable . as* ta deduction , from -the .assessable income. of .the contributors or were used as ,a basis to determine the appropriate rebates of -tax in the years -in which payments were made to these funds. Consequently, .contributors were not required’ to p.ay tax on that portion .of income from ^employment applied .in .payment -of .con tributions to the superannuation funds. In the circumstances there appears to be no good reason why the pension, when received, should be exempt from contribution or tax.
Regarding the contention that these pensions are, in the main, repayments of capital and therefore should not be subjected to contribution or tax, I would mention that the Income Tax Assessment Act specifically provides for the exclusion of the assessable income and that .part of an annuity which represents its purchase price.
Where the annuity has been purchased by contributions that have been allowed as concessional deductions or on which concessional rebates have been allowed, the pni-cha.se price of the annuity to be excluded from the assessable income is reduced to the amount which has not been subject to the concessional allowance. This provision .applies also to the contributable income by reference to which the social services contribution is calculated.
The invalid and old-age pensions comprise only one aspect of the scheme of social services which also includes hospital, pharmaceutical and other benefits. Iri regard to old-age, invalid and widows’ pensions, the Government’ has .introduced legislation providing that the permissible income should be raised from 12s: Cd. per week to £1 per week and the limit of property allowed, from £400 to £050. At the same .time certain other liberalizations of -the law in regard to property are being made. I might ,add, however, that with a view to ultimately abolishing the means test, the Government has decided that the question . of the ‘ further liberalization of these tests should be examined from year to year in the light, of the financial position existing at the time. In . all the circumstances, I find myself unable to offer my support to the amendment of the- law which would be necessary to provide that superannuation, pensions, annuities and other income of a like nature should be exempt from income . tax and social .services contribution.
– In view of an earlier statement by the Minister- for -Health regarding the proposed consolidation of the social services legislation, will the Minister advise: the Senate whether he has received any representations ..with regard to special treatment of octogenarian oldage pensioners and others over .the. age of 80 years ? -In the preparation of the consolidating measure, will he give, special consideration .to the claims of these elderly people, particularly those in failing health and with failing .eye sight?
– ;I have .received representations in the matter, and ;as recently .as yesterday I undertook in writing to .the honorable senator to give consideration to the suggestion. Without having had an opportunity to consider it, I would say, at this stage, that there are ever-present dangers in drawing new lines of demarcation in the matter of social services. If one gives a special benefit to a person of or over the age of 80 years, one will be presented with the plight of persons aged 79 years and eleven months, or 7S years. . These difficulties arise whenever a line is drawn with regard to the age a.t which persons become entitled to certain benefits. However, when the consolidation of the law is receiving attention I shall give full consideration to the honorable senator’s suggestion, and if there are particular difficulties with regard to very elderly people, whether through failing health or eye sight, due- regard will be had to those facts. I should welcome any help from any honorable senator in determining whether a line should be drawn at the age of 80 years or any other age.
– Does the Minister for Trade and Customs attribute the prolonged shortage of cigarettes and tobacco throughout the Commonwealth solely to a shortage of man-power? If so, will he consider granting import licences with a view to meeting the requirements of the community?
– In view of the existing shortage’ of cigarettes and tobacco I have already taken action to facilitate imports from the United Kingdom. The prices of English cigarettes and tobacco landed in Australia, which I understand are fairly high, are now being’ investigated. I am fully aware of the existing shortage. The Government is taking steps to supply the requirements of’ Australian smokers as quickly as possible.
– Will the Leader of the Senate state whether the Minister for External Affairs is acting with the full knowledge and concurrence of the Government at the Peace Conference now being held in Paris? If so, will the Leader of the Senate acquaint us with the instructions given to the Minister for External Affairs, or make a full statement of the .Government’s policy with respect to the peaceful settlement of world affairs?’ Failing this, with the full cognizance of the general trend of British foreign policy, and having regard to the considered views of the Big Four, will the Leader of the Senate say whether the action of the Minister for External Affairs in aligning himself with a group of small nations which ‘ took no active part in the war meets with the approval of the Government ?
– I remind the honorable senator that several international conferences were held prior to the Peace Conference now being held at Paris. Dominion Primo Ministers took part in these conferences and determined on policies to be adopted at’ the Peace Conference. The Minister for External Affairs in common with other representatives of Australia, is fully conversant with the wishes of the Commonwealth Government. Any opinions expressed, or determinations made, by Australian representatives at the conference will, therefore, have the support of the Commonwealth Government. I am. not prepared to make a statement regarding the instructions issued to Australia’s representatives at the Peace Conference. The Parliament and the people of Australia will be given full details of events at the conference at the appropriate time.
Overseas Production - Cornsacks -
Agreements with United Kingdom,
Canada and New Zealand
– As the world production of wheat has a very important bearing on the Australian wheat industry and also on plans for the relief of the” hungry people of Europe, can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the Senate whether the statement in the press last week that there are “ bumper “ crops of wheat in the United States of America, Canada, South Africa, and Europe are correct or not?
– I am not responsible for the sins of the press nor am I prepared to accept the responsibility of confirming or deny:ng any reports published on the subject of the honorable senator’s question. I have heard, of course, that there are some good wheat crops in the countries which he has mentioned, but I do not know the extent of those crops.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the Senate the amount of the subsidy on cossacks provided by the Government to assist primary producers? Can he also state when the subsidy was first instituted, and whether it is still being paid?
– The subsidy on jute goods was first introduced in 1942-43. Since that time, a total amount of £2,142,700 has been provided for the purpose of subsidizing purchases by farmers. Last year the amount provided was £974,737. The subsidy on cornsacks is at the rate of5s. a dozen, and its object is to protect farmers against a heavy price rise. The subsidy has kept the price to the farmer down to 13s. 4½d. a dozen, on a capital cities basis. The Government is still paying the subsidy, as part of its plan to arrest rising costs of production.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ascertain whether his department has any information as to the extent of the. wheat crop in South Africa, Canada, the United States of America and Europe for the coming season? If no such information is available, will the overseas representatives of the department be asked to furnish a report on the matter for the information of the Senate?
– I shall be pleased to obtain the particulars desired by the honorable senator from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Kingdom for the first two-year period at 10s. 5½d. (Australian) per bushel and the second two-year period at 8s.1d. (Australian ) per bushel f.o.b. Montreal?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for. Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : - 1 and 2.. No.
– Recently the steamer Samite, which has no refrigeration plant, loaded between decks at Port
Adelaide with approximately 3,000 tons of foodstuffs for Singapore. After leaving Port Adelaide, the ship which was delayed for three days by bad weather called at Albany on the 23rd July, where it remained until the 27th July, ostensibly, it is reported, to repair certain horse-boxes on the deck that had been damaged.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to give information when asking a question.
– The shippers are very anxious regarding the state in which the fruit will be unloaded at Singapore. They desire to know whether the statements which I have made are true. If so, is it possible to prevent a repetition of such occurrences in view of the importance of supplying food to Singapore in good condition?
– The honorable senator advised me yesterday that he intended to ask this question. I made inquiries and I have been supplied with the following information: -
Thevessel loaded foodstuffsfor Singapore and also a deck cargo ofeight horsesand a number of dogs. During her crossing of the Australian Bight, rough weather was encountered and one of the horses was injured and had to be destroyed. The master of the ship put into Albany in order to have damaged deck fittings repaired the livestock carried had, however, been loaded prior to the vessel touching at Albany. Somite is controlled by the British Ministry of Transport and neither her cargo nor her voyages are subject to any direction of the Australian Government. I should be glad if this might bemade clear to Mr. Heading, who raised the matter with the honorable senator.Perhaps Mr. Heading could be informed also that the decision to carry livestock as deck cargo did not have the effect of lessening the amount of foodstuffs which the ship could take.
I assume that theinformation obtained by my department is correct. If the ship met bad weather, damage would occur to all deck fittings and not particularly to horse-boxes.
– The Leader of the Senate will be aware that the Government decidedsome monthsago to send a technicaltrade delegation toJapan. The personnelwas chosen, the members of the delegation received appropriate military rank, and theybought their uniforms.
They were also inoculated, but they have not yet left Australia.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to give information when asking a question.
– Can the Minister state whether the delegation will go to Japan at all? If it will not, will the Minister announce that the Government has not been able to arrange for thetransport or accommodation of the delegates, or state the cause of the delay, so that they may be relieved of their anxiety? In the event of their not going will the Government make arrangements with Great Britain that any technical information obtained from Japan may be placed at the disposal of Australian industries ?
– I know that a trade delegation intended to visit Japan, butI am not aware what prevented it from starting on its mission. I shall have inquiries made, and shall endeavour to secure the information which the honorable senator desires. I shallalso investigate the possibility of adopting the alternative suggested by him.
Appointment of ex-Servicemen.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction aware that the deletion of section 84 (9) (c) of the Commonwealth Public Service Act precludes exservicemen from ever obtaining permanent Status in the Commonwealth Public Service ? Will he again confer with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction with a view to the restoration of that vital provision?
SenatorMcKENNA. - I am not aware that the sectionin question has the effect stated by the honorable senator. I think I replied on those lines to the honorable senator on behalf of the Minister for Post-warReconstruction not long ago; but at his request I shall again submit the matter to the Minister and let the honorable senator have ananswer in due course.
– Will the
Minister forTradeand Customs inform the Senate whether subsidies are being paid to any secondary industries for the purpose of preventing increases of prices to the users of certain commodi’ties manufactured by those industries?
– -The answer is .” Yes “.
– On the 28th of June I addressed a question, upon notice, to the Minister representing the Prime Minister relating to the despatch abroad- of certain members of the Parliament and the cost of such trips, and was promised subsequently that a return would be prepared and sent to me. Can the Leader of the Senate say when I oan expect that information?
– I shall have inquiries made ‘and will furnish the information to the honorable senator as early as possible.
– Is _ the Minister for Supply and Shipping in a position to advise the Senate if any action had been taken to relieve the congestion on the steel wharf at Newcastle following the. visit of the Stevedoring Industry Commission to that port on the 6th July last?
– I am not in a position to advise the honorable senator of any action that has been taken as the result of the visit of the Stevedoring Industry Commission to Newcastle. I remind him that Newcastle is a very busy port. If he will indicate whether his question relates to consignments to other States, to overseas countries, or to the Pacific Islands, I shall be in a position to answer it.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice - ,
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice - ‘
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice -
In view of the public moneys expended in the building of aerodromes and airstrips throughout Australia . for the purposes of defence, will the Minister indicate -
Whether it is intended to maintain and utilize these services for Air Force activities, and for the future defence of this country?
Whether it is intended to make certain of them available for the development of civil aviation; if so, will any charges be made for their use?
– The Minister for Air has supplied the following answers : -
Trainees - Wages and Conditions
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the nature of the services rendered to the community by trainee nurses and the low rates of pay received during their period of training, will the Government give favorable consideration to allowing as a deduction that amount which trainee nurses are now required to include as income, in income tax returns, in respectof board and quarters provided by their employers?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
It is considered to be impracticable to discriminate for taxation purposes, in such a manner as is suggested, in favour of any class of taxpayers. The exemption of the value of board and quarters provided for trainee nurses could not be justified while trained nurses and other employees are being taxed on the value of board and quarters provided by their employers.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Repatriation Nurses. - Staff nurse, £23S-£252 (plus £27 cost of living), £8 increments; senior sister, £27C-£300 (plus £27 cost of living), £12 increments. (In order to make the table comparable in each State, weekly salaries for repatriation nurses have been estimated.) Hours of duty - 88 hours per fortnight.
New South Wales.- Hours of duty - 44 per week. Time and a half for overtime.
Victoria. - Hours of duty - 44 per week. Time and a. half for overtime. Board and lodging deduction £1 per week.
Queensland. - Hours of duty - 06 per fortnight. Board and lodging free or allowance of 25s.’ per ‘week in lieu.
South Australia. - Hours of duty - 48 per week. Board and lodging free (allowance of 30s. per week to be paid if not provided).
Western Australia. - New award figures are not yet available. Kates shown have been extracted from newspaper reports.
Tasmania. - Hours of duty - 44 per week or 88 per fortnight. Board and lodging fi.
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What amount of food (in tons) has been shipped from the Commonwealth to Great Britain from the- 1st January to the 30th June, 1946, viz., (a)- meat, (6) butter, (c) cheese, (d) dried fruits, (e) fresh fruits, (/) sugar, (g) wheat and flour, (h) honey,
canned fruits, (;) jams and jellies?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s ques-tions are as follows: -
asked the MinisterforSupply and Shipping, upon notice - 1.What was the amountof subsidy paid bytheCommonwealth inrespect to coal transported overlandfor use bythe VictorianRailways for the years ended the 30th June, 1944 and 1945?
– Theanswers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice - 1.Has the Government leasedor offered the aluminium plant at Wangaratta, Victoria, to any Australian or overseas interests for use as an aluminium fabrication plant?
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has supplied the following answers: -
Secondary Industries Commission. The final decision in respect of this matter, as is the usual practice, was made by the Government. Similar negotiations in respect of the development of industry involving the use of governmentowned factories are regularly undertaken by the Secondary Industries Commission. An essential feature of such negotiations is that the confidences of industrialists be preserved. Consequently it is not intended to table papers in respect of the Bruck Mills (Aust.) Limited negotiations.
Prisoner or War Labour
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has suppliedthe following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: - 1. (a) The Commonwealth Government agreed to provide financial assistance for the safeguarding of the physical assets of gold mines, closed down or placed on a maintenance basis as a result of the transfer of man power to more essential war-time production, where such mines showed reasonable possibilities of providing for the re-employment of miners in the early post-war period. In Western Australia such assistance was given through the Western Australian Government to which moneys totalling £150,000 were made available by the Commonwealth as ordinary appropriations through the votes of the Department of Supply and Shipping. (6) No.
Cambridge Aerodrome, Hobart
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 3. It would be possible to extend the present aerodrome so far as available land is concerned, . but extended runways on the present site might not be possible without causing adjacent hills to become an approach hazard and consequently it may be necessary to change the site for the construction of longer runways capable of handling aircraft heavier than the D.C.3. This matter is now under examination as to the possibility of requirements being met in the same locality.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales -
Minister for Supply and Shipping). - by leave - I inform honorable senators that a recommendation has been made to His Royal Highness the Governor General that a dissolution of the House of Representatives be granted with a view to the holding of the general elections on Saturday, the 28th September, 1946, and this advice has been accepted. His Royal Highness has been informed that the necessary financial provision is being made for the carrying on of the public services of the Commonwealth during the period that must elapse before Parliament can re-assemble. It is proposed that the date of issue of the writs shall be Wednesday, the 21st August, 1946; that the closing date for the receipt of nominations shall be Tuesday, the 3rd September; and that writs shall be returnable on or before Saturday, the 2nd November.
In accordance with established practice, the elections for the Senate will be held concurrently with those for the House of Representatives, on Saturday, the 28th September. The three referendums associated with proposed alterations of the Constitution will also take place on the same date:
Motion (by Senator Cameron) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Courtice). - There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As honorable senators are aware, the Australian Broadcasting Act, which became operative from the 1st July, 1942, was based on recommendations which had been submitted to the Parliament by a joint committee which, under the chairmanship of Senator Gibson, had investigated all phases of broadcasting in the Commonwealth. The act, for the first time, incorporated in a. single measure earlier legislation and regulations concerning the operations of both the national and commercial broadcasting services, as well as providing for a number of innovations recommended by the Broadcasting. Committee.
Broadcasting has become an important feature in the life of the nation, and wireless receivers are now, installed- in 84 per cent, of Australian homes. It is interesting to note that, despite the restrictions which were imposed during the war on the manufacture of wireless sets for civilian use, the number of listeners’ licences has increased from, 1,132,000 on the 1st July, 1939, to 1,436,000 on the 30th June last. As additional stations are established and new receivers become available, it is reasonable to expect that the number of listeners will increase steadily, until practically every family in the Commonwealth will be enjoying the benefits of broadcasting.’
At present, there are 30 medium-wave and five short-wave stations in the national broadcasting network. A number of additional regional stations are contemplated, but progress in this regard has been retarded due to conditions arising out of the war. Every effort is now being made to overtake the arrears, so that listeners may be assured of reliable reception from at least one national station. Most listeners are also in a position to avail themselves of the alternative programmes of the commercial broadcasting stations, which’ have been established in many parts of the Commonwealth.
The proposals embodied in the bill now before the Senate are necessary in order to give effect to recommendation’s made by the Broadcasting Committee which have been adopted by the Government. Other amendments are considered desirable in the light of the experience gained since the passing’ of the act in 1942. The Broadcasting Committee has considered several important matters referred to it in pursuance of section 85 of the act, and it has submitted fourteen valuable reports to the Parliament. Administrative action has already beentaken in respect of many of the suggestions made in the reports, and it is now’ proposed, on the recommendation of the committee, to vary certain of the provisions of the act.
I shall briefly explain the more important provisions of this amending bill. It will be observed that clause 4 deals with matters affecting the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and in this regard the amendments proposed generally conform to comparable provisions of the Commonwealth “Bank Act, the Overseas Telecommunications Bill and the Commonwealth Public Service Act. It will be agreed that it is most desirable that there should be uniformity in the conditions governing the employment of staffs by the various Commonwealth .Government instrumentalities.
Section 25 of the principal act provides that the commission may collect, in such manner as it thinks fit, news and information relating to current events in any part of the world, and may subscribe to news agencies. The matter has recently been the subject of investigation by the Broadcasting Committee and, in a report submitted to the Parliament by the committee on the 4th July, 1946, a majority of the members expressed the view that, as the commission has. a special charter in the Australian Broadcasting Act to establish groups of musicians for rendering orchestral, choral and band music of high quality, it should also have a special charter in the’ act to establish groups of journalists for the attainment of its objective of independence in the sphere of Australian news, and, as far -as possible, overseas news. Accordingly, the majority of the- committee recommended that the Australian. Broadcasting Act should be amended to provide that the commission shall - (a) establish its own independent service in’ respect of - Australian news; (6”) procure its overseas news direct, through its staff abroad, from such, overseas agencies, as the com: mission deems fit, as well as from such independent, sources as the commission deems it desirable to: use: The object of this recommendation was to fix response bility on a publicly owned instrumentality, accountable to the community, for the selection- of news which is- broadcast. The Government concurs in this view, and considers1 that the time is opportune to make it incumbent on the commission to establish its own news-gathering organization as soon as the circumstances permit;. It is, therefore, proposed to repeal section 25 of the. principal act,, and to substitute the provisions set out in clause 5 of the bill before the Senate, In reaching this conclusion,, the Govern?ment has been influenced by the fact that, by the nature of things, the com-* mission will always be hampered in. its efforts to secure independence in connexion with its news services, while it has to rely almost entirely on other parties for the provision of the information on which its neWs sessions are based.
Honorable senators will be aware that in sections 89 and 90 of- the act provision is made for the treatment of political broadcasts. In accordance with the terms of section 90, it is necessary for a broadcasting station to announce the true name of every speaker delivering an address or making a statement relating to a political subject or current affairs, both before and after such address or statement. If the address or statement is made on behalf of a political party, the name of the party concerned must also be disclosed. No provision, however, is made in the relevant section requiring the identity of the actual author of any such address or statement to be disclosed. It h therefore proposed in clause 11 of the bill to amend section 90 of the act accordingly to remedy this weakness, and also to stipulate that the name of the speaker may be announced only at the end. of statements .which contain, fewer than 100 words.
The effect of the alteration- proposed: in clause 15 is to liberalize the conditions under which broadcast listeners’ licences at half the ordinary fee may be granted. Section 98 of the Australian Broadcasting Act at present authorizes the grant of half-fee licences only to a person- who is in receipt of an invalid or old-age pension, who lives alone or with another such person-. These restrictive provisions’ deny -the concession to many pensioners whose physical condition requires the presence- in their residence of some person other than a pensioner, even though- the person1 attending to t-he needs of the. pensioner may have little or n’o income. The amendment proposed would-‘ overcome this difficulty by permitting, a half-fee licence to be granted in cases in which the invalid or old-age pensioner resides with a person, whose income does not exceed the maximum amount of income and pension allowed under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Provision is also being made for the grant of concession, on the same conditions, to “ service “ pensioners under the’ Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and to persons in receipt of a pension under the Widows’ Pension Act.
As I have already indicated, I have covered only the more important amendments which are proposed, but I shall be glad in the committee stage to furnish any information which may be desired concerning other modifications to the act which, are referred to in the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 26th July (vide page 3195), on motion by Senator J. M. Fraser -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When I obtained leave on Friday last to continue my remarks, I had dealt with most of the matters to which I intended to refer. The time still available to me will permit me only to sum up what I have already said.. I, therefore, again draw attention to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that when a previous government, in which he was Minister for Commerce, inaugurated a wheat marketing scheme and a wheat pooling system, it had offered 2s. lOd. a bushel to farmers for their wheat, and to what I said on Friday on that point. I stated then that at that time only 2s. 9.9d. a bushel was actually paid to farmers for the first wheat acquired, and that later the amount was increased to 2s. 10£d. a bushel.
– That was only a first advance.
– That is so. E again draw attention to the statement of the then Minister for Commerce, who is now Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, that in the opinion of the then government, its financial proposals represented not only a fair but also a generous approach to the problem. I shall make no further comment on that statement, except to point out that to-day 5s. 2d. a bushel is being offered as a first advance. That represents an increase of 79.7 per cent, on what a non-Labour government considered was fair and reasonable. The Leader of the Opposition said -that, later, the price was raised to 3s. lOd. a bushel. That is admitted, but even that amount is 38.7 per cent, less than the price which the present Government, after consultation with associations of wheat-growers, considers to be fair and reasonable. That is the position in respect of the first advance to be made under the present Government’s five-year plan, which, I again remind the Senate, is riot only a wheat marketing plan but is also a stabilization plan.
– It is also a restricting plan.
– As I have said, there was no stabilization plan when’ the pooling system was inaugurated by a previous government.’ The plan now before the Senate has been introduced in fulfilment of a promise made before’ the last general elections, that a wheat .stabilization plan would be introduced if the Labour Government were returned to office.
In his remarks relating to the proposed board to control the wheat industry, the
Leader of the Opposition referred to what he called “ Scully’s ‘ Yes ‘ men “. I remind him that not long ago the party to which he belongs opposed farmers having any control at all of the wheat industry. The honorable member for Barker in the House of Representatives (Mr. Archie , Cameron), when leader of the Australian Country party, said in that chamber, that “ It was a pretty piece of impudence on the- part of the representatives of the growers to contend that the farmers should direct the operations of the scheme “. We have heard exactly the same kind of opposition to this bill, only on this occasion honorable senators opposite said that “ Yes “ men will be appointed to ‘ carry out the dictates of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. When nominations were made by various associations of wheat-growers, there might have been some truth in that suggestion, but it has no application to the present scheme, because the farmers themselves will elect those who will represent them on the board. Therefore, no question of “ Scully’s ‘ Yes ‘ men “ arises. When honorable senators opposite say that they want greater .representation of certain States on the board, I point out that in the stabilization scheme agreed to by the- Agricultural Departments- of all the States, there is provision for representation of all States on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board in addition to representatives of the Commonwealth Government.
– Excepting’ Tasmania.
– On the Australian Wheat Board there will be direct representation of the growers .of wheat, and on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board representatives of the Commonwealth and the States will work in cooperation, I repeat that never previously have proposals for a wheat marketing scheme and a wheat stabilization scheme been presented to the Parliament - not even when an ex- Minister for Commerce was the Leader of the Australian Country party, which is supposed to represent primary producers.
– What representtation is to be given to Tasmania?
– That State is to have one representative on the Wheat
Industry Stabilization Board. Under clause 21 provision is made for nine members to be appointed to the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board. They will co-operate to carry out the marketing and stabilization scheme.
Both in this chamber and in the House of Representative’s there has been much criticism of the Government’s inclusion of the 1945-46 crop in these proposals, but I point out that negotiations were in progress prior to the harvesting of that crop, and. that agreement was actually reached on the 11th December, 1945. Under that agreement the 1945-46 crop was included in the five-year plan. It provided for a higher payment for the first advance on wheat and that instead of 60 per cent, of the purchase price going into the Wheat Industry Stabilization Fund, only 50 per cent, will be paid in. Since then, other alterations have been made, and it is now provided that only 2s. 2d. a bushel shall be paid into that fund, All sums in excess of 9s. 6d. a bushel, less certain charges, will be returned to the farmers in respect of the 1945-46 crop.
– The charges represent about ls. a bushel.
– The. Opposition has endeavoured to make political capital out of the inclusion of the 1945-46 crop in the stabilization scheme. I point out that if that crop be excluded, some of the things that the Government has done to help wheat-growers must be taken into consideration: To-day a question was asked regarding the subsidy of 5s. ii dozen paid in respect of cornsacks in order that the price may be stabilized. In addition to that subsidy considerable sums have been granted to farmers who have needed financial assistance. In the past when such assistance was -provided, .it was given in the form of a loan which the farmer had to repay, but the present Government, acting in cooperation with the States, has given a grant to assist farmers who have suffered from drought. It has also provided subsidies to meet the cost of carting the grain from the farms to’ the railway. The total amount of relief paid is approximately £12,000,000. The subsidy on superphosphate also must be taken into consideration. To date that subsidy has cost’ approximately £5,500,000. It is payable at the rate of approximately £3 a ton, which enables its sale in the eastern States at £6 ls. a ton, and .in> Western Australia at £6 3s. 6d. a ton. Therefore, the amount that has been provided by way of subsidies and other payments is considerably more than the £7,000,000 mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. In fact the subsidies on superphosphate and cornsacks alone have already totalled more, than £6,500,000.
Generally speaking, the Government’s stabilization pi anis have been received very well amongst wheat-growers.
– Obviously the honorable, senator has not travelled very much in country districts.
– Prior to attending these sittings’ I travelled for nearly 2,000 miles through country areas.
– Then the honorable senator did not come in contact with many farmers.
– Yes. 1 spoke to farmers individually, and addressed meetings. The impression I formed as the result of those contacts was that the Government’s attempt to place this industry on a sound footing has been received very well indeed. For many years- wheat-farmers of this country have sought the introduction of a scheme like this. [Extension of time granted.] This bill is only a beginning. I arn not foolish enough to claim that the scheme is perfect. I do npt think that it is. Some time in the near future we must deal with the actual cost of producing wheat, and I understand that the Government is making provision for an investigation of production costs with a view to determining a fair and adequate return to wheat-farmers. I am satisfied that the wheat-farmers themselves realize that this measure is only the starting point, but they realize too that the scheme proposed is much better than anything they have had in the past. It goes beyond mere marketing and pooling. It makes provision for a guaranteed price over a period of five years. I have no doubt that difficulties will arise in the operation of the scheme, but I am confident that wheat-farmers generally recognize the work that the Labour Government has done for them. Admittedly there are a few disgruntled men,- but most of them are political opponents of the Labour movement, and no matter what a Labour government may do, they will complain. This bill will ensure the stabilization of the wheat industry. It will assure markets for wheat that we have never had before. It will protect the small wheatgrower, which is an important consideration. It will ensure a payable price for all wheat grown, and in addition, it will provide, as time goes on, for advanced scientific methods of farming. I trust that the bill will be passed by the Senate in its present form. I am sure that should any anomalies be revealed in its ‘ operation, early action will be taken by the Government to remedy them.
– I cannot help but offer some criticism of the exposition of this measure given by Senator 0’Flaherty. The honorable senator appears to be much more concerned about what has happened in the past and with offering criticism of former governments than with the future of the wheat industry. Wheat production is a. problem of such seriousness and urgency that it must be faced immediately. We must deal not with conditions that operated in 1939, or 1940, but with the conditions of to-day. . This important- industry is one with which we are all concerned, because it has a direct bearing on the future prosperity of this country. Therefore, to approach the problem in anything but a present-day frame of mind,1 and with due regard to present-day costs and prices, is not doing justice to the subject. We must appreciate the conditions that face the world to-day in regard to foodstuffs, of which wheat and wheat products are a most important part. The recovery of nations which suffered the full dislocation and destruction bf war, especially in Europe, will be slow, and it behoves every wheat-growing country to produce this commodity to its maximum capacity in the next five years, if, for no other reason than to relieve the distressing conditions now being endured by many millions of starving people. The importance of wheat has grown, even since the termination of hostilities. All available information on the subject indicates that the present demand for wheat will remain firm for at least the next four or five years. Incidental to the ravages of war is the lack of pasture and the consequential substantial increase of the use of wheat as stock feed. That, too, will, be an important factor in the maintenance of the present demand for this commodity. . Also there has, been a substantial deterioration of soil in European wheat ‘ producing countries including Russia, Germany, Italy, France, and the Danubian States during the war years. The recovery of wheat production in these countries will be slow. I do not know the source of Senator Aylett’s statement concerning world wheat production, but he made no mention of the fact that in the next three or four years at least, the undernourished people of Europe will have a claim on all wheat-producing countries to do their best to relieve famine conditions, which, I am afraid, will continue for some time to come. A study of the opinions of leading authorities indicates that it will be five years before the world’s production of. foodstuffs will again reach some degree of normalcy.
– It took ten years after World War I.
– Yes, but I think we have made substantial advances in production methods since then..
This bill embodies the Government’s plan for the stabilization of the wheatindustry. Primarily, its aim is the preservation during the next five years of a home consumption price of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. at ports for bagged wheat. The Government will also guarantee a minimum price of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports. I shall have something more to say about that later because it refers to export wheat. The measure provides that when the export price exceeds the guaranteed price, growers shall contribute to a fund an amount not exceeding 50 per cent, of the difference between the export price, up to 9s. 6d., and the guaranteed price of 5’s. 2<L a bushel, and that when the export price falls below 5s. 2d. a bushel, the fund will be called upon to provide the amount necessary to bring the export price up to 5s. 2d. a bushel.We have no quarrel with the Government’s aim to give a reasonable homeconsumption price, but we question the methods by which the Government arrives at the price of 5s. 2d. a bushel. The growers themselvescontend that 5s. 2d. a bushel is too low having regard to the increased costs which they how have to bear. Most of the growers are still suffering the incidence of old debts incurred during the depression and as the result of successive droughts. In their extremity they were obliged to borrow from financial institutions, and they had to pay, and are continuing to pay, interest at high rates in respect of the money they borrowed during their lean years. That fact should be considered in any attempt to gauge the actual cost of production.We must also bear in mind the upward trend of costs of all the farmers’ machinery and commodities which, in many cases, must be replaced. When the growers are effecting such replacements they will find that the upward spiral of costs is much steeper than honorable senators opposite apparently assume when they compliment the Chifley Government upon keeping down costs. The growers themselves will be the best judges of the truth of such statements when they replace farm machinery and commodities. Another factor in the cost of production ofwheat is the undernourishment of the soil due to the use of inferior grades of superphosphate during the war years. During the past four years many statements have been made in this chamber regarding the reduced effective content of the superphosphates used by farmers during the war. This has had a detrimental effect upon soil husbandry. That is another important factor in the cost of production which farmers know from hard experience that they have to bear. Further, the farmers are now paying increased taxes. Not so long ago I visited certain districts in Western Australia where large quantities of wheat are grown. I was astounded to learn that many farmers were being offered additional supplies of superphosphate although they had not requested additional quantities. In those districts there seemed to be a superabundance of superphosphate available; but I am afraid that the grim spectre of increased taxes influenced many farmers not to plant additional acreage. Those are factors which the Government must recognize in trying to persuade farmers to sow increased acreage with wheat.
– Did the honorable senator say that there was an abundance of superphosphate?
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Yes.
– In May of this year. As far back as 1936, the Gepp Commission which inquired into the wheat, flour and bread industries submitted several reports. That commission in its fourth report dealt at length with the cost of production. I regret that governments in the meantime have not seen fit to implement at least some of its recommendations. I refer particularly to its recommendation dealing with the very important subject of production costs. In effect, the commission recommended that a standing committee, consisting of the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, as chairman, and representatives of the Commonwealth Treasury and other Government departments interested in the production of wheat, should be set up as a permanent body to report to the Commonwealth and State governments upon fluctuations in the cost of production of wheat. Had that recommendation been implemented, I believe that this bill would have been framed along more intelligent lines; because the provision of the bill with respect to the homeconsumption price for wheat ignores many factors which confront the wheatgrower today. The growers of Western Australia, particularly, are of opinion that the actual cost of production plus a small margin of profit would be nearer 6s. 2d. a bushel than 5s. 2d. a bushel. The bill provides for payment of the lower price, and, judgingfrom experience, I am afraid that the Government will not accept any amendment by the Opposition in that respect.
My second criticism of the1 measure is ‘ the inclusion of the 1945-46 crop. Judging from all the information available to us, the Government gave the wheatgrowers a solemn undertaking that the 1945-46 crop would not be included in ite wheat, stabilization and. marketing measure. However, the Government has ignored that undertaking. Under the bill that crop will be included, presumably, to provide a foundation for the fund by which it is hoped to stabilize the industry. That means that the farmers’ own money will be used to stabilize wheat production and marketing. To suggest, as did the Minister in his second-reading speech, that this proposal- has the support of the growers themselves is- not in accordance with the information supplied to me. The Minister’ said o,f-the plan - lt has been accepted by growers’ organizations -and governments as a reasonable contribution by growers for their own benefit later.
I have just received a pamphlet from the general secretary of. the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales. Dealing with this measure under the caption “ Filching the Farmers’ Finance “, it states that the Government has rejected all five vital requests made by the association. Those requests were for a ten-year term, exclusion of the 1945-46- crop, floor price to cover cost, home-consumption and stock-feed prices: The pamphlet says that no greater ramp was ever put over Australian wheatgrowers than this scheme. Those are not the remarks of a member of any political party. They are the views of a reasonable and serious-minded organization, representative of the primary producers of Australia. I shall not delay the passage of the bill by reading all of the pamphlet, but it cites many figures which should open the eyes of honorable senators opposite and of the Minister who claimed so many virtues for the measure and that the scheme has the support of the growers themselves. I have also received another very interesting document from Western Australia from which I gather that the growers in that State do not support this scheme.
-; - Who wrote ‘ that pamphlet?
– I refer to a statement’ made by Mr. J. Si Teasdale,: who is- the representative of the Western. Australian wheat-growers on- the Australian Wheat Board. One can say without hesitation that there- is. no greater authority on the industry in the country than Mr. Teasdale.. Honorable senators opposite may try to ridicule his statement, but it is accepted by the wheatgrowers themselves, although, of course, it would not appeal to the nominees of the Trades Hall.. Mr. Teasdale enjoys the confidence of the wheat-growers. He deals with the annual allocation of the marketable crop as follows: - Wheat for home-consumption flour, 32,000,000 bushels; wheat for stock feed, breakfast food, malting, &c, 28,000,000 bushels; wheat available for export as flour and wheat, 63,000,000 bushels, making a total crop of 123,000,000 bushels, which was the bushelage of the 1945-46 harvest. Mr. Teasdale then points out that the values of the allocations over the first five-year period under the proposal embodied in the bill will be as follows: - Home-consumption flour, £20,000,000 ‘r stock feed, breakfast food, malting, £17,500,000; export wheat or flour,. £19,787,500, making a ‘ total sum of £57,287,500, which is to be- withheld from the industry during the first five-year period. Those figures further refute thestatement by the Government that its plan is- supported by the growers. We all realize that the growers want a stabilization scheme, one that is related to farming costs, as we do, but I should prefer to see a much wider scheme paying more attention to detail than is paid in this bill. When the Constitution alteration, bills were being considered by the Senaterecently, I referred to what the farmers could expect from the Government if they agreed to the marketing proposals at the forthcoming referendum. I pointed out that, if the 1945-46 crop were included in the stabilization scheme, the growerswould be mulct of approximately £15,000,000. According to the newspapers, action is to be taken in the High Court to test the validity of,this proposal. That was inevitable, because. the Government has no right to include that cropin the. scheme. The wheat industry has: suffered more than any other industry during- the depression years as the result of droughts and low prices, and therefore it has more claim than any other industry upon the- generosity of the people. As the result of the Government’s action in including the 1945-46 crop in the stabilization scheme, the average small wheat-grower will suffer a loss of approximately £250.
– On what basis does the honorable senator make that calculation ?
– The .calculation is very simple. If the honorable senator were busier with his pencil than he is with his tongue he could make it himself. ‘ The Government is indicted by its own action in taking this money from growers who are in dire need of financial assistance to keep them in the industry. The only method proposed by the Government for creating a stabilization fund is that- of using the farmers’ - money. The bill contains no provision for payments by the Government until such time as (he world parity price may fall below a certain figure. There is a very slim chance of such a reduction occurring within the next four or five years. The Government could establish a fund by doing what I have already suggested, namely, by paying into the pool the difference between the price of wheat used for stock-feed and the world parity price. That would- be much more satisfactory than compelling the growers to create the fund entirely ‘with their own money. At this stage, I refer to some of the remarks made by Senator 0’Flaherty regarding the return to the farmers of the balance remaining in the fund at the conclusion of the scheme. In the first place, I point out to the honorable senator that nothing in the bill will give to the farmers legal equity in the balance of the fund. As soon as their money is paid into the fund they will lose all control over it; they will have no right or title to claim refunds. Therefore, I view askance Senator O’Flaherty’s suggestion that it is customary for such funds to be distributed to contributors upon the termination of their respective schemes. I do not know whether the honorable senator made his statement with the concurrence of the Government. It may indicate his idea of what should happen, hut there is no provision in the bill to give effect to the wish. The farmers will relinquish all claim- to their money as soon as it. is paid into the fund; just as will be the case with regard to the 5 per cent, levy to be made on all wool produced in Australia. That happened with respect to the £7,000,000 fund established under the war-time’ system of the organization of the disposal of wool.
– The £10,000,000 . fund.
– It may have increased to £10,000,000 by now. The wool producers will not receive any of that money. The world trend of wheat prices gives the Government no cause for pessimism regarding the future. We all recall what happened after World War I., when wheat prices remained at high levels from 1918 until the first shades of the financial depression fell in 1929. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the export parity price will be fairly high for the next five years at least. Judging by the prices to be paid to Canadian growers as the result of the recent agreement between Canada and the United Kingdom - and I have yet to learn of any agreement which failed to exact the full value of the wheat concerned - the world parity price will range from lis. a bushel clown to’ 7s. 6d. a bushel. In view of this, the Minister’s naive statement, that the Government will guarantee a return to growers of 5s. 2d. a bushel at ports if the world price falls’ below that level, is completely meaningless. Indications throughout the world are that there will be no need for the Government to place any strain on its alleged generosity by making good its promise.
The bill provides for the appointment of a new Australian Wheat Board. As a representative of Western Australia, I protest against the intention to appoint only one grower-representative from that State. . It is reasonable to assume that, in the very near future, Australia will be producing wheat at the rate that prevailed during the good year of 1940, when total production was approximately 200,000,000 bushels. I realize that there . is. not much- chance of reaching that total this year on account of the very serious drought’ conditions in the mother State of New South “Wales. Nevertheless, the urge for extra production to feed the hungry peoples of the world should increase Australia’s total, output to the 200,000,000 bushels mark very soon. In 1940, Western Australia produced over 40,0.00,000 bushels, New South Wales 75,000,000 bushels and South Australia approximately 40,000,000 bushels, whilst Victoria had a relatively lean year. In view of Western Australia’s export contribution to that total, it is entitled to have at least two members of the board elected by the growers themselves. At the committee stage I shall move an amendment to rectify this state of affairs. Clause 21 of the bill refers to the creation of a Wheat Industry Stabilization Board, ft provides for the board to be appointed by -the Commonwealth Government and the State governments. Very little imagination is required to prophesy what will happen. The State governments, with one exception, are of the same political faith as the present Commonwealth Government. Obviously, nominees to the Stabilization Board will be political nominees. I suggest that the members pf the Stabilization Board be elected by. the State Parliaments, sitting as one. body. We should then achieve fair representation for the wheat-growers instead of having foisted upon us a group of Trades Hall nominees, as happened when the Government appointed a tailor to be vicechairman of the Australian Meat Board. We need the services of ;men versed in the production, the sale, or the handling of wheat so that the industry will be in safe keeping. We need prac-‘ tical men, because the board will have a most difficult task to perform. I hope that the Government will carry out my suggestion. I shall reserve my further comments until the bill is in committee.
.- I have great pleasure in supporting this measure, because it has my absolute approval. I should like legislation of this kind to be applied, as far as. possible, to rural industries other than wheat production. I am disturbed somewhat by the fact that, ‘although a great deal of work has been accomplished by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) in his lengthy negotiations with representatives of the industry in the various States, in order to introduce a stabilization scheme, and although both Houses of the Parliament may accept the measures whole-heartedly, there is a grave possibility that some of the States may object to it, thus rendering the bill valueless. I do not anticipate action of that kind, but we had a similar experience in connexion with the last referendum with regard to proposed alterations of the Constitution. When representatives of the governments of the Commonwealth and the States, together with leaders of the Opposition in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments, met in conference in Canberra to consider the necessity for alterations of the Constitution, it was generally agreed that legislation .’should be passed providing for certain alterations; but, unfortunately, all the Parliaments of the States did not carry out their undertaking, and consequently this Parliament was’ unable to give effect to its wishes regarding many problems confronting the people of this country. ‘
Senator Allan MacDonald has made a lengthy survey of the history of the industry as other honorable senators have done, but no good can result from tactics of that kind. The industry has experienced many ups and downs, and frequently the growers have been disappointed at the poor results obtained from their labour. Honorable senators opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLe’ay), have failed to advance wellfounded objections to this bill, or to suggest other means of stabilizing the industry. The Leader of the Opposition remarked that for years he had hoped that stabilizing legislation would be passed. He now has an opportunity to support such legislation, but his contention is that “ the time is not yet ripe “. Is there any serious disagreement with the principle of stabilizing the ‘industry,’ or does the Senate favour a continuance of fluctuating prices for wheat and wheat lands? The overwhelming opinion of the people of this country is that stabilization is essential.
– But not nationalization.
– The bill does not make provision for nationalization .of the industry. It guarantees a price of at least 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports, for five years, for all bagged wheat consumed within Australia. I shall not discuss whether that is a fair price. If it is not, the matter could be adjusted at some, other time, but we should decide now in favour of the general principle of stabilization. l:n the interests of the economy of Australia, as well as of the thousands of wheat-growers, the price to be received for their product should be known and guaranteed for a definite period. Thegrowers are entitled to be placed on a proper business footing. Honorable senators opposite say that the farmers should receive world parity prices for their wheat, but could the economy of this country afford the payment of 10s. a bushel for wheat indefinitely? Honorable senators opposite must realize that the price of wheat, though high at present, may eventually fall to 3s. a bushel. Is it not better for the growers to know that for five years they will have a minimum return of 5s. 2d. a bushel ? Do honorable senators opposite consider that price to be inadequate? Even if they do, that would not be sufficient to justify their opposition to the bill.
This is the most important measure that has been presented to the Parliament for a long period. It is of the utmost importance that the wheat industry should be stabilized, so that serious fluctuations of the prices of farming land and machinery shall, be prevented. I believe that this measure will be welcomed by the growers. In view of the approaching general elections, some honorable senators will be tempted to advocate the payment of a higher price for wheat than that proposed in the bill. Perhaps the growers will be told that they should be paid 9s. a bushel for their product, But honorable senators opposite must admit that the price of 5s. 2d. a bushel, which will be guaranteed for five- years, is sufficient to provide a reasonable return.
– What guarantee have the growers that they will receive os. 2d. a bushel after 1950?
– The Government desires to guarantee the payment of that price ovc:- a fairly lengthy period.
– That is noi stated in the bill. Will the honorable senator support an amendment to provide that the suggested price shall be paid for ten years?
– The Government has gone to great pains to- reach an understanding with the representatives of the industry, and it would be wrong for me to suggest that the guarantee should operate for ten years. Personally, I should like the’ industry to enjoy stabilized conditions for 50 years. I should regret a recurrence of the conditions that prevailed in the industry some y’ear3 ago. After the growers had been receiving good prices, the price of wheat lands rose sharply. Farmers put their sons on land purchased at high prices, and, when the price of wheat fell, many of the settlers suffered financial ruin. The object of government control of the industry is to bring about stabilized conditions in the interests of both the wheat-growers and the economy of the country.
– Security of that kind is. not- provided for in thi? bill.
– If the honorable senator can indicate .how greater security could be ensured, I shall support him. Much time has been spent in an endeavour to reach an understanding between the wheat-growing interests in the various States, as to the future of the industry, in order to formulate a common policy. If this Parliament had complete power in industrial matters, it could possibly formulate a stabilization scheme which would be an improvement on that for which the bill provides ; but the wheatgrowers have discussed the present proposals, and apparently the bill is generally acceptable to them. It would be wrong foi- honorable senators opposite to argue that the industry should be assisted in a manner that would be uneconomic. 2 know that the wheat-growers have experienced difficult times, but under modern methods of production many of them will do quite well if they receive 5s. 2d. a bushel for their crop. As to those growers who are engaged in wheat production in marginal areas, it would be in the interests of the nation to transfer them to land on which they could be reasonably sure, of satisfactory yields. This bill contains the first concrete proposal to ensure economic security to the wheat-farmers.
I have no desire to sit in judgment of previous governments or of honorable senators opposite. I believe that every honorable senator desires to do what he* thinks best for the wheat industry, but, unfortunately, the judgment of honorable senators opposite in matters of this kind is not always sound. ‘ My experience is that every proposal for the permanent improvement of conditions in rural industries has emanated from persons associated with the Labour movement. I have already said that one. of the most important results of the passing of this legislation will be the stabilization of wheat prices. In addition to fixing the price to be paid for wheat, we should fix the prices of farm machinery. I’ know chat Senator James McLachlan and some other honorable senators on the ‘other aide of the chamber may say that that would be nationalization, but I submit that if conditions in secondary industries are controlled in the interests of those industries, and of the country as a whole, there are strong reasons for applying the same principle to other sections of industry. It is no great compliment to’ this Parliament, which represents the whole of. the people of Australia, that some branch of a State legislature may upset legislation passed by the National Parliament.
– If it is upset, it will be only because it does not.go far enough.
– I have no desire to discuss anything beyond the scope of the bill, but I may be permitted to .say that I hope that the day is not far distant when thi3 Parliament will have the power to legislate in the best interest of the country in spheres in which it now cannot do so. As I have said, it is not right that a State Legislative Council, which, is not elected on an adult franchise, should by rejecting complementary legislation be able to upset legislation passed by this Parliament. Any reasonable amendments proposed by the Opposition will receive the usual con sideration in committee. I remind the Senate that some able representatives of the Labour movement in this Parliament are engaged in rural pursuits, and have given to the Government the benefit of their practical knowledge of wheatgrowing. The bill has also been widely discussed by many wheat-growers. I have not yet heard one really sound argument against the principles underlying the bill. I have heard, of course, the general statement that wheat-growers are not being given a fair deal because the 1945-46 crop is covered by the bill. Honorable senators will admit that a start must be made somewhere, and that it is better to start when wheat ‘prices are high than when they are low.- I challenge any practical wheat-grower to show that 5s. 2d. a bushel is not a reasonable price to be paid for his . wheat, particularly when that price is to continue for several years.
– Five shillings and two pence f.o.r. ports is only about 4s. 2d. a bushel at sidings.
– In many instances, the charges to be deducted from the 5s. 2d. will be less than ls. a bushel. Unfortunately, nien engaged in the strenuous work associated with primary, production have not been protected by awards as have their fellow workers in the more settled areas. I believe “that every industry should be established on a business footing, and that conditions should be such as to provide reasonable profits to those engaged in the industry and fair wages for their employees.
– There is nothing to that effect in the bill.
– That is what is in the mind of the Government.- Unless conditions in rural industries are improved, sufficient labour will not be -available in country districts. I am keen to see improved conditions for all who live and work in country districts. I know well that the man on the land has to face many burdens which the city dweller escapes. For instance, high schools and other educational facilities are close at hand to the city dweller, whereas the man in the country who wishes to give his children a good education is handicapped through lack of schools and colleges close at hand. Great sacrifices have to be made by many country people to give their children opportunities equal to those within much easier reach of city dwellers. This measure will remove wheat-growing from the field of speculation, and give to primary producers a security more permanent than anything that has been offered to them hitherto. Should experience prove that this legislation is not sufficiently liberal to meet the needs of wheat-growers, there is provision in it for a review to be made from time to time. Therefore, should the occasion warrant further action, there is nothing to prevent that action from being taken. It may be said that the present Government will not always be in office, but I shall support proposals designed to benefit country dwellers whenever they come before the Senate, regardless of the source from which they emanate.
– In committee the honorable senator will have a chance tq honour that ‘undertaking.
– The working conditions of those connected with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and’ a number of other companies are an example to industry ‘ generally. I do. not know the conditions which obtain in the industries with which Senator Leckie is interested, but I am sure that the honorable senator will agree with me that workers in any industry should enjoy reasonably good conditions, so that they may live’ honourable and useful lives. I therefore expect Senator Leckie, to support the bill. I know that at election time honorable senators sitting in Opposition think that they should take a stand against, the government of the day, but I believe that on this occasion there is no real opposition to the bill before the Senate. So far, I have not heard any, sound argument’ against it. I know that for political reasons some- persons in the community have misled the farmers in the past, but althought it may be possible to fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, it is not possible to fool all the people all the time. Therefore, I am confident that the large body of primary producers engaged in wheat growing will accept this , measure, knowing that it will give to them the security for which they have been seeking for a long time. If I believed in recriminations, I could say a great deal regarding the treatment qf primary producers by, previous governments, and of the sufferings and hardship that they have endured, but I shall not do so. I support the bill in the belief that it will do .much to improve the lot of wheatgrowers, and I confidently look to honorable senators opposite to give it their support.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I ask the Opposition not to be led astray by the pro”paganda that is being indulged in at present, particularly in wheat-growing districts, with the object of causing confusion in the minds of wheat-growers. Honorable senators opposite made a great mistake some time ago when they voted against the Government’s Constitution alteration legislation, which is designed to enable the people of this country to clothe the Commonwealth Government with wider powers ‘to deal with many national problems. The Australian Country party particularly made a great mistake in that regard. I understand that, at present, much of the opposition to this measure is based upon the suggestion .that a poll should be taken amongst wheat-growers to. ascertain whether or not- they approve the Government’s plan. I suggest that if Australian Country party members wish to place themselves in credit with ‘ the primary producers of this country, this is an excel]ent opportunity for them to do so by taking a real step towards establishing one of our greatest agricultural indus.tries upon a firm financial basis.
– A referendum was not needed to adopt the sugar agreement.
– Unfortunately time will not permit me. to discuss the sugar industry, although it would give me a great deal of pleasure to deal with the organization and control of that industry, which, I think, is an excellent example to all primary industries.
– The sugar agreement is in operation now.
– A referendum was not necessary to permit the adoption of the sugar agreement.
– That is so; but it largely affects only the State of Queensland,’ and it was not difficult to secure an agreement between that State and the Commonwealth.
– The agreement also includes New South Wales.
– To a very minor degree. I submit that the Senate should support this measure. I ask honorable senators to do so because I believe that the bill is in the best interests of wheat-growers. It provides for the preservation over a period of five years of a price of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r., at ports, bagged, for all wheat consumed within Australia ; and a’ guarantee by the Government of a minimum price for export wheat of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r., at ports, bagged. I emphasize that that is m minimum price. -The actual price that the grower will receive would exceed that figure considerably.
– It would exceed lis. a bushel.
– Order! The honorable senator must address the Chair.
– I regret that I Iia ve been diverted from my main argument by the remarks of honorable senators opposite, but I point out that half of whatever price is received for export, wheat in excess of 5s. 2d. a bushel will be paid into a pool and will remain the property of the growers. It will be held on their behalf, and will be paid back to them should the price of export wheat fall below 5s. 2d. a bushel. Should the fund become exhausted in any .one year, the Government, under its guarantee, will provide out of general revenue the’ funds necessary to bring the export -price up to “is. 2d. a bushel. It may be that the world price of wheat for a number of years will be approximately 9s. or 10s. a bushel ; but nothing has been said regarding the dire needs of the Mother
Country and other nations in which there is a shortage of food to-day. I am sure that all honorable senators will agree that some consideration should be given to providing ‘wheat for the people of Great Britain at as low a price as possible, as a token of our appreciation of their wonderful work and sacrifices during the war.
– The United Kingdom is “ riot getting Australian wheat at all.
– All the wheat is exported through Great Britain.
– But it does not go to the people of the United Kingdom.
– That is at the. request of the British Government.
– For the 1945-46 crop the Government proposes that the growers will be paid 5s. 2d. a bushel on export wheat, plus 2s. 2d., plus the excess of the export returns “over 9s. 6d. Under this arrangement, it is calculated that for all sales - export and local - growers will receive 6s. 7d. a bushel f.o.r., at ports, bagged. For- the first time, the wheat industry of this country is being placed upon a sound business footing, and I trust that the Opposition will support the measure.
.- This measure must be examined in the light of present-day circumstances; but, first, I should like to make it clear that, whatever I may say about this legislation, I have no wish to detract from any credit that is due to the Government. I . believe that the Government is making an honest attempt to do something that is really necessary; but, as usual, it misunderstands the problem altogether. Senator Courtice - admitted that in all probability the world price of wheat during the next five years - the period of operation of this alleged stabilization scheme - will be much higher than the guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel. I think he’ mentioned 9s. as an approximate figure. Therefore, the wheat-growers of Australia can say to the Government, “ Thank you for nothing”. In effect, the Government is shutting the stabilization door” after the wheat has escaped. The fact that included in this scheme is the 1945-46 crop which already has been sold at a high price, indicates that the plan presents problems that seem to be almost insurmountable. Not the least of the problems is how to justify to the wheatgrowers of Australia the payment of a guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel when the price in the open market will be 8s. or 9s. a bushel over the five-year period.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that dairymen should have to pay lis. a bushel for bran and pollard?
– Like the price of bread, the price of bran and pollard for st’ock feed is entirely divorced from the immediate problems of the wheat-grower. If it is necessary to sell stock feed or bread at prices lower than their cost of production, that is a burden that should be shouldered by the whole community, and not merely by the wheat-growers. It can be seen, therefore, that there are many difficulties associated with this scheme which the Government is endeavouring to persuade the wheat-growers is generous, and will place the industry on a stable basis. Anyone with business experience knows that, in view of world condition’s a five-year .stabilization plan. is a fake. If the Government proposed to stabilize the price of wheat over a long term of years it might be a different story; but to select a period of five years during which the price of wheat undoubtedly will be high, is absurd. The plan is supposed to benefit the wheatgrowers.
– And not the merchants; that is what hurts the Opposition.
– If the plan concerns the wheat-growers why have they not been consulted about it? “Why havethey not been asked whether they agree to it.
– They have agreed to it.
– No. There are between 60,000 and 70,000 wheat-growers in Australia, and I venture to suggest that if there has been any consultation at all, only a very small proportion of that number have had. anything to say in the matter.
– Did the wheatgrowers agree to the scheme propounded by the Government of which the honorable senator was a member ? s
– The “ twoan dtenpenny plan “.
– Nothing could be more misleading than the remarks of honorable senators opposite about the alleged “ two-and-tenpenny plan “. The scheme to which they refer provided for a first advance of 2s. lOd. a bushel, with the remainder- of the money owing to be paid later. For _ honorable senators to endeavour to “ put across “ the story that” -we- on this side of the chamber ever attempted to introduce a wheat plan providing for the payment of 2s. lOd. a bushel, is not playing the game. We must bear in mind that in 1.939-40 costs of production were much less than they arctoday. In any case, it is not necessary to go back’ to our scheme or to anybody else’s’ scheme. We are considering the plan that the Government has put before us.
– The honorable senator’s scheme has a sticky past.
– This one certainly has a sticky future. When the wheatgrowers of Australia realize that they are being bamboozled under the scheme, they will speak in no uncertain terms. The scheme has various facets which we must examine. First, the Commonwealth and the States must take a part in the job. “Under the measure a Stabilization Board is to be set up consisting of a representative of the Commonwealth as chairman and a representative of each of the States. Those representatives will be appointed not by the wheat-growers but by the governments concerned. Thus, in respect of stabilization, apart from the buying and selling of wheat, the future of the growers will repose in a Stabilization Board in the election- of the members of which the growers will not have a single voice. That board will have the duty of regulating and controlling the production of wheat by the licensing of growers, the registration of land on which wheat may be grown, and by other means. Therefore,’ disregarding the ridiculous offers made to the grower under this scheme, he will not be able to .carry on his business as a free man. In addition to bearing all the disadvantages of the scheme, he is to be restricted in respect of the amount of wheat he may grow and the acreage on which he may grow wheat. I should have thought that in a world hungry for wheat, in a world in which Senator Courtice has said that the price of wheat will be anything up to 9s. or 10s. a bushel for the next five years, the Government would say to the growers, “’ The sky is the limit. We can get those high prices for your wheat; and if we can feed a hungry world during the next five years there will .be no need for any restriction whatever on the production of wheat “. The bill contains several attractive clauses. Honorable senators opposite argue that under it the price of wheat will be stabilized, and the grower will be assured of receiving 5s. 2d. a bushel. In normal times, that might have been an attractive proposition to the growers, because under such conditions the Government would have been taking some risk in guaranteeing that price. If it guaranteed “>s. 2d. a bushel to the growers at a time when the ruling price was low, it would have shown some generosity in making such an offer. But there is no generosity about the proposal embodied ju this .bill, which confines the scheme to a period of five years, during which the price of wheat in all probability will be higher than the guaranteed price. Thus, the measure can be viewed from various viewpoints. I and my colleagues contend that the 1945-46 crop should be excluded from the scheme. We know, of course, that certain litigation is pending in the matter. We know that under the Constitution the Government cannot take the property pf any citizen on other than “just terms”.
– Would not that argument apply to a stabilization scheme commencing next year as well as this year?
– I am not sure that it would, because the 1945-46 crop has already been acquired and sold, and this scheme embraces that crop retrospectively. That crop was made subject to this scheme, immediately following adverse seasons, i;i which growers obtained hardly any crop at all, and when they naturally looked forward to a good season to enable them to recoup their losses to a certain degree. But, now having had that good season , they find that the 1945-46 crop will return them a price of only 5s. 2d. in respect of a portion o/ the crop and a little more than that price for the balance. Therefore, we cannot expect the growers to be satisfied with this proposal. The 1945-46 crop should not be included in this scheme, but the Government is playing safe in the knowledge that in all probability the inclusion of that crop in the scheme will provide «. surplus of £7,000,000. In that way if hopes that the fund will be placed on a firm basis right from the beginning. The Government knows that in all probability, high prices will continue for some time. I believe that South Australia, Western Australia, and portions of New South Wales will have a bumper crop this season. At any rate, let us hope so. However, assuming that I am right, and the next crop is good, and assuming that Senator Courtice is right when he says that high prices will continue, the scheme should show a surplus of about £14,000,000 at the end of the second year. What is to become of that fund, assuming that conditions are favorable for the next five years, and the surplus at the end of that period will be £40,000,000? What provision is made under the bill in that respect? Will that surplus be distributed among the growers? The Minister in his second-reading speech said -
There is a regular change in the industry with old growers retiring and new ones coining in.
– That is because the industry has not been stabilized.
– This scheme will not prevent the retirement of old growers from the industry and the entrance of new growers. The Minister’s statement’ that old growers are going out of the industry and new ones are coming in is correct. That is all the more reason why the people who will grow the wheat during the next five years will want-to know who is to get the “kitty” at the end of the period of five years. I repeat that the proposed scheme is not a stabilization scheme at all. It is a scheme for five years, during which high prices will prevail.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– That is the general opinion among those who know something about the industry based on its experience in similar circumstances. Iri addition, we know that Canada has already sold its wheat crop for the next five years at high prices’. Therefore, one is not over-optimistic in believing that the price will be high in the future, particularly when we know that the conditions during the next five years will not be normal, because it will take the world at least. that period to return to the normal production of food. After a long period during which the grower has had a bad time, and is now looking for relief, the Government, under the bill, presumes .to offer him a light in the darkness as it were. This scheme is to lead him out of the darkness into -the dawn. I am afraid that the bill offers the grower only a false dawn, and that ‘instead of being gratified with the scheme, he will scratch his head and wonder, despite, all the hifalutin- talk he has heard about stabilization of the industry, whether he is going to come out of .it on the right side financially or whether he is going to be robbed.
– He had to scratch his head after the last period of high prices.
– The honorable senator himself said that during the next five years the price of wheat will probably be from 9s. to 1.0s. a bushel. I repeat that those engaged in the industry should be allowed to manage it. Those who are actually engaged in the industry, and depend on it for a living, are best qualified to manage it.
– The merchants have controlled the industry long enough.
– That is a catchcry which one expects to hear on the Yarra Bank. The -wheat-growers are pretty shrewd. Whenever I have, made contact with primary producers who have banded together’ for the purpose of selling their product, whether it be wheat or any other .product, I have noticed that they conduct their business’ with a degree of shrewdness which some honorable senators would be glad to emulate had they the ability to do so. The production of wheat is the business of the grower, and he should know something about the industry. I understand that the Government purposes to appoint a body to inquire .into the cost of growing wheat. I have had” some experience on the land, and I am a little doubtful as to how any body of investigators can arrive at an average cost of producing wheat throughout Australia having regard to the good land with a yield of 30 bushels to the acre and marginal lands with their very low yield.
– The honorable senator admits that it is a difficult job?
– Yes; and I want honorable senators to realize that if any average of cost of production be struck, say, for instance, 5s. 2d. a bushel, or any other price, the payment of such a price will give to the grower on good wheat land in assured rainfall areas what will be, in effect, a bonus. . The result will be to boost the value of his land “ sky-high “. It will not help a man who cannot produce wheat at a cost of less than 9s. or 10s. a bushel. How can the cost of production be determined when rainfall, soil, and other conditions, such as proximity to railways, vary so - greatly over the whole of Australia? I am very sceptical about. the success, of the project. The wheat-growers are not being offered anything of value to them, and they should hesitate before they accept a scheme of this sort. In any case, they should have been consulted first, because the scheme will affect them primarily. We believe that, before this bill becomes law, the- stabilization plan should be submitted to a poll of wheat-growers. What is the Government’s objection to that? The suggestion is fair enough. The people who are most intimately concerned with the scheme should be given the right to say whether they will accept it or not.
– Yet the honorable senator is opposed to the Government’s referendum proposals!
– Yes, because many people besides the wheat-growers will be voting at the referendum. Of course, everybody who eats bread is affected by the scheme, because the wheat from which dour will be made to make bread will be sold to the millers at 5s. 2d. a bushel. However, the onus of supplying that wheat to the millers at 5s. 2d. .a bushel should not rest on the wheat-growers. When any body of men is called upon to make sacrifices that the community as a whole should, bear, there is bound to be dissatisfaction. As Senator Allan MacDonald has said, the States of Western Australia and South Australia will not be granted the measure of representation on the Australian Wheat Board to which their production of wheat entitles them. Production in those States is increasing and will continue to do so. They are already producing as much wheat as Victoria, and almost as much as New South Wales. Therefore, in fairness, they should be given equal representation on the board with Victoria and New South Wales. There- are conditions in Western Australia and South Australia which do” not apply to the other States, and it is important that they should have a. strong influence on the scheme. We believe that the price at which the board should sell wheat for flour for home consumption should be the average cost of producing wheat, plus a reasonable profit, such a price to be determined from time to time by a rural industries board. I read in a newspaper to-day an announcement that the Government would set up a board of that kind. We believe that all sales effected by the Australian Wheat Board, except for the manufacture of flour, should be made at the export parity price. Recently, wheat has been sold in Australia at greatly reduced prices. Wheat for bread has been sold at 5s. 2d. a bushel, “for power alcohol, at 3s. lid. a bushel, for gin at 3s. 11¼d. a bushel, and for pig feed at 3s. lOd. a bushel. I do not question the wisdom of selling wheat ‘for those purposes at those prices, but the wheat concerned belonged to the wheatgrowers, not to the Government, and the differences between those prices and the export parity price should not have been made a charge against the growers. It is utterly unfair to make the expense of a scheme such as is proposed in this bill a charge against the growers.
We believe that the scheme should remain, in force for not less than ten years. Personally, I consider that it should continue in operation ‘ for a much longer period. ‘Of course, there .can be no permanency about a scheme of this sort, because governments change and schemes can be rescinded, but the fixing of a longer period would show the growers that an ‘honest attempt was being made to guarantee the security of their industry not only during a few years of high prices but also during the years of low prices which must follow. We also believe that restrictions on the production of wheat should be abolished immediately. This, sort of _ control is repugnant to us, although the Labour party believes in restriction. It lacks a broad outlook, and as soon as it comes to power it seeks to exercise its authority in this way.
– That is impossible so far as the honorable senator, is concerned.
– I do not mind being under control when I am being fairly controlled. For instance, I do not mind being controlled ‘ by the President, because I know that he will deal fairly with me. I am seeking to improve this bill. While it remains in its present form, the wheat-growers can say to the Government, “Thank you for nothing”. I give credit to the Government for having good intentions, but anybody who examines the measure from an unbiased point of view in the light of existing circumstances must agree that the stabilization scheme is a robbers’ scheme.
– And yet the honorable senator wants to extend its operation for ten years ! ‘
– The honorable ‘ senator seeks to gain an advantage from one point in my argument. I did not say that the price of wheat would remain as high as 9s. or 10s. a bushel for ten years: What I said, and my contention is supported by the remarks of Senator Courtice and by the opinions of experts in Canada and Great Britain, was that the price of wheat would remain high for five years. In fairness to the growers, the Government should assure them that, during a further five-year . period,. when prices may be low, they will continue to receive the guaranteed price proposed in the bill. Failing Such a provision, the scheme will not be accepted with satisfaction by the growers. Furthermore, considering that the scheme will embrace the 1945-46 crop, which has already been sold at high prices, the growers will certainly say to the Government, “ Thank you for nothing “. I have endeavoured to point out certain weaknesses in the bill, and one of the greatest of these is the time limit on the operation of the scheme. The Labour party will endeavour to persuade the wheat-growers particularly at election time, that the bill is designed to safeguard their interests. If the people believe that it will be to the advantage of the growers to have a guaranteed price “ of 5s. 2d. a bushel for the next five years only, when, as everybody knows, the price of wheat will be about 8s. or 9s. a bushel, then I wonder whether there is any limit to their gullibility. I do not condemn the Government for introducing this bill. I believe that it has tried to do a good thing, but unfortunately it has not consulted the people who understand the wheat-growing industry.’ It has run amok on its pet subject of restrictions. Apparently it visualizes that for the next five years, and probably foi ever afterwards, it will ensure that no more wheat is produced in Australia than is grown at the present time. For the sake of Australia, for the sake of the growers who could benefit from the high prices now prevailing, and in the interests of the starving peoples of the world, I say to the Government : “ Remove all restrictions and let the people grow as much wheat as they can grow, so that Australia may do its duty to the rest of the world “. The Government fulsomely proclaims from the house-tops that this is a generous scheme which will put the wheat-growers on their feet. However, the people of Australia, having heard some of the reasons why the scheme is not good and having been told how the growers are being duped, will look askance at all government schemes to drag the primary producers into pools - “muddy pools” from which they will not be able to extricate themselves. Whilst I agree -generally that the prices of the pro- ducts of industries of this kind should be stabilized, I say again that the great fault I find with this bill is that the people concerned have not been consulted, and will have very little to do with the operation of the scheme.
– They will be able to give their answer on the, 28th September next.
– The honorable senator seems to think that this bill is an election winner. If the honorable senator believes that the people will decide the result of the coming elections on a “ dud “ scheme of this nature, he is more optimistic than I am. He can afford to be optimistic, because he has not to submit himself to the electors on this’ occasion. I should be quite content if the1 people of Victoria ‘ judged me on what I have said to-hight concerning this hill. I have made my points without venom, and I claim that I have advanced cogent arguments which call for a reply from honorable senators opposite. If the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) who is unavoidably absent had been present this’ evening, 1 probably should not have spoken on this measure, but I can see the weakness of the scheme from a business point of view. Although the Government is entitled to credit for good intentions regarding the. wheat industry, it has failed to deal with the problem, as it. should have done.
– I, like Senator Courtice, welcome any bill that promises to bring stability to the primary producers of this country. This measure will stabilize the wheat industry of Australia for at least five years, and if it operates successfully, as I believe it will, there is no reason why it should not continue indefinitely, with the necessary amendments that would need to be made as times and conditions changed. It is desirable to trace the history of the industry in recent years. Prior to the war the wheat-farmers of Australia were in a perilous position. I do not lay the blame for that at the door of the government of the day. The first move of that government was to introduce a flour tax, which fell heavily on those who had the largest farms. Then a wheat scheme was introduced. The wheat in the No. 1 pool did not yield the return indicated by Senator Leckie. The price obtained was 2s. 9.9d. a bushel, and, after deductions had been made for freight, the grower got only a little over 2s. a bushel. In the No. 2 pool, the first advance was 2s. lOd. a bushel, and a later- payment brought the price to 3s. Bid: a bushel; but, after freight and other charges had been deducted, the grower received little, if any, more than 3s. a bushel.
The Government- of the day was forced against its wish to do something to assist the industry, and pressure was brought on it to that end. That is indicated by the remarks of the political leaders of the day. I do not refer to Government supporters . on the back benches, but to Ministers, including the then Prime Minister. In order to show that they did. not think that the growers -were entitled to the assistance which the present Government is offering to them, I shall remind honorable senators of some of the remarks of those leaders. In 1936, .the late Mr. Lyons declared -
The time had gone when subsidies and bounties should be given to help the primary industries.
Two years later, the then “Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), who is alao an ex-Prime Minister, stated -
I make it clear that the inescapable defence obligations, of the Commonwealth render special grants to the wheat-growers impossible.
That statement was made in 193S, when the growers were getting a ‘ return of about 2s. a bushel. Subsequently, another political leader who became Prime Minister - I refer to the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) - said - i
We cannot continue to provide large sums of public money to support the wheat-growers while they go on producing unsaleable grain. Such procedure would be .demoralizing and unsound.
– That is perfectly true.
– The honorable senator endorses the opinion which I have quoted. The Menzies-Fadden Administration introduced the first scheme for the control of wheat production and for the registration of the growers. Let us consider the composition of the board which was appointed in connexion with the wheat pools and the licensing of the growers. It comprised a chairman, three representatives of the merchants, two representatives of pooling interests, one representative of the bulk handling authorities, one representative of the organized growers and one representative of the unorganized growers. The last mentioned of course, represented himself and nobody else. So the board established by the government of the day included only one representative of the growers. That was the position on the 21st September, 1939, but on the 22nd November, two months later, a representative of the millers was added to the board..
Senator Leckie remarked that the growers were shrewd men, and quite capable of handling their own wheat business. Is that why the government of the day had only one representative of the wheat-growers on the board? Senator Leckie was supported by no less distinguished an honorable member than the honorable member for Barker (Mr; Archie Cameron), who was once Leader of the Australian. Country party, and has since joined the Liberal party. He confirms the statement that I have made about Senator Leckie not desiring greater representation of the growers on the board. This is what the honorable member for Barker said on the 11th December, 1940 -
It is a pretty piece of impudence on the part of representatives of the growers to contend that the farmers should direct the operations of the scheme.
Despite that statement, the Opposition now clamours for more grower representatives on the board.
The Scully plan was introduced in 1942-43. The crop for that year wa3 then already sown, and the Australian “Wheat Board had quite a different composition. The growers had seven representatives. Instead of receiving 2s. lOd. a bushel as a first advance, and after deductions had been made, getting a little over 3s. a bushel, they were paid under the Scully plan 43. . a bushel at country sidings as a first advance. That was the price paid for the first 3,000 bushels produced by the farmer. For the remainder of the wheat there was an advance of 2s. at country sidings, and a later advance which gave the farmer the pool price. We find that in Nos. 6, 7 and 8 pools the wheat was marketed under the Scully plan. In No. 8 pool the non-quota wheat was raised to 3s. .a bushel at sidings. I’m the No. 9 pool the growers received 4s. 4d. a bushel at sidings. Thus it will be seen that the position of the growers considerably improved as the years passed. A little later the honorable member for Barker, speaking in the House of Representatives, making a .plea on behalf of the wheatgrowers, said that he had sold thousands of bushels of wheat at ls. 4d. a bushel. At the time when he sold wheat at that price he was a responsible member of this Parliament, and was supposed to be a representative of wheat-growers and other primary producers in South Australia.
From various sources there came great praise of the Labour party for the way that it had tackled the problem and had given stability to the industry. It is interesting to note that the honorable member for Barker who at one time was the Leader of the Australian Country party and has held the office of Minister for Commerce, speaking in the House of Representatives on the 21st March, 1945, said -
It is because we went to the country without any policy that we are now in opposition. When the responsibility rested upon us to do what ought to have been done for the wheatgrowers we did not accept it.
Yet the’ honorable member for Barker criticizes this bill and says that it is full of anomalies. When he pleads for more representatives of growers on the board he forgets that when he was a Minister in a previous Government only one representative of .growers on the board was thought necessary. The honorable gentleman admits that the Labour party was returned, to power at the last elections because the Government of the day. lacked the foresight and energy to deal effectively with the wheat industry. I shall give some other quotations in support of the present Government’s wheat plan of 1942-43. No one will say that the Sydney Morning Herald is a constant supporter of the Labour party, yet in that newspaper the following statement appeared on the 9th April, 1945 -
The Ministry has got down to work on problems associated with the future of primary production, in a way undreamt of after the last war.
A trustee of the Australian Natives Association said -
The present Government has done more for the man on- the land than any previous government.
It will be seen that supporters of previous, governments and newspapers which generally do not support the Labour party have praised the present Government for what it has done for the wheatindustry. Mr. Parker, a wheat-grower of Western Australia, as reported in the Wheat Grower of the 23rd July, 1942. said -
I belong to no political party, but I appreciate the good work of the present Government after disheartening attempts to get justice from previous occupants of the Ministerial benches even with a Country party label. .’
Those quotations , illustrate that it was not until a Labour government came into office that the problems associated with the wheat industry were faced. ‘ The Opposition condemns the present plan, which provides for a guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r., 50 per cent, of the price between 5s. 2d. and 9s. 6d. a bushel and also any excess- above 9s. 6d. a bushel. Honorable senators opposite have said that- the Government is robbing the wheat-growers. According to Senator Allan- MacDonald, the Government’s plan will rob them of £5.7,000,000 during the five years that it is to operate, whilst Senator Leckie sets the amount of which they will be deprived atv £40,000,000. The Government is not out to rob the .wheat-growers of one penny. Although Opposition senators complain that the 1945-46 crop should not be included in the plan, and say that the price, of wheat will remain . high for five years, there is no guarantee that that will be so. They have no foundation for their statement. Wheat is a product the yield of which can be increased rapidly.
There are reports that in South Africa, Canada and the United States of America bumper crops are being reaped this year. In Europe also there is a good crop. It is said that the United States of America alone will have a sufficient surplus of wheat, after meeting its own needs, to supply the European deficiency. Canada and South Africa also have huge surpluses. Should Australia have a ,good harvest next season, we may have to look for markets for our wheat. I do not know what the position in Russia is, but as there is a good crop in the rest’ of Europe there is reason to believe that there is a good crop in Russia also. Tt may be that Russia will have a surplus sufficient to meet the needs of the whole of Europe. It will’ be seen, therefore, that before the expiration of the five-year plan, the Government may have to pay a subsidy to farmers to make up the guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel. Opposition senators appear to be greatly concerned about the disposal of any surplus in the fund, but they have not said anything about making up any deficiency that may arise. I remind them that any deficiency would have to be made. up by the Treasury in the form of a subsidy. Opposition senators have complained bitterly about the shortage of wheat in Australia and have laid the blame at the door of the Government. They complain that some farmers are not allowed to grow wheat. Are those who voice these complaints aware of the facts? I shall cite some figures which may enlighten them. The following, table shows the area licensed to grow wheat and the area actually sown with wheat between 1941-42 and 1945-46-
During this debate much has been said regarding the 1945-46 crop, but I emphasize that in that year wheat was not sown on 2,531,211 acres which were licensed to grow wheat. It will be seen that the trouble is not that sufficient land was not licensed to grow wheat, but that the farmers did not sow all the land that could have been planted. For the five years mentioned licences were granted in respect of 9,733,002 acres on which wheat was not sown. In the light of those figures, it is clear that the Government was not to blame for the yield being below expectations. On an average, nearly 2,000,000 acres which, could have been planted were not sown in each of those five years. Drought conditions no doubt contributed in some measure to that result, but’ it is wrong to say, as has been said during this debate, that the shortage of wheat has been due to restrictions placed on wheat-growing by the present Government.
Another criticism which has been offered during the debate was voiced by Senator Leckie when he said that subsidies should have -been paid in respect of wheat sold’ as stock feed. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) suggested that a subsidy ‘ should be paid in respect of all wheat sold for stock feed in the future. What are the facts? In 1941, when No. 4 pool was in operation, £31,496 was paid as subsidies for stock feed. In i the following year; in connexion with No. 5 pool, the .subsidy was £754,632; That returned to the board 3s. 11.247d. a bushel. In 1942-43, in connexion with No. 6 pool, £3,116,230 was paid as subsidy, the return to the board being 5s. 0.610d, a bushel. In 1943-44, during the operation of No. 7 pool, the subsidy paid amounted to £7,869,099, and the return to the board was 6s. 5.5d. a bushel. The total amount paid as subsidies in respect of stock food during those years amounted to £11,771,457.
– To whom was that money paid?
– It was paid to the Australian Wheat Board to maintain the guaranteed price. In addition, the Government paid subsidies on superphosphate amounting to £5,800,000 between 1941-42 and 1945-46. It will be seen from those figures that the subsidies paid by the Treasury in respect of stock feed and superphosphate amounted to £17,571,457. Those figures do not include about 5s. a dozen paid in respect of cornsacks, £4,000,000 for drought relief, and over £1,000,000 compensation in respect of marginal areas’. They do not include the £1,000,000 paid to wheatgrowers on marginal areas as compensation for keeping their land out of wheat production because it was ‘ too poor to grow wheat without superphosphate. In the face of all that, we find that the Opposition is complaining that the Government has not the interests of the wheat-growers at heart. As I have said, the Government has appointed no fewer than seven growers’ ‘ representatives to the board; yet honorable senators opposite apparently are still not satisfied despite the fact that when governments of which they were supporters were in office, a board was appointed with only one grower’s representative, and all efforts to increase that representation were resisted. I cannot see any logic in the arguments of honorable senators opposite. Have they seen the wisdom of the statement of the honorable member for Barker in the House of Representatives that they lost the last elections because of the lack of a definite policy towards the wheat industry? Have they at last come to their senses, and want to do something for the wheat-growers? Have they turned a complete somersault; or are they speaking with their tongues in their cheeks? The wheat-farmers have had experience of both Labour and antiLabour governments. This Government is trying to stabilize the industry. No honorable senator opposite can say today what the world price of wheat will be four years or even three years hence. Nature controls the production of wheat, and we cannot control nature. The size of crops in other parts of the world, affects the value of wheat grown in this country. If European wheatgrowing countries experience two or three bumper harvests, we shall be looking for markets for our wheat,- and the Treasury may be called upon to pay a subsidy to make up the guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel. The Opposition claims that this measure is full of anomalies, and that it will put the wheat-growers of Australia into bondage for five years. Almost in the same breath, however, they argue that the term of the stabilization plan should be extended-from five to ten years.’ In other words, they are saying, “You are putting the wheat-growers into’ bondage for five years. We want them put into bondage for ten years “. No one can say what will be the position five years hence. If this plan works successfully - I believe and hope, that it will, and I think that in their hearts, many honorable senators opposite hope that it will - its operation can be extended and improved. If the anomalies feared by honorable senators opposite do exist - I point out that it was not until a Labour Government assumed office that anomalies in the operation’ of wheat industry schemes inaugurated by anti-Labour governments were rectified - they will find that honorable senators on this side of the chamber will wholeheartedly support any action to eliminate them.
– Most speakers from the Government benches to whom we have listened in this debate have gone to a lot of trouble to delve into the past and tell us what previous governments did.
– What previous governments did not do. - -
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Perhaps that is a better way to put it; but I do not propose to delve into the past at all. 1 shall deal only with the problem now before us. But before doing so,. I point out to honorable senators opposite that whatever promises the Menzies Government made to primary producers,.it honoured.
– Does the honorable senator imply that the Labour Government is not honouring its promises?
– I leave that to the honorable senator. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has pointed out that the Government still owes approximately £G,000,000 or £7,000,000 on various wheat pools. .Senator O’Flaherty claims that approximately £8,500,000 has been distributed amongst wheat-growers by way of drought relief, and subsidies’ on superphosphate, cornsacks, &c. ; but I draw I the attention of the honorable senator to the fact that the sale of wheat for fodder, and the production of gin and power, alcohol, represented a loss of approximately £15,000,000 to wheatfarmers. Allowing for the distribution of the £8,500,000 mentioned by Senator O’Flaherty, that still leaves £6,500,000 owing to the wheat-farmers of Australia. The position is indeed serious when a government of this country has writs issued against it by primary producers’ organizations in respect of money that they claim to be owing to their members, as is the case to-day.
I am not sure whether a measure similar to this and the one that is associated with it have to be passed also by the State parliaments, to ensure the implementation of the scheme, .or whether the State legislatures will have placed before them another bill. I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs “(Senator J.” M. Fraser), in his reply, to make that clear. “We are told that by the end of this year we shall be free of our national security legislation; but I find that three clauses of this bill embody National Security Regulations, and I ask the Minister if these regulations are to be perpetuated under another name.
There is a popular saying that Australia “rides on the sheep’s back”. Whilst I admit that our wool cheque is a substantial factor in the finances of this country, I point out that cerealgrowing, too, has been of considerable value. In the early days, this industry played an important part in our development, and gave us -a place in world trade while we were building up our secondary industries. Throughout the . years, the primary producer of this country has had scant recognition. We have heard a lot About what has been done for him in the last few. years. No doubt, he has been given some help, but, in the main, his occupation has been regarded as somewhat menial. Socially, the squatter and the tradesman have been his superior, and he has been left to fend for himself; yet it is he who provides us with our daily’ bread and, in fact, all our foodstuffs, arid I believe that he is de-erving of much more consideration that he has had in the past.
I propose now to give a resume of wheat-growing in’ Australia. It dates from the earliest days of the colonization of this country. At first, the soil was so fertile that we had excellent yields. The total production, however, was comparatively .small in those days, and the demand was extensive in that the result that prices were high; but it was not long before supply caught up with demand, and Australian wheat had to meet strong competition from cereals grown in other parts of the world. We met that competition very successfully, but farmers in those days laboured under the false impression that they could continue to take the best out of the soil without putting anything back into it. It soon became apparent that yields were becoming less, and that markets were being lost. The result was that farmers ceased to grow wheat; but did they give up farming? They did not. No doubt some farmers in marginal areas were unable to carry on, but those whose holdings were- in good country, increased their dairy herds, bought’ some sheep, and fought on until they realized that the fertility of the soil could be restored by the use of superphosphate. That was done, and everybody knows the outcome. Bags of wheat were reaped where only bushels’ had grown before. The overseas market, at that time, was fairly good and farmers thought that- the mellennium had been reached. They thought that they could grow any- quantity of wheat, and that a market would be found for it, so they gave up other lines of production. But competition from other countries grew stronger, and ‘the demands of the machinery agent became more insistent. The world price of wheat dropped, and for the first time the wheat-farmers had to approach their governments for assistance. What response are the wheatgrowers getting from the Commonwealth Government to-day? In effect, it is saying to them, “ You do not know your business. We intend to control your’ activities and your returns for your labour “. I -take the minds of honorable senators back to the Dalphram case. It has nothing to do with wheat, but it is an excellent illustration’ of present day trends. It will be recalled that a dispute arose over the shipment of pig-iron to J apan. At that time the Lyons Government was in office; and the then Attorney-General, Mr. Menzies, insisted that the metal be . loaded. The work was carried out. About that time the workers called the legislation relating to the registration of waterside workers the “ dog-collar “ act.
If that was a “ dog-collar “ act, this is a “ dog-collar “ act with a chain on it, because the wheat-farmers will never be able to escape from it. Wheat-growers have already experienced some control of their industry, and have enjoyed some benefits from that control ; but we must not forget that it was a war-time measure. Man-power had been depleted and machinery was almost unobtainable. Had it not been, for Providence, Australia would have experienced its worst calamity. In October, 1945, our granaries were depleted, and we were importing wheat to feed our people.’ That has happened only three times in our history. Why did we have to import wheat? Because. there had been government control of the wheat industry - control of acreage. The Government had actually pa-id farmers in Western Australia 12s. 6d. an acre not to grow wheat. The money expended in that way totalled £1,500,000.
– What was the reason.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The Government offered them that money, and they were prepared to take it. T-hey thought it was better to be paid for sitting down and looking at- the. paddocks, than to be paid for working. .In many cases the subsidy coincided with the value of the land. However, as I have said, we have been obliged to import wheat on only two previous occasions, namely in 1913 and 1840 when severe droughts occurred in this country. Incidentally, Canberra’s early history is linked with the occurrence of the drought in 1840. In that year, Australia experienced what may be described as a famine. The government of the day chartered several vessels owned by people named Campbell, who were East Indian merchants, to bring food from overseas. One of those vessels was wrecked in Bass Strait. Following legislation arising from that loss, compensation was paid to the Campbell family part of which was a grant of land at Duntroon. Australia was also obliged to import wheat in the drought of 1913. But in 1945 we were obliged to import wheat solely as the result of maladministration on the part of this Government. There are from 65,000 to 70,000 wheat-growers in Australia at present. .They have called meetings throughout the Commonwealth to consider this scheme. No doubt honorable senators have learned of the decisions of those meetings from press reports, whilst some of us have attended some of those gatherings. At not one of those meetings did the growers by an absolute majority express support for the scheme embodied in the bill. It is safe to say that no legislation introduced into this, or any other, Parliament in Australia does so great- an injustice to one section of the people as does this measure. I criticize the bill on the following eight grounds-: - (1) This scheme is a repudiation of a specific promise made to- the wheat-growers by the Curtin Government ; (2) under the scheme’ the growers will provide an equalization fund which the Government will control; (3) growers who go out of the industry will not be returned part of their capital in the pool, and no compensation in respect of such capital will be paid to the dependants of a grower in the event of his .demise; (4) under the scheme growers will be taxed in order to maintain the price of bread at a low level; (5) growers will be compelled to subsidize the pig, poultry and dairying industries; (6) the scheme will restrict the production of. wheat; (7) the scheme will prevent growers from providing all the food which they are capable of providing to not only our kith and kin in the Old Country but also people in countries which were our allies in the last war; and (S) the scheme seeks to control production throughout the Commonwealth whilst failing to make provision in respect of varying seasonal and climatic conditions. I propose to deal with each of those points.
The late Mr. Curtin, when he was Prime Minister, promised a deputation from the Farmers and Settlers Association that the Government, under any stabilization scheme which it introduced, would not control the crop. Under this measure, the Government seeks to break that promise, and in doing so, of course, it is running true to form. In recent years wheat-growers have experienced severe drought, whilst under war conditions they have’ not been able to obtain sufficient labour on their farms. In many instances the grower has had to employ members of his family in place of hired labourers. Under such conditions, farm equipment has fallen into disrepair, whilst the farmer has been -unable to replace worn-out machinery. The crop in the 1944-45 season was below normal. In view of those facts, surely the wheat-grower is entitled to the prevailing high price for wheat in respect of the 1945-46 crop in order to enable him to recuperate his losses during previous years. Under this scheme he is to provide an equalization fund which will be controlled by the Government. 1 know that honorable senators opposite will say that, under the scheme, production will be controlled by a Stabilization Board consisting of a representative of the Commonwealth and State governments. That is true ; but we must not forget that, five of the State governments at present are pledged to a policy of government control of production, distribution and exchange.
– What is wrong with that?
– That policy is loaded, against the wheatgrower.
– The honorable senator has yet to prove that that is so.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Time will prove me to be right. Under the scheme no provision is made to return capital to growers who go out of the industry, or to the dependants of a farmer in the event of his death. The wheatgrower, in effect, is to be taxed in, order to keep the price of bread at a low level. He has helped in that way to feed hh neighbour. In addition, he has been denied a fair price for wheat purchased by pig and poultry-farmers. Therefore, he has -made a substantial contribution to the welfare of the nation, which should entitle him to some consideration in that respect. No doubt,. 1 shall be told that upon the death of a grower his farm will realize a price sufficient to compensate his dependants for any capital which he cannot reclaim from the pool. But that does not answer the point I make so far as the share-farmer, or the man who is renting a farm, is concerned. If the Government were subsidizing the scheme out of government funds it would have some justification for retaining the money paid into the pool. But the scheme, in fact, will be financed by funds provided by the growers themselves. I should also like the Minister to clarify the position which will arise in respect of crops which are destroyed by fire. The Government claims the crops. The thrifty, careful farmer will insure his crop against fire and other risks. It is not unusual in this country to see valuable wheat crops destroyed by fire in the summer months. Will the Government collect the insurance money or will it allow the grower to do so ? Will the farmer be obliged to pay income tax in respect of the money in the pool in which he has an equity? Those are questions which 1 should like the Minister’ to answer. Under the scheme, the grower will be compelled to forego a fair price for his wheat in order that the price of bread may be maintained at a low level. The maintenance of low prices for foodstuffs is the responsibility of the Government. That responsibility should not be thrown upon any one section in the community. It is estimated that 35,000,000 bushels of wheat will be allocated for home consumption, ‘and 30,000,000 bushels for flour and the production of other foodstuffs. In respect of the latter wheat, the grower will’ be denied 5s. a bushel on the basis of world parity, or a total amount of £7,500,000. Wheatgrowers will also be obliged under the scheme to provide portion of their crop at low prices to the pig, poultry, and dairying industries. Surely, it is the responsiblity of the Government and not of one section of the community to provide concessions needed in order to stabilize other . industries. My next point is that under the scheme production’ will he restricted. Usually, when the Government seeks to help an industry it sets out, not to restrict, but to expand production. . The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said that the object of the scheme was to prevent the expansion of the wheat industry. The Government is paying a subsidy for that purpose. That policy is the reverse of what we’ expect. In order to implement such a policy the Government must restrict either acreage or production. Either of those methods is unfair. That policy pays no regard to the possibility of adverse seasonal conditions. Of the two evils, 1 should prefer the latter, that is, control of production rather than of acreage. , The Minister has told us on more than one occasion that farmers can sow- as much wheat as they like. More recently, we have been informed that wheat can be grown on registered farms only, and that such licences are limited to one year.
– I also said that other farms would be registered temporarily.
– Originally, the Minister stated that farmers could grow as much wheat as they liked, but subsequently we were informed that wheat could be grown only on registered farms. “We have heard a good deal about the board which will be set up under the measure to investigate the cost of producing wheat. The Gepp Commission which investigated this problem in 1936 found that the cost of production throughout Australia ranged from 2s. a bushel to 10s. a bushel. It is almost impossible to determine the real cost of production, having regard to the fact that 12,500,000 acres of land throughout the Commonwealth are sown with wheat. Some of these areas .are from 1,000 to 1,500 miles apart, and land values range from £1 an acre to £12 an acre, whilst the classes of farms range from .the one-man farm to the mechanized farm. In- view of such varying conditions it is almost impossible to determine the . real cost of production. It is useless to say that one body will be able to conduct such an -investigation effectively. Dozens of committees will need to be appointed in order to examine and assess conditions in wheat-growing areas throughout the Commonwealth. The function of a government is to govern. It should not seek to trade on behalf of any industry. The individual wheat-grower can assess his own cost of production. The sponsors of this scheme, apparently, forget that farmers are capable of growing crops other than wheat. Most wheat-farmers grow feed for sheep, cows and poultry. The thrifty farmer is always . ready to engage in other phases of production, having regard to.his resources. I am certain that if the Government found adequate markets for our primary products, reduced direct and indirect taxes on the wheat-grower, reviewed’ the import duties on farm machinery, assured the farmer of adequate water supplies and, where possible, provided electric power and amenities comparable with those enjoyed by residents of the cities, the average farmer .would remain on the land, and would have no difficulty in assessing his cost of production. I shall show what the cost of this scheme will be to the farmers. The 1945-46 crop is estimated at 125,000,000 bushels which, at world parity, will realize about £62,500,000. Allowing that the portion of the crop retained for seed and for the farmers’ own use will be worth £2,500,000, an amount of £60,000,000 should be returned to the growers. The estimated requirements for home consumption, seed wheat, and the farmers’ own use amount to 35,000,000 bushels, worth £17,000,000. After deducting the amount estimated for seed and home consumption, we have a total of 30,000,000 bushels, which at world parity, will be worth £15,000,000. Thus ‘ the farmer will pay- a total of £7,500,000 in the form of subsidy on locally consumed bread. Nobody can successfully dispute that figure.
– It is nearer £10,000,000 than £7,500,000.
– I urn giving the Government the benefit of any possible doubt in my calculations.
– Has the honorable senator forgotten the time when the bread consumers subsidized the farmers out of “taxation?
– The farmer does not grudge to the consumers the homeconsumption price of 5s. 2d. a bushel.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Nor do I. However, if the consumers are to have the benefit of a homeconsumption price of 5s. 2d. a bushel, the expense of providing that benefit should be borne by the Government, not by the farmers. Why should the farmer have to pay? They constitute only one section of the community. In this way alone, they are . being robbed of £7,500,000. I refer now to the way in which the farmers are being robbed by means of the fixation ofa price of 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat used for stock feed. At world parity, that wheat would be worth up to 10s. 6d. a bushel. That represents another loss of £7,500,000, making a total of £15,000,000 that will be taken from the farmers this year for the benefit of the bread consumers and the pig and poultry breeders. The balance of 60,000,000 bushels of wheat will be sent overseas to be sold at world parity. The Government will deduct 2s. 6d. a bushel from the return from this quantity in order to establish the stabilization fund. Thus, although that 60,000,000 bushels of wheat will show a return of £30,000,000, the farmers will receive only about £22,500,000. The balance of £7,500,000 will go tothe pool.
– It will eventually go to the wheatgrowers.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.We have no guarantee that that will be so. To sum up the position : The scheme will operate for five years. The indications are that they will be five good years. The growers will probably produce much more than 125,000,000 bushels in each of those years. Probably world prices will remain at high levels. Under these conditions the Government will build up a fund, whilst, through contributions to the fund and the subsidizing of bread and pig and poultry production, the farmers will sustain a loss of about £115,000,000 during the fiveyear period. That is not fair. I cannot understand how anybody can eulogize a scheme that will rob the producers of that amount of money. I have made my position clear. I am not in favour of stabilization. The farmers should be allowed to sell their wheat on the open market. Then, shoulddrought or other disasters ruin their crops, they should be entitled to some assistance from the Government. . The Minister knows as well as I do that industrial workers have never been in a better position than they are in today. They have more money than they have ever had, a fact which pleases me. If the Government were consistent in its attitude, it would say to these workers :” We shall take something out of your pay envelopes every fortnight because times will not always be so good as they are today. There will be a depression, and, therefore, we shall take something from your payenvelopes now and willgive it to you when we think that you need it “. The schemewould be more satisfactory if the farmers were given full control of the fund. If they were allowed to retain their individuality, everything would be all right. The bill has only the redeeming feature that, when the people see how it will operate, it will damn the prospects of the referendum. They will say to themselves, “ If this is the Government’s organized marketing, God help us ! “
– So many theoretical bushels of wheat have been brought into the Senate this evening, so many figurative acres of land that should have been sown have not been sown, and so many hypothetical cases have been presented to us by honorable senators opposite that it has been impossible to follow all of their arguments. The debate reminds me of the lines -
We’ll allbe “ rooned “ sez Hanrahan,
Unless it rains again.
Senator James McLachlan would have us believe, on the one hand, that ruination faces the farmers, and, on the other hand, that crops will be very bountiful, and that we will not know what to do with all the wheat produced in Australia. I hope that we shall return to intelligent consideration of the bill before, the Senate. This is a very important measure. It is of national importance, because it deals not only with approximately 60,000 farmers engaged in wheat production but also with the internal economy of the nation. Wheat is next in importance to wool as a means of providing overseas funds to enable Australia to import goods required for everyday purposes which, up to the present, are not being produced here. Therefore, it is necessary to stabilize the wheat industry which, over a long period of years, has caused a great deal of concern not only to the farmers but also to governments. Since before World War I., approaches have been made almost yearly to whatever government has been in power to gain financial assistance for the wheat industry. Gluts have occurred in various parts of the world, and wheat prices have fallen so disastrously that production has become unprofitable. At such times the growers have asked for government subsidies: Droughts and pestilences of all descriptions have affected this very important industry, and various governments have had to come to its. .assistance as a result. In this, measure, the Government proposes: (1) That, for a period of five years, there shall be a guaranteed minimum price of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. at ports for bagged wheat consumed in Australia. (2) “When the overseas price exceeds that rate, the growers will contribute to the stabilization fund at a rate not exceeding 50 per cent, of the difference between the export price and the guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel. (3) “When the export’ price exceeds the guaranteed price the growers are to contribute to a fund an amount not exceeding 50 per cent, of the difference between the export price and the guaranteed price. “What will happen to these contributions? When the export price falls below 5s. 2d. a bushel, the fund will be drawn upon to provide the amount necessary ‘ to raise the price payable to growers to 5s. 2d. a bushel. (4) Should the fund become exhausted the Government will provide out of general revenue the funds necessary to bring the export price up to’ 5s. 2d. a bushel. Furthermore, provision is made that, should the overseas price rise above a certain level, the whole of the price above that level will be paid to .the growers. I do not know why honorable senators opposite, who presume to speak on behalf of’ the wheat-growing industry, should be apprehensive about the scheme. For many years they have endeavoured to persuade the farmers that they alone are the farmers’ friends and that the Labour party should not be trusted. Unfortunately for the Opposition, the farmers have gradually realized that the Opposition . renders them only lip-service and that they must look to the Labour party for practical assistance. The Labour party considers the primary producers to be .in much the same category as workers in industry. It believes in industrial workers receiving a wage sufficient to maintain them in a reasonable standard of comfort and to enable them to give their children the opportunity, to fit themselves for, the battle of life. It also believes that the primary, producers, who apply themselves to the production
Df materials used for the benefit of man- kind, should also receive a fair reward for their labour. The policy of the Labour party ‘has long been to guarantee to the farmers reasonable prices for their products. For that reason, the party has always advocated orderly marketing. It believes that the primary producers should organize themselves to safeguard their own interests, as do the workers in industry. To the Labour party can be 0 given the credit for stabilizing .the whole economy of the nation. It believes that manufacturers should be protected from the competitive inroads of goods “produced under sweated labour conditions in other countries. That is the philosophy of this Government, which has’ approached the problems of the wheat industry from the point of view set out by the Minister in his second-reading speech. Honorable senators opposite have” not been able to point to any particular aspect of the bill which would indicate that it is not likely to meet the requirements of the wheat industry. All of their arguments .have been based on vague fears. Senator Leckie said that we . should deal with this matter in the light of present .circumstances. Senator James McLachlan ‘ traversed a few hun-‘ dred years of history in an endeavour to draw some conclusion that might be held to be detrimental to the bill. I believe that we ‘must pay regard not only to the present but’ also to the past in order to arrive, at a satisfactory conclusion regarding the merits of this important legislation. One of the chief, objections to the bill expressed by the Opposition is that it provides for the inclusion in the scheme of the 1945-46 wheat crop. What is their reason for this objection ? It is simply that, owing to the world shortage of wheat resulting from war- . time economic disruption in other countries and owing to the great’ demand for wheat amongst starving people, it is possible to obtain prices which could, not be obtained a few years ago. . Because of that, they suggest- that the 1945-46 crop should not be included in the scheme. I should be sorry to believe that the great majority of the growers who, for the last twenty years, have clamoured for a stabilization plan, would desire that this scheme should be repudiated because of temporary world conditions.
I believe that the wheat-grower takes into consideration the history of the industry, and remembers that during times of bountiful harvests he found it almost impossible to dispose of his wheat. To whom did he then look for aid ? In those days, governments were not prepared to assist the farmers, and they -were forced to sell their wheat to agents such as John Darling and Sons Limited, Bell and Company Limited and. Louis Dreyfus .and
Company Limited. The agents advanced growers a moiety of the value of their wheat to enable them to exist, so that they might produce a crop in the following season. That is how those firms have built up enormous profits at the expense of the farmers in their dire necessity. I appreciate the fact that sensible farmers do not desire a return to those conditions. The present Government proposes that, instead of the farmers being at the mercy of the wheat agents, a pool shall be established. It is true that .the farmers will be asked to lay the foundations of the scheme by contributing to its cost, but the measure provides that, .should the farmers again fall on evil times, they will be assured of the price of 5s. 2d. a bushel for their wheat.
– For what quantity?
– For all _ they put into the pool, and, if the . price is greater than 5s. 2d. a bushel, they will get the whole benefit of < it, after the cost Of administering the scheme has been met.
– Would the honorable senator limit the farmer’s crop?
– I do not know that the bill contains any provision that would be detrimental to the farmer with regard to the area which he could place under crop. When the previous guarantee was in operation many of the big farmers would have liked to plant thousands of acres under wheat, and would have crushed the smaller men out of the industry. Growers with large holdings are well able to look after themselves, because they have means, apart from wheat-growing, of supplementing their income. The Government wishes to safeguard the interests of those farmers who, through adverse seasons, or a re duction of the price of wheat, might be forced out of the industry.
Honorable senators opposite have said that under this scheme the Government is trying to rob the farmers. They ask ‘ what will happen to the money received by the pool? Senator James McLachlan wanted to know whether the growers would pay income tax on it. That was said for the express purpose of causing confusion ‘ in the minds of the . people whom this measure is designed to help. As a result of the fund to be created, this industry will be placed on a payable basis. The owner of a wheat farm will be able to engage in a business that has a goodwill. Assuming there was a drought or a reduction of the price of wheat in the world’s markets,, such as that ‘experienced a few “years ago, what would be the value of wheat farms? Is it thought that people who paid £20 an acre for landin the Wimmera district a few years ago could obtain that price if the value of wheat dropped to 2s. or 3s. a bushel? Certainly not. But if there is a pool, and a farmer wishes, to relinquish his calling he could say to a prospective purchaser, “ I’ can sell you a business which will return 5s. 2d. a bushel for the wheat you grow “.
– For what period ?
– For as long as the pool continues, and there is nothing to suggest that the scheme will cease at the expiration of five years. As a matter of fact, it will be reviewed prior to the expiration of that period, in order that stock may be taken of the industry, and consideration given to whether the guarantee has been sufficient. The Opposition asks the Government to extend the period of the scheme for ten years irrespective of the conditions that may prevail at the end of that time. Superannuation and life assurance schemes are subject to actuarial examination, to ensure that the funds shall earn sufficient to pay the amounts which the contributors expect eventually to receive. The bill provides for a scheme of that nature, for the benefit of the wheat-growers. The fact that an investigation is to be made after three years assures the farmer that the scheme will be financially sound.
The arguments of honorable senators opposite are. advanced merely to confuse the minds of the people whom this plan is. designed to assist. They talk about fair play to the farmers of Australia. L ‘ have a lively recollection of the attitude of honorable senators opposite to the wheat-growers during the regime of the Scullin Government. The efforts of that administration to improve the position of the wheat-growers were destroyed by the votes of those who now claim to represent them. I. refer to members of the Australian Country party. When that party began its career, it had high ideals, but after one or two of its members had accepted portfolios in composite governments, and. become contaminated by the Collins-street and Pitt-street farmers - the city men who farmed the farmers - they .forgot about the people who sent them into Parliament and began to associate with the enemies of the farmers. The Australian Country party has long since ceased to represent country people. Honorable senators opposite are suddenly taking a keen interest in the working classes of this country. They say that they love the working man. Yes, they love to see him work at low wages and for long hours. That is about the kind of regard they have for the wheatgrowers. Not one argument advanced in this debate by honorable senators opposite has a sound foundation.
– The honorable senator is no judge.
– I judge honorable senators opposite on their performances. This bill has been designed for the preservation of the great wheat industry, and to give it an opportunity to expand, so that it may play its proper part in the economy of Australia. What would be ‘he use of talking about the expansion of the industry if the farmers did not receive a payable price for their product? I wonder what Senator Leckie would say if the companies in which he is interested did not provide profits for himself and the other shareholders. He would want, tariff assistance from this Parliament to enable the companies to force competitors out of the market, or else the companies would ask for a subsidy until their industries could look after themselves. The present Government is taking steps to ensure that the wheat industry shall not be destroyed during the perilous times that- it will assuredly experience. We know what happened after the last war. There was a boom for .ascertain period, but eventually countries such as France, which had never previously produced large quantities of wheat, could not afford to pay the high prices due to reduced supplies from exporting countries, and they became wheat producers themselves1. Although prices may be good to-day, we must look to the future. When the rehabilitation of. Europe has been completed there will not be the same demand for Australian wheat. It must be remembered that Australia does not stand high among the countries which produce wheat.
– Australia is the second biggest exporter of wheat.
– Yes, but this country is not the second biggest producer of wheat. Our exports of wheat do not greatly affect world prices. There is no industry that is so sensitive to world changes as is the wheat industry, and for that reason it is necessary that the scheme before- us shall hi put into operation. Honorable senators opposite who have opposed the scheme say that they agree with stabilization, but that there is this and that about the scheme which does not satisfy them. They are not game to vote against the scheme in its entirety. Senator Leckie will not face the wheat-growers at th.e forthcoming elections with the record, of having voted against this measure.
– The honorable senator ‘should not worry about me.
– “Re will not wish to tell the electors, “ I believe in stabilization and a guaranteed price for wheat, brit the Government’s scheme contains ideas with which I do not agree, and ?o 1 ask you to vote against Labour candidates”. The honorable senator has one eve on the referendum proposals. He will say that he believes in orderly marketing, and then he will endeavour to induce the farmers to vote for him and hie colleagues by promising orderly marketing; but when it comes to giving expression to those -views at the. referendum, that will he an entirely different matter. J -am .convinced .that, as the result of , the introduction of this measure, the wheat-growers of Australia will be satisfied that the ‘Labour Government honours its promises. Thi-3 scheme will give stability to the wheat industry which some honorable senators have said lias been the football of party politics for over twenty years. The Government desires that this important industry shall be placed beyond party politics. Honorable .senators opposite cannot feel very sanguine about the results of the forthcoming elections, .seeing that they bemoan the fact that .this scheme is to continue in operation for five years. Obviously, they do not -expect to return to the treasury bench and to have an opportunity to put a plan of their own into operation. So far, the Opposition has no plan. It never has been .capable of formulating a stabilization plan. All that non-Labour governments have done .to assist wheatgrowers has been ito hand out a dole to them. They ‘have .never desired to put the wheat industry on a permanent footing 30 that wheat-growers could look the world in the face “and .not appear as mendicants. The opposition to this bill displayed by honorable ‘senators on the other side of the chamber is not a criticism of the measure, but a wonderful testimony to their conviction that they will not be returned to power at the forthcoming elections.
– I am pleased to participate in this debate, although at this stage it is somewhat difficult to say much that is not a repetition of thoughts that other honorable senators have already expressed. I hope, however, to say something which will encourage supporters of the Government to view this measure from a new angle. Every speaker who has participated in the debate so far has made, it clear that he’ appreciates the work of the wheat-grower, and realizes that he faces handicaps because of varying seasonal conditions and market fluctuations.. The title of this bill is ‘” Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill 1946” and one would think that something was being put forward to stabilize the wheat industry. Further examination, however, makes it clear that the measure .before us is nothing more than a big bass drum - an instrument upon which to make a noise, but which is hollow within. It is common knowledge that in years gone by the growers of wheat have made efforts to stabilize their’ industry. In the -early 1920’s, growers of wheat in Victoria, and i ti some other States also, endeavoured te stabilize the Industry by the creation of pools. -Co-operative companies encouraged farmers to pool their- wheal voluntarily, and I am glad to say t’hat. the results were not always disappointing. In addition, the wheat-growers endeavoured to esta.blish their -own selling organizations in the United Kingdom. In that direction also some progress was made. However, because of altered world conditions .and readjustments in Europe and elsewhere, and particularly the fierce competition mentioned !by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator J. M.. Firaser) in his second-reading speech, wheat-growers received poor returns for their product. In the yea.rs just prior to the war Australian wheat-growers again organized for the purpose of stabilizing the industry. Now they are presented with this- proposal, which purports to stabilize their industry. It will not do that, however. All that it will do will be to stabilize the home-consumption price of -wheat. I am a strong supporter of orderly marketing, but this bill does not provide for orderly marketing. Under this plan, wheat-growers will be compelled to allot a certain amount .of their wheat for home consumption, and for such wheat they must accept half world parity. As Senator Gibson has by interjection pointed out, the net return to wheatgrowers will be many pence below 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports. Presumably, the balance of the crop will be disposed of in the world market on the basis of world parity.
– What about stock feed?
– I am including stock feed in the wheat sold for home consumption. Normally, the farmer would get the full return for the realization of his wheat; but, under this plan., only a portion of the realization price will be paid to him. The balance will go into a fund in which lie may or may not participate.
– He will get his share.
– We on this side have asked the Minister in charge of the bill to indicate clearly what is likely to become of the many millions of pounds, which, under certain conditions, will be in the Wheat Industry Stabilization Fund.. Ned Kelly was a highwayman, but he did not compare with the propounders of this scheme. Let us com1 pare the treatment of a wheat-grower under this bill with the treatment of other sections of the community.
– The dairying industry, for instance.
– I shall deal with’ the dairying industry in’ a moment, but first, I wish to mention that the Minister for Trade and Customs when replying to a question which I asked this afternoon, - said that it was true that subsidies had been paid to secondary industries for the purpose, either of keeping a price stabilization plan in operation, or of obviating the necessity for consumers to have to pay much higher prices for certain commodities.
– Does the honorable senator agree with that?
– If we had not clone that we would have followed the inflationary tendency of the United States of America.
- Senator . Aylett has asked me to compare the dairying industry with the wheat industry. I shall do so. The only subsidy -that the dairying industry has received is that which is paid for the same purpose as that for which payments to secondary industries are made, namely, to keep the homeconsumption price of butter and cheese as low as possible to consumers. I agree with that policy. Representatives of the dairying industry in this country and New Zealand are now in London negotiating for the sale of their exportable surplus. The whole of the money that will be realized from those sales will be returned to dairy-farmers.
– On a cooperativebasis ?
– They are negotiating on behalf of the dairying industry and, as honorable senators know, 90 per cent, of the production of butter in Australia i3 handled on a co-operative basis.
– I hope they get good prices.
– I hope so too. But we must keep in mind our obligations to our kinsmen in the Old Country and to the starving people of other countries. Dairy-farmers and wheat-growers’ do not wish to take undue advantage of existing world conditions.
– That is what the bill is for.
– Apparently. I am getting close to the target. Under this -bill, it is proposed to take from the wheat-grower 50 per cent, of the difference between 5s. 2d. and the price that is realized for his exportable surplus, and to place the amount so received in a fund for a number of years. The wheatgrower may, or may not, participate in the disposal of that fund at a later date.
– Of course the honorable senator knows that he will.
– We suggest that the plan should continue in operation for at least ten years. That would give’ some assurance that wheat-growers would have an opportunity to participate in the distribution of -the fund. Judging’ by present-day conditions, it is reasonable to assume that at no time within the next four years - after all that is the period of the scheme - will the . price of wheat fall below 5s. 2d. a bushel.
– What guarantee is there of that?
– I say that that will be so, according to, present-day conditions; but let us think for a moment. We are offering to our wheat-growers a stabilized’ price of 5s. 2d. a bushel ; New Zealand is offering to the wheat-growers of that dominion, according to the latest Year-Booh, 7s. Id. a bushel.
– If New Zealand gets wheat’ from Australia it pays 10s. a bushel for it.
– I thank the Minister for that admission:. I was coming to that. The Minister has indicated chat the export parity price of wheat today is 10s. .a bushel. That means that under normal marketing conditions Australian wheat-growers would ‘receive 10s. for every bushel of wheat produced. Wheat-growers are not complaining about having to contribute something towards the maintenance of a stabilized price for wheat throughout Australia, and they are not over anxious to take advantage of the present position by asking Australian -consumers to. pay more for bread and other wheat products. But let us be fair. We should not penalize the wheat-grower any further. Let us concede to him what we are conceding to other industries. Let us assist him by paying- him a subsidy.
– Subsidies paid to other industries are based on the profits made in those industries.
– I agree that, the price that dairy farmers are receiving and have received for years, for butter fat is not sufficient and I am forced to state that a price of approximately 7s. a bushel would be more in keeping with costs of production in the wheat industry than the 5s. 2d. that is being offered to wheat-growers under this measure.
The Minister stated in his secondreading speech that this plan has the endorsement of wheat-growers. What authority the Minister had for that statement I do not know.
– I have it all here.
– We have plenty of evidence to the contrary, and if time would permit I would read it. Honorable senators on this side of the -chamber have been inundated with letters from growers expressing the hope that the . stabilization plan would be scrapped, and from various wheat-growers organizations stating that resolutions have been carried opposing the bill.
– Only sections by sections of the industry.
– That is so. Let me deal for a moment or two with some of the points made by the Minister. The honorable gentleman suggested that the plan, amongst other things, provided for the preservation for five years of a stabilized price of os.- 2d. a bushel f.o.r., at ports, for bagged wheat consumed within Australia. Some of us have difficulty in following that statement because to get the five-year period it is necessary to include the 1945-46 harvest, and we contend that the inclusion of that harvest not only robs the claim that the. plan will operate for five years of any virtue, but also - is very unfair to the wheat-growers because it will cost them approximately £8,000,000. The Minister went on to say that when the price fell below 5s. 2d. a bushel, the fund would be called upon to provide the necessary amount to enable a payment of 5s. 2d. to be made; but the only fund available for .this purpose will be that provided by the wheat-growers themselves, notwithstanding the fact that in any case, over the last year, they contributed not less than £21,000,000 to the consumers of wheat within Australia because the pricethey had to accept for that portion of their harvest sold on the local market was less than export parity. .
The bill is to come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. In view of the controversy about the measure, I believe .that before it becomes operative, the wheat-growers themselves - after all they are the people most concerned - should have an opportunity to express their opinion on the proposals. When the bill reaches the committee stage I propose to move an amendment providing that the measure shall not come into operation until a poll of the growers has been taken, and in any case, not before October .of this year.
– They will have an- opportunity, to vote on that question on the 28th September.
– That perhaps might be a good answer when I move my amendment at the committee stage. I shall also move for the exclusion from the operation of this plan of the 1945-46 harvest. That will allow all honorable senators an opportunity to express their opinions on that portion of tie bill.
Clause 4 of the bill provides for the constitution of an Australian Wheat Board. Strangely enough, it provides for representation on that board of wheatgrowers in all States except Tasmania.
After all, some wheat is grown in Tasmania.
– We are not complaining.
– I know that I am merely drawing attention to the fact because I think it may be of some interest. An injustice may be done to wheatgrowers in Tasmania if their price is to be fixed at 5s. 2d. a bushel, a nd they are not to be permitted to participate in the export of wheat.
– They will be glad to have the 5s. 2d.
– Whilst that may be true, it does not alter the fact t hat an injustice may be done to them if growers on the mainland are to receive a return of 6s., 7d. I believe it may be higher for the wheat they produce during the fiveyear period. It may be interesting to point out at this stage that the bill provides for two boards. The first, of course, is the Australian Wheat Board, and the second, constituted under clause 21 is the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board. When I saw this provision I thought I had found something of value, and here was the real kernel of the bill; but what are to be the functions of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board? It is to consist of a chairman, an executive member, and one other member, each of whom shall be appointed by, and shall hold office during the pleasure of, the Minister; and one member appointed by the Minister to represent each State after nomination by the appropriate Minister of State for that State. I am wondering if Tasmania is to have any representation on that body.
– I shall answer that question later.
– The functions of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board are most interesting. Clause 23 provides -
The Stabilization Board-
There is the position. We have two boards. One, the Australian Wheat
Board, will deal with marketing, and not only will it acquire the produce of the grower and market it where and how if thinks fit, but also it is empowered to impose; certain charges for certain ser- v ices, to make certain deductions, and to withhold a certain proportion of the realization price and pay it into a trust fund. The Wheat Industry Stabilization Board will be required to regulate production, licence growers and register farms. We have always thought that any plan of organized marketing in this industry would be modelled on the organized marketing scheme that applies to the dairying industry, and that the producers would exercise the control. Here again, notwithstanding other disabilities that the bill may contain, I think, that wheatgrowers and honorable senators on this side of the chamber would be much happier regarding these proposals if the producers were to have the right to control the marketing of their produce.
– The seven grower representatives on the Australian Wheat Board will have some say surely.
– Yes, but subject to the direction of the, Minister. Clause 10states - (1.) The Board may be subject to any direction of the Minister .
– That brings me to another interesting point. I hope that as long as I have the privilege to be a member of the Senate I shall always be fair in debate. On two occasions today, honorable senators opposite unfairly cited a statement made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron).
– The statement was quoted from Hansard.
– The statement quoted was taken from its context. Indeed, even the sentence of which the words formed part was not quoted in full.
– I read the full statement.
– The honorable senator did not. The honorable member for Barker said -
While they continue to find the money-
That was the first part of the sentence -
It is a pretty piece of impertinence on the part of the representatives of the growers to contend that the farmers should direct the operations of the scheme.
The honorable senator, in citing the honorable member for Barker, left out the qualification, “While they” - meaning the Government - “ continue to find the money”. In doing that the honorable senator was most unfair. If, in this instance, the Government itself was providing the money for the purpose of stabilizing the industry, the proposal to subject the proposed board’s activities to the Minister’s direction would have merit. I shall now quote figures which I hope will convey to honorable senators opposite some idea of the importance of this scheme to wheatgrowers, and reveal the degree to which growers may be penalized by being compelled to subsidize bread consumers in this country and those who require wheat for use in other industries, as well as by having so much of their capital withheld from them in the fund. It has been stated that world parity to-day is 10s. a bushel, and it is said, that that price will gradually decrease. Allowing for an annual decrease of ls. a bushel of - the world parity, we find that under this scheme the grower by being deprived of world parity price will, in respect of that portion of the harvest which is sold on the local market, lose- 14,000,000 with world parity at 10s. in the first year. £11,000,000 with world parity at 9s. in the second year, £8,000,000 with world parity at 8s. in the third year, £5,000,000 with world parity at 7s. in the fourth, year, and £2,000,000 with world parity at 6s. in the fifth year, making a total of £42,000,000. During the same period, the growers will have paid into the stabilization fund not less than £21,500,000. making a grand total of £63,700,000.
– That is mere assumption.
– That estimate may be wrong, because, taking present prices as a guide, it is reasonable to assume that world parity may not fall below 9s. a bushel in that period. Should that be the case, the wheat-growers will have paid into the equalization fund £42,000,000, and their contributions by way of subsidy to Australian consumers and stock feeders in respect of that portion of the harvest sold on the local market wilh amount to £84,000,000. or a total of £126,000,000. Those figure’s are authentic. They explain why the wheat-growers are so concerned about this scheme,, and lead us to ask what guarantee is forthcoming from the Government that- the growers will have some equity in the surplus which will exist at the end of the five-year period. They indicate to some degree the extent to which wheat-growers will be penalized under the scheme for the purpose of stabilizing prices in other industries. I should like to discuss other aspects of the bill, but, in view of the fact that other honorable senators wish to speak, I shall not detain the Senate further.
– As a representative in the Senate of Western Australia, which is one of the chief wheat-growing States. I am greatly interested in this debate. From my work and experience in the farming districts in Western Australia, extending from the midland district to Esperance, I realize the desire of wheatgrowers for a plan which will stabilize their industry. Their main desire is to forgo any short-term advantage in favour of long-term stability of income. On the wheat-farms I have spoken with not only the men but also the women.” In the past, growers have complained of insecurity of their returns and their livelihood, .and the general conditions, under which they are forced to live. Recently, a survey was made in Western Australia of 5,400 farms. The various amenities, or lack of amenities, existing on those farms were tabulated. Surely, it cannot, be said that the wheat-growers in Western Australia have been given a fair deal in the past when, as that survey shows, 2] per cent, of homes at present do not contain kitchen, sinks, 23 per cent, do not contain laundries, 41 per cent have no baths and 22 per cent, are badly ventilated. That survey was completed only this year. It reveals conditions of living on farms due to the instability of the wheat industry. From what I can gather from the reiterations made in this debate, the chief objections of honorable senators opposite to- the scheme embodied in the bill seems to be, first, that although the scheme is not a good one it is to operate for only five years instead of ten years; secondly, that the 1945^46 crop should not he included in the scheme; and, thirdly, the wheat-growers have not been consulted with respect to the scheme. 1. hope to be able to refute each of those arguments. The largest wheatgrowers’ organization in Australia to-day is the Wheat Growers Union. Something has been said about the Farmers andSettlers Association, but I point out that persons who are not . engaged in wheat production, or who grow only a very small quantity, of wheat, are eligible to join that association. The Wheat ‘Growers Union, on the other, hand, confines its membership to practical wheatfarmerswho plant at least 50 acres with wheat. Therefore, in respect of any proposal to stabilize the industry the opinion of the Wheat Growers Union should be preferable to that of the Farmers and Settlers Association. On this point I cite the following extract from a report by Sir Louis Bussau, who was the first chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, and is the present president of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation: -
He advised wheat-growers that it was vital for them to take an active interest in promoting support . for the Wheat Stabilization Scheme. “ In my time as President and since “, said Sir Louis, “ the’ Federation very wisely pinned its faith to stabilize prices and organized marketing with grower control. “ There is not the slightest doubt that in a few years the world will again have a surplus nf wheat and that prices will fall heavily. The extent to which the industry in Australia can hu economically cushioned when that occurs depends largely upon the marketing structure’ which has yet .to be created under legislation. It is also dependent upon the determination of wheat-growers to loyally adhere to their long expressed policy of stabilization mid organized marketing. “ At this stage I consider it appropriate to indicate to wheat-growers what progress has been made towards the adoption of the fiveyears wheat stabilization plan sponsored by the Commonwealth Government at the request if wheat-growers’ organizations.”
The wheat-growers’ organizations have asked the Government for a five-year stabilization plan. Now, in the light of existing circumstances and the fact that there is a shortage of wheat due to the repercussions of war, and because the price of wheat is now higher than it has been for some time, honorable senator* opposite are prone to forget the normal conditions of the Australian wheat export trade. They are apt to forget the long years of the depression, during which some wheat-farmers were forced to- accept as little as ls. 6d. a bushel for their wheat. I have met and talked with farmers in Western Australia who received no. more than ls. 6d. a bushel for their, wheat over a period of year3. Asthe result of that policy, many people walked ‘ off their farms, many homes were made desolate, and a great deal of unemployment was caused. Further, the Commonwealth Government had to come to the assistance of the industry. In Western Australia alone no less than £1,800,000 was made available to wheatfarmers to enable them to, redeem debt? which they incurred during the depression. Sir Louis Bussau, in his report,, continued - “I remind growers that there is a comparatively large influential and wealthy section handling and marketing primary products of all types which desires to see the wheat stabilization plan fail.”
That point is at issue in this debate. Honorable senators opposite have not suddenly found some common interest with the ordinary small wheatgrower. The fact is that some of the big. marketing interests which in the past have marketed the farmers’ wheat arefinding that if this stabilization plan isestablished the bottom will drop out of a good deal of their business. The Government has not failed to consult the growers with regard to this scheme. I shall read the opinions’ of leaders of- the wheat-growers in the four wheat-growing States. First I refer to New South Wales. Senator Allan MacDonald produced a document which he had obtained: from some authority. I shall quote from published papers, not from private documents circulated to a few honorable senators. The following is an extract from the Wheat Grower of the 12th February,. 1946 :- “‘Unanimous approval was given to the principles of the stabilization plan,” at the fi mi nal conference of the New South WalesWheat Growers’ Union, says a report sent by the secretary. “ Speaker after speaker emphasized that the organization had been, fighting for stabilization for years,” it stated. A hard fight against vested interests and: those who made a political football of such matters had ended in a great victory for the union.
One point raised a great deal of discussion. It related to the inclusion of the 1945-46 crop in the plan. After a great deal of consultation between members of the various State organizations involved, it was decided that, rather than risk losing the stabilization plan altogether, they should agree to the inclusion of that crop. Mr. “Walker, the general president -of the Wheat Growers Union of Western Australia, made a statement which was published in the same journal under the heading, “ Honest purpose behind wheat scheme accord “. He said that he was impressed by the natural honesty of purpose so strongly evinced by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) at the conference last December between the Minister and representatives of wheatgrowers’ organizations. He said -
Naturally some criticism of the proposals was to be expected, both from political bias and other sectional interests . . . All amendments which the Australian Wheat G rowers Federation decided upon have been agreed to by the Government.
I also have before me a report of the comments made by the late Mr. Maycock, who represented South Australia at the conference. He said - ! considered the Federation acted in a most businesslike manner and obtained a wonderful ileal from the Commonwealth Government, mid I accept the plan as agreed between tha Government and the Australian Wheat Growers Federation … I remember that 3,000 farmers went bankrupt in this State in ten years.
Mr. Cullen said that, on behalf of Victoria, he also supported the stabilization plan. These reports show that four leaders of the wheat-growers in the principal wheat-growing States assented to the plan submitted to the Australian Wheat Growers Federation by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for approval before this bill was introduced. Senator Allan MacDonald occupied a great deal of time in discussing the merits of Mr. Teasdale, who was a United Australia party candidate at the last Senate elections and who is now a member of the Australian Wheat Board. Mr. Teasdale has provided a great deal of the material used by the Opposition in debating this measure, both here and in the House of Representatives. Apparently he has changed his tune since he engaged in the election campaign, because, at that time he made the following statements at a meeting of wheat-growers in Western Australia : -
If we think we can get big prices, then there is just one possible result - they will exchange their misery for our plenty, and we will get the misery of unemployment. We will haveto say to their women and children, whether enemy or not, “Your bread-winner has died inthis fight, and until your children grow up to be bread-winners themselves, we will feed you “. Do you think it a wise policy to build, up big stocks solely on the expectation of selling thom to the starving millions at high prices? We may arrange an alleged big price, it is true, based upon, some bonds or pledges topay in the future, which later, as after the last war, would be whittled down to nothing. Why? Simply because they cannot pay . . .
In spite of this, Senator Allan MacDonald referred to Mr. Teasdale as advocating the payment to growers of the higher prices for wheat arising from present world conditions, which are an aftermath of the war. In this connexion,, reference has been made to the position of Canada and other wheat-producing countries. Therefore, I refer to what was said by Mr. J. A. McKinnon, Minister for Trade and Commerce, in theCanadian House of Commons, when introducing legislation providing for a: maximum and a minimum price for wheat. He said -
In asking Canadian producers to forgo such benefits as might be realized in the short run through higher export prices, the Government recognizes the paramount need for a relativestability of income to wheat producers.
The Government, in adopting this policy of a maximum price for overseas shipments for the present and a floor price for five years, i* asking the producers, in their own interests, to forgo exceptional short-run advantages infavour of a long-run stability of income. In arriving at its decision on this policy, the Government had the following fundamental’ considerations in mind:
Any further increase in wheat prices now would aggravate the problems of economic and political readjustment of the liberated areas, to Canada’s detriment -in future trade with, those areas. There is a moral obligation not to take advantage of our recent allies in their time of compelling need.
Higher wheat prices would encourage -the importing countries in a hurried return towheat production and pre-war wheat policiesvery, directly to the detriment of the Wheat exporting countries, particularly Canada. Moreover, production in a number of exporting countries would be unduly encouraged.
Now is the time (when conditions are favorable) to try and obtain permanent stability of prices rather than follow for u short time the mirage of high prices, closing our eyes to the fact that we may sacrifice permanent stability for a very short period qf high prices, and that permanent wheat stability can only be obtained by taking a well balanced and long view of wheat prices.
This expression of opinion by a Canadian Minister should be treated with respect. It applies to the Australian wheat industrY just as truly as it does to the Canadian wheat industry. It is impossible to forecast future conditions, even for a period of five years. Although the initial time stipulated for the operation of the scheme is five years, there is nothing to prevent the incoming Labour Government from extending the period should circumstances warrant such action.
Reference has been made to conditions prevailing in Western Australia and it has been said that farmers in that State were paid not to grow wheat. I saw some of the marginal wheat areas where farmers, as we have been told, were given 1.2s. 6d. an acre not to continue the planting and harvesting of wheat. At that time, there was a surplus of wheat in Australia amounting to no less than 200,000,000 bushels. Great difficulty was -experienced in exporting the surplus, and it was considered more important to take workers’ from the farms to protect the nation from invaders than to increase the production of wheat, which was already lying in great quantities in storage throughout Australia. I visited North Fremantle at the end of 1943 to inspect some of the wheat in storage there. Hundreds of thousands of bushels were stored, and a great deal of the wheat was infested with weevils, which were ‘causing considerable destruction in neighbouring houses. The necessity for shipping this wheat away from Western Australia to points from which it could be exported as opportunities arose led the Commonwealth Government to go to the trouble of sending special Garratt locomotives to Western Australia, which, unfortunately, were unable to stand up to Western Australian conditions. The Government also sent workers to Western Australia to help to handle the wheat harvest. Even these measures were unsuccessful, and the wheat was left in
Western Australia, exports being made when possible until to-day the bins, which were specially constructed, are almost empty. None of us can foresee droughts or other climatic conditions. None of us can tell what the world wheat harvest will be this year of next year. Wheat production is a gamble. That is why this Government says that, because wheat is important to the economy of the nation, those who produce it should not be allowed to gamble against poverty as they have had to do in the past. The Government has decided to accept the risk instead of exposing the growers tQ it.- It is very surprising that honorable senators opposite who, in the past, had the custody of the nation’s welfare and the power necessary to give effect to their desires, failed to help the farmers. It is easy for them to offer ‘ the farmers a price of 7s. 6d., 10s. or even £1 a bushel for their wheat, particularly when they know that they will not be in the embarrassing position after the forthcoming general election of being called upon to give effect to their promises. The Government is in a different position. It has had .to’ make a definite plan which will help the farmers and which, at the same time, will be capable of execution. The fact that the majority of wheat-growers’ organize tions throughout Australia support this scheme and have been advocating the implementation of such a scheme for the last seventeen years, shows, that the Government’s proposals are in the interests of at least 80 per cent, of the growers. Those who are dissatisfied with the scheme are mainly unpractical farmers. They are the sort of farmers known in Western ‘Australia as “ St. George’s Terrace farmers “, who have never seen a farm and merely sit back waiting for the cheques which they receive from the men who work for them. The farmer struggling in a small way will be helped by this plan as he was by the Scully plan. He will be given economic security.
Stabilization of the wheat industry, although commendable, should not be the sole objective of any government. I hope that this bill will be only one part of a plan of legislation to be implemented by this Government in order to develop our rural communities. Too much lip service has been paid, in the past to those who are working in our primary industries. I have travelled the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, and I have seen people living in the outback 300 or 400 miles from their nearest neighbour. Nothing that we can do for such people will be too good for them. If we only make promises and do nothing, we shall merely be repeating the tactics of anti-Labour governments. We must show hat we mean what we say. Therefore, .1 welcome this bill as being a first step towards the realization of a complete rural policy including not only stabilization of primary industries, .but also good housing schemes, medical services, education, and everything else which is needed to make life really worth living.
Senator A. J. Fraser remarked that Tasmania is to have no representation on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board. There are, I think, 132 small wheat-growers in that State. Nobody would suggest that wheatgrowing is one of the main industries in Tasmania; yet those engaged in other industries carried on there have approved the plans of the Government for the stabilization of those industries. Approaches have been made to the Government to have the Blue Pea Board re-established, and to retain the Apple and Pear Marketing Board. The barleygrowers of Tasmania would welcome a scheme such as that now proposed for the wheat, industry. The present bill implements only one part of the Government’s rural policy, which I hope ‘ will be given effect as soon as the Labour party is returned at the next general elections with a mandate from the people to proceed with its policy for the organized marketing of primary products, and to do the things which I have mentioned as essential to the continued success of the rural communities;
This afternoon Senator Allan MacDonald said that high income tax stopped the wheat-growers from increasing their production of wheat. This is the first time I have heard it said that the wheat-growers have had sufficient in* come to enable them to be taxed. I am sure they would not object to paying taxes, so long .as they had a regular in come and organized marketing conditions, so that they could enjoy economic security for more than a season ahead. The honorable senator also said that, in 1936, a royal commission made certain recommendations to which effect had not been given. Where was the honorable senator between 1936 and 1941? For three of those five years this country was not involved in total war, and I believe that between 1936 and 1939 the honorable senator was a member of a government which had full, power to implement the findings of any royal commission which made recommendations during thar period. I still have to learn that any action was taken by the government of theday upon the report of the commission towhich the honorable senator referred, although at one stage he was Minister for Commerce”. Ever since the Labour Government has come intopower we have experienced the greatest war in history, the repercussions of which have led to the world situation fully dealt with by the honorable senator. He should examine his own conscience, because eversince 1930 any attempts by governments to stabilize the wheat industry have beenthwarted by the Senate. I am glad thai the present Government has a majority in this chamber which will enable it to give effect to its plans for the stabilization of the wheat industry, and that those plans will not be thwarted by the diehards of conservatism who are using theproblem of the wheat industry as a political football.
– During this debate, we haveheard much about the wheat industry and its failure to support itself. I suggest that perhaps we are passing through a phase of national life in which the people as a whole need a. great deal more backbone, and tenacity of purpose than is shown to-day. It seems to be thepractice of every industry to ask the Government for a hand-out. We seem to have lost much of that tenacity which was characteristic of our forefathers. This ‘ bill, which is designed tostabilize the wheat industry for a” period of only four years, is, I believe, welcomed by many wheat-growers. Oneremarkable fact, however, is that the
Government of the day, although it claims to have the support of all wheat growers, has never had the courage to put the scheme to the test of a poll of the growers. If an industry is to be controlled, those who are actively engaged in it should have a voice as to whether they desire that control. The only way to get a true reflex of the opinion of the growers is to take a poll.
– The honorable senator merely wishes to delay the operation of the scheme.
– I accept that interjection with diffidence, and I join issue with the honorable senator, who said that I was not present in this chamber when he was speaking.
-i did not say that.
– The honorable senator did. I regret that he mentioned the matter, because I have been in the chamber during the whole of this debate. The honorable senator says that he belongs to a democratic party. The democratic way would be to take a poll of the wheatgrowers, to enable them to express their opinion concerning this scheme. Not until a poll of growers in the dried fruits industry was taken was stability obtained in the industry. The future of the wheatgrower is dependent upon the world price of wheat. Every honorable senator on the Government side has said that the world’s supply and the price of wheat will rule the price in Australia. Honorable senators who support the Government have confirmed me in that belief. “With that fact in view, it is quite easy to introduce this scheme for the next four years, because the world price will possibly be high throughout that period ; but I ask the sponsors of the scheme what will be the remedy if the world price should fall to the low figure experienced in pre-war times? Then the wheat industry will become unsound. Will the Government then support an industry which is unsound?
– We shall support the wheat industry, because it will never be unsound.
-The Government and its supporters will have to deal with that problem, and will have to decide how to raise the finance required for the assistance of the industry. This measure is based on the four assumptions, that for the next four years there will be static costs, that static areas will be sown to wheat, that there will be static production, and that the same individual growers will produce wheat for the whole of the five years for which the scheme will operate.
– That is not stated in the bill.
– That is the basis of the measure, and that is the only assumption on which the scheme can operate satisfactorily.
The bill also refers to the Scully plan. I was never a supporter of that plan, because, as I said repeatedly, I believe that it would curtail production, and that wheat which was badly needed during the war would be lacking in Australia. Events proved that forecast tobe correct.
– That was due, not to the Scully plan, but to the war.
– In my opinion it was due to that plan. There were progressive reductions of production when the Scully plan was put into operation. Production fell progressively from 153,000,000 bushels to 143,000.000 bushels, to 90,000,000 bushels, and, in the last year to 67,000,000 bushels. Any person who happened to grow more than 3,000 bushels of wheat received as a first advance 2s. a bushel. I suppose the reason was that the world parity price at that time would only permit of that advance. If not, why did the Government pay 4s. a bushel on the first 3,000 bushels? Could I be expected to grow wheat for 2s. a bushel when the Government was prepared to pay me 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels? The farmer was expected to grow wheat under sweated conditions. Is that the answer, or was the Government guided by world parity? If world parity determined the price then paid, it will do so again. The Government says that it will stabilize the wheat industry under this bill. One would be led to believe that the Government intended to stabilize it for an indefinite period, but it proposes to do so for only four years.
– We hope that the period of stabilization will be longer than that.
– The bill provides nothing to that effect. The Government agreed, under National Security Regulations, that, in respect ofthel945-46 crop the control should pass to the Government, and the growers in return should receive fair compensation. That was a contract enteredinto with the wheatgrowers, and I am astonished that the present Government has not honoured it. If its action in this matter is the measuring stick by which its honesty can be gauged, it does not speak well for the future of this legislation. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
SenatorCLOTHIER (Western Australia) [11.31]. - I could not let this occasion pass without congratulating the writer of the leading article in yesterday’s Canberra Times in which reference is made to the signing of an agreement by the Commonwealth Government and the governments of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia for the standardization of railway gauges. I deeply regret that, so far, Western Australia and Queensland have not become signatories to the agreement. I am aware that a survey is now taking place in Western Australia, and I had thought that by this time the work would have proceeded sufficiently far to allow representatives of the Government of that State to sign the agreement. I believe that it will not be long before Western Australia also is a party to it. I agree with the writer of the leading article that much praise is due to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) for the successful result of the negotiations that have been proceeding for some time. I should like to add my tribute to what has been written concerning the Minister who has fought so hard to achieve this objective. I do not believe in waiting until a man dies before bestowing praise on him. That, is done too often. Whether a man be a friend or an opponent, I believe in giving him credit when credit is due to him. The Minister for Transport has achieved something for which he has good reason to be proud. I wish to place on record extracts from the leading article in the Canberra Times to which I have referred -
Attainment by the Commonwealth and three States concerned of an agreement for the standardization of gauge on national lines is an outstanding achievement. Primarily the credit belongs to the Federal Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward)’ who has been able to overcome all the obstacles which have daunted governments who have attempted to solve the railway gauge deadlock in the past, but it also marks a broader approach by the States concerned
There is now a programme which will take many years to complete butwhich will not embrace all that a national railway system will require. The existing standardization programme will provide a safeguard against unemployment and its completion progressively providea greater notional service which in turn will assist the whole fabric of Australian industry and activity.
– I dissociate myself from the views expressed by Senator Clothier.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Census and Statistics Act - Regulations - StatutoryRules 1946, No. 122.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department-
External Affairs- D. W. McNicol.
Interior - E. R. Thain.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 124.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations- Statutory Rules 1946, No.117.
Dairying Industry Assistance Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 119.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
Homebush, New South Wales.
Superannuation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 121.
Senate adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 July 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19460731_senate_17_188/>.