8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Referred to Committee of Supply.
.- Yesterday an incident occurred to which the newspapers this morning devote a lot of space, but their reports miss the point, making it appear that I said that I had been offered the next vacancy in the Ministry before I left the Prime Minister when visiting him at Sassafras, whereas the offer was made shortly before I left the Nationalist party, there being all the difference in the world between the two cases. Honorable members know the Prime Minister, and I ask whether any of them would be likely to place himself at his mercy in the way I. am supposed to have done?
Importation of Pommeloes
– I have received a telegram from the north-west of Western Australia, informing me that the landing of pommeloes - a’ variety of citrus fruit - is now prohibited, and stating that this is an absolute hardship for the people of northern towns. It asks if an arrangement cannot be made to exempt the tropical portion ofWestern Australia from the operation of the regulation under which the prohibition is enforced. I ask the Minister whether, in the event of it being essential for the preservation of the interests of the fruit-growers of our southern districts to prevent the importation of citrus fruits, he will consider the advisability of permitting such fruits to be imported into the northern districts, where fruit is more than a luxury, being a medical necessary ?
– I have received . a similar telegram from the same source. The regulations controlling the importation of citrus fruits were framed expressly to prevent the introduction into Australia of citrus canker, one of the most disastrous diseases known to orchardists. That disease was discovered in the Northern Territory, and we had to take the. most drastic steps to get rid of it, destroying practically all the citrus trees in the Territory to that end. It is not a fact, I think, that citrus fruits could be allowed to be imported into the northern parts of Australia without risk to the orchards in the south. Persons eating them would throw away the pips, which, in a tropical climate, often germinate quickly, and the plants grow rapidly. Thus the citrus canker might again establish itself in the Commonwealth, The importation of citrus fruits was not wholly prohibited. The prohibition applies only to fruits brought from countries where the citrus canker is known to exist. I have not had time to make inquiries about this case, but, presumably, these particular pommeloes were brought from such a country, and, if that beso, I feel that, in the interests of an Australian industry, they should not be admitted. I think it will be found possible for the districts affected to obtain pommeloes from other parts of Australia.
-Will the Minister for Home and Territories sympathetically consider the suggestion that a sum should be appropriated from the Treasurer’s Advance sufficient to allow a pension of £5 a week being paid to Henry Lawson, or, alternatively, the introduction of a short Bill, which, I am sure, would receive the unanimous support of honorable members, to provide for such a pension?
– I promise to bring the whole matter before the Cabinet, with a view to seeing if anything can be done in the direction proposed.
Mr.FENTON.- I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs has made an arrangement under which jam manufacturers are able to obtain sugar at a lower price if they use it in the making of jam for exportation to other countries. It is anticipated that during the coming season a large number of private persons will wish to turn stone fruit into jam; and I ask if consideration could not be given to their needs by allowing them, on giving satisfactory guarantees, to buy sugar for jam making at a cheaper rate.
– Ever since Federation began there has been a difference between the price charged for sugar for internal consumption and that charged for sugar for export, and the present arrangement is merely a continuation of this policy, although this year the difference happens to be greater than it has previously been. The impression is conveyed by many of the statements that I have read in the newspapers that jam manufacturers get all their sugar at a lower price than is charged to other consumers, but that is not so; they merely obtain a rebate on the sugar-contents of the jam and preserved fruits which they export.
– Three weeks ago, I asked the Prime Minister whether the Australian vessels which are now being fitted out in Great Britain could be manned with Australian officers and engineers. The right honorable gentleman promised to give me an answer within a few days. Have the Government considered the matter further?
– Of course, the Government have considered the matter; but, as the honorable member knows/ there has been obtruded on the notice of Ministers quite a number of matters which did not permit of merely casual treatment. I ask the honorable member how he proposes to man with Australian crews vessels that are now in England, unless we send men from here for the purpose ? If that were done, it would be said that we were unnecessarily loading a Government enterprise. I appreciate the motive which lies behind the question, but there are practical difficulties in the way of doing what is desired. However, I will consider the matter again.
Commonwealth Govebnment’s Advance
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in regard to his statement of last evening on the subject of the financing of the ensuing wheat production of Australia, he proposes to submit a resolution in order to obtain the opinion of the House on his proposals, and also its authority for the proposed commitment.
– The honorable member had better let me have his question. I find I cannot read the honorable member’s writing, but I understand what he means. This is not a reflection upon the honorable memlber, as his worst calligraphy is not so bad as my best. I propose, in a few moments, to submit a motion on which the matter to which the honorable member refers can be discussed.
The following papers were presented : -
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations (Exports) - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 207.
Customs Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 206.
War Precautions Act Repeal Act - Regulations (Alien Shareholders) - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 39.
Cost ofSteamers Built in America.
asked the Minister in Charge of Shipping, upon notice -
– This matter will be dealt with in a statement to the House at a later date - I hope next week - when the honorable member’s questions will be answered.
Officersof Mail Branch, Adelaide - Telegraph Messengers
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce legislation to provide definite machinery for the appointment of Australian representatives at the meetings of the Assembly of the League of Nations ?
– The matter will receive consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If any rules are in existence to prevent bulk loading of wheat; if not, what are the precautions insisted upon?
– No. Two steamers have been loaded with bulk wheat in Sydney, and arrangements have been made for three other steamers to load bulk wheat. Regulations published in the New South Wales Government Gazette of 17 th December, 1920, describe the precautions to be observed in regard to the loading of grain in bulk.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the bubonic plague which has broken out in Australia, will he take the necessary steps to have a conference called of representatives of the Commonwealth Health Department and the six State Health Departments ?
– There has been no indication of any desire on the part of any State for such a conference. The Commonwealth Health Department staff has had special experience in the methods of plague control, and the assistance of these officers is available in each State if the State authorities desire such cooperation. In some of the States this co-operation . is in effect with great mutual advantage, and removes the need for any formal conference. I should like to add that, as I am meeting the State Premiers on Monday, I shall take an opportunityof consulting them on the matter.
Erection on Mining Leases.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that a decision has been arrived at that the land tenure at Canberra shall be perpetual lease only? If so, what valid objection exists to the building of War Service Homes on land of similar title on the various mining fields of the Commonwealth, such as Gympie, Charters Towers, Gladstone, Mount Morgan, &c?
– Under the Constitution, the lands of the Commonwealth within the Federal Territory remain the property of the Commonwealth Government, subject to perpetual leases; and, as the Commonwealth provides homes for soldiers, they, along with the soldier, are solely interested in the ownership of the land and improvements. In the case of the State referred to by the honorable member, the State itself retains ownership of the land, granting mining rights and varying tenures of lease; and, in the event of failure by the soldier applicant to carry out the contract in terms of the lease with the State, the land and improvements would revert to the State. The Commonwealth would, therefore, have an imperfect title for the money advanced upon the soldier’s home, and conflict of interests would arise between the Commonwealth and the State,which would not he the case in respect of homes built in the Federal Territory.
Dismissal of Dr. Jensen
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Will he state the circumstances in connexion with the dismissal of Dr. H. I. Jensen, late Director of Mines and Geologist, Northern Territory ?
– In November, 1915, Dr. Jensen made a series of serious charges against the administration of the Northern Territory. These charges were investigated by a Royal Commission, and Dr. Jensen failed to substantiate any one of them. The Commissioner, reporting on the 3rd August, 1916, stated that he was unable to find any justification for the making of the charges. On the 30th August, 1916, a Board of Inquiry under the Public Service Ordinance investigated charges of making disloyal utterances brought against Dr. Jensen by the Defence Department, and found a charge of improper conduct in this connexion proved. As a result of these two inquiries, Dr. Jensen was given an opportunity of resigning, but he refused to do so. The Government, therefore, decided to dispense with his services on the 2nd October, 1916.
Commonwealth Government’s Advance
– May I be permitted to consult the House on the method to be adopted to secure discussion of the proposals in connexion with the advance to Wheat Pools which I outlined last evening ? I said last night that I would give an opportunity to the House to discuss the proposals I had made. I may do so by submitting a motion for the printing of a paper, or I may submit a motion to the effect that the House approves of the wheat crop advance for the coming season. I am quite willing to adopt either of these methods. Either would give the fullest scope for discussion, and I am prepared to take the sense of the House as to which course should be adopted.
– Is it possible for honorable members to secure a copy of the statement in which the right honorable gentleman propounded his scheme last night? We have nothing before us but newspaper reports of his remarks.
– I am prepared to accept suggestions from the Leader of the Labour party or the Leader of the Country party. I understand that honorable members opposite suggest a motion for the printing of a paper.
– Very well. I formally move -
That the Ministerial statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday, with reference to the guarantee proposed to be given by the Government in connexion with the sale price of the ensuing season’s wheat crop, be printed.
I will listen to what honorable members have to say on the subject. I may reply to requests for information by interjection, and at the close of the discussion I can reply in the ordinary way.
.- This is a very important matter, and one which deserves the careful consideration of the House. It vitally affects, not only the farmers, but also the consumers of Australia. Last year provision was made under a compulsory Pool for an advance of 2s. 6d. per bushel at the railway siding, and a deferred payment of 2s. 6d. per bushel. Since then, however, the price of wheat has fallen considerably. During the war period when it was necessary to furnish an abundance of food supplies to our own people, and our Allies overseas, the Government urged men to go on the land, and practically guaranteed them that everything would be done to assist them. To the credit of those who settled on the land let it be said that they immediately responded to the call, and increased the area under wheat to a considerable extent. Now, however, with the increased production of wheat in other countries, there is a possibility that the market for the disposal of our produce will be considerably limited, and that, unless something is done to protect our producers’ interests, they may find their occupation unprofitable. Instead of people being induced to settle on the land we may find that those who are already there are neglecting their holdings and throwing them into disuse. In such circumstances a scheme should be evolved whereby the farmer can be protected, because we all agree that he, in common with every other person in the community, should get a fair return for his labour. It was right that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) should bring the matter before the House at the present stage, but I am disappointed at the conditions he has set out. I cannot see how he can hope to make them effective without a compulsory Pool embracing every wheat-growing State. The Commonwealth has not the power, under the Constitution, to enforce a Pool on the different States, but the Prime Minister might easily approach the States Premiers and endeavour to get them to adopta common line of action for the purpose of bringing all the farmers into the one Pool, in which way only their interests can be protected. I may find opposition to the views I am expressing.
– Hear, hear!
– But my experience teaches me that it opens the door to unfair and possibly cut-throat competition to have different methods for the disposal of produce. I am not opposed to fair competition, but, under the scheme outlined by the Prime Minister, farmer may be set against farmer, instead of all being brought together into one cooperative movement. One of the conditions is that there must be a free local market for the disposal of wheat. It is impossible to have a compulsory Pool and a free local market.
-Why is it impossible?
– Because, under the arrangement indicated by the right honorable gentleman, the wheat-grower, who feels disposed to work outside the Pool, is left undisturbed.
– Certainly; but that is not because there is to be a free local market. The Pool will apply to overseas sales only.
– If the Pool is to be confined to overseas sa.les, will there be anything to prevent an individual from purchasing wheat from a farmer who is desirous of selling it at a price which is a little less than the f.o.b. price likely to be obtained under the scheme?
– There will be nothing to prevent it, but the trouble is that two of the States will not agree to a compulsory Pool.
– No doubt from what we can glean in the public press there is some truth in the right honorable gentleman’s statement. He told us yesterday that he had had no direct communication with the States, but had reason to believe that his proposals would he acceptable to them.
– To most of them.
– My point is that the right honorable gentleman should get into touch with the States in regard to the matter.
– I do not object to doing so, but Mr. Barwell and Mr. Lawson have already said plainly that they do not want a compulsory Pool. When I made a statement at Bendigo, Mr. Lawson, who thought that I -was speaking of a compulsory Pool,” told me quite frankly that he would not agree to one; and we know what Mr. Barwell has said. That is the position I have to face.
– In such circumstances I cannot see that success will follow the Prime Minister’s present effort in this direction. I hope that I am wrong, but this is the place where we ought to discuss these matters and exchange our views upon them. I want to face the position which may arise if each particular State is to adopt its own course, and if, in addition, the wheatgrowers themselves can work outside the Pool. What will happen if we have an over-abundance of wheat and a market abroad which is not sufficient to absorb it ? Those who come into the Pool will be guaranteed 3s. a bushel at the railway siding, which is equivalent to about 3s. 8d. f.o.b., but there are agencies operating outside the Pool who willbe free to do as they like. Suppose some speculator, with money behind him, comes along to the farmers, and says to them, “ The price of wheat is so much. You can get so much from the Pool, but we are prepared to pay cash.” The price offered may be 2d. or 3d. less than the probable return from the Pool, but some farmers, no doubt, will be disposed to sell outright.
– But the wheat farmer cannot get less under this proposal of mine, or yours, if you like to put it that way, than 3s. 8d. per bushel f.o.b.
– I am not arguing that he can. I am merely pointing to the possibility of an over-abundance of wheat,and a probable difficulty of getting it away. In such circumstances individual farmers might be tempted to make arrangements of their own, behind the back of the Pool, so to speak, to dispose of their produce.
– The farmers arebound to get a market for their wheat.
– Not necessarily.
– No one is able to say what will happen, but there has never yet been a world surplus of wheat. There has, however, been a shortage ofbuyers with sufficient money to operate.
– Does the Prime Minister say that a world surplus is not within the realms of possibility?
– No, but I do not think there will be such a surplus in our time. There certainly has not been a world surplus up to the present.
– Well, . I am putting this view for what it may be worth. I am looking ahead, and suggesting what I think will be the best means to safeguard the interests of the man on the land. I want to protect him, and, in my judgment, the only satisfactory way in which this may be done is by establishinga compulsory Pool for the whole of the Commonwealth.
– Which you cannot get.
– And a good job, too!
– My honorable friend the member for Wakefield says it willbe a good job if we cannot get a compulsory Pool. I hold the opposite view. I have said on many occasions that I am favorable to the establishment of compulsory Pools, upon which there should be representatives of the Government, the growers, and the consumers. I believe that the wheat-grower is entitled to a full return for the investment of his money and his labour in the business of production. I believe, also, that the consumer should be protected, in that he ought to he able to buy Australian products at a reasonable price. This end can only be achieved by cutting out the profits of the middlemen. At present there is no bar to their operations. They are already at work. I should not be surprised if, during the coming season, representatives of ibig overseas speculators come in and buy wheat from our farmers. In that way farmers outside any voluntary Pools will be competing against farmers who may have undertaken to send their wheat into the Pools.
– They are at it already.
– I believe that is so. It is all very well for opponents of the compulsory pooling system to attempt to brush these objections aside. This is the position as I see it.
-If the Government guarantee is equivalent to 3s. 8d. f.o.b., outside speculators will not be able to buy wheat for less.
– The suggested Government guarantee is 3s. to the producer. That is equivalent to 3s. 8d. f.o.b. My point is that some farmers may be induced to sell at a lower price to speculators, and get ready money, rather than send their wheat into the Pool and wait for the finalizing of returns.
– It. may be three months before they are paid.
– Yes; and I presume that there will be interest to pay. If the Commonwealth Bank finances the scheme, it will require interest on capital outlay. It is no use labouring this matter at great length. In my opinion, we ought to take every possible step to establish a compulsory Pool, and in this way adequately safeguard the interests of our wheat-growers.
– What steps can we take?
– We should, if possible, establish a compulsory Pool for the Commonwealth, on the best possible terms. I say, in all seriousness, that if different State Pools are operating, the farmers’ interests will suffer.For instance, those controlling a farmers’ Pool in New South Wales, under some form of State Government guarantee, will probably do all in their power to get their wheat away promptly. The farmers of Victoria and South Australia will,no doubt, do likewise; but it will be practically impossible to get sufficient vessels to take all wheat overseas as quickly as may be desirable. The only way to insure justice all round is to have one Pool, so that every wheatgrower will get a fair share of the returns on overseas sales.
– The proposal is to have only one charterer.
– Just so; but under the scheme suggested by the Prime Minister, there will be nothing to prevent other people from chartering, and there will be competition for the available tonnage for wheat cargoes.
– They will be able to get all the tonnage wanted.
– At times, it is difficult to get tonnage. I am not arguing that there will be a lack of tonnage for the forthcoming wheat harvest, because I understand ships are tied up in the various seaports of the world waiting for cargoes.
– The press this morning states that- German boats are likely to compete for Australian wheat cargoes.
– It would, of course, be in the interests of our wheat-growers to get their produce away as quickly as possible; but, as I have already pointed out, under this suggested scheme, there will be a danger of one State competing against another to the detriment of some of our wheat-growers. I am aware that the Commonwealth Government have not power under the Constitution to establish a compulsory Pool ; but steps should be taken at once to consult the Premiers of the wheat-growing States to ascertain if they are prepared to accept a compulsory Pool. If they reject the proposal, we shall, of course, have to make the best terms possible. In order to test the feeling of the House, I move -
That the following words be added to the motion: -“Provided that the Commonwealth Government shall take steps to insure a continuance of the Wheat Pool, and immediately enter into negotiation with the various State Governments in order to give effect to this principle.”
– I second the amendment. I do not think many words are required to commend it to the House. Those who realize the threatened disorganization of the wheat industry cannot but be struck with the fact that the farmers are in for a bad time if something is not done by this Government to insure co-ordination in the marketing of next season’s wheat. No better argument in favour of the amendment can be found than are contained in remarks made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) himself, at Bendigo, on the twelfth of this month. Speaking to his constituents on his return from London, the right honorable gentleman said -
If anyman says the world is normal, I beg to differ fromhim. I say that, until the world becomes normal, the methods we employed before the war will not avail us now. The world is neurotic., disorganized, and chaotic; and no one can say when those stable demands which regulate supply and the price of goods will be restored. As I see it, a Pool is wanted as much to-day as in 1915, 1916, 1917, or 1918.
– That is to say, a compulsory Pool?
– Yes. I do not think that statement by the Prime Minister can be Tefuted, although he now says the opposite. Some people, and more particularly the speculators in this country, claim that we have returned to normal times. I cannot understand any one honestly making such an assertion. We have not got back to normal times in regard to either finance or shipping - two of the many influences that operate in connexion with the marketing of our wheat. To say that we have returned to normal times is absurd. We have not; and, in the words of the Prime Minister, there is as much need to-day for a compulsory Pool as there was in the years of the war. It was admitted by the right honorable gentleman that 4s. 4d. per bushel had been quoted in connexion with prospective sales of this season’s crop. That shows that already there are indications of a huge slump in the marketing of our wheat. With a yield equal to that of last year, a slump of even ls. per bushel would mean a loss of something like £8,000,000 to our farmers. They will stand to lose that amount owing to the operations of speculators and middlemen, who are already at work, unless something is done to secure that co-ordination on the part of the States which the Commonwealth alone can bring about.
It is said that the Commonwealth has no constitutional power to do what is desired in the way of a compulsory Pool;but my complaint is that the Commonwealth Government have not made the slightest effort to bring the States into line. No doubt, immense pressure has beon brought to bear on the various State Governments to prevent the creation of anything in the nature of a Pool. It looks, indeed, as if such pressure had been brought to bear on both the Federal and State Governments. It is the middlemen who are urging that everything relating to the marketing of our produce should return to normal conditions. Their desire is to be able once more to prey on tlie wheat producers of the Commonwealth, as they did before the introduction of the pooling system. There is a solemn obligation on the part of the Commonwealth Government to bring about that co-ordination of State action which alone can lead to the stabilization of the industry. If something is not done at once in that direction, the indications are that the wheat producers will be in for a very bad time.
The New South Wales Government have already taken effective steps to bring about a Pool. Is it not remarkable that New South Wales is the only wheatproducing State that has taken action? It is reasonable to assume that the pressure of interested parties outside has been too great in the case of the Governments of the other wheat-producing States. I am glad, however, to know that we have in New South Wales a Government that will not yield to the overtures of those who have been accustomed to prey upon our farmers. That Government has been put to much trouble in endeavouring to finance the Pool. It is astonishing that the Prime Minister did not come along with the proposal that he made last night until the New South Wales Government had practically completed its arrangements. It certainly looks very suspicious. It suggests that, because the New South Wales Government is opposed to the Prime Minister, he was not prepared to raise his little finger to assist it, hut now that it has practically shown it3 independence of him, he says that it can enjoy the advantages of his financial arrangements if it so desires.
– He could not make that offer to the New South Wales Government until he had completed his financial arrangements.
– He did’ not attempt to make any arrangements to assist the New South Wales Government. I am pleased that, at least, one State Government is not prepared to bend the knee to the speculators who are trying to secure the open marketing of our wheat, but has stood up for what should be the policy of every Government in these abnormal times.
– But the wheat-growers themselves do not want a compulsory Pool.
– In Victoria and New South Wales, where a ple’biscite was taken, 86 per cent, of the wheat-growers voted in favour »f some form of pooling. The wheat-growers of South Australia were not given an opportunity to express their views in that way, but, in all the States where the farmers were asked to give expression to their opinions on the subject, .they showed themselves to .be overwhelmingly in favour of some method of pooling. Had the Commonwealth’ Government got into touch with the State Governments. at the right time we would have had this year, as in previous years, a compulsory Pool. The Commonwealth Government, however, has been negligent in the matter. It has done nothing to bring the matter prominently before the State Governments. The State Governments, with the exception of that of New South Wales, have drifted, and it is the Commonwealth alone which can bring about the necessary coordination . “
I propose to give an illustration of what has happened in Canada and the United States of America. During the years of the war in those two countries something on the lines of a Pool was in operation. A Board, at the back of which was the Government, looked after the marketing of wheat. After the war was over the same influences that have -been operating here got to work in those countries, and the farmers were told that, since they had returned to normal conditions, they should have an open market. A member of the United States of America Wheat . Board, speaking on the subject, said -
We have been led to believe that conditions were normal, and further control unnecessary. Capital in plenty was to be available for all our needs. Buyers would be waiting to absorb all our grain as fast as we could market it. What was the result? Millions of dollars of losses. The buyers had us at their mercy, and operated, hand to mouth, from day to day. They told us plainly they could not risk buying on any other basis. For the first time in the history of the States the banks in the wheat areas suspended payment, as the crops could not be moved off. We are not to be caught again, and are going back to the Fool under the United States Grain Growers Incorporated.
That statement was made following the first experience of the open market of farmers in the United States of America after the war. Now I shall quote what a representative of the Board iu Canada said -
The refusal of the Government to continue the wheat Board for another year left the farmers at the mercy of chaotic world conditions, and the losses sustained have been colossal, thanks to the utter disregard of the politicians at Ottawa.
– There is no analogy between .the Canadian instance and the position in Australia. The Canadian Government were not making any advance.
– The Government of Canada were at the back of this Board; and I have just read an indictment of the Government, which was uttered by a member of that Board because the Government had withdrawn their support and permitted a reversion to pre-war conditions.
– Those references are, I presume, to the 1919 crop?
– That would be so. Pooling arrangements were not continued in Canada and the United States of America after the conclusion of the war. The effect of reverting to the open market in those two countries is likely to be the same in this country, according to indications. There has already been a slump in the price of wheat. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) pointed out recently in the course of a speech at Bendigo, a slump has already occurred to the extent of ls. per bushel; and, even if it should be no more severe, that would entail a loss of something like £8,000,000 to the farmers of Australia.
– In Canada they became sober too suddenly after the war-time jazz.
– Yes ; the country sobered up at the expense of the wheat-growers.
– The honorable member accused the Government just now of not having lifted a little finger.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) has just suggested that, not only the little finger, but the elbow was lifted in Canada. My complaint is that the Commonwealth Government will not lift as much as a little finger, leaving out of question altogether the lifting of an elbow.
– They prefer to bend the knee.
– As the honorable member for Balaclava suggests, the Government of Australia will not raise finger or elbow to assist the farmers, but will bend the knee to certain interests which prey upon the farmers.
There was recently a general election in Victoria. Unfortunately for the wheat-growers in this State, there is a Country party also in the Victorian Legislature. Its members pretended to put up a fight for the wheat-growers, and the Parliament decided in favour of a compulsory Pool. A challenge followed, and the Government went to the country. The country returned a majority in favour of a compulsory Pool. When a vote was taken, after the re-assembling
Of Parliament, however, five of the twelve Country party members ‘ in the State House of Assembly ran away from their election pledges, and from the cause which they had been returned to support. They voted with the Government; the Result being that the Government said, “ We shall not have any compulsory Pool in this State.”
– The honorable member is wrong in saying that five of the State members “ran away.”
– Yes, he is; seven of them ran away.
– I am prepared to accept, the correction; it only makes the situation worse. The fact is that a sufficient number ran away to insure the safety of the Government. And, by the way, that is just what occurred in- this Chamber yesterday - a sufficient number of members of the Country party ran away from their own censure motion to save the Government.
– The honorable member to whom the honorable member for Hume is alluding was not a member of the Country party when he voted yesterday.
– At that rate there need be only a. few more motions of want of confidence in the’ Government, and so many members of the Country party will have run away that there will be no Country party left. It is a remarkable fact that, whenever the Government, either of this State or of the Commonwealth, are in danger, something happens to members of the Country party, so that the Government are saved , from defeat. Unhappily, in the saving of the Government the farmers are lost. However, because the State Country party legislators let Victorian farmers down, Federal members should not betray the farmers of Australia. Only the Commonwealth Government can so co-ordinate matters with respect to the marketing of wheat as to protect the primary producer against the speculative activities which threaten him to-day. As the Prime Minister himself said at Bendigo, on 12th October, there is as much need for a Pool at present as there was in any of the war years. If the Prime Minister really believes what he told his constituents, I trust that he will accept the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton).-
.- -We have before us what I regard as the most serious problem in the experience of this Parliament, and it should be discussed without heat, and quite apart from party considerations. Much, indeed, depends on the orderly and proper marketing of not only the coming season’s wheat, but of every season’s wheat.
– Does that not apply to other products besides wheat?
– Very few other products of the land have such an enormous value as the wheat harvest of Australia. The position to-day is exactly what we forecasted six months ago, before the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) left for the Old Country. We made repeated efforts to see the right honorable gentleman, and extract from him a promise that he would do his best to continue the compulsory pooling system. I saw the Prime Minister on several occasions, and before he left for England he made a statement here which committed the Government to an extension of that system, provided the States would agree.
– He did not go so far as that.
– I wish to say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that that promise stands good to-day, absolutely. If the States can be brought into line, I presume the Prime Minister will not need to be compelled to honour the promise he made.
– We ask that steps shall be taken to bring the States into line.
– At that time we .prophesied lower prices and fewer buyers, and more acute financial conditions towards the end of the year than existed at that time. That prophecy, I think, has’ been justified, for the position to-day is very serious, not only for the growers, but for every man, woman, and child in the country. I suppose that everybody would like cheaper bread. We have had what might be called dear bread for some time, and probably the rank and file of the great industrial classes are hoping the day will speedily arrive when they will have a cheaper loaf. Assuming that wheat falls to 4s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b. this year, it will mean half the price that has been charged the consumer. At the present time there is only fid. worth of wheat in the 4-lb. loaf, and the price in the city is ls. Id., and- in the country ls. 2d. and ls. 3d. If wheat falls to 4s. 6d., the value of the wheat in the 4-lb. loaf will be reduced to 3d., and the price of the loaf in the city will be 10d., and in the country lid. to ls. At the present time in the city itcosts 7d. to process and distribute the 4-lb. loaf, and in the country it costs 8d. to 9d.: so that, even if the wheat were given as a present, those prices would continue. In the face of the high cost of processing and distributing, how can we look for a cheap loaf? The Prime Minister has just entered the chamber, and I should like to repeat that he made a promise in the House that if the State would reenact the legislation at present in ex,istence, he would be quite prepared to continue the compulsory Pool for another year.
– Quite right; I said that if the States would re-enact the legislation of the present season I would go on as before.
– If the States unanimously did so.
– That is so. This matter was considered by the Government very carefully, and what I said was the opinion of the Government, but it depended on the States being unanimous.
– I presume that that promise holds good to-day, provided the whole of the States are prepared to reenact this legislation. I have always been an advocate of compulsory pooling, par- ticularly since the producers have had representation on the Wheat Board, and other Boardsby which the product is handled and sold.
– Allow me to say that the Commonwealth Government applied no compulsion - it was the States that did so.
– Just so. I am sorry that we have not a compulsory Pool to-day. I should be quite prepared to do anything that would give us such a Pool, because I believe it represents the only system by which we can sell our wheat and get the last penny that is in it. I have fought consistently and persistently with a view to getting a compulsory Pool, but, so far as Victoria is concerned, have been defeated. Just recently I did my best to bring such arrangement about, but, unfortunately, failed. We had to do the next best thing, and, so far as Victoria is concerned, we were offered a voluntary Pool. When taking part in the recent State elections, I said that I was not in favour of a voluntary Pool in the ordinary sense. I stressed the fact that I wished to see the compulsory Pool continued one more year, so as to educate the farmer up to the necessity for a contract Pool, the same class of undertaking that is at present carried on in a large number of the States in America. However, the fact that the Victorian Government turned down the compulsory Pool in this State brought us twelve months nearer to the contract Pool. We have accepted a contract Pool, and not a voluntary Pool, and up to the present we have (between 12,000,000 and 13,000,000 bushels contracted for in Victoria, some of which has been sold at fairly remunerative prices.
– How much?
– I should not care to say how much.
– The figures have been published.
– The honorable member is speaking of the new season’s wheat?
– Yes. In the press, from time to time, statements have appeared that wheat has been sold at certain prices, but I may say that, in regard to one sale of 20,000 tons, said to have been sold at 4s. 4d., the figure is incorrect, the price being appreciably higher. The position is that we have acontract Pool, which I believe is going to be a success - indeed, I feel sure it is - but the trouble is that in New South Wales and Western Australia there are compulsory Pools, while in South Australia there is no Pool at all. From short conversations I have had with the Prime Minister, I feel sure he has a thorough grip of the situation, and it is clear that unless we have some collective and centralized system of chartering ships and selling our wheat abroad- that is, one chartering authority and one selling authority - we shall end in chaos. We will not get the highest price possible for the wheat. To-day two States say, We will have nothing to do with a compulsory Pool.” I understand that the constitutional position is that the Commonwealth Government have no power to apply compulsion, because to do so would be to override State rights.
– A conference could be arranged with representatives of the States, and if the position were properly explained to them, I think they would come into line.
– I understand that the Prime Minister has convened a Conference of State Premiers for Monday next. The wheat question will be discussed at that Conference. Anything Victoria may do can be determined only after that Conference has taken place. I represent the Victorian growers on the Australian Wheat Board, and on the Victorian Wheat Corporation ; and, in view of our commitments, and of the position that we are in to-day, I do not desire to make any public statement until after the subject has been considered by the State Premiers.
– We want to co-operate with the State of Victoria; but we must also co-operate with the States of Western Australia and South Australia. What I have said is right; and what you have said is right. Unless there is one selling agent, and one controlling agency, the Pools will fail.
– Not fail.
– They will not be so successful as they should be.
– One of the difficulties we have to face is that we are talking of a voluntary Pool at a late hour. Western Australia has made financial arrangements with the London and Westminster, and Parr’s Bank, and I understand that New South Wales has also made financial arrangements. In Victoria, an arrangement has been made with. the associated banks for 4s. a bushel in advance. I do not know what position we are in when three different States have made financial arrangements with three different banking organizations. How does the Prime Minister propose to get over that difficulty?
– Where a State has provided the money, they will not want any assistance from us. We say that we will advance this money, provided there is coordination, with one selling agency, one controlling agency, and one charterer of freight, and that every farmer is free to sell his wheat as he likes outside the Pool. We shall not interfere with anything that a State may do.
– As New South Wales and Western Australia have already made their arrangements, I am afraid we cannot get them into a voluntary Pool. As South Australia has made no arrangements in regard to either pooling or finance, I should say that, if the offer made by the Prime Minister could be accepted .by the South Australian Government or the South Australian farmers, the Victorian corporation would be quite prepared to work in with that State, or with other States. At the same time, Victoria’s position in regard to the advance must not be prejudiced. Do the Commonwealth propose to make an advance of 3s. a bushel to the Victorian growers ?
– We are quite willing to do that; but if the Victorian State Government have already made airangements, our offer becomes unnecessary.
– If you propose to advance to South Australia 3s. per bushel net, at country stations, in my opinion you should increase that to 4s. per bushel f.o.b.
– I do not want the honorable gentleman to be under any misapprehension. The offer that the Commonwealth has made- is the offer it proposes to stand by. This is not a Dutch auction, in which the price can be hit up 3d. or 4d. a bushel, or knocked down 2d. a bushel. We are willing to call together representatives of the farmers, and to take steps to ascertain whether all the wheat-growing States can work together.
– The offer of 3s. a bushel advance at country sidings makes no provision for a State like South Australia to .finance her f.o.b. charges. The farmers would simply have to pay 8d. or 9d. a bushel for railway freight and handling charges. Three shillings a bushel at country sidings does not get them anywhere. If the advance were 3s. per bushel f.o.b., the farmer would get the difference between that and the country siding rate, and he would know where he stood. If the Government only offers 2s. 3d. or 2s. 4d. at country sidings - and this is what 3s. a bushel f.o.b. would represent-‘ there are very few farmers who would take advantage of the proposal.
– When the Government backs a pool to the extent of 3s. a bushel for wheat delivere’d at country sidings in South Australia, anybody will take the wheat from the country sidings to the seaboard.
– I am satisfied that the whole thing is inoperative, if that is your proposition. The scheme is impossible.
– I am sorry that the honorable gentleman takes that view, but I was quite sure that he would.
– I do not want the Prime Minister to misunderstand me. I want to give him credit for trying to help the farmers. I am only pointing out that, in my opinion, 3s. at country sidings is not sufficient to enable these men to put their wheat on board ship.
– Suppose you wait and see what the representatives of the South Australian farmers think about the offer. If they say the offer is no good, the Government may have to re-consider it.
– I am not going to condemn the scheme. I want to see you meet the Premiers in conference, and if they are prepared to join in with the scheme, and provided the Victorian farmer is not prejudiced, Victoria will be willing to come in.
– I do not see how Victoria can be prejudiced, but I understand what the honorable gentleman means.
– In Victoria we have made favorable sales, and have chartered ships under favorable conditions. We need to be protected to that extent.
– A united Pool could take over all those things. It is the broad principle that we are discussing, and I take it that what the ‘honorable member wants is uniformity.
– Yes, -we want uniformity more than anything else.
– If you have made good sales, why should not the united Pool take them over? I am not going to say that because you have entered into certain favorable arrangements you cannot come into the united Pool for future transactions. That is not the position at all.
– The Victorian farmers might take the 3s. from the Commonwealth Government and another ls. from the State Government.
– I understand that. but I am trying to do something to help the farmers of South Australia.
– They do not want the honorable member’s help.
– As we cannot get a compulsory Pool for the whole Commonwealth I wish a contract Pool to ‘be instituted in every State. In the United States of America a Committee, known as the Farmers’ Marketing Committee o’f Seventeen, was appointed to investigate the wheat position in America, and some of their findings are revealed in the following extract from a pamphlet issued by the United States Grain Growers’ Incorporated : -
They found that 72 per cent, of our wheat is marketed within ninety days after harvest. And they incorporated as one of the first, basic principles of their marketing plan, the fact that there must be a more orderly movement of grain to market so as to avoid market gluts that play into the hands of the speculator. They found that some of the greatest profits aro made in mixing, regrading, and conditioning grains, and they incorporate the fact that the farmer must do these jobs himself if he is to realize more nearly the market value of his crops. They found that false market reports of foreign crop conditions gave the farmer low prices, and do not lower the price to the consumer. And the principle of an unbiased crop reporting service to be gathered and disseminated by the farmers themselves was added as part of the marketing plan.
That is important -
They found that over fifty times as much “grain” is sold in the pits of the Chicago Board of Trade every ‘year as is actually marketed in the Chicago market. And that these transactions in imaginary grain affect the cash price of real grain to the detriment of producer .and consumer.
– Would the honorable member like the American marketing scheme to be introduced in Australia ?
– Yes; the whole scheme is voluntary.
– The farmers of the United States of America have rejected a Government compulsory Pool; they want to run the Pool themselves.
– That is what we, in Australia, are trying to do, and if we cannot have a compulsory Pool, I would like to se© every State come into a voluntary Pool, and lay down a system for marketing our grain through co-operative organization which will continue for all time.
.- I rise to support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), .that the Commonwealth
Government should take immediate steps to endeavour to bring about a Commonwealth compulsory Pool. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) interjected, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was. speaking, that as some of the States had intimated that they would not join a compulsory Pool, that project was de- ‘ finitely ruled out. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) was quite correct in saying that the initiative should have come from the Commonwealth Government, who, months ago, should have called the State Governments into conference. The Commonwealth influence and power should have been exerted upon them in order to bring about a compulsory Pool. The merits of the compulsory Pool, in comparison with other methods of organization, have been threshed out fairly well; it is undeniable that a compulsory Commonwealth Pool, controlling the whole of the wheat production of Australia, must make for economy in handling ‘and marketing, and prove more advantageous to both growers and consumers. Under the present chaotic conditions each State has a different system. Western Australia and New South Wales have adopted compulsory Pools. South Australia is maintaining an open market, .leaving the farmers wholly at the mercy of the wheat speculators and financiers. Victoria is to have a voluntary Pool, which the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) calls a contract Pool. The name given to it is immaterial; the fact remains that it will not be a compulsory Pool controlled by the Government, and the farmer “will have the right to come into it or stay out of it, as he pleases. We are told that Western Australia has made arrangements to finance a compulsory Pool. We know that New South Wales has done so, and that the Victorian Government has made arrangements with the Associated Banks. If the Commonwealth Government cannot co-ordinate these various schemes, why do they enter into the business at all? When a reference was made to the Labour Government in New South Wales, another honorable member deprecated the introduction of any suggestion of political motives. I say that the action being taken by the Commonwealth Government is a purely political moye to lead the farmers to believe that the Government are standing behind them, when actually they are doing nothing at all.
– How much of the price guaranteed by the New South Wales Government last year has been paid?
– All of it has been paid, hut that question is quite irrelevant. I again ask why the Commonwealth Government is embarking upon this scheme at all if it cannot use its influence and financial position to co-ordinate the various States projects in a compulsory Commonwealth Pool. The absurdity of the Government’s pretenee of doing something in the interests of the farmer is patent to everybody, and this ridiculous attempt to gain the support of a section of the community indicates the parlous position into which the Government have got themselves. Financial arrangements could very easily be made by the Commonwealth for compulsory Pools in the different States, because we have an institution, thanks to Labour Administration, which can effectively deal with the whole financial position if the Government were prepared to take the necessary steps. Compulsory pooling is not a stopgap policy with those on this side of the Chamber, and we do not favour it only at particular times, in order to capture votes. It is a principle which has been accepted by our party, and it is one we are likely to adhere to until an alteration has been made by a majority of those associated with the Labour movement.
I desire to say a word or two in regard to the scheme - if it pan be termed such - outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). The right honorable gentleman ‘ informed us that the Commonwealth Government were not prepared to finance compulsory State Pools, although he previously stated that they were willing to support a Commonwealth Pool if all theState Governments would fall into line.Surely that is inconsistent. The Prime Minister also used the absurd argument that the Government could not financially support a State compulsory Pool, because the security offered was inadequate.
Mr.Atkinson. - I think he said that theGovernment would be prepared to do so if their financial advisers said that it was desirable.
– The financial advisers of the Government could be made to say anything the Government desired. Does the Prime Minister think that the security of the States of NewSouth Wales and Western Australia is not as good as that which can be offered by individual farmers in those States? The farmers will offer their wheat as security, but it may be destroyed by vermin or in some other way, and the asset would no longer remain. That cannot be said regarding aState, because the security is always there. Action in this direction has been unduly delayed; and, as I have already said, the Government have hurriedly submitted a proposal at this juncture in an endeavour to convince the farmers that they wish to assist them. They are not doing anything of thekind. The Prime Minister also saidthat there is never an overproduction of wheat, but he must admit that surpluses are. manufactured owing to the operations of speculators. A few years ago an American financier, named Leiter, I think, cornered practically the whole of the American crop, and boasted that in consequence of his action many children in Europe would be crying for bread in the winter that was approaching.
– What has this to do with the question?
– A compulsory Pool would prevent it.
– Would a compulsory Pool in Australia prevent such action being taken in America.
– No, but it would prevent it here.
– Has similar action ever been taken in the Commonwealth?
– Yes, repeatedly.
– It is not. Action has been taken, but not to the same extent, because our operations are not conducted on such an extensive scale. If we continue under the old system of free marketing, and allow speculators and financial institutions to control the handling of foodstuffs such as wheat, a similar position will inevitably arise. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) referred to the position of the farmers’ representatives in the Victorian Parliament, and the result of the general elections recently held. No one can deny the fact that the question on which the members of the Legislative Assembly went to the country was that of a compulsory State Pool, and the people showed by their votes that they favoured the system. The people of New South Wales also favour compulsory pooling, and as these two States represent two-thirds of the population of the Commonwealth, their opinions cannot be disregarded. Western Australia and Queeusland are also in favour of compulsory Pools, so that South Australia is the only State standing out. Tasmania does not enter into consideration, because she is not producing to any extent. If the Government would say that all the States, apart from South Australia, could enter a compulsory Pool, South Australia would eventually have to come in. To show the position that has arisen in Victoria, I quote the following paragraph from the Argus of 28th October: -
Rochester. Friday. - At a meeting of the Rochester branch of the Victorian Farmers Union to-day, on the motion of Mr. James Wilson, it was resolved that Mr. Allan, M.L.A., no longer possesses the confidence of the Country party.
– That is in his own electorate.
– The members of the Country party in this Chamber may represent farming constituencies, but they do notrepresent farming interests. The members of that party are being used in this Parliament, as well as other Parliaments, to advocate the interests of squatters, financial institutions, and the middle men in the various States.. As a compulsory Commonwealth Pool is the only means of enabling the farmer to secure an adequate return for his commodity, of preventing the consumers from being exploited, and of removing one of the greatest curses to civilization - the gamblers in the foodstuffs of the people - I intend to support the amendment submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton).
– I am sorry to have to repeat what I have frequently stated in this Chamber, that politics have been introduced into the question of wheat handling since the inception of the pooling system, with the result that the farmers’ interests have been jeopardized. There are two or three basic principles which have to be considered before this question can be determined, and oneis that it is not a function of the Commonwealth Government to handle wheat, because it has not the constitutional power to interfere withthe functions of a State. The pooling system was conceived during the war period and under war powers, and it should not be continued in. other circumstances. Reference has been made to a slump in the wheat prices. I do not know if honorable members expect war prices to continue; but as a wheat-grower I say unhesitatingly that in the interests of the whole of the people I do not wish exorbitant rates to prevail. Any one who takes a proper view of the situation cannot expect war prices to continue.
– The farmers do not.
– Of course not.
– I suppose the honorable member suggests that they were grossly robbed during the war period.
– During one season we received 6s. 3d., and there is another ls. 3d. per bushel to collect.
– That is since the war.
– The year before we received more. There is another basic principle to which I wish to direct attention.
– I think we should have a quorum. [Quorumformed.]
– While I make every allowance for the extraordinary conditions that have obtained, and the difficulties that have presented themselves, some of which no human effort could have obviated, I maintain that there was never more inefficient management or more waste in handling wheat than there has been under the Pool system.
– You mean in South Australia?
– I speak of the whole of Australia, though I admit that the Victorian wheat was handled much more effectively than the wheat of the other States.
– The Western Australian wheat had the best handling.
- Mr. Basil Murray, the man who knows most about these matters, says he does not believe in a compulsory ‘Pooh He would have a voluntary Pool for preference.
– That is not correct.
– My information comes from Western Australia, and isa correct. It is not the function of the Commonwealth Government to interfere with the States in this matter. They came into it originally in a time of national crisis, and that alone justified their intervention. To-day they are assisting to relax the financial stringency, which is, in a measure, an aftermath of the war. They are offering financial assistance without interfering in a way that will admit of politics being introduced.
– There has been too much politics in connexion with the handling of wheat.
– Yes, and wo should put an end to political interference, which has been a scandal. The farmers are sick of it, and they are disgusted with the politicians who sympathize with it.
– Mr. Barwell and your friends are to blame for the introduction of politics.
– Not at all. The members of the Labour party honestly desire a compulsory Pool, and are consistent in proposing the establishment of one. They would apply compulsion to the compulsory pooling and Government handling, not only of wheat, but of all primary products. I am sure the Government of WesternAustralia will welcome the Commonwealth proposals. Mr. Barwell, who has consistently advocated an open market, never faltering, even under pressure, when asked in Parliament last week how he would view them, said he would welcome them. Of course, he will do so, because their acceptance will place him in a very happy position. For him it is a case of heads I win, tails you lose. I am sure, too, that Mr. Lawson, of Victoria, will welcome these proposals, because they will enable the Victorian farmers to get an advance of 3s. on their wheat, and he will have only ls. to pay.
– The whole thing has been arranged already in Victoria.
– There can easily be an alteration of the arrangements to enable the Commonwealth proposals to be accepted. Western Australia had practically completed arrangements when a leading financial man went there; and it was determined that the financing should be done in Australia instead of in London, as at first contemplated. But what is the position in New South Wales? Are the farmers there satisfied with what the State Government offers? As a matter of fact, the farmers are riotously against it.
– They have a guarantee of 5 s. a bushel.
– They would prefer the Commonwealth offer of 3s. to the Stale Government’s offer of 5s. According to the press reports the State Government proposes to commandeer their crops, as it did before. ‘ What is the good of an offer of 5s. per bushel if the money will not be paid? The State Government gave a guarantee last year, but did not pay a “bean.” Every one knows the attitude of the farmer’s of New South Wales on this question. Coming back to Victoria, Mr. Allan, the Leader of the Farmers party in the Legislative Asembly, declared last week that Mr. Lawson’s scheme for a voluntary Pool was infinitely better than a compulsory Pool, and said that the assistance which the farmers would receive would put them in so good a position that they would not need help in the future. He take’s a rational and statesman-like view of the situation when he says that the .pooling system should end with this season.
– There should not be a guarantee ; there should be an advance.
– That is what is proposed. The farmers of Australia will have an opportunity to compare the open market system with the Pool system of selling their wheat, and will learn which is the more efficient and gives them the bigger return. It has been said that outside influence controls Governments in this matter. That is sheer political idiocy. What political influence have a few wheat buyers? A Government can be influenced only by numbers.
Time allowed for the debate extended to 3.30 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.15 p.m.
– I was speaking of the importance of efficiency in the handling of wheat. The most efficient system is that which will give the farmer the best price for his wheat. We have had “six Wheat Pools, and not one of them has been cleaned up yet. That is not in keeping with the highest ideal of business management. Let me say that, while I have been grateful for what the Wheat Pools did for us during war time, when they were absolutely essential, I have reasons for* the impression that,, when we do get a cleaning up of the Pools, we shall have considerable disappointment along with it.
– That is so of the first Pool.
– And of most of the Pools. It applies to the last Pool, which will be very disappointing. I know that it will, because I know what the market price of wheat is and the quantity of wheat we have in hand.
– How much have we in hand?
– A good deal more than 20,000,000 bushels; and we ought not to have so much in hand. If this is to be the last year of these Pools, and I hope it will, we shall have a fair test to show which’ is the better system, because we shall have the open marketing of wheat and the voluntary Pool in operation side by side. The appreciation of people of the open market depends, of course, on the price. Let me say that already farmers are selling pretty freely in South Australia, and at a better price than that obtained at some recent sales that have taken place.
– What are they getting now?
– Up to last Monday, the price obtained was 4s. ll£d. per bushel.
– In the open market?
– Yes, in the open market. My authority for that is the Premier of South Australia. He will be in Melbourne this week, and the honorable member may consul^ him on > the matter if he pleases. I say that certain of the Pools brought the market price of wheat down for a time.
– That is incorrect.
– It is not incorrect. I am supported in that statement by weighty authorities.
– Who. are the honorable member’s authorities?
– I am not going to name them, but they are weighty authorities on the subject of the price of wheat.
– The honorable member’s authority is the Premier of South Aust tralia.
– It is not; but I may say for the Premier of South Australia that he has never varied one iota in his attitude on this question. He has been as good as gold in the matter, and his action has been appreciated, not only in South Australia, but in every State of Australia.
– Not by the wheat-growers.
– It has been appreciated by the wheat-growers of New South Wales, whilst the action of their own State Government has not been appreciated by them. I gave the House some idea of the temper and spirit of * the farmers of New South Wales on this , question, but the honorable member was not here at the time. There is an uproar in connexion with this matter from one end of New South Wales to the other, and well there may be.
– I know what they think in New South Wales.
– So do I, because I have many friends there, and I have had letters from them. The honorable member knows the facts, too, but he has not by a long way stated the real situation this morning.
– I can read letters from New South Wales wheat farmers if the honorable member pleases.
– The honorable member may read them, but they will not alter the position. With the Pool and the free market operating side by side we shall find that not more than 50 per cent. of the wheat, if that much, will go into the Pool.
– In South Australia?
– No, in Australia.
– That is not so.
– Those who are in a position to form an estimate, to be absolutely accurate, saythat the amount of wheat that will go into the Pools will be only from one-third to 50 per cent. of the total production. Let me ask the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) whether he will put his wheat into the Pool?
-Yes, I have done so.
– The honorable member would not put much into a Pool.
– Two thousand bags.
– The honorable member will not get the price that he would get outside.
-But the honorable member is himself asking for a Pool now.
– I am not. I did not ask for the Pool, but I am accepting a Pool.
– The honorable member is asking for a voluntary Pool.
– I am agreeing to one, and accepting one.
– The honorable member is not putting his wheat into a Pool.
– I will put my wheat where I can get the best price for it. Does the honorable member think that I am an idiot? Does he think that I grow wheat to play the fool with a Wheat Pool that is not managed by experts in the handling of wheat?
– The honorable member wants the middleman. That is what he is out, for.
– I want the man with brains, experience, and judgment. There is one phase of the subject to Avhich I wish to refer. Much is said by supporters of a Wheat Pool of their sympathy with the man of limited means. This view of the matter has been stressed too much, and I will tell honorable members why. The man of limited means has had his opportunity in the Wheat Pool, but let me remind honorable members that in connexion with past Pools 33 per cent. of the scrip has been turning over from day to day on the Stock Exchange, and that 33 per cent. has been the poor man’s scrip.
– The honorable member is influencing that to-day by his speech.
– I am not; I am defending the poor man. If my honorable friend would leave politics out of the matter and take a wider view of it-
– I have never looked at this matter from the stand-point of politics.
– Then I must apologize. I must have been greatly mistaken when listening to thehonorable member. I will give him credit for having been the least political in the matter of any member of the Country party.
– I think the honorable member might say that I have been nonpolitical .
– Though I should like to say the kindest thing possible of the honorable member, I would not care to strain my conscience to that extent. I will tell him how he can serve the primary producers effectively as things are to-day. There has been much talk of wool and wheat, but they cannot be compared at all, because we grow half the world’s wool, and only 3 per cent. of the world’s wheat. What we did for “Bawra” was to give wool -growers an opportunity to exercise some control over the market-.
– That is all that we ask for the wheat-growers.
– What was the reason for the machinery established in connexion with “ Bawra “ ? It was that there was in sight three or four years’ supply of wool.
– Because the industry was disorganized.
– It would have been but for “ Bawra.”
– Of course, it would.
– I will give nay honorable friend up. He is as dense as midnight. The honorable member said this morning ‘that we had two years’ supply of wheat. That was not correct.
– I never said anything of the kind.
– The honorable member did say it, and I deny it. We have not two years’ supply of wheat. Certain of the Western Australian farmers wanted avoluntary Pool, but there is no such reason for restrictions inconnexion with the marketing of wheat as there was for an organization for the marketing of wool. We talk of knocking out the wheat” market with our 3 per cent. of the world’s wheat.
– It is ridiculous.
– It is rubbish. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) is on the right track. I appreciate the fact that on great principles the honorable member often leads honorable members opposite. I want to tell the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) how he can serve the primary producers. Wheat will sell itself at a cash price. Wool also can take care of itself. But we could come to the rescue of the primary producer by helping to establish a market for his meat which he has not at present. He wants assistance verybadly in that matter.
– How would the honorable member help him ?
– I will tell the honorable member. There is a movement on at this moment to help him. I am thinking of him night and day, because he is helpless. The same applies to the dairyman, and also to the fruitgrower. The honorable member for Corangamite may smile, but the fruitgrower is in the most critical position of any of the primary producers. We are giving over £1,000,000 of Commonwealth money to carry out the magnificent conservation works on the Murray River, and it will be money well invested. The States are giving millions of pbunds more for the same purpose. But if the Commonwealth and the States cooperatively cannot find an export market for the fruits of Australia, those millions will not return a fraction of interest. This is where we can do something for the primary producer. The other matters can take care of themselves, and in connexion with them no more State help is needed. I do not believe in State interference in commercial and other channels, except where it is incumbent in the interests, not of a section, but of the whole nation. I hope that the present proposals will finish the whole business of control of the marketing of wheat, and if it does there will be peace and contentment.
.- This matter is of extreme importance inasmuch as a sum amounting to £50,000,000 is involved in Australia’s wheat. I am pleased to notice that even at this belated hour the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has taken some steps to endeavour to provide a remedy for the existing situation. In my opinion, these proposals are altogether too belated to do any material good. I do not desire to vote against them, or to block the effort which the Prime Minister is at least pretending to make, to help the primary producers of Australia.
– That is a very ungenerous remark.
– I shall allow the honorable gentleman to determine after I have finished my remarks whether it is ungenerous or not, in view of the previous action or inaction of the Prime Minister and the opportunities he has had for taking earlier steps on the lines which he is now following. I do not desire that these proposals should be withdrawn, because I wish those who are concerned to be given the opportunity of seeing whether any use can be made of them.
– Did not the honorable member introduce a deputation to the Prime Minister on the subject quite recently ?
– Yes. That deputation urged immediate action, but not precisely on the lines of the scheme outlined by the Prime Minister. There is, however, in this scheme now put forward something which, if introduced earlier, might have brought the whole of the wheat-growing States into co-ordination. Already much shipping has been chartered, many sales of wheat have been made, and new organizations have been at work. At the deputation to which reference has just been made the request for legislation was refused. I wish to deny the interpretation placed by tha honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) upon certain . remarks he has attributed to Mr. Basil Murray, managing director of the Western Australian Farmers Limited, the concern which handled the whole of the wheat in Western Australia. That gentleman took part in a deputation to the Prime Minister in February, 1920, and is reported to have said -
The organization which now handled the whole of the wheat in the State had shown that it could do the work efficiently, economically, and profitably. The objection to the question of compulsion would probably be found to be a sentimental one. If they had a certain number of growers out, from a business point of view, they would not have the same chance of success as if the whole were in. If they had a voluntary Pool - and he spoke as one who was right inside of the movement - he could assure Mr. Hughes it would be unworkable. He could give the Prime Minister instance after instance from the inside of the business that the grower was not safeguarded by the speculators and middlemen competition. Broadly, they said, Australia, to pay its way, must produce, and the speculators and middlemen did not produce. Was it wise to allow the wealth they produced to be whittled away by countless middlemen, who were unnecessary in business, and actually produced no wealth in the community?
– There are now three middlemen in the wheat business to one that existed prior to the establishment of the Pool.
– That sort of sidetracking will not throw me off’ my line of argument.
– Quote Mr. Murray’s remarks during the last few months.
– I agree with the honorable member when he says that there is altogether too much politics associated with the wheat business. If time permitted I could show how the whole matter has been made a political one, and how farmer has been set against farmer by different political parties competing for the farming vote. The only section which has not had a political interest in the matter has been the producer himself, because his very existence depended upon the proper marketing of his wheat. The Prime Minister has said that Australia greatly depends upon the success of the primary producer. The other day at Bendigo he made some very, significant remarks upon the subject, and I am sorry that the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) has not remained in the Chamber to listen to my reasons for saying something which the honorable member seemed to regard as offensive. These were the Prime Minister’s words, as reported at Bendigo
After referring to the recent State election and the Wheat Pool issue involved, Mr. Hughes declared that he* was trying to interpret the will of the people, hut he could not do so if the people spoke with two voices. “Those allurements of the open market,” he said, “seem to have waned. I only want what the producers. of this country desire, but I must now what it ft they desire.”
I want to show, later, that the representatives of the wheat-growers of Australia told the right honorable gentleman, not by word of mouth, but in black and white, what they really desired in February, 1920. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
They must speak with one voice, and, having spoken, they must stand up to it through thick and thin. If any man says that the world is normal, I beg to differ from him. I say that until the world becomes normal, the methods we employed before the war will not avail us now. The world is neurotic, disorganized, and chaotic, and no one can say when those stable demands which regulate supply and the price of goods will be restored. As I see it, a Pool is wanted as much to-day as in 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1918.
At Elmore the Prime Minister, speaking during the last election, said -
The Pool must stay.
There we have two deliberate and consistent expressions by the Prime Minister, one before the Commonwealth election, and the other when’ a fresh election might be said to have been looming over his head. In sending a message to the Western Australian farmers just before the last Commonwealth election, he said -
The Government will welcome any effort on the part of the farmers to organize on cooperative lines, and will be prepared to assist them to the fullest extent of its powers in placing their products on the markets of the* world “without the intervention of the middleman, thus insuring to the producer the fullest possible return for his labours.
– 1 have no fault to find with that declaration.
– But while the honorable member sits behind the Prime Minister who sends that message, he is also at one with the Premier of South Aus- tralia in the hope that the whole system of dealing with wheat will revert to prewar channels. The Prime Minister wants to stand by some organization which will protect the interests of the producers, and also those of other sections of the community, but the honorable member for Wakefield seizes on the offer of 3s. per bushel as a drowning man seizes at a straw, because he and the Premier of his State are opposed to any. form of organization among the farmers, and hope that all the tit-bits of the business will revert once more to the hands of middlemen.
– I have already told the honorable member whatI thought of the trash that is talked about middlemen.
– The gentlemen who are truly representative of the farmers of South Australia, and attended a Commonwealth conference of farmers which waited in a deputation on the Prime Minister, were the most insistent of all that something should be done. “ For God’s sake,” they said, “let us press for this; otherwise South Australian wheatgrowers will be down and out.” Already there is cross-bidding in that State.
– I wish you could show me those men.
– Other honorable members in the Chamber can confirm what I am saying.It was those gentlemen who were not truly representative of the farmers of South Australia who waited on the Prime Minister two days before the last general election. There had been a little split, and these gentlemen had formed themselves into a body which, under the title of The Farmers’ Committee, was closely allied with the middlemen. Possibly they got more out of the agency side of their interests’ than they did out of wheat-farming. At any rate, they put certain pre-election questions to the Prime Minister; and, although his first answer seemed to be reasonable, they pressed him further, until he came to the conclusion that there must be no compulsory Pool.
– And a very wise conclusion, too.
-But the Prime Minister now asks, “What do the farmers want?” What is known as the McGibbon scheme, which was drawn up in 1917, before the war ended, and was duly rati fied by the fanners’ organizations in all the States, provided for the continuance of a Pool for all time; and a memorial was presented to the Prime Minister asking for Commonwealth assistance in’ the provision of just that little piece of machinery the honorable member for Wakefield has referred to in connexion with the disposal of Australia’s wool clip, to enable those who were holding wheat in the Pool on behalf of the growers to have the right to mortgage it or sell it. The financing of the scheme could have been arranged for, because wheat as a commodity is as good as gold. About the time this scheme was put forward the Prime Minister said, “ Let the farmers organize. I can bring three men in from the Labour movement who will speak for the whole of Labour throughout Australia.” The farmers did organize, and about the 4th February, 1920, the right honorable gentleman acknowledged that this had been done. He said that the farmers of Australia had accomplished what had never been done previously in the world’s history - they had all been brought to believe in one thing at the same time. He congratulated them. The Conference of farmers’ representatives from all the States were at that time pressing for. the adoption of their comprehensive scheme, which provided, incidentally, that the consumers would not be called upon to pay more than the world’s parity for their wheat, and that if the Government advanced any money to finance the Pool, they were to have representation on the Board controlling it. This was a complete, organized scheme, the efficiency of which the Prime Minister acknowledged.
– As he should have done..
– But the Prime Minister can give a very definite opinion when he cares to do so. Speaking in regard to the wool business, he said -
If the pastoral industry sinks, all else sinks with it. . . . What will be the position if the market breaks completely and wool is unsaleable? The banks, of course, will lend money on wool only so long as it has value, just as they lent us money for advances to the wheat-growers when we had fixed the value of the wheat. I wish the House and the country to understand that they are confronted with a position which has in it potential elements of the greatest danger to every section in the community. … If I am convinced that there is a likelihood of disaster to this country, any action by the Government is justified.
The Prime Minister, according to his own statement, has now come to the same conclusion about wheat. He says that “ the Pool must stay.” He believed that the system was necessary in 1916-17- 1S, and 19, and that chaos would have resulted, if it had not been given effect to. At Bendigo the other day he made, some reference to the farmers speaking with, two voices, and asked what it was they really wanted. I intend to show that it is the Prime Minister who is speaking with two voices. This is what he said to a very representative deputation of farmers’ organizations on 4th February of last year -
He had to express his pleasure at their coming to see him. He congratulated them first of all on the clear and unmistakable evidence of the result of their labours, which were seen in the report of the Conference which they had gathered together from the various States, and which appeared to be the most representative gathering of wheat-growers held in the history of the Commonwealth. He must congratulate them on a thing which had never been accomplished in the history of man - of having got all the farmers of one mind at one time on the same subject. That seemed to corroborate those very many optimistic observations that had been made during the war and since, that mankind was about to enter into a new world. The old farmer was now fitting into that evidently, and he congratulated them on a factor of vital importance to the success of agriculture in this modern world, the advantages of unity, and, indeed, the necessity of co-operation.
Nevertheless, after speaking for two and a half columns in that strain, he refused the request. He drew out of his pocket a document containing the interview which he had two clays prior to the last election with the South Australian Farmers Committee, to which I have already referred; and said he would like to inform the deputation of his promise to that committee. . I t want, however, to emphasize the fact that this Farmers. Committee was merely an association of a few disgruntled individuals, who, possibly, had some assistance from the honorable member for Wakefield. This is what the Prime Minister said -
On this question of policy I would like to inform you that in November the South Australian Farmers Committee submitted several questions to me with the object of ascertaining the Government’s intentions in regard to the future handling of wheat. I will read those questions and the replies I gave. They are as follow, and were published in the daily press of 26th November: -
Do you propose that the future Wheat Pool will be under Government control, by Boards on which producers will have representation, or under the direct control of farmers’ co-operative societies, on the basis of what is known as the McGibbon scheme?
Answer. - As the farmers wish. The Government will only act as, and to the extent to which, the farmers desire.
If that had been the position, the farmers’ representatives would not have been put to the expense of assembling from one end of Australia to the other in order to place before him their views as to the disposal of their produce. The second question, said the Prime Minister, was as follows : -
Answer - The Pool would be voluntary.
The farmers wish it otherwise, but the Prime Minister will not have it thus. Another question was -
The reply of the Prime Minister to this question was the same as that given to the previous question - “ The Pool would bc voluntary.”
Ultimately, the Prime Minister refused the request of the deputation, which he himself admitted was the most representative he had ever known in the history of Australia. The farmers, so far from speaking with two voices, have been extremely definite and of one mind on this issue, but owing to the vacillation of the Prime Minister’ and the attitude of certain State Premiers fighting on political grounds, they are not to be allowed to organize their own business in the way they desire. I agree with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster). There seems to be a certain amount of sincerity in the amendment submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), but it, too, indicates political action. Honorable members opposite speak of “ our “ wheat.
I do not hear honorable members on the Ministerial side of the House, or even in this corner, speak of “ our “ labour. The Leader of the Opposition in the Western Australian Parliament wanted a Pool, but healso wanted representation on the governing body of the Pool. I do nob think that my honorable friends opposite would agree to my having any representation on the Trades Hall Council. There is an objection to the Pool proposed to be established in New South Wales as compared with the Western Australian Pool. The former Pool is not of the kind asked for by the farmers. I want that to be clearly understood.
– The farmers will get a better deal under that Pool than under any other Pool in Australia.
– The offer by the New South Wales Government to establish a Pool was political, pure and simple.
– The farmers were guaranteed 7s. 6d. per bushel for their wheat under State control, at all events.
– The offer by the New South Wales Labour Government was made prior to an election. As a representative of the farmers, and as one of the biggest farmers in my own State at all events, I have watched these developments from the beginning. We think we are entitled to organize this business of ours, and endeavour, if possible, to eliminate unnecessary charges in the handling of our wheat, the profits of the middleman, or in the matter of getting more direct communication with the world’s markets and the consumers in Australia. We do not want undue interference from any other political party in the Commonwealth. We feel that it is our perfect right to organize for the disposal of our produce just the same as representatives of Labour, through their Trades Hall unions, have organized labour, their commodity, in order ‘that it may be adequately protected. We are engaged in the very laudable occupation of growing wheat, and, therefore, have a perfect right to organize. People talk about compulsion. As a producer, I am compelled by the Tariff to pay more for the commodities I require than Iwould otherwise have to pay. The Tariff is compulsory protection for the manufacturers of the Commonwealth. As farmers, we are merely asking for the necessary legislation to give us statutory power to form a Pool. We are not asking for this authority in any arbitrary way. If we agree to the proposal by a reasonable majority we feel that we are entitled to approach the Government and ask for the necessary power to give effect to our wishes. The scheme will injure nobody, and party politics should not be introduced in any way. It cannot be denied, however, that the whole proposal has been dragged through the mud. In February last the Prime Minister asked for the necessary safeguards in respect of the interests of the consumers in Australia, and these having been provided, there should be no objection now to the proposal. We ask for world’s parity for our wheat, and world’s parity will give wheat to the Australian consumer at a cheaper rate than to the London buyer. The present stocks of wheat were sold by the farmers in February last, and therefore the wheat belongs to the Governments of the States. The farmers made a generous deal, because the wheat was sold at 9s., when the world’s parity was 10s. 6d. f.o.b. They also made a most generous deal last year. Therefore, if people complain that bread is too dear because the price of wheat is too high, then the whole of the community, not the farmers alone, should stand the loss if bread is to be made cheaper. The honorable member for Wakefield pointed out that Australia grows only about 3 per cent. of the world’s wheat. It is a little less than that.One English buyer could purchase the whole of our wheat crop in one deal if necessary. Do honorable members opposite suggest that the farmer citizens of the Commonwealth should refuse a deal? Is it not the duty of the Government to name the quantity of wheat likely to be required for home consumption and seed, and permit of the disposal of the balance? Do they think it ought to be held compulsorily in the country without payment to those who grow it?
– Well, that is the way the position has been presented in some quarters. We are prepared to put last year’s wheat under review as to price, and do the same with this year’s crop, and level the position up. I am satisfied that, if this is done, the farmer will come out on top.
– How much wheat have you planted yourself?
– A very considerable quantity; make no mistake about that. I am unable to see how the proposals made by the Prime Minister can be acceptable or applicable to the various State requirements under existing conditions. I hope they can be, because let not honorable members think that a guarantee means the taking of something out of the pockets of the people. The whole history of the Wheat Pools shows that the citizens of the Commonwealth have lost nothing by the. transactions.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) was speaking the other day about what the Labour Government had done for the farmers in Western Australia. They certainly appointed what was known as the Industries Assistance Board, which made advances to farmers to tide them over the effects of the drought of 1914. Many of the farmers were in arrears in respect of their land rents, and the amounts so owing were deducted from the advances made. The farmers paid off the money so received by them, plus 6 per cent. interest. In connexion with the wheat depression in 1914, in Western -Australia the State Government, to which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie referred, passed legislation compulsorily appropriating the farmers’ wheat at 6s. 8d. per bushel. The supply so obtained was insufficient to satisfy local requiretnents, and the Government obtained consignments from the Argentine, for which it had to pay 12s. 4d. a bushel. Wheat grown that year on my own farm, which had cost me £3 10s. a bushel, was appropriated by the State Government at 6s. 8d. per bushel. The consumers, being in a majority, the Scaddan Government - which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie supported - compelled me and my fellow farmers to sell our wheat at 6s. 8d per bushel.
– Did the honorable member want £3 10s. a bushel for his wheat?
– No; but I think I was entitled to receive as much per bushel as was paid the farmers of the Argentine.
Assistance of the type afforded by the Scadden Government was not of much help.
– Does the honorable member want the world’s price for his. wheat under all conditions?
– For years before the compulsory pooling system we had to accept the world’s parity. Even under the compulsory pooling system Australian citizens obtained their wheat at something like 60 per cent. below the cost of wheat to the people of other countries.
– But does the honorable member want the world’s price for his wheat under any conditions?
– I want the world’s parity, not the world’s price, which is something altogether different.
– The honorable member wants the world’s parity under any. conditions ?
– I should think so. The honorable member, perhaps, thinks that although my stock of wheat in 1914 had cost me £3 10s. per bushel, it was my duty to give it to the people at 6s. 8d. per bushel. I take the view that it was the responsibility of the State to pay me the world’s parity for that wheat, and to distribute it to the people who wanted it. That was the more statesmanlike policy adopted under similar circumstances in England. The British Government gave the farmer the proper price for his wheat. It recognised that there was no reason why the farmer should be specially selected to feed the people. It therefore paid the wheat farmer the proper price for his wheat, and then gave it to those who needed it. That was a sensible thing to do. It is all very well to hold socialistic views and to pass legislation which will cast on the shoulders of others the cost of giving effect to them.
-Does the honorable member agree with the amendment ?
– I do not. I am conscious of the fact that the Commonwealth Government itself cannot force a compulsory Pool on the people.
– The amendment does not ask for that. It merely asks the Government to get in touch with the Governments of the States.
– We have repeatedly asked the Commonwealth Government to do that, but it is now too late. I blame the Prime Minister, who, now that it is too late, appears to be so much iu earnest, for not taking advantage of the opportunities that offered some time ago, when he was told that the farmers were properly organized. He must be glad to have the support of a few honorable members who, like the honorable member for Wakefield, say that the farmers do not want a compulsory Pool. I am sure that any one of us would be delighted to be returned at the next general election by from 86 per cent. - to 90 per cent, of our constituents. We should regard such a vote as a very solid one in our favour. When a plebiscite of the wheat farmers of New South Wales and Victoria was taken, 86 per cent, of them voted in favour of some form of pooling. The Government of Western Australia were satisfied that at least 96 per cent, of the farmers of that State would favour compulsory pooling, and they therefore said, “ We will not put the country to the expense of taking a plebiscite, but will at once pass legislation giving the farmers what they desire.” What we want is coordination on the part of the States. As the Prime Minister has said, we want one selling and chartering agency. He was told that years ago, and has been reminded of it from time to time. The proposal he has now brought forward may be of some help. I hope that it will be, but I am not in a position to say how far it will fit in with the State schemes. The States should have an opportunity to express an opinion on the point. If this proposal will fit in with the State arrangements, advantage should be taken of it. I hope Australia will have the wisdom to continue Pools in some form or other, so as to protect the farmers and the country as a whole.
.- I rise to support the amendment which has been moved by the Deputy Leader of my party (Mr. Charlton). I favour it because it is designed to bring about if possible a conference between the State Premiers and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) with the object of obtaining a compulsory Pool, so that there may be co-ordination in the buying and selling of this season’s wheat crop. I make no apology for my advocacy of a compulsory Pool. Our party, I am thankful to say, has consistently advocated such a policy.’ I travelled through my electorate in connexion with the last South Australian State elections, and did not seek in any way to conceal my views on this subject. The Labour party promised the farmers, on that occasion, that if returned to power they would give them an opportunity, by means of a referendum, to say whether or not they desired a compulsory Pool. I advised the farmers on all sides, if the opportunity offered, to vote for a compulsory Pool. One of the principal reasons why, in my opinion, there should be a compulsory Pool is that it is for the special benefit of the smaller farmer. The smaller farmer, and particularly the pioneer farmer, in the newer districts is usually the “first to sei] his wheat. He. bas to realize quickly, whereas under the old system the well-established farmer in many cases can hold on for the better prices that generally come later on in the season. The compulsory pooling system places all farmers on the one footing, and, to a certain extent, enables the wellestablished man to help the man who has just s’tarted operations.
During the last South Australian State election campaign I predicted a wheat glut: That was in March last, and my prediction has come true. I pointed out that when more thai! normal prices are offering for any commodity, a glut always occurs, and I was afraid that in due course a wheat glut would be upon us. I said then, and say now, that the worst period for a producer of any commodity to be thrown on the mercy of middlemen is during a ‘time of glut* A third reason I gave for my advocacy of the continuance of the compulsory pooling system was that we had had several years’ experience of it and that the farmers of the country had had to -pay dearly for that experience.. It seemed to me to be a pity that the experience which had been so dearly bought should be thrown overboard, when further advantage might well be obtained from it by a continuation of the compulsory Pool.
Although I am. going to support the amendment, it must not be assumed that I intend to reject in any way the offer that has been made by the Government. We may well ask why this proposal has been brought before the House to-day. The State Governments of Western Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria have made their own arrangements, and as Queensland and Tasmania cannot claim to be wheat-producing States, the only wheat-producing State remaining to be dealt with is South Australia, of which I am a representative. Unfortunately for the farmers of that- State, a Liberal Government is in power, and we have no hope of obtaining from it a compulsory pooling scheme; but in this offer of the Commonwealth Government I see a slight chance of realizing the efforts which have been made for some time to bring about a voluntary Pool, apart altogether from the State Government. Like the honorable member for Swan, I feel, however, that this offer is rather belated.
– There is a rumour that a meeting of Nationalist wheatgrowers was held during the week, and that the course now proposed by the Government was decided upon at that meeting.
– I was going to suggest that something of the sort must have occurred. I have here a paragraph from one of our newspapers, covering a question which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) put only last week to the Prime Minister regarding the wheat situation. Looking at that question’ and the answer which the right honorable gentleman gave to it, I find it difficult to account for the change that has come about iu the attitude of the. Prime Minister within such a- short time. The paragraph reads -
Mr. Prowse ‘ (Western Australia) asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in the House of Representatives yesterday if he was aware of the critical position which was threatened in Australia owing to the promiscuous and uncoordinated sale of wheat, and if he had any suggestions to make to the House to deal with the situation.
Mr. Hughes said that he understood that Wester.n Australia had’ passed, or was passing, legislation to deal with this matter. In Victoria the people had been given an opportunity, and had expressed an opinion. In New South Wales the Government was in favour of doing something.
– The States are all selling against one another.
Mr. Hughes said that he would have to refer Mr. Prowse to the Constitution of the Commonwealth.
That is the class of answer we often receive to questions addressed by us to - Ministers.
– Was that a question on notice?
– I do not know, but I take more notice of answers given by Ministers to questions without notice than to the answers usually supplied to questions on notice. In replies to questions without notice, there is not that covering up that is usually a feature of replies to questions on notice. A week ago there was an exhibition of side stepping, when the honorable member’s question was put. And now comes the announcement of the * Commonwealth offer to pay 3s. per bushel at railway sidings. I ask myself, why this offer? My first thought is that the Prime Minister is contesting a district in which there are some farmer electors, that re-distribution of the electorates is in sight, and that there is a probability of the extension of the boundaries of the electorate which the Prime Minister represents, so that there may be more farmer constituents. Honorable members will say, perhaps, that my insinuation is ungenerous ; but one is justified in expressing such thoughts in respect of the Prime Minister. Having advanced the personal reason I shall proceed to discuss a second reason, which I shall describe as the party reason. I do not deny that ‘my speech is a party one. Indeed, I believe that this whole business is a party move, and if I can unmask it I shall be justified in so doing. The movement inside the Nationalist party, which has produced this offer of the Government, is the result, not only of the Prim© Minister’s personal inclinations with regard to his constituency, but is due to the pressure of some of the South Australian Nationalist members of this Legislature. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) remarked that the South Australian Premier (Mr. Barwell) has stood firm. He has been true to his own class - the big middlemen and the financial magnates of that State. But it has been found’ that even in South Australia the hostility to Wheat Pools is not as popular as was originally believed. It has been discovered that there is a body of South Australian farmers who are disgusted with the present situation. Therefore an effort is being made to placate this section. The State Premier has placated his city supporters, and now the intention of the South Australian Nationalist members in the Federal Parliament is to placate the small farmer.
– Does the honorable member think that they should be considered at all?
– I do, and I hold that it is the duty of the South Australian Government to consider them and not to take sole heed of the interests of the middlemen merchants. There is also a c third reason. I am not going to try to say what is the wheat position throughout the world to-day. But there are vast possibilities. What would be the position if, owing to the variety of the schemes launched by and the disunited efforts of the wheat-growing States, chaos should overwhelm Australian producers ? This Government would be able to remind the ruined farmers of the scheme which they had put before them. The Prime Minister would be able to say, ‘ ‘ We did this : the blame is not on our shoulders.” Why should there have been this delay in making the announcement of the Common - wealth. Government’s intentions ? It need not have mattered whether the Prime Minister was in London or elsewhere. It was the duty of the Government, as a Government, to grapple with the difficult position, and not to shirk their responsibilities by awaiting his return. No Government should be a Government of one man.
– Is the honorable member adopting the attitude that the Federal Government should coerce the States ?
– I know that it is not within the power of the Government to do so; but I believe that the Government could and should have made every effort to bring all the States into line so that the Wheat Pool scheme might have been carried on, instead of allowing the matter to drift. But was the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) in sympathy with the principle of compulsory Pools ? I know that he was not, and is not. I know, at the same time, that the Prime Minister favours the principle. What was the cause of the delay which took place pending the return of the Prime Minister? The Treasurer, .while he was Acting Prime Minister, did nothing. He was and is opposed to compulsory Pools.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– I know it, because of various statements which the Treasurer has made in this House. While I may not be able at the moment to put my finger upon any specific assertion of the kind, I have a strong impression that the Treasurer is opposed, by his very make-up, to the principle of compulsory Pools. I repeat that the Prime Minister favours the principle, while the Treasurer opposes it.
– Rubbish !
– I now desire to advance my fourth reason. I have mentioned the personal, the party, and the governmental reasons. My fourth is a general reason.
Time allowed for the debate extended to h. p.m.
– My fourth and general reason is this : The New South Wales Labour Government have been first in the field to bring about a compulsory Pool, and that has had the effect of spurring on the Commonwealth Government. Members of the Ministry did not wish New South Wales Federal legislators to be able to say that the State Government had brought about a compulsory Pool while the Commonwealth Government, despite their greater powers, had failed to do anything.
With respect to the feeling in South Australia upon the continuance of the Wheat Pool scheme, it has been stated that the farmers in that State do not favour it. The assertion has been based upon the outcome of the last general election. The main reasons influencing that election may be set forth thus : The South Australian Labour newspaper took up the attitude that the Premier had said that “wages must come down.” That phrase was used as a war-cry throughout the election campaign. The Labour journal reported that Mr. Barwell had said, in a sense, that he would help to bring wages down. The effect was that the vote of the people in the country districts, who had been “ doped “ by the capitalistic press, with the allegation that high wages were the chief cause of the high cost of living, cast their votes in the direction which they thought would have the effect of reducing wages ‘ and so bring down the cost of living. There happened also in South Australia to be a split in the coalition, and this will be imitated in the Federal arena. There were three parties in that State: The Nationalists and the Liberals separated. Voting was not conducted upon the preferential system,, and there were Liberals, Nationalists, and Labour candidates in the field.
The Liberals thought they would be defeated in the metropolitan area because of the splitting of votes. They therefore organized the country districts so effectively that, in some parts, there was an SO per cent. poll. Liberal voters in the country rallied to the standard of their party in order to off-set the expected failure in the city areas. They were glad to be free of the Nationalists, and the day was carried by the Liberal party.
– How did South Australian legislators vote in Parliament on the question of the Wheat Pool?
– Several efforts have been made in the State House to bring about a Wheat Pool; but, when a vote was taken, representatives of the Country party joined forces with Labour members in support of the proposal. But the true feeling of the farmers with respect to the continuance of the Pool could be gauged by the result of the campaign in the farming electorate of Albert. This district was the only one where the Country party fully opposed the Liberals, and therefore, made the pooling system an issue. Two candidates were nominated by each of the three parties; two who were elected were the nominees of the Farmers and Settlers organization. The honorable member for Wakefield stated that there had been disappointment concerning the Wheat Pools during the war period. But if there had been no Pools there would have been something more than disappointment in Australia. And as for any disappointment which may be felt this year if there should be a Pool, the disappointment will not be that of the grower of wheat, but of the middleman exploiter. The honorable member for Wakefield took the stand that while the world was in a state of war a Wheat Pool was necessary, but that now that normal times have returned there is no such need. The suggestion is that that which proved essential in the period of stress is neither necessary nor serviceable in ordinary times. I say that that which served Australia during the years of storm and strife can serve even better in days of peace. I intend to support the amendment. I sincerely trust that , its acceptance will have the effect of bringing about a conference between the parties concerned and eventually providing an effective method of co-ordination.
.- The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) dealt with the wheat question at great length from his own stand-point; but I feel sure that practically the whole of the trouble has been created by the action of the State he represents, South Australia. He told us that the meat, butter, and fruit industries and markets could be stabilized, but sat down without any further reference to that phase of the subject.
– I said there was a movement on foot.
– I am glad to know that, and I wish the movement every success. In my opinion the only means of stabilizing the meat market is to give the “sharks” the 100,000 tons of fiveyearold meat in the refrigerating chambers of the world to-day.
– It is nearly all gone.
– I am glad to hear that. However, as I was saying, South Australia is very largely to blame for the present condition of affairs, and I feel’ sure that it is some influence brought to bear by that State that has caused the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to suggest this guarantee of 3s. per bushel on wheat. Personally I am opposed to guarantees. I do not think it is the province of the Government to give guarantees to any particular section of the community.
– You were not against guarantees to the fruit-growers last year!
– I have always been against guarantees.
– You never said so.
– But I think that the Government should give financial assistance to any body of farmers of this kind.
– What is that but a guarantee?
– I shall tell the honorable member’ what is the difference. When we met the Prime Minister six months ago we did not ask for a guarantee, but for an advance of half the value of the wheat as a first payment. Such an advance is absolutely necessary, but it is not a guarantee.
– What is it?
– It is financial assistance. It is all very well for honorable members to laugh, but the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) told us to-day that the New
South Wales Government are advancing something like 7s. 6d. per bushel; and I think it probable that the taxpayers of New South Wales will have to make up one or two pence per bushel. That sort of thing should not occur, but it must occur in the case of a guarantee. I do not think that the producers desire a guarantee, but, rather, financial assistance until they can get their wheat out of the country.
– What is the difference between a 3s. guarantee at the present time and financial assistance?
– I admit that the 3s. guarantee is financial assistance, but we have had guarantees on several occasions which probably have cost the consumers much money. Financial assistance is necessary because we cannot ship the whole of our exportable surplus of wheat under any circumstances, within eight months.
– We never do in normal times.
– The honorable member who interjects made very little of the 130,000,000 bushels of wheat that is grown in Australia, saying that it was only 3 per cent, of the world’s supply. But does not the Australian production affect the markets of the world?
– A little, not much.
– We produce 10 per cent, of the exportable wheat of the world, and, together with the Argentine, 20 per cent. I say that 10 per cent, of the production must have a very big effect on the markets of the world ; at any rate, if it is only a “ drop in the bucket “ it is the whole “ bucket “ to Australia, and means much money to us. The honorable member decries the Pools, and I dare say that to-morrow, as a result of his remarks, scrip will fall in value. If he will look at the position of the scrip, he will see that the management of South Australia has been exceedingly bad, whereas that of Victoria has been exceedingly good. I thought, until quite recently, that a compulsory Pool was necessary, but only for another year, until things become normal. We produced 139,000,000 bushels of wheat, worth £45,000,000, last year, and the recent decline in price will mean a loss of £10,000,000 to the farmers of Australia.
– What nonsense to talk like that I Everybody expected it!
– I ask to be allowed to make my own speech. I do not blame the pooling system for reducing the price by £10,000,000, because we expected prices to return to something like normal, which, practically, they are to-day. But during the last seven or eight months, how many buyers of wheat have there been in the world? Only five, and all those five are Governments, just as was the case during the war period.
– What Governments are the buyers?
– The Governments of Germany, France, Italy, Egypt, and Great Britain.
– All Governments buy through agencies.
– I challenge the honorable member to point to any buyer outside a Government ; yet he says it is right for the Government of this country to hand over £45,000,000 to five firms to sell our wheat to five Governments. I think a great mistake was made in not continuing the compulsory Pool for one year. The Government should have asked the State Governments to continue it for that period, and then drop it. That, however, has not been done, and the position now is that every State Government, except that of South Australia, has taken some steps to carry out the marketing of their wheat.
I am sorry to say that the announcement of the Prime Minister is, in my opinion, too late to be of any service to the individual States. New South Wales has already undertaken a compulsory Pool. The Prime Minister stated definitely the other day, in answer to an honorable member opposite, that this guarantee will not apply to New South Wales, except under certain conditions. New South Wales, however, has entered into an arrangement with Dalgety and Company for finding the necessary money to carry out the pooling system, and the whole of their charters are to be effected through that firm. Here we have a Government committed to a certain channel for the whole of their operations; and in Victoria we see practically the same thing. In this latter State arrangements have been made with the banks, and vessels have been chartered to carry the produce to the other side of the world. In Western Australia, arrangements similar to those in New South Wales have been made, and I have no doubt that certain guarantees will have to be given by the compulsory Pool of Western Australia before the 3s. guarantee of the Prime Minister will obtain. As I said, I am afraid that the right honorable gentleman’s statement today is too late, in view of arrangements, and contracts made by the various States.
– When ?
– We see that in New South Wales Dalgety and Company are to be the charterers and to’ find the money.
– When were those arrangements entered into?
– I understand that arrangements have already been entered into and certain charters effected, and I am afraid the Prime Minister’s announcement is too late to be availed of. I hope, however, that the co-ordination of the States will be brought about by the” suggestions of the right honorable gentleman. The different corporations in the States will be able to come together and frame some such system as he has spoken of, whereby we can have one selling, and one chartering agency. That, however, seems almost blocked by the action of the New South Wales Government in allocating the whole of their chartering to one firm.
– Do you say that Dalgetys are finding the money?
– I say that Dalgety and Company are acting on behalf of somebody. The honorable member for Wakefield referred to private enterprise in the marketing of our wheat, and obtaining payment straight away; but that applies under the present pooling system. After hearing the statement of the honorable gentleman to-day, I feel quite sure that he has sold his scrip.
– I have not; I never will sell it, whatever I lose, and the reason is that I am a Federal member.
– I may say that I have adopted the same attitude; but I repeat that, as a result of the speech of the honorable member to-day, there will be some sales effected to-morrow. However, notwithstanding the remarks of the honorable member, I feel sure that the wheat arrangement in Victoria is going to be a pronounced success.
– I hope they will all be a success.
– I hope so, too. The honorable member said that only 50 per cent. of the wheat would come under the arrangement in Victoria; but after six weeks’ operations, and before the Bill has passed the State House, one-third of the exportable wheat has been contracted for.
– That is almost impossible. I hope the honorable member has some authority for that statement.
– We export from Victoria 39,000,000 bushels, and there haye been contracts entered into regarding 13,000,000 bushels.
– Wait until the finish, and then you will see.
– I am sure the farmers will stand behind the Pool and put their’ wheat into it. The honorable member for Wakefield said that if there were a Pool in South Australia he would not put his wheat into it.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– If the honorable member is going to ask the farmers to stand out of the Pool, and to sell their wheat to outside organizations, he is throwing cold water on the whole system that the Prime Minister is trying to introduce. He wants the money to be advanced to farmers’ organizations, and yet he tells members of this House that he will notput wheat into those organizations.
– I repeat that I never said any such thing.
– I appeal to honorable members of this House to decide whether I misconstrued any of the statements made by the honorable member. He said that he would put his wheat into the place where he would get the most for it.
– So I did. That is a totally different statement.
– When the honorable member champions a scheme of this kind, the least he can do is to stand behind it.
.- As far as one can understand the objections, if there be any, that have been raised to this scheme, they are that it lacks the element of compulsion.; that it comes too late, and that it must, for one or other, or both, of these reasons, fail. As to compulsion, I must remind the House that this Government, as is perfectly well known, declared its policy last season. It stated that it could not of itself impose restrictions on the export of wheat, but that it would join in with the States if they did so. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) asked me in the course of this debate if that promise still stood, and I said it did, but that we could not impose compulsion. Regarding the complaint that the scheme comes too late, may I, with all respect - because the clouds that covered the horizon yesterday have disappeared - remind the House that if there has been any delay, the responsibility for it rests entirely with the members of the Country party? For a fortnight they have prevented me from saying one word about anything except their motion for the amendment of the Estimates. I took the earliest possible opportunity after the division to make the announcement. The division was taken at half-past 6, and immediately upon the resumption of the sitting at 8 o’clock I made a statement to the House setting out what the Government was prepared to do. If the no-confidence debate had finished ten days or fourteen days ago the statement would have been made dien. It was quite ready to be made then. “Whatever blame attaches to any one for delay does not rest upon my shoulders, but rests upon those who were responsible for the discussion which took place in the interval. As a matter of fact, I do not think that the scheme is too late. It is perfectly true that the wheat-growing States, with the- exception of South Australia, are making, or have made, other arrangements, but on whose behalf are they making those arrangements? On behalf of the farmers, of course. If it were not for the farmers, not one of the States would have attempted to make the arrangements. They did it, I am sure, to help the farmers. It is generally agreed in this House - and I think the farmers are all of the same opinion - that unless there is coordination the full benefit of a Pool cannot be realized. I think that goes with- out saying. Suppose that in the State of South Australia there is no Pool of any kind. The wheat grown there must find a market somewhere. If it is not pooled it- is offered in competition with the wheat from Victoria, New South Wales, and Western Australia. Not being regulated wheat, it is, of course, subject to the law of supply and demand, or, in other words, to those who are prepared’ to find the cash in the hope of profit. That is business. Nobody buys a thing for the sake of making a lo3S, but to make a profit. Because no man is able to say what wheat will be worth next February, March, or June, he must buy it at the price which will allow sufficient margin bo warrant the transaction. I am offering a way by which all the States can come in. I do not agree that the State of New South Wales cannot accept this proposal. It is to be clearly understood that our guarantee is not an additional 3s. superimposed upon anything that the State of New South Wales may be providing. It is a guarantee of 3s. to the farmer, and we are not offering the money to anybody else. If the f armer is already provided with a sufficiently large advance by the State, then, naturally, our advance is not available.
– What about the State of Victoria? Victoria has guaranteed 4s. a bushel.
– The Victorian guarantee is 4s. f.o.b. The State of Victoria is offering 4d. more than the Commonwealth is offering. I do not think that’ any one would say that a difference of 4d. could not easily be adjusted between the State and the Commonwealth. The States could agree to attend to that detail. Our guarantee could be applied, and the State would then be liable for 4d., and the Commonwealth for 3s. I contend that the arrangement I have offered is better for the Government of New Sonth Wales and for the farmers of New South Wales than that which the Government of New South Wales have entered into. I put the proposal forward with all submission. It is not for me to force my opinion on the Premier of any State. The States have sovereign rights, and can do as they please. Not one of the States can say that my scheme interferes with their proposal, nor can any farmer say that it limits his liberty, for he is still free to do as he pleases. I say to the farmers that, in my opinion, it will be well for them to put their wheat in the Pool. While saying that, I, of course, allow every farmer the right to do as he pleases. I hope honorable members and my fellow citizens generally will understand that this arrangement has no application to local supplies, which must find their own level. It is intended to regulate them, probably, by world’s parity, hut whatever price is charged for local supplies, the Commonwealth will have nothing to do with it. The proposal I have made is concerned with export wheat only, and with export wheat inside a Pool. In these circumstances, I submit that the proposal put forward is a good one. I ask my honorable friends of the Country party to look at it without prejudice. It is right to have one selling agency and one chartering agency, and it certainly cannot be good business for the States to compete one against another in buying freight or selling wheat oversea. If the representatives of the States and of the farmers will meet together and ascertain whether it is possible to come to an agreement, then we shallbe able, very much, I think, to the advantage of the Commonwealth and of every citizen in it, to make arrangements which will be satisfactory to all. I shall have an opportunity of seeing the Premiers on Monday next. It must be remembered that although my honorable friends in the corneT have taken upon themselves the responsibility of speaking for the farmers, farmers’ representatives are to be found in every party. Although I do not look like it, I am a farmers’ representative myself. There is a large amount of wheat grown in my electorate - probably enough to cover any other honorable member’s electorate some fathoms deep !
– One bushel to the acre!
-However, I shall not boast. May I suggest that farmers’ representatives belonging to all parties in this House should do what they can to induce representatives of co-operative societies and of other farmers’ organizations to come to Melbourne immediately, while the State Premiers are here. No thing but good can come of such a visit. No one will be any worse off except for the loss of time. I shall be very glad to meet the farmers as well as the Premiers ; and I shall use my good offices with the Premiers to meet them and the farmers at the same time. I do not know what the Premiers will do, hut nothing but good can come of such a meeting.
– There is scarcely time for duly-organized farmers to appoint representatives. I take it that you would only deal with duly-elected representatives of organized farmers, and they could not get here early enough.
– If that is so, then all I have to say is that the organizations to which the honorable member is referring are not much to boast of. If I asked my honorable friends on the Opposition side of the House to appoint a representative, and to get him to attend in Melbourne on Monday, that representative would be here if the subject was of interest to them. I take it that the honorable member is speaking of organizations at a distance.
– Yes; and the representatives would have to be elected.
– I thought that every honorable member in the Country party claimed to be a duly-elected representative of the farmers.
– I claim to be nothing of the kind.
– I have put the proposal forward, and have asked the farmers of Australia to look into it. If they have any opinions to offer, I hope they will not hesitate to let me hear them. The Government has done all that it can do. For the delay it is not responsible - to that charge honorable members in the corner must reply. As to the complaint of lack of compulsion, I say nothing, except that the Government cannot agree to apply compulsion. This scheme has much to commend it, and it will insure the essentials of a successful Pool, namely, co-ordination and unified control.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Charlton’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Orderof Business - Daysof Sitting - Anti-dumping Legislation - War Service Homes.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The Government propose to continue and finish the Senate’s requested amendments to the Tariff next week. We shall then ask the House to resume the discussion of the Works and Buildings Estimates. At’ the earliest moment after the House has disposed of its other business, the Government will bring down the Constitution Convention Bill. Of course, it is not for me to tell the House what it should do, but I draw the attention of honorable members, to the fact that we are now in the last days of
October, and that it is usual to adjourn or prorogue before Christmas. If we continue to proceed at the rate at which we have been proceeding, it is very evident that we shall not be able to follow the usual course. But no doubt honorable members will respond to thegreat demand for the despatch of business, and there will be no necessity for me to ask the House, what otherwise it would be my painful duty to ask, to meet on Tuesdays, and if necessary on Mondays, too. I am the last to suggest such a course, and I feel quite sure that, having made this interesting announcement, nothing more need be said. The order of business next week is to dispose of the Tariff, proceed with the Works and Buildings Estimates, then with the General Estimates, and later with the Constitution Convention Bill. There may be other minor measures to be introduced, but they are not of great importance. I shall consult honorable members in regard to them, and shall be guided to a large extent by what they say as to whether we shall proceed with them, or not.
– I am sorry to hear the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that the further consideration of the Senate’s requested amendments , to the Tariff are to take precedence over the Works and Buildings Estimates. Before the House agrees to that procedure, we should have some assurance that unemployment is not to be increased by men being put off the public works that are now being carried on because of the failure of this House to vote the funds until after the Tariff . is disposed of. It is quite possible that the consideration of the Tariff may take a couple of weeks. .
– If that should be so, we shall interpolate the Works and Buildings Estimates.
– We have made slow progress with the Senate’s requests in respect of the Tariff, and the big debates have yet to come.
I desire to direct attention to a soldier’s home in regard to which I have been unable to get any satisfaction up to the present moment. A house was built for the soldier on a piece of land which he owned, and to-day he is in a worse position than if the Department had done- nothing for him. Light rain fell in Sydney last week, and in a letter the applicant thus describes the effect on his house - 1 am still subject to a great deal of inconvenience by the existing condition of affairs. On Saturday night last, 22nd inst., the rain poured into the front bedroom owing to leaky state of roof, down the breakfast-room chimney, through the windows of the front bedroom, and down wall of back verandah. Two of the windows will, i am afraid, soon fall out altogether ; i refer to those in the bathroom and second bedroom; they present at present a wretched piece of workmanship. i am pestered by snails, slugs, and such like, owing to them having such easy access to the rooms through the openings between walls and box frames of windows, also through the skirting. Recently i had to block up a big hole that was left in the bathroom floor by tuc builder.
This soldier has over and over again for months past endeavoured to get the Commissioner to have the house completed in accordance with the conditions of the contract under which it was built. Every representation has failed to get anything done, and for that reason I bring the matter before the House. I will supply the Minister with particulars. The case is urgent, as the facts in the letter show.
.- I desire to know from the Prime Minister what is. to happen to the anti-dumping legislation that was promised’ in conjunction, with the Tariff. Such legislation is urgently needed, because dumping is taking place at the present time.
– I was not aware that it had not been passed.
– We were promised’ that this measure would immediately follow the passing of the Tariff.
– Very well; we shall bring it along.
.- When this session was resumed, some weeks ago, a compact was made- between honorable members regarding the days of sitting. Victorian members decided that if sufficient progress was not being made with the business they would fall in with the wishes of honorable members’ representing the more distant States, and sit on an extra day of the week. I trust that’ next week the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) will move that in future the House meet on Tues days, in order to give honorable members who represent distant States an opportunity of returning to their homes before Christmas. If we continue sitting till Christmas Eve, it will be impossible for honorable members residing in ‘ distant States to return to their homes before Christmas; and in these circumstances I trust we shall be given the consideration promised some time ago.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 October 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211028_reps_8_97/>.