21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A.M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Presentation to the Governor-General.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - I desire to inform the Senate that yesterday, accompanied by honorable senators, I waited on the Governor-General and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of the Twentyfirst Parliament, agreed to on the 12th August, 1954. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply : -
I desire to thank you for the AddressinReply which you have just presented to me.
It will afford me much pleasure to convey to Her Most Gracious Majesty The Queen the message of loyalty from the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia to which the Address gives expression.
– Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral inform the Senate whether tenders are called in each of the States for the manufacture of uniforms for the members of the staff of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department? If so, who were the tenderers from Western Australia, who was the successful tenderer in that State and what was the contract price? Who were the tenderers in the other States, which tenders were successful and what was the contract price?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral and get a considered reply.
– Has the Minister for National Development yet received a resolution that was passed by both Houses of the Parliament of Western Australia requesting Commonwealth financial assistance to develop the north-west of Western Australia? Does the request include certain specific projects, such as the development of a deepwater port at Point Torment to service the Derby area, and other projects for which financial aid was previously sought by the McLartyWatts Government when it was in office?
– I have read in the press and in the Hansard of the Western Australian Parliament that a debate had taken place on the matter to which the honorable senator has referred. I have not yet heard of any resolution being conveyed from the Government of Western Australia to the Prime Minister or to the Australian Government, nor do I know the terms of the resolution that was passed by the Parliament of Western Australia. Representations were made in connexion with the matter by the Government of Western Australia about 1951. Mr. Brand was then the Minister responsible and this Government was asked to provide port facilities at Black Rocks for Derby and also, I believe, stock routes and water facilities. That request from the McLarty Government was considered, hut the Australian Government, in the circumstances at the time, was not prepared to co-operate to the extent that the State government requested.
– Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral inform me whether there is any truth in the report published in the Melbourne Herald on Friday, 10th September, that Cabinet has approved a plan to build one national and two commercial television stations in Melbourne and Sydney respectively? If the report is correct, will the Minister say why the Government has approved a plan that will give three television stations each to Melbourne and Sydney and none to the other capital cities? Instead of establishing six television stations in those two cities, will Cabinet consider a plan for the provision of one station in each of the six capital cities ?
– I shall convey the honorable senator’s question to the PostmasterGeneral and ask him to provide a considered reply as early as possible.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that the question, “ To what extent is television validly within the powers of the Commonwealth ? “ was referred to the Royal Commission on Television, and that the commission considered that it was not required to furnish an answer? Will the Minister inform mc whether he considers that the Commonwealth has power to introduce television in this country, and if so, to what extent? Can it be introduced without any further consideration of the matter by the Parliament ?
– In the course of the heaving by the Royal Commission on Television, a question arose - and arguments were advanced on it - in relation to the constitutional power of the Commonwealth in connexion with television. This matter has also received consideration by both myself and Crown Law officers. The view is held that the introduction of television into Australia is within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth. My recollection of the relevant legislation is that it is sufficient to support the introduction of television, but the provision has been expressed in rather broad terms. For the proper regulation of the system of television, I should have thought that we needed a new act to complete the Commonwealth’s power.
Senator McKENNA Can the AttorneyGeneral, as the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Labour and National Service, say whether it is a fact that the Australian Government was not represented by counsel before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration yesterday at Melbourne when federal unions, with the support of four State governments, applied for an immediate or early re-opening of the margins case? In view of the fact that the Minister for Labour and National Service said on the 2Sth June, last -
It is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to emphasise before the Arbitra tion Court when it resumes the hearing’ on ihe margins application the Government’s view of the importune? of maintaining a sufficient disparity between the wage rates of skilled workers and relatively unskilled workers. will the Attorney-General say why th Commonwealth did not support yesterday’s application? Does the Government intend to be represented in Melbourne al the re-opening of the margins case, which has been fixed tentatively for the 28th of this month?
– It is a fact thai the Australian Government was not represented at the proceedings before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration yesterday when an application was made by certain unions for an early resumption of the hearing of the margins case. The statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred did not contemplate that thu Commonwealth would be represented at such an application. It expressly said that the Commonwealth would be represented at the resumption of the hearing of the margins case. The application made yesterday was, as I understand it, an application by the unions that the court should resume the hearing of the case at a date earlier than that originally contemplated, which was some time in November. When the hearing is resumed - I understand the date has been fixed tentatively as the 2Sth September - the Government will be represented.
– Did the Minister representing the Treasurer notice in this morning’s issue of both the Sydney and Melbourne press certain comments on the report of the Commonwealth Bant for 1953-54? Is the Minister aware thai this comment was published before the report had been tabled in the Senate oi circulated to honorable senators? Is nol the usual practice that reports of this nature are tabled in the Parliament before they are made available to the press ? U so, does the Minister know why the usual practice was not followed on this occasion
– I do not know what the usual practice is, but I think il would take a lot of persuasion to make me agree with the view that balancesheets and annual reports of the Commonwealth Bank should be tabled in the Parliament before publication to the press and the public. The Commonwealth Bank is a separate entity. It would be placed at a great disadvantage if it had to wait until the results of its activities in any year had been made known to the Parliament before it could make them known to the public. It takes time to present papers to the Parliament. I think it would be difficult to justify the proposition that the people, who are essentially interested in the bank’s activities, should wait for information until the reports had been dealt with in the way suggested.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport received a report on King Island shipping from Mr. Strachan, the special investigator who was sent to Tasmania for that purpose some few weeks ago?
– A report has been received, and I hope to be able to put the Senate in possession of the details within a day or so.
– In view of the fact that the alarming rate of importations into Australia has seriously reduced our overseas credits, does the Minister for Trade and Customs intend to permit uncontrolled buying to go on heedlessly, although such buying must result in disastrous consequences for Australian secondary industries, as was the case in 1951, or does the Government propose to exercise control and so prevent the present serious position from deteriorating further?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs, on a matter of policy.
– It is not the desire of this Government to interfere unduly, by means of controls or directives, with the reasonable exercise of free enterprise. However, I assure the honorable senator that the Government, in its administration of these matters, will always take appropriate measures to see that the interests of the Australian economy are safeguarded.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to indicate to the Senate the steps that the Government has taken to improve conditions in the flour-milling industry throughout Australia, particularly in South Australia? If such steps have been taken, will the Minister indicate their nature?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and the members of the Australian Wheat Board, have clone all they possibly could to meet thiworld position regarding surplus wheat, with special regard to the flour trade, which is so essential in our own country, and also to the meeting of fodder requirements. The position has been desperate for some time, but I am pleased to be able to report, without disclosing details, that an improvement has taken place. We hope that the position will improve even further within the next few weeks. The completion of contracts that are now being sought will help the industry, and I hope then to be able to give the Senate detailed information.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer, in relation to the proposed visit of the Treasurer to Washington. If the international price of gold is to be discussed during that visit, can the Minister say whether the Treasurer, on behalf of Australia, will support any move for an increase of the fixed price of gold?
– Australia’s view, which has been expressed by the Treasurer on a number of occasions, is that an increase of the price of gold is both necessary and desirable. I have no doubt that the right honorable gentleman will repeat that view if the matter arises for consideration at the forthcoming meeting.
– In answer to a question that I asked in April about the provision of refrigerator van3 on the trans-continental railway, the Minister for Shipping and Transport said that it was expected that such vans would be provided within three months. Will he now inform me whether, in fact, any refrigerator vans have yet been placed in commission on that railway? If they have not yet been provided, will he say whether it is expected that they will be placed in commission on the transcontinental railway system before the summer?
– I recall giving to Senator Tangney, in reply to a question, the information that she has mentioned. [ am sure that our very efficient Railways Commissioner is doing his best to provide refrigerator vans on the trans- continental railway, and I shall advise the honorable senator of the present position as early as possible.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport inform rae whether it is intended that the liquor bars at the Port Augusta railway station shall compete with the hotels at Port Augusta by remaining open every day?
– This question has been raised in other places. I advise the honorable senator, as well as other persons who are interested in the matter, not to take very much notice of gossips and false prophets, because the necessary measure lias not yet been introduced in the Parliament. It is hoped to provide further comforts for travellers on the transcontinental railway at an early date. I assure Senator Mattner that recommendations of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner must be approved by the Minister before being implemented. The interests of private enterprise will be adequately safeguarded, having due regard to the needs of those who patronize that train so freely.
– I desire to nsk the Minister for Transport what power the Government possesses to authorize the sale of liquor at the Port Augusta railway station? Would the liquor laws of South Australia come into conflict with the laws of the Commonwealth in this respect?
– It is not the general practice for Ministers to give legal opinions nor to make statements on matters of policy in answer to questions without notice. As the Government hopes to present a bill in relation to this matter to the Senate shortly, I suggest that the honorable senator reserve his judgment until he has had an opportunity to examine that bill. His legal opinion might be as good as mine. When the bill has been presented he and other honorable senators will be in a better position to examine the subject that he has raised.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me of the present price of Australian sugar on the world market, and the home-consumption price ?
– The world parity price of sugar is 3.2 cents per, lb., f.o.b., Cuba, and the Australian price of raw sugar is £64 14s. lid. a ton.
– Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral inform the Senate whether the Postal Department has conducted experiments with telephone apparatus in use in other countries of the world which enables subscribers to have messages recorded in their absence from their office or home? Does the Minister agree that this apparatus would be a real aid to business efficiency? If arrangements have not already been made to conduct experiments with this apparatus, will the Minister cause experiments to be carried out without further delay?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General and ask him to let me have a full report on the subject as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What is the cost to the Tost Office and the number of staff engaged, in supervising telephone conversations and making secret tape or other recordings, whether they are in respect of security or part of a service deemed necessary for efficiency in the telephone service ?
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following reply :-
Since part of the question is based on incorrect assumptions, no figures are available. Questions in respect of security should he addressed to the Prime Minister.
-Will the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Senate when the Llanherne aerodrome will be complete and ready for operation?
– I shall request the Minister for Civil Aviation to supply the honorable senator with the information that he has sought.
asked .the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
What progress has been made in the matter of establishing an aerodrome at Port Augusta, South Australia?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answer in reply to the honorable senator : -
This matter was raised by the Premier of South Australia at the last meeting of Premiers with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister undertook to have the matter taken up with the Premier of South Australia by the Minister for Civil Aviation. This has been done and a communication from the Premier is awaited.
– Some time last year, I asked the Attorney-General a question relative to the powers of the Government concerning the publication distribution and sale of indecent literature and pictures within the Australian Capital Territory. I have not yet received a reply to my question except for an intimation that the matter was being considered by the Department of the Interior. As it is about nine months since I asked the question will the Attorney-General state whether he has any reply to it?
– I cannot recall the exact terms of the question to which the honorable senator has referred. It is clear that the Government has complete power to deal with that matter in the Australian Capital Territory. However, I think that on a previous occasion I informed the honorable senator that, because this is a very small territory which is substantially located inside the State of New South Wales, it would be very difficult effectively to control the distribution, sale or possession in the Territory of that kind of literature unless similar laws operated, for example, in Queanbeyan. These practical difficulties have no doubt been brought to the notice of the Minister for the Interior, but I shall ascertain from him whether any legislation is contemplated along the lines that the honorable senator has indicated.
– On the 8th September, Senator Ashley asked the following questions: -
As the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited has admitted that in 1952-53 it? surplus revenue was over £150,000, will the Minister representing the Minister for Health lay on the table the balance-sheet of the organization for 1953-54, when it is alleged that the surplus revenue was more than double that for 1952-53? Is not it imperative to submit slick balance-sheets to the Parliament when the organizations concerned are paying Commonwealth benefits in connexion with their own benefit schemes?
The Minister for Health has now supplied the following information in reply to the honorable senator: -
The accounts of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited for the year 1953-54 are not yet available. I am not, therefore, in a position to comment on any unexpended revenue. This unexpended money is not surplus revenue. It really consists of funds to meet commitments already contracted, and thi* £150,000 must be vary much augmented te meet the rapidly growing claims that are being paid. In the quarter ended the 30th June, 1954, approximately 000,000 services were paid for by this organization, and thinumber of claims for services paid by all organizations will run into millions yearly. It is obvious that the total reserves .that these organizations must possess must run into millions also to make certain that all claims will be met. Tha accounts of registered medical benefits organizations are scrutinized by a committee comprising officers of the Department of Health and the Commonwealth Actuary or his representative. I feel that this committee can be relied upon to ensure that the rights of contributors are protected without the necessity of laying on the table the annual statements of each organization which arc public documents and readily available.
asked the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– I have the following information in reply to the honorable, senator : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I have the following information in reply to the honorable senator: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it a fact that, before uniform taxation, there was a deputy commissioner of taxation in Tasmania with his own office for the administration of gift duty, sales tax and other federal taxes?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following information in reply to the honorable senator: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister Acting for the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Will the Minister take steps to ensure that all articles of equipment, and all machinery, tractors, &c, sent overseas as contributions under the Colombo plan have affixed to them, in the language of the country where they are to hu used, and in a prominent place, a notification that the article is the gift of the Australian people to their friends in the country in question?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
In respect of contributions sent by Australia in response to requests under the Colombo plan, either for technical assistance or economic aid, it has been the current practice to attach to articles of equipment wherever possible, and to machinery such as tractors, solid metal plaques in the form of an outline map of Australia, unclosing the words in English: “Presented by Australia under Colombo Plan “. In India and Pakistan there are so many vernaculars and scripts involved that it would be impracticable to have this inscription in languages other than English. Steps are being taken, however, to ensure that wherever possible - for example, in countries such as Indonesia, Burma, Ceylon, Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia, the inscription should be in the language of the people amongst whom the equipment or machinery is likely to he used.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given ‘ to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Seamens’ War Pensions Allowances Act 1040-1053.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
.- I move-
That the bill he now read a second time.
The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act first came into operation in 1940 and has since been amended on five occasions. In 1952 and again in 1953 the act was amended to provide increased pension rates for incapacitated Australian mariners and widows of Australian mariners consequent on the grant of pension increases to corresponding classes of pensioners under the Repatriation Act. It has always been the policy to maintain the pension rates for mariners who suffered war injury at the same level as those applicable to corresponding classes of ex-members of the forces under the Repatriation Act. The latter act is being amended to implement the Government’s decision to increase war pensions, and the purpose of this bill is to amend the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act to provide similar increases.
The general rate of pension of an Australian mariner incapacitated by war injury is assessed on the basis of percentage of incapacity. Existing pension rates for a totally incapacitated mariner range from £8 5s. to £10 ls. a fortnight, and the Government has decided that an all round increase of 15s. a fortnight shall be granted. This will increase the fortnightly rates to amounts ranging from £9 to £10 16s. The general rates of pension for widows of Australian mariners will also be increased by 15s. a fortnight. The existing scale of rates varies from £7 5s. to £9 ls. a fortnight, and the rates will thus be increased to range from £S to £9 16s. a fortnight. A mariner who is partially incapacitated, and who is being paid a pension computed on the basis of the percentage of his incapacity, will receive such percentage of the increase of 15s. a fortnight as corresponds to the percentage of his incapacity.
Provision has also been made in the bill for an appropriate adjustment to be made in any case where a mariner or his dependants received a pension or benefit under the Social Services Consolidation Act in respect of a period and later became eligible for a pension under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act in respect of the same period. In any case, where the whole or portion of the pension or benefit received under the Social Services Consolidation Act would not have been payable if the pensioner had benn receiving a pension under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, an adjustment will be made by way of a deduction from the pension, allowance or gratuity payable under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. Similar provision hasbeen made in the bill introduced this session to amend the Repatriation Act. The increased rates will be payable from the first pension pay-day occurring after the bill receives the Royal Assent. I have no doubt that all honorable senators will assist in the speedy passage of the hill as I am sure the measure is one that will commend itself to them.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Repatriation Act 1920- 1953
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to increase the rates of pensions payable under the Repatriation Act to ex-servicemen and war widows. At the same time, opportunity is being taken to make some other amendments which are of a machinery nature. When this Government took office in 1949, it undertook to keep under review the benefits available under the Repatriation Act to those who gladly gave so much in the service of their country in two world wars, and to their dependants. Just how faithfully the Government has honoured this pledge is shown in the increased annual liability in respect of repatriation pensions. In 1949, before this Government took office, that liability was £20,500,000. It grew to £39,500,000 for the year ending the 30th June, 1954, and will be increased by a further amount, in excess of £2,000,000, as a result of the increases provided for in this bill. In other words, the present Government has increased the amount spent on war pensions alone by over £21,000,000. It has more than doubled the amount spent per annum by its predecessors.
Although it has done this, the Government has not regarded these substantial increases of pension rates and other allowances as a discharge of its obligations. It has always regarded repatriation in the wider sense, not only as a measure of monetary compensation, but also as a scheme for the rehabilitation, of those who have suffered from the ravages of war, either through personal incapacity, or through the loss of a father or a husband. All aspects of repatriation have received the attention of this Government. Opportunity has always been given to the representatives of ex-servicemen’s organizations to place their views before us,- and the free and frank discussions which have taken place with them have been most helpful to all concerned. The best of medical skill and attention is made available, both at the repatriation hospitals and the out-patient clinics, while under the local medical officer scheme a member has a free and wide choice of doctor, which preserves the private relationship of doctor and patient. As honorable senators are aware, such attention is given free. A recent extension has been the institution of a local dental officer scheme.
I pass to the particular matters with which this bill is concerned. Honorable senators will recall that in its first budget after taking office, this Government made a comprehensive review of repatriation pensions and granted substantial increases, and that in each successive year further increases were made. In spite of heavy commitments essential for national security and welfare and economic stability, the case for the war pensioner has been given high priority. It will be observed that the rates of pension specified in the bill are fortnightly rates. This is because pensions are payable fortnightly. However, for the convenience of honorable senators, I shall follow the usual practice and refer to weekly rates.
A member in receipt of a war pension at the full general rate under the First Schedule to the act, at present receives a pension of £4 2s. 6d. a week. The bill proposes to increase that pension by 7s. 6d. a week, making it £4 10s. a week, or £1 15s. a week higher than in 1949. If the member is married, his wife also receives a pension of £1 15s. 6d. a week, and 13s. 9d. a week is paid for each child. The total for a man, wife and two children would, therefore, be £7 13s. a week. This increase will necessitate a similar increase in the rate of medical sustenance payable under regulation 71 (1) of the Repatriation Regulations to a member who, because he is undergoing treatment for an incapacity due to war service, is prevented from following his usual occupation.
The bill will give to war widows an increase of 7s. 6d. in their weekly rate of pension, making the new rate £4 a week. This increase will mean that the war widows’ gratuity on re-marriage will rise from a minimum of £188 to a minimum of £204. I remind honorable senators that the rate I have mentioned is the basic rate for a war widow’s pension, and by no means represents the limits of the benefits available to her. In addition to the pension, a domestic allowance of £1 14s. 6d. a week is paid to a widow who has a child undergoing education or training, or is over the age of 50 years, or is unemployable. Not only has the weekly rate of the domestic allowance been raised from 7s. 6d. to £1 14s. 6d. during the life of the present Government, but also th3 basis of eligibility for domestic allowance has been widened. Formerly, the allowance ceased when the youngest child reached sixteen years of age. Now it is continued for so long as the widow has a child who is undergoing education or training and i3 not in receipt of the adult wage. This gives every encouragement to the child to take full advantage of the soldiers’ children education scheme, and so secure its future in life. “While dealing with the education scheme, I should like to pay a tribute to the members of the education boards in each of the States, who have given so much of their time and ability to help the scheme, many of them for a number of years. I know they ask for no thanks and that the success which has attended the scheme is to them a sufficient reward. As well as the increases in widows’ pensions and domestic allowances that I have mentioned, there have been, since 1949, substantial increases in the rates of pension payable to the children of widows, and in the allowances under the education scheme. Further, war widows and their children under sixteen years of age are entitled to medical benefits at departmental expense. These benefits are made available direct through medical practitioners. The medical benefits scheme is limited in that it does not cover specialist, X-ray, hospital or other special services. However, in certain circumstances, and if a bed in a female ward is available, approval may be given for a beneficiary to be admitted to a repatriation general hospital for treatment of acuta, or sub-acute ailments.
Service pensions may be granted to a member who is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, and to a member who served in a theatre of war and is permanently unemployable or has attained, in the case of a man, the age of 60 years, or 55 years in the case of a female. These pensions are paid at the same rate as age and invalid pensions payable under the Social Services Consolidation Act, and are subject to the same means test as are those pensions.
Honorable senators will observe that the bill provides for an easing of the means test in relation to service pension. Under the amended provisions, as promised in the Prime Minister’s policy speech, the limit of property, which k service pensioner may possess, has been raised from £1,250 to £1,750, while the amount of property which is exempted from the means test has been raised from £150 to £200. In the case of a married couple, these amounts are doubled. In addition, provision is made in this bill for income from property owned by the pensioner, or his spouse, to be disregarded from the means test, when assessing service pension. This will be provided for by amending the definition of income in section 83 of the principal act.
The Prime Minister also promised, in his policy speech, that the amount of other income which a pensioner would be permitted to have before his rate of service pension was affected, would be raised from £2 to £3 10s. a week. This is being done. There is no need to make specificprovision for this in the Repatriation Act. An appropriate amendment is being made of the Social Services Consolidation Act, and it will, by virtue of section 84 of the Repatriation Act, automatically apply to service pensions. Those concessions represent a considerable benefit to service pensioners. A single pensioner -will now be able to receive by way of income, plus pension, an amount of £7 a week, and a married couple, £14 a week.
Section 91a of the Repatriation Act imposes a limitation upon the amount which a pensioner may receive by way of war pension, and service pension, or social service pension. These limits are commonly referred to as “ ceilings “. This bill provides for those limits to be increased by 15s. in each case. The new ceiling for a single man will be £5 12s. 6d. a week. For a married couple, where both are service or civil pensioners, the new ceiling will be £9 12s. 6d. a week, while for a married couple, where one only is receiving a service or civil pension, the new limit will be £8 5s. As well as the above amounts, a single man may have other income of £1 7s. 6d., making a total income of £7 a week before his rate of service or civil pension is affected further, and likewise, a married couple may, between them, have a total income of up to £14 before their pension is affected. The amount of the war pension received by these pensioners is, of course, free of means test.
For example, a single man, who is incapacitated to the extent that he receives up to 45 per cent, of the general rate pension could, when he reached the age of 60 years, or, if he became unemployable through illness not due to war service, receive the full rate of service or civil pension - £3 10s. a week - in addition to his war pension. Likewise, a married couple who are being paid war pension at 40 per cent, of the general rate, could receive between them, in addition to that pension, a further amount of £7 a week by way of civil pension. The other matters in the bill, to which I have referred as machinery amendments, deal with matters of administration and will be more fully explained during the committee stages of the bill.
Before I conclude, there are two further matters I wish to mention. When a member is admitted to hospital for treatment, he may be paid medical sustenance at a rate equal to the rate of pension paid for total and permanent incapacity. The amount is £11 0s. 6d. a week for a man and his wife, and 13s. 9d. for each child. From that maximum . amount is deducted any salary, wages, earnings, or sick pay that the member might receive during the period. It has been decided that, in future, sick pay will not be a deduction. The effect of this will be to preserve the member’s sick leave credit so that it will be available to him if he suffers from an illness not due to his war service.
Earlier, I spoke of the rehabilitation side of repatriation, and there is one aspect of this on which I should like to enlarge. At the beginning of last year, a scheme was established for the training of members who are substantially handicapped through war-caused incapacity, and for the training of widows of members whose death has been accepted as due to war service. The object of this scheme is, through training, satisfactorily to re-establish those members and widows in civil life, having in mind not only their immediate needs, but also their future security. Training is provided for a wide range of occupations, both vocational and professional, according to the needs and capabilities of the trainee.
At present, I am having a review of the scheme made in the light of experience to the present time. Although the scheme is only in its early stages, the results to date are most encouraging. The success of the scheme depends upon the cooperation of the various persons and bodies concerned with it. I should like to express, on behalf of the trainees, the Government and myself, my thanks to the training authorities, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Universities Commission, and the employers’ and employees’ organizations for the valuable work they have done in assisting in the training and placement of trainees under the scheme. I should also like to thank those representatives of the various departments and organizations who have performed such valuable service on the central, regional and industrial committees, which play such an important part in the administration of the scheme. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Amour) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 9th September (vide page 252), ou motion by Senator O’SULLIVAN -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– Honorable senators will appreciate that the purpose of this bill is to obtain approval for a sugar agreement between the Australian Government and the Queensland Government. This agreement is supplementary to the sugar agreement of 1951-56, which was entered into between the Australian Government and the Queensland Government in 1951 and which, in ordinary circumstances, would expire in 1956. Under that agreement, in the event of extraordinary circumstances arising, the sugar industry, or either party to the agreement, may have the agreed price reviewed. The sugar industry, through the Queensland Government, has been compelled to ask the Australian Government to review the price of sugar on several occasions. In 1948, the industry requested an increase of £d. per lb., which was granted, and which brought the wholesale price of sugar to 4-Jd. per lb. The industry was quite satisfied with that price at the time. However, because of high and fluctuating costs, the industry again has been compelled to seek relief from this Government and to ask for an increase of the price of sugar.
The original sugar agreement was entered into in 1915, so that for almost 40 years Australian governments, whether Liberal, Labour or any other kind, have entered into agreements on terms similar to those of the original agreement. Some alterations were made, and the present agreement is based on the agreement of 1923. Whatever the situation might be in relation to the sugar industry, which has been the subject of much criticism, the fact remains that that industry asked the Australian Government to give it the consideration that the circumstances warranted. I know, from my experience as the responsible Minister in the previous Labour Government, that the Government sought advice not only from the bright boys of the Treasury, but also from accountants, officers of the
Bureau of Agricultural Economics, and other experts in order to decide the matter. The Government also appointed a committee to investigate the sugar industry and sugar prices. Mr. M. E. McCarthy, the chairman of the Tariff Board, whom I know very well - he is one of our ablest public servants - was appointed chairman of the committee. Mr. McCarthy has always been a very faithful servant of the Commonwealth. The committee travelled extensively in the sugar-growing areas of this country and, over a long period of time, accumulated sufficient evidence on which to base recommendations which would be fair to both the industry and the consumers. The bill now before us endorses the findings of that committee.
As I have already said, the state of our economy to-day is vastly different from what it was in 1948, when the sugar industry was content with a retail price of 4-Jd. per lb. Due to the skyrocketing of costs since 1948, the sugar industry, despite efficient management, found it necessary to ask the Australian Government to adjust the price of sugar. The strength of this industry is due, in part, to the fact that the sugar agreement placed an embargo on the importation of sugar into Australia. The industry has been protected to that extent. It will be recalled that, before the industry was protected, sugar-producing countries, such as Cuba, could flood the Australian market at any time. It was to prevent disaster overtaking the Australian sugar industry that the embargo was decided upon. Then, as I have said, the industry requested the Government to determine the price of sugar to the Australian consumers. The result has been of considerable benefit to all sections of the community. I believe that, had other big industries in this country done likewise, inflation would not have developed to the extent that it did, because a wise government always endeavours to protect both industry and the consumers. However, I shall not labour this subject, because I have not, for many years, heard any protest by the general public about the sugar agreement, which was accepted readily on all sides. It has always been recognized that the sugar industry, which operates along more than 1,500 miles of out coastline, is largely co-operative, both at the farming and the milling stages. It is highly organized. Although I might be accused of bias, because of the keen interest that I have always taken in the sugar industry, I believe that had as much technical progress been made in other industries as in the sugar industry, our economy would now be in a ‘healthier condition. The industry is a credit to this country. Its successful development has been aided by experts in various fields, such as first-class engineers, doctors of agriculture, doctors of pathology and entomologists. I believe that we have the most efficient sugar industry in the world. It is rendering a great service to this country. As I have already mentioned, down the years it has enlisted all available technical knowledge.
The agreement which compels the sugar industry to approach the Government to determine fair prices for sugar was commendable; other industries arbitrarily increased their prices. I realize that price fixation must be handled carefully, because at times its value is not so great as some people think. From my experience, public servants sometimes err on the side of protecting revenue rather than the interests of the consumers. “Whilst they have not been over-generous in relation to sugar, I believe that they have had due regard to the interests of both the industry and the people. Of course, every section of the community has not always been satisfied with the agreement. From its inception, the retailers have considered that they were entitled to a greater percentage of the price, to compensate them for the work involved in selling relatively small quantities over the counter. Like Oliver Twist, year after year they have screamed for more. At times, sections of the fruit industry have stated that they thought that they should have benefited to a greater degree under the sugar agreement. We must realize, of course, that, when an industry is experiencing difficulty, it clutches at any straw likely to be of assistance to it. As far as I know, it is not customary in other countries for any one primary industry to make a contribution in order to help another industry overcome its difficulties. I believe that the Australian sugar industry is the only primary industry in this country that has been asked to make a contribution for that purpose.
Because the sugar industry belongs to Queensland and part of northern New South Wales, there was great difficulty in convincing the people of Australia of its great importance and possibilities. In order to enlist the assistance of the fruit-growers, the sugar industry agreed that, provided the fruit-growers got a fair price for their product, a rebate would be paid to fruit processors who used Australian sugar. Consequently, those who process fruit in Australia obtain sugar at a price as low as the price in any other part of the world. I think that the local processors of fresh fruit received a rebate of £2 4s. a ton on every ton of sugar used in the processing of fruit. Over the years, about £5,000,000 has been paid in order to assist the fruit industry, and in order to ensure that the industry would not be placed at a disadvantage by having to purchase Australian-grown sugar. As I have said, the kernel of the nut is the question whether the price is a fair and . reasonable one. The industry asked for more than it got, but the Government decided on the price that is stated in this agreement after thorough investigation. I ask the Senate to pass this measure because I believe that it is in the best interests of the great sugar industry.
Over a long period of years, the industry has done a great service for the people of Australia. For many years, sugar has been cheaper in Australia than in any other country. During World War I., sugar was being purchased outside Australia for three times the Australian price, although at that time we were not producing enough sugar for our own requirements. Now our production is over 1,000,000 tons of sugar a year and the industry is compelled to export half of its production. For some years the overseas price of sugar was much higher than it was in Australia. But there are indications that the price of sugar is being reduced in other parts of the world and the Australian industry is not in any way subsidized by the Government. Consequently, the industry will have to bear any loss that may bp sustained as a result of falling overseas prices. I commend the measure to the Senate, I congratulate the Minister for Trade and Customs who has succeeded in persuading his Government to endorse this agreement. I think it is an achievement for the Minister. I believe that the passing of this measure will be in the best interests of the country as well as of great benefit to the sugar industry.
– I rise to participate in this debate because I take the very firm view that the discussion of a measure which deals with the sugar industry is not the exclusive prerogative of Queensland senators. I wish, at the outset, to make it quite clear that I endorse every word that was uttered by Senator Courtice with regard to the importance and progressiveness of the sugar industry. From the speeches that were made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) and Senator Courtice who was the Minister’s predecessor in office, it is quite obvious that although the two honorable senators belong to different political parties they do not intend to introduce party politics into this debate. I welcome that omission because I believe that the Senate is considering a bill which deals with two of the major agricultural industries in this great Commonwealth. But I would ask the advocates of the sugar industry not to forget the industry with which it is essentially allied. We can reflect on the progress of the sugar industry with the utmost satisfaction. We can earnestly pay tribute to those men who, in these halls, fought for the establishment of the industry on a sound basis in the years when sugar was a subject of contention - in the first days of federation when the first step had to be taken in order to implement, in the teeth of great opposition, our White Australia policy. The fight to which I have referred led to the establishment in the tropics of an industry which is operated solely by white labour. He would be a blind senator indeed, who did not realize the value of that tropical population to this country in both world wars, particularly in World War II.
I believe that the sugar industry was responsible for the whole of the development of our tropical regions. As Senator
Courtice said, the claims to importance of the sugar industry have been accepted by all sections of the Australian community. But we would do well to spend a moment in reflecting upon the framework that the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments have laid down for the guidance of this industry and its intensive regulation. I believe that it was during World War I. that the legislation was first passed by the Queensland Parliament for the acquisition of the total crop of raw sugar, and the Sugar Acquisition Act of 1915 is still the statute under which the Queensland Government acquires the crop, and is the means whereby it invokes the competence of the Commonwealth to impose an import embargo. That act gives the Queensland Government monopoly ownership of raw sugar, and once the Commonwealth has signified its agreement as the promoter of the export embargo, it gives the Queensland Government the monopolistic power to control the price within Australia
– Does the honorable senator not mean the Australian Government ?
– As I said, the Queensland Government acts by agreement with the Australian Government as the promoter of the export embargo. For that reason, the Australian Government must take a share of the responsibility.
– Where there are two parties, there can hardly be a monopoly in the hands of a State government.
– I ask honorable senators not to be offended by the word “ monopoly “. I withdraw it and substitute the method by which the joint agency of the two governments, in agreement, establishes exclusive control and is able then to declare that not one grain of sugar produced in Australia can be sold to the public except at the price that the agency fixes. I only mention that, not for the purpose of casting any aspersions on the framework of the scheme, but so that the Senate may devote a moment’s thought to understanding exactly the legislative mechanism that is employed by the Australian Government, with the Queensland Government, to control the
Australian price of sugar. That is not the only aspect of the sugar legislation by any means, although it is the main aspect. I only reflect upon that framework for the purpose of subscribing, formally and’ unequivocably, to the continuance of the scheme. I believe that it has husbanded an industry that is of tremendous importance to Australia, economically, nationally and from the point of view of security.
– Very good so far.
– 1 thought it appropriate that there should be a surprise element somewhere in my contribution to this debate. This is an occasion to invoke in this Senate, which represents the six States, a co-operative Approach to the legislation that is under discussion. As Senator Courtice has said, successive Australian governments, whether Liberal or Labour, have been able to agree with the Queensland Government on this sugar agreement. I believe that agreement was achieved because the fanciful notions that engage honorable senators in party political battles from time to time, fade into insignificance before the practical achievements that count in the promotion of the two industries that are involved in this legislation. I believe that we should endeavour to reach practical arrangements under which all the workers in those two industries can prosper while the industries themselves expand for the national benefit.
In the very first sugar agreement, there was a significant recognition of the essential relationship between sugar and fruit. The fruit industry has undergone its vicissitudes. It has never relied completely upon an Australian market. It lias been almost as free from government control as the sugar industry has been subject to control by governments. Nevertheless, the essential correlation of the two industries was established right at the inception of this scheme. The Parliament is asked now to put another brick upon the edifice that enables the scheme to be carried on. I believe that I shall not be misunderstood when I state that the disruption of markets and the complete revolution of trade that inevitably were caused by World War II., in both the sugar and fruit industries, led those who were responsible for the future moulding of this legislation to forget the true relationship of the fruit industry to this scheme. As Senator Courtice said to-day, one industry is looked upon as asking for something at the expense of the sugar industry out of its great goodness and sweetness. That is not the position at all. I would not subscribe to a scheme that retarded the sugar industry. If honorable senators study the report of the committee of inquiry - an extraordinary report in many respects - that was tabled in this chamber in September, 1952, they will note that it contains certain interesting facts about the sugar industry. In one paragraph it states -
Australia is the only country in which cane sugar is produced by European labour.
I direct the attention of honorable senators to another reference in paragraph 63 of the report. It indicates the elaborate nature of the organization in the sugar industry. Sugar lands are attached to the mills and the mills use various transport agencies to convey the raw product of the sugar-fields into the mill and then to transport the treated material to the refineries. The report states in paragraph 63 -
The Queensland sugar mills maintain some 2,000 miles of permanent tramline or nearly half of the1 mileage of the Victorian railway system.
Another reference to be found at page 69 is as follows : -
The Queensland ratio of around 7 tons of cane per ton of manufactured sugar is easily the most favorable in the world.
I propose to make one further reference to show that elements integrated into this sugar industry demand that it shall expand and prosper. Honorable senators should consider those elements because they have been the subject of thoughtful debates in this chamber long ago. At page 13 of the report the Director of Sugar Exporting Stations submitted a comparison of technical efficiency in the production of sugar an acre each month in Queensland and other leading sugarproducing countries. The figures are: Cuba, 320 lb. sugar a month; Puerto Rico, 4S0; Queensland, 560. Hawaii is the only country with a better record than Queensland and it has a high proportion of irrigated cane. The present arrangement contains elements that ensure that every section associated with the industry, from the cane-field worker to the retailer, is paid according to the service that he contributes. As a matter of relativity, the committee of inquiry reported that in 1949-50, wheat was responsible for a return of £129,000,000, the products of orchards and fruit gardens were valued at £26,000,000 and the sugar cane ranked third in importance with production valued at £18,600,000.
Those who fathered this scheme for the prime benefit of the sugar industry did not need a lot of foresight to realize the impact that the scheme would have upon the fruit industry. It was immediately obvious to the most ardent promoters of the economics of the sugar industry that unless they preserved the Australian fruit industry, the sugar industry would be prejudiced. There is an essential partnership between the two industries. They must not be divorced and the promoters of the scheme needed no foresight to realize that that was a cardinal principle of the enabling legislation. Therefore, in 1923 a bid was made by Mr. W. M. Hughes to expand the sugar industry. He raised the price of sugar to the significant sum in those days of £30 a ton. It was a big increase and he made provision for rebates for the fruit industry to offset any adverse effects. However, that provision was overdone and various adjustments were made between 1922 and 1930. In 1930 two reports were submitted by a Sugar Inquiry Committee and I suppose that that was the precedent adopted by the Minister for Trade and Customs of the day when he set up the rather odd committee from whose report we have derived great benefit. That report was tabled in September, 1952, but the precedent was established in 1931. Instead of a committee composed entirely of public servants, the committee of nine represented various interests and also took advantage of the invaluable experience afforded by trustworthy and responsible public servants.
Although the minority report that was presented in 1931 is in a garbled and unindexed form, I have found, in the brief references that I have been able to make to it, that it supports the points in the majority report that I wish to emphasize. The 1931 report first recommended the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. If honorable senators would study the report at page 35 from paragraph 265 onwards, they will find that the committee gave close attention to fruit-growing and processing. I can see my time is running away too fast for me to cover this subject adequately, but I claim, not upon my own judgment but on the judgment of the 1931 committee, that there should be an agency, within the sugar industry’s mechanism but independent of sugar interests, to determine from time to time the contribution that should be made, not out of sugar industry funds, but out of the proceeds of the sale of sugar to the Australian consumer of sugar, the assistance that should he given to that allied industry, the fruit industry.
– Would the honorable senator mind explaining that a little further ?
– I shall do so. The Sugar Inquiry Committee reviewed the situation that existed in 1931, and its general finding was, in substance, that the soft-fruit industry needed assistance because economic markets were then decreasing just as, last July, economic markets for many species of fruits began to decrease.
– Wheat was lSd. a bushel in 1931.
– That is a significant remark. Wheat was 18d. a bushel, and sugar was 4d. per lb. Sugar is now 9d. per lb., and apparently the only item in our economic structure that we are to leave unaltered is the contribution to the fruit industry from sugar realisation. That contribution was £315,000 in 1931 and in 1933 it was reduced to £216,000. It then remained stagnant until 1951 when somebody - and I accept part of the blame for agreeing to the proposal without criticism - took the responsibility of suspending even that insignificant contribution.
– The industry did not need it.
– Anybody who knows anything about the fruit industry to-day realizes that if we were to adopt the same national outlook towards that industry that I have been trying to adopt towards the sugar industry, we would not starve the source from which the fruit industry may be succoured in the years ‘ immediately ahead when the increasing impact of sugar production costs, which already have increased the price of sugar in Australia from 4d. per lb. in 1947-48 to 9d. per lb. to-day, will have a further prejudicial effect on the fruit industry. The report of the 1931 committee made it quite clear that a system was being established whereby there would be a partnership between the fruit industry and the sugar industry and that, as the economy of the country changed and new circumstances required an adjustment of the price of sugar, so it was expected by the founders of this scheme that there would be appropriate adjustments of the contribution to the fruit industry. There is one passage of the committee’s report which I suggest does less than justice to members of the committee. I remind the Senate that, in paragraph 363 of the 1952 report the following statement appeared: -
When special provision was made in the agreement to compensate processors of fruit for export, for the higher price of Australian sugar it was probably not envisaged that world parity would exceed the Australian price, or that if it did, the “ Fruit Industry Rebate “ of £2 4s. per ton would then be allowed on the sugar content of exported fruit products.
But the internal price was increased above the export price by the 1952 legislation! The 1931 committee made the following recommendations : -
At that time only a super-optimist would have expected an increase of price. So, provision was made for a reduction. The proposal was that if sugar prices were reduced there would be an appropriate reduction of the contribution of £315,000 to the fruit industry. The point I wish to make is that the Fruit IndustrySugar Concession Committee, having some degree of independence and havingits own guaranteed funds for administering assistance to the fruit industry, thought fit to tie the contribution to the fruit industry to the price of sugar. However, although the price of sugar has increased from £36 lis. 9d. a ton in 193.1 to about £73 a ton to-day, the contribution of £315,000, which was reduced to- £216,000 in 1933, has not been increased in proper relationship to the price of sugar. By so divorcing the two industries, a great disservice has been done, not only in the southern States but alsoin Queensland, to the fruit-grower, whohas had occasion to resort to this fund from time to time, and, who, in theopinion of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee in 1953 will have occasion to resort to the fund in the very near future. Therefore, I ask the Senate, which consists of an equal number of representatives from all States, to take this opportunity to accord to the sugar industry the adjustment of price that is asked for. I hope that all honorable senators will get the adjustment of the contribution to the fruit industry in its proper perspective. The production of sugar in 1931 was about 581,000 tons. At approximately £36 a ton, the total yield was roughly £21,000,000.
– Very roughly.
– These figures will” stand the honorable senator’s scrutiny.
– We got a lot lessfor the sugar we exported.
– Of course we did. The Australian consumer pays such a price that local sales have much morevalue than overseas sales. We are all paying our share and we want to maintain the relative benefit to the two industries. That is the proposition I am urging upon the Senate. As I have said, the yield in 1931 was approximately £21,000,000. By 1952, the production of sugar had increased to £862,000. At £73 a ton, compared with £36 a ton in 1931, the total yield was about £63,000,000, or just three times the return, in money terms, that was obtained in 1931. By the inexorable principles of logic, if £315,000 was a proper contribution to make from the proceeds of sugar sales to the fruit industry in 1931, £945,000 was the proper figure in 1952. A moment’s reflection on those figures will show the shortsightedness of those whose interests lie in the continuance of this scheme but who will not see that those very same interests will be served by a proper recognition of the claims of the fruit industry.
Let me, at the risk of exceeding my 30 minutes, put the matter on another basis. If we look at the report which is the basis of this bill we see that there was not unanimity on the price recommended for sugar.
– There never has been.
– No, and therefore in the face of that difference of opinion we have to exercise our judgment.
– What does the honorable senator himself think about it?
– I am about to tell the Senate. It will be recalled that one gentleman recommended 8 1/2 d per lb. The chairman and Mr. Wolffensberger recommended 8 3/4 d. Two others, including, I think, the representative of the Queensland Government, and probably the representative of the Sugar Board - I have not verified that but my intuition tells me that that would be the bracket - recommended 9d. To show the extent to which I am prepared to travel from Hobart to Capricornia, I say that I accept the figure of 9d. completely.
– The honorable senator will be leading the Government soon.
– I am not speaking on a government basis. I am dealing with this problem on a national basis. It is stated in the report that every farthing in the retail price of sugar means £1,000,000 to the gross realization. Therefore, in conceding the price of 9d. instead of 8£d. we are giving the benefit of the doubt to the extent of £1,000,000. If a bill were introduced to bring the matter np to date, I should not he found lacking in enthusiastic support of it, because I shall always support the payment to primary producers of returns that will cover production costs. I am going the full distance in this instance, and I am agreeing to a price of 9d. per lb. I am saying that that is a concession of one farthing per lb. over the average recommendation. On the gross realization, it is a concession of £1,000,000. But the fruit industry will not be given even the miserable contribution of £216,000 a year, which was agreed to in 1933. That contribution will be suspended so long as there is £500,000 in the kitty. I say that £500,000 a year is the very lowest contribution that should be made by the great sugar industry for the benefit of the fruit industry. A concession of one farthing per lb. has been given to the sugar industry. That will mean an addition of £1,000,000 to the gross proceeds from the sale of the industry’s product. On that ground alone, I suggest that common fairness should lead us to the conclusion that the contribution to the fruit industry should be treble what it was in 1933.
– Would that put the industry on an economic basis?
– It would put it on an economic basis, not only in the short term, but also in the long term. It I? necessary that any stabilization fund should have regard, not to the next two or three years but to the next seven or nine years.
Let me refer briefly to one or two other matters. There is a recommendation in the report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee that any request for an increase of the fruit industry rebate should be referred to the Tariff Board. I am astonished at that recommendation. Some of our predecessors in the Senate urged on many occasions that requests for increases of the price of sugar should be considered by the Tariff Board, but others said that that was not a proper method. They argued that if the price of sugar in Australia was based on recommendations of the Tariff Board, the Australian canegrowers would be exposed to all the ups and downs associated with the external price of sugar. The arguments that led to the rejection of the Tariff Board as the agency for adjustments of the price of sugar in Australia demand that the contribution to the fruit industry shall nol be adjusted by the Tariff Board. That contribution should be an essential item of the legislative provision for the industry. I want to emphasize that the Sugar Inquiry Committee, whose report the bill, in effect, adopts, did not make a recommendation against an adjustment of the fruit industry rebate. The committee stated that, in the absence of any evidence, it made no recommendation.
– Has there been any request for an adjustment of the rebate ?
– I could provide the honorable senator with evidence of requests by the fruit industry for an adjustment, as well as evidence to justify those requests. This committee began its deliberations in April, 1952. It seemed always to be conscious of the pressure of time. It was being asked from month to month to produce its report. The report was presented in September, 1952. In the report, the committee stated that, in the absence of evidence, it recommended no adjustment of the contribution made to the fruit industry. Paragraph 492 of the report states -
The committee had no evidence placed before it as to the adequacy or otherwise of the amount of the rebate.
– Therefore, no application for an adjustment had been made.
– If the honorable senator had read Mr. Palfreyman’s evidence, he would not say that no application was made. Mr. Palfreyman, so to speak, threatened us with the extinction of the external jam industry. He pointed out that a rebate of £2 4s. a ton on sugar was laughable as a. rebate for the support of the jam industry. He pointed out also that if we did not have a jam industry to absorb 15,000 or 20,000 tons of sugar a year, we should have to export 15,000 or 20,000 tons of sugar a year, and the price paid for sugar sold overseas would be a half or one-third of that paid by the jam industry in Australia.
– He made statements. He gave no evidence.
– What a tendentious statement by the Minister! Mr. Palfreyman gave cogent evidence. Un fortunately, I have had only the briefest opportunity to examine it. The committee stated -
The committee had no evidence placed before it as to the adequacy or otherwise of the amount of the rebate and although a claim was made for the rebate to be raised to £10 18s. Od. there was no specific evidence that the fruit industry was in need of a subsidy ; nor was there any evidence of the financial position of fruit-growers and processors. In the absence of such evidence, the committee considers that this rebate should be continued at the present rate and subject to existing conditions.
They are the only points I wish to make at this stage. I have truncated my submissions because of the exigencies of time. I hear a reference from across the chamber to the passage of time, so I apologize if I have trespassed on the time of the Senate for too long.
.- My interpretation of Senator Wright’s remarks is that he has no strong objection to the price of sugar, but that he is mildly opposed to the financial relationships between the sugar industry and the fruit industry. I do not propose to deal with that aspect of the matter at all. .1 believe that industries are so organized to-day that it is possible for them to collaborate with each other, oppose each other’s suggestions and finally arrive at a satisfactory arrangement. I have no knowledge of anything that has transpired between the sugar-producers’ organizations in Queensland and the fruitproducers’ organizations in Tasmania and other States, so I do not propose to say anything about that subject.
The Australian Government and the Queensland Government consider, and have always considered, that the sugar industry is of great importance to Australia. I go further and say that the Commonwealth and all the States have fully considered the importance of the sugar industry to Australia. I have not heard any objection by a State government to the present price of sugar. I have not read any objections to it in the press, and I have not been notified of any objections to it in this Parliament. If the Commonwealth and the States consider the sugar industry to be important, is there any wonder that an agreement of the kind now before us has been made? The agreement is further evidence of the importance of the sugar industry to Australia.
Some time ago, an honorable senator said in this chamber that development in Australia should he related, directly or indirectly, to defence, and vice versa Perhaps, designedly or otherwise, those who nurtured the sugar industry over the years ha’d in mind that it would be of value to the defence of Australia at some time. There may be some honorable senators who have not visited the sugarfields and seen the sugar industry for themselves. I hope that at some time in the near future the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) will arrange for a party of senators to visit the areas in which sugar cane is grown and to inspect the sugar industry. I hope also that arrangements will be made for honorable senators to inspect the fruit industry in Tasmania. Then we should be able to- see for ourselves what these industries are like and learn something of their problems. I have referred to a statement that development should be related to defence and vice versa. It may be of interest to some honorable senators to know the places in which the sugar industry is located in Queensland. Some of them may believe that because Queensland is regarded as a tropical State, sugar can be grown in any part of it, but the fact is that the sugar industry is confined to a comparatively slender coastal strip, running from Southport in the south to Mossman in the north. I should say it is approximately 1,100 miles long. The industry is not conducted so intensively in some regions as it is in others. In that coastal strip, there are several cities and townships, and many thickly populated districts. The land is fertile, and there are fresh water streams running through it in various places. It is a. very important part of Australia.
I have given honorable senators an idea of the places in which the sugar industry is conducted in Queensland. Now let me go further and inform them where it is conducted most intensively. In the Cairns division, there are ten sugar mills which crush the cane grown on 2,0S9 farms. In the Townsville division, there are four sugar mills which crush the cane grown on 611 farms. In the
Mackay division, there are eight sugar mills which crush the cane produced on 1,800 farms. In the Maryborough division, which includes Bundaberg, there are seven mills which crush cane grown on 1,555 farms. In the Moreton area, there are two mills which crush the cane grown on 370 farms. There are 31 sugar mills in Queensland and 6,505 sugar farms.
– This report states that there are 8,000 farms.
– The statistics with which I have been furnished are in respect of 1951. If Senator Wright wishes to examine them, I have them in front of me. From those statistics, honorable senators will obtain an idea of the number of mills which service farms devoted to sugar production. Because there are more than 6,500 farms which produce sugar cane, it follows that there are more than 6,000 farmers engaged in the industry. That is an important matter to which honorable senators should give full consideration in discussing this bill. There are approximately 6,000 wage and salary earners engaged in the sugar mills, whilst another 6,000 are engaged on the cane-fields, so that there is a labour force of not less than 12,000 in the industry. That also indicates the importance of the industry. The wages paid in the industry are comparatively high, and working conditions are good, having regard to the nature of the industry.
– That is not in issue.
– The cost of labour and of providing suitable amenities affects the price of sugar, and the bill before the Senate is concerned with fixing the price of sugar.
Senator Wright stated that, until 1947, the price of sugar was 4d. per lb. That is so, but it had been 4d. per lb. for fifteen years. Since 1947, there have been three increases of the price, which is now 9d. I suggest that if honorable senators compare the price of sugar with the price of other commodities, they will find that the prices of those commodities have increased hy approximately 100 per cent, since 1947. I think it is generally agreed that the C series index was a very effective measuring stick with which to gauge increases or decreases of the cost of living. When the price of sugar was increased in 1947, that increase was reflected immediately in the C series index. A rise in the cost of living was registered and was spread amongst consumers generally. I do not think that the community suffers any hardship because of a slight increase of the price of sugar or any other commodity.
The sugar industry is a very valuable one from the point of view of Queensland. It must be appreciated that the industry is so distributed that if it were to go out of existence to-morrow, in many instances no other industries could be established to replace it. Land which is devoted to sugar-growing cannot always be used for other purposes. For instance, it is not possible to use some of the Queensland sugar country for grazing purposes. If sugar production had to be diminished to any degree, failure would stare many farmers in the face for the simple reason that much of the land which is suitable for cane-growing will not grow other crops.
In connexion with the defence aspect of the industry, I am sure that we should all feel more secure if it were possible to find a crop which could be grown economically along the coast of northern Australia, between, say, Mossman and Thursday Island, and between Thursday Island and Broome, in Western Australia. That would overcome one of our problems at the present time. We expend approximately £200,000,000 a year on defence. I suggest that if we could establish in northern Queensland an industry of comparable importance to the sugar industry, we should go a long way towards establishing a measure of security for the Australian people. In the northern cities and towns of Queensland, the main activity is the sugar industry. Other industries which exist there have stemmed from that industry. For instance, the engineering works to be found there are concerned mainly with repairing machinery and transport vehicles which are used in the sugar mills. It should not be thought for a moment that, because Queensland is the main sugar-producing State of the Common- wealth, the other States do not obtain any benefit from the sugar industry. Much of the machinery used in the industry is manufactured in other .States. Furthermore, many of the workers in the industry come to Queensland from other States of the Commonwealth because of the relatively high wages that are offered for employment in the sugar industry.
At the present time, many ‘ primary producers are faced with marketing problems. For instance, our poultryfarmers are trying, through the good offices of this Government, to obtain feed wheat at reduced prices. We all know the position of the wheat-growers in Australia. A plebiscite to decide the fate of the stabilization plan is to be taken. Whatever the outcome of that plebiscite may be, we cannot escape the fact that the wheat industry is in a precarious position. Australian dairy-farmers do not feel particularly secure either, although the dairying industry is subsidized by an amount of £19,000,000 a year. A short time ago, Senator Wright explained the position of the fruitgrowers. The arrangement to which he referred has existed for years. The sugar producers are bound under the agreement to a fixed price. That price was 4d. per lb. until 1947, and although it is now 9d. per lb. it is insufficient to recompense the growers for their capital investment. The industry has gone through a recent period of development. A call was made on it for a special effort, and it responded to the call. Every one knows that if an industry is to be expanded, additional capital will be required. The sugar producers have no better way of improving their capital investment than by obtaining a higher price for sugar.
This agreement refers only to the local price of sugar. It does not affect the overseas price, which is almost constantly fluctuating. Cuba, one of the great sugar-producing countries, produced approximately 7,000,000 tons of sugar in 1952 and has placed a huge tonnage of sugar on the world market. The Queensland sugar-growers do not know precisely the price which they will obtain for the sugar to be sold on the overseas market. In my opinion, if our population were to increase tenfold during the next few years, the production of sugar in Queensland would be sufficient to meet the demand for it. I am wholly in favour of this bill, because I believe in keeping the sugar industry stable. I consider that if ever that industry got down to the gutter level, there would be so many insolvencies throughout Australia that the country would be known as a land of bankrupts.
– I welcome this opportunity to discuss the sugar industry and its relation to the fruit industry. In common with many of my colleagues on this side of the chamber, I greatly admire the development of the sugar industry in Queensland. We are not unmindful of the great part which it has played in the defence of Australia, and we do not lose sight of the fact that the population of northern Queensland has been increased as a direct result of the development of that industry. Indeed, the development of Queensland as a whole has benefited from the industry. We on this side of the chamber do not forget that, during World War II., the fact that we were able to obtain reasonable supplies of sugar at a reasonable price was due entirely to the foresight of those who established the sugar industry in Queensland and its successful marketing organization. Most honorable senators will no doubt agree that the industry has been built on a very efficient basis. It is almost entirely mechanized, and once the system of bulk handling is brought into operation in Queensland, some of the present problems will disappear. I hope that the introduction of that system will also have the effect of lowering the cost of production, and that the people of Australia will benefit accordingly.
I do not wish to give the impression that there is a fight between the fruit industry and the sugar industry, or between Tasmania and Queensland. That would be completely absurd. There is no fight. We, in Tasmania, fully appreciate the value of the sugar industry and are great admirers and supporters of it. Nevertheless, there are misunderstandings, some of which I wish to discuss while I have the opportunity. I believe that, at the very beginning of this industry, those who were responsible for its organization realized that a wedding of the sugar industry and the fruit industry was inevitable, that one industry was indispensable to the other, and that the prosperity of one would affect the prosperity of the other. That view is supported by a report on the Australian sugar industry, which was presented to the Parliament on the 11th September, 1952. Paragraph 359, on page 57 of the report, is headed, “ Misunderstandings “, and is in the following terms : -
Although the rebate system is an important part of the sugar price structure and although it has been in operation for years, certain misunderstandings have arisen, the most important of which are -
that any price concessions to manufacturers are a direct charge on the sugar industry, which as a consequence, suffers loss by any extension of concessions; and
that the price of sugar should be used as the medium for assisting certain Australian industries using sugar to overcome difficulties that have nothing to do with the price of sugar.
Paragraph 360 reads -
If the rebates or price concessions are traced to their source, it will be seen that Australian consumers of sugar were intended to bear their weight.
Therefore, I disagree with those misguided representatives of the sugar industry who say that the price of sugar to the Australian consumers was decided in the light of certain basic costs which did not include the contribution to the fruit industry. I accept my full share of responsibility for supporting, in my ignorance, the ratification of the agreement by this chamber in 1951,but I protest, most strenuously, against the suspension, since that year, of the payment of £216,000 yearly to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. I point out that that money is provided, not by the growers or the industry, but by the Australian consumers of sugar. I cannot emphasize that point too strongly. However, I have the greatest admiration for those who were responsible for the far-sighted sugar agreement. Clearly, the members of this chamber who supported the ratification of the agreement realized the necessity to consider the effect that any steps taken to protect the sugar industry would have on other industries in this country. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was established because the Government realized that, unless the agreement provided benefits not only to the sugargrowers but also to the fruitgrowers, it would ultimately collapse. It is to be regretted that the system under which the fruit industry received a benefit has not been followed during the last fer years.
Logically, Queensland senators always extol the sugar industry. Doubtless, they have been astonished to hear the Tasmanian senators doing likewise. I pointout that we are in agreement with them in relation to that great industry. I assure them that the representatives of Tasmania in this chamber have a great admiration for the sugar industry, and we shall continue to do all in our power to ensure its continued prosperity. However, T direct attention to the fact that the original agreement provided that certain sums of money should be put aside each year to provide assistance to the fruit industry. Until 1951, a payment of £216,000 was made each year. Of course, that amount would now be inadequate, in view of present day values. I hope that, as thi3 debate proceeds, the Queensland senators opposite will enlighten us, not about the sugar industry, but on the Reason for the suspension of the annual payment, in view of the desirability to maintain a close relationship between the fruit industry and the sugar industry.
The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee is empowered by legislation to pay a subsidy on exports of berry-fruit pulp, berry-fruit jam, and berry-fruit jellies. That subsidy should be continued, in order to ensure the continued prosperity of the berry-fruits industry. However, I should like to direct the attention of honorable senators to paragraph 50 of the twenty-second annual report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for the year ended the 31st August, 1953, which reads -
Despite the reduced minimum prices, manufacturers accepted only about half the crop. Representations were made by growers’ organizations to the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance, and the Government decided to make a grant of £100,000 to the Tasmanian Government for relief to the industry. This amount was eventually applied by the Tasmanian Government as compensation to those growers whose crops were not harvested.
I do not suggest for a moment that successive Australian Governments - and, to a degree, the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee - have not dealt generously with the growers of berry fruits. I think that they have done so, but, the assistance provided has been on a catch-as-catch-can basis. The point that was overlooked when the sugar agreement was drafted was that, at that time, berry fruits were purchased principally by the manufacturers of pulp, jams and jellies. The pure fruit juice industry has since come into existence. This industry purchases raspberries and blackcurrants at prices laid down by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, and it has to comply with the terms and regulations of that committee. I have never heard a complaint that it has not done so. This relatively new industry has provided a solution to the problem of marketing berry fruits, which was neglected. The industry made representations to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for an export subsidy, in order to enable it to market its products overseas. It did not seek a subsidy as high as the export subsidy on pulp, jams and jellies. It asked only for a subsidy sufficient to enable it to capture some of the European markets. The request was refused. I point out that this new industry provides a means of using more of the available berry fruits. Furthermore, the Sugar Industry Sugar Concession Committee reported that the manufacturers have purchased only half of the crop of berry fruits, and that the other half could have been turned into pure berry fruit juices for export.
– Who pays the subsidy?
– Prior to 1951, the subsidy was paid by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee out of funds derived by the imposition of a levy on the consumers of sugar, which levy was included in the retail price of that commodity. Therefore, I contend that this new industry is as much entitled to a subsidy as are the manufacturers of pulp, jams and jellies.
– What is the honorable senator worried about? The industry receives the benefit of export prices.
– I make it _ clear that I am not criticizing the sugar industry. Indeed, I have applauded it. Surely Senator Courtice knows that pure raspberry fruit juice has no sugar content. As I have said, a sum of money is made available to assist the fruit industry.
– The manufacturers of fruit products.
– It is now clear that only some sections of the ‘berry fruits Industry were considered by the committee. A letter dated the 22nd June, 1954, which I have received from the assistant secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, reads -
I am personally convinced that juice and cordial are equally us entitled to subsidy as are jam and pulp and that an excellent case can be made out for them.
I agree wholeheartedly with that opinion. Indeed, that department was responsible last year for locating in England a market for our surplus blackcurrants, which saved the industry. The trade promotion section of the department is on the ball at all times. A further letter that I have received from the Department, dated the 8th September, states that the principal reasons why the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee decided to withhold subsidy payment on berry fruit juices and syrups were :
I remind the Senate that a subsidy is not paid on jams and jellies exported to the United States of America, because of the probability of the imposition by that country of countervailing duty, but it is sought on exports of pure fruit juices for sale on the European market. The other reason mentioned was -
Silting suspended from h.ko to S p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the relationship of the sugar industry and the fruit industry. I pointed out that the amount of money that was made available to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was not made available by the sugar industry because it was part and parcel of the cost upon which the retail price of sugar was based. In other words, in arriving at the retail price of 9d. per lb., the contribution to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was taken into consideration. Therefore, the funds of the committee come, not from the sugar-growers, but from the consumers of sugar in Australia. This position has been misunderstood by many people in Australia and by some honorable senators who alleged that the sugar industry had made this money available. During the dinner adjournment some honorable senators asked me to elucidate the functions of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. They wished to know why the funds of this committee should be made available to subsidize exports of fruit juice which have no sugar in them. Paragraph 2, sub-paragraph (b) of clause 7 of the Sugar Agreement between the Australian and Queensland governments, reads as follows : -
The Committee may, in such manner and subject to such other conditions as it thinks fit, apply such moneys as may remain in the said fund after payments have been made in accordance with paragraphs (a.) to (d) (both inclusive) of this clause for -
the promotion of the use and sale of Australian manufactured fruit products in the Commonwealth of Australia or overseas.
So it is obvious that this fund was originally intended for the promotion of the sale of Australian manufactured fruit products within Australia or overseas. That is why I consider that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee should take into account the fact that there is a valuable market to be won in fruit juices with sugar and without sugar and in concentrates. I am reliably informed that in Europe fruit juices have been so concentrated that they are sold in 1-lb. blocks. The blocks are dissolved in seven times their quantity of water and this solution forms a fruit juice which has properties identical with those of the juice that is squeezed from the fresh fruit. In these days of high freights, manufacturers are much attracted to a line such as this which does not contain skin, pips or water on which to pay freight. The committee has been wrong in failing to examine this market and in allowing part of the raspberry crop to fall to the ground. With only small assistance to the fruit juice industry, some of that fruit could have been directed to a valuable export market in Europe. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) that in addition to the subsidy that is granted in respect of pulp and jams, £25,000 should be made available iri order to develop the valuable market in pure fruit juices.
I want to make it quite clear that the beginning of the whole scheme for the marketing of sugar was bound up with the future of the fruit industry. I also want to make it clear that it is not from the sugar industry that the funds come for the purpose of assisting the fruit industry. That idea clouds the thinking of’ some honorable senators opposite Although the relevant legislation used to provide that the sum of £216,000 should be made available each year, no addition has been made to the fund since 1951. Under the 1951 amendment to the legislation the annual contribution was suspended because £900,000 was then in the fund. The amended legislation provided that no further contributions should be made to the fund until it fell below £p.00,000. In view of the fact that the fund was intended to assist all branches of the fruit industry throughout Australia, surely £900,000 might be regarded as very little for the purpose of staving off a depression in the fruit industry. Annual contributions should have been made to this fund ever since 1951. I wish to emphasize that a subsidy has been paid in respect of jam pulp for years although it does not contain sugar. As I have stated, the funds of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee do not come from the sugar industry but from the consumers and were intended to assist in the manufacture of all types of processed fruits whether they contained sugar or not. This fund should be reinstituted The sum of £216,000 was paid out of this fund in 1931. It was originally £300,000 but it was reduced to £216,000 in the depression days.
– There was no committee until 1932.
– Clause 7 of the Sugar Agreement states - 7. (1) That, subject to the proviso, next, hereinafter contained, the Queensland Government on behalf of the Australian cane-sugar industry shall during the agreed period assist the Australian manufactured fruits industry by creating a fund by an annual contribution of Two hundred and sixteen thousand pounds . . .
– It. was not reduced by compulsion.
– I did not say that, it was reduced by compulsion. I said that it was reduced. It has remained at the reduced rate ever since. In view of the fact that £216,000 was paid in 1931 surely no one can argue that that amount would be a fair and reasonable contribution at present. The amount should be increased in accordance with the difference in the currencies of the two periods.
Although the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has been relieved of the necessity to pay out the amount of £216,000 to which I have referred, the price of sugar still includes an amount which was intended as a contribution towards the funds of the committee. The rise in the price of sugar from 8£d. to 9d. per lb. resulted in at least an extra farthing per lb. going to the industry.
– There has been an increase in the cost of production.
– If it can be substantiated that there has been another rise in the cost of production of sugar, the Government will be glad to make provision for it. The retail price of sugar recommended by the committee was 8 3/4 d per lb.; this was raised to 9d. per lb. That extra Jd. per lb. represents an additional contribution from the consumers of Australia to the sugar industry of £1,002,000, which, in my opinion, should be used to help the fruit industry.
On page 12, at paragraph 64, the report of the Sugar Industry Concession Committee states that exports of jam and pulp fell by 4,100 tons in 1952-53. The principal purchaser was the United Kingdom and keen competition was experienced in that market. Can it be logically contended that £900,000 is enough to have in the fund when, in one year, exports have fallen by 4,100 tons? It was to meet such a position as this that the fund was originally established. Paragraph 65 of the report reads as follows : -
That is one way in which this fund could be used. One of the best ways to increase consumption is to reduce prices. If the fund or part of it could he used to give manufacturers of jams a bigger rebate so that they could sell their products more cheaply on the Australian market, consumption could be increased. The amount of £500,000 is inadequate, and the Government should consider building the fund up and using it for its original purpose. I have only one interest in this matter. That is to ensure that the 3,000 growers of berry fruits in Tasmania get their just due under this agreement. After all, the purpose of the fund was to maintain a reasonably stable market for those growers; one at least as stable as the sugar market. If we build this fund up as we should and administer it on the original basis of the agreement, to ensure the prosperity of the sugar industry, and the fruit industry that is interwoven with it, we shall return to common sense and achieve something that will be of great value to Australia.
is to ratify an agreement that was concluded in 1953. It regulated the prices of sugar over two periods. One period was from March to October, 1952, and the other from October, 1952, onwards. I direct the attention of honorable senators to a rather peculiar feature of this matter. The Twenty-second Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee covers the year ended the 31st August, 1953. It was presented to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) and dated the 27th October, 1953. The report embodies the terms of the new agreement that was concluded in November, 1953, so we have the unusual spectacle of a report embodying an agreement that was not concluded until after the report was dated. The agreement will come into operation only when this bill is approved by the Commonwealth Parliament.
– That is the illusion under which the Parliament works.
– I direct attention to the fa.cts that I have mentioned. Perhaps they are not important, but they intrigued me. The terms of the bill are to ratify increases of prices that have already taken place. They also bring in an amendment to the sugar agreement that was concluded between the Australian Government and the Queensland Government in the terms of recommendations made by the investigating committee that inquired into the sugar industry in 1952. They apply to such matters as fixing new methods of computing world parity, putting wholesale sugar rebates on a tonnage instead of a money basis, and other details of that character. They may indicate the developments that are taking place in the general attitude towards the sugar industry. The debate, however, has resolved itself into a consideration of the submissions that have been made by the Tasmanian senators on the relationship between the sugar industry and the fruitindustry in Tasmania and other States where it assumes some proportions.
As I stated initially, this debate has been marked by evidence of genuine goodwill on the part of the honorable senators from Tasmania, but I believe that their approach to the problem arises from misconceptions and misapprehensions. I should like to remove some of those, not perhaps because they are so prominent in the minds of honorable senators who gave particular consideration to this matter, but some misconceptions also exist in the minds of many honorable senators who are not primarily interested in the matter but have a general concern for this problem. I point out first that the sugar industry is not an unduly wealthy industry. It is an efficient industry. It is highly organized and economical. By its efficient organization, it has ironed out the peaks and depressions of its economy and steadied the ebb and flow that so often disastrously affect many of our other primary industries. Because it has that degree of stability, people may mistakenly assume that it is extremely wealthy. The sugar industry has great national value and defence significance. It is an important economic component in the national life of Australia, both because it has led to the settlement of the northern part of Queensland, and for other reasons. It employs a great number of people. It provides employment of a seasonal nature and governments step in to provide off-season employment in parts of Australia where otherwise white people might not be able to live and maintain an industry. I repeat, however, that it is not an unduly wealthy industry.
I suggest that it is interesting to study the fluctuations in the prices of various Commodities during the periods that are mentioned in this agreement. I point out that there has not been an undue increase of the retail price of sugar. In March, 1.952, the retail price of butter was os. 1-Jd. In March, 1954, the price of butter had risen to 4s. 1 1/2 d That was an increase of about 32 per cent. In the same period, the price of flour, other’ than self-raising flour, rose by 20 per cent, and the retail price of sugar was increased by 38 per cent. The percentage increase in the price of sugar was almost twice as high as the rise in the price of flour, but it was not unduly high in comparison with the increase of the price of butter. I mention that fact to remove misconceptions that may be in the minds of honorable senators because they might have based their arguments upon the wrong premise that we are dealing with a big, wealthy and even callous industry that is prepared to carry on with complete disregard for the struggling efforts of similar industries that honorable senators believe to be closely integrated with it. If those misconceptions are not in the minds of honorable senators, so much the better. .
The submissions that were made by Senator Wright rested on the premises that there is a close association between the sugar industry and the fruit industry and that such an association was contemplated in the earliest days of the sugar agreement. I admit that it was originally contemplated, and perhaps at that stage that association between the sugar industry “and the fruit industry was closer than it is to-day. Perhaps they were more” interdependent then than they are now, but other components and other factors have entered into the relationship. Possibly those changes have put the sugar component in a slightly inferior position in relation to other matters. I am informed that in the retail price of a 24-oz. tin of jam, 17 per cent, is directly attributable to sugar and 17 per cent, to the fruit that is in the tin. That accounts for 34 per cent, of the retail price and other factors must account for 66 per cent. I should imagine that the proportions have varied in the past 30 years, and that originally they were nothing like what they are to-day. Probably sugar, at the price that was current many years ago, formed a more important component of total costs but labour, transport and other costs have also changed until sugar has been relegated possibly to to a secondary or tertiary position in tho cost structure. If that is so, the close association, integration and interdependence between the sugar industry and the fruit industry no longer exist at the same level, and Senator Wright’s submissions are based on a slightly inaccurate premise.
I believe that the honorable senator suggested that the sugar industry was closely integrated with the fruit industry because >f the amount of sugar that was consumed in the processing of fruit. He implied that there was almost a dependence of the sugar industry upon the fruit industry. The latest figures in the report to which honorable senators have referred are for the year 1952. They reveal that of an average production of more than 700.000 tons, of sugar, only about 50,000 tons went into the fruit industry. T do not direct attention to that fact callously but merely to indicate that if that dependence of the sugar industry existed originally, it no longer exists in the same degree. Therefore, I suggest that the whole scene has been changed to some extent. If dependence was the premise upon which Senator Wright based his submission, I repeat that it may be becoming increasingly inaccurate.
Some honorable senators might suggest that the sugar industry should support the fruit industry because they are both primary industries and the sugar industry should be called upon to assist what I might term a brother or sister industry. But again, is the obligation of the sugar industry to assist the fruit industry any more pressing or insistent than its obligation to assist small secondary industries such as the manufacture of cordials, or the larger confectionery industry? I cannot agree that it is. As a matter of fact, the relationship between the sugar industry and the fruit industry is becoming increasingly artificial.
I listened with interest to Senator Henty and I know that Senator Paltridge supports him in the statement that the consumers pay the subsidy, but the increased prices that are given to the sugar industry from time to time are only equalizing prices designed to maintain relatively real values. The increased price of sugar does not necessarily mean greater affluence for the sugar industry or any persons associated with it. Increased costs cannot necessarily be passed on, but have to be absorbed, in part, by the industry itself. Therefore, ultimately the sugar industry, in whole or in part, must provide some of the subsidy that is paid to the fruit industry. The consumers may pay some of it, but part of the cost is borne by the sugar industry. If Senator Henty believes that there is an obligation on the sugar industry to help the fruit industry because they are allied, there must be a similar obligation upon it to assist other primary and secondary industries.
– They are not mentioned in the agreement at all.
– That is quite true. I am speaking of what would be equitable and just, because that is the basis on which, these submissions are being made. The question is whether the proposal advanced by the honorable senator would stabilize the industry. What is the real problem at the root of this matter? Paragraph 55 of the report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee relating to berry fruits states -
Manufacturers informed the committee that, despite the reduced minimum prices prescribed for the 1052-53 season berry fruits, they would be unable to process for export owing to the depressed overseas market.
That does not suggest that the troubles of this industry flow from the price of sugar. They flow from the collapse of the available overseas markets. That is the point that is mentioned in the report relating to the berry fruit industry, and now when we come to the general question of subsidy, that factor has to be taken into consideration. The whole of this debate has been directed against the sugar industry as if it had a particular obligation to support the fruit industry and that, if it were to discharge that obligation, the fruit industry would be placed on an economic basis.
– That is my understanding of the arguments submitted by honorable senators opposite. It is very doubtful whether the fruit industry could be placed upon an economic basis in that way because there are factors beyond the control of the sugar industry and of the fruit industry. There are international factors which are depressing the markets and making the sale of processed fruit difficult.
– Even if subsidized.
-That is the point I make. It is highly improbable that a subsidy would solve the problem. Emerging as a conclusion from the arguments that have been put forward is the suggestion that the sugar industry may be an inefficient industry which is getting a very effective subsidy by way of an embargo protecting its production. In fact, the sugar industry is efficient. Senator Wright acknowledged that. The misconception that the sugar industry is inefficient is well worth removing from the minds of those who entertain it. If the sugar industry is being subsidized by way of an embargo, we are subsidizing an industry which is highly efficient, and is not preying on any other industry whilst sheltering behind an embargo on the importation of foreign sugar.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the fruit industry preys on the sugar industry?
– No. I say that it. would be callous and cruel if a subsidy were being paid to an uneconomic Queensland industry whilst that industry was depressing a small and struggling industry. But that is not the position. I think also we should remove any thought that a considerable amount of financial assistance lias not been given to the fruit industry in Tasmania through this fund. Senator Courtice, speaking from his close and intimate knowledge of the sugar industry, gained through a lifetime of personal association with it both as a producer and an executive, pointed out that almost £5,000,000 has been made available to the fruit industry since 1932. I draw attention to the fact that the condition of the berry fruit industry in. Tasmania - and again I refer to the report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee - did not improve to any appreciable degree during the period when it enjoyed an Australian price for sugar lower than the world parity price. In those years, there was no substantial expansion of acreage or increase of production. Indeed, in some instances, there was a severe reduction of both acreage and tonnage. If the difficulties of this industry are attributable to sugar the industry should have made rapid progress when the price of sugar in Australia was below the world parity price. I asked how the industry was run and whether it took long for the vines and bushes to be brought into production, and I was told that a start could be made on production after twelve months. Therefore, during the period of seven or eight years to which I have referred, there was ample opportunity to develop the industry; yet there was no development. That makes it increasingly obvious that there are other factors depressing this industry which will have to be examined, and that the responsibility cannot be placed on the failure of the Australian sugar industry to support the fruit industry to the extent desired by honorable senators who have spoken on its behalf.
– For six years growers- were warned against overproduction.
– I am not aware of all the factors. I am merely basing my remarks on the figures published in the report to which I have referred. They speak for themselves and they do not tell a very happy story. The removal of the subsidy of £216,000 when the fund reached £555,000 has been severely criticized. But that was a term of the agreement. It did not mean that money was not still made available where the terms of the agreement demanded that it be made available. It merely meant that the fund did not go on accumulating. That is what it meant in actual practice.
– The honorable senator is misrepresenting the position.
– I do not think so. According to last year’s report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee quite a substantial sum of money was paid out. There was a domestic, sugar rebate of £91,000, and special export assistance grants aggregating £55,712. There was also an export sugar rebate of £57,666. That shows that there has not merely been real solicitude for this industry, but that the agreement is operating. I know this is a big problem and I should not like honorable senators from Tasmania to think that we are not conscious of it. The fruit industry’s problem to-day was possibly the problem of the sugar industry in its early days. The sugar industry has the support of the people of Australia and I think we would be recalcitrant and ungenerous if we were not prepared to concede the difficulties of the fruit industry and try to find some way to solve them. If the fruit industry, which is an important primary industry, is in a depressed condition and is becoming increasingly depressed, it is somebody’s responsibility. Means can be found and should be found to assist it as other great primary industries are assisted. After all, neither the butter industry nor the flour industry receives assistance from the sugar industry.
– The Queensland Government is trying to knock the butter industry.
– It is doing nothing of the sort. I remind the honorable senator that, so far, speakers onboth sides of the chamber have managed to keep this debate on a non-party basis. I hope that it will remain on that basis. The point I am trying to make with considerable difficulty I admit is that there is a national responsibility to do something about the fruit industry, and that it is the Government’s job to have it investigated. I listened with great attention to Senator Wright’s remarks about the failure to submit evidence onbehalf of the fruit industry to the committee that inquired into the sugar industry. When I look at the list of witnesses I notice that Mr. Palfreyman is included, but I am disappointed to find that there was apparently no rush by those associated with the fruit industry in Tasmania to put their views before the committee. I notice that Mr. Palfreyman is associated with the Jones jam organization although his address is given as South Yarra. I cannot see any other person from Tasmania listed as a witness.
– Mr. Hughes gave evidence.
– I have only had a quick glance at the report, but it is clear that there was no rush of witnesses. Apparently there was no urgency to put the position of the industry before the committee. Nevertheless, undoubtedly there is a problem. The only point I make is that it is not a problem that should rest heavily on the back of the sugar industry of Australia. Senator Henty apparently considers that although there is no sugar in processed fruit juices there is an obligation on the sugar industry to help the fruit juice processing industry. I cannot agree with that. It is true that sub-paragraph (2.) of paragraph 5 of the agreement states -
the Committee may, in such manner and subject to such conditions as it thinks fit, apply such moneys as may remain in the said fund after payments have been made in accordance with paragraphs (a) to (d) (both inclusive) of this clause for -
But I cannot see how a manufacturer of fruit products mentioned in an agreement relating to sugar can be taken to mean any one other than a manufacturer of fruit products which have some sugar content. Surely that is the logical interpretation. My time has nearly expired and I merely say in conclusion that there is an attempt, no doubt inspired by enthusiasm, to try to get the sugar industry to regenerate the depressed fruit industry in Tasmania. What we originally conceded in Queensland as a matter almost of grace, is now being put back on us as a matter of obligation. We were prepared originally to play our part because of the close association between the two industries, but that has gradually diminished. Now, what we were prepared to do as a concession is being thrown back on us, not only as an obligation, hut also as an obligation extending beyond any bounds ever contemplated. There should be an inquiry into the condition of the fruit industry and, if necessary, government assistance should be granted. It is an obligation that should rest on the taxpayers of Australia generally. There is no reason why the person who puts a spoonful of sugar into his tea should be required to contribute to those who put a spoonful of marmalade on their toast. It is a general obligation on the taxpayers at large. We in Queensland are not unsympathetic. We would assume our part of the burden just as the people of Australia generally have assumed their obligation to the sugar industry for so many years.
– I support the bill with great pleasure. It concerns the sugar industry, which is one of our great national industries. As the only senator who lives in a sugargrowing area, I am particularly concerned with the measure. The sugar industry is a vital industry for Australia. It has 34 sugar mills, 31 in Queensland and three in northern New South Wales. I suppose it is generally regarded as a Queensland industry, because the greater proportion of the mills are located in that State. In fact, it is the backbone of industry in a considerable part of Queensland. When we consider the number of cities and towns along the Queensland coast that are almost wholly dependent, on sugar, we realize the tremendous importance of the industry to that State. The cities of Bundaberg, Mackay and Cairns are almost wholly dependent on sugar, and the cities of Townsville and Maryborough are partly dependent on it. There is a string of towns along the Queensland coast that are either wholly or partly dependent on sugar, such as Ingham, Childers, Proserpine, Innisfail, Babinda, Tully, Gordonvale, Ayr, Homehill and Mossman.
I was very glad to hear various honorable senators, particularly our Tasmanian colleagues, Senator Wright and Senator Henty, speak in support of the sugar industry in general. Although I do not agree with the representations they have made on behalf of the fruit-growers, I commend them for the fight they have put up for an industry in their State. The Senate is the States’ House, and we should do everything we can to protect the interests of the States we represent. Senator Wright and Senator Henty were entitled to present the case for the fruitgrowers, and I hope I shall be able to present equally strongly the case for the sugar-growers. There are 8,000 Queensland sugar farmers engaged in the production of sugar cane. The industry employs approximately 40,000 people. Men are employed in cane-growing ann cane-cutting, and others are employed in sugar mills and in transportation services. A great deal of money has been invested in the industry. The present cost of a sugar mill of modern design is approximately £4,000,000.
Senator Wright said that he was struck by the organization behind the industry. The various milling organizations own hundreds of miles of tramlines along which cane is brought to the mills. The illustrations given by Senator Wright would convince any one that the sugar industry is organized most efficiently. In fact, I should say there is no other primary industry in Australia, to-day which is more efficiently managed. The thread of efficiency runs through the warp of the industry. Wherever we go, we find that efficiency is the theme. On the growing side, new varieties of cane are being developed at sugar experimental stations. The object is to get a greater tonnage per acre, and more sugar from a ton of cane. Research is being conducted into the utilization of fertilizers and the combating of diseases and pest. On the milling side of the industry, efficiency is again the keynote. Last year, all the mill organizations in Queensland got together and established at Mackay what might be called *a very fine sugar university, known as the Sugar Research Establishment. The mill organizations are spending thousands of pounds a year to find means to extract the greatest amount of sugar from cans. The target is 100 per cent, extraction. This is a fascinating industry, and it is good to know that it has efficiency as its theme. The experimental stations and the Sugar Research Establishment ar.i maintained by the growers and millers, a small grant being made by the State Government towards the experimental stations. On the refining side, there is again an extremely high standard of efficiency, so much so that to-day the Australian sugar industry is recognized as the most efficient sugar industry in the world. That is a very great compliment to the people who established the industry in a tropical region and proved that white people could grow and harvest sugar cane in the most efficient way in the world. Our sugar industry is to be commended for the spirit that has permeated it through the years.
Some people forget that in the early days of the industry black labour was used. One of the conditions of federation was that Queensland should do away with black labour, and in return an embargo was placed on black-grown sugar being brought into this country. Tn those days, black labour was so cheap that sugar producers in other countries, using such labour could undersell Australian producers, who were using white labour. But that is not the position to-day. Our sugar industry has become so efficient that wo are able to produce more tons of cane per acre and a sweeter cane than other countries. We are producing sugar so efficiently that sugar imported from any part of the world would have to be sold at a higher price than the Australian people are paying for Australian sugar. Even if we were allowed to import sugar, we could not land it at a price lower than that at which the Australian people buy their sugar.
– What about Cuba?
– The Caribbean countries have a surplus of sugar, but they are dollar countries. Sugar in those countries is dearer than the sugar which is sold here. Because those countries have allowed their production costs to get out of hand, they must charge their peoples more for sugar than we charge for it in this country. They are dumping their surplus sugar on the world markets, but Australia cannot buy it, even at the dumped price, owing to the dollar shortage.
– Does the honorable senator say that the world parity price for sugar is higher than the Australian price ?
– Not to-day. Let me make this point clear. We could not buy that sugar and land it in Australia at a price suitable to fruit-processing organizations. By the time it was landed here, it would cost more than Australian white-grown sugar. The position is that the people of Australia are paying the second-lowest price in the world for sugar sold by retail. The only country of which I know where the local price of sugar is lower than here is South Africa, with its black-grown sugar. But we could not import that sugar into Australia and sell it more cheaply than Australian sugar, because transport and other charges would raise the price considerably.
The sugar industry has not only established and organized itself on an efficient basis, but also it has played a part in assisting the Australian fruit industry. We have heard many arguments to-day about what should be done by the sugar industry to assist the fruit-growers. It has even been implied that the sugar industry should set aside from £900,000 to £1,000,000 for the fruit-growers. The position is that for every ton of sugar used in this country for processing fruit, a rebate of £2 4s. is allowed if the processed fruit is sold locally. If the fruit is exported, there is not only a rebate of £2 4s. a ton, but also another payment if the world parity price of sugar is lower than the Australian price.
– The landed price, not the world parity price.
– -That is so. Surely we do not expect the sugar industry to pay the difference between the landed price and the world parity price. If the world parity price of sugar is lower than the local price, the fruit industry gets the benefit of the difference. What could be fairer than that?
– It comes from the pockets of the consumers.
– At the dinner table to-night, I calculated that a payment of £216,000 a year to . the fruit industry would make a difference of about onetwentyeighth of Id. per lb. to the price of sugar. It would be very difficult to take such a small fraction of a penny into account. It would be quite impracticable to increase the price of sugar by that amount so that the sugar industry could pay £216,000 a year to the fruit industry. The price would have to bo taken to the nearest half-penny. Suggestions of that kind are more theoretical than practical.
Between 1931, when the concessional fund was conceived, and 1951, £2,175,000 was paid from the fund to the fruit industry. That is a considerable sum. A contribution of £216,000 was being put aside regularly but, in view of the situation that developed over a period of years in connexion with sugar prices, it appeared there was no necessity to continue to put the money aside. So payments were suspended. However, the sugar industry, realizing its obligations under the agreement, agreed that, payments should be resumed, which they have, if the balance in the fund fell below £500,000. The sugar industry has never shirked its obligations. I understand that various fruitgrowers’ organizations have always praised the industry for the way in which it has honoured its obligations. I understand that only a year or so ago £50,000 was paid from the fund to the berrygrowers of Tasmania, and that the Commonwealth subsidized them to the degree of £100,000. When the sugar industry oan assist an associated industry, it will do so under the agreement. But when a subsidy from the sugar industry will not be sufficient to put another industry on a sound basis, all the other factors affecting that industry must be taken into consideration and a thorough investigation made. It «an be said truthfully that if the berrygrowers, or any other section of the fruitgrowers, are in serious difficulties, the blame for those difficulties cannot be laid at the door of the sugar industry. I have explained the terms on which fruit processors get their supplies of sugar. Personally, I could never understand why an obligation to assist the fruit industry was imposed on the sugar industry.
– It was not. It was imposed on the consuming market.
– If the fruit industry i3 to receive consideration in this way, other industries should receive consideration also on the above basis. The sugar industry could have appealed for assistance from other industries on some occasions. Let us consider the position of the industry during World War I. and World War II. As Senator Gorton said, the price of sugar is fixed by this Parliament. If the sugargrowers of Australia had been allowed to sell their sugar on the world markets during World War I. and World War II., they would have obtained three times as much for it as they in fact obtained because they were forced to sell it at a fixed price to the Australian people.
– What happened during the depression years ?
– I shall come to that later. Other primary industries, which used sugar, had the benefit of that lowprice at a time when the overseas price of sugar was sky-high. Had it not been for the sugar industry, the fruit industry in Australia would have been practically wiped out during the war years, because sugar was in such short supply overseas, and the demand for it was so great, that those industries would not have been able to obtain their requirements. The fact that the price of sugar was fixed in Australia during the war cost the sugar producers many millions of pounds whilst the fruit-growing and processing industries, using cheap Australian sugar, received high war-time prices. Did the canegrowers squeal about that state of affairs? Of course, they did not. They accepted it and continued to produce sugar, at the same time trying to make their industry even more efficient. They overcame obstacle after obstacle, until to-day the Australian sugar industry, and that of Queensland particularly, is a shining example to the rest of the world. Overseas technologists who came here a couple of years ago acknowledged the outstanding work being done by our sugar producers.
As honorable senators are aware, there are not as many manufacturing industries in Queensland as there are in the southern States. Although the cost of manufactured goods which come from the south is often higher than such goods from overseas, the cane-growers of Queensland do not complain. Although the prices of most commodities were very high during World War II., the Queensland sugar producers did not seek special assistance to enable them to meet such high costs. If industry generally displayed more of the spirit shown by the sugar industry, this country would be on an even better economic footing than it is at the present time.
In many respects, the problems of the fruit-growing industry go deeper than the mere provision of a subsidy by the sugar industry. In that connexion, let me refer to the case of H. Jones and Company Proprietary Limited, which had its genesis in Tasmania. That company also grows -fruits in South Africa, in competition with Tasmanian and Queensland producers, but the difference is that it employs black labour in South Africa. I suggest that that kind of thing is partly responsible for the depressed economic conditions which the fruit processing industry is experiencing to-day. These money-hungry people, who have no national loyalty, go to countries where they can employ black labour in order to compete with Australian industries on overseas markets.
Reference has been made during this debate to the composition of the commission which recommended to the Government the price of sugar which the Senate is now considering. In that connexion, Senator Wright referred to the two Queensland representatives on the commission. I wish to say that those representatives, Mr. Donellan, of the Queensland Sugar Board, and Mr. Bell, a member of a Queensland government department, are two of the straightest men that it would be possible to meet.
– I did not suggest otherwise.
– I know that the honorable senator did not do so. I am not suggesting that he cast any reflection on those gentlemen. I have no doubt that the views of the various members of the commission differed, but I assure honorable’ senators that those two men would have been completely honest in their approach to this question of price fixing. Those who know them in Queensland appreciate that they could not be twisted. In my opinion, Mr. Donellan and Mr. Bell would probably have a better idea of a. reasonable price for sugar than would the other members of the commission, because they have had long association with the industry. If they recommended the price which is referred to in the commission’s report, I think that it would have been an honest and sincere estimate and, in all probability, a correct one.
It is heartening to know that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber are unanimously of the opinion that the sugar industry is a very valuable one, and that its protection is well worth while. Apparently, most honorable senators appreciate that the development of the sugar industry is vital if the population of the northern part of this continent is to be increased. I am pleased to note that this Government has given favorable consideration to the request of the industry for an increased price for sugar. When such a request was made previously, it was pointed out that the cane-crushing season was under way and that, therefore, there was a certain urgency about arriving at a decision. Every month’s delay in dealing with the request would have meant a considerable loss to the sugar-growers of Queensland. This Government has given the right kind of assistance to the industry, and I believe that its prompt decision in the matter of a price-rise has been, perhaps, the most valuable contribution that has been made to the industry for many years.
asked, by way of interjection, about the price of sugar during the depression years. I inform the honorable senator that the sugar industry voluntarily reduced the price of its commodity by a half-penny per lb. during the depression years, and it was not until 1947, or thereabouts, that the industry regained the benefit of the pre.depression price, although the prices of most other commodities had increased considerably by then. Although the price of sugar is 9d. per lb. at the present time, the percentage increase in recent years has been less than it has been in respect of every other major primary product.
The sugar industry is a great national farming movement. It is an industry of which we can be proud, and although it enjoys the benefit of an embargo, it does not receive a subsidy, I believe that the men and women employed in the industry have earned the nation’.^ gratitude. They have gone to the north, settled there and developed the country. At the same time, they have laid the foundations of one of the finest industries in the Commonwealth and the most efficient of its kind in the world. Truly, the sugar industry is a shining example to Australia and to the other sugar-producing countries. Its theme song is efficiency and more efficiency. We should not forget that a great deal of money and effort are expended in producing the pound of sugar which we purchase for 9d.
– As the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) pointed out in his second-reading speech, a committee of inquiry, in 1952, decided to permit an increase in the wholesale price of sugar equivalent to an increase of l£d. per lb. in the retail price. The bill now before the Senate seeks to ratify that increase, which had the effect of making the price of sugar, to the Australian consumer, 9d. per lb. I have listened carefully to the remarks of Senator Courtice, Senator Byrne and Senator Wood, and I have learned a great deal about the efficiency of the sugar industry in Queensland, as a result. There is no shadow of doubt that that industry is a great Australian asset. The praise that has been bestowed on those who grow the cane, cut it and produce the sugar which is consumed here or exported, has been well earned. I wish to commend Senator Wright for his contribution to the debate,, because the honorable senator brought to the surface an important matter which has been exercising the minds of the berry fruit growers of Tasmania. Provision is made, in the agreement which we are discussing, for a payment to assist the fruit industry. I suggest that when the price to be paid by the Australian consumer has been determined, it should include the commitments referred to in this agreement. If provision is to be made for the assistance of the berry fruit industry, or the fruit industry generally, it seems to me that such assistance should take the form of an annual payment.
I wish to bring to the notice of honorable senators the plight of those engaged in the berry fruit industry of Tasmania which, as Senator Wright pointed out, is complementary to the sugar industry. If the fruit processing industry requires between 6,000 tons and 10,000 tons of sugar per annum, surely those engaged in the sugar industry in Queensland should regard the success or failure of the fruit processing industry as important.
As Senator Wright pointed out, the fruit industry of Tasmania is in a parlous condition. Due to the high cost of production, it is unable to” sell its fruit pulp overseas, and as the local market has not been developed on the lines mentioned by Senator Henty, the industry generally needs assistance. Unless the industry receives help, it is quite likely that future figures will reveal a substantial decline of production. After repeated representations by Tasmanian members of the Parliament, the Australian Government granted temporary relief to the industry. However, further assistance is needed in order to tide it over until it can get on its feet. The sugar agreement provides for assistance to the fruit industry. I urge the Government to provide that assistance. Several Queensland senators have stated that the provision of assistance to a Tasmanian industry is not the responsibility of a Queensland industry. They have implied, by innuendo, that the Tasmanian fruit industry should become more efficient. One of the reasons why this Tasmanian industry is in such a bad condition to-day is that Tasmanian fruit has to compete on the world’s markets with fruit grown in South Africa, regardless of the capitalistic organization that is exploiting those markets. As Senator Wood mentioned, the South African fruit industry employs cheap labour. Spokesmen for the sugar industry have stated that, in addition to competing in the markets of the world, we want to prevent sugar produced by coloured labour from entering Australia. That argument could be applied to our berry fruits industry, which should be asserted in order to enable it to compete favorably in the markets of the world with berry fruits produced by coloured Labour.
I remind the Senate that the berry fruits industry is as important to Tasmania as is the sugar industry to Queensland. Both industries make a valuable contribution to the national economy. We must not overlook the fact that they are essentially complementary, as sugar is needed for the making of jam and the processing of fruit. Therefore, the payment of a subsidy to the berry fruits industry, to tide it over its present diffi culties would also assist the sugar industry. Senator Wright presented a convincing case for assistance to the Tasmanian berry fruit-growers by means of the sugar agreement. This provides for the collection of money from the consuming public to provide such assistance, which should be extended at this critical time for the industry. Unless payments to the fruit industry are renewed, another form of governmental aid to the industry will have to be introduced. I point out that the levy for this purpose, which was included in the basic costs on which the retail price of sugar was determined, is, in effect, a straight-out tax on the Australian people. Unless the proceeds of that levy are applied to the relief of the fruit industry, I consider that the price of sugar should be reduced by the amount of the levy and taxation increased correspondingly, in order to enable the payment of a subsidy to the berry fruits industry. This problem must be tackled. The debate has provided Queensland senators with an opportunity to tell the Senate of the great advantage that has been derived by Queensland by reason of the fact that a part of that State is situated in the tropics and that there are available people with the necessary tenacity and knowledge to produce sugar. The debate has also provided Tasmanian senators with an opportunity to direct attention to the fact that Tasmania’s very important and valuable berry fruits industry needs assistance if it is to survive. The sugar agreement provides a means of subsidizing the industry, and so reducing the hardship of the people engaged in it. Increased costs of production have priced their products out of the world’s markets.
The sugar agreement was evolved by consultation between the Australian Government and the Queensland Government. I urge those governments to reconsider the decision to suspend annual payments to the Fruit Industry Concession Fund. I consider that those payments should be renewed, to enable the berry fruits industry to be assisted. Whilst I support the bill, I emphasize that the Tasmanian fruit industry urgently needs financial assistance.
Senator WARDLAW (Tasmania) submissions that have been made by Senator Wright and Senator Henty. The issue in this matter is clear-cut. It involves a definite principle, and should be approached in a non-party spirit. The fixed retail price of sugar permits of a continuing contribution being paid to the fruit industry. As several honorable senators opposite have pointed out, the very pleasant original union between the sugar industry and the fruit industry has deteriorated over the years to such a degree that it is now difficult to detect a union. A responsibility to make continuing contributions to the fruit industry undoubtedly rests on the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, and the sound condition of the sugar industry makes such continuing contributions possible. Originally, it was agreed that h. payment of £216,000 should be made annually, with the proviso that payments would be discontinued when the fund reached £500,000. I consider that that limitation should not have been included ; the annual payment should have been continued.
I take this opportunity to congratulate those persons who have been responsible for the establishment and the development of the Australian sugar industry, of which we are very proud. It is one of our finest national industries, which has played a very important part, not only in connexion with the defence of this country, but also in the settlement of our northern areas. The sugar industry has contributed, particularly, to the development of Queensland, and the history of the early days of the industry brought to the fore our White Australia policy. It is gratifying to know that the retail price of sugar was determined on a cost of production basis. I have no objection to that. After studying the pros and cons of the industry, the committee decided that a fair retail price would be 9d. per lb. I have no fault to find with that decision. On the contrary, I am glad that that price enables the industry to pay high wages and to work under the very best conditions. I consider that the workers of that industry are entitled to the best possible conditions. However, I consider that an obligation devolves on the sugar industry to renew payments of £216,000 a year - only a flea-bite in our modern economy - for the benefit of the fruit industry.
The proposed increase of the price of sugar by 1/4d per lb. was a matter on which individual members of the committee differed. However, I do not object to the increase, which produces about £1,000,000 a year. I consider that that amount should have been divided equally between the fruit industry and the sugar industry, so that the fruit industry would receive about £945,000. When the original payment of £315,000 was decided upon, the price of sugar was £36 lis. 9d. a ton. Now that the price has been increased to £73 a ton, I contend that payments to the fruit industry should be increased to the amount that I have mentioned. I point out that the sugar industry is now producing about 862,000 tons of sugar a year. At £72 a ton, the return to the industry is about £63,000,000. I do not agree with the decision of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee to fix the Australian price of sugar for fruit processing at £64 a ton, which is £14 Australian higher than the South African price. As South Africa is our greatest competitor in jams and fruit pulp, I think that the new price should have been fixed in accordance with the ruling price in South Africa, excluding the- cost of insurance, freight and exchange, which is considerable. This debate has developed into an exchange of views by Tasmanian and Queensland senators. As the issue is clear-cut, there was no necessity for certain Queensland senators to introduce extraneous factors. The case for the fruit industry has been well put by Senator Wright and Senator Henty and I do not wish to go over that ground again. We consider that £216,000 should be paid into the funds of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee each year as a continuing contribution.
.- L do not think that honorable senators know exactly what Senator Wright was trying to say. His object was to save a very important industry which is operated by the little men in the community, the berry fruits industry of Tasmania. His idea was to obtain some assistance from the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee in securing a reasonable market for the produce of the berry fruit growers. Honorable senators have heard quite a lot about how marvellous and efficient the sugar industry is. Certain honorable senators patted one another on the back. That does not appeal to me at all. I think that the sugar industry of Queensland is becoming a monopolistic octopus with its tentacles in every little home in Australia. Any industry can be efficient when it is getting sufficient money and the sugar industry is getting money from all the people in Australia. It has been pointed out that the price of 9d. per lb. for sugar represents more than the cost of production and a margin of profit. I do not think that the Senate has a moral right to pass this bill which will fix the price of sugar at 9d. per lb. in view of the fact that a certain proportion of that price was intended for payment to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee in order to help the fruit industry of Australia. I do not think that the Senate has a moral right to fix the price of sugar at 9d. per lb. unless, as Senator Wright requested, it takes steps to continue the contributions to the funds of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. Tasmanian senators are trying to save the berry fruits industry. It would not hurt the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, to help the smaller people in Tasmania. The Senate should support the proposition that was brought forward by Senator Wright and ensure that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee fulfills the function for which it was intended. Then the fruit industry will receive justice. I hope that the Senate will agree to any proposition that may be brought forward at a later stage in order to give duo recognition to the fruit industry of Australia, and especially to the berry fruit industry of Tasmania.
– I hope that honorable senators from Tasmania and Queensland will excuse me for obtruding myself into a debate which, whilst very important to Australia, seems to have been confined to the representatives of Queensland and Tasmania. This is a very important bill. Similar legislation has been before the Senate on several occasions since I first entered this chamber. I have generally sat back and viewed with a certain amount of amusement the activity which such legislation has generated amongst honorable senators from Queensland. In recent years Tasmanian senators, whose fruit industry is in grave danger, have participated in the debate. The price of sugar and the sugar agreement affect, not only the Queensland sugar growers and the berry growers of Tasmania, but the whole population of Australia, especially those whose wages are determined by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The price of sugar plays a very important part in the determination of the basic wage. As a matter of fact, in the grocery section of the C series regimen of the cost of living index, the sugar item is responsible for 2.18 out of 11.38 points. Consumption of sugar is very heavy in Australia. Naturally, the consumers view with a great deal of apprehension any increase of the price of sugar.
I think that it should be explained to the Australian consumer that this Parliament, in ratifying the sugar agreement,, will in jio way increase the present retail price of sugar to the consumer. The price has been 9d. per lb. for some time, and the Parliament is being called upon to ratify an agreement which has been in existence for a considerable period between the Queensland Government and the Australian Government. I do not think it is generally appreciated by the Australian people that the arrangements that were made in the 1920’s, when it was originally agreed that the Queensland Government and the Australian Government should come to an agreement in order to place the sugar industry upon a proper basis, represented a very wise move for the Australian community. We all remember the days when black labour was used in the production of sugar in Queensland. The Australian public agreed that sugar should be produced by Australian labour. Therefore, it was necessary to fix the price of that commodity. I venture to suggest that the present agreement provides one of the most scientific forms of price fixing that is to be found anywhere. It is a pity that this principle is not applied more widely in connexion with other consumer goods. If the price of all consumer goods were fixed as scientifically as is the price of sugar, the Australian public would be much better off than it is at present. It would not then be called upon to pay exorbitant prices. Fortunately, it was not necessary to- wait for a war to give to this parliament the power to fix the price of sugar. The price was fixed by arrangement between the States and the Commonwealth. The price of more commodities should be fixed in that way.
I have been greatly impressed by the claims that have been made from time to time in this chamber on ‘behalf of the berry growers and jam makers and others who use sugar in the manufacture of their goods. A clause was inserted in the original agreement whereby, if the sugar growers were placed in this very favourable position, certain consumers in Australia would receive their sugar at a fair and reasonable price. That reminds me of the form of protection that was advocated by the Labour Government many years ago, but which, unfortunately, was ruled by the High Court to be ultra vires the Constitution. The Labour Government had demanded that if Australian manufacturers received protection from competition by goods imported from cheap labour countries, then the goods should be sold to the Australian public at a fair and reasonable price and a living wage should be paid to the workers engaged in that industry. That philosophy led to the well discussed Harvester judgment which officially fixed the basic wage and which has been utilized as a measuring rod ever since. Put the High Court of Australia ruled it ultra vires the Constitution and we have been unable to develop that theory since.
I seriously suggest to the honorable senators from Queensland that the amount that has been requested by the Tasmanian senators for the fruitprocessing industry is so infinitesimal in comparison with the value of the Queensland sugar crop that it would not make a great difference to the Queensland industry if the request were granted. In the agreement there is a clause that provides for consideration to be given to such matters. The Senate is elected, primarily to watch the interests of the
States, and although that principle may have become submerged, this is an appropriate place to discuss such a matter. I was very impressed by the logical case that was presented to the Senate by Senator Wright. It is not often that I agree with the proposals that he puts before the Senate, but I suggest that this matter is beyond party politics. The agreement has received the support of all political parties when they have been in office. I know that the Queensland sugar industry is efficient. Several years ago I, and other members of the Parliament, travelled to Queensland at our own expense and studied the sugar industry. It was pleasing to note that Australian workers were actively engaged in an industry and performing work that previously had been done by coloured labour. I recall that at one time in the history of Australian development, it was argued that Australians could not stand up to the climatic conditions in Queensland. The fact that they are carrying on so successfully to-day has proved that coloured labour was not necessary for the development of the sugar industry.
The honorable senators from Queensland have been endeavouring to get the last available shilling for their industry, and Tasmanian senators have been equally active on behalf of the berrygrowers in their State. I have seen something of the berry-fruit industry in Tasmania, and I know that it is an important industry. Some progress has been made in the production of berry fruits in Victoria also, but 90 per cent, of the Australian output is produced in Tasmania. I suggest that honorable senators should look at this matter as Australians. The small amount that has been sought by the Tasmanian senators would not ruin the Queensland sugar industry. When the agreement is ratified, something should be done to ensure, that the clause to which I have referred is brought into effect. I believe that we can assure the Australian people, as a result of the debate that has taken place in this chamber, that the measure does not involve an increase in the price of sugar to the consumers.
– I do not intend to repeat the arguments that have been put forward by honorable senators, but I should like to direct the attention of the Senate to several new points. Senator Byrne said that the sugar industry was not trying to grab all that it could. He said that it did not wish to take all the money it could put its hands on, but most of the Queensland senators have been trying to extract the last shilling. The debate has developed into a contest between the Queensland senators and the Tasmanian senators. They have been trying to convince honorable senators who represent other States to support their respective sides of the argument. I suggest that the honorable senators from Queensland should consider the proposition from a business point of view. Surely it would be better business for the sugar industry to supply sugar to other Australian industries, including the jam-making and canning industries, than to export _ the surplus sugar overseas at prices below the Australian level. That is only common sense. I suggest that the sugar industry would be assisted if the Queensland senators would study the statistics of their own canning industry. They have been pointing at the Tasmanian berry-fruits industry. I suggest that we consider the Queensland pineapple industry. In 1950 exports of Australian canned pineapple totalled 494,700 cases containing 2 dozen cans each. In 1953, exports fell to 296,184 cases, a decline of almost 200,000 rases or 50 per cent. A quantity of sugar would be needed in that industry.
– They pay world parity price for it. That is the reason for the refund.
– It would pay the sugar industry to maintain the price.
– We allow them £15 a ton for it.
– Victoria produced last year 2,560,508 cases of canned fruit, including apricots, apples and pears. Tasmania produced 45,062 cases. Therefore, the argument applies just as strongly to Victoria, and honorable senators who represent that State should side with the Tasmanian senators in this matter. Let us study the jam industry. Domestic sugar rebate payments have fallen since 1951 from £125,000 to £91,000, or about 30 per cent.
Surely, it would pay the sugar industry to subsidize the jam manufacturing business. It would be far better than exporting sugar at lower prices. The same argument may be applied to fruit pulps. The production in that industry has fallen considerably. I repeat that it would be better business for the sugar industry to subsidize some of the other smaller Australian industries that process fruit.
– T propose to be brief in offering a few comments upon this important measure. Honorable senators on the Opposition side have indicated adequately that the Opposition supports the measure. In those circumstances, I merely wish to raise my voice in support of the measure to emphasize the need to support the great sugar industry of north Queensland, which plays a vital part in the national life of Australia. I am familiar with the sugar industry because I lived near the centre of it for about two years. I kept the accounts of sugargrowers throughout the area at the time. Accordingly, I approach the problem with some practical knowledge of the situation in the sugar industry. I wish to raise one or two matters that tend to cut across the amity that has been general throughout the debate. I direct pointed attention to a matter that was raised by Senator Byrne. In 1951, the sugar agreement between the Australian Government and the Queensland Government was completely re-written. Probably every honorable senator assumed that the agreement would stand unaltered for some reasonable period. A five-year period was contemplated, pursuant to the terms of the agreement. Within nine months owing to difficulties that flowed to the sugar industry from rising prices in Australia, an urgent appeal was directed to the present Australian Government to agree to a higher price for sugar. Within nine months of the passing of the 1951 measure, the Government allowed an increase equivalent to 1-Jd. per lb. in the retail price of sugar. That was a very substantial increase.
The Government did that on the eve of the appointment of a Sugar Inquiry Committee to investigate the cost structure of the industry. On the conclusion of its report in September, 1952, the Government granted an additional increase of Id. per lb. in the retail price. In short, it made a total increase, within a period of almost twelve months from the passing of the five-year agreement, of 2£d. per lb. in the price of sugar. The arrangement on the new price between the Australian Government and the Queensland Government was not reduced to writing until much later on the 26th November, 1953. Now this Parliament, after a lapse of time from March, 1952, and October, 1952, has been called upon to ratify prices that have been in operation, in one case for two and a half years and in the other case for two years, entirely without statutory authority. In other words, they have been quite illegal so far as this Parliament is concerned. I can quite understand the need to meet quickly a situation that arose early in 1952, but I think the Minister owes to the Senate an explanation of why a simple bill to alter that price was not submitted to the Parliament in March or April of 1952, and why, when the price was increased by Id. per lb. - a matter which affected every home in this country - a further bill to cover that increase was not submitted to the Parliament in September or October, 1952. I think the Minister should tell the Senate why it took until the 26th November, 1953, to reduce these simple propositions to writing, along with one or two machinery measures. Why have two and a half years elapsed in one instance, and two years in the other, before the Parliament has been given an opportunity to discuss these matters? On behalf of the Opposition I voice a very strong protest against those delays, and I again say to the Minister that some explanation of them should be given.
The second matter to which I shall refer is the difficulties of the berry fruits industry in Tasmania. We from Tasmania recognize that berry fruit growing does not figure very largely even in the fruit industry. It represents, I believe, about 5 per cent, of the fruit industry that comes under the aegis of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. But we recognize it as a very important industry to the Tasmanian economy. In paragraphs 48 and 49 of the twenty-second annual report of the committee, the plight of the berry fruit growers is clearly stated in the following terms: -
When considering the determination of minimum prices for the 1953 processing season, the Committee had before it reports concerning overseas marketing prospects toiberry fruit products. These reports forecast only limited demand for berry fruit products., other than strawberries, even at prices which wore appreciably below cost of production. The outlook was worsened by manufacturers still carrying substantial stocks of 1952 season’s pack.
Growers estimated their costs’ of production at approximately 12* per cent, above those of the previous year, and requested increased prices. Manufacturers, however, indicated that they would be unable to process either for local consumption or export unless berry fruit prices were reduced. The Committee felt that it would be against growers’ interests to prescribe minimum prices which would result in manufacturers refusing to accept the fruit. The Committee therefore determined prices which it hoped would result in the major portion of the crop being harvested, although it realized that these prices did not cover costs of production of many growers.
I emphasize the concluding words of that passage. Then the report sets out the prices and proceeds with this comment -
Despite the reduced rninimum prices, manufacturers accepted only about half the crop.
Could there be a more disastrous outlook for an industry of consequence in a relatively small community? It is obvious that the present position cannot continue. If the growers persevere in the industry, they will become bankrupt. The Government must accept a substantial measure of blame for the plight of the industry, not for any reason that I have heard stated here to-day, but for another reason. It is true that Australian berry fruits have to compete on the world’s markets with the products of black-labour countries, but the real cause of the plight of the industry is the inflation that has been permitted in Australia since this Government took office. The tragedy is that prices, not only for sugar, but also for all goods and services, have been allowed to run riot, particularly during this Government’s first two years of office. That was when the main damage was done. This industry is unable to compete on the world markets because of high costs due to inflation. I do not say that is the only factor, but it is a major factor in the plight of this industry. For that reason, I believe that, quite apart from anything that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee can do for the industry, it should be treated generously by the Commonwealth Government itself. I know that the Commonwealth has come to the aid of this industry to a limited degree in the past, but I suggest that it might go very much further by giving financial and practical assistance and carrying out investigations aimed at putting the industry on its feet.
There is another matter to which I should like to refer briefly. Whereas the present agreement provides for an export sugar rebate in respect of all processed goods containing sugar, the new agreement proposes that the rebate shall be applicable compulsorily to only two classes of goods, processed fruits and processed milk. In relation to other goods, the Minister, acting on the advice of an expert committee, may decide at his discretion whether a particular industry which uses sugar is to participate in the export rebate. I should like the Minister to tell us what goods may possibly be excluded from participation in the rebate under that provision, and whether there is any reason for depriving industries of the absolute right they have now and leaving them to the discretion of the Minister. I know that the report that was made by the committee of inquiry in 1952 referred to this position. If honorable senators will turn to paragraph 503 of that report they will find that tricks were played by exporters when the Australian price of sugar was lower than the overseas price. The paragraph states -
There was evidence that in recent years some exporters had been taking advantage of the favourable domestic price of sugar in Australia to export mixture of flour and sugar, or water and sugar with a slight flavouring and other forms of “ sugar in disguise “ in order to benefit by high overseas prices.
The committee also stated -
Payments should be limited to those export industries actually in need of assistance.
This means introducing something like a means test in relation to a matter which, at least, I put at this level: Exporters using sugar were, through the great sugar industry, to be put in no worse position than they would have been in if they had had to import sugar at tie world parity price. There is a suggesttion by the committee that some industries are doing so well that they will not participate in that benefit in common with other sugar users. That is not a proper principle, and I ask the Minister to indicate why the benefit of the sugar export rebate was not left as it was in the 1951 agreement to operate in favour of all users of sugar. If this practice is to be varied and the matter is to be left to the discretion of the Minister, acting on the recommendations of a committee, upon what principles will he exercise this discretion? Will he look at the economy of an industry and determine whether or not it needs assistance ? If he is to do that, I suggest that he will be usurping the function of the Tariff Board or some other body. If the intention is to prevent trickery, I am completely in favour of the proposal, but I should like the Minister to tell us the reason for the alteration of the agreement.
The view has been put very strongly that these two industries are closely related and were intended to develop together. I do not contradict that assertion, but I think basically the idea was to put the users of sugar in no worse a position through paying the home consumption price for sugar than they would have been in had they been allowed to import sugar from abroad. If that is the correct basis on which this export rebate is payable, the sugar industry owed nothing to the fruit industry, at least until October, 1952, because, during the war and for a period thereafter, the home consumption price of sugar was lower than the world price. Accordingly nothing was payable to processors who were using sugar. The second aspect of the matter rather alarms me, particularly in view of the plight of the berry fruit growers in Tasmania. The committee which inquired into the sugar industry in 1954 claimed - whether correctly or otherwise I do not know - that there was no evidence by fruit-growers. Even if there were some evidence, appa rently it did not impress the committee, and it may well be that many fruitgrowers are not aware of their rights under the agreement. This debate may do much to focus attention upon the power that is given to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee to pay out of the funds available to it, moneys to help promote the use and sale of fruit products throughout Australia and to assist in research. That is clearly laid down in the powers of the committee, and I believe that it could accept a more real responsibility, particularly in relation to a phase of the fruit industry such as the small fruits industry which, to the committee’s own knowledge, is in such a parlous condition. The committee had such an accumulation of funds that it was felt quite safe to relieve the Queensland Government of the obligation to pay £216,000 per annum. At the end of August, 1953, £750,000 was available to the committee and there was little prospect of having to pay out very much in the current financial year. I would like to see the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee stimulated into some activity, but I should also like to see some activity on the part of the fruitgrowers themselves. I should particularly like to see them organized so that it could not be said of them that, when the opportunity presented itself, they did not present an adequate case. I know that a powerful case can be presented. I hope that industries such as the small fruits industry in Tasmania will become vocal through their organizations, and will prepare a complete and adequate case, in conjunction with State governments if necessary. It is unfortunate that a committee such as this, set up by the Commonwealth, should be in a position to say, even with any degree of accuracy, that no evidence came from the fruit industry. I leave the matter there, commending the sugar industry, welcoming the assistance that it gives to other industries, and hoping that the fruit industry will stir itself and that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee will take a more generous view of its responsibility to the small fruits industry in Tasmania.
senators for their reception of this measure. Let me deal first with the suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that we have been operating illegally for about two years.
– Without statutory authority.
– I think the Leader of the Opposition used the word “ illegally “. I am amazed that such a suggestion should be made by a former Attorney-General. The Leader of the Opposition knows perfectly well that there is no legal necessity for this agreement to receive statutory support.
– There is under the act of 1951.
– If it is suggested that contracts and agreements between Governments must receive statutory support or parliamentary endorsement, that is an entirely new proposition to me.
– There is specific provision to the effect in the act of 1951.
– As a Queenslander, I have been delighted to hear the tributes paid to the Queensland sugar industry. However, I think there has been a good deal of confusion of thought. I gather from the utterances of some honorable senators that they are under the impression that we are concerned with a dispute between the Queensland sugar industry and the Tasmanian fruit industry. That is not we point at issue. I am sure every Queenslander here entertains just as many hopes for the prosperity and success of the fruit industry of Tasmania - indeed, of the fruit industry of the whole of Australia - as for . the prosperity and success of the sugar industry of Queensland. But we are not discussing now whether the fruit industry in Tasmania and other parts of Australia is in need of assistance. We have before us an agreement for ratification. The agreement fixes the price of sugar, and imposes certain obligations on the Queensland sugar industry in relation to the payment of certain moneys. It has been suggested that the Queensland sugar industry is rather selfish in it3 attitude- that it wants to take all and give nothing. It has been suggested also that the concept of the agreement is the concept of a marriage of the fruit industry and the sugar industry, but the sequence of events does not support that suggestion.
The first sugar agreement was made in 1915. At that time, there was no suggestion that any contribution should be made by the sugar industry to the fruit industry. In about 1923, a voluntary payment was made by the sugar industry to the fruit industry. It was not until after the inquiry of 1931, referred to by Senator Wright, that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was established. It is only from that time onwards that there has been any obligation on the Queensland Government, as the agent for the Queensland sugar industry, to make any fixed payment to the committee. It is only since 1932, when the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was established, that the Queensland sugar industry has been under any obligation to pay fixed amounts for the specific purposes set out in Article 7 of the agreement, but long before that the Queensland sugar industry made voluntary payments to the fruit industry. Under the agreement, £315,000 a year was to be paid by the Queensland Government, on behalf of the sugar industry, to the. committee. The payment was for the purpose of assisting the fruit industry. Over the years, about £5,000,000 has been paid in that way, eventually, it may well be said, by the consumers. It has been paid from the returns due to the sugar-growers.
During the war years and until 1951, the price of sugar in Australia was considerably lower than the price of sugar overseas. In about 1931, the payment to the fruit industry was reduced from £315,000 to £216,000 a year. The price of sugar fell from 4-^d. to 4d. a lb., and the contribution from the sugar industrywas reduced accordingly. Under the 1951 agreement, payment of the contribution was suspended, because funds amounting to about . £1,000,000 had accumulated. That was because there had been no drain on the fund. The fund was established to finance the rebate of £2 4s. a ton on sugar used by local processors and the difference between the local price and the cheapest overseas price in respect of sugar used by exporters.
– Plus special assistance.
– Plus special assistance from the balance left. As Australian processors were buying sugar nt approximately £50 a ton cheaper than the world parity price, there was no drain on the fund and money accumulated. Nevertheless, when the payment of £216,000 a year was suspended in 1951, other payments were made quite gratuitously. There was a research grant of £9,000 and special export assistance grants of £100,000, £50,000 and £75,000. Between 1951 and 1954, about £234,000 was paid to the fruit industry. It was money that otherwise would have gone to the sugar producers. Between 1937 and 1943, when the price of sugar in Australia was higher than the overseas price, the sugar industry paid to the fruit industry £435,000 in. addition to £216,000 a year. I do not say that the sugar industry has any complaint to make about that. It realizes that the fruit canners are very big customers, but they are not the biggest customers. It has been suggested that one industry depends on the other, and that there is a marriage of the two industries. Senator Wright said the two industries were essentially allied, and went on to say there should be no divorce. Senator Henty referred to a marriage.
– In the early days.
– It took them from 1915 to 1932 to be even introduced. Let me deal with the sugar industry’s other wives. The canned fruits and jam manufacturers, with whom the industry is said to be essentially allied, to whom, in terms of Senator Henty’s remarks, it is married, and from whom Senator Wright wants no divorce, used 43,263 tons of sugar in the year that ended on the 30th June, 1954, but other manufacturers used 175,596 tons in that period.
– We cannot throw the old girl overboard because she is not what she used to be.
– I want to be quite fair. I congratulate all the honor able senators who have spoken in this debate, which has been conducted on an extremely high level, but I think people who have listened to it might get the impression that the sugar industry, now that it is enjoying good times, is letting down a pal who worked with it in its early battling days. That is not the picture at all. There was no statutory obligation on the Queensland Government to pay, not from its own funds but from the funds of the sugar-growers, any money to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee until 1932, although the first agreement was made in 1915. The contributions made by the sugar industry, through the Queensland Government, have been substantially in excess of the statutory requirements and obligations. Other users of sugar buy four times as much as the fruit processors. I refer to confectioners, condensed milk manufacturers and other processors. They get nothing from the sugar industry. Only the fruit processors get anything.
I am entirely in favour of a prosperous fruit industry. I am prepared to support any measure designed to give the same support to the Australian fruit industry as that enjoyed by the Australian sugar industry. I am prepared to support any measure that will give to the fruit industry the terms and conditions enjoyed by the sugar industry. If the fruit industry believes it is entitled to protection, let it go to the Tariff Board. It has been suggested, I think by Senator Wright, that the sugar industry might well go to the Tariff Board.
– I did not say that. I said the proposal was rejected.
– I know something about the Tariff Board. Under no circumstances could the sugar industry, as now constituted, go to the Tariff Board unless it asked for a bounty. But it is not asking for a bounty. For years, it has made sugar available to the Australian public at prices much lower than those prevailing in other parts of the world. Even to-day, when the price of sugar in Australia is higher than the world parity price, Australian fruit processors and exporters of commodities containing sugar are not prejudiced. Under this agreement, they can buy sugar from the Australian sugar industry at a price lower than that at which sugar from anywhere else in the world could be landed in Australia duty free, or alternatively, at the cheapest price at which Australian sugar could be sold at a port outside Australia.
– Only if they export the product.
– What else does the honorable senator want? Does he want them to eat it? It has been suggested that the rebate of £2 4s. a ton on sugar is too low for manufacturers processing fruit for local consumption, as distinct from those manufacturing for export. It has been suggested that the rebate has not moved with the price of sugar. Let us examine the prices of some products of the fruit industry, and compare them with the price of sugar.
– The manufacturer gets the £2 4s. a ton?
– He gets it whether he exports or not. At the present time, the export rate is £15 12s. a ton, and it varies up or down, so that he is at no disadvantage. He has available to him the cheapest sugar in the world.
– For export purposes, but not for local consumption.
– Locally, he receives a rebate of £2 4s. a ton. If he thinks he should have more, he may place his case before the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, which was not done on this occasion. It has been suggested that the committee was in a great hurry. I point out that it sat for four months, from April until August, in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Those interested were on hand and made comments, but no evidence was given. Some time ago, there was a tentative suggestion that the fruit-growers would approach the Tariff Board, but they have not done so yet. Theirs is precisely and peculiarly a case for determination by the Tariff Board, not for inquiry by us. We have no evidence before us here. There are statutory bodies to deal with such matters. There are men who are particularly suited to hear such requests, but what evidence have we before us? We have heard some eloquent speeches, but no evidence has been adduced, no balance-sheets produced and no inquiries made. Does any honorable senator feel competent to say, “I am satisfied that, this £2 4s. should be raised to £4 10s., or even to £12 10s “ ? We have properly constituted bodies to determine such matters. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee is a responsible body, and the majority of its members arc themselves concerned with the fruit industry. The committee consists of a representative of the Australian Government, a representative of the Queensland Sugar Board, in addition to representatives of growers of canning fruits, noncanning fruits, and co-operative and State manufacturers of fruit products.
– What evidence has the Minister that this increase should be passed on?
– The evidence J have is the recommendation of a special committee of inquiry which heard evidence in three States between the month? of April and August, and which made a voluminous report of more than 1,100 pages. It heard hundreds of witnesses and was presided over by one of the most responsible men in this country, a man who is accustomed to conducting such inquiries. I refer to the chairman of the Tariff Board. It is on that recommendation that this agreement has been put before the Parliament for ratification. I suggest that that was a thorough inquiry. If the fruit industry considers that it is entitled to a bounty, why should it come to the sugar industry for it? Such a request should be made to the Tariff Board, as is provided by section 15 of the Tariff Act.
– From 1903 to 1915 . the sugar industry enjoyed a bounty.
– I am speaking of modern times. I think it was Senator Henty who suggested that this £216,000 might be insufficient, having regard to the way in which the price of sugar has increased. I point out that, although the price of sugar has increased from 4d. to 9d. since 1939, the price of gooseberries has increased from 1 1/2d to 4d. per lb., that of Kentish cherries from 2d. to 6d. per lb., loganberries from 2 3/4d to 7d. per lb, raspberries from 3Jd. to 7d. per lb., apricots - which have a real bearing on this matter - from £12 a ton to £32 a ton, and freestone peaches from £7 a ton to £30 a ton.
– So what?
– Some honorable senators may understand me when I say that although the price of sugar has just about doubled, the prices of the fruits to which I referred have increased by 300 per cent, or 400 per cent. I contend that the fruit-growers should not benefit at the expense of the sugar industry. The fruit-growers should put their industry in order. If the price of fruit has increased so greatly, and fruitgrowers are still unable to make a living, there must be something wrong. Apparently, they have to sell at lid. per lb. for an actual return of 3d. per lb., which amounts to a bounty of 8d. God forbid that the day will ever dawn when any of our primary industries have to be as heavily subsidized as that.
I appreciate that the standard of the debate has been high, but I feel, nevertheless, that we have got slightly off the track. This is not a matter of the fruit industry vis-a-vis the sugar industry. If the fruit industry considers that it has a case for a bounty or a subsidy, there is a proper tribunal for it to approach. That tribunal will hear evidence, investigate balance-sheets, go into costs, and inquire into every ramification of the industry. We in this Parliament are not capable of doing that. If the fruit industry is entitled to a bounty, I hope that it will receive it, but not at the expense of another primary industry. It is a matter for Consolidated Revenue, after inquiry and report have been made.
If, because the overseas price of sugar weakens, this £216,000 a year should not be sufficient to meet demands by manufacturers and processors, that will be an’other matter. The Government is committed in that respect, because, under this agreement, the importation of sugar is forbidden. In that event, we must ensure that Australian manufacturers get the cheapest sugar available, and I am all for such a course. If that £216,000 should prove insufficient, the sugar industry and the processors of commodities which have a substantial sugar content will have to carry the responsibility.
– Will that also apply to fruit juices?
– That is a matter which commends itself to me very strongly. I can see no difference between fruit and fruit juice when it is a matter of encouraging the growing of fruit. The implications of the matter are such that I am not in a position to give the honorable senator an immediate answer. However, he was kind enough to mention the matter to me earlier, and forthwith I got in touch with the chairman of the committee and requested him to see that the matter is given the most thorough examination. For all I know, egg-flips and orange juice may also come into the picture. The burden may be altogether too big to throw it on to the shoulders of the sugar industry. A general bounty or subsidy might be necessary. If it were to result in an unfair loading on the sugar industry, I should oppose’ it, but that does not necessarily mean that I would oppose a general scheme if we had a surfeit of fruit lying rotting on the ground and if, by means of a little encouragement and assistance to the industry, such fruit could be processed and turned into fruit juice. If additional export income were involved, I think the matter would be worthy of the fullest investigation. As I said, I have asked the committee to look into it.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) made a point about the discretion in relation to commodities on which export rebates are granted. When the price of sugar overseas was much higher than it was here, many subterfuges were adopted, and syrups and that kind of thing with a substantial sugar content were made in Australia and sent overseas. The manufacturers obtained the benefit of the export rebate. When the syrups arrived overseas they were boiled down and the sugar content extracted, the sugar subsequently being sold on the black market. The United Kingdom Government was very concerned about the matter and asked the Australian Government to exercise care when issuing export licences for commodities which were really disguised sugar, such as heavy syrups. It was recognized that such commodities were sent overseas for no other purpose than to boil them down and extract the sugar content. The discretionary provision was necessary so that the bona fides of such transactions might be tested.
In order to give some solace to those honorable senators who are concerned about the insufficiency of this £216,000 a year, I point out that voluntary payments of more than £243,000 have been made since the cessation of the £216,000 payment in 1951. On account of the disparity between the local price and the overseas price since May last, the payment of the £216,000 a yearhas been resumed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I move -
If anything has been made clear by this debate. I think it is the need for further inquiry. Practically every honorable senator who supported the billintoto urged that, if the fruit industry is in need of further assistance, additional evidence should be obtained and inquiry made. I do not think that, in making that comment, I have misinterpreted the intentions of Senator Byrne or the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), and it is certainly not out of keeping with the general approach to the industry by the committee of inquiry which was instituted by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) in 1952. According to paragraph (c) of the terms of reference, one of the functions of the committee was to inquire into, and report upon, the effect on manufacturing industries using sugar, of variations in the price of sugar. I wish to emphasize that one of the important fields of inquiry open to the committee was the examination of the impact of an increase of the price of sugar on manufacturing industries which use sugar. I emphasized during the second reading debate the difficulty that the committee found itself in, constituted as it was without statutory authority and without power to require evidence. Indeed, I question its authority to take evidence on oath. But that is only an interesting observation. This committee found itself, at the conclusion of the inquiry without evidence, and therefore unable to make any recommendation as to the variation of the terms of the sugar agreement, which definitely relate to the fruit industry. The sugar agreement that we ratified in 1951, and to a variation of which we are now addressing ourselves, includes as one of its essential terms a provision whereby the general realization of the sugar industry should, to some degree, be appropriated to the assistance of the fruit industry. When this inquiry was appointed by the Minister in March, 1952, recognizing that, he made one of the heads of the inquiry the particular question of the effect of increasing the price of sugar upon other manufacturing industries using sugar. The committee reported that it had no evidence upon which it could base a recommendation. Therefore, I submit that, before we proceed any further, having approved an increase of the price of sugar to 9d. per lb., we should supply the deficiency that is apparent from the report of the committee of inquiry, by taking to ourselves the responsibility of supplementing the evidence that that committee obtained with regard to sugar prices. Wo should go to those people who, I agree with the leader of the Opposition, were not aware of the opportunities and rights which they had, and we should inquire as to the justice of leaving static the contribution for which the agreement provides, and decide whether the evidence actually requires an adjustment of that provision in order to bring it into line, proportionately, with the sugar agreement proposed. I have recently heard it said by honorable senators of all shades of political opinion, that on many occasions we feel ourselves handicapped for a want of information, and that we do not make sufficient use of the committee procedure. This matter need excite no party feeling whatsoever. It provides us with an opportunity to take up the duty that we have, from time to time, said that we are so anxious to assume, in order to supply ourselves, through a select committee of this Senate, the evidence that the committee of inquiry was not able to collect - evidence that would be forthcoming now that the importance and significance of this bill has become apparent.
The Leader of the Opposition directed attention to the report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. That committee, holding as it does £700,000 - even without any modification of the sugar agreement - went on record in 1953 as saying that it felt itself bound to discharge the responsibilities that the agreement placed on it by fixing reasonable minimum prices for fruit products. It refused to sections of the fruit industry the actual cost of production. The most important duty that the agreement imposed on the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was to ensure that, in return for the concession by the sugar industry, the fruit manufacturers and processors paid reasonable prices to the growers. Yet we accept this report.
– The reason advanced was clear.
– I shall come to the reason. If Senator Byrne, on behalf of any section of primary producers, accepts that reason, his arguments in future will win from me less respect than they have up to date. I emphasize that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was charged with the very important duty of laying down the minimum prices that the manufacturers and processors should pay for fruit products in order to qualify for the general fruit industry rebate of £2 4s. a ton as well as the export rebate.
– That requirement was included in the agreement at the instance of the cane-growers.
– I care not at whose instance it was put in the agreement. I have said that any meritorious primary producing industry demands our attention, interest, inquiry, and benevolent consideration. Are we prepared to accept this report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, which records its own refusal to fix, as minimum prices, the costs of production of the industry? This matter should impel every member of this chamber to support the appoint ment of the proposed select committee of inquiry. The members of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee should appear before us, so that we may see by what interpretation of the agreement they justify their attitude. Even if we succeed only in deciding upon a correct interpretation of their responsibility under the agreement, we shall have achieved something worth while. I contend that the committee adopted a wrong interpretation, not in keeping with the intention of the Parliament, by refusing to the growers their cost of production.
– They have fixed prices higher than those for the South Australian growers.
– I would be interested to hear Senator Hannaford add to my information on that subject, and I shall be pleased to listen to any evidence to that effect. Although I am a novice in this field, I make no apology to other honorable senators who spoke during the second-reading debate. I repeat, that we have a duty and an opportunity to increase our information about this matter. We should determine, by evidence that would be forthcoming to a select committee of the Senate, whether the denial of assistance to the fruit industry, first by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, and secondly, by this bill, is justified. It cannot be argued that the delay involved would militate against the measure in any respect. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the 1951 agreement provided that the Australian price of sugar should be increased to 6 1/2d per lb., but that the increase should not operate until the agreement was approved by the Parliament. That provision was the subject of a most earnest debate in this chamber in 1931. But, despite the legislation, for the last two years agreements that have not been sanctioned by this Parliament have forced the community to pay for sugar a price of 2id. per lb. in excess of the price that the Parliament approved. However, I am prepared to approve, retrospectively, of that increase. For the reasons that I have given, I urge the Senate to support the motion.
– I second the motion.
– I oppose the motion. Although Senator Wright was perfectly entitled to direct his fullest consideration to an industry in which hewas interested, I do not consider that the proposed setting up of a select committee is warranted. The honorable senator suggested, in effect, that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee should he called before a select committee of the Senate.
– That is only one aspect of the matter.
– Persons engaged in the fruit industry had an opportunity to give evidence before this statutory committee.
– It is not a statutory committee. It complained that the Government did not clothe it with the authority of a statute.
– The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee is a statutory committee, and the industry had many opportunities to appear before it. The industry also had an opportunity to go before the other committee, but did not do so. It is now suggested that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee should appear before a select committee of the Senate. We could go further, and call the Tariff Board and, perhaps, our judges to appear before a select committee. We could have committee upon committee.
– Is there anything wrong with that in principle ?
– I think there is, unless there is a very grave reason for so doing. If anybody has a case, he should put itbefore the tribunal especially appointed by the Parliament to hear such matters. The Parliament does not keep dogs and do its own barking. This matter was not placed before the Tariff Board. When the Parliament delegates power to a tribunal, the Parliament does not hear the case before it goes before that tribunal. It may hear an appeal, if there are grounds for an appeal. The Tariff Board Act provides -
The Minister shall refer to the Tariff Board, for inquiry and report, the following matters -
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
– As I was saying, I oppose the motion submittedby Senator Wright for the reason that a statutory body, the Tariff Board, already exists for the purpose of doing precisely this job. Under section 15 (e) of the Tariff Board legislation one of the items that may be referred to the Tariff Board is the necessity for granting bounties for the encouragement of any primary or secondary industry of Australia. This Parliament would usurp the functions of the Tariff Board if it followed the course suggested by Senator Wright. Earlier, Senator Gorton asked by way of interjection what would be wrong in principle with summoning judges before the Senate. In my view, it would be gravely wrong to take away from a judge a matter that had been assigned to him before he heard the case. If the fruit industry is entitled to any protection by way of bounty or other assistance, a specific tribunal can investigate and take evidence and consider all the reasons which might entitle the industry to a bounty. If the industry can present a successful case to the Tariff Board it is welcome to enjoy whatever bounty or assistance is awarded to it. But I think chat it would be quite wrong to appoint a select committee of this Parliament to usurp the functions of a statutory body which has been appointed by the Parliament.
Senator VINCENT (Western Australia) 1 11.8]. - I support the motion of Senator Wright for the appointment of a select committee in relation to this matter. Clause 283 of the report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee of 1931 reads as follows : - 283. However, despite these facts regarding the general trade depression, fruit overproduction, and the small increase in the cost of the sugar contents compared with other increased costs, we are of the opinion that the soft fruits industry is specially affected by the sugar position in other directions, and can bc most readily helped by an extension of the present sugar concession, somewhat on the lines of cither of two plans submitted to this Committee by Messrs. S. P. Cornish and J. L. Moore. These plans are as follows: -
Then the report goes into the merits or demerits of those plans. Since 1931, the soft-fruits industry has been receiving certain concessions pursuant to the recom- !mendation of the Sugar Inquiry Committee of 1931. The extent of those concessions was reduced in 1951 and I understand from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) that a further cut has been made. The only 1 authoritative evidence that this Parliament has that some concession should he made to the soft-fruit3 industry is the j recommendation of 1931. The merits or otherwise of this subject have never since been considered. The question has been raised as to whether or not the fruit industry should receive certain consideration. I am not prepared to answer yea or nay to that question. A committee of inquiry was appointed two years ago in order to consider this question as well as other matters, but it did not take evidence. There was not time for it to do so. In my opinion, it is time for us to obtain evidence and investigate the whole matter.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has said that the Tariff Board is the proper authority to make the inquiry. I remind him that the Tariff Board did not make the 1931 investigation, pursuant to which these payments have since been made. The report was made by a committee of inquiry which, I suggest, was competent to consider the merits and demerits of the whole issue. The Tariff Board is a body set up for the purpose of considering propositions in relation to tariffs and subsidies. It might well be that neither form of concession or assistance would be deemed to be desirable, necessary, or appropriate. Therefore, I submit that the Senate, in the absence of a committee such as was suggested by the Minister, is competent to consider whether the soft fruits industry should continue to receive concessions under the terms of the sugar agreement. For these reasons, I support the motion.
– I hope the Senate will not entertain for a moment the idea of accepting the motion. The proposition is ridiculous because, after all, there has been a very thorough investigation of the whole issue. The suggestion that the fruit industry has not been given an opportunity to express itself adequately on the subject is just moonshine. The members of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee are fully conversant with all aspects of the problem. The fact that payments were not made is of no significance. The balance in tha fund was adequate, and there was no need to contribute further to it. I doubt very much that Senator Wright is representing the interests of the fruit-growers of Australia in this matter. I suggest that he represents only a small percentage of the fruit-growers. I know some representatives of the industry and I know that they know the actual position. I also know that they know that they had ample opportunity to state their case to the committee of inquiry. Why did they not do so?
– The committee of inquiry did not take evidence.
– The reason is best known to the fruit-growers themselves. I have a shrewd idea that they thought they would serve their interests best by refraining from giving evidence. Does any honorable senator believe that seasoned men, who have been associated with the fruit industry for many years and who are fully conversant with, the terms of the Sugar Agreement, failed to give evidence because they did not know that they had the opportunity to do so? Senator Wright has suggested that they did not appreciate the significance of the inquiry, and consequently did not realize the necessity for them to state their case. I believe that they had plenty of opportunities to do so and that they realized that their case would not have helped them very much if they had stated it. The fruit-growers of Australia have expressed over and over again their satisfaction with the work of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. I am satisfied that the whole question has been thoroughly investigated. The Senate would be unwise to delay the measure any further, especially in view of the fact that an exhaustive inquiry has been made by a competent committee. I hope that the motion will be defeated.
– In opposing the motion and supporting the views expressed by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) and Senator Courtice, I point out that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee and the fund were both set up under an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland. For the Senate, as one of the organs of government of the Commonwealth, to agree to a motion such as Senator Wright has proposed, and to constitute a select committee in order to investigate a committee–
– That is not the purpose of the motion.
– That is a part of the proposal. Senator Wright said that he would bring the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee before the proposed select committee, and it is to that part of his suggestion that I direct my comments. It would be grossly improper for a body established by the Commonwealth Parliament to bring before it members of a committee constituted by agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland. For that reason, I consider that the Senate should not entertain Senator Wright’s proposal. Furthermore, the Tariff Board, as the Minister for Trade and Customs has said, is available to make any investigation. If an industry or a person seeks some monetary concession by way of bounty or subsidy, that industry or person should not be compelled to present an application. The opportunity to do so is available to it, and the defence of ignorance should have no mandate, particularly from Senator Wright, who is a lawyer. Ignorance is not a defence in law, and I do not think it should be a defence in practice. Surely the fruit industry has some sort of organization which could present a case on its behalf to any competent and available authority. The proposition that an industry which has been functioning for so many years, and which can be presumed to have an organization, is still unaware of its rights under an agreement which has been written and re-written over many years, and which is constantly in the minds of fruitgrowers, will not bear investigation. Because there is an available authority, and because it would be improper for the Senate to sit in judgment on a committee constituted by agreement between the Commonwealth and a sovereign State Government, I sincerely trust that the Senate will reject the motion.
– I support the motion proposed by Senator Wright, because an investigation by a select committee would clarify, in the minds of honorable senators and the people engaged in the berry fruits industry, the meaning of the provision in the Sugar Agreement for a certain amount of money to be made available to assist that industry. There is a diversity of opinion at present, and I consider that much good could come from a thorough clarification of the matter. Honorable senators who speak on behalf of the berry fruits industry in Tasmania would know, as a result of the inquiry, either that they were entitled to press for further assistance from the Fruit Industry Concession Committee, or that the industry would not be entitled to such aid, which would enable them to press in some other direction for the granting of assistance to the industry. At present the situation is confused, and I believe that a select committee would help to sort it out. Therefore, I support the motion.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 322) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 18
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Balance-sheets of the Commonwealth Bank, Commonwealth Trading Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank as at 30th June, 1954; together with the Auditor-General’s reports thereon.
Banking Act– Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 96.
Explosives Act - Regulations - Order directing the berthing of a vessel.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land, &c, acquired for Postal purposes - Traralgon, Victoria.
Land disposed of under Section 63 - Return showing mannero f disposal.
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Thirty-first Annual Report, for year 1953-54.
National Health Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 95.
Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department -
Defence Production - A. P. Kent.
National Development - J. K. Fitzgerald.
Supply - G. V. Dunne, W. J. Morley.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 94.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and
Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinances - 1954 -
No. 14 - Companies.
No. 15 - Sale of Goods.
No. 16 - Trustee Companies.
Regulations - 1954 -
No. 9 - (Public Health Ordinance).
No. 10 - (Public Health Ordinance).
No. 11 - (Motor Traffic Ordinance).
No. 12 - (Machinery Ordinance).
Senate adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 September 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1954/19540915_senate_21_s4/>.