8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Son. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following. Sills reported : -
Treaties of Washington Bill.
Statutory Declarations Bill
Motion (by Mr. Charlton) (by. leave) agreed to -
That leave of absence far one month be given to the honorable member for Galare (Mr. Lavelle), on the ground, of ill-health.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House kindly lay on the table- any reports^ that may have been received from the London Office regarding the transport of. fruit to England during, the present season from Australia and Tasmania?
– I shall be glad to make inquiries on the subject, and shall endeavour to comply with the honorable member’s wish.
-In view of the large increase of our imports and the further depreciation of foreign currencies, is it the intention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to introduce, at the earliest possible moment, a Bill to amend the Customs ‘ Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act?
– I have already intimated that it is the intention of the Government to introduce an amending Bill, and I hope to move in that direction this week.
– I ask the Minister representing . the Prime Minister if he is; aware that, owing’to the extraordinary conduct of Mr. Justice Powers, whose judgment and award in the case of the Australian Workers Union versus the Pastoralists Federal Council and others has completely dislocated the pastoral industry, there is chaos in that industry, and shearing is now two months in arrears. Will the Government give consideration to the effect . that the extraordinary, decision to which I have drawn attention is having on the pastoral industry, and take the steps necessary , to insure the granting of justice by the Court over which Mr. Justice Powers presides?
– I understand that the President of the Arbitration Court has made an award in the- case mentioned by the honorable member, and. I understand also that the honorable member, as president of the Australian Workers Union, incited the members of his. union not to obey that award.
– Quite right. I would not shear under- it myself.
– If there is any dislocation in the pastoral industry, it is entirely owing, to the action, which the honorable member and those associated with him. have taken.
– That is a. deliberate falsehood.
– I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the remark’ of the honorable member for Darling.
– I ask the honorable member for Darling to withdraw . what he has said; and, at the same time, I remind the honorable member that it is not in order to interject’ when an answer is being given to a question.
– The Minister’s statement that I am responsible for the whole of the trouble that has arisen is a totally wrong one.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw what he said.
– I withdraw the words “ wilful falsehood,” and substitute the statement that the Minister does not understand, and cannot appreciate, what has taken place.
– I was going to add that the honorable member’s annoyance appears to arise from the fact that the greater number of the members of his union are disobeying the orders that he has given, and have commenced to shear.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received Senator Bakhap’s report on his investigations in the East, and, if so, when will it be made available to honorable members?
– I received the report on Friday last, and shall lay it on the table to-morrow.
– Is the Treasurer aware that there is great delay at the Federal Office in Tasmania in refunding overpayments to the Treasury?
– I am not aware of the fact, but I shall look into the matter.
Requisitions to Treasury - Telephone Exchanges -General Post Office, Brisbane - Telephone Facilities: Telephone Cable Shortage
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Assuming that the questions refer to, new telegraph and telephone works, the information asked for ‘ is as follows : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he can state when the very necessary additions and alterations to the Brisbane General Post Office will be undertaken?
– It is proposed to provide space for automatic telephone equipment in the Brisbane General Post Office during the financial year 1923-24. The relative advantages of . remodelling or reconstruction of the General Post Office building to insure that any additional space provided will form part of a matured scheme is under consideration.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the increasing number of applications for the installation of telephones in Geelong, and the fact that shortage of cable is the reason given why residents cannot be provided with these facilities, can he indicate when this shortage is likely to be overtaken, and whether the Department is at the present time giving to provincial cities and towns their fair proportion of the stocks on hand ?
– It is anticipated that the shortage of cable is likely to be overtaken in Geelong by the end of June next. Regarding the second portion of the question, the Department is giving to provincial cities and towns their fair proportion of the stocks on hand of both cable and material.
Arrears of Payment - Second Advance
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
What is the percentage of arrears of payments due on War Service Homes in each of the States of the Commonwealth?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
On 31st July, 1922, the percentage of arrears of instalments due on War Service Homes in the several States was: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether the occupant of a War Service Homo who finds that his house is too small for the accommodation of his family is entitled to a second advance in order to carry out the necessary additions to his home?
– The question of granting a second advance to enable an applicant to enlarge his War Service Home has received further consideration, and it has now been decided to entertain such applications, provided - (a) the applicant has not already received the full statutory advance; (b) the applicant’s dealings with the Department have been satisfactory, and the property has been kept in a satisfactory state of repair; (c) the risk, having regard to the amount of the advance applied for, is a reasonable risk within the provisions of the War Service Homes Act.
Inmates of Benevolent Institutions
asked the Treasurer. upon notice -
Whether he will favorably consider the justice of payment to the full extent allowed under the Act to those in receipt of the oldage or invalid pensions who are inmates of such institutions as the Geelong Infirmary and Benevolent Asylum?
– Already payment is made to the full extent allowed by the Act. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act directs that when a pensioner is admitted to a benevolent asylum he shall receive a pension of 2s. per week. Any payment to the pensioners beyond the 2s. would necessitate an amendment of the Act, and does not seem to be justified in view of the fact that the maintenance of the pensioners is provided by the asylums.
The following papers were presented: -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1922, Nos 111, 112, 113.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1922, Nos. 110, 114.
Papua Act - Infirm and Destitute Natives’ Account - Statement of Transactions of Trustees, 1921-22.
Public Service Act -
Promotion of E. J. Bryant, PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 109.
Debate resumed from 25th August (vide page 1713), on motion by Mr. Rodgers -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- When speaking last Friday week, I gave my views as to some of the causes which had led to the great depression in the Australian frozen meat trade. The first great cause I pointed out was the prejudice created against frozen meat by reason of the inferior beef forced upon the people of England during and after- the war. That, I explained, was not Australian beef. The second was the accumulation of old frozen beef which existed in England early this year. That was beef to the extent of about 150,000 quarters, which had been purchased by Messrs. VesteyBros, from the Imperial Government, and which, I am glad to say, has now become entirely absorbed by the trade. I come now to another great cause, namely, the comparative favour in which meat from other parts of the world is held. That is due to the tremendous propaganda which has for years been carried on by our great competitors in the Argentine, and the complete absence of any propaganda whatever in favour of Australian meat, as well as to the fact that the Argentine people have secured possession of an immense number of retail shops in the United Kingdom, whereas Australia has none. To give an idea of the enormous disadvantage which Australian meat-growers suffer owing to the absence of any propaganda, I would mention a parliamentary visit which several of us paid-
– To Nottingham.
– Yes, we went to Nottingham, but I was about to refer to a visit we paid on the previous day to one of the great cities of England - Birmingham. We were invited to lunch at one of the great manufacturing establishments in that city, and, as honorable members may well believe, we were given a most excellent repast.
– Were the party given Australian beef?
– I was about to mention that point, but I thank my honorable friend for his reminder. At that luncheon we had put before us, and I thoroughly enjoyed, a piece of the most delicious roast beef. A member of the firm was sitting next to me, and when I remarked to him that the beef was exceedingly good, our conversation naturally drifted to the comparative prices of meat of different<kinds in England. My friend then said, “I am glad you like this beef. It is the best that can be obtained in England, and you may be interested to know that it costs us 2s. l0d. per lb. It is English beef.”
– Was it boned ?
Mr.JOWETT. - Not halving visited the kitchen I cannot say. I remember that a few days before I went with some friends to a large restaurant in London. I knew beforehand where the proprietors of this restaurant, which is a very good one, obtained their beef, and what they paid for it. I knew that they bought Australian frozen beef in the Smithfield market, taking only rumps and loins. They did not buy any other portion of the hindquarters, and the price they paid for this Australian beef was 4½d. per lb.
– Was that the wholesale price?
– Smithfield price.
– They did not buy their supplies from a small retail shop; they purchased direct from the holders of stalls at the Smithfield market as any other restaurant-keeper might have . done.
– What were they paying for forequarters ?
– A little over 2d. per lb.
– That is so. I had with me at that luncheon, Mr. Kingdom, of Bendigo, who was also’ with me at Birmingham, and he will support my statement that the Australian frozen beef that we had at the restaurant, and which cost the proprietors 4½d. per lb., was in every respect, equal to, and was - on the table - indistinguishable from, the English beef that we had at Birmingham, and which cost 2s. l0d. per lb.
That night they gave us a banquet, and I must say that they did us very well.
– Tell us more.
– There is much I should like to tell honorable members regarding the banquet at Birmingham, and also that at Nottingham, to which the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) referred. The honorable member, by the way, seems to be particularly interested in Nottingham. In all that part of the world, I am bound to say there is no more delightful place. At the banquet at Birmingham, at which were many of the leading men of the city, I was asked to propose, or respond to, a toast. I poured out . my soul to those people with regard to the extraordinary disinclination which many persons in England were showing towards the consumption of Australian produce. There were two gentlemen sitting close to my friend Mr. Kingdom. They told him that they were amazed at what I had said: they had never heard of such a commodity as Australian frozen meat being on the market. Afterwards, Mr. Kingdom introduced those two citizens to me. We found at least five influential and respected persons at that gathering - among them the largest employers of labour in the city - witta had never heard that there was Australian frozen meat on the English market. So amazed were they, and so impressed with what I had told them, that they suggested the opening of butchers’ shops in Birmingham to allow the people of that city to get the benefit of Australian frozen meat. We gave all the information we could ; but I had not gone to England to open butchers’ shops.
– We were told that you were going to sell meat in London and in the provincial cities.
– lt was not my business to open retail shops.
– The people could buy Australian beef in Birmingham in 19.11.
– That was a long time ago, and the public of that city have forgotten many things since then. But I am quite sure that they have not forgotten the honorable member for Barker. Many of my negotiations in England were of a confidential character, and I cannot disclose them, although I would be very glad to do so otherwise. Wherever we went, however, we found that there had been practically no propaganda work done in favour of Australian meat. On the other hand, there is one Argentine firm of meat exporters which, alone, controls in England 3,200 retail butchers’ shops. So far as I could learn, there is not one retail butcher’s establishment in the United Kingdom which is controlled by either cattle-owner or meat-exporting company in Australia. These facts indicate what an enormous field there is for entering upon propaganda work in England. It is absolutely necessary that the task should be undertaken. Everything possible must be done at this side to produce, to freeze, to load, and to discharge our frozen meat in the very best condition. There are many other suggestions which I would be glad to make if I had the time to do -so. I do not think, however, that there is anything in the alleged inferiority of the breed of Australian cattle.
– As compared with the Argentine ?
– That is so. It is true that many of the Argentine breeders have been paving enormous prices for Shorthorn bulls and cows; but the main thing is that it was necessary for them to improve their herds. Forty years ago we had herds in Victoria - and, no doubt, in other parts of Australia - which were equal to the very best in England and Scotland. But there are many other points in regard to which we are at an enormous disadvantage. I was speaking only yesterday to a friend who had been to the Argentine. He said that the people of the Argentine will not export the carcass of any bullock which i9 allowed to grow horns. Horned stock injure each other, and their flesh becomes bruised. Argentine cattle are dehorned while they are calves, and their flesh is not injured to anything like the same extent as is the case with Australian beef. Any one can see on the Smithfield market, practically any day, bruised carcasses of Australian meat.
– The way in which meat is handled over the wharfs in Australia accounts for a good deal of injury.
– The important point is that, in the Argentine, infinitely greater care is taken over, the carriage of live stock. I have some figures before me which have been furnished by a large Queensland meat works. These particulars reveal that great quantities of quarters have been damaged, and have had to be rejected. They could not be shipped because the cattle had been bruised in railway trucks.
– How do the Argentine authorities avoid bruising in train transit ?
– Not having been there, I cannot say from personal knowledge. However, I think that, generally speaking, the lines are of a different character. They are not so crooked as ours.
– The cattle are dehorned, and ‘they are transported in padded trucks.
– In addition, I am afraid there is a very considerable difference in the running of the trains; indeed,, I have some figures here showing wonderfully different results over various consignments. On one occasion a train-load will land with a large percentage of carcasses bruised, while another train will arrive with the animals scarcely damaged. This indicates to me that there is come difference in the running of the trains, and the subject certainly calls for inquiry.
Another serious matter is the method by which the meat., after it is frozen, is handled from’ the time it loaves the meatworks until it roaches the ships. I obtained some evidence in London with re- gard to the cargo of a certain ship, and it is of such an amazing nature that, honestly, I do not care to make it public.
– It will leak out !
– That may be. This was- a vessel which called at several ports in Australia, and the cargo was the cause of a survey which had to be made by the underwriters.From documentary evidence submitted to me by one of the owners of the vessel, it appeared that at several ports in Australia cargo was offered, and it was found that the meat was not hard frozen, but was soft. It . was hard frozen when it left the works; but then we have to take into consideration the time that elapses before it roaches the ship. Unless every care is taken by every individual who handles meat from one place to another, there is great liability to its -becoming soft and damaged owing to temporary exposure to the atmosphere. This case was a very bad one; indeed, I hardly like to mention the name of the vessel or of the owners.
– They ought to be made public.
– Perhaps so; but, we have to remember that everything publicly stated is most avidly seized on by people elsewhere, who use it to the dis- advantage of the producers of Australia, and, therefore, I believe in a certain amount of reticence. I have here a copy of the report which I prepared in London for the Pastor alists Association here with regard to the cargo to which I have referred; and I merely mention it now in order to emphasize the fact that we must seek the co-operation of all classes of people in Australia in the work of increasing the value of our own produce, on the sale of which so much depends. That : is the second point I wish to drive home - we must secure the cooperation of all classes in the handling of our produce. We must have the co-operation of the men who run the railways, and also the co-operation of the men in the meat-works, though, speaking on the whole, I think the work done in those works is exceedingly good, and will compare favorably with similar work in any part of the world. We must seek the co-operation of everybody concerned in the handling of the carcasses from the t ime they leave the meat-works until they reach the ship. The amount of damage done; between, the works . and the ship is appalling, and if the facts were known, I am sure the people of Australia would be staggered at the enormous loss and injury which result. I am glad to be able to say that, so far as I can ascertain, the work done on the refrigerating steamers is excellent - no fault whatever can be found there.
– Do you attribute the damage to excessive delay?
– I attribute it to all sorts of absurd and preposterous restrictions put on people who wish to do their job well, but are not permitted to do so by other people-. I do not desire to charge any one individual, but there is a lack of promptitude and efficiency generally.
– You mean the delay between the Australian freezing works and the ships which take the meat home.
– Yes. And why is there that delay ? Who is responsible for it ? These are points we ought to take into our most serious consideration.
– Can you give us any information regarding that delay?
– I can show the honorable member a copy of my own report on this particular cargo, and that report is sufficient, I think, to convince anybody of the enormous disadvantage Australia is under owing to delays and harassing restrictions upon transport and shipping in Australia.
Then there is room for enormous improvement in the handling of the meat in London. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay), Mr. Elder, Mr. Shaw, and many others have done all they can in this direction, but it is not an easy task. In my deliberate opinion - I have not formed it hastily - this question is of such tremendous importance to the people of Australia - to the cattle-owners, farmers, and the people generally - that something will have to be done to improve matters in the two respects to which I have referred. We must bring about greater efficiency in the handling of the produce both before the cattle are killed and after the meat is frozen. Then we must create a fund with which we can carry on a propaganda in the Old Country in order to induce the people there, who are- now perfectly indifferent, and know very little about our frozen meat, to purchase it for what it is. There ought to be a propaganda which will bring the product very prominently under their notice. I have been * asked whether I would recommend the opening of our own butchers’ shops in England in order to sell our own meat.
– That is Socialism I
– We are not now discussing theories, but are face to face with facts. ‘I must confess I am not very strongly in favour of Australian cattlegrowers opening butchers’ shops throughout the United Kingdom.
– Except as a last resource.
– Quite so. It would be a difficult thing for the cattle-owners to engage in a business with which they are not familiar, particularly at such a distance. We must, however, have some fund, and it will have to be a large fund. I have no hesitation in saying that if it were decided to form an organization for the purpose of creating such a fund with the idea of carrying on active propaganda work, it must be a fund to which every owner of cattle must contribute; it is not the slightest use talking about a fund raised on a voluntary basis, for such is not practicable. I think the solution is not to open our own shops in England, but to give inducements to the existing butchers to sell Australian frozen meat as Australian frozen meat. There are many ways in which retailers can be induced to sell certain goods. Much propaganda work of the kind in various directions is carried on at the present time in the Old Country, and with an ample fund, I think we should reap great benefit by similar efforts. Even in twelve months much progress should be made.
– Does the Argentine follow the system to which you are referring ?
– One Argentine firm alone controls 3,200 retail butchers’ shops, but I believe a certain amount of propaganda work is done even there. I had conversations with some of the leading advertising and propaganda experts at Home who are used by many great firms there which have m’ade colossal fortunes. These firms engage the skilled experts to advise them from time to time as to the best methods of selling their goods, and I have here a report, which I shall be glad to show to any honorable member, from one of the ablest of those experts, associated with a large Birmingham firm. [Extension of time granted.]
I thank honorable members. The report to which I refer is of great interest, but now is hardly the time to read it. As I say, any such fund as I suggest must be large, for the inducements offered would need to be considerable at first.
– And it would be necessary to maintain continuous supplies.
– That is one of the greatest difficulties of all, I regret to say.
– It is the crux of the situation.
– It is. Wc cannot alter the seasons, but if we give the producers an assured prospect of a good market at remunerative prices, we shall have done something in the direction of trying to insure continuous supplies of our frozen meat in England.
– Does the Argentine meat arrive in England all tho year round or does it compete at particular seasons only?
– I do not think that the Argentine exporters aro hampered to any extent by seasonal conditions, but as their beef is almost entirely chilled there are only certain seasons in the year when it is really suitable to the requirements of the British people. For instance, in one hot week of May a considerable quantity of chilled beef, which can only remain sweet for a little period after landing, had to be condemned. When this beef strikes hot weather in Great Britain, large quantities, as happened on this occasion, have to be condemned. Therefore the Argentine people are not so keen on sending their supplies during the summer months as in the winter. Their harvest is in the winter months, when their chilled beef will last for a very long time.
The lesson we have learned is the necessity for propaganda work. We are at an enormous disadvantage, because we have never had such work done for our frozen meat trade, and wc cannot recover the distance we have fallen behind unless we raise a large fund with which to conduct this propaganda work in Great Britain as well as in tho countries on the Continent. The money, I think, should be raised purely from the cattle and sheep owners of Australia, and by means of compulsion, but, above all, the control of the fund so raised should not be hampered or interfered with in any way whatever by any Government, State or Commonwealth.
Mr. MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) 1 3.46]. - I can see no reason why I should not support the Bill. I would not do so if I thought that it was to bc used as a means of making the price of meat dearer to the Australian consumers, but I am satisfied that even if the wholesalers and retailers of meat got their cattle and sheep on the hoof for nothing, the people generally would not get it at a reasonable price, and therefore I am quite content to assist the Government in carrying out what they desire to achieve by this Bill. It is peculiar that one set of exploiters, those who at any rate have exploited the people of Australia in the past - I refer to the meat exporters - should now be facing the exploitation of another set, namely, the salesmen and retailers of meat. It is remarkable that, while the meat growers tell us that it docs not pay them to grow their cattle because they are only getting lid. or 1½d. per lb. on the hoof, the? same meat is sold in butchers’ shops at Sd. per lb. How does this come about? The retailers and the salesmen must be making fortunes at the expense of some one. Wo have been informed that in the Old Country the Argentine meat interests have shops for the sale of their meat, and if there were any sense in the Australian meat exporters they would naturally see that the best method of combating the Argentine competition would be to open shops for the sale of Australian meat. I agree with the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) that such a venture could only prove successful by maintaining continuous supplies from Australia; but in this respect the Australian shops could not be in any worse position than those of the Argentine. However, I think their first fight should be against their brother exploiters in Australia. Let them open meat shops here so that the people of Australia, as well as the growers, may benefit. The price of beef or mutton on the hoof is ridiculous in comparison with the price at which meat is sold in butchers’ shops. In one part of Melbourne there is a butcher whose meat is not as dear as is that of other retailers, but- by some peculiar set of circumstances people prefer to buy from others at higher prices, although . these other retailers actually buy their meat from him. If the Government are prepared to assist one section of the community by granting a bounty and creating a lot of machinery to enable the growers of beef to get a fair return, or, at any rate, some return, why cannot they go a step further, and see that the people generally get their meat at a fair price? Apparently, when a socialistic action suits one section of the community it is all right, and is to be appreciated and also applauded; but the moment it is proposed that the State should go a step further, and see that a commodity is put on the market at a reasonable price, the proposal is regarded as anathema, and is denounced as being intolerably socialistic. The Government, who are prepared to sell public utilities which are paying, are now proposing to give assistance for the purpose of making another utility pay, although they have not the courage to tell the meat-growers and sellers of Australia that they are determined to give the people meat at a reasonable price. However, the Bill is not associated with the sale of meat in Australia. I would have voted against it if I thought that, as a result, meat would be dearer to the people of Australia, but I recognise that even if the retailers got their beef on the hoof for nothing, the people would still have to pay extraordinary prices for it. The need for passing this Bill is only another proof of the fact that the Australian social system is rotten.
.- I wish to add a few words to those which have fallen from my friend, the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). As for the Bill itself, I am one of those who do not approve of the principle of subsidizing our industries, except, perhaps, in a case like the present, where one of our great primary industries is suffering from extraordinary distress, which has fallen upon it with the greatest suddenness. In such circumstances I ‘think the Government, as a temporary expedient, are entitled to do everything for the purpose of holding up an industry until it becomes organized, or is placed in such a position as will enable it to look after itself. During the last parliamentary recess I journeyed to London to ascertain the position of our beef industry there. On the voyage I had the pleasure of the company of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and, as he has stated, 1 was responsible for a luncheon at Australia. House, where we and a company of persons interested enjoyed some very fine cuts of Australian, Argentine, and British beef. I was delighted, and more than surprised, to learn that Australian beef need not fear comparison with any other, and, on a vote being taken, Australian frozen beef was pronounced better than Argentine chilled beef. The Australian beef that was eaten on that occasion had been frozen, and was at least two years old; the Argentine beef had been chilled, and had not been much over two or three weeks on the voyage and in stores. The joints that were tested were selected by representatives of the importers, the Board of Trade, and Australia House, so that every precaution was apparently ‘taken to prevent irregularity. ‘ Fortunately, the chef at Australia House had a perfect knowledge of how to thaw beef. One of the disabilities under which our beef suffers is that many people have not that knowledge. Australian exporters of beef are at a disadvantage in several ways. In the first place, the freight on “beef from South America to Great Britain is from 33 to 40 per cent, less than that which our exporters have to pay. Again, the South American beef is transported mostly in a chilled condition, while our beef has to be frozen. Thirdly, the Argentine cargoes arrive practically every week in the year, while the Australian cargoes of beef arrive irregularly. Whatever may be the future of our transport arrangements, we . must at present send our beef away in a frozen condition, and, only periodically.
– Why is chilled beef preferred to frozen beef ?
– I do not prefer chilled beef to frozen beef, and voted for the Australian frozen beef as against the chilled beef. Our meat industry suffers because it is not organized, whereas the South American meat industry is organized. Were our industry organized, it would be in a much better position. I have here account sales dated 2nd September, dealing with 664 bullocks from a holding in Queensland in which I have an interest. The . average weight of those beasts was 624 lbs., but the net return for them was only 35s. a head, the subsidy amounting to about 13s. a head.
– Where were those animals killed ?
– At the meat- works at Townsviile. I have information regarding two lots, one of which averaged 35s. and the other 39s. a head.
– That cannot go on much longer.
– If it does, our beef industry is down andout. There are disabilities which we can overcome ourselves. We can make a better selection of the beef that we export. I do not say that only first-class beef should leave Australia, because on the other side of the world there are persons who want second, and even third, class meat; but we should grade our beef carefully. The present subsidy, which’ has been very helpful, will cease within a few months, and then, unless both the beef and the mutton industry are organized, our prospects will be very unsatisfactory. Were the prices for beef to improve, the prices for mutton and lamb would improve also.
– Could not Vestey Brothers be induced to take up the matter?
– Lord Vestey told me, when I saw him in London, that he is prepared to scrap the meat-works at Darwin, which have cost him £2,000,000, his reasons being that they were operated at “a loss, and that labour cannot be obtained. Could he get labour, he would be prepared to continue at a loss rather than close down entirely. . This matter of beef export must be dealt with at once and I am glad that the “ Minister is calling a conference.
– A conference will be held on the 19th of this month to review the whole of the conditions of the in-‘ dustry.
– What is needed is not so much to review the conditions of the industry as to resolve what should be done.
– And to do something.
– Yes. My honorable friend has said that we must have capital behind the industry’. I consider that the industry, if organized, must have at least £250,000 a year behind it.
– Certainly £100,000.
– That would not be enough. The capital behind the industry would belong to those who contributed to it, and any surplus could be restored to them or invested until required for organizing.
– The other day the fruit-growers agreed to the imposition of an orchard tax, and resolved to ask the State Parliaments to impose it. ‘
– No voluntary contribution would be worth considering. A measure must be passed by this or other Parliaments authorizing the collection of a tax from those engaged in the meat industry. Such a tax would not be felt, and the capital which is needed could be raised in three or four ways. We have in Australia 13,000,000 head of cattle. Putting aside one-third of these as old and useless, or young that may never mature, there are left some 8,000,000 head, on which a tax of 3d. per head would produce £100,000 a year. Then we have 72,000,000 sheep, and if we deducted one-third of that number, and imposed a tax of £d. per sheep on the balance, that would give us another £100,000. Another way in which the necessary capital could be raised i3 this: A tax might be levied on the animals slaughtered each year. Last year we slaughtered 1,500,000 odd horned beef, which, at £6 per head, would be worth about £10,000,000. We slaughtered’ also 10,800.000 odd sheep and lambs, which could be valued at about another £10,000,000. A tax of 1 per cent, on the animals slaughtered would yield about £200,000.
– Should not the exporters pay any tax?
– All our meat is not exported,, and the man who slaughters stock, or sells stock to be slaughtered, would not feel a tax such as I suggest. A third way in which the needed capital for organizing could be raised is by the capitalizing of the meat industry. There are in Australia about 72,000,000 sheep and about 12,500,000 cattle. Valuing the sheep at, say, 10s. per head,, they may be worth £36,000,000, and taking the cattle at £2 a head - their price should be much higher - they would be worth about £25,000,000. On these calculations for taxation purposes, our sheep and cattle would be worth something over £60,000,000, on which a tax of £ per cent, would bring in £300,000 a year. A fourth way of getting rid of our present surplus would be by bringing to Australia enough people to consume all our meat. That, perhaps, would be the best way of all. It will take time, however, to achieve it. But any of the other remedies that I have suggested could be put into operation at once. If thos© engaged in the meat industry do not organize, most of the cattle raisers must go out of the business, and than much of the land now used for cattle raising will become again waste land. There are fertile cattle areas which could be used for depasturing sheep, or for dairying, or for agriculture, but in Western Australia, in the Northern Territory, in Queensland, and in our eastern coastal districts, there is an immense area of country that is useful only for cattle raising. Should those engaged in the industry organize, and get parliamentary authority to raise a capital of £200,000 or £250,000 a year, they would be in a position, to go to the Government, or to an institution, and ask to bo financed until revenue is collected, so that they can make a start at once. But there must be a compulsory levy. Under the voluntary system we should not know what we would collect, or when we would get it. Our wool industry has become organized. The dairy-farming industry has been organized for years; our wheat industry is becoming an . organized undertaking, and I hope the same may be said of our fruit industry. The great stock industry, representing ‘£70,000,000 or £80,000,000, is, however, without any organization at all in so far as our surplus meat is concerned ; and, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) has said, at the present moment the distance iu prices as between the producer and consumer is becoming greater.
– Does the honorable member! mean that the object of the association he suggests should be the stabilization of the industry t
– I do not wish to be misunderstood. When I speak of an organized industry I have in mind one that is financed and the whole business of which is carried out by the growers themselves. It is necessary, for instance, that they should organize markets on the other side of the world. They should see that Australian beef is offered for sale in shops overseas, and. part of the money of such an organization as that of which I speak would l>e devoted to that purpose. Unless such steps be taken it is useless for us, as members of Parliament, to meet here and say that we do not believe in this or that being done in connexion with the industry. We have to take a line of action that will give results.
– It is idle to discuss mere theories.
– That is so.
– The Government regard as second only in importance to the granting of this bounty the calling of a national conference to which representatives of all the States have been invited. Such a conference will represent those engaged in the beef, mutton, and lamb industry, and will open the way to the organization of the meat industry of Australia.
– It is urgently necessary that the industry should be organized. I admire the independence of those who say that they do not want Government interference - that their desire is to be allowed to carry on their own business - and the only organization I am suggesting is that of the growers themselves. I do not say that the Government should engage in any of these undertakings.
– The industry does not want the Government to come in.
– No; the Government should merely make provision to assist the people concerned to look after their own undertakings.
– The Government are never wanted execpt when the undertakings are in a hole.
– Exactly. Here we have a case in point. The Government by means of this Bill are coming to the assistance of the industry, and are saying to those engaged in it, “ We do not want to continue this help; our desire is that you shall look after your own business.” It may, of course, be necessary for the Government to inspect our exports to make sure that only meat of good quality is sent abroad.
– That is a proper function of government.
– And the only function of government so far. as the industry is concerned, except that it should introduce legislation to enable it to be stabilized.
Very few people in the southern States have any idea of the condition of the industry in the north and the hopelessness of its future. I see nothing at the present time to justify me in coming to any other conclusion than that the industry is in a very grave position. We are told by some who profess to know much that the East offers a great market for our surplus meat. It is true that if we sent some of our surplus meat to the East the low prices at which it could be offered might induce the people there to consume considerable quantities of it, but I do not think the East will ever offer us a very great market. Reference has been made during the debate to the question of transport. Some four or five years ago I was in Armours’ stock-yards, Chicago, and there saw cattle-trucks coming inby the dozen. The cattle were brought in by special trains. The trucks were hoisted to about the fourth floor of the works and the cattle, having been hit on the head, the trucks were turned over, with the result that the stock rolled on to the floor like so many apples out of a basket. In South America transport is one of the chief considerations. As a matter of fact, stock there is not allowed to travel or to remain in trucks for more than a certain period without being showered, fed, and watered. Every thirty-six hours the roofs of the trucks in which the cattle are being carried are removed, the trucks are run under huge tanks, and the cattle receive a shower, after which they are watered and fed. They are shunted into the yards with the least delay, and the bruising due to many stops is avoided. They thus arrive fresh and cool at the works.
I am glad to have had this opportunity to give the House the result of my inquiries on the other side, and I hope that I shall have an opportunity also to assist in organizing the industry. Organization will undoubtedly benefit all who’ are engaged in the industry. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has pointed out, the consumers to-day are paying practically as much for their meat supplies as they did when cattle were selling at very much higher prices. Would not such an organization as 1 have advocated bring the consumer and the producer nearer to each other? I am. convinced that by such means the consumer would obtain his meat at from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, less than he is paying for it to-.day, and that the producer would get considerably more than he is now obtaining for his stock.
I am glad that the Ministry have taken up this matter. I have lost no opportunity toplace the position of the industry before the Government and all who are interested in the welfare of this country.
– The Government acknowledge the receipt of some valuable information from the honorable member.
– Such an acknowledgment is a source of much satisfaction to me. I congratulate the Minister on having brought forward this Bill, which will provide temporary relief, and also on his decision to convene a conference of those engaged in the industry, so that they may discuss means by which they ‘can secure the measure of relief necessary to enable them to carry on the industry in the interests of not only those directly engaged in it, but the Commonwealth as a whole.
. -I am pleased that the industry is to have, at the hands of the Government, at least some temporary assistance, late though that assistance may be. It is most regrettable that the Government did not take action very much earlier. I venture to say that the bulk of upwards of a million head of stock, which a little over twelve months ago were in prime condition, are now, probably, back to stores, and that with the adverse turn in the season many of them may die of starvation. To prove that the Government were warned of the seriousness of the situation, I have pleasure in quoting from a speech made in this House on the 14th April, 1921, by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and reported in Hansard, vol. XCV., page 7448. In the course of that speech the honorable member said - I say that the producers of Australia are faced with a world-wide fall in prices of the commodities they produce; and if the cost of transportation from this country to other parts of the world is not adjusted, to a reasonable extent, in relation to the prices of products, the outcome must be an enormous falling off in the production of those things which are the life-blood of our industry and finance.
Further on he said -
If we reach a stage at which it does not pay to produce and export, the financial and industrial position of the people of Australia will, indeed, be very serious.
The Government were thus warned over twelve months ago by the honorable member for Grampians, who was cognisant of all the facts, and who is one of the best authorities on the beef export trade. They delayed action, however, with results that have been disastrous to stock-owners.
– Delayed what?
– The Minister will have an opportunity to speak later on.
– The statement just made by the honorable member is most ungracious.
– The honorable gentleman constantly interjected while the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) was speaking.I should be glad if he would allow me to make my speech in my own way. I am deeply interested in the pastoral industry, and know something about it. I listened with interest to the speeches made by the honorable member for Grampians and the honorable member for New England. Their advice is most valuable, and I hope that the Government will be guided by it. We have protective wall safeguarding the interests of our manufacturers, and work men and artisans in our manufactories are protected to some extent by Arbitration Court and Wages Board awards ; by the producers, largely as the result their want of unity, for which their isolated position is responsible, have to place their products on the markets of the world in open competition with all colours and conditions of sweated labour.
The fall which has taken place in stock is appalling. I know of hundreds of graziers, not only in my own electorate, but throughout Australia, who a short time ago paid up to £14 per head for bullocks, and which, after they had been fattened, they had to sell for £7 per head and even less. A lamentable feature of that tremendous drop in prices is that the consumers did not reap any advantage. As mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) they paid practically the same prices as they paid before the fall in the price of stock, so that the pastoralists have been fleeced and the consumers have been robbed.
I have the honour to be vice-chairman of the Western Murray Bacon Curing and Meat Packing Company at Braybrook, Melbourne, in which considerably over £100,000 has been invested, chiefly by stock-owners. This company does a very large trade in bacon and the export of lambs, and is now starting to export ‘beef. A little time ago we sent our manager (Mr. McKellar) to England.
-He did good work.
– He did. As the result of his inquiries, we obtained more information during the few months he was in England than we should have secured in ten years through any of the Agents-General. I am pleased to inform the House, however, that our company highly appreciates the assistance which the. present High Commissioner (Sir Joseph Cook) gave our manager. Mr. McKellar made full inquiries concerning the prospects in regard to the export of the coining season’s lambs. The company entered into the business of the export of lambs last season to a considerable extent, and this year it expects to go into it still more deeply, as well as to export beef. The following example of how a carcass of mutton is sold and distributed in England is supplied by Mr. McKellar: - A 60-lb. wether, sold in London at the price ruling a few weeks ago, namely 5½d. per lb., realized £1 7s. 6d. From the time when that animal leaves the owner’s paddock the following costs have to be paid : - Railway charge, ls. 3d. on the average; cost of slaughtering, freezing, and placing f.o.b., 3s. 9d.; charges for marine insurance, l01/3d.; ocean freight, which, coupled with railway freights, has ruined the producer, 8s. lid.’; charges at London end, 3s. 2d.; total, 17s. 2d. This leaves the grower 10s. 4d., plus the value of the skin, as his net return. The charges are exceptionally heavy; but, as far as slaughtering, freezing, and handling- costs are concerned, thej’ cannot be reduced while the present rate of wage prevails. Ocean freights provide the greatest handicap under which tlhe industry struggles. Almost 50 per cent, of the total charges is absorbed in that direction.Yet we have a Commonw«alth Lino of vessels, half of which, possibly, are now idle. With regard to beef, the average may be taken to be a bullock of 800 lbs. I do not know whether that is the actual average in tihe matter of exported beef.
– No; it is about 600 lbs.
– I exported bullocks last year, and the average was 800 lbs. From that weight, however, there must be taken about 130 lbs. of briskets, as well as other lines. Taking the average carcass to be 800 lbs., and allowing 670 lbs. of meat for export, let us say that it is sold in London at 4d. per lb., making a total of £11 3s. 4’d. The railway charge is, say, £1 8s., although from parts of my electorate the cost is even higher than that. Slaughtering, preparing for export, and placing f.o.b. absorb £2 4s. 4d.; freight to London, £3 16s. 9d.; marine insurance, 9s.; and charges at London end, £1 3s. 6d. ; making a total cost of £8 15s. 3d. That leaves only £2 8s.1d. But there must be added to the receipts the value of the hide, say, £1 159. Then there is the price received for the briskets of 130 lbs. That quantity, at1d. per lb., brings in 10s.10d. ; caul and kidney fat is worth 5s. ; and offal, 3s. 6d. ; making an additional total of £2 14s. 4d. Thus there is a net return of £5 2s. 5d. for the bullock, the oversea freight alone being £3 16s. 9d. It is obvious that the London market must show a great improvement before growers of beef can expect anything like an adequate return. Transport and handling charges must be considerably reduced. We must take the whole Australian industry in hand, just as all intend doing in Victoria. We now have a factory in this State, and when abattoirs have been added we will be able, very largely, to handle the whole of the operations in connexion with fat cattle.
– Victoria sends only 1 per cent, of the total of exported beef from Australia.
– I agree that one works would be of little use in Queensland or in New South Wales, but I have just pointed out that the one which we have in Victoria will very largely answer requirements. If we are going to put this great industry on a solid footing, we must enter upon a very much broader scheme than (has been outlined with respect to this Bill. The Government will be giving relief, under this measure, in respect of a paltry 230,000 head of cattle. When we consider that there are 13,500,000 head of cattle in Australia at present, and that the season is not at all promising, we are bound to be somewhat concerned regarding the future. Something must be done, and at the earliest possible moment. With regard to the methods to be adopted, we require the cooperation of pastoralists and the assistance of Federal and . State Governments. It is the bounden duty of the Federal Government to meet us in the matter of oversea freights. The charge of £3 16s. per head should be reduced by half. It is the duty of the State Governments to grant con- siderable concessions in respect of railway freight on fat stock consigned to meat works for export purposes.
– To their credit, be it said, the Queensland Government did bring down freights by 20 per cent.
– The Victorian railway authorities have not reduced them, they have increased freights. It is essential that the pastoralists should also put their house in order. The first consideration should be to minimize, as far as possible, the army of dealers and speculators coming between pastoralist and consumer, thus forcing down prices to the producer and exploiting the consumer. We have had evidence of our export meat being handled by three different dealers before getting into the’ hands of retail butchers. There have actually been four added costs to the meat before it has reached consumers. We also have proof that frozen meat has been bought at 4d. to 4½d. per lb. and retailed at 1s. l0d. Surely there is room for vast improvement. To accomplish a project of this character, it will be necessary to establish our own works, and for breeders to sell their stock direct to them. There is nothing to prevent the stockmen of Victoria from having abattoirs in this city. We will then be able to have the meat frozen at our own works. What is required is a wholesale establishment, where a butcher can get a beast, or half a beast, or a sheep, or a lamb, or whatever he requires from day to day, at ruling prices. Thus, we would do away, to a very great extent, with the middle operators.
With respect to export, it is imperative that the present opportunities should be followed up. We should make the fullest use of our Commonwealth steamers. The people should be given reasonable treatment in the direction of reduced freights. There should be more reasonable consideration, also, along lines of strict Government supervision. Australia will be exporting very large quantities of lamb carcasses this year. It is imperative that we should have stalls in different centres in the Old Country. There should be at least stalls at Smithfield as soon as we can move along co-operative channels. Such stalls would cost, at the lowest computation, £100,000 ; but, in comparison with the figures given by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay), what is £100,000? If we had stalls at Smithfield we could retain control of our meat to a great degree. We could minimize the enormous intermediate expenses to which I have referred. We would be able to withhold our exports from being placed on a glutted market, and we would be able to get as near as possible to the retail butcher. Lastly we would be able to minimize the chances of our choice frozen meat being sold as Argentine, and of our splendid lambs being sold as Canterbury, as is the case at present. With respect to the sale of our lambs as Canterbury meat, I must say that, in the present disorganized state of affairs, it is rather to our advantage that they are being sold as such. What are we doing at this end, however ? What sort of supervision are we maintaining? What kind of treatment are we getting from the railways and at the steamer’s side? Here are interesting comments on meat export methods which have been furnished by Mr. A. W. Pearse, F.R.G.S., (respecting the Argentine and Australia. He says: -
In all the interviews cabled from London with our various meat experts, growers, and shippers, there is nothing whatever about the difference in carrying on the business in Argentina and Australia. The unfortunate thing is that few of them have any first-hand knowledge about modern methods of travel and treatment, and we are too swollen-headed here to believe that ours are anything but the best. We turn out magnificent stock, mutton, lamb, and cattle, but between the place of departure and arrival at ships’ holds they are depreciated in quality and value enormously, and this is because we don’t believe it can be done better anywhere else. Now let us see. We herewith describe the methods in the two countries: - Australia - Say a load of sheep or cattle is to be sent down to Sydney by rail, 300 to 400 miles away. The trucks are ordered for a certain date, and the stock are started, off for the siding of the railway. Here they are loaded if the trucks are there. If there are not enough trucks, which often occurs, they either have to be crowded into the lesser number of trucks, or are left behind. Probably they have had no drink since they left their paddocks, and more often than not they find none at the railway sidings. Those left over have- to be taken back, and may he a couple of days without a drink. The others are loaded by our antediluvian process, truck by truck, until they are all in, the jolting of such trucks being enough to frighten the poor creatures into a fever. These stock are slowly conveyed, at times hundreds of miles out of their way, to reach congested Sydney. No natural or near ports are utilized because of the Government monopoly of railways, which require everything to go to the one centre. These sheep and cattle are jolted down to Sydney with loose couplings, without the least attempt to give them water, and, in summer, with a temperature from, say, 100 degrees to 116 degrees. They arrive at their destination Lot and fevered, are sold at once, and killed at the abattoirs. After being killed and frozen, (they are put into refrigerated trucks and lighters and conveyed to the various wharfs or ships. As many of the Sydney wharfs have ;no rail accommodation, these carcasses are again rehandled, put into vans, and suffer much before the hatches are over them. If lit is raining they are often allowed to get wet and sodden, and if hot they are half thawed before they are stowed. The way they are loaded is antiquated and bad, and canvas slings are still used to lift them into the ships, breaking legs and shanks when swung against the ship’s side.
Mr. J. B. Cramsie, deputy chairman of the Meat Board, who is probably the man with the best knowledge in the trade in Australia, showed this up recently in the press, but little notice was taken of it because it reflected on Australian methods. Another matter before leaving the meat loading - the men are so independent that they are continually to be seen with iron-shod boots uncovered with canvas, trampling on the meat in the hold. So much for our treatment of meat.
Commenting upon conditions in Argentina, Mr. Pearse writes: -
A train load of stock is to be sent down to Buenos Ayres, Bahia Blanca, or to any of the big meat works up to the River. Hie stock are gathered at a dep&t, say, 300 to 400 miles up country. The train comes in, which takes ft certain number. These sheep or cattle are well fed and watered at the dep6t before leaving, and walk into the train at the end, led by an animal trained to do the work. They walk up to the far end, and, as each truck is filled, the back of the truck is slid up and the next is filled. Half-an-hour fills the train, and it glides away with fixed couplings, without a sign of a jolt. Thirty-six hours only are allowed for these stock to be without water. Therefore, the railway company takes good care to get the train through in the specified time; and they generally do. They have to pay the. expense of feeding and watering them on the way down, if they don’t. There are huge shower-baths en route. The trains travel slowly through a siding, and go under a bath; the tops of the trucks slide back, and the cattle get a good bath, ensuring them arriving un fevered or restless. Most of the cattle are dehorned, so no bruising takes place en route. On arrival at the works, nearly all of which have big paddocks round them, they are spelled for several days before being killed. They are killed and skinned under the supervision of a practical butcher, who sees the Bien obey him. otherwise they get the ‘“‘sack.”
This meat goes into the works in prime condition. The beef has a stronger wrapper than we use, and the sheep, double covers. They can afford these, as they don’t pay a high duty on meat wrappers; they are free of duty. A ship comes alongside the works, and every carcass absolutely clean, passed by an expert British butcher as tit for British taste, is shot down into the hold from the works, under cover, and without handling. The ship gets a full cargo at one works, and chambers are not ^re-opened. The result is that the meat is landed in the highest condition, unblemished, unbruised, and unfevered, and until we improve our methods we shall never be able to compete with South America. Uruguay and Brazil are fast copying their methods.
In conclusion, he states -
It is not a subsidy that is going to assist us much. It is better railways, better supervision by those who run the railways, better loading arrangements. . . .
And, I may add. lower shipping freights. The Federal Government may say that they cannot afford to reduce freights; it may be stated by the State Governments! that they cannot grant any freight concessions; but I remind honorable members that we have placed on the statute-book a Tariff that is costing the country millions in order to foster and expand our industries. At the present moment, I am not saying one word for or against the Tariff. We are committed to millions, and I believe wisely so, in a bold immigration and land settlement policy. We have loaded the consumer with some hundreds of thousands, even millions, of money by means of a sugar agreement in order to expand and develop the Queensland cane-growing industry, under white labour conditions. Surely, then, it is the duty of the Government - surely it is a matter for interference by the State and Federal Governments in combination - to place this great meat industry on a sound footing ? It is an industry which will employ hundreds of thousands of people, and will, as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) states, open up and develop our back country. .We know that the pastoralist has ever been the forerunner and opener up of the country. There are hundreds of thousands, even millions, of acres which I have been over in the various States, capable of, not only carrying, but of fattening thousands of stock. Any assistance rendered to place this industry on a solid basis, and stabilize it, on the lines which I have indicated, will not only repay the paltry amount which we ask for as a concession in freights, railway and oversea., but will return it tenfold to the Government And the people of Australia.
.- We have listened to some exceedingly interesting speeches from honorable members, who know something about the cattle industry. ‘ I cannot, however, allow this question to go to the vote without saying a few words, inasmuch as I intend to vote against the second reading. We have heard a great deal of interesting talk about the cattle industry, its difficulties and prospects, and about those steps which are necessary to place it on a better basis. But the question that we have to determine is whether we are prepared to subsidize this great industry to the extent proposed. While admitting’ that the amount involved is comparatively small, somewhere, I understand, in the region of £140,000, I would point out that the payment of this subsidy, from my point of view, involves a principle to which I, at least, cannot subscribe. On, I think, the 6th April, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) announced the intention of the Government to pay the subsidy, and I promised the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Rodgers) to keep an open mind in regard to the measure until I had heard his statement. Now, I listened most carefully to the Minister’s speech, and not only to his speech, but to every speech delivered on the question, and I still feel quite unable to subscribe to the principle involved. We have heard much about the enormous character of this industry, about its great importance, not only to those engaged in it, but to Australia at large. The member for New England has spoken of capitalizing the industry at something like £60,000,000, and of the raising of a fund or income from those engaged in the industry of £250,000 or £300,000 as a mere bagatelle. Yet this great industry is asking the people of Australia to make it a present of £140,000 to tide it over a little pressing difficulty. It seems to me an extraordinary position. The principle involved is to be found in the expression used, I think, by the honorable member for New England, when he said that the Government is giving those engaged in the industry a little bit of assistance to help them out of a hole into which they had got. From my point of view, the principle involved means that, if we do this, and lend a helping hand to this particular industry - which is really so well able to look after itself - we shall not be able to refuse assistance of a like kind to any industry when it happens to get into what may be considered, for the time being, a hole.
– I think we have been doing this kind of thing ail through the piece !
– I admit that. I say that this is a principle that has been too much acted on, and, unfortunately, our experience is that the payment of these subsidies or bonuses creates an appetite that undoubtedly grows by what it feeds on. When we start with a small subsidy or bonus, the chances are that, before long, the recipients will .be back asking for more.
– Like the Tariff!
– That may be an illustration; but that is undoubtedly the tendency of the principle involved in this Bill as I see it. The question is whether the conditions are such as to warrant this House in paying this industry £140,000 at the present time. I followed very carefully the justification that was offered by the Minister for the payment of this subsidy. Shortly stated, what does the justification amount to? The Minister says that at Home there is a glut, while here there is an over supply of stock, with, in addition, the competition of the Argentine. He says that all these conditions combined have brought the meat works in Australia to a stand-still, and that the assistance asked for is necessary to give the industry just that push that will enable it to start off and go on its way rejoicing.
– I did not say anything about “ rejoicing.”
– Perhaps not rejoicing; but, at any rate, to go on its way.
– To keep it moving.
– It is not to keep it moving, because we are told that it has stopped - the idea is to give the industry a start off again. When I am asked to give this assistance that is considered necessary to give this initial push, the first question for me is : Will what I am asked to give accomplish the object; will it be effective; will it be efficient? If it will, I may consider it; I do not say that I will, but 1 may. However, that is the first question; and, having regard to the nature of the obstacle to be overcome, I am distinctly of opinion that this £140,000 is neither here nor there in enabling the industry to overcome it. The statement made by the Minister was supplemented by a statement by the Prime Minister, who pointed out that* the lion in the path of the Australian meat industry is that gigantic combination which is commanding the markets of the world. The Prime Minister says that the strength of that combination lies, not only in its perfect organization, but in the unlimited capital there is behind it. It is a combination, we are told, that, is determined to secure at all hazards the markets of - the world. How is £140,000 given to an industry, which, capitalized, is worth £60,000,000 here, going to enable it to overcome that gigantic opposition?
– I think the Minister showed that._
– If the Minister showed that I was not quick enough to perceive this solution of the difficulty. The Government are practically asking the consumer, who is “ paying through the nose “ for the meat he himself is consuming, to pay a little to the producers to enable them to export their produce to the markets of the world.
– To keep our beef industry !
– No, not to keep our beef industry, which will live whether this subsidy be paid or not. Does any one suggest that the payment of this £140,000 is going to keep this industry from becoming extinct? Certainly not. There is a vicious principle involved in the payment of a subsidy under such conditions. I regard every enterprise a man can enter upon as being conditioned by two considerations. The two great incentives to effort in any enterprise are hope of gain and fear of loss. If these two incentives are operating fully and freely, a man entering on an enterprise will put forth his maximum of effort. If either one of these two incentives is destroyed, a man reduces the amount of effort expended in the enterprise. Take an industry like the meat industry. If we allow both of these incentives to operate - the hope of gain and the fear of loss - what will the result be ? Those engaged in the industry will use every effort, sparing no pains to make themselves masters of their business. They will see that there is careful management, and that the product they turn out is of the very best description; in short, every method they employ will be up to date. But take away one of those incentives, what happens? Suppose the Government say to. these men, “ Look here, if you succeed you will reap all the benefit, and if you lose, or get into a hole or a tight place, you can always depend on us to come along and give you a shove on.” Do you think that that will tend to the expenditure of the maximum of effort on the part of those engaged in the industry? I am perfectly sure it will not; and the principle will operate in that way in this industry. If those engaged in the industry are told that when they get into a tight place they can rely on Government assistance, they will not be at all careful as to whether or not they do get into a tight place. We are told that this industry owned something like 13,500,000 cattle in March of this year. It may be that had the pastoralists and cattlemen known or realized, having regard to the conditions obtaining in the Old Country, that if they went in for multiplying their stock at the rate at which they were multiplying it during the war years, the chances were they would be faced by a situation such as is facing them to-day, and would have to meet it without assistance from the Government, they would have been infinitely more careful.
– They have seen it coming for the last two years.
– They should have seen it before that, because the contract with the British Government existed from 1915 to 1920, and since they knew that it was about to expire, and that they would have to meet changed conditions in the Old World, they should have made provision for the altered situation. And now we find that the people of Australia, who are paying exorbitant prices for meat, are asked to come forward and do something lo enable those who are producing this meat to export their surplus to’ the Old Country. If the industry is as extensive and as wealthy as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) has led us to believe it is, because he says it can raise a large sum of money and use it for its own purposes, why cannot it raise this £140,000which is necessary to see it through its present trouble ? Why should the people of Australia have to come forward and make the meat barons a present of this amount? it was instructive to listen to the speeches of the honorable members for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook), Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and New England (Mr. Hay), men who, as a rule, abhor anything like the principle of Government control or interference. They say, “ Hands off our industry!”
– So I do now.
– But when they want a little financial assistance they say, “ By all means, let us go to the Government and get as much as we can.”
– That is absolutely untrue.
– The honorable member must withdraw that expression.
– I have pleasure in withdrawing it, but I did not ask for any assistance from the Government except in the matter of freights.
– I apologize to the honorable member for Indi.
– He said that the assistance came too late.
– I see now his consistency. I can understand his wanting the industry to organize and secure the best conditions possible in which to carry on the trade. I can understand and respect that position, but I cannot for the life of me understand the attitude of the honorable members for Grampians and New England. They are men who, as a rule, preach against the doctrine of State interference or State control, and yet they are willing that a great industry, like that which they represent, should come practically cap in hand to the Government and ask for assistance.
– The honorable member is quite mistaken.
– The honorable member for Grampians is supporting this Bill?
– And so is the honorable member for Indi. He will not vote with the honorable member for Fawkner.
– To that extent the honorable member for Indi would be in consistent, but the other two honorable members I have mentioned are coming cap in hand to the Government and practically acknowledging that those whom they represent are not able to manage their own business or finance their own industry. Their support of the Bill means that, or it means nothing.
– The amount suggested by the Government is an absolutely insignificant fraction of what the cattle-owners have paid to the Government in taxes.
– That may be, but what they have paid in taxes was in accord with the law of the land. It was right that they should pay them. The money they have contributed in taxation did not belong to them, according to the law of the land.
– Then I suppose their cattle do not belong to them.
– Now they say that because they have not defaulted in the payment of the taxation due from them according to the law, when they want a little financial aid they are entitled to get it from the Government. Because this £140,000 is not asked for as a temporary loan; it is asked for as a gift.
– No; we do not ask for it as a gift. It is to enable us to save the industry.
– It is a gift. I cannot help emphasizing the fact that my friend suggests that the great cattle industry is to be saved by a donation of £140,000 from the Commonwealth Government.
– It is but a small rebate on what we have paid in taxes.
– It means either that those engaged in the cattle industry are or are not in a position to pay this £140,000. If they are, they have no right to come to the Commonwealth Government and ask for the money. If they are not, we have this situation, that, as the honorable . member for Grampians admits, in regard to helping the cattlemen out of a difficulty, the amount stated is neither here nor there.
– Pardon me, I did not say that. I said that it was neither here nor there compared with what they havepaid in taxes. It is sufficient to save the industry this year. ‘
– It seems to me that the honorable member’s statement gives the whole position away. The cattle producers are able to provide this £140,000 without any Government assistance; yet they want it as assistance, and although they say they are not going to allow the Government to interfere with or< control their business, they cannot even do that, because we find the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) convening a conference of the cattle producers of Australia.
– What a crime!
– It is not a crime, but it is a confession on the part of those who are engaged in the industry that they cannot mind their own business.
– Not at all.
– It is a confession that they cannot manage their own business. Why do they want to be presided over by a member of the Commonwealth Ministry ?
– He was issuing the invitations.
– Was it not because the Commonwealth Government had helped them to the extent of £140,000, and they wanted to get the Minister to preside over their deliberations, so that they could keep in touch with the Government in case of future need, when they could again submit the request they are now making ? I remind the House that the donation which the Government is making to this great industry is at the request of the industry itself. The Government did not offer it. These men came to the Government and asked for it.
– Would the honorable member think that the Government had acted rightly in doing nothing and so allowing hundreds of thousands of cattle to become an absolute economic loss ?
– That is not a fair question.
– It is the question at issue.
– It is not fair, because time and again, . owing to climatic conditions and other causes, hundreds of thousands of cattle have died.
– But these would have been an absolute economic loss.
– Very well ; and who should have borne that loss? If there had been an increase who would have benefited?
– The nation.
– Indirectly, perhaps; but directly the owners of the cattle would have benefited, and so, when they have to face a loss, it ought to be their direct loss. There would, no doubt, have been an indirect loss to the nation if these cattle had died.
– We contend that there ought to be no such loss, and the Government have saved the people of Australia from it. As many as 225,000 head of cattle, which would probably have died will now be exported. It is not a question of saying whose loss it should be. There ought to be no loss.
– The honorable member for Fawkner is speaking to his electors.
– Order !
– It is rather instructive to read the debate which took place at a conference of the _ Australian Farmers Federal Organization held’ in Adelaide about six or eight weeks ago, and attended by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). The question of the cattle industry was dealt with, and the chairman of the conference, Mr. Hunt, referred to the position of the industry as deplorable, and said that the Government ought to help it by finding and establishing new markets, especially in the East. Various delegates to the conference pointed out that while the industry was in a bad way they should not rely upon the Government for assistance. There was a virile note in the speeches of some of those men connected with the industry. They said that they ought to, and were able to, rely upon themselves. Mr. Roberts, a delegate from Queensland, said that they should not go cap-in-hand to any Government, and should mind their own business. He said that the cattle-owners of Queensland were very largely to blame for the condition into which their industry had got. One thing I noticed in the report of the proceedings of the conference was the speech delivered by the president of the South Australian section of the organization. He appealed, as a cattleman, to the buttermen and sugarmen. He said, “ The farmers of South Australia stood behind you buttermen and sugarmen. We now expect you to stand behind us in our attempt to get aid from the Government.” Then the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) addressed himself to the. question from the political point of view, and while deprecating Government interference with, or control of, the in- dustry, and emphasizing the necessity for self-help and private enterprise, he said that the Government must come to the assistance of an industry like this by helping it to organize, and by encouraging it with advice in regard to improving the standard of its product.
– What is wrong with that?
– Just imagine an industry of this kind coming to the Government and asking for advice as to how to improve the standard of its product! If they do it it is simply because those engaged in the industry feel that they can get at the Government, in this case, to the extent of £140,000. Is it to be thought that they would brook advice from any Government unless it be backed up by hard cash ? I feel certain that they would do nothing of the kind.
– But they know that the Commonwealth Government have to legislate in regard to the conditions of the export trade.
– Of course, and it is perfectly legitimate for those engaged in any industry to come to the Government and explain the difficulties under which they are carrying on, and say that their conditions ought to be altered by a variation in the legislation, or something of that kind, where we could fix the conditions by legislation. That would be a perfectly legitimate function for any Government, but it is no part of any Government’s duty to respond to an appeal such as has been made by the meat industry, and say, “ Because you want a little temporary assistance we are not going to inquire whether you can get yourselves out of the difficulty or not. Here is the money.”
– That is not the position
– It is the position as I understand it, and I have tried to view the question from all points.
– The honorable member takes a city man’s view of the question, knowing nothing of the country conditions.
– I a,m trying to look at the matter from the point of view of principle. If we give the subsidy, how can we say “ No “ to any industry that appeals to us for help, declaring that its labour for twelve months has gone for naught, and asking to be tided over its difficulties? If we say “Yes” now, -we must say “ Yes “ whenever an appeal is made to us. I go further, and ask, “ If it says ‘ Yes ‘ in this case, what answer will the Government have to any individual who declares that, owing to circumstances over which he had no control,he has lost his job, or is unable to work, and sees ruin staring him in the face ? “
– We give such persons’ assistance.
– If my honorable friends were prepared to apply the principle logically and without exception we should know where we stood.
– The honorable member seems to think that this subsidy is for the benefit of the meat industry, whereas it is for the benefit of the whole community.
– A fallacy underlies that interjection. In one sense, every industry exists for the benefit of the community, but, primarily, an industry exists for the sake of those connected with it, and as they will reap the benefit of any gain from their exertions, they should also be prepared to shoulder any loss. We seem to be drifting into the habit of responding easily to every appeal for assistance made on behalf of persons well able to look after themselves.
– The meat industry is not in that position.
– Does the honorable member know that there have not been conditions like the present since 1890?
– That may be so, but it does not affect the principle. It is merely a matter of degree.
– Of disaster, not of degree.
– It is a matter of degree. Those who have spoken on behalf of the industry say that it can help itself. If those who control the industry are able to contribute £140,000 to meet its needs, they should do so, and if a subsidy of £140,000 is given by the Government, ii should be given on the distinct statement of those engaged in the industry that they cannot raise the money themselves.I recommend the Minister to read Emerson’s essay on Self Reliance.
– These are the most self-reliant men on earth.
– That is what I thought them to be, and I am disappointed that those who went into the wilds and built up such a splendid industry, should now be showing the weakness, which is common in these days, of trying to squeeze the Government when they see a chance of getting something out of it. Emerson, in discussing the proneness of every one of us to give when we are asked, irrespective of the merits of the appeal, says, “ I confess with shame that I sometimes succumb and pay the dollar. It is a wicked dollar, which I will byandby have the manliness to withhold.”
– That is not an appropriate quotation.
– I think that it is appropriate. If the Government did not succumb to many of the appeals that are made to it, and had the manliness to withhold the “dollar,” it would have more to give to cases more deserving.
.- I was amazed by some of the statements of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who seems to lack information on the subject which he has discussed, and appears to be of the opinion that the present condition of affairs in the meat industry is the fault of the cattlemen themselves. That is not so. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) and the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) have shown that cattle are now practically worthless, and hardly obtain prices sufficient to cover the cost of droving them to market. But, according to the honorable member for Fawkner, the raisers of cattle should not have increased their stock. He says that they were lured by war prices into increasing their breeding of cattle. As a matter of fact, however, the number of cattle in Australia now is practically what it was ten years ago.
– The Minister said that that was a record.
– In any case, the increase has been inappreciable - a few hundred thousands - and the present position of affairs is not the result of any special effort to increase stock. The present holdings of stock are due chiefly to the lack of a good market.
– To good seasons and light exports.
– And to the want of means of disposing of the stock.
– Yes. Nearly all the cattle-raisers I know would be glad to hold fewer stock than they do, because of the difficulty of finding feed. It is ridiculous to charge the Government with trying to find a market for our stock, as if that were a fault. Even the United States of America, with its enormous home consumption, is always trying to extend its foreign markets. The Country party was flogged all over Queensland for opposing the beef subsidy as a permanent method of relieving the cattle industry. What we said about the subsidy was that it was of value only because of other concessions that were given at the same time. The subsidy, in itself, would have made little difference. We contend that what the cattle industry needs is not a subsidy so much as relief from the crushing taxation which has rendered it a feeble member of the national family instead of one of the main supports of the community. In June of this year, we said that the real relief we advocated was the organization of the industry in regard to handling and marketing, and the reduction of taxation. We pointed out that the pastoral industry was responsible for almost one-third of the aggregate national wealth of Australia, and that last year it brought in £98,000,000 of wealth to this Commonwealth. The income tax on graziers is very high indeed, and most inequitable as it applies to natural increase of stock. Losses are not taken into account, and many of the cattle-raisers pay a very high graduated scale. It was said by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) that one reason why the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) had opposed the subsidy was that he wished the small growers to go under because the big men could buy up their stock. This is not only grossly incorrect, but ridiculous on the face of it. Every one knows that, at the present time, small owners are trying to sell their poddies, not at so much per head, but at so much per dozen, and nearly all of us have longhorned steers worth only 15s. or £1 per head, which are three, four, and up to five years old. The big man, like the small man, has, under present conditions, too much stock ; and during the past seven or eight years the pastoral industry, and especially the cattle-rearing section of it, has been overwhelmed with taxation.
First came the Federal land tax, which was imposed ostensibly to break up the big estates - though nothing would be gained by doing that in the far-distant parts of Australia, where most of our cattle is reared and fattened. In addition to the Federal land tax, there are State land taxes to be paid, and the Queensland land tax is being made retrospective.
– That is not a tax; it is a rental.
– It is a tax which has materially interfered with the solvency of the cattle industry in Queensland, which is the country whence most cattle are exported. In 1915, a Federal income tax was imposed, the rate of which has gradually increased, until last year practically £17,000,000 was collected under it, of which probably one-fourth or one-third came from the pastoral industry. It is levied on pastoralists in a manner that is grossly inequitable, so that, in the past seven years, many men have paid more taxation by thousands of pounds than the actual profits received from their holdings. I have here a typical case, giving a man’s experience from July, 1914, to June, 1921. He writes-
The methods of the Taxation Department are often, as Judge Starke said the other day, scandalous. They are not merely unfair to individuals, but are injuring the Commonwealth, and accentuating the drift to the cities, because they are crippling farmers and graziers, who frequently are too heavily taxed to be able to effect improvements or employ as many hands as they would do normally. I should like to point out that it is not merely that the rate per fi of taxation is too heavy, and that in the case of stock-owners the income tax is often only existent in the tax collector’s imagination, but also that the Department often sends in amended assessments years after the taxpayer thinks the tax paid and done with, amended assessments based,’ not on any omission of the taxpayer, but on the Department’s delay in valuing land or finding a new method by which it can assess income higher. For instance, three years ago I was assessed and paid tax upon income I was supposed to have made during the year ending June, 1918. Early in June this year I got amended assessments for that and the following year, and a demand for a further £9,000 odd. The Department, having originally ‘ valued each calf at the “ standard “ value of £6 as income, had discovered a method they called “ average “ value, which made each calf as apparently equal to £7 8s. income, and had disallowed public gifts of over £1,000 which they had previously allowed as subscriptions coming under patriotic and charitable donations eligible for deduction from income. It is true that this new method of valuing natural increase gave me a loss in years ending 1920 and 1021, but after deducting th tax I had paid fur those two years I still hao to find £7,500 (in round figures) at short notice as extra tax for the four years by the new system of valuing calves, because two years’ big income and two years’ loss mean’ by the Department’s methods enormously more to pay in taxes than Four years’ steady income. How can a man plan his expenditure wisely if demands for large sums are thus suddenly sprung upon him by such amended assessments for past years? The calves valued as equivalent to £7 8s. cash income apiece in ID IS- 19 are now being marketed and are fetching in Sydney (after paying droving and freight) about £4 17s. 6d. for prime fat bullocks, about what it cost to rear and fatten them.
In other words, for five years he paid income tax on calves valued by the Department at £7 8s. per head, for which he is now able to obtain only £4 17s. 6d. per head.
– There is not much difference between his position and that of a business man who purchases goods which fall in value.
– The difference is that this man was paying income tax on these calves during the years that he had them on his run, whereas a man is not charged income tax in respect of the stock lying in his warehouse. The writer continues -
Some friends of mine have a small station in the extreme north of Queensland. Their calves were taxed as worth £3. A mob of these, when grown to good store bullocks, were lately sold on the New South Wales border at 10s. per head less than it cost to ‘bring them there from North Queensland.
I am aware some’ concessions have been made for the future by the Department, but, as the Stock-owners Association of New South Wales says in its circular, “ No real relief has been granted, for the shadow rather than the substance has been offered.” The tax should be on income really made, and the income should be assessed on fixed principles arrived at by men acquainted with farming and grazing as well as accountancy, and with no interest, and no kudos to gain if they can squeeze a lot of money out of the producer. And once a tax is paid, the assessment should not be amended, except to correct clerical errors, unless the returns sent in are shown to be dishonestly compiled. Above all, it should be shown a calf is not like a bale of merchandise. It is mortal and may die. It is usually not marketed for several years; it is not (except in case of valuable stud animals) possible to profitably insure, while the bale of merchandise is usually sold quickly, and replaced, and the replacements sold several times in a year.
He gives the following statement of his income : -
The writer comments on these figures as follows: -
You will see I have for seven years run my stations for the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Queensland, and paid them (£52,396-£19,282) £33,144 for the privilege of so doing. Luckily I had property outside Australia, which enabled me to live meanwhile.
– Is not the industry run in the interests of the community? That being so, he should not complain. That, at least, is the idea of some people, is it not?
– It is a very fine idea so far as some people are concerned, but I know that this man, who has many years of practical experience, and has gone to very considerable trouble to improve his herd, which is well-known all over Australia, would be glad to get out of his property and his stock for anything like the return of his capital, and to invest it in other ways, so that he would not be met with the conditions that face him at the present time. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has contended that the industry itself is responsible for the condition in which it is to-day. I am endeavouring to show that the method of taxation, and the actual taxation levied during the last seven or eight years, are really responsible for any assistance outside the industry to enable it to stand up to world conditions. The position of the industry is very low - as low as it has been for at least thirty years, and it is faced with taxation demands that are enormous compared with those which had to be met in 1890.
– Is the giving of this £140,000 to the industry an admission by the Government that such assistance has been rendered necessary by the unscientific system of taxation which it has adopted ?
– While the honorable member was temporarily absent, I said that the amount for which this Bill provides- the total of £140,000 to be given by way of bounty - was a mere bagatelle, and that it was the other conditions provided for under the agreement that were of real value to the industry. This sum of £140,000 is neither here nor there; but our attitude towards the Bill is that, having regard to the enormous taxation paid by the industry, and the fact that the bulk of the bounty comes, eventually, from the .pastoral industry-, there is no reason why any one should object to £140,000 being taken out of the revenue, so obtained, to assist it, especially when it is going to bring about at the same time many collateral benefits.
– What happened while the price of cattle was high ?
– While the price of cattle was high a third levy was made under the War-time Profits Act. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) will be able to support me in the statement I “am about to make, since it was one of his constituents who told me that in 1914 he bought cattle and kept them for four years, and that when he realized on them, in 1918, the money so obtained was treated by the Taxation Department as part of his income for 1918. On that basis the tax was levied at an enormously high rate, whereas the actual fact was that it was only as the result of four years’ work and attention on the part of his employees and himself that he was able that year to market his cattle in prime condition. The war-time profits tax, levied during the war period, has operated most inequitably. There was a drought in 1915, and while some men in the more fortunately situated parts of the Commonwealth did fairly well others lost almost everything they had. The difference between the income of those who did fairly well in the year before the imposition of the tax and their income in the following year was regarded by the Department as being due entirely to the war, although, in reality, it was due to a large extent to natural conditions. As the result of this assumption on the part of the Department these people were taxed so heavily that some of them became almost bankrupt, and have not yet recovered their position. As an act of justice the £700.000 of arrears still showing on the books of the Commonwealth in respect to the war-time profits tax should be remitted. No attempt should be made to collect it from men who already, in my opinion, have paid too much by way of taxation.
Under the War-time Profits Act the industry was again hit very severely. On. top of the war-time profits tax came the Super Land Tax. Yet another cause of trouble was the action of the Government, pursuant to the policy of the Parliament of the day, in fixing the price of meat in June or July of 1918. Mr. Greene, the Minister for Price-fixing, at the time was very indefinite as to his intentions, with the result that for many months there was a great deal of uncertainty as to what the future price of cattle would be. In my own electorate, and, indeed, in all the coastal cattle-breeding districts throughout the Commonwealth, the result was that no one cared at the time to buy. When the matter was finally settled in 1918 there was a drought in the western parts of New South Wales and Queensland, and no one from those districts would buy stock. In my own electorate, aa well as in that of the Minister for Defence, there may still be seen steers which the owners have been unable to shift, but which would have been sold as young cattle in 1918-19 except for pricefixing. These are eating up good grass on which dairy herds should be depasturing. The owners would have been better off if they had cut the throats of those steers when price-fixing of meat was instituted in 1918, instead of keeping them and having to buy feed for them during the drought of 1919. This, then, is the condition of affairs with which the cattle industry has been saddled. It has had to carry the burden on its own back.
– The dairying industry has been in the same position.
– Do not depict too much misery.
– I shall deal presently with the future of the industry, and show how it can recover itself and become again one of the main props of Australian stability; but in answer to the honorable member for Fawkner, who argued that we should develop in connexion with the industry initiative and a pioneering spirit, 1 have been pointing out how the pioneers have been dealt with. We shall have plenty of the pioneering spirit, and plenty of initiative, if we give the men outback anything like a fair. run. Those who go outback, and hold our frontier outposts - those who live in the bush, far removed from educational facilities and all the ordinary comforts and conveniences of civilization - do not deserve to be treated as they have been in the matter of differential taxation. Now that the position of the cattlemen is serious, and the export of their surplus meat, in order, that they may handle their oncoming stock, is a matter of dire necessity, it is up to the Commonwealth Parliament and every State Parliament to try to help the industry. I have dealt with the circumstances which, to a large extent, have brought about the present situation. There were also world-wide conditions which helped to make the overseas market bad.
– Can we successfully meet the Combine?
– I was about to deal with that point. I wish, first of all, however, to draw attention to the remarkable fact that per head of the population we are eating only something like 60 per cent, of the meat that we were eating ten years ago. One reason for the decrease is the high prices that butchers charged, especially during the war years, for meat. Those high prices rather discouraged the consumption of meat. Another reason is to be found in the attempt to fix basic-wage conditions, which savours very much of a dog chasing its own tail, and has gradually depreciated the standard of living so that the people are not able to buy as much as they did before. If we were now eating in Australia as much meat per family as we were ten years ago, we should be able to consume the whole of our meat output. Travelling by train from Sydney to Melbourne this week, I was told by a gentleman who is intimately associated with the wholesale butter trade that since meat had become so cheap in the retail shops of Sydney and suburbs - where corned beef can be purchased from 1½d. to 2d. pen lb., and mutton. from 2id. to 3d. per lb. - there had been a remarkable diminution in the local consumption of cheese. This shows that if meat were available at cheap rates, and the conditions were such that the people could buy what they desired, we should maintain our reputation as the biggest meat eaters in the world. In a memorandum, The National Diet, prepared by the Government Statist of New South Wales, Mr. D. T. Sawkins, M.A., in connexion with inquiries made bv the New South’ Wales Board of Trade, and published this year, it is stated that the average annual per capita consumption of beef and mutton was 153 lb. during the period from July, 1917, to June, 1920, while the average annual per capita net exports from the Commonwealth, covering six years - 1914 to 1920 - was 67.3 lb. A comparison of those two’ figures gives one to think. Ten years ago the total amount eaten per capita per annum was something like 224 lb. ; but the quantity has actually fallen by about 40 per cent. While there has been a fall in meat consumption practically all over the world, the reduction in America, for example, has amounted to only 10 per cent. The American people are now eating per capita very much more meat than we are. We are only consuming approximately what the English people are eating, though the price of meat has been 2s. lOd. per lb., as the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has said.
– The people eat as much as they can afford to buy.
– That is so. If conditions had been maintained - as they might have been, and continuous encouragement had been given in respect of primary development, there would have been a continuous market for all lines of secondary production ; and the people would have been able to eat the whole of the Australian meat-
– The medical profession has said that we eat too much meat.
– I am not now speaking as a member of the medical profession, but I am addressing myself to the subject in the interests of a great Australian primary industry. Referring to the table dealing with the annual consumption of meat per head in New South Wales, the authority which I have been quoting states -
Even if we had eaten locally all the exports of meat, the consumption would not have reached the pre-war consumption per head. At the current rate of consumption, however, the exports from the Commonwealth would, roundly speaking, feed another 2,000.000. So would the exports of butter and cheese. But there would be a great shortage of milk, pork, bacon, and ham.
That comment disposes of the point raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) concerning what could have been done to help matters locally. But now we are faced with the immediate position, and the question is, How can we most readily improve that position ? No matter how ‘good may become the conditions under which we get our meat on to the English market, and notwithstanding the suggestions made for bringing about improvements, I think that our opportunities of . competing with the Argentine, or with Canada, or with other meat producing countries operating in the English market, and closer to that market, are not of the best. We shall always be at a disadvantage by reason of the fact that those other countries have simply to chill their meat, while we have to freeze ours; and we are further handicapped by being at a greater distance from the market, and having to pay consequently heavier freights. But there are several ways in which we can deal with thi9 matter. The first means of bringing about immediate and permanent relief is to reduce the burden of taxation .in respect of pastoral holdings. The methods of taxation should be placed on a just basis - a basis such as has been proposed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse). The real form of bonus that cattlemen need is a specific differentiation in their favour as regards taxation, and not, as at present, a specific differentiation against them. Even today they are still pioneering in their industry. There is much cattle country in Australia that cannot be used for any other purpose under present conditions. Those men who are doing the work of pioneers out in that exclusive cattle country should be more heartily encouraged, both in respect of land and income taxation. The present method of assessing upon the natural increase of stock is false and vicious, and frequently causes great hardship. Relief in that direction should be afforded at the earliest possible moment. In the second place, despite what the honorable member for Fawkner has said, one of the functions of the Government is to . afford assistance, by means of advice, and in other directions, in the matter of securing new markets for our cattle.
– Does the honorable . member expect the Government to advise or subsidize the members of his profession?
– I have never known any one, either in my profession or outside of it, to object to State endowment of universities, or State assistance in the provision of professorial salaries. And the State should go as far in connexion, with this great primary industry, to say the least; for if it is given a chance, and is not emasculated and rendered anæmic - as it is becoming at present - it will aid the prosperity and stability of the whole country. Agriculture must ultimately be the great means by which this country can help to settle the millions of new-comers whom we hope to see here before long; but there is no question that the pastoral industry is really the industry which keeps the financial condition’ of Australia stable at the present time.
In the matter of providing or securing new markets, I have been afforded the advantage of perusing a letter from P. J. Walker Limited, a firm of exporters and agents, which is among the biggest dealers in frozen and canned meat in Australia. These people suggest that the two methods of granting assistance should be as follows: -
Providing a fund -
to guarantee exporters against losses on consignments of beef products to new markets, made with the consent of the Meat Export Branch, Department of Customs.
– We will not do that, I can assure the honorable member.’
– I shall deal further with that phase of the matter directly. The suggestion of Messrs. Walker Limited continues -
The natural market for any surplus Australian meat is the near East. By exploiting that field, we can give a very great deal of assistance to the Australian cattle industry, as well as to other industries. The Government can furnish that assistance, both by advice and by tangible help, in specific directions. When I was in the Federated Malay States recently, I found that, during a period when cattle were almost unsaleable in Australia, and when the London quotation for frozen meat was2½d. to 3½d. per lb., Australian rump steak was being quoted, for example, at Ipoh, one of the State capitals, at 2s. 4d. and 2s. 6d. per lb., in cold storage. There could be brought about a very great increase of our trade in all those eastern parts if there were better and more extensive provision for cold storage, both in the vessels trading thereto and at the various distributing centres in the near East. It is entirely a matter of cultivating that market, and arranging by a co-operative scheme more cold storage accommodation. I do not suggest that the natives are big eaters of meat, but the many rich Chinese, for instance, like to live pretty well,- and, altogether, there is plenty of room for expansion. I do not say that the Government should do anything in this matter of providing cold storage, but I hold that they should render assistance by giving advice and information, and directly helping along the lines of bringing about organization. If, as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) has suggested, the Australian industry organizes itself, and, in addition, provides co-operative meatworks - such as the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) has advocated - and if some fund is created whereby cold storage accommodation can be increased, both in boats and at ports of distribution, a very great expansion of trade would be brought about. The means of advancement by way of the creation and maintenance of a fund is a very good suggestion. But frozen meat for the ordinary Eastern public would always be too costly. Mr. Charles Binnie, president of the Stockowners Association, in New South Wales, has furnished a suggestion which, to some degree, at any rate, should overcome the difficulty. His comments are worthy of consideration. The method proposed is one which, in its early stages, might well receive the support of the Government. He writes to the effect that unless some relief comes quickly the industry must crash. There is good reason to believe that a market can be opened in the East, more particularly in Java and Japan, for large quantities of our meat; but it requires development. The development, he says, will cost money, and in its early stages the meat will most likely have to be disposed of at a loss. This condition may last one, two, or three years before a market becomes stable. Private companies or firms cannot be expected to stand this strain, especially as they would be developing a trade that others might take advantage of when it became profitable. The statistical position of beef today places Australia in a very bad position as regards British and European markets, and with the increase and improvement in South American herds it is likely to become worse instead of better; but, Mr. Binnie continues, if a market can be made in the East for our surplus, our geographical position would give us an advantage over our South American competitors. Frozen meat and canned meats are not likely to solve the problem, the first being costly in preparation, carriage, and storage, and extremely perishable, also limited in its range from depots. Canned meat is costly in preparation and unpalatable. The alternatives suggest dried meat - possibly dehydrated - dried, salted meat or meat prepared in some fashion a la ham. In Java there is already a trade in beef ham, and it is reported that the market can take some thousands of tons per annum. Inquiry regarding Japanese markets indicate a possible market for dried beef that can be cut into dices and made into stews. In either of the above processes the cost of preparation would not be excessive, and the cost of carriage and storage relatively low.’ “The meat would be. in mobile and almost imperishable form. And the parts of the beast could be used that are the cheapest and most difficult to dispose of in the local retail trade - that is, forequarters, hocks, butts, necks, all of which would lend themselves to treatment.
Mr. Binnie adds that a Board should be formed to assist the development of this trade, and companies or firms who will embark upon this enterprise should be guaranteed against loss for, say, the first 10,000 tons placed in the East over a period of three years, the trade not to include frozen or canned goods, for that side of the trade has been developed, and does not seem to offer the chance of the expansion that is required’ to lift the cattle industry ‘ out of its present bad position. Firms who wish to take advantage of the subsidy would have to work upon conditions approved by the Board of Control. It is not anticipated that the cost to the Commonwealth would be great, for a few shipments would indicate whether a profitable trade were likely.
– The honorable member has referred to Japan. Does he say that the Japanese prefer beef to mutton? They have vast quantities of mutton close at hand in Manchuria and Korea.
– Mr. Binnie says that this dried meat can be sold at a fairly low price compared with that of fresh, frozen, or canned meat. He also says that there had been several shipments of meat to Japan of similar quality, and that these were disposed of at . reasonable prices. There seems to be a sale for this meat- amongst people there who ordinarily cannot afford to buy any fresh meat at all. The idea is that a trade can be cultivated in Japan, and thus create a very much improved market. In my opinion, there will be a very much greater market overseas in the East for both sheep and cattle if efforts are made to encourage the private trading firms there, or even the Governments and municipalities, to extend their cool-storage facilities. For instance, some 3,000 sheep were taken over from north-west Australia to Java; but in those parts of the world it is not possible to hold animals for any length of time owing to absence of grazing facilities, and the butchers are apt to be shy of receiving many owing to the absence of proper facilities for feeding. If, however, in view of caste or religious prejudices, the killing could be done in Java, of any part of the Federated Malay States, in fairly large numbers, as soon as, or shortly after, the animals had been . landed, and the carcasses put into cool storage, a very much larger trade could be done. In my opinion the only way to rehabilitate the pastoral industry is, first of all, to have a re-adjustment of taxation. Then, there must be co-operation throughout the whole trade, with proper handling of stock on the railways, and so forth, especially during transport between the factories and the ships. There must, further, be a reorganization of the marketing and shipping conditions, with assistance in discovering and exploiting new markets, especially those close at hand. Those are not all matters for the Government ; but the Government should, at any rate, try to give a “ lead “ to the industry in these directions. This is an industry which, if given such a “ lead,” will stand by itself, and take the full responsibility for the conduct of its own affairs. Those engaged in it realize more, perhaps, than any other section of the community that, as they are such large taxpayers, the bulk of any subsidy must be practically found by themselves.
I urge that, now a certain amount of subsidy is being paid, there should be no discrimination shown in its distribution. I understand that the subsidy is to be withheld from certain works, especially small works associated with local markets who sell better quality parts for local consumption in a fresh state, canning only the less readily saleable parts of the beasts. I understand, further, that the subsidy is to be withheld from factories which are both freezing and canning centres. That seems to me to be an injustice, which, I hope, will be remedied. Representations in this regard have already been made, I understand, to the Government.
– I understood the Minister to say that all such works would receive the subsidy.
– A statement bv the Minister for. Defence (Mr. Greene) has appeared in the press to the effect I have indicated, and I think it was the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) who presented a petition on the subject.
– I think we had better leave that matter until the Bill is in Com-
– Well, I hope the Minister will be able to give us- a satisfactory explanation.
.- We have heard some informative speeches regarding the position of the pastoral industry, which is one we cannot afford to lose or allow to languish. It has been the great pioneering industry of Australia, and there are still millions of acres to be pioneered. If the pastoralist does not lay the foundation of settlement in the Northern Territory, I do not know when that part of Australia is going to prove of any benefit to the country as a whole. My own opinion is that that great Territory will have to be settled, as other parts of Australia have been, by means of the pastoral industry, followed “by agriculture in smaller areas. lt seems to me that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) looks at this measure purely from the city point of view. The honorable member- does not seem to see that the pastoral industry, great as it is, occupies a very precarious position at the present time, and that if the wheels of the industry are allowed to stop great loss must result to the whole community. If the export trade cannot be curried on, then the cattle will have to be killed and sold with a return of practically nothing. No country can afford to grow cattle at prices ranging from 30s. to £2 per head net, especially in view of the world conditions to-day. I do not know why it is, but the price of meat in the cities is not what can be called reasonable and cheap. That, however, is not the fault of the producer, who, it is patent, is not getting anything like a fair price for his cattle. When Australia, or any other country, has a great industry which is in jeopardy it pays the community to make a substantial sacrifice - not a small sacrifice like that we are called upon to make now - in order to keep it on its feet. That is the principle on which I support this measure. If the wheat or any other great industry were in danger, and likely to die, Australians would be’ very blind to their own interests as a business community if they were not prepared to make the necessary sacrifice to save the situation. If the pastoral industry were “blown out,” what would happen to Australia? We should, in the first place, lose all the pioneering benefits that the industry affords us in the way of “ blazing Ihe tracks.”
– Does the honorable member think that if this £140,000 is not paid the industry will be “ blown out “?
– I do not say it would ; but it is in such a precarious position that it is likely to stop - a state of affairs which would result in great loss to’ the community as a whole. Meatworks are being closed, and by the payment of this money employment can be found for all the men engaged in them.
– The subsidy helps a little; but it cannot be said that it does all that is required.
– It is the mainspring. If this subsidy had not been given, what would have forced the freights down in the way they have been [forced down, high as they are now? The wage-earners in the industry have shown by their action that they thoroughly realize the position in which the industry is placed; they know the straitened circumstances of hundreds of cattle-owners, and the difficulties under which they are working. These men have meritoriously agreed to a reduction in wages; and, altogether, the cattle-owner is being given assistance worth while.
– Our contribution is temporary; will the reduction of wages be temporary? Will the ordinary wages be restored next season?
– I suppose they will; and one of the points I insist on is that the assistance is only temporary. There is a danger in doling out money merely because some one asks for it; and for even temporary assistance a good case must be made out. If Australia has a large industry which ought to be kept going in the interests of the general community, it. is only fair that the community should, in their own interests, make the necessary sacrifice. After all, it is only good business to keep such an industry as this going, because on it depends the welfare of the whole of us. In the case of the Tariff, we impose what is practically permanent taxation in order to assist industries; and, surely an industry like the meat industry, which means millions to the country, may be assisted temporarily, in view of the immense benefits that result from its prosperity. I admit the value of secondary industries, but any one who looks at the statistics must see that the primary industries are much the more important, both in regard to the wealth they produce and the immense impetus they give to the development of the country. If we could only attract to this country numbers of the right sort of people to go on the land, and develop our resources, our cities would be much more prosperous. There would then be a greater demand for the products of our secondary industries. One man employed on the land may be able to support quite a number of city dwellers.
– That is done now.
– Quite so; but it might be done in an increased measure by a proper economic method. This subsidy will set the industry going in Queensland in a much more satisfactory way than would have been the case if it had been withheld. Personally, if the cattle people find it necessary to come to the Government again, and T think their case is a good one, I shall ba quite prepared to give them further assistance. In dealing with the Tariff, and such proposals as the one now before us, I approach them in exactly the same way as I would approach any private business of my own, and act accordingly. This country, in my opinion, can well afford the proposed small sum of money in order to keep the pastoral industry going. With improving conditions throughout the world, I do not suppose that the industry, if ifr gets over this year all right, will need any further assistance.
– Will it not?
– Why should it?
– Our experience is that when once a system of doles is begun it does not cease.
– This is an exceptional case. It does not follow that because the Government is asked to contribute money it will do so, unless a proper case is presented to it. This subsidy is granted, not because individuals are in danger of suffering loss, but in order to keep one of our great industries on its feet, and preserve the stability of the country - it is for the general good. That, in my opinion, is a reasonable light in which to view the proposal before us. We have heard a number of proposals today as to what the industry should do in the future. I believe that by adopting them Australia will be able to compete successfully with her surplus meat in the markets of the world, and reap great benefit from so doing. If, twelve months hence, the beef-producers ask Parliament, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) seems to think they will now that they have tasted blood, for more assistance, it will be the duty of Parliament to become fully apprised of what steps they have taken to improve their conditions. If they are not willing to help themselves in the best way they should, Parliament would have every reason to declare that these people are prepared to ask for money whenever they feel the need for it. It would not be in the best interests of the country to find money for people in such circumstances. It would not assist in stabilizing the meat industry. The owners of cattle would simply be trading on the generosity of Parliament. However, I do not think that these people are built in that way. They are the men who have practically pioneered Australia.
– Has the honorable member any evidence before him that the industry could not have started again without the £140,000!
– The evidence is very clear as to the position in which ihe industry stood.
– The works were closed.
– Yes, and this assistance has unlocked the doors of the meat-works and provided employment.
– The works positively refused to open as conditions were.
– The honorable member for Fawkner must not forget that it is not only the one farthing per lb. that is going to the cattle-owners. The workmen, taking a reasonable view of the position, and knowing the facts, have reduced their wages to the extent of one farthing per lb., and the ship-owners have also agreed to a reduction of one farthing per lb. in their freight charges. The grower actually gets the benefit of Id. per lb., and the result has justified the step taken. Every time an application for assistance is put forward the circumstances must be looked into, and I am satisfied that honorable members of this Parliament are able to take’ a sane and just view of the circumstances surrounding the meat industry, which is to-day in a parlous position, and needs sympathetic assistance. If, however, the industry requires a continuance of that aid it must show that it has done everything possible to improve its conditions by securing markets, and by sending its meat away in a better condition than that in which it has been exported in the past. Generally speaking, those engaged in the industry do all they possibly can, and we are only hoping to tide them over a temporary difficulty.
– And the money is only to be paid on the surplus exported.
– I hope I have made it clear that it is justifiable for the Government to ask Parliament to pass this Bill to aid an industry in a serious position; and when we know that the meatworks would not have been opened if this aid had not been given, and that a great number of cattle which are now to be oxported would have died, causing great economic waste to the nation, we tan readily see what benefit will be derived from affording this assistance. I am sure that those cattle-growers who nave had the enterprise to go out into the back country will not rest, but will do all they possibly can to improve the conditions of their industry. If some of the suggestions put forward by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) and others are adopted, and if the industry is properly treated by this Parliament, it should speedily recover the position it occupied in the past of being one of the greatest industries of the Commonwealth.
.- The speeches which have been delivered this afternoon have been well worth while. It is manifest from the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr Maxwell) that there are people who are not fully informed as to the importance of the pastoral industry. I am sorry that it is in such a disorganized condition that a subsidy of £140,000 is essential for it, but it has been shown very clearly that this amount is not the last straw placed on the camel’s back, but is the last straw % removed from the camel’s back to prevent it fro,m breaking. It was necessary to place a great valuable commodity in a merchantable condition by the assistance of a reduction in wages and a slight subsidy, otherwise it would have become a dead loss to Australia as a whole. However, I rise more particularly to emphasize the importance of organization as referred to by the honorable members for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and New England (Mr. Hay), and also by my leader (Dr. Earle Page). It is a sad fact that the < greatest of Australia’s money-making industries is in a disorganized condition, whereas in other countries it is organized. Had our industry been organized, the subsidy now sought for would not have been necessary. Furthermore, had the Commonwealth Government and the State Government adopted a just method of levying taxes- on the- cattle producers as I hope will be done this session, there would have been no need for this bounty, which is really only a scintilla compared with the unjust collections recently taken from the very people to whom the aid is to be given. I want to emphasize the possibilities of this great industry. There are markets available to which Australia is more entitled than is any other country. For instance, there are millions of mouths in the Far East ready to eat our meats, and at a price quite profitable to us.
– Are they meat-eaters?
– They are rapidly becoming meat-eaters. Quite recently an important business deputation from Java came to Western Australia, and said that they were desirous of taking meat from our north-west. They were then arranging for cool storage which would enable them to put it on their own markets gradually.’ The cattle of the north-west of Western Australia and the north-west of Queensland, and even of Queensland itself, are to a large extent of no value as a source of supply for the markets in the south of Australia, because the cost of transport is altogether too high; but if we could get the millions of people in the Far East to take cattle from our northern areas, money would come into this country of considerable advantage to us at a time when we are sadly in need of it. Furthermore, it would stabilize the cattle industry in the south, because southern pastoralists would then be in a position to supply continuously the needs of the more closely peopled portions of Australia at a price which would be far more satisfactory to the producer and consumer, because, the source of supply being nearer to the market, the handling charges would be low. To attempt to bring a bullock from Queensland to the south adds 60 per cent, to the cost of the beast.
– You could freeze it.
– Frozen meat is not desirable on our home market. That market can be fully supplied by meat grown in the south, and the northern areas could be used for the purpose of supplying the open markets of the world. As I have already said, the market that appeals most to us is that in the Far East, which is geographically Australia’s. I do not urge the Government to put money into assisting the opening up of markets for our meat producers, but I agree with the honorable member for New England, who says that, if necessary, a small Bill could be put through to enable an organization to impose an infinitesimal levy or tax upon the industry itself which would be needed for the purpose of organizing it. The best means of aiding the industry is to open up markets, and so enable the beef producers to get rid of the surplus which is now a drug on the market. Already the Argentine exporters are taking the Batavian trade; but that is because they are organized, which we are not. I am sorry that this dole of £140,000 is necessary. It is an infinitesimal amount, but, nevertheless, I do not believe in the principle.
– Hear, hear!
– I do not know why the honorable member says “ Hear, hear!” to that remark, because all through last year he was voting on that principle on a Tariff schedule which subsidized factories in Australia to the extent of £26,000,000, as compared with the £140,000 dole to one branch of primary production.
– What would the honorable member suggest to take the place of that £26,000,000 as revenue to carry on the government of the country?
– I am suggesting that this indirect taxation of income by what is known as a Protective Tariff operates harshly upon those engaged in the production of our requirements, by taking money out of one pocket and putting it into another, and losing something in the process.
– What would you substitute for that ?
– I would substitute something that would be an easier burden upon the people, and which would not hamper them. We find the sugar industry still claiming protection. The meat industry is demanding similar treatment, because it has been overbled, and soon those engaged in the wheat industry will be coming to this Parliament for assistance, and for the reason that our wheatgrowers are ceasing to find interest or profit in their occupation. The way to develop this country is to encourage our people to increase production. This will lead to an increase in population, and lighten the burden upon all. But this result will not be achieved if we continue to bleed the producers by way of taxation, as was indicated by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) this afternoon when he stated that one man was taxed £33,000 on a net income of £19,000. Will the Minister (Mr. Rodgers) suggest that that kind of treatment is likely to keep men in the producing industry ? This policy of extracting money from the people gets us no “ forrader.” On the contrary, it discourages people from engaging in the legitimate business of producing money for this country. I have never said that a certain amount of revenue is not necessary. Sufficient money for the legitimate needs of the country, under a proper system of administration, is always willingly paid by our taxpayers; but when it is extracted unjustly, and when the producers are unduly loaded, there is no encouragement to them to go on producing. Can it be wondered that the various sections of our primary industries are now coming in. one after another, asking for doles, be. cause they have been impoverished by the legislative measures introduced by their own Government? The honorable member for Cowper quoted the simile of a dog chasing its own tail. In this matter of taxation we are doing much the same thing. We want to produce new money. If this great meat industry were properly organized, we could sell millions of pounds’ worth of meat to customers in the Ear East and other parts of the world. That trade rightly belongs to us. The Minister has referred to the local price. Meat here is high because of the cost of bringing it to market.
– The cost of distribution is a serious matter.
– There is the distribution question again. The State Governments think they are doing a good service when they put up the charges on the railways without exercising any of the principles of statesmanship that would help, towards building up our producing interests on a sound basis. Even the Argentine is ahead of us in this matter. In that country reasonable provision is made for handling this national commodity. Satisfactory arrangements are made for the most effective method of dealing with the live-stock on the railways, and with less injury to the stock itself. ‘What is being done in this coun try to improve the position in this respect, and especially in the matter of freights? It is thought, apparently, that the squatter can stand it all.
But, after all, the effect of this policy is felt severely by the nation and the people who consume the meat. If we make up our minds to allow this great industry to become organized properly - and that is what is wanted more than monetary assistance - it has brains enough to open up those markets to which I have referred, and the business will so expand that it will require no Government doles, while at the same time it will help the stability and credit of the nation.
.- I have listened with great interest to all that has been said during the debate upon this important subject. We are indebted very much to the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) for the information he has given us, and I am sure we shall all deeply regret if the elimination of the Grampians Division in the redistribution of electorates results in that honorable member losing his 6eat in this House. His long experience and valuable business knowledge are of great assistance to us. I was rather astonished at the statement by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that, whereas the people of Australia ten years ago ate on the average 224 lbs. of meat per annum, the consumption to-day is only 153 lbs. We should search for the cause of this marked discrepancy, and if it is true that the people cannot get the meat, we should seek to apply the remedy. We are not altogether free from blame. It costs 30s. per head to bring a fat bullock a distance of 300 miles on our railways, so if a beast is marketed over very great distances, as is so often the case, the freight charges will amount to more than the bullock is worth in the market. This Parliament should see to it that meat is marketed at a very much lower cost than at present. The honorable member for Cowper pointed to the fallacy of, on the one hand, giving a bonus of £140,000 to the industry, and on the other of taxing those engaged in this business upon the value of the progeny before it is known definitely whether the calves will grow into cattle or die. I do not know that £140,000 will very much help the industry; but it should be of some assistance, at all events. The closing of Vestey Brothers’ works is a very serious matter. I understand that Vesteys stand to lose over £2,000,000 in the Northern Territory. They came here not to lose money but to make it,’ and we should look for the cause that led to the closing of their meat-works. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has suggested that if we want to market our meat in the various countries of the world, the industry should open up shops everywhere. When that honorable member has’ a suitable opportunity I trust he will explain how we are to get over this difficulty of getting our meat tq the people who require it in other parts of the world.
– I will do that.
– We are a producing people in this country, and must see to it that we get our produce to the people who need it in proper order, and at a satisfactory price. It has been stated that our stock get knocked about and badly bruised, and it is suggested that all fat stock should be dehorned. This is not allowed in Victoria.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– In time to come our people will adopt the practice of dehorning their cattle, and many benefits will ensue. When cattle with large horns get down in the railway trucks, it is impossible to get them up again. It has been said that we might improve our breeds of cattle, but I do not think that we have neglected that. We have better cattle in Australia than exist in any other part of the world. Neither in America nor elsewhere have I seen cattle like Australian cattle for beef. But we have made a mistake in not establishing freezing chambers at the country terminals of our railway lines to obviate the driving and trucking of cattle for hundreds of miles, and the consequent deterioration of the meat. We can also do a great deal to improve our methods of handling cattle. We could have properly padded trucks, and we could spell the cattle every 300 miles, as they do in America, where I noticed that the greatest care was taken of stock, which was watered and pastured every day until it got to the slaughter-yard. When we have our great central railway line, we shall need freezing chambers to en able meat to be sent down from the interior, thus avoiding the payment of high charges for carriage, and the injury and loss of. condition of stock in transport. Then in the southern portions of Australia cattle might well be slaughtered in the spring of the year, when they are in prime condition, and the meat kept in freezing chambers, instead of allowing the beasts to fall away as they do now in summer before they are killed. I do not hold that the Government should interfere too much in private enterprises. Generally speaking, the less a. Government does for the people the better, but the present Ministry is to be commended for helping the great cattle industry of Australia. It has helped the breeders of cattle, the exporters of meat, those connected with the shipping industry, and the workers, and £140,000 is a small sum compared with the benefits that will come from the spending of it. In no other direction could the money be better spent. We could not allow our meat industry to go down. Australia is a producing country, and if its production fell off, its people would suffer greatly. Where the Government can help such an industry, it should do so. Those who say that the Government should not give this assistance might as well object to the reduction of the price of wire-netting. If we could not get wire-netting to keep out the rabbits, we should be ruined. To-day there are 25,000,000 sheep fewer than there were some years ago, and that is due to the rabbits. This year 2,000,000 rabbit skins have been sold in Sydney. The Government should do all that it can to help the man on the land. We must have immigrants, and if we do not get those of our own race, people of other races will come here. While we wrangle about what should . be done, some one else may step in, and the work will not be done as well as we could do it ourselves. I am proud that a man like the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) is in charge of the Bill. No other man in Australia should know more of the wants of our people. If he does not do right, it is not for want of knowledge. I am sure that he is doing what is right, and that he will have the assistance of the House in passing a measure designed to promote the interests of the country. It is said’ that we need more country members, but if he is hot a country member I do not know who is. With regard to the honorable member for - Grampians (Mr. Jowett)-
– The honorable member for nowhere.
– The honorable member still represents Grampians, and it will be many years before he is wiped out. The only thing that will wipe him out will be age, and he will be a young man until he dies. He has done his level best to promote the interests . of the producers, and is to be commended for his efforts. Recently he went to the Old Country, and was received everywhere with open arms as a man of great experience. If more of our legislators travelled abroad, it would do good. They would return saying that we have here a beautiful country, the best in the world, and a people the most educated in the world, whose interests must be served with good legislation. I hope that we shall, as one body, legislate for the good of all sections of the community. All classes of men are needed, and all must’ have a fair deal. The eyes of the world are upon Australia, because of our franchise and the educated condition of our people; and we must be careful in what we do. Members should not., run down their country for the sake of getting votes. There are too many others who will do that We must try to provide a good meat supply for the people of the big cities. No doubt other food has been substituted for meat; but Australians -are a meat-eating people, and a meat diet does them good. We must also have a large export trade. If our export trade dies, Australia will suffer. What is needed is to keep up a regular supply of meat to the Old Country throughout the year. It would not do to send a few tons this month and a few tons next month. We can send regular supplies if we make proper provision in regard to ships and freezing chambers, and keep our stock in proper order.
.- I am not satisfied’ that there is need for the proposed subsidy to the meat industry. If the cattle-raising industry is in such straits as some honorable members have described, its condition is regrettable ; but I am sorry that the cattle-raisers are now comingcap-in-hand to the Government for relief. Those connected with the meat industry are not unanimously of the’ opinion that this subsidy will do what. is’ needed for their assistance. At a confer- . ence that was held, some of those present thought that it would be wrong to ask the Government for a subsidy of £140,000 to place the meat industry on a proper footing. An ordinary business of any size, if it needs assistance, can get itself financed by private individuals or by the banks. I protest against the Government associating itself with private enterprise in the way proposed. Why should we give the sum of £140,000 to a section . of the community ? We have not given anything to the soldiers whom we have settled on the land, we have only made advances to them. Why, then, should we give a . bounty to the exporter of meat?
– How are you going to vote?
– Against the Bill. I am not in favour of a bounty which would encourage the keeping up of the price of meat within the Commonwealth. The consumer will get no relief from what is proposed. If the cattle industry is in a bad condition, that does no credit to those who manage the industry. I know that it is difficult to control markets.
– And seasons.
– Yes. The man on the land has often, for that reason, a hard time; but during the war he was not badly off. The wealthy men in this industry, as some of their representatives have said, are able to finance it without coming to the Government; and I have heard it argued that it is the large holders who are’ chiefly concerned, that the small holders are hardly worth bothering about. Shipping freights have been reduced by one farthing per lb., and I think a further reduction in that direction could still be made. The freezing works have also come to the assistance of the producers, and owing to the reduced cost of living the men have accepted a reduction of wages, which has given the producers extra opportunities of engaging in the export trade, and of competing with those in other parts of the world where meat is cheaper.
– Where is it cheaper?
– If it is not cheaper elsewhere, why are we being asked to assist the producers -by means of a bounty 1
– Australian beef is being sold in London at 4½d. per lb., and it cannot be purchased in Australia under 9d.
– In Brisbane it can be purchased’ for 5d. per lb.
– But it cannot be bought in Melbourne at that price.
– Yes, it can.
– Then if such is the case it must be in isolated shops where meat of an inferior quality is sold.
– But the grower does not get the high prices.
– I am not blaming the producer; but when meat is being sold in London at 4½d. per lb., one-half of the ruling price here, one naturally asks why the producers should he assisted.
– A consumer could buy a carcass or a quarter at the price mentioned.
– Australian beef can be purchased in London at practically half the price ruling in Australia. ‘
– The honorable member is comparing wholesale prices with retail rates, and is not making any allowance for handling charges.
– That is not so.
– Smithfield is a whole-, sale market.
– The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has just returned from Great Britain, and is able to give us first-hand information.
– The honorable member should quote the honorable member for Grampians accurately.
– He said that Australian beef could be purchased in London at half the price at which it is being retailed in Australia, and I want to know what is wrong.
– The honorable member’s friends can go to Newmarket and purchase meat proportionately cheap.
– We cannot expect consumers to purchase by the carcass. I do not think it can be said that the producer is receiving an exorbitant price, although he has been getting a fair deal.
– Only 7s. 6d. per 100 lbs. before the bounty was arranged.
– If this measure becomes law one naturally asks where the practice of paying bounties is likely to lead us, because if the overseas market shows a further decline, we may be asked to contribute another £140,000 to assist the beef producers. I do not intend to support any measure framed for the purpose of liquidating the liabilities of any. section of the community, when that section should be able to discharge its own debts, and it has not been shown in this debate that the cattle-raisers are in. dire distress, or that their banking accounts are exhausted.
– I mentioned in my second -reading speech that it was impossible for them to get any financial assistance from the banks.
– The Minister is probably expressing a candid opinion after giving the matter careful attention, but even supposing he is right, is there any justification for contributing £140,000?
– What right have we to protect our secondary industries and leave our primary industries to the wolves?-
– If bounties are to be paid to manufacturers of wire netting and steel rails, it would appear that the practice of seeking bounties is becoming quite popular. If the graziers’ trouble is of only a temporary character, they should not need financial assistance; but if their . disabilities are likely to be permanent, what is the use of paying a bounty? If it had been proved that those engaged in the industry were on the verge of bankruptcy, or that the payment of the bounty would be the means of reducing the price of meat, the measure would have somethingto commend it. We are merely increasing the burdens of the taxpayers instead of assisting them.
– Not at all.
– This money is to be spent in assisting the cattle-raisers; but the payment of bounties will not be of any benefit to the Australian taxpayers, apart from those who will participate. It has not been shown that the Bill is necessary.
– I explained the position of the producers very fully this afternoon, when the honorable member was not present.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) proved that there was no necessity for this mea-‘ sure; the representatives of the industry who met in conference in Adelaide were not unanimous- upon the question, and .as it does not give relief to the people in the way of cheap meat, I oppose the Bill.
Mr. COSSER (Wide Bay) [8.28J.- I advise the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fancis), to whom I listened witu a great deal of interest, to ‘travel throughout the length and breadth of Australia to obtain information on what is taking place in other parts of the Commonwealth before’ he .deals with such Bills as the Meat Export Bounties Bill. It is true that the best meat can be obtained at butchers7 shops in Brisbane at 5d. per lb. - even as low as 3$d. per lb. - but I have never been informed that similar meat is available in Great Britain at one-half of that price. 1 cannot see that there is a vast difference between the Government volunteering to assist an industry of this importance and an industry engaged in the manufacture of tractors, galvanized iron, or fencing wire, &c. -Industries engaged in manufacturing the commodities mentioned ‘.are to receive bounties for -protection, and, at the same time, men ou the land will be helped by- allowing such articles to come in free of duty. 1 shall always support such protection, so long as it docs not penalize the men on the land. Id Queensland alone, there are 7,047,370 head of cattle, and this year the number is 592,303 more than in the previous year. That increase cannot be attributed to good seasons, because in many parts there has been a drought, but is due to the fact that our exports were almost nil. When prices were high, many cattlemen sold to people who not only put their all into the industry, but borrowed from -financial institutions to enable them to go into it. Unfortunately, the prices of cattle have now fallen to such an extent that the financial institutions .themselves would- gladly dispose of the small stations which ‘have fallen into their hands at prices .’that would return them the money they advanced on them. The people who invested the savings of years in the industry find themselves, now that the bottom has temporarily fallen out of it, in’ a very serious position, and can be assisted only in the way for which this Bill provides. They have on their, runs large numbers of fat stock which will remainfat for only a certain period, and it is necessary that they should realize on this stock in order to save their grass for the calves which, under normal conditions, should take their, place. If kept until winter comes, the beasts will lose condition. They will be fat stock no longer, and fodder and grass will have to be provided to fatten them for next season. In this way, cattlemen, unless granted assistance, would be deprived of their assets in the shape of calves, which would have to be destroyed. Had the Government failed to step in and grant this bounty to assist in the export of our surplus meat, the revenue of the Commonwealth would have been seriously affected. We should have lost, by way of income tax returns, probably more than the £140,000 for which this Bill provides. In Queensland, cattlemen are settled on both small and large tracts of country, comprising over 400,000,000 acres. There are also big cattle runs in Western Australia and the other States; but half the cattle raised in the Commonwealth are produced in Queensland. If the industry were destroyed, what would ,become of the revenue that is now. derived from the lands so used ? - What, also, would become of the revenue derived from the railways which serve those, lands? If the ‘ industry were no longer carried on, these vast areas would quickly be overrun with dingoes, rabbits, foxes, and, in Queensland, with the prickly pear; so that land values in that State alone would be reduced to the extent of millions of pounds. If those who have been engaged for years in the pursuit went out of it, who would take their place? Could people without experience be reasonably expected to fill the breach? ‘ I think not; so that the result would be that vast areas in the Commonwealth would be depleted of population, and would become absolutely non-revenue producing. All this might have happened but for the foresight of the Government. They have recognised how necessary it is to come to the assistance of this enterprise by guaranteeing a bounty of id. per lb. and arranging a further reduction of approximately fd. on the transport of surplus meat. In this way they have afforded temporary relief to the industry.
Many honorable members ask how long the present depression - is likely to last. I dare say that the people of the world will consume as much, meat as they have in the past. For many years, the meat produced in Australia, America, Argentine, and elsewhere has not been in excess of the world’s requirements-; but, largely on account of the war, the meat export -trade has been upset. Many countries’ to which we sent meat before the war are unable, owing to their financial position, to take supplies from us. It is not long since we passed an Act prohibiting the sale of wool for export at less than 8d. per lb. The passing of that measure at once tended to .stabilize the wool market in Great Britain. We know perfectly well that our wool surplus ‘is in no danger. The world is not producing more wool than it needs. As a matter of fact, -before the war we had far more sheep than we have to-day. In Australia, there were 92,000,000 sheep; in Russia, 73,000,000; in the United States of America, 48,000,000; and in the Argentine, 43,000,000. We were then the largest producers of wool in the world, but we were never at any time unable to dispose of our production. The wool position to-day must be largely affected by Russia’s lose of nearly the whole of its 73,000,000 sheep.
– The number of sheep in the world to-day is 36,000,000 less .than ever before.
– I should say that that is a conservative estimate. Within the last few months enormous quantities of meat have been sent to Russia to save the people there from starvation, so that it is reasonable to assume that its one time enormous flocks of sheep have been almost depleted. If that be so, what an influence it will have on the supply of the requirements of the whole world. We gre not producing in Australia more meat than we did before the war, and as soon as certain oversea markets are again open - to us there will be a ready sale for all the meat that we can produce.
I remind the Committee that this is only. a. temporary measure of assistance that is offered the industry. The action taken by the Government has resulted in an excellent understanding being arrived at between the steam-ship companies, the meat Works, the labour employed in the industry, and the Government, as the outcome Of which the industry will be able to carry on. It should be our endeavour to protect the large number of people who bought into the industry when stock was -selling at high prices. We should strive to give them an opportunity to get out of the enterprise without being ruined. During the war those engaged in the cattle industry, amongst’ others, were subjected to an unfair system, of taxation. In my own electorate cattle are raised in very large numbers, and graziers in making up their income tax returns were required, as far as my memory serves me, to value at £3 per head every calf on their run. Honorable members will realize how hard hit these people have been, when after paving income tax on the basis of £3 per calf, from the time that the beast was born until it was fully grown and fattened, they were compelled, as many recently have been,”, to sell the fat beast at 12s. per cwt. delivered in Brisbane. Constituents of mine have written to me within the last fortnight to the effect that they have sold large quantities of their stock to the meat works in Brisbane at the rate of 12s. per cwt, delivered. They have asked me whether they were correct in assuming that they would he able to collect this bounty on that basis, seeing that they sold to the meat works, subject to the condition that the bounty should be payable to them. This Bill rightly provides that the bounty shall be payable to such persons. In the circumstances, it cannot be collected by the proprietors of the meat works. It would be interesting to ascertain how much over and above the £140,000 to be paid by way of bounty has actually been paid’ by cattlemen as excess income tax owing to the basis on which they were compelled to value, their calves for income tax purposes. Taking the yearly increase on a total of 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 cattle, and valuing the calves for income tax purposes at £3 per head from the time when they were, say, only a fortnight old until they were fully grown and fat beasts, and allowing that they were then sold at 12s. per cwt., it must he apparent that there has been a very large overcharge of taxation.
I am convinced that if our city friends and their representatives in this Parliament would show for the man on the land the consideration which the man on the land and his representatives., on this aids of the House have exhibited for the secondary industries carr.ed on in our cites they would enthusiastically support this measure.
– Did not the Country party oppose the protective duties designed to assist the secondary industries of our cities?
– I am speaking for myself and the Nationalist members representing country electorates like my own. 1 bel.eve, and always have believed, in dealing fairly with every section of the community. I have never been a sectional man, and I am speaking now of what we as a party, and not of what the Country party, did. Evidently the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) thinks that there are few representatives of the primary producers in the Nationalist party. Few men in this Parliament, however, represent a bigger constituency of primary producers than I do. I do my best to study their interests, but that is no reason why I should not also see that fair play is extended to the secondary industries of the Commonwealth. I have always taken up that stand, and I appeal to my honorable friends who represent metropolitan constituencies, and some of whom are disposed to take a narrow view of this question, to mete out fair play in this instance to the men who have to struggle cn the land.
.- I have been somewhat surprised at the tone of some of the speeches delivered on this measure. A good .deal of money has been advanced by the Government in recent years. There has been an amount of £250,000 devoted to the search for oil, and the development of wireless telegraphy has absorbed £500,000, so why should honorable members quibble at the present proposal to spend £140,000? It seems to me that those who do so are straining at the gnat, although they have swallowed the camel. Had it not been for the advance made by the Government in connexion with cold stores, the fruitgrowing industry of Victoria would have been in a precarious position to-day. I am more interested in the meat question, however, from the point of view of the workers in the industry, and there is a
Very large number of them. Some of them hare made a big sacrifice by working at reduced rates in order to keep the wheels of industry running. I also nave in mind the numerous small cattle-raisers who join the big pastoralists in sending stock to the meat works. When people have suffered damage from floods and cyclones, the Government have had no hesitation in the past in coming to their aid. We have the further illustration of the Government assistance to producers in supplying seed wheat. 1 am hopeful that by the better organization of the meat industry great advantage will be forthcoming from the consumer’s point of view. I am not particularly interested in the large butchers, who are growing opulent at the expense of the consumers.
– And truculent, too!
– Yes. Noticing the prices from week to week of prime bullocks on the hoof at the Newmarket sale yards, there is certainly too much difference between those rates and the prices which the consumers have to pay for beef and mutton. What the Labour party is fighting for is to bring the producers and the consumers more closely together. The trouble is that there are too many middlemen who. are making large profits. The consumer’s hope lies in the lessening of the cost of distribution. The Trade Promoter and Manufacturing Economist for the 12th August, 1922, has the following paragraph: -
The serious position of the Australian meat trade with England is attributed to the fact that foreign Beef Trusts have flooded the English market with meat at below cost price, thus making it impossible for Australia to compete. Five American packers, who, unlike Australia, have enjoyed the benefit of war conditions, have, through this policy, mode a loss for 1921 of £20,000,000.
How can they afford to make that loss? It is because it is likely that during the war period their profits amounted to £60,000,000, and they are now prepared to lose £20,000,000 in order to keep the Australian meat exporters from com))eting in the markets of the world. The amount of £140,000 involved iu connexion with the present Bill may not seem to amount to much, but the fact that the Commonwealth Government are stepping in will make the American meat packer pause. He knows, just as the Shipping Combine does, that though he can squeeze private individuals out of the market he cannot successfully fight a Government.
New Zealand has legislated to keep the American packers out of the Dominion. Once the Amer.can Beef Trust is permitted to get the upper hand, God help the Australian consumers. I do not blame the cattle-raisers for the high price of meat. It is due to the army of middlemen, who make both the producers and the consumers suffer. While I confess that it may seem strange for a Labour man to support a proposition such as the present one, I am doing so in the hope that considerable relief will be afforded to the consumers, and to the workers concerned in the industry. I feel sure that organization among the cattle .raisers will have a result beneficial to consumers and producers alike.
Denmark has developed a splendid trade in the export of bacon and butter to Great Britain, and the organization of those industries is all that could be desired.
– Denmark sent 1,000 tons of beef to England last year.
– To a large extent, that country went out of beef production, and devoted itself to the bacon and butter industries, in which it stands supreme. Its organization is practically perfect. I am not one of those who believe in. condemning Autralian produce because one particular man - to put it mildly- has acted in a manner contrary to the interests qf the trade in which he is engaged. Let the authorities follow such men up, and, if necessary, put them in gaol, because they are only trying to gain fraudulently that to which they have no right, and they are injuring the people engaged, in the same industry. A producer in Denmark sends eggs through his co-operative company, and they are marked with his own number. If a grocer in Great Britain finds that an unsatisfactory article has been supplied, the fault is traced back to the person responsible for it. He is confronted with the shell of the egg marked with his number, and is warned that if he repeats the offence he will be ejected from his association. I am looking forward to the better organization of the cattle raisers resulting in more favorable prices to the consumers, and a better return to the producers.
Whilst I am no supporter of the beef baron, I am in sympathy with those producers who need protection against the unfair competition of the American packing houses.
– If the beef baron had not opened up the country, there would be nothing there at all.
– The man with his pockets well lined is quite able to defend himself, as a rule, and he is very likely to tell you to mind your own business if you offer to help him; but in the case under consideration, there are a large number of small producers who are practically down and out. Now there has been an agreement come to between the workers, the packers, the freezing works, and those who raise the cattle, and the Government have promised the small measure of support which the Bill contemplates. So far as I am personally concerned, I support the measure.
– I thank honorable members for the very reasonable manner in which they have received the Bill. I do not think I would have risen at all, were it not that I- desire to make an appeal to the House to pass the second reading without a division. My reason for doing this is the fact that this is a very complicated matter, and has been a very troublesome one. The problem of the meat industry has confronted the Government for (he past two years, and the measure represents the final stage in the negotiations. All attempts to put the industry on a profitable and workable basis having failed, the Government have brought in the Bill. After all, those engaged in the industry are the best judges of the conditions surrounding it, and I commend the attitude of the workers in Queensland who, when the case was put to them, agreed to accept a reduction of their wages. Some of them voluntarily sacrificed as much as 12s. a week in order to keep the industry going. The best answer I can give to honorable members who have criticised the Bill is that the whole of the meatworks in Australia, with the exception of two, had closed, and the owners had definitely said that they would not undertake operations this season under the present conditions of the Home market. The price in Northern Queensland, before the subsidy was 7s. 6d. per 100 lbs., delivered at the meatworks, a figure which left no payable margin. The position was that the ships were idle because there was no demand for the refrigerated space, the employees were out of work, and the meatworks were closed. The position became desperate, and a compulory conference was convened at the instance of the Commonwealth Government, the result being the present proposal.
The real issue is the confirmation of the agreement or bargain made between the Government, the shippers, the meatworks owners, and the employees. I say,’ in reply to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who has laid great stress on the case from his point of view, that the Government definitely refused a subsidy, when it was asked for as a subsidy alone. The request was made to me personally. I said that I could not recommend ‘it to the Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) took the same view as I did, and so did the Cabinet. It would have meant high freights and high charges at the meatworks; but, if it was possible to get all those engaged in the industry to come to an agreement to make the necessary reduction in shipping freights, meatworks’ charges, and wages, the Government said they would be willing to do something to create the margin necessary to enable the works to resume. The result is that, by the end of the season, £2,250,000 worth of Australian beef will have been treated for export which otherwise would have been left on the hoof, with the possibility, under the present drought conditions, of being lost. It is not a proper -presentation of the case to say that the £140,000 alone is having this very beneficial effect. It is also due to the agreement among all parties, the cumulative effect of which was to materially increase the price per 100 lbs., providing a margin sufficient to start the works. All parties engaged in the industry, including the employees, recognised that the country was faced with impossible conditions. If the Government would go no further than to help secondary industries, I would surrender my portfolio. I would withdraw from a Ministry which refused to come to the assistance of a great primary industry in its hour of crisis. This industry will, in other ways, pay back to the country, and handsomely, all that is to be advanced to it; the whole of the people will benefit.. I ask the honorable member for Fawkner to consider what would be the alternative if the Government refused to proffer assistance.
– Those engaged in the industry would be forced to do something for themselves.
– I have already pointed out that the Arbitration Court was twice appealed to to reduce wages, but refused to do so. For eighteen months the Government strove to induce the shipping people to bring down their freights; but in vain. Under the present arrangements, freights will be cut down by £d. per lb. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) spoke ungenerously to-day. In that respect he was unlike the .honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and. the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay). Those honorable members are familiar with the true position, and they stated the facts practically and correctly. The honorable member for Indi suggested that the Government had hitherto given only insignificant assistance to the industry. The honorable member is not acquainted with the facts of the position. For eighteen months the Government strove to secure British contracts, both in respect of Army and Navy supplies, and under the Poor House laws. We endeavoured to have Dominion meat specified. We strove to secure some form of preferential treatment in relation to Dominion supplies. During the war, our greatest rival, the Argentine, had secured huge contracts at greatly enhanced prices compared with the figures for the business which we were getting. However, our efforts were not successful,- and, as a last resort, the Government decided to grant the form of assistance which is provided for under the Bill. All parties were brought together, and they came to a common - agreement; That is the basis of this measure, and I ask honorable members to ratify it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
The bounties under this Act shall be payable in respect of -
the export from the Commonwealth, on or before the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two, of standard beef (other than canned beef as prescribed) slaughtered on or’ after the fifth day of April, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two, which is placed in cool store on or before the thirty-first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two;
the exports from the Commonwealth, on or before the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two, of canned beef as prescribed, slaughtered on or after the fifth day of April, One thousand nine hundred and twentytwo.
– I desire further information in relation to the canned meat upon which the bounty will be paid. The clause appears to be complicated. It will be difficult for the Government to ascertain whether the meat was killed before or after the 5th April. There may be large quantities of canned beef placed in cool storage before that date, on which a claim may be made for the bounty. How will the Government be able to provide against imposition? There should be no loophole.
– There were few works operating prior to April.
– Even so, thousands of tons of canned meat may have been stored for months, and even years, prior to the date set out in the clause. Will it not be difficult for inspectors to ascertain the exact date of slaughtering?
.- There will not be the difficulty that the honorable member suggests. It is proposed to pay the subsidy only in respect of canned meat in regard to which the whole beast has been slaughtered for canning for export. I have had numerous requests - some emanating from honorable members, and many from trade interests outside - that all canned meats should come within the beneficial scope of this measure. It is certainly not the intention of the Government, at the present time, to concede that. When speaking upon the second reading of this Bill I explained that the subsidy would apply to frozen meat for export which had been slaughtered between the 5th April and the 31st October, and shipped up to the 31st December, but that, in respect of canned meat, the bounty would be paid only in cases where the whole of the beast had been treated for export. If such provision were not made the Government would be called upon to pay in respect of canned meat taken from carcasses the other portions of which had been sold advantageously in the local market.
Originally the Government did not propose to pay any bounty on canned meat. However, representations were made to the effect that certain portions of the Commonwealth had no facilities for the export of frozen meat or for the shipment of live cattle for export. There are works in Australia devoted solely to the canning of the whole beast. In respect of such works there will be no difficulty whatever. The meat will be treated under Government supervision, and the date of treatment will be marked on every can, so that there will be a positive and definite check.
– How will the Government distinguish in the case of canned meat from an animal the whole of whose carcass is canned and exported, and from a carcass part of which has been consumed locally ?
– In the Byron Bay District, for example, there is a canning works where the whole of the beast is treated for export canning. There is no freezing works.
– Part of the beast is treated for canning and part for extract.
– I am talking of the particular class of works for which the Government has made provision. In those works there will be no difficulty whatever. In the other case, if the proprietors of a meat works decide that, as the season has fallen off, the cattle are not suitable for freezing for export, and determine to can the whole beast, they may do so. There is no difficulty, but they will have to comply with the conditions imposed by the Government. The necessary supervision can be exercised. The date of slaughtering can be known, because it is embossed on the can.
– Were ‘ the tins so marked prior to April?
– Yes.. There is always supervision over meat for export. I confess that I cannot see the difficulty as it presents itself to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton).
– Suppose a beast is exported partly frozen and partly canned? Hindquarters are always more valuable to export than forequarters..
– It is not our intention to apply the subsidy to canned meat works unless they treat the whole beast for export. That is the decision the Government have come to. We have had many representations in regard to the matter, but the Government does not intend to relax. Experience may prove, before the end of the period, that a more liberal interpretation should be put upon it. I ask members of the Committee to look at the definition of canned meat, which says, “ ‘ Canned beef as prescribed ‘ means canned beef which has been prepared for export under the prescribed conditions.” There is nothing there that definitely shuts out canned meat of which the Government approves, and if we find, as a result of administration, that it is desirable or in the interests of the industry to apply a more liberal interpretation, then the machinery is there for the purpose.
– Have any representations been made in regard to meat extract?
– None at all.
– I have circulated two proposed amendments which I trust the Government will accept and the Committee will approve. The first relates to the alteration of the date from 31st October to 31st December, and it will permit the bounty to be paid for meat which is handled and put into store up to the 31st December. I was not present in Australia when the conferences were held, but I think that the Government has acted with a generous desire to re-establish the industry and to enable it still to carry on this year. As the Minister (Mr. Rodgers) pointed out when the promise was made, apparently on the 5th April, the strong probability was that the whole of the beef exporting works in Australia would be closed. Those that were working were on the point of closing, and others had no intention whatever of opening, the prospects not being sufficiently good to justify them in doing so. The sole object of making the promise was that the meat works might open and be carried on in full swing. The object was not to give a dole or any form of assistance to the graziers. The belief was, at that time, that the whole season in Queensland would end on the 31st October, and but for the severe drought which has been experienced in that State it would have been quite easy for the meat- works to have killed by that date all the cattle that would have come forward. There is one district in Queensland from which magnificent cattle for export come, which is a very long way from any railway. I refer to Cooper’s Creek. I think that some of the cattle which come from there have to be driven 200 miles to the rail-head. Owing to the drought, some of the stock routes are closed for want of water. The works in Brisbane dealing with stock from that district operate when cattle are coming in, close when there are no cattle, and re-open when fresh mobs arrive. They have reasonable expectations that mobs of cattle which they have already bought in anticipation of the bounty will arrive if rain should fall and make water available on the stock routes.. These cattle will enable them to continue operations until the end of November, or perhaps, the end of December. If the works do continue until that date they will be handling cattle which in ordinary circumstances would have been killed by the end of October if they could have been brought in. It seems to me, therefore, that my proposed amendment embodies a very reasonable request, and should meet the views of every honorable member in this Committee. ‘Such cattle ought to be allowed to come within the purview of the Act, although they could not, owing to seasonable conditions, be brought down by the end of October. The cattle that have been’ bought are fat on their pastures ; and it would be of benefit to everybody that they should come in and be killed, even if they should be killed after the end of October.
.- I would like to speak on the matter raised by the Minister (Mr. Rodgers) in connexion with the withholding of subsidies on the export of canned beef part of which is consumed in Australia. I understand that the matter is dealt with by regulation, so that it is unnecessary for me to move an amendment to the clause to give effect to it. It does not seem to me that there is any valid reason why the subsidy should not be paid in these cases of only part of a beast being exported, especially as subsidy is paid at so much per lb. The great merit of the Bill is that it will promote the export of surplus stock, and the fact that a certain portion only of a beast is exported, and that the worst portion, in a form in which it cannot be detected as the worst, and the best part is consumed in Australia, is no valid reason why the subsidy should be withheld.
.The point raised by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is the one upon which I was trying to elicit some information from the Minister (Mr. Rodgers). I cordially agree with , the statement that it is not only unjust, but unwise, that this subsidy, if paid at all, should not be paid on what is actually the inferior part of the beast, thus encouraging the Australian public to consume the better part. That is quite a sound proposition for Australia. When the fore part of a beast is tinned you cannot tell the difference between it and the better parts. Why not let us consume the better parts in Australia in their fresh form, and send abroad the other parts which, when canned, are indistinguishable from them.
– Canned beef does not go into the same market as frozen beef.
– That is so. It is on a different level, and is consumed in different quarters. If the Minister can meet that position he will spread the advantages of the Act very considerably. It will not involve an expenditure of a great sum of money, because, instead of exporting the whole beast, the works will export only the parts that should be exported, and Australia will consume the parts that are best consumed fresh. The total amount exported and the total amount of bounty will probably be very nearly the same as the Minister wants it to be.
.- Had this question not been raised by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), it was my intention to raise it. It seems to be an extraordinary discrimination to handicap a certain amount of our beef, which, as we all know, is not the best. It is probable that if we are not very careful and give every encouragement possible to the exportation of this beef, we shall lose our markets. According to reports in the press, the Argentine has arranged to deliver to Germany 520,000 head of cattle in the next two years, frozen and canned, to be paid for by a local loan and goods. If we block in any shape or form -the enterprise of canning by withholding any mea sure of subsidy from that portion of our meat which is not the most choice, we shall have a lot of it left on our hands, either in store, on the hoof, or in other forms. The Bill is designed to advance the meat industry, and it ought not to be narrowed down to that particular portion of the beast which is tinned and not. exported, as against that which is tinned and locally consumed. I hope the Minister will take the matter into consideration, and give the same advantages to beef which is tinned, the choice parts of which have been exported or locally consumed, as he proposes to give to other beef which is tinned and exported.
– I cannot see eye to eye with the honorable members who have raised this point. They appear to overlook the very foundation on which the whole measure rests. This is a subsidy paid in respect of meat where the Government officers are satisfied that the subsidy or its equivalent goes to the owners. It is not a subsidy for canned meat works, which would be the result of the proposal now made. The intention is not to create a profitable market, but to give the owner a subsidy that will help him to carry on his industry. The canned meat works will have their machinery for securing their margin of profit whatever may be the cost of beef, or the condition of the market, for the trade is conducted on marginal profits, and when the markets are normal, the margin will be greater. This subsidy is paid only where the Government are satisfied by certificates that the grower or owner gets a price which insures him the subsidy. The position may arise under the suggestions made, that the meat works have got the “meat cheap. .
– It is the “ vendor “ that is spoken of.
– The cattleownerthe vendor.
– The vendor may be an agent.
– He may be. There is no method of proving that the cattle bought, and subsequently canned, if the honorable member’s suggestions were carried out, has ever paid the subsidy, or a price equivalent to the subsidy, to the owner.
– Just as much as in any other case.
– Not at all. If the honorable member had followed my second-reading speech, he would know that, before anybody can get the subsidy, it has to be proved that the price paid was inclusive of the subsidy, and the owner has to sign an acknowledgment to that effect.
– We know all that.
– How can those tests be applied to canned meat, where part of a beast went into home consumption, and was not bought for export? If, subsequently, the purchaser elects to put the meat into the home market, he musthave a better” home market.
– I am afraid the Minister does not thoroughly know the operations of meat works.
– I cannot follow the manoeuvres of the honorable member’s mind, but I know the provisions of the Bill clearly, and have personally handled the position since the commencement. I say that there is no possible machinery by which we can prove that the meat in the can, part of which went for home consumption, ever paid the owner a price which included the subsidy. As I say, the suggestion now made would mean a subsidy to the canned, meat works.
– Not at all.
– I repeat that the Government are now asked to pay a subsidy on canned meat, in respect of a beast part of which went into home consumption and part has been exported. That is not carrying out the terms on which, the subsidy is granted, and I cannot give any assurance that the suggestion will be carried out.
I sympathize very much with the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) in the point he has raised. I am aware that the season has “ tapered off” very badly in parts; but in any case, I submit that the proposal is not in carder, because it would alter the financial provisions by extending the time, and would necessitate an amendment of the Message on which the Bill is founded. The Government’s effort was to provide for the season, which is from April to October. We had several conferences, and the owners themselves had full voice in determining what the actual ‘killing season was, taking the continent as a whole. There is another reason for not agreeing to the suggestion made. Since the Government decided to pay the subsidy the home market has improved to an extent, at last, equal to½d. per lb., so that those particular owners will not have been prejudiced; their position is, if anything, a little better, and I ask the honorable member not to proceed with his amendment, though I recognise there is much to be said in favour of an extension of time.
– I accept the assurance of the Minister (Mr. Rodgers) that he desires to help the industry in every possible way, and I only regret that he does not find himself able to accept the amendment. I recognise his difficulty, and, therefore, I do not propose to proceed with the proposal. I now. move -
That after paragraph a the following new paragraph be inserted: - (aa) the export from the Commonwealth, on or before the thirty-first day of May, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-three, of standard beef exported in fulfilment of any contract which has already been made providing for the shipment of beef monthly or at shorter intervals.
This amendment applies to a case to which it is possible full consideration may not have been given at the various conferences with the exporters and owners of cattle. I do not know the date of the last of the conferences.
– I should say it was towards the end of April or early in May.
– -As I imagined it was a good long time ago, and matters which might not then have been easily foreseen have since become very obvious. I have in my mind the case of a meat company, one of the general managers of which, who is now on his way to England, came here and saw me, and followed up that interview with a letter, of which I think it just as well to read a few lines in order to explain to the Committee exactly what the position is. A great many years ago this company secured a contract of immense value to Australia, known as the Manila contract for frozen meat. That contract the company lost during the war, but I need not go into the circumstances of that. With a considerable amount of difficulty this Manila contract has “been regained, “for Australia. One condition of the contract is that the meat shall he supplied to Manila, and also to Singapore, in monthly quantities. There is very small refrigerating store accommodation at these two places, and, therefore, when the season’s beef is bought - because, after all, as the Minister has pointed out, this is a seasonal business - delivery cannot be taken all at once, and the meat has to remain in frozen store in Queensland until it is required. This contract was completed in the hope and belief that those concerned would obtain this subsidy. I think the contract is for 3,000 tons, spread over six or nine months, shipped in monthly quantities, and the company submit the following reasons why this amendment should be carried, and they should receive the benefit of the subsidy : -
In North Queensland the cattle-killing season is usually from April to October, so that it is necessary for beef to he held in store usually from November until about March. It is not possible to ship this beef to the East and hold it there in store, as there is insufficient storage accommodation in that part.
The contract has been secured this year for the supply of beef for the United States Army at Manila, and a condition of this contract is that shipments will be made monthly from September to May.
Honorable members will all recognise the immense importance of conserving all markets for frozen beef, no matter how small, especially in the East.
– When was this contract entered into?
– It is not stated in the letter. The honorable member knows that I have only recently returned to Australia, and I have not followed the details until quite lately. However, it is highly probable that the contract was entered into long after the conference was held. I shall endeavour to obtain the information for the honorable gentleman. The letter goes on -
In fact, the meat companies in no way benefit by the Government subsidy. On the other hand, they contributed towards the subsidy by reducing their charges½d.
I wish to make it quite clear that this amendment does not affect the killings in the slightest degree. All the cattle under the Manila and Singapore contract have already been killed, and the whole of the beef is in the stores of the export company.
– The companies have no need for an extension of time.
– They counted on an extension of time when they made the contract.
– They can still lodge their claim.
– No, because the Bill provides that the bounty is only payable in respect of meat shipped before 31st December, whereas much of the beef to which I am referring cannot be shipped before May. I realize the Minister’s difficulties and fully, sympathize with him. He has certainly done his best to the advantage of the industry, and I hope that he will make ‘provision.’ by which this company may derive some benefit from the bounty.
– It will save the time of the Committee if I intervene at this stage. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) circulated two amendments. He has chosen not to proceed with one, and has now proposed the other, but the principles that applied to the amendment with which he is not proceeding apply also to the one with which he is proceeding, that is to say, it proposes to increase the appropriation under the Bill. Upon this point I have already given several rulings, the most recent being on the 21st August last, to the effect that in addition’ to the Standing Orders the Constitution provides against any amendment which seeks to increase the appropriation under, a Bill. The measure now under consideration is a money Bill, which has been preceded by a message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation under it, and although no stated sum is set down in the Bill, the message applies to the money necessary for carrying out the purposes of the measure, and that amount only. In the clause which the honorable member proposes to amend, the date of termination is 31st December, 1922, which he seeks to extend to May, 1923. His amendment if carried would thus extend the scope of the Bill for five months, and must necessarily increase the appropriation under the Bill. In such circumstances I am bound to rule that it is not in order.
.- The’ Government were rather disposed to meet the wishes of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) if it were in order to do so. As a matter of fact, the alteration of date proposed by him would not increase the amount of appropriation, because the Government propose to pay the subsidy upon the meat placed in cold storage before 31st October next. If for any reason meat upon which the subsidy has been paid is not exported, the owner of it must make a refund to the Commonwealth, and the effect of the honorable member’s amendment, unlike his prior amendment, which proposed an extension of time for the receipt of further meat into cold storage upon which subsidy would be payable, is merely to extend the time for taking the meat out of cold storage with the necessity for making a refund. I would be pleased if the Chair would take into consideration the fact that the Government propose to pay the subsidy immediately the meat is placed in cold stores before 31st October, and that it is permitted to be shipped from that date until 31st December, and that an extension of the latter date would not increase the amount of the subsidy to be paid, but would merely extend the time before a refund is necessary.
– I have ruled that the amendment is not in order. The Committee can dissent from my ruling if it thinks wise to do so.
– If possible, a subsequent opportunity may be taken, possibly in another place, to ‘meet the wishes of the honorable member for Grampians to a certain extent.
– Surely it is not proposed to get over the Chairman’s ruling by moving in another place?
– It is not proposed to do so, but I wish to explain the position of the Government in regard to the matter. It is recognised that, if possible) Australia should preserve, and even extend, her trade in the East - whew we are aware that sufficient cold storage does not exist. If we are to hold our contracts the meat must be held in Australia and rationed out to the East in monthly quantities. I accept the ruling given by the Chair. However, the Government, if it can possibly see its way to do so in the matter of regulations, will meet the honorable member’s wishes, but not so as to extend the da te until May. That brings us into a new season. The export season lasts from April to October, and under no circumstances would the Government be prepared to grant an extension to May, or to receive any meat in the new season into the benefactions afforded by this measure.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Bounties may be paid in advance of export)
.- In this clause the position pointed out by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is again raised. The bounty may be paid in anticipation of export; but security must be given to the satisfaction of the Minister for the refund of any bounty paid on beef not exported before the 31st day of December, 1922. I am sure that in clause 4 the Minister could have achieved the object desired by deleting all the words after “ the 31st October, 1922,” because his officials would know what had been put into cold storage before that date. There can be no imposition upon the Government if a complete record is kept of all beef slaughtered prior to that date, no matter when it is shipped.
– I can explain how necessary it is that there should be a limitation to the date of shipment.
– If that is so there would be an objection to the proposed extension until May.
– I can show how the Government can meet the wishes of the honorable member; but I would confine any extension of time to the Eastern trade only, and to stipulated contracts and qualities.
– I am not too sure that some of the contracts were not entered into long before there was any talk of a subsidy, and no doubt when the prices were quite profitable to the growers.
– Not this year.
– It is not confined to any particular year in respect to contracts with the East.
– The starting point must not be forgotten. The meat must have been slaughtered between April and October.
– Evidently special provision is being made in regard to certain contracts to the East; -but I should think that the object sought by the honorable member could be met by omitting the time for shipment.
– The suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) would not only be out of order, but also would not meet the case. The Government do not intend to provide a subsidy until May next for speculative holding against a possible increase in prices in markets oversea. The subsidy was agreed to be paid in the face of the market of the day, and was intended to give the margin I spoke of a moment ago to enable that particular meat to be marketed.. The omission of any reference to the date of shipment would give speculators a delightful opportunity which was never intended.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 12 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Rodgers), by leave, proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- When the Bill was in Committee I gave notice of an amendment dealing with the shipment of meat that had been sold and placed in refrigerated stores in Queensland, in connexion with what are known as the Manila and Singapore contracts. The Minister (Mr. Rodgers) was quite in accord with my views; but the Chairman ruled the amendment out of order. I now wish the Minister to give the House some assurance that sympathetic consideration will be given to this matter, and that everything possible will . be done to allow the bounty to be paid and retained by the Meat Export Company and the owners of the cattle.
– I cannot give the House an assurance that the amendment in its present form is acceptable to the Government, apart altogether from the technicalities involved. It is too wide. I recognise, however, that very much may be said for the proposal in some modified, form to insure the preservation and extension of our trade in the East. The best assurance I can give is that I will consider carefully the representations made by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) to see what can be done to preserve our markets there.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
The following Bills were received from the Senate, and read a first time: -
New Guinea Bill.
Trade Marks Bill.
Jury Exemption Bill.
Service and Execution of Process Bill.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
That the message be considered forthwith in Committee.
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue Fund be made for the purposes of amendments to the Defence Retirement Bill, to be moved by the Minister for Defence, in relation to the amount of compensation payable under that Bill.
I promised honorable members, on the postponement of clauses 5, 6, and 7 of the Bill last week, that I would consult my colleagues in regard to criticism that had been directed against the measure, more particularly in so far as it discriminated between the compensation payable to civilian, as distinguished from naval and military, employees. Under this amending measure, I am proposing to remove ‘ entirely that discrimination, and to pay to civilian employees exactly the same rate of compensation as to military employees; and, further, in so far as the minimum amount payable under the Act is concerned, to put them all on exactly the same footing. That is to say, they will get six months’ salary. There is one other slight amendment, which is not before honorable members yet; that is in clause 3, which it will- be necessary to recommit. We found quite recently that a number of men who had entered the Australian Navy since 1903, under a special agreement, had been allocated to three British ships. They were not really Royal Navy men, although they were enlisted in the Royal Navy. The effect of the amendment will be that if any of these men go out under the compensation provisions of the Defence Retirement Bill they will be entitled to claim that period of service in the Royal Navy as part of their Australian service. Though they were enlisted and served on ships of the Royal Navy, they were not liable to be sent abroad in the same way, and they could not revert to the Royal Navy. They are Australian Naval Forces, properly so called, and the period of service which they put in on the ships of the Royal Navy will count as part of their “service in the Australian Navy.
.- I recognise that the Minister (Mr. Greene) has amended the Bill very much in the direction indicated by the Committee, but I think it would be wise to report progress in order that we may have an opportunity to look into the effects of’ the amendments.
– They do all that you ask.
– I do not know, and because of that I do not want to start the Committee debate to-night.
– We shall have to go on a little further to-night.
– I admit that the Minister has done a good deal of what we werecontending for, but whether the amendments go all the way it is impossible at this stage to say.
– What is it the honorable gentleman has in mind ?
– I am not certain if the amendment to clause 5 will do all we ask.
– That amendment strikes out the differential rates as set out in the Bill.
– In the circumstances, I think it is advisable to give honorable members time to examine the amendments. It is impossible, at the moment, to compare them with the clauses in the Bill. Honorable members are in doubt.- If we are permitted time to examine the measure, probably we shall be in. a position to-morrow to say whether the amendments are acceptable, and make better progress.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported, and adopted.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 23rd August, vide page 1635) :
Postponed clause 5 -
Upon the retirement or discharge, in ‘pursuance of the last preceding section, of any member of the Permanent Naval, Military, or Air Forces (not being a person whose duties, in the opinion of the Naval Board of Administration, the Military Board of Administration, or the Air Board, as the case may be, have been mainly of a purely clerical nature ) there shall be payable to him compensation in the proportion of one month’s pay for each year of service….
.- Perhaps I can meet the objections to the clause of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) by explaining in detail the effect of the amendments we propose to make. The honorable member proposed the omission from the clause of the words - (notbeing a person whose duties, in the opinion of the Naval Board of Administration,, the Military Board of Administration, or theAir Board, as the case may be, have been mainly of a purely clerical nature).
The effect of those words was to removethe clerical staff from the operation of the clause, and the members of that staff were provided for in clauses 6 and 7. I intend to propose the omission of the words which I have just read, and the insertion in their, place of the words - or of any employee holding on or before the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two, a classified office in the
Defence Department, who has not attained the age of sixty-five years.
That will ‘bring into the clause all those persons who are not members of the Permanent Naval, Military, or Air Forces who hold classified positions in the Defence Department, and will make these clerical employees eligible to receive the same pensions, pro rata, of their salaries and their years of service as will be paid to any member of the Naval, Military, or Air Forces. Clause 5 also contains a proviso to which there are two parts. The first of these parts lays it down that the minimum amount payable under the clause shall be £200 for an officer, a sum equivalent to six months’ pay for a chief petty officer, warrant officer, &c, and a sum equivalent to three months’ pay for any other rating or other soldier. I propose to strike out the whole of that part of the proviso and to insert in its place other words, making the amount payable in all cases not less than the equivalent of six months’ pay. The second part of the proviso now in the clause says that the maximum amount payable shall be a sum equivalent to twelve months’ pay, plus pay for the unexpired period of service of the member, to which I propose to add the words “ or employee,” because a civilian is not a member of the Naval, Military, or Air Forces, but only an employee.
– That amendment will embrace every one.
– Yes. Subsequently I shall ask the Committee to negative clauses 6 and 7, since there will be no further need for them. We have tried, so far . as we could, to meet the wishes expressed by the Committee, and, I think, have done all that is asked us.
– Have you made provision for those who resigned on the 30th June?
– ‘No; because their resignations were purely voluntary. Had they not wished to resign, they need not have done so.
– They thought that they were assisting the Government, and expected their money at once.
– I presume that they thought that they were doing what suited them best. They were told that if they retired voluntarily their pay would cease on the 30th June. It was open to them to retire voluntarily or to take their chance of being compulsorily retired. Some of those who retired voluntarily might not have been compulsorily retired.
– Some of the men have said that they were not allowed to retire in the first instance, or to . purchase their discharge, but afterwards were told that they must retire.
– If there are cases of that sort 1 shall be glad to give them consideration; but I do not know of any. I move -
That the words “ (not being a person whose duties, in the opinion of the Naval Board of Administration, the Military Board of Administration, or the Air Board, as the case maybe, have been mainly of a purely clerical nature),” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof “ or of any employee holding on or before the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two, a classified office in the Defence Department,, who has not attained the age of sixty-five years.”
.-I am glad that the Minister (Mr. Greene) has proposed the amendment. He is pro-, posing exactly what I tried to do. Had my amendment been accepted by the Government, there would have been no delay.
– We could not accept the honorable member’s amendment. The only way we could do what he desired was by bringing in a fresh measure.
Mr.SCULLIN.- I am glad that the Government has now accepted our proposal, and has abolished a discrimination for which there was no justification, and which should not have appeared in the original Bill. The previous discussion was not in vain, because we have succeeded in getting justice for the clerical staff, as well as for the other members of the Forces.
Amendment agreed to.
Progress reported. ‘
Postal Officials in the Northern Territory.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Poynton) a matter of importance in connexion with which I have received two telegrams from postal officials in the Northern Territory. I shall read one, which is typical : -
Respectfully ask your assistance removing absurd anomaly existing Territory postalstaff. In 1920 Mr. Justice Starke, in awarding scale allowances out-back and isolated stations named a few stations only and left others at discretion of Commissioner. Darwin is paid £100 per annum, but inland stations come under scale 7 with approximately £70. We respectfully state that authorities are taking advantage of the fact of Mr. Justice Starke not mentioning all stations. This is apparent quibble. It is on absurdity to claim sea-port town more isolated than interior.
The message is signed M. F. Kennedy, Barrow Creek; J. N. Gain, Tennant Creek; A. H. Jarrett, Powell Creek, and Mr. Woodroffe, Daly Waters. I communicated with the Public Service Commissioner by telephone, who informed me that the fault was not his, as the recommendation of Mr. Justice Starke had been against his opinion, and that he could not do anything in the matter. Barrow Creek, for instance, is about 1,200 miles from Adelaide, and I cannot understand why the officer there should receive less than the one stationed at Port Darwin, which is a fair-sized town. It is only reasonable to give officers working in out-back stations more consideration than those in such places as Port Darwin, and I ask the PostmasterGeneral, if it is within his power, to adjust this anomaly without delay.
– I understand from the honorable member’s speech that he does not attribute the blame to me.
– That is so.
– The position has arisen in consequence of an award of the Arbitration Court and of the decision of the Acting Public Service Inspector. I am not in a position to say why such anomalies exist; but I do know that it is as costly to live in the outer portions of the Northern Territory as in Port Darwin. I shall have inquiries made in order to ascertain why £70 per annum has been fixed for officers inland and £.100 per-annum for Port Darwin. My opinion is that if the rates were reversed it would begetting nearer to justice. I shall see what can be done in the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 September 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220906_reps_8_100/>.