18th Parliament · 1st Session
ThePresident (Senatorthe Hon.
Gordon Brown)tookthechair at10.30 a.m, and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister forShippingand Fuel -whether it is a f act that during adebate oncommunism in the New SouthWales Parliament yesterday, the Premier, Mr. McGirr, promised that legal proceedings would be taken against anyperson in respectof whom a member of parliament,by statutory declaration,had made out a prima. facecaseof treason, sedition, or criminal conspiracy.Does the AustralianGovernment intend to take action on similar lines,?
– I am not . aware of what tookplace in the State Parliament yesterday. I have seen some newspaper headlines, hut I have not had an opportunity . to. read the reports. The AustralianGovermnent is quite capable of taking any necessary action against Communists, fascists, or any other undesirable elements in the community, without any urging by the Opposition.
Line Depot atulverstone
– As winter is fast approaching, can the Postmaster-General indicatehowlong it will be before the line yard atUlverstone will be completed ?
SenatorCAMERON. - Responsibility for providing the line depot at Ulverstone nests withthe Department of Works . and Housing.We havebeen in communicationwith that department -and I have every reason to believe that the work will be commenced in two or three . weeks.
– As age and invalid pensioners are unable to obtain reasonable . accommodation owing to the high rentsnow ruling, will the . Minister forSocial . Services obtain details of the New . Zealand scheme under which serviced flats and houses are made available to pensioners at 15s. a week, with a view to . introducing a similar. scheme in this country?
– I am astonished to learn that unduly high rents are being -charged in this country. Kent control in Australia has operated most efficiently under the Commonwealth’s emergency powers and any person who believes that he is paying too much rent may take the matter up wit]1 the rent controller and have an adjustment made speedily. The problem of housing aged people is aCUte and has given me great concern. The constitutional power -of the ‘Commonwealth to embark upon schemes for the housing of age pensioners is in doubt. Nevertheless, ‘this Government has not been inactive, and, pursuant to “its housing agreement with the States, machinery -has been provided to enable houses to -be made available to ‘age ‘pensioners at ‘low rentals. I ‘am not familial- with fire details ‘of the New ‘Zealand scheme, but I shall be interested to ask the Minister f or Works and Housing to examine it. I shall also mate some inquiries myself.
Sena tor COOPER. - I ask tfe Minister for Health whether -it is ‘a fact that ‘the Commonwealth ©i-rector of Tuberculosis, Dr. H. W. Wunderly, recently made several recommendations ito the Government designed to meet the tuberculosis scourge? Did .Dr. Wunderly suggest mass surveys in the drive against tuber- culosis, with compulsion if necessary ? Can the ‘Minister ‘inform the Senate of the nature of Dr. Wunderly’s recommendations and of the action that has been or will be taken to carry them into effect’?
– It is a fact that Dr. H. W. Wunderly, the Commonwealth Director of Tuberculosis, has made .a number -of recommendations to the Government with -a view to ‘bringing tuberculosis under -control «du-ring the next twenty years. The principles to be applied are -exceedingly well known ; they have been tried out in the Scandinavian countries. Dr. Wunderly’s recommendations through the Director-General of Health were -under consideration by the Cabinet recently and, following recommendations that I “have made, the
Government has ‘decided to wage -war » on tuberculosis ; in this country. It ‘is determined that expense will not be allowed to interfere with, the tackling of this major problem. It ‘is very alive to the fact that the disease, which affects so ‘ many people - about 40,000 in this community I understand - strikes at youth particularly and, further, is infectious to a degree. It is a fact that Dr. Wunderly suggested mass surveys. It is true also that he suggested that, in the very restricted class of recalcitrant cases, compulsion should be used. I should ‘like to say something about the element of compulsion. As the honorable senator knows, the power to legislate with regard to medical and dental services in this .country is qualified by a provision that there shall be no form of civil conscription. A point that exercises my mind is as to whether, in these circumstances, the Australian Government has power to -compel anybody to submit to X-r,ay examination. I make no final pronouncement upon this point ; I merely record the fact that there is a doubt. Some .publicity was given recently to the recommendation made by Dr. Wunderly on this point. Quite frankly, I was horrified to notice the -prominence that was given to this aspect of the tuberculosis problem in some of -the newspapers. After -all, the people who have tuberculosis - ‘and they have it in varying degrees -of severity - are unfortunate citizens. It would be ‘exceedingly regrettable if they were to be represented to the people of this country in the light of lepers - persons to be shunned. A tuberculosis sufferer is not a danger to his fellows so long as he observes certain simple rules of hygiene, in which he can readily “be educated. I regret that some sections of the press gave publicity to that very minor recommendation by Dr. Wunderly. In his third question, the honorable senator asked what steps the Government proposed to take to combat tuberculosis. Cabinet has already considered the recommendations, and it has authorized me to confer with the Health Ministers o’f the States with a view to evolving a common plan which will not only be developed in consultation with the States but ‘also, for least a very considerable period <o’f years, will be carried out in “the fullest co-operation with them. The .principal thought that the
Governmenthas in mind is that it will undertake to bear the financial responsibility of all new buildings and will acquire standardized plant. A great deal of plant will be required because X-ray equipment in particular will be needed in very large quantities, and no doubt a great many travelling clinics will be established. ‘ The Government’s intention is that it shall pay for this equipment and lend it to the States. It is also quite certain that’ the Australian Government willbe prepared to make a very generous contribution to the maintenance costs that may be involved. The honorable senator will be interested to know that action has been taken very speedily and that a conference of officers of the various States and the Commonwealth will take place in Melbourne on the 14th and 15th April. The object will be to pave the way for a conference of Health Ministers to ‘be held as soon as possible thereafter. Iam obliged to the honorable senator for his questions. They have given me the opportunity to tell the Senate just what the Government has in mind in relation to this problem.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing aware that recently an attempt was. made in the Legislative Council of South Australia, an antiLabour body, by a member of that body who boasts of his conservatism, to introduce a measure designed to increase rents by approximately 15 per cent? In the event of the Government’s proposals for control of rents and prices being defeated at the forthcoming referendum, has the Government or the Parliament the power to prevent independent action of the kind I have indicated from being taken by the States ?
– I shall convey the terms of thehonorable senator’s question to the Minister for Works and Housing, who will, I am sure, furnish the information required as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister for Trade ‘and Customs say whether booksellers are permitted to import from dollar areas only 10 per cent of the number of books which they imported in 1947? Does that percentage embrace all classes of literature, without regard to its essentiality? Is the medical profession in Australia seriously handicapped through its inability to obtain necessary text-books from dollar areas? Can any actionbe taken to facilitate the importation of essentia] medical textbooks? What is the Minister’s view concerning the restriction placed on the importation of important and necessary text-books ?
– It is true thatbooksellers are permitted to import from the United States of America only 10 per cent. of the number of books which they imported last year. In arriving at that decision the Government determined that medical text-books and works of a scientific nature should be given absolute priority, and it was agreed that in some instances bookseller’s entire quota could be filled by books of that kind. The Government had the benefit of advice from several authorities, including public and private librarians, who are in general agreement that everything that could be doneby the Government to facilitate the entry of’ text-books has been done.
– In view of the fact that members of the Parliament experience considerable difficulty in obtaining access to taxation officials, particularly in Sydney, will the Minister representing the Treasurer consider making available an officer of the Taxation Branch for the specific purpose of assisting members to dispose of matters raised by their constituents in regard to taxation ?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Prime Minister, who, I am sure will consider it favorably.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say what number of motor cars ‘and trucks was imported and allotted to each State during the last six months?
- Senator Beerworth asked me a similar question a few days ago, and I promised that I would furnish the information. I regret that I am not yet able to do so. I shall obtain it at an early date and furnish it to both honorable senators.
– As chairman, I present the report, with minutes of evidence, of the Public Works Committee, on the following subject: -
Administrative building for the Entomology and Plant Industry Divisions of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research at Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory - proposed erection.
Ordered that the report only be printed.
Channel Iron and Steel Plates, Port Kembla
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel make inquiries as to when shipping will be available to lift channel iron and steel plates at Port Kembla for Western Australia where these materials are urgently required for building and rolling-stock purposes?
– Steps are now being taken by my department to ensure that the back-lag of cargo, especially steel, &c, at Port Kembla, shall be overtaken as soon as possible, and that the cargo shall be moved to the various States. Waterside workers are to be transferred from Queensland to Port Kembla, in order to expedite the transportation of these materials.
.- I lay on the table the following paper: -
Sugar - International Agreement - Protocol, dated 29th August, 1947, signed in London.
This protocol was signed in London on the 29th August, 1947, by representatives of the Governments of the Union of South Africa, the Commonwealth of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, the Dominican Republic. the French Republic, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Hayti, the
Netherlands, Peru, the Republic of the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, the United States of America, and the Federal People’s Republic, of Yugoslavia. One former signatory, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. declined to sign.
That protocol is similar in content to that signed on the 30th August, 1946, and extends for one year from the 1st September, 1947, the International Sugar Agreement, which initially operated from 1937. The original agreement was to remain in force for five years until the 31st August, 1942, but it has been continued by successive protocols. The first protocol continued the agreement unchanged until the 31st August, 1944, but in the three subsequent protocols which extended the agreement until the 31st August, 1947, it was provided that certain portions, particularly the quota provisions, should remain inoperative. The present protocol also declares that such portions shall be inoperative during the period of one year ending on the 31st August, 1948.
The main purposes of the renewal of the agreement are to maintain the central machinery for establishing an orderly relationship between the supply and the demand for sugar, and to gain time for the conclusion of a new scheme. It will be noted that Article 3 (2) of the protocol provides that, in revising the agreement, due account should be taken of any general principles of commodity policy embodied in any agreement which may be concluded under the auspices of the United Nations.
Debate resumed from the 8th April (vide page 684), on motion by Senator Courtice -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– It is pleasing that the Senate has an opportunity to discuss this measure. This bill can be understood only if we consider it in conjunction with the world situation as a whole. Before we can understand it, we must know something about the monetary arrange ments made under the Bretton Woods
Agreement. We must know also what led to “World War I. and World War II., and the reasons for the entry of the United States into the latter war. In short, we must first know how the world has reached the economic position in which it finds itself to-day. I am afraid that Senator O’sullivan failed entirely to understand that position. He was most confused. He suggested, first, that. Empire trade preference would have to go by the board. Then he spoke about America’s good heart; and he finished by saying that, in any event, he did not think it mattered whether we entered into this agreement or not.
Australia entered the conferences at Geneva and Havana in a relatively good position, because this country produces the things which the world most urgently needs, particularly wool. Australian merino wool is, of course, the finest produced in the world. The world wants wool. It wants food. But, first, we must realize that we are tied up with Great Britain financially; and before we can understand this agreement fully it is also necessary to realize that our currency is at an exchange disability of 25 per cent, and, in addition, that we are now tied up with dollars in a way which has weakened our economic position. ‘The United States of America, of course, was in the box seat at these conferences. That country can produce sufficient in three months to meet the needs of its people for the rest of the year.
It is useless to lament what has happened to the British Empire or that some things which we admired and thought should go on forever are being undermined by eternal change in the same way as a child ?s born, grows to adulthood and then decays, the reason being that the powers of disintegration are stronger than those of cohesion. That is not only a biological law but also an economic and sociological law. When World War I. broke out, Great Britain, following the policy of ensuring that no nation in Europe would dominate Europe, fought Germany. The basis of that war, of course, was economic. Nobody who has studied particularly the development of the iron and steel industry in Germany prior to that war can fail to realize that Germany, during the preceding twenty years, had superseded Great Britain in the production of iron and steel, and was then second only to the United States of America. War broke out aud for a time it appeared that Germany would win. Most of the American: people at that time were isolationists. In fact, President Wilson had been reelected on a policy of isolationism. However, a submarine sank Lusitania and! America entered the war. After the war, we had the Treaty of Versailles. At that time most people were inclined to look upon the makers of that treaty as supermen. Our then Prime Minister was a very distinguished gentleman named William Morris Hughes, who was regarded as a really wonderful fellow. But anyone who had been a member of the Socialist movement knew that the entire proposition which formed the basis of the Treaty of Versailles could result only in chaos. We left the peace making to the bankers. We hear a lot in these days about the mess that parliamentarians allegedly are making of world affairs, but everyone now realizes that the peace treaty made by the bankers at Versailles was economically impossible. Subsequently, other bankers were brought from America to break down the reparations that Germany had been called upon to pay. So wonderful were those bankers that eventually the state of the world was such that 41,000,’000 white people were out of work. Of these, 13,000,000 were in the United States, of America alone, and 6,000,000 in Germany.” The Ebert Government had been elected to office in -Germany and one of the reasons for its fall was that the French and the British financiers objected to thereform legislation which it introduced. It was a socialist administration, and it was economically strangled by financial interests. It was at that stage that 6,000,000 people were out of work in Germany. Conditions were ideal for therise of fascism, and Hitler came into power, backed by the very people whosubsequently brought Britain to its knees. We have heard a lot about how Britain stood alone against Hitler; but. we -know that right up to the eve of thedeclaration of war, former British leaders had exported the means whereby Britain could be defended. However, that is a matter of history. When war broke out it was foundthat Hitler’s Germany was stronger than the democracies had believed. We were fortunate to have in the United States of America a great leader, President Roosevelt, who was openly pro-Ally. But he led a heterogenous nation; its people were overwhelmingly isolationists. It will be recalled that after World War I. the then President, Woodrow Wilson, was unable to induce the American legislature to agree to that country becoming a member of the League of Nations. President Roosevelt had all that well in mind. He knew how strong was isolationism. He knew that the capitalists and entrepreneurs objected to American resources being wasted in a fight to build up once again the strength of the British Empire. It was necessary to placate these people who, after all, were the ones that counted, because in times of crisis the ordinary people do not count and have no say in the affairs of their nation. Whether in a dictatorial or a so-called democratic country, economic interests determine whetherthere shall be war or peace. President Roosevelt had to answer Americans who asked “What about British Empire preferences? What about Australia and New Zealand? What about India? Where do we come in?” America’s advanced stage of industrial development necessitated overseas markets, and Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt had to have consultations to determine whether British Empire preferences should be abolished completely or in part. Certainly they had to be abandoned to some degree. President Roosevelt gave the British Empire 50 American destroyers. In effect, although perhaps not legally, he had declared war on Hitler. He assisted the Allies in every way possible. Agreements were made about which we did not know anything at the time. American parents, of course, objected to their sons being sent to Europe to pull Great Britain out of themire once again, or so they said. However, America did come into the war, and but for America the war could not have been won by the Allies. Similarly, it could not have been won without Great Britain, or without Russia. I do not intend to-day to discuss whether ornot Russia was justified in making a pact with Hitler. All I say is that the three great powers were concerned mainly with looking after what they considered to fee their own interest. Russia demanded part of Poland and stipulated that Poland should get East Prussia from Germany. Russia also demanded Latvia, Bessarabia, and Estonia. There was nothing else to do but agree to these proposals. I do not blame Russia. The Russians, I assume, were looking at what Hitler had done to their country, and had resolved to ensure that these things should not happen again. The war continued, and eventually Germany and Japan were defeated. The Allies won the war, whatever that may mean. For as long as I can remember I have been trying to work out what is meant by winning a war, but I have not yet been successful.
– It is the opposite of losing a war.
– I am not so sure. Japan is supposed to have lost the war, hut it is being propped up by Vested interests to such a degree that future generations in Australia may well question whether or not Japan did lose the war. When a war is over, there is supposed to be great enmity between victors and vanquished. I think it was Hitler who said that when World War II. was over there would be no victors and no vanquished. He was not far from the truth. Russia also claimed the southern portion of Sakahlin and northern Korea from the Japanese, and got them.
A peace treaty with the so-called satellite countries was made in Paris. Incidentally, it appears that any small nation that is in the Russianorbit is a satellite whereas any country in the American orbit is “fighting for democracy”. I was present when the Treaty of Paris was made. . One of the decisions was that Trieste should be a free city. Australia opposed that proposal and favoured the return of Trieste to Italy. I believe’ that the Australian delegation was right. However, America, Russia and Great Britain agreed that Trieste should be a free port. But now we find that because economic and political interests have determined otherwise, Britain, America and France, without consulting any other nation have decided that in spite of the Paris
Treaty, Trieste should be returned to Italy. There has been similar vacillation in regard to the Italian colonies. Originally it was- decided that discussion on the Italian colonies should be postponed for a year during which time an endeavour would be made to ascertain the wishes of the inhabitants of those territories. Now we find that, sub rosa, the Italians are being promised that their colonies will be returned to them on the condition that they do not support the Communists. My point is that all these things have contributed to the present economic situation.
Before I say something about the treaty itself, I shall refer to the East. Senator O’Sullivan spoke about building up- our markets in the Dutch East Indies. Probably what he said was quite right. What is happening in the East? Japan is merely a satellite of the United States of America. During the last three months, it has exported more cotton goods than Great Britain has exported. Apart from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan has not been damaged at all. Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and all the rest of the gang of barbarians are still there. Despite the fact that I still have a Scottish trait in me, I am prepared to make a little wager now that Admiral Tojo, the self-confessed arch-criminal of them all, the man who admits that he influenced the Emperor and was commander-in-chief of the Japanese Army, Air Force and Navy, and who takes full responsibility for the atrocities that were committed on Australians and others, will not be hanged, notwithstanding Senator O’Sullivan’s assertion that America is interested only in humanity and is acting in accordance with the dictates of the Christian heart. The- actions of that “ Christian heart “ have been determined in. Japan in the same way as they were determined in Palestine. A year ago, the United States of America was in favour of ensuring that a Jewish State should be established in the place where our Lord was born. However, in the meantime, the economic and political crisis became more intense and America had to choose between the Jews and its own interests. When the United States of America had to decide whether or not to give the Jews control in Palestine and allow the Arabs to sabotage bil supplies that America might use in the event of war, it decided that Christianity and the control of Palestine were not such important matters after all. The control of oil was of primary importance to the United States of America. A similar state of affairs exists in the East.
China, which could be a great market for our goods, is in a state of absolute chaos. General Stilwell declared, after’ investigation, that the Chiang Kai-Shek regime was corrupt. He was displaced for saying so. Then Marshall himself said the same thing, and so did Weidemeyer. Now Senator Vandenberg has asked them to alter their reports and, instead of saying that the regime ist corrupt, to say that it has not acted with the best of discretion. This has been done to provide justification for making loans and giving supplies to China’s nepotist regime, a regime of the Soong sisters and the Kung family, with Chiang KaiShek at the head, which no more reflects the needs of the 400,000,000 Chinese peasants than does the man in the moon. However, because there is such an obsession against Russia, Australia does not come in at all. America does not care what happens to China, or to anybody else, as long as it can build up a bulwark against Russia. ‘ I personally was very pleased to hear the result of the primary votes for United States presidential nomination in Minnesota, General MacArthur’s own State. I am glad that the American people can determine the difference between a great general, which he undoubtedly is, and a great statesman, which he undoubtedly is not. I do not want to say anything further except that those who remember the pa-rade of the veterans before Washington after World War I. and the part that General MacArthur played in it will understand’ why his vote was so small.
The question we must answer is : Hasour representative done a good job for Australia or not? I consider that theMinister for Post-war Reconstruction! (Mr. Dedman) has done a marvellousjob. It is no use beating about the bush.. We can gain nothing by demanding this or that. The United States of America, with its terrific power, merely says to Australia, “ To a- certain extent,. your Empire preferential tariff must go. We must gain entry for our goods.” In any case, Australia has had good treatment from the United States of America in relation to the wool tariff. On the whole, I think the result of the negotiations was very favorable to Australia. Day after day, we hear a great deal of sentimental talk about Great Britain. I am just as sentimental about Great Britain as is anybody else. But sentimentality cannot overcome the fact that Great Britain, .on its present economic basis, with capitalist rules operating at a time when there is an internal struggle in every country between the manufacturers, the importers and the farmers, as well as an international economic struggle, is completely incapable of regaining the economic position which it held until recently. It is only necessary to have a cursory glance at the situation in order to understand it. The farmers’ good patriotic friends in the Opposition, who are so concerned about the Empire, say, “ Give Great Britain more wheat “, but they demand a price of 17s. or £1 a bushel for it! I .do not believe .that the farmers, particularly those who own their own land, ever dreamed that they would be on such a good wicket. Great Britain must “ buy dear and sell cheap “ It must have a surplus of about £350,000,000 sterling a year to balance its budget. It has an effete economy. The United States of America demanded, as part of the price of its participation in World War II., that Great Britain should dispose of its investments in that country. ‘ British coal mines are obsolete due to the greed of those wonderful people who are. known as the propagators of individual enterprise. During the war, they took coal out of the mines wherever they could get lt, provided that they could do so profitably and easily. Every coal mine in England today is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg as the result of that policy. There has been no system. The machinery in use during the war was obsolete. A Labour government had to come into power before anything could be done to improve the position of the miners. To-day, the psychological outlook of the miners is entirely different from that which prevailed a few years ago. Aus tralia’s Prime Minister and his colleagues have had to meet a similar situation, because the war changed the sense of values of the working people. The miner is no longer regarded as a stupid fellow. The mines of Great Britain have to be reorganized. Furthermore, Great Britain cannot grow enough food. A great deal of ‘progress has been made with agricultural production, but even so the country cannot produce more than half of its food requirements. How can the United Kingdam buy wheat at £1 a bushel and manufacture, say, chinaware, boots or machinery and compete successfully in the world’s markets against the United States of America, with its advanced industrial machine development? All of these things, of course, are part and parcel of the economic’ contradictions of the capitalist system of society. There is no plan for the economicfuture of either Europe ‘or America. The United States is demanding that Germany shall be reserved as a field for the investment of its surplus capital; that Germany shall be reconstructed on an economy of private enterprise. Tha: means virtually a reversion to the- old policy of laisser-fair.e, whereby Germany’s economy would return to what it was before World War I. Of course, such a thing is fantastic ; it is an absolute impossibility, sociologically, biologically or any other way. It is just as sensible to suggest that members of this Senate of 60 years of age can be transformed into youths of 20. However, because of the so-called educational system by which we have been nurtured, and because of which we have become mere automatons, simply part and parcel of the record of vested interest, we fail to realize that the laws of economics are immutable. Whether we be subjects of Australia, of the United States of America, of Germany, or any other country; whether we be rich or poor, we are. still bound by those economic laws. Because of those laws it- has been possible for a mere handful’- of men to aspire to economic dominance of the whole world. That is the situation which confronts us to-day, and .in the light of that knowledge we must’ ask t our selves whether our representatves at the recent international trade conference did, or did not, do a good job. It is of no use for someone in Victoria who has lost a market for the export of a few currants to complain. Those are mere incidental things, although, of course, we realise that from the point of view of such people all that they hold dear is at stake. However, they are like the wheat-farmers,, who are demanding £1 a bushel for their wheat; they are simply seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of others. That is the law of the jungle. We have only to recall the spate of wretched advertising publicity to which we are subjected by our wireless sets every evening. Throughout the world hundreds of thousands of people are engaged in the ramifications of the huge publicity organizations which exist to foist the goods of their advertisers upon the public. They are the kind of people who contend that it is “ up to the workers to produce more “. Of course, the whole thing is ridiculous. When we realize that Australia’s representatives at the recent International Trade Conference had to try to plan for the proper development of the world’s economy against a background of the kind I have indicated, I think we must all acknowledge that they did a very good job. The Marshall aid plan, which is an economic as well as a diplomatic proposition, may infuse new blood into the world’s economy. Nevertheless, it will have .to contend with a system that has inherent in it certain economic contradictions which necessitate that interests in one country must, inevitably war with similar interests in other countries, and that whole nations must be ranged against other nations. Our local needs present to other countries opportunities to exploit what they term “ f oreign markets “ ; and so it is with us. I do not believe that the economy of the world can be reduced to any real state of order while the present basis of society continues. However, I am not entirely without hope, although I realize that the present moment is a most serious one for the world. It has even been suggested that we should start drowning atomic bombs on other peoples. I wonder if any of the advocates of such a diabolical suggestion have ever stopped to think of what would happen if an atomic bomb were dropped.
– It would go off.
– I suppose it would ; but the explosion of an atomic bomb in the vicinity of Senator O’Sullivan. would not give him any more intelligence than he has now. Indeed, his remark is the sort which I would expect from him.
– The ho senator asked a question.
– I asked that question in all seriousness, and I expected, that it would be seriously considered by honorable senators. Apparently Senator O’Sullivan is in favour of atomic bombs being exploded - so long as we explode them on some other country. Let us examine for a moment the suggestion made by certain people that we should drop atomic bombs on Russia. Where should we go from there? Obviously the suggestion will not bear examination.
Reverting to the international agreements which are now before us, I repeat what I said previously, namely, that we must stick to the British Empire economically while it is possible to do so. At the same time it is obvious that Great Britain cannot reconstruct its economy by confining its trade to the British Empire because there are more and greater markets outside the Empire. As [ remarked earlier, the whole matter involves considerations not of sentiment but of economics. If we want to do something practical to assist Great Britain we should urge upon .the United States a::d other countries the necessity for adopting an ethical view of world problems. The United States of America and other countries are under a great moral obligation to the United Kingdom. During the early stages of the war Great Britain, stood alone in its fight with the enemy. Just as we feel it a moral obligation upon us to compensate our exservicemen who suffered because of their struggle for us during the war, so should the United States and certain other nations recognize the moral debt which they owe to Great Britain for the part which it played in the recent war. The United States should say to Great Britain, “ You are not going to suffer now because of the struggle which you waged on our behalf during the war. We are prepared to support you now, to assist you to rehabilitate your industries, and to try, as best we can, to place you in the position which you would have occupied had you not fought our battle- for us “. But nothing of- the kind will’ be’ said1.- Tie reason i# that, in truth, Great Britain- did not fight for the United States of America, nor the United States of America for Great Britain; both countries^ along- with the other belligerents’, fought because they had to. The pressure of economic circumstances! demanded; that they should fight. To-d:ay we have- people who continually propagate the doctrine that the world’s troubles: may be resolved into a conflict between” God and the devil, between ethics and; no ethics, between morality and no morality, or between religion and irreligion. I say let those i-n high places who believe those doctrines put them into practice. Let them show that advocates of socialism are’ mere materialists, who seek to reduce all. problems to’ a mere matter of economics1. In particular, let the moralists ira the United States of America prove their- contention; by extending ethical and Moral justice to- Great Britain.. However, I do not propose to say any more on those wider aspects of tike matters raised, by the measure now before us. I am pleased, to support the measure andi to tender my congratulations to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Ms. Dedman), and the officers- who assisted him, in, Beaching agreement with other nations on. the- vital matter of the future of the world’s- trade-.
Senator OBYRNE (Tasmania) 1 11.23]. - The interna tiona;!’ agreement to which this measure relates confers- con.suderable benefits on Australia. For many years- thi* country was at a great disadvantage because’ of the enormous trade barriers erected against its primary products. The development of its primary industries was adversely affected. However, the international agreement which we- are- at present con.sidering represents a .considerable advance in the direction of removing’ obstacles to free trade amongst the nations. At the same time I regret that the agreement embraces’ only seventeen- nations. However, it is- reasonable to hope that the successful operation of the agreement will induce other- nations- to follow suit. The Australian, delegation to the conferences held overseas, deserves special commendation for the many valuable concessions it secured for Australia. At one of the- conferences the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) remarked’ -
It has’ been’ necessary to find’ a way of harmonizing the interests of highly and lessdeveloped countries1;-, with; those’ which, entertain a philosophy of untramelled private enterprise and those who believe in. a large measure’ of government control; with, those whose interests; in international trade as such are slender aird’ those W]1080’ very existence depends on it.
The achievements of the international tr.aides- conference may be said’ to substantiate- the Minister’s statement, and I believe that we are at last implementing- some of the pledges of the Atlantic- Charter, not the- least of which aims at opening- the markets of the- world and the raw materials of the world to all nations’. Of course1, we come up against the great economic barrier of the dollar situation and’ we have to ma’ke concessions all the time in order to keep within the limits of the dollars that are available. Nearly every country in the world needs dollars, but the tremendous barriers raised in the ‘twenties by the Smoot-Hawley tariff-‘ made it practically impossible for any nation to export its goods to the United States’ of America. The greatest barrier to world trade is the dollar situation. Dollars constitute the principal medium of barter and. exchange between nations in the post-war world. These concessions which have been made will’ enable Australia to purchase more of the essential goods that are available in the world’s markets than could be- obtained with dollars alone,, and in addition will ensure a ready market for. more of our primary products. The United States of America is, in such a. strong position that it had to make very few concessions. That country is practically self-sufficient, and it is rather difficult for Australia to deal directly with it or with those other countries which, can supply the United States of America with such goods as oil or special types of. machinery. In that sphere these concessions should prove valuable-. That seventeen countries have agreed regarding tariffs agreement ia. indeed, a notable achievement; it is an important step towards that peace that we all hope will eventually come; but which is so sadly lacking in the world to-day. Unhappily, there is little sign of co-operation- among the nations to-day, but these concessions will provide an avenue whereby this state of affairs can be remedied. It is to be hoped that this step is only one of many that will be taken to improve trade relations between nations and will hasten the breaking down of those tariff walls which tend towards isolation and selfishness, leading to trade rivalry, and eventually to war.
Inside the British Commonwealth protective measures, such as the Ottawa Agreement, have been taken in the past. They were forced on Empire countries by the state of international affairs at the time. It may be, as Senator O’Sullivan said, that we stand to lose some of the benefits of British Empire preference, but we must realize that the field of international trade which is open to us now is wider than when the Ottawa Agreement was made, and that we must make concessions to. other countries if we desire to do business with them and live at peace with them -in the future.
In my opinion, the phobia of national self-sufficiency was the cause of both world wars. The whole trend of events in the period, between the two wars was to gain trade advantages over other nations, and so a rival state was set up in Europe to get its share of the trade, but it found tremendous barriers blocking its expansion. It had no access to markets for raw materials and what concessions were made, were only grudgingly conceded. There was no encouragement to resist the tendency towards war. I contend that the policy of reducing tariffs, and of making for a freer international trade, will tend to remove the main reasons why nations wage war. One -of the conditions of the Lend-Lease Agreement was that, through out the whole world, attempts to reduce tariffs should be made. That is one of the reasons why these reductions have to be agreed to. It is, indeed, a very fine thing that so many countries have been able to agree and have travelled so far along the path .towards international harmony.
Considering that one-fifth of Australia’s national income is derived from overseas exports, mostly primary products, we stand to gain considerably from these concessions. It would be a mistake for a -primary-producing country like Australia to attempt to - become completely self-sufficient.- This country has been richly endowed with natural resources, and its primary industries are of great value. There is no necessity for Australia to try to produce goods, if it is uneconomical to do so. These trade agreements make for the exchange of our goods with- those of other nations and will cement friendships between countries whose increased trade must necessarily improve their living standards. The concessions which affect canned and dried fruits will necessitate a revision of the economy of the fruit industry, but in the main I am certain that Australia, as well as the countries with which these agreements have been entered into, will gain because of this agreement. The gratitude of this chamber should be extended to the delegates who negotiated this agreement, which it is to be hoped will be the forerunner of further trade concessions resulting in the lowering of tariff barriers which, I am convinced, is necessary if international peace is to be assured.
.- First, I shall refresh the minds of honorable senators regarding the remarks made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) when introducing the bill. They should convince honorable senators that the matters under discussion have been arrived at chiefly as the result of negotiations between representatives of the nations concerned. The proposals now before us meet in every respect the singularly difficult conditions existing throughout the world to-day. The reception given to the Minister’s statement by honorable senators generally, not excluding the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) and his colleague, Senator O’Sullivan, is evidence that in negotiating this agreement the Government has not sacrificed in any - way whatever the interests of true Australians. Many aspects of the problem involved in the making of agreements of -this kind should be brought more clearly before our people as a whole. I had some experience in administering food and clothes rationing under war-time conditions. From that experience I can speak with some authority of the reaction of our people to the efforts made by -the Government to give to each of our citizens fair treatment in the distribution of the necessaries of life, whilst, at the same time, fulfilling our obligations to the British people. The Minister said, in his second-reading speech -
At Geneva, the general desire of all countries was to have negotiated rates bound against increase during the currency of the agreement: In the negotiations, Australia endeavoured to avoid the binding of the duties wherever there was the possibility of such binding detrimentally affecting Australian industry.
I commend the Government upon that outlook. We can rightly take pride in the fact that no country, either during .or since the war, has made greater progress than Australia in increasing the production of the necessaries of life. Our people as a whole are thankful to this Government for the initiative it displayed in taking advantage of. the opportunity presented to it at the conferences at which agreements of this kind have been negotiated. Despite the attacks made upon the Government by its political .opponents, the fact remains that almost daily overseas commercial interests are approaching the Government with a view to setting up their undertakings in this country. Although in the political sphere the representatives of those interests are highly critical of alleged conditions in Australia, they, in fact, realize that no country offers better inducements and prospects for the future. It is about time that that fact was admitted by our political opponents. I urge the Government not to lose sight of the importance of informing our people fully of facts of that kind. The Minister also said -
T.n the case of the United Kingdom, however, this principle was departed from on certain items where it is proposed to reduce the duties on an unbound basis. In these cases, should circumstances show that the Australian manufacturer has been detrimentally affected, liberty is retained to raise the duties to their previous level.
That, also, is a wise provision; because, regardless of tariffs and bounties, Australia, in developing secondary industries, must pay regard first to its geographical position and the problems arising from its sparsity of population. I note with pleasure that the Government had sufficient foresight to safeguard Australia’s position under this agreement by providing that where any industry may be detrimentally affected by the proposed new tariffs the existing measure of protection may be maintained. According to the Minister, the duties set out under the agreement will be bound on the following principles’: -
The binding of the duties has, in general, been along the following lines: - “
Binding was accepted where the item covers goods which are pf a type not being manufactured in Australia and in respect of which no indication has been received by the Government that there is a likelihood of local manufacture within the next few years; and
Where industries have been well established over a considerable number of years and it has been apparent that they have overcome their initial dim. culties, a number of duties have been bound at the rates previously recommended by the Tariff Board or at a figure slightly below the Tariff Board’s recommended rates.
It is clear, therefore, that the Government has not failed in any instance to provide safeguards for the’ development of industries having regard to the special conditions existing in this country, lt has kept uppermost in its mind the obligation to make its contribution to world recovery by doing what it can to provide its share of the necessaries of life to the starving millions in other countries. Many persons seem to overlook the fact that we have an obligation to not only assist the British people in their present difficulties but also to help to feed the starving peoples of other countries. Unfortunately, however, it is only too apparent that many people display an utter disregard for the rights of others. All of us deplore the conditions which impel more fortunate nations to combine to supply the necessaries of life, food and clothing, to millions of human beings who, otherwise, would perish. We must approach this problem primarily from the Christian viewpoint that we should do unto others as we would wish them to do unto us. Unfortunately, selfishness too often predominates. I recall the attacks that were made upon this Government when under war-time conditions it took effective action to ensure fair distribution of essential commodities to the community as a’ whole. Prices control and rationing were constantly attacked. Admittedly, such systems are foreign to the ideals of our freedom-loving people. It was my responsibility from the inception of rationing of food and clothing to- participate in the administration of that scheme. I then realized that under prices control the overwhelming majority of Australians who are obliged to exist on the basic wage, or, perhaps, a little more, were better off than they were under the conditions which existed previously. It became clear to me that lack of finance and not any insufficiency of coupon ratings caused the greatest worry to the greatest number. Of course, a comparative few attempted to defeat the objectives of rationing and prices control; but, in fact, the number of people who practised dishonesty of that kind or indulged in black-marketing was very small. I hurl back in the teeth of the Opposition the accusation that the continuance of economic controls is the cause of black-marketing in this country. Black-marketing has resulted almost entirely from selfishness, mainly on the part of those individuals who already have an over-abundance of the world’s goods. These people are prepared to pay any price to obtain the things that they want, and if there has been any failure of our economic controls, the responsibility is entirely theirs. Without controls there would have been chaos in almost every field. I have formed *hes opinions as the result of long administrative experience. I have no doubt whatsoever that black-marketing originated in the selfish demands of those whose lot in life is already much better than that of the majority of the Australian people. One often hears the charge that the Government is employing an army of “ bureaucrats “ to administer unnecessary controls. This is a most unfair accusation. Hundreds of this country’s best citizens who have endeavoured honestly to implement the policy of the Government have been unjustifiably criticized and insulted. They have no means of redress. Many of them havebeen unable to stand up to the continuous abuse that has been levelled at them and have had to relinquish their jobs. The making of appointments to fill these vacancies has given rise to the charge that the Government is ^constantly enlarging its army of officials. These people are doing a job of “no mean importance, and the Government is mat unmindful of the value of their work to the .community.
A shortage of rationing coupons has never troubled the workers qf this country. Their problem has rather been to earn sufficient money to enable t-hein to buy the goods to which they are entitled. The administration of controls is not. a pleasant occupation, and nobody will argue that living in a controlled economy is a happy experience for the people. However, few will argue that controls are not necessary in the present abnormal economic conditions, and officials who have to enforce these necessary restrictions should not be classed as a section of the community worthy only of criticism and abuse. ‘ I repeat that self-interest is the greatest factor in black-marketing to-day, and until there is some indication of a return to a Christian ideal, “ Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them “, it will be necessary for this Government and succeeding governments to exercise some form of control over the distribution of goods that are in short supply. I know that in South Australia at least the main objections to this Government’s policy have their origin in the selfishness of the individual. For instance, there is a clamour for the payment by the people of Great Britain of 17s. or £1 a bushel for Australian wheat.. These prices have been made possible only because of the existence of starving millions throughout the world. There is no Christianity in such demands.
One frequently hears condemnation of this Government’s endeavours to assist the primary producers of this country, but the fact remains that it has done more than any other administration in that sphere. To-day the prices of most primary products have been stabilized at figures hitherto unknown in this- country. The man on the land to-day is in a most fortunate position, but because of jealousy and -suspicion fostered largely by political hostility to the Government, the differences amongst primary producers are. almost :as great now as they were in the days of the depression. In those days governments formed by the parties now in Opposition permitted thousands of farmers to be driven from their properties. Instead of showing gratitude to the people who saved it-be democratic way of life in the early days of Une” Watt, We find1 individuals in this community clamouring for prices for their products that; have m regard- to common: decency. Fortunately, conditions iri the wool industry are somewhat better, although many members tff this chamber will recall the activities’ of ex-Senator Guthrie, »hoy whilst a member ©>£ the Senate, pressed for the removal r>f the embargo on’ the export of stud mel’1140 sheep to South Africa. These sheep were’ sent to South Africa^ and subsequently to Japan, but it- was” net very long before a tightening lip- of this trade was forced on the Austraiian Government.
I should like to say a word or two now regarding the food position in Great Britain. I have- before me a copy of. The Australian Dairy Review for April of this year. In. it appears the following, report
Butter rationing, was- introduced into Australia on 7th June,, 1943, at the rate of 8ozs. per head per week, which was reduced to C ozs. per week on June 5th, 1944. Consumption per head during the three years ended 1938-39 averaged 33.0 lb., and declined following, the introduction of rationing to 2-7.5 lb. in 1,944; 2B.1 lb. in 1945; and 25.3- ib. in 194B and 1946-47.
The point that I wish to make fs that even allowing for a decrease of production, the reduction in the annual consumption of butter by approximately fi lb. a head brought about- by rationing, has resulted in a worth-while contribution to the needs of the people of the United Kingdom. Admittedly, internal disturbances have resulted in some loss of production of foodstuffs.. Shipping, too, has not been handled as expeditiously on some occasions as one would have liked. But whilst making no excuses for the production’ lag - I agree whole-heartedly with what the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has had to say on this matter - I say that it is time that there Was a wider’ realization of the difficulties of those who are called upon to administer our economic controls in time of peace in the interests of starving humanity. This Government has’ never lost Sight of the necessity for providing’ at least enough food and clothing for every section of the community. I hurl back in the teeth of those who complain that we are overburdened with civil servants. To-day, a great percentage of those officers are engaged solely in policing the laws of the land. That fact affords a” rather startling condemnation of the socalled honesty of purpose of the people criticize this’ Government for not doing’ everything possible tff assist people overseas’.
This Government’s- record is unparalleled in the world. Any shortcomings- on the part of the nation- are the fault of those who ‘ have refused to cooperate with the Government and whose consciences’, if they have any, should pronounce their guilt. Unfortunately, the present labour situation will make neces’s’a’ry for a considerable’ time the continuation: of some of the duties which we are’ considering. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) ha’s’ done” a great deal towards inproving that situation1, but many people fail to appreciate the arduous nature of his task iri trying to- bring suitable migrants to the country in- adequate numbers. We should realize trie seriousness of Great Britain’s present position. Quite rightly, that’ fs the principal nation that we are’ setting out te aid with a view to returning it to its former status in world economy. Any government, irrespective of its political faith, would be foolish to release its best artisans and technicians to other” cou’n’tries at a time when it is trying to rehabilitate its own affairs. It is easy to appreciate the anxiety aroused in the minds of the Government of the United Kingdom and of British business people generally lest the migration scheme be overdone. The” Minister for Immigration has been confronted with opposition also in European countries, and even within Australia criticism has been directed against his activities. However, a great percentage of the people agree that what he has done has been right. The immigragration of men and women who adapt themselves readily to the conditions of life of the Australian people will provide this country with many estimable citizens.
I arn greatly concerned about the dried fruits industry. In. spite of the herculean efforts of Mr. Dwyer, the Commonwealth officer in South Australia, and of the Australian Government itself, the dried fruits industry is severely handicapped by labour shortages. A heavy crop of fruits has been grown in the River Murray district of South Australia, a highly productive part of the State. However, because of the scarcity of labour, many growers are not drying their crops but are delivering them direct to the wineries. Although this may involve them in financial loss, it is probably less costly than to attempt to dry their fruit with the small volume of available labour. This state of affairs is likely to lead to a serious reduction of the supply of dried fruits.
The Minister’s second-reading speech clearly indicated that the Government had given close attention to tariff problems and had dealt with them with considerable foresight. It should convince honorable senators, and Australians generally, that the Government considered all the problems involved from every point of view and that our representatives at the various overseas conferences, whilst realizing their duty to their own country, also went as far as was humanly possible towards co-operating with other countries with which we are obliged to trade. As Senator Grant has said, Great Britain is obliged to buy goods at high prices and, because of the intensity of world competition, to sell its own products at low prices. In the circumstances, the British people have done a great job. This subject reminds me -of some words of the late T. P. O’Connor, a former member of the British Parliament, in an article which he wrote about the economic position of the world immediately after the South African war. Although the article was written so long ago, I often think of its significance. Mr. O’Connor said that the safest and surest way to assess any country’s economic circumtances was to watch the gates of its factories. He asserted that, if one could see tcn, twenty or one hundred people waiting at a factory gate, no tariff barrier could bring about anything other than a state of false economy within that country. Those words remain true today.
In conclusion, I refer to a statement published in the Melbourne Age on the 8th April. It should give food for thought to the critics of this Government. The circumstances of to-day call for unnatural means of administering the affairs of the nation by whatever govern- ment happens to be in power. The average Australian “ bucks “ about the subsidies paid by this Government in order that, in many instances, even the necessaries of life shall remain within the reach of everybody in the country. Subsidies are also paid on such commodities as superphosphates and corn sacks so as to give primary producers a reasonable chance to continue production profitably. The .article, written by the newspaper’s correspondent in London, stated -
It is generally believed that the decision to leave food subsidies at the old rate of £400,000,000 annually may mean an actual rise in food prices, in view of the higher prices being demanded by overseas suppliers.
The people who say that our primary products should be sold at world parity prices overlook the fact that the people of Great Britain are paying £400,000,000 annually for only such foodstuffs as are necessary to their continued existence. Where is the Christianity or the brotherhood of such people? The article continued -
The Daily Telegraph points out that Empire and foreign countries with whom Britain recently signed food agreements have demanded higher prices. Not all these increases have yet been passed on to the public, but it is not expected food subsidies at the old rate will be enough to absorb the rise.
Note the significance of that. Even £400,000,000 a year is considered to be not sufficient to cover increased costs!
It is believed Britain agreed to pay 14 per cent, more under the 420,000-ton meat contract with the Argentine, and the meat trade believes a rise in prices is imminent.
I contend that because of the abnormal conditions prevailing in the world to-day a new approach is needed to solve its problems. The agreements embraced in the measure now before us provide ample evidence of a new approach. Furthermore, it is obvious that the Government has been actuated by humanitarian motives in contributing the suggestions which it has made for the cure of the world’s economic ills. Nevertheless, opponents of the Government have attacked it bitterly for the part it has played in international discussions and have sought to tear it down contumeliously. However, the prestige of the Government has not been damaged in any way by their efforts.
. - in reply - The measure before the Senate embraces a number of changes in our tariff in consequence of the international agreement which has resulted from the protracted discussions abroad. The debate has covered a wide field, but no real criticism of the agreement, or of Australia’s
Part in it, has been advanced, and that, I think, indicates the general satisfaction with which the agreement has been received. The trade discussions overseas occupied many months and involved most thorough preparation and strenuous effort on the part of several delegations. E know somehing of the effort made by the members of the Australian delegation, because for over twelve months I have been associated with a sub-committee of Cabinet appointed to deal with this matter. I wish to pay a tribute to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who presided at all the discussions throughout that period, and also to the other Ministers and public servants who assisted in the work of the sub-committee. Apart from the general satisfaction expressed in Australia at the result of the labours of the Australian delegation, it is pleasing to know that delegations from other countries expressed their cordial appreciation of the contribution made by our representatives. Of course, Australia did not originate the discussions, but was invited to take part in them by other nations. When it was decided that Australia should participate in the negotiations I, like many others, experienced some anxiety as to the possible outcome of the discussions on Australian primary and secondary industries. However, the result of the deliberations is calculated to improve the prospects for our economic development, and certainly will not harm them. Some time ago industrial interests likely to be affected by the international trade agreement were invited by the Government to express their opinions, and it is very gratifying to know that no serious criticism of the agreement, or of Australia’s share in it, has been forthcoming.
The Government of the United States sponsored the creation of the International Trade Organization with the object of removing barriers to the expansion of international trade at a most opportune time. The conferences which followed presented a more favorable opportunity to achieve that end than anything else could have done. The benefits which may be expected to accrue to Australia from offers made by the United States of America at Geneva are substantial. In particular, the offer made by the United States to reduce by 25 per cent, the duty which it imposes on fine wools imported into that country is valuable for many reasons. Certainly a greater reduction of that country’s tariff could have been made because its legislation provides for a maximum reduction of 50 per cent. However, the specific reasons why the reduction of 25 per cent, will benefit Australia are as follows: -
The maximum permissible reduction of duty by the United States, namely, 50 per cent.,’ was obtained for Australian beef, mutton, lamb and butter. The concessions in respect of butter and lamb were negotiated by the United States of America with New Zealand and Australia jointly. The offer in respect of butter is governed by the establishment of a substantial quota, which will operate in -respect of the peak export season in the southern hemisphere, thus providing a form of insurance against competition from the northern hemisphere. The opportunities for Australian exporters to avail themselves of the -concessions which I have indicated will be restricted because of the -operation during the next few years of long-term contracts which we have made with the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, the- value of the concessions in future years should not be . linder.estimated.
The duty imposed by the United States on a number of Australian exports is not high, and in respect .of others .there is no duty ‘at ali. In this category I include rabbit and other f urred skins, sheep skins, calf skins, sausage casings, pearl shell, and a number of other items. Our requests for tariff concessions in respect of ^almost all those items were acceded to completely. In respect of the majority of those exports provision has been made that no alterations of duty shall take place, so that in that respect the future <sf. guar >trad-e with the -United States of America is -assured. Generally speaking, it may be said that., apart from the duty on -wood., the United .States of America has made most valuable concessions to Australia on almost .every item in respect of which we sought concessions. ‘That is very satisfactory .and I could .continue in a similar trend explaining the attitude of other countries in regard to many of the products in which we are interested.
I was rather astonished that the Leader of the Opposition did sot make some reference to the redaction (of the duty on wool, because he knows a good deal about the wOol industry and mo .doubt appreciates the benefit which -would be derived by that industry -if ou-r exports of wool to the United States of America were increased. For many other reasons also it is of tremendous -importance that the export of our -stable product, wool, should be increased, especially in -view of the dollar situation.
Both the Leader of the Opposition and Senator O’Sullivan referred to Empire preference and the sugar industry. Realizing the value of that industry to Australia, the -Government was concerned that it should not be detrimentally affected. It was, therefore, a matter for satisfaction that the .sugar industry did -not come into the -discussions at all. It is not mentioned in the tariffs and there as no reference to it in the agreement. From the point of view of the sugar industry the results are .-regarded as most .satisfactory. As honrable senators know, -this industry is controlled in .some measure by the International Sugar Agreement. Recently, Sir Stafford Cripps, Chancellor >of the Exchequer in the United Kingdom, informed the Government that the preferential rates which had hitherto applied to the sugar industry .under an agreement which expires in August next, had been extended for another f out years on exactly the same conditions. Th-ait -should remove any fear as to the future -of the industry. That .extension is of tremendous importance because if .the industry were ‘subjected to -the competition (of sugar from low-wage countries, ike effect :could .be serious indeed. I am happy to say that in the negotiations the sugar industry did not come into the discussions at all, sand I feel is-ure that we .cam be reasonably optimistic as to its future.
Another pleasing feature of the negotiations is that (theme has- been -no protest against the agreement <on .behalf of those engaged am secondary industries generally in this country. There is a wide -and growing -field for -the expansion of industry in the Commonwealth-, -the -.time has gone when Austraiia Must fee regarded as a -primary producing country only. -We have demonstrated that -we are able to pr.©duce-y-a.<rio.us .commodities to->day in our secondary industries, -in competition with tike o’-est of the world -, and, with the tariff protection afforded to those industries, I am convinced that there is a good future for this country in that sphere. The agreement offers stability and security because of the knowledge -as to where industry -will stand for a long time to come, and I believe that it offers great opportunities for industrial expansion. It will enable the nation to grow up and achieve its destiny.
In conclusion, I offer my very sincere thanks -to all those who shared in the long and exacting duties associated with the tariff negotiations overseas. The results are considered highly satisfactory to Australia, and they constitute confirmation of this Government’s policy in regard to the expansion of secondary industries in Australia. I have no doubt that only good will accrue from the conferences that have taken place. Wonderful opportunities exist in this country and it is out duty to see that we take full advantage of them. I believe that the future holds bright prospects for Australia. If its people recognize their responsibilities to the nation, Australia will take its proper place in the affairs of the world.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I shall refer first to Division II., tobacco and manufactures thereof. It is pleasing to note that some of the tobacco duties are being, reviewed, with a downward trend. I notice that the duty on cigarettes is to be reduced from a British preferential rate of 32s. 4d. to 31s. per lb., and the intermediate tariff from 34s. 4d. to 31s. per lb. It is not a great reduction, but it is a start on the downward trend in respect of this item.
Item 52 relates to bananas. Can the Minister say whether there has been any alteration of the duties . on this commodity?
– No; there has been no alteration.
– Item 91, Division TV. - Agricultural products and groceries - relates to seeds and nuts for the manufacture of oils, oil-cake, and other byproducts. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether there has been any change in the conditions which have operated in the past?
– There has been no alteration.
– I come now to Division V. - Textiles, felts, furs and manufactures therefrom and attire. This division covers cotton piece goods, and cotton tariffs have a considerable influence on cotton-growing- in Australia. I am not in any way questioning the rates of duty that have been put on cotton goods because, undoubtedly, there has developed in Australia an extensive secondary industry in the manufacture of cotton goods; but I draw attention to thetremendous draw on the dollar pool as the result of the importation of raw cotton. Approximately 80,000 bales of cotton are imported yearly, at a cost of from 28d. to 30d. per lb. It has been proved that Australia can grow cotton effectively, and there is no reason why it should not continue to do so. We have already grown a certain- quantity of cotton. Like tobacco-growing, the cotton industry is having a very checkered career. Whereas in 1939 we produced 12,500 bales, production had declined to 1,500 bales in 1947, whilst this year we expect to produce 2,000 bales. When we remember that we are importing 80,000 bales- annually, and are continually being reminded of the serious shortage of dollars, surely the Government can see the opportunities now presented to it, not only to build up a very prosperous primary industry but also, thereby, to ease the heavy drain on the dollar pool to the amount of millions of pounds annually. I admit that one of the main reasons for the decline in production is the shortage of labour. Cotton picking is seasonal, and the industry must compete for labour with other seasonal employment. However, when the cotton has been sold the grower finds that he can obtain a bettor return from the production of other primary products. The cost of cotton imports annually is now approximately £5,000,000, the price ranging from 28d. to 30d. per lb. At the same time the price guaranteed to the Australian grower is only 15. 6d. per lb. The price to the grower increased by only 24 per cent, from 1941 to 1947, whereas the prices of other primary products increased to a far greater degree. Therefore, one can readily understand why many farmers are not prepared to continue growing cotton.
I understand that the Queensland Cotton Board has requested the Government to guarantee a price of 22d. per lb. for five years. That price would be equivalent approximately, to 7½d. per lb. for seed cotton. Recently, the chairman of the Queensland Cotton Board, Mr. J. B. Young, informed me that the minimum yield required to enable the board to meet overhead expenses, including storage, is 6,000 bales per annum. He said that the board had to repay to the Commonwealth Bank in interest and redemption on advances invested in plant, machinery and buildings a sum of £10,560 annually. Therefore, the industry must produce at least 6,000 bales of cotton a year in order to survive. Many thousands of acres in Queensland are suitable for cotton-growing. The State Government has been very sympathetic towards the industry, and is anxious to expand it. That government is prepared to provide areas which are suitable for cottongrowing under irrigation. Experience has shown that cotton can best be grown in Queensland .under irrigation conditions, because in the areas suitable for cotton-growing the rainfall is inadequate. However, under irrigation conditions cotton should be grown in this country as successfully as it is in Texas in the United States of America where it is grown exclusively under irrigation. I understand that many areas could be worked successfully on a co-operative basis by the use of mechanical pickers which have been used in the United States of Amenca for a considerable time. Mr. Young informed me that during his recent visit to the United States of America, he found that mechanical picking in that country had proved most successful. In one area, fifteen machines picked 100,000 lb. a day. Shortage of labour has forced the grower of cotton in the United States of America to resort to mechanization. Although over 2,000,000 Negro cotton pickers voluntarily left the cotton-growing areas between 1941 and 1946, labour was not forced off the cotton fields by the mechanization of the industry. I do not believe that the introduction of mechanical pickers in this country would displace any labour that could not be employed in other primary industries. In the near future the Queensland Cotton Board expects to take delivery of a mechanical picker from the United
States of America. The board will test the machine thoroughly. The tractor and picker will be landed here at a cost of £2,200.
In the United States of America, 80 per cent, of the secondary section of the industry is now established in the cotton belt itself. This fact helps one to visualize the great part which cotton-growing can play in decentralizing industry in this country. In addition, the by-products of the industry are assuming increasing importance. The Queensland Cotton Board at present is selling meal and oil as special stock feed at prices lower than similar feed is sold for in any other country. The board is now putting on the market a 40 per cent, protein meal for stock feed at £9 10s. a ton compared with prices of £25 a ton in the United States of America and £16 a ton in Great Britain. Here we are presented with an opportunity to develop not only a huge domestic industry but also a valuable export trade. Even should we not be able to export raw cotton we can at least build up an export trade in by-products of the industry. I am certain that if growers were guaranteed a fair price, the industry would rapidly develop. I know that the Minister is very sympathetic towards it. He knows as much about it as I do. Now that the effectiveness of the mechanical cotton picker has been demonstrated, I urge the Government to give a fresh start to the industry.
– There has been no alteration of the tariff on cotton goods. Locally produced cotton is always assured of a market in this country. “We shall be very glad to have it. As I said earlier, a price has been guaranteed for raw cotton. Recently representatives of the cotton industry approached me with a request for an increase of this price to 23d. per lb. and the request was granted. I have been in close contact with members of the Australian Cotton Board and have discussed with them and with the Queensland Minister for Agriculture the many difficulties that beset this industry. I a.m confident that cotton production in this country has distinct possibilities. Production in recent years has been reduced, first by the war and later by seasonal conditions, and this has resulted in unduly heavy overhead charges on the industry and a corresponding reduction of the return to the growers. I assure the Senate that the Government is intensely sympathetic with this industry. As I have said, I have been in close contact with the Minister for Agriculture in Queensland. We are considering irrigation and other means of increasing and stabilizing the production of cotton in Queensland.
– I refer to Division VI. - Metals and Machinery. Item 180 provides for a reduction of the British preferential tariff on handset telephones from I7i per cent, to 12£ per cent. I should like to know whether this action has been taken in an endeavour to obtain more telephones to meet the great shortage of these instruments in this country.
.- The 25 per cent, preferential margin which exceeds the Ottawa formula margin of preference has been preserved. As the result of negotiations with the United Kingdom, the British preferential tariff has been reduced by 5 per cent., the new figure being 12-J per cent, instead of 17$ per cent. Most-favoured-nation countries, which previously were subject to a 42$ per cent, duty, have now been accorded intermediate tariff treatment by the fixing of the rate at 37$ per cent., the 5 per cent, reduction being consistent with that applied to the British preferential tariff.
– Item 241 (b) under Division VIII. provides for a reduction of the tariff on chinaware, porcelainware and parianware. As the manufacture of these goods is a big Australian industry, although it has been in operation for only ten or twelve years, and as one of the countries favoured by the reduction is Czechoslovakia, I should like to know whether or not there has been any protest by local manufacturers against this action. I understand that en coemption cf the j per cent, primage duty has also been granted.
– No objection has been raised by the Australian interests concerned. The goods now covered by sub-items (1) and (2) were previously covered by one item, namely, 241 (b). By the division of the old item into two sub-items the rates on chinaware, porcelainware and parianware articles of the finer or lighter types now become subject, under the British preferential tariff and the intermediate tariff, to duties lower than those imposed on the coarser or heavier types of chinaware and on earthenware, including crockeryware, and brownware and stoneware. The intention is to lessen the duty burden on the types of chinaware that are not yet being produced locally and, at the same time, to maintain fairly high protective duties on the types of chinaware and earthenware which compete with products of the local industry.
– I refer now to Division XI. Under item 309, which relates to card cases, hat pins, match boxes, and articles for personal wear, &c., there is a general tariff reduction of 7$ per cent. Once again, Czechoslovakia is one of the countries favoured. It is noticeable that although Australia has entered into trade treaties with most of the countries represented at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment, America has not signed agreements with a number of the smaller countries. The following is an extract from an article which appeared recently in an American newspaper: -
Sitting suspended from 124-5 to 2.15 p.m.
– Although 22 countries undertook to make reciprocal trade agreements with the United States of America, only seven of them have taken steps to formalize the pacts by legislation. It will be seen that President Truman has signed the agreements with these seven countries - Australia, Canada, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom - and has proclaimed that the new rates listed in them shall be effective as from the 1st January, 1948. Meanwhile, the new rates provided in the remaining fifteen provisional agreements will be held in abeyance until the governments of the countries concerned take the necessary constitutional action to give effect to them. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether all of the countries which have made provisional agreements with Australia have finally signed them. Furthermore, I draw attention to the fact that Czechoslovakia, with which Australia has a number of agreements, has undergone a political change since the Geneva Conference took place and is now under Communist rule. Under these preferential agreements, would Australia be exporting goods indirectly to the Soviet Union at the special rates by sending them through Czechoslovakia? Will the Minister investigate this question? The provisional agreements provide for considerable concessions to Czechoslovakia. The rate of reduction in some instances is 20 per cent. In the light of recent political events, would it not be advisable to re-examine the proposals in order to determine the wisdom or otherwise of implementing them? I should like the Minister also to give some information to the Senate regarding the manufacture of fancy goods in Australia. I understand that many articles which fall within this category are manufactured in small factories and I should like to know whether the substantial reduction of 20 per cent, which has been decided upon would affect local production. Item 310 includes cricket balls and cricket bats, and the tariff rate is reduced from 52$ per cent, to 22$ per cent. I should like to have an assurance from the Minister that this reduction will not damage the Australian manufacturing industry. Tennis racquets are also in-‘ eluded in the item. The manufacture of these articles has grown into an industry of considerable proportions, and I understand that at least one company export? some of its racquets. The tariff on tennis racquets also is to be reduced by 30 per cent. The industry has gained a footing in this country and is producing a remarkably good type of article, and any serious interference with it would be regrettable.
– The Government of Czechoslovakia has until the 30th June, 1948, to ratify and put into operation the reduction of duties which that country conceded at Geneva.
– Then they have not been ratified yet?
– No. Those governments which have already signed agreements have done so only provisionally and still have the power to refrain from concluding them. The provisional signatures are effective only until the 30th June, when the agreements must be finalized one way or the other. Australia, being one of the key countries, undertook to operate the lower duties on or before the 1st January. Should Czechoslovakia fail to carry out its undertakings, Australia will be free to review the concessions which were granted as the result of negotiations with that country.
– Can the Minister give any information about the effect of the recent change of government in Czechoslovakia ?
– I do not know what the circumstances are in the country now or whether there is any likelihood of the new Government failing to adhere to its predecessor’s policy. In answer to the honorable senator’s questions about local manufactures, I point out that the majority of the goods covered by item 309 are produced by a very wide range of manufacturers throughout Australia. They use a great variety of raw materials, practically all of which are of local origin. The principal exceptions are certain types of plastic materials. The Ottawa margin of preferences has been maintained in respect of these goods. In addition to the adjustment of rates necessitated by the new basis of value for duty, the British ‘preferential and intermediate tariff rates have each ‘been reduced by 2£ per cent, to 27£ per cent, and 45 per cent, respectively. Primage, which has never been considered as a protective element, has also been eliminated from those tariffs. The intermediate tariff rate has been bound at the new level. The item is mainly a revenue one and the rates provided in it have never been reviewed by the Tariff Board. The rates proposed are on the same level as those which are proposed for fancy goods classifiable under item 309 (c) and item 309 (d). The alteration results from negotiations with Czechoslovakia at Geneva.
– I should also like to have information about cricket balls and bats and tennis racquets.
– The local manufacture of cricket bat blades and handles is well established, and the quality of Australian cricket bats has considerably improved. The imported components of these articles are willow clefts and cane, both of which are admitted at low rates of duty. The firm of R. M. Crockett and Son. Melbourne, is the principal manufacturer of bats and blades, and Slazengers. (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Sydney, and Stokes McGowan Limited, Sydney, are the principal manufacturers of balls.
– Am I correct in assuming that these materials are imported from India?
– Tes. The local industry, which has expanded considerably since 1935, is not likely to be detrimentally affected. The British preferential rate, which the Tariff Board recommended, has been retained. The position appears to be satisfactory. This alteration results from negotiations with India at the Geneva Conference.
– What is the position regarding tennis racquets?
– The manufacture nf tennis racquets in Australia is well established, and we have developed an important export trade in these items of sporting equipment. The great hulk of imported components is admitted at low rates of duty, but, for the most part local raw materials are used. The Ottawa formula margin of preference has been maintained.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7th April (vide page 587), on motion by Senator Courtice -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill _is complementary to Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1948, which honorable senators have just been, considering, but, in addition, it covers a few items which have been included merely for re-drafing purposes. The Opposition does not desire to impede the pass-age of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 7th April (vide page 588), on motion by. Senator Courtice -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is a machinery measure which is designed to ensure that Canada shall not be detrimentally affected by arrangements made between Australia and other countries. I understand that it is complementary to Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1948, and I do not desire to delay its passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Motion (by Senator Courtice) proposed -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 28th April, at 3 p.m.
. -I again appeal to the Government to arrange for the Senate to deal with more business. This chamber has been in recess for more than three months, and many honorable senators travelled from distant States in order to attend the sittings this week. I realize that the tariff measures constitute the only business which the Senate has received to date from the House of Representatives, but I consider that the Government should allow honorable senators an opportunity to discuss important international and national affairs. A definite programme should be arranged to occupy the Senate to a greater degree than during the present sittings. I urge the Government to take this request into consideration in future.
– in reply - I undertake to bring the observations made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) to the notice of the Government in order to obviate, if possible, a repetition of the present short sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Courtice) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I propose to refer again to the provision of accommodation for age and invalid pensioners who are now finding it difficult to obtain accommodation, not only because of the inadequacy of their pensions, but also because of the high rentals charged for rooms. When I mentioned this matter this morning, the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) said that he was not aware that high rents were being charged because he believed that prices and rent controls prevented it. Whilst control over rents is exercised by State governments the present position is not by any means satisfactory. Age pensioners are called upon to pay away the greater portion of their incomes for the rental of rooms which are often completely devoid of conveniences and unfit for human habitation. During a recent visit which I made to New Zealand I interested myself particularly in the New Zealand Government’s efforts to improve the housing situation of its people, particularly as it affected workers in receipt of small incomes, and pensioners. That Government has come to grips with the real problem presented by the housing shortage and has accomplished a great deal. I asked the Prime Minister of New Zealand how that progress had been made and whether the Dominion could afford to provide such excellent housing. In reply he informed me that it was not so much a matter of New Zealand being able to do so as that no nation could afford not to have decent housing conditions for its people. Service flats and small houses are provided for pensioners at a rental of 15s. a week, and the premises provided usually include a bedroom, a sitting room, a kitchen and a bathroom. Such accommodation certainly provides some comfort for age pensioners in the declining years of their lives. The provision made for old people in New Zealand contrasts with the lack of consideration displayed towards them in Australia.
I am speaking now not of pensioners who own their own homes, but of those who are compelled to pay rent from the meagre pension of 37s. 6d. a week which they receive. They are permitted to earn only £1 a week if they wish to remain eligible for payment of the pension. After they pay rent very little is left to them. I have seen some of the accommodation for which pensioners are charged up to £1 a week. Usually it consists of a back room of some kind, completely devoid of heating facilities and other amenites. The situation must be remedied. Any housing scheme administered by the Government, or any scheme of social services which is implemented must provide for people in receipt of small incomes including age pensioners. Certainly the agreement reached between the Commonwealth and States in regard to housing did make provision for people in the lower income groups, and particularly for family groups. However, no provision was made for age or invalid pensioners without families. In Western Australia very few, if any, homes are made available to people without families. When parents who have reared their families become old they are regarded as constituting a family of only two units, and so they do not come within the benefits of the housing scheme. I trust that cognizance will be taken of my plea on behalf of pensioners and that something will be done for them along the lines of the provision made for old people in New Zealand. The Government should npt hesitate to send some one to New Zealand to examine the position there at first hand. After all, Australia has a much greater population and a higher national income than New Zealand, and it is time that we decided to provide proper accommodation for aged and invalid folk.
– 1 desire to bring to the notice of the Government the serious position which exists in Tasmania because of the shortage of sugar. The present position is much worse than was the case during the period when sugar was rationed. It is impossible to purchase more than 4 lb. of sugar at any time from any storekeeper in that State. In answer to a question which I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) recently, he said : “ I have taken up this matter with the representatives of the sugar industry on several occasions, and I have ascertained that the shortage in the various States is due mainly to industrial dislocations and to services”. That may be partly true, but it indicates that nothing has been done by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, which supplies the Australian market. That company enjoys a virtual monopoly of the Australian market and upon it devolves the duty of ensuring that there is always a plentiful supply of sugar. If a strike occurs for a few days or there is a minor shipping hold-up the supply of sugar available to the people is immediately curtailed. One explanation of the inability of the company to maintain an adequate supply of sugar may be that it does not possess sufficient plant. However, as I have already remarked, the company enjoys a virtual monopoly of the Australian market, and it should provide sufficient plant to process enough sugar to fulfil local requirements. Only a few days ago an old man in a most distressed condition informed me that he had just picked a crop of beautiful peaches which his wife proposed to preserve. However, the peaches could not be preserved because sugar was almost unobtainable, and the crop of peaches went to waste. The infliction of hardships such ‘ as that on poor people is nothing short of a crime. In Tasmania, I have seen the ground literally covered with plums, which could not be preserved because of the shortage of sugar. This year the crops of black and red currants and gooseberries had to be wasted because there was not sufficient sugar available to preserve them, and the same thing will happen in respect of the peaches, pears and quinces which have yet to be picked. The position is intolerable, and it is something for which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has to answer. If the company continues to fail to fulfil its function then I suggest that the Parliament should review the terms of the present agreement with the company when it becomes due for renewal. We have had quite enough experience of the operations of the “ sugar octopus and if it is not prepared to give the Australian public a fair deal then it is our duty to take steps to compel it to do so. There is no reason why the company should not maintain regional stores of sugar. Why should it not maintain a supply of sugar in Tasmania sufficient to fulfil local requirements for a period of three months ? I know of a building that the Australian Government could make available immediately to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited or to any other concern for use as a store for this commodity. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that fruit is not wasted because of the laxity of this organization, which should be made to do what is expected of it.
Senator RANKIN (Queensland) £2.46]. - -The bowsing of aged and invalid pensioners is ai matter that is very near to my heart and one in which I have taken an. active interest. “We must do all we can to provide them with adequate housing facilities. One of the finest places I have ever visited in Queensland is the garden settlement for aged couples. Senator Tangney, who also has seen it, will probably agree with me that it is an ideal place. There are small cottages in which aged married couples can live happily together in their declining years. Each cottage contains a small sitting room. bedroom, bathroom and verandah, and there is a communal eating place in a lovely dining hall. I should like “to see more of these establishments throughout the country, because nothing is more sad than that aged people should be separated during their last years. 1 am happy to say that in other places in “Queensland similar establishments are feeing built. There is one under construction in Toowoomba that will be almost as good as the one now in use. These settlements serve an excellent purpose, and the tragedy is that there are not more of them. Some time ago a builder called upon me to explain a, scheme by which six couples could be housed in one building, each couple living a completely selfcontained unit but able to enjoy the company of the other couples, if desired. I should like to see these establishments built in rural and city areas so that aged people may continue to live in the districts to which they are accustomed and not be taken away from their friends and relations. At present they have to be taken to another area, where they must make new friends and face a new set of conditions. Consideration must be given to the districts in which it would be best for the old people to live. I should be delighted to give my support to any proposal designed to provide better and happier living conditions for them.
.- Tasmania is a fortunate State ; apparently its inhabitants receive 4 lb. of white sugar <a week, whilst the people of Melbourne get only 1 lb., and for at least half of the time they are given brown ‘ sugar, which is charged for at the price of white sugar. In the suburbs, of Motbourne to-day it. is not possible to get white sugar for preserves. In. my opinion, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has been bluffing the Government. Should there be a stop-work meeting for four hours, the supply of household sugar is immediately cut off. If this company cannot supply the people of Australia with the sugar they require, the Government itself should take the steps necessary to ensure that it is made available.
One of the biggest swindles ever perpetrated upon the people of Australia is being perpetrated by the tobacco companies. There is much talk of Communists, but what is more likely to turn a man into a Communist than having to stand in a tobacco queue for half an hour and to be told, upon reaching the shop conn tei”, that there are no cigarettes available? The tobacco companies are spending between £250,000 and £500,000 a year in advertising their products. In nearly every newspaper in Australia, even in the sporting papers, a quarter of a page is devoted to advertisements for various brands of cigarettes. If it is not possible to buy them, what is the object of advertising them ? In the past the tobacco companies set aside a certain sum of money each year for advertising and they have continued, to spend that money even in these days when they have no cigarettes to sell. I understand that money expended in advertising is not subject to taxation. I suggest that the Government make an investigation of the activities of these monopolies.
– I listened intently to the remarks of Senator Lamp and Senator Katz with regard to the shortage of sugar. Senator Lamp placed the blame upon the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, which is in charge of the refining and marketing of sugar in Australia. In my opinion, most of the blame attaches to the waterside workers, who have refused to handle sugar in north Queensland. The sugargrowers there have large stocks of raw sugar that they would be only too glad to have shipped to other States, but the waterside workers refuse to handle it.
– -There has been a shortage for the last eighteen months or two years.
– For a long time the waterside workers have held np the transportation of sugar. I think Senator Courtice will agree with me when I say there are over 11,000 tons of raw sugar in one port in the north of Queensland that has been awaiting shipment for many months. Continual hold-ups have occurred and the sugar has been deliberately withheld from the southern States. There is an element in this country that realizes that the best way in which to promote discontent and strife is to hold up essential supplies. That has been done in respect of essential supplies for the southern States. There is plenty of raw sugar in Queensland, but the trouble is that the transportation of that sugar to the southern States, where it would be refined, has deliberately been held up.
.- I draw the Government’s attention to requests continually being made by fanners throughout the agricultural areas of South Australia, regarding excessive delays in the supply of fencing wire, barbed wire, wire netting and waterpiping. Many orders which have been with the various agents and firms for up to two years remain unfulfilled. Consequently, all primary producers are complaining of the bad state of their fencesThe supply is not meeting the demand, both in South Australia and elsewhere. 1 am convinced that these people have a genuine cause for complaint. The distribution of essential goods is not nearly so satisfactory now as it was before the controls were removed. I hope the Government will heed my remarks about the long time that primary producers have been waiting for fencing wire,- barbed wire, water-piping and wire netting.
Senator NASH (Western Australia; [2.57] .–There arc occasions when it is fitting to give praise to the Government for its accomplish ments because there is a very definite idea that the Government should always be criticized and never euologized. As honorable senators know, I come to Canberra frequently from Western Australia. When T entered this Parliament four or five years ago, Western Australian representatives impressed upon the t-hen Minis?ter for the Interior the necessity for improving the living conditions of the People who have to spend their working lives in the arid portion of the Commonwealth through which the transAustralian railway line runs. Those people have no seaside reports j there are not even any trees, whilst practically all the water they use is conveyed to them by rail. I have noticed that considerable progress has taken place in tha provision of homes for the railway workers em. ployed along the line. The homes which have been provided could be tha envy of many people in the more settled areas of the Common wealth. They are up to date and are equipped with amenities; the general concensus of opinion of those occupying them is that they are entirely satisfactory. Another feature that has been noticed, and is oxtending, is the provision of rest houses for the running staff of the railway - engine drivers, fireman and guards, and others who have occasion to travel from point to point in the execution of their duties. When they leave the train there is available for them comfortable accommodation comprising bedrooms, dining room, kitchen with all facilities, wash-house and showers, and other amenities. These rest houses are a credit to the Railway Department, which constructed them, and are a great benefit to the railway employees concerned. In addition, the Government has supplied refrigerators to some of the people employed in that service. In the hot areas where those people live, a refrigerator is an essential requirement. It is only fitting that we .should give some meed of praise to the Government for what it has done for its employees. On Sunday, the 22nd February last, I was travelling on the train to Western Australia, and while at breakfast, the train came to a halt. Shortly afterwards the attendant in charge of the dining car intimated that we were likely to be there for four or five hours because of extensive washaways between Zanthus and Kalgoorlie, extending over approximately 100 miles. Instead of a wait of only a few hours, we were there for a period of more than a week so that we had the opportunity to inspect the amenities provided for railway men and their families. Despite the tremendous difficulty facing the Commonwealth railways, the passengers were provided with three full meals a day, together with afternoon tea. Everything that possibly could be done in the circumstances for the comfort of those passengers was done. Of course, there were some complants in respect of various aspects of the enforced stay, but in my opinion, and that of other passengers, the officials who had to conduct the arrangements -at the time did an excellent job. Railway employees went out of their way to make the passengers’ enforced stay enjoyable. I consider that it is only fitting to place on record the thanks expressed by passengers for the good work performed, particularly by two railway employees, Mr. Agar and Mr. Bennetts. Some criticism was published in the Kalgoorlie Miner as the result of my action in helping two passengers to obtain passages by air to Kalgoorlie. A man had been injured and required medical attention. Apparently, one of those two men made a complaint before the railways officials had had a chance to organize arrangements. The other passengers, of their own accord, held a public meeting and signed a petition for presentation to the Commissioner of Railways expressing the highest satisfaction with the officials concerned.
T now desire to refer to the work of the railway fettlers - the “ snake-charmers “ as they are known. Extensive damage was done by washaways for 100 miles, und I am not exaggerating when I say that “pig-stys” had to be erected to carry the line over parts where the earthworks had been washed away for distances of 50 or 100 yards. At times the men were working in water five feet deep. That indicates the tremendous difficulties which faced the repair gangs on that job. They did excellent work. As a result of the Government’s immigration policy, the Commonwealth railways has among its employees some Baits who recently arrived in Australia. “With the assistance of the Australian workers, these immigrants did a remarkably good job. As a result, the train eventually got through. These men worked up to their necks in water, and went for 48 hours without meals. For a time they had no sleeping accommodation. My reason for communicating this information to the chamber is that we often hear critical references to the practices of workers. In this instance the workers did a remarkably good job and I bring the facts to light in justice to them. 1 mention the matter now in order that it may be suggested to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, through the Minister for the Interior, that arrangements be made to store quantities of sleepers, rails, &c., together with tents and other supplies, at certain specified points, so that maintenance work can be carried out without delay on this long stretch of railway.
. - in reply - The remarks of Senator Tangney and Senator Rankin concerning age pensions and general living conditions for the aged will be brought to the notice of Senator McKenna, who, I am sorry, was not able to remain to hear them. However, I know that he is sympathetic towards the view advanced by Senator Tangney.
Senator Lamp and Senator Katz drew attention to the scarcity of sugar. This is a. subject upon which there is a good deal of misunderstanding. Actually, the production of refined sugar in Australia has increased by 100,000 tons’ within the last year. The distribution of sugar throughout Australia is controlled by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. Sugar is scarce at the moment because not enough coal is obtainable at the refineries and because shipping is not available to carry raw sugar from the north. Honorable senators can make up. their own minds as to the reason. There is 140,000 tons of raw sugar in Queensland awaiting shipment. The mills will begin crushing next month, and then the accumulation of raw sugar will increase. There will be unemployment, and a good deal of the sugar will be lost unless something can be done about it. Senator Lamp complained of the present situation, but I remind him that it may be compared with the position in regard to Tasmanian potatoes.
For a considerable time past the people of Australia have been short of potatoes, although there have been plenty in Tasmania. Even when the potatoes were eventually shipped, they were left so long in the holds that they had deteriorated and were unfit for use by the time they were unloaded. I ‘have been active in trying to arrange for the more effective distribution of the available sugar. Early last year I arranged for the Navy to carry sugar from Sydney to Victoria in order to treat the fruit crop. After that was done it was found that there was a scarcity of sugar in New South Wales, because the refinery was not working owing to the lack of raw sugar. If the’ wheels of industry were kept turning as they should -there would be enough sugar in Australia for everyone. The mills are trying to increase, their capacity by installing more machinery. However, equipped as they are, they can produce 500,000 tons of sugar a year, whilst consumption was only 320,000 tons last year. The Australian Government has little power in this matter except that, as this is an Australian industry, it is our responsibility to see that the needs of the people are met. Senator Lamp said something about the sugar agreement, but I remind him that it has nothing to do with the present situation. That is. an agreement between the Australian and the Queensland Governments. . Honorable members qf both Houses of the Parliament should understand the important part. which the sugar industry has played in the development of Australia. Those who know what was accomplished in Queensland during the war realize the debt which Australia owes to thi9 industry. During the First World War Australians paid three times as much for sugar as during the war just passed, and that waa because Australia did not then produce all its own sugar. At the present time Australians are getting sugar more cheaply than are the people of many other countries in the world. However, the lesson must be learned that when the wheels of industry do not turn the public must go short. Everything should be done to en-, sure greater production, after which it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that goods are equitably distributed. The Government has left no stone unturned to ensure that sugar is made available, particularly in time of emergency such as the fruit-preserving season. However, when a sugar refinery stops .working for even one day, more than 500 tons of sugar is lost. If the ships do not run so that sugar may be carried from the north to the refinery how can sugar be produced?
The distribution of tobacco is controlled entirely by the manufacturers. During the war, when the Government exercised that control, ‘ certain sections complained about “bureaucrats”. They said, “Let us get back to the old system; let things he handled as they were previously”; but to-day, when the Government no longer exercises control over distribution, we hear still more complaints about shortages. Whenever genuine complaints have been brought to my notice I have personally taken. them up with the tobacco manufacturers, who have replied that they are doing their best to ensure fair distribution. Wherever the Government can exercise control it does so to the best of its ability and in the interests of the community as a whole.
I urge ‘Senator Lamp and others who may have a grievance against the sugar industry to give careful consideration to the problems confronting it. . I- am prepared to discuss this matter with any honorable senator at any time. After giving the subject a little thought, honorable senators will realize that many of the existing difficulties are beyond the control of the producers, manufacturers or distributors. Recently, after a’ large shipment of potatoes was unloaded at Cairns, the owners were obliged to pay the wharf labourers an additional 10s. an hour to handle the potatoes because they were alleged to be rotten. I am not making accusations against anybody; hut it is our duty to urge those engaged in industry to realize their responsibilities to one another and to the community. Only by that means shall we he able to overcome many of the difficulties which are. the causes of the existing shortages of different commodities. Recurrence of shortages renders more difficult my task in fixing prices. When goods are in short supply andthere is an abundance of purchasing power in the community, it.is obviously difficult to keep prices down to’ a reasonable level. The solution of these difficulties as a whole is for industry to gather momentum. If we ail put our shoulders to the wheel these difficulties will soon he overcome.
Senator Critchley referred to the shortage of barbed wire and other materials. The Government is making every effort to obtain supplies wherever these may be available, because it realizes the seriousness of this shortage. Consequently, under by-law we are admitting free of duty imports of barbed wire and other essential articles which cannot be obtained in’ this country In many cases, however, it is not possible to obtain supplies overseas. The Government will continue to exert itself to the utmost in that respect.
I have no intention to lecture the people upon their responsibilities in these matters, but I say that the workers can no longer take the view that’ they are kicking the boss in the shins when they cense work. To-day, the workers themselves and the community as a whole suffer most from stoppages; and I am pleased to note that that fact is becoming more generally realized. I repeat that the solution of these difficulties is for industry to gather momentum. At the same time, this Government will ensure that those engaged in production shall receive a fair deal.
This morning SenatorBeerworth asked me, upon notice, the following questions : -
The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
The imports for the year 1946-47 were - 4,348 wheel type. 419 crawler type.
A larger number of crawler typeswas imported, but the number quoted, viz., 419, was the number allocated for agricultural purposes.
In cases where licence are necessary for the importation of Agricultural tractors, the Department of Trade and Customs endeavours to meet anyspecial requirements of individual States, due to unusual circumstances, by
Arranging for the diversion of imported tractors to the States concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following Papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - AppointmentDepartment of Civil Aviation - A. H, Spooner.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Twentysecond Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for year 1946-47, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Senate adjourned at 3.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 April 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19480409_senate_18_196/>.