12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral examine the file in connexion with the application by the Retail Butchers Association for a variation of the award now before the Conciliation Commission, with a view to ascertaining whether the application is constitutional, having regard to the interstate character of the dispute? If the application is unconstitutional, will the honorable gentleman so declare in order to obviate the trouble and expense of an application to the High Court?
– I am not sure that it is part of the function of the AttorneyGeneral to give advice of the kind sought by the honorable member, but I shall inquire into the case, and furnish him with a full reply at a later date.
– I ask the Minister for Markets if it is true that the brewing firm of Guinness, of Dublin, is prepared to purchase 4,000 bales of Tasmanian hops of the 1930-31 season ? If so, what price has been fixed?
– Satisfactory arrangements have been made for the purchase by that firm of 4,000 bales of Australia hops under conditions which have been negotiated through the instrumentality of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost).
– Will the Ministerlay on the table of the House all the papers and correspondence in connexion with the proposed sale of Tasmanian hops to Guinness, of Dublin, so that I may obtain the information which the Minister recently refused to supply to me?
– I am quite prepared to give the honorable member any information that he desires on the subject.
– Is the Minister for Markets now in a position to state the price and conditions in connexion with the proposed sale of Tasmanian hops to Guinness, of Dublin ?
– I shall obtain for the honorable member all the particulars that hemay require on the matter.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House whether the judges of the High Court have yet informed the Government that they are prepared to sacrifice 20 per cent. of their salaries, and thus bring themselves into line with other members of the Public Service ?
– Correspondence on this subject has taken place between the judges and the Prime Minister. Their Honours have intimated that the matter will be considered by them as soon as they have an opportunity to meet.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the House will sit next week ?
– I have already intimated to honorable members that the
Government will ask the House to sit until the urgent and essential legislation on the notice-paper is passed. If honorable members will apply their energies - not vocal energies - to the job, the programme can be disposed of quickly.
– We intend to have our say.
– The Government has no desire to deprive honorable members of opportunities for the legitimate discussion of all measures submitted to them, but the House will he asked to sit until it has disposed of the business which the Government regards as urgent.
– Can the Minister for Markets inform the House of the position in regard to the reported inquiry regarding the supply of railway sleepers to the Chinese Government?
– The newspaper reports that a big order for Australian sleepers was available in China have been investigated ; I think the reports referred to 12,000,000 sleepers. Inquiries from the British authorities in China have failed to substantiate the reports, but the Government is continuing to explore the possibilities of this market, and when any definite information is available I shall inform the honorable member.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral able to add to the very full statement he made yesterday in regard to the censorship of broadcasting, by explaining succinctly and precisely what degree of censorship is exercised by his department over the matter broadcast from B class stations? In accordance with what principles is the censorship exercised ?
– A detailed answer would necessarily be lengthy, and cannot be furnished in reply to a question without notice. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition desires a full statement, I shall furnish it later.
– I shall be glad if the Minister will.
– The policy of the Postal Department in the past has been to censor speeches to he broadcast from A class stations, but this rule did not apply to B class stations. Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether the policy of the department has been changed, so as to require all speeches to be submitted for censorship.
– Speeches dealing with political matters have always been subject to censorship, whether transmitted from A or B class stations. The department’s policy has not been changed.
– Is there any information available in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to show whether the speeches broadcast by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) during the last election were submitted in summary to the department before being delivered ?
-Leaders of political parties, and responsible Ministers, have always been allowed to broadcast speeches without previously submitting them for approval.
– Will the Prime Minister indicate clearly the policy of the Government in regard to the use of B class broadcasting stations for the purpose of disseminating political propaganda? The right honorable gentleman said yesterday that only leaders of parties were permitted to broadcast political matter.
– I have not given this subject personal attention, but have been content to leave it to my colleague, the Postmaster-General, who has a very able advisor in the matter. I understand that the Director of Posts and Telegraphs is carrying out the policy which has been in operation for some time. If any specific point is brought under notice, I will take it up with the Postmaster-General.
– Was the PostmasterGeneral correctly reported yesterday as saying that the practice, in regard to the broadcasting of political speeches, has been to permit the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, during the period of an election, or upon other important occasions, to address the people through “ A” class stations? Was that a considered statement, and, if so, will the Minister make inquiries to find out by whom the “ strings were pulled “ recently to enable a member of the Government other than the Prime Minister to have a purely political speech, which he delivered in Adelaide, broadcast through an “ A “ class station.
– I resent the imputation that “strings have been pulled”. My reply, being given in answer to a question without notice, was not so complete as it might otherwise have been. Generally speaking, this permission is extended to any approved leader of a political party. The terms on which the permission is granted are the same as those observed during the time when the party to which the honorable member for Wakefield owes allegiance was in power.
– Is it a fact that a government motor car, in charge of a government chauffeur, calls at the home of the Minister for Home Affairs each day, to take his children to school?
– A government motor car takes me from my home to my office, or to Parliament House, each morning, and the back seat is filled with my own and other children whom I drop at the school on my way. If, at any time when I am in that car, I see a person walking, I invite him to have a ride with me. Even the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has received such an invitation.
– And has accepted it.
– Was it a feature of the rehabilitation plan formulated at the Premiers Conference held in Melbourne that reductions in the wages of persons employed by private employers should be effected by legislation passed by the State Parliaments? If that was not an essential feature of the plan, is the Prime Minister aware that the Government of Western Australia has repudiated the State Arbitration Court, and by legal enactment is reducing the wages of private employees?
– It was not any part of the rehabilitation plan to deal with the wages and conditions of private employment. As a matter of fact, the consideration of the plan began with the knowledge that there had already been reductions in the wages paid in private employment, brought about by awards of the Arbitration Court and other tribunals, and by other means. The basis of reduction was struck at 20 per cent.; but it was stated in the reports of the economists and officials that there had already been a reduction in the wages of the majority of the workers in private employment equivalent to approximately 23 per cent. The conference considered whether its decision in respect of the wages and salaries of government employees should be extended to others, but it was ruled that that was not part of the functions of the conference. I have no knowledge of what has been done in Western Australia.
– Is best Aus tralian lamb being sold in England under a New Zealand brand, namely “ Canterbury and, if so, is there any organization or authority which the Minister may approach with a view to preventing this practice ?
– My attention has been called to this matter. The department is making an investigation and I shall let the honorable member know the result later.
– I have received the following letter from Mr. F. O. Nixon, General Secretary of the Brisbane Timber Merchants Association : -
The price at which the first big shipment of Soviet timber is offering will enable the sellers to practically ruin the softwoods industry of Queensland and New South Wales, and do serious damage to the timber industries of the other States. It will give a setback to re-afforestation in all of them. Nothing short of prohibition of Soviet timber will save the timber industry from becoming a thing of the past.
Has the invoice value of the Russian timber recently imported into Australia yet been received ; has the timber been offered for sale, and if so, at what price; and can the Minister say definitely whether any further shipment is on its way to Australia ?
– The Russian timber in question has not yet been offered for sale in Australia. It is, therefore, not true that it is being sold at a price which will bring ruin to the Australian timber industry. No value has yet been decided upon by the Russo Export Company. Yesterday the invoices for this timber arrived in Sydney, and were handed to the Collector of Customs there. He is now looking into the matter, and will submit a report to me as soon as he is able to arrive at the value of that timber for duty purposes. We have been informed that there are no further shipments on the water, and that the importers are waiting to ascertain whether this shipment has been successful before they proceed any further.
– Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister a question regarding the Wheat Advances Act, and he replied that assistance to wheat-growers was one of the subjects to be further considered by the Loan.Council with the representatives of the banks. Can the Prime Minister say whether the Wheat Advances Act, passed by this Parliament, is to be given effect, and if not, what does he propose to do to assist the necessitous wheat-farmers of this country?
– That matter has been discussed two or three times by the Loan Council, and definite proposals were put forward to give assistance to the wheatgrowers. Such a proposal was agreed to at one of the latest meetings of the council. I have been a member of the Loan Council temporarily, and I shall act for the Commonwealth on the council at the next meeting. The question of making advances to farmers in necessitous cases, in addition to the provision of a sum of money for employment, was to be discussed with the banks, and it will be discussed definitely with them in the course of two or three weeks.
– With regard to the decision of the Premiers Conference in Melbourne to make certain reductions of expenditure, did the banks also guarantee that they would reduce interest rates to private customers coincident with the carrying out of the rehabilitation plan?
– Ido not think that one Premier or delegate at the Premiers Conference left Melbourne without being absolutely convinced that the banks would reduce the rates of interest on deposits and advances. The understanding, as a result of the conference, was that there would be a reduction of approximately 1 per cent. in the interest rate on deposits and advances. The Commonwealth Bank has already given definite effect to that decision, and we are negotiating with other banks on this matter, which will be taken up definitely at the conference of the Premiers with the banks.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the decision of the last conference in regard to the reduction of bank interest was intended to apply to existing deposits or only to new deposits ?
– The conference was more concerned about the reduction of interest on advances by the banks, but the reduction was also intended to apply to deposits. Obviously the banks, on their own initiative, could not reduce the rate of interest on fixed deposits. But my impression was that they would be able to carry the reduction until such time as the periods of the fixed deposits expired. When the rates of interest were increasing, the banks enjoyed the advantage on their fixed deposits, and they should be able to carry the loss now that the rates are decreasing. That is a matter which will be discussed with them.
– Will the subject of unemployment be considered one of paramount importance at the coming Premiers Conference? Will the Prime Minister ensure that consideration will be given to the possibility of absorbing our unemployed in mining and agricultural industries, in public works, and in other activities ?
– I have intimated to the Premiers that the subject of unemployment would be under discussion. Today a letter will be despatched to all the Premiers, requesting them to explore, particularly through the mining, public works and. local governing departments, possible methods of absorbing men in useful reproductive work which can be put in hand at once. I believe that in our discussion with the banks we should be able to submit more concrete proposals of this nature than have hitherto been brought forward, in order that we may obtain money for the relief of unemploy ment. As head of this Government I feel that we cannot let the matter drift further, for the position is extremely serious.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether any consideration has been given to the possibility of instituting the five-day working week in all branches of the Taxation Department? If not, will he have inquiries made with this object ?
– The application of the five-day week in the Public Service is dependent upon certain conditions, and the policy has been given effect only where those conditions obtain. I shall have an investigation made in regard to the Taxation Department.
– Is it not a fact that many complaints are being made of delays in reaching decisions in the Taxation Department? Has not that position arisen partly because the department is understaffed ?
– No delay has occurred through the introduction of the five-day week, because that only started last Monday week.
– I did not suggest that the delays were due to that reason.
– It is a fact that the officers of the Treasury Department are being overworked. They are going through a period the like of which has not been known in the history of the Commonwealth, and no change will be made which is likely to make their work harder. The conditions governing the application of the five-day working week to the Public Service were agreed to by members of the Service. As Acting Treasurer, I say that the treasury officials are the most willing body of workers one could find - and that remark applies also to the officials of every other department that I have had anything to do with.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform me whether the missing documents in the Jacob Johnson case have yet been found?
– I made the statement in the House the other day with regard to the pending inquiry in the Jacob Johnson case, and I do not think it is desirable at present to add anything to what I then said.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House what the document is to which such frequent reference is made in questions by certain honorable members as a document that is missing in relation to the Jacob Johnson case?
– Reference has been made in the House previously to missing documents, and I myself have made observations in replying to questions in regard to them, but I repeat to the honorable gentleman what I have said to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), that I think it is undesirable to follow up that matter any further at this stage.
– Why does the Minister regard it as undesirable that other honorable members of this House should have knowledge of the identity of documents alleged to be missing which certain members in the corner apparently have?
– I suggest that the honorable member will be unwise to assume too great knowledge on the subject on the part of members in the corner.
Reduction of Mail Services
– In view of the fact that the Postmaster-General’s Department showed a profit last year, will the Postmaster-General explain why so many country mail services are being reduced from three to two deliveries a week without any consideration of the conditions which exist in particular districts? Will he also indicate whether it is the intention of the department to continue reducing these services?
– That question has been frequently answered in other connexions. The plain fact is that the Treasurer has requested the Postmaster-General’s Department, in common with other departments, to exercise even more rigid economy than heretofore. In these circumstances it has been necessary to still further reduce services, and those services which are of least importance have necessarily to be reviewed. The honorable member is quite incorrect in inferring that no regard is taken to circumstances in the selection of the services to be reduced. Every case is most carefully inquired into.
– Is it the intention of the Postmaster-General to reduce city as well as country services? Can the honorable gentleman point to a single reduction that has been made in the last few months in any city or suburban service in Melbourne or Sydney?
– I ask the honorable gentleman to put that question on the notice-paper. It is idle for any honorable member to raise the issue of city versus country in this connexion.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether goodsactually sold and shipped from overseas ports prior to the 11th July will come within the definition of “ contract “ which he gave yesterday, and, therefore, be liable to only the old rate of sales tax?
– I shall look into the legal position, and give the honorable member a reply later.
– Has the attention of the Government been called to the request of the wholesale and retail grocers that it shall not be mandatory to show the charge made to cover the sales tax as a flat rate on the invoices, but that it shall be optional to include the tax in the price of the goods? Is the Government aware that, in the wholesale grocery trade, from 50 per cent. to 55 per cent. of the turnover is exempt? Has the Government come to a decision on this matter?
– The decision of the Government is embodied in the amending bill. Representations have been made to me by the wholesale and retail grocers, and other sellers, and the arguments advanced by them and by manufacturers show that there is more justification for retaining the present clauses in the bill than for deleting them.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the negotiations between the Commonwealth Bank Board and the Commissioners of the Government Savings. Bank cover the affairs of the Rural Branch of the New South
Wales bank? If so, will he bring under the notice of the Commonwealth Bank Board the fact that, although the Rural Bank has closed, the State Savings Bank Commissioners are bringing drastic pressure to bear upon the farmers of New South Wales, requiring them to repay advances and overdrafts immediately? A case has been brought under my notice in which the Rural Bank Commissioners have called upon a farmer to pay up £1,000 at once, although he has not 5s. to his name.
– The negotiations embrace all the activities of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, including the Rural Bank and the Homes Department. The negotiations have been completed, and an agreement has been drawn up and submitted to the Premier of New South Wales. A copy of the agreement has been sent to me, but the Commonwealth Bank Board is now awaiting the decision of the Government of New South Wales on the matter.
– Is there any truth in the report that the Heinz Manufacturing Company, which was granted tariff concessions a short while ago, has now decided not to establish factories in Australia, owing to the conditions prevailing here?
Mr.FORDE. - I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know the position.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral make a statement to-morrow dealing with the success or otherwise of automatic exchanges in small country centres ?
– I shall make inquiries into the matter.
– In view of the doubt which seems to exist in the Victorian Parliament regarding the establishment of tribunals to deal with private mortgages, will the Prime Minister say what, in his opinion, was the arrangement arrived at at the Premiers Conference regarding the reduction of interest on private mortgages?
– There is no room for doubt on the matter. If anything emerged from the conference that was definite and explicit, it was the decision that the reduction of interest on private mortgages was part of the plan of reconstruction, and it would be most audacious for anybody to say otherwise.
– At the Premiers Conference in Melbourne a proposal was agreed to for the reduction of interest on private mortgages, and it was understood that the State Parliaments would introduce the necessary legislation. Will the Prime Minister state whether interest rates will be arbitrarily reduced, or whether it is proposed to set up tribunals to which the mortgagors may apply for relief?
– A draft of the bill to be passed by the State Parliaments was submitted to the conference, providing for the setting up of a tribunal; but it was agreed that a State government might propose either method. Two proposals, A and B, were before the conference, and while it was understood that State Governments might adopt either, there was a very definite arrangement that they were to adopt one of the methods.
– I rise to a personal explanation regarding the reply received to a question I addressed yesterday to the Prime Minister about the granting of financial assistance to Germany. I contend that the Prime Minister, in his reply, deliberately misrepresented me. I asked -
Will the Government protest against financial assistance being rendered to Germany while Australia is left to stagger under a crushing burden of war liabilities, caused by assisting Great Britain in the Great War?
The reply of the right honorable gentleman was -
The question that I am asked is whether the Commonwealth Government will request Great Britain to refuse to assist Germany out of its financial troubles. My answer is that no. message will go from me to that effect. No matter what may have been our differences in the past, our purpose to-day is to cement a friendship with all nations, and to bring about a world peace.
I did not say anything against Germany ; all I wanted to know was whether the
Prime Minister endorsed those statements. No Prime Minister of this country has ever denied them, and many people are anxious to know why privileged treatment is being granted , by Great Britain to Germany while Australia is allowed to stagger on under a crushing burden of war debts?
– The honorable member is going beyond the limits of a personal explanation.
– Those debts were incurred to assist the Mother Country during the war. People want to know why-
– Order !
– Germany and other continental countries are receiving more assistance from Great Britain than Australia has obtained.
– Order ! The honorable member must not defy the Chair.
– The Prime Minister misrepresented me when he sought to convey the impression that I was one of those who raked up anti-German propaganda. As a matter of fact, I never believed that Germany was guilty of the atrocities with which she was charged.
– Order! May I suggest that if the honorable member wishes to amplify his explanation he should do so on the motion for the adjournment of the House? He cannot, under the guise of a personal explanation on the ground of misrepresentation, enter into a general explanation.
– The Prime Minister wilfully misrepresented me.
– Order ! The honorable member must realize that he cannot, under cover of a personal explanation, use unparliamentary language. It is unparliamentary to say that the Prime Minister wilfully misrepresented him.
– The honorable member first said that I deliberately, and later that I wilfully, misrepresented him. I did not take a point of order at the time, because I have had harder things than that said about me. I assure the honorable member, however that I did not wilfully misrepresent him. I may have misunderstood him, and I think that honorable members who have listened to his explanation will realize how I came to do that.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Entertainment Allowance - London Staff
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answersto the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. No officers of the Permanent Military Forces were returned to Australia this year because their services were found useless in England. 3 and 4. One permanent military officer - Major-General J. H. Bruche, C.B., C.M.G.- returned to Australia after completing the full term of two years for which he was appointed in England. On his return he was appointee Commandant, Royal Military College, and, in conjunction therewith, Commandant of the Army Schools of Instruction, New South Wales, at the same salary which he drew before proceeding to England.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the explanation of the imports of ammunition having reached the sum of £23,000 last year as compared with £5,000 for the previous year?
Mr.FORDE. - Information is being obtained.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the anticipated amount of saving included in the Treasurer’s (Mr. Theodore) statement of £230,000(Hansard of 1931, page 3741) from-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
As the Royal Mint in Canada was, on the 11th June last, taken from the control of the Imperial Government and transferred to the Canadian Finance Department, willhe arrange that the Australian mints now under similar control and officered by imperial officials, shall be transferred to Australian control ?
– This involves not only a question of policy but one of increased expenditure, and in view of existing financial conditions, the present time is not opportune for a consideration of the proposal.
– The honorable mem ber for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has asked a question, upon notice, regarding compensation paid to the staff of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The information is being obtained, and will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.Has a committee been constituted under section 41 of the Financial Emergency Act?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 5th June the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) asked the following question, upon notice : -
What is the cost of collecting the sales tax?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The cost of collecting the sales tax to the 30th June, 1931, was £53,219.
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill 1931.
Loan Bill, 1931.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The recent increases in land tax valuations “.
Five honorable membershaving risen in their places,
.- 1 regret the necessity for the action I feel impelled to take in moving the adjournment of the House to discuss this matter. I have no wish to embarrass the Government, or to delay the good work which it is doing, but on three previous occasions I have called attention to the excessive valuations that have been put on land for taxation purposes. I have pointed out that in many instances, some of which have come under my own observation, the valuations are far in excess of the unimproved value of the land. Instead of the actual value of the land being taken into account by the valuators, and valuations decreased in accordance with the general fall in prices, they have been materially increased. I do not think that the Government can realize even yet the position in which many of those on the land find themselves, otherwise it would take Some action to remedy this injustice. After two or three years of very severe drought over the greater part of the grazing and wheat-growing areas of Australia, the producers of wool and wheat, our two main primary industries, had to face a disastrous drop in prices, amounting to something like 50 per cent. Both wheat and wool are now being sold at considerably less than the cost of production. Except in a few instances, where those concerned have no mortgages or large overdrafts to meet, the growers are at their wits’ end to know how to carry on. The position that they are in is by far the most serious in their history. Harassed by commitments that they are finding it difficult to meet, they arc now faced with these demands for enormously increased land taxation. I shall quote a number of typical examples, omitting names, because I do not think that it would be right to mention them. However, I am prepared to submit full particulars to the Prime Minister, or any other Minister that he may nominate. They are as follow: -
The next two are city case3. Although I am not interested to an extent worth mentioning in city properties, I realize that there, also, unimproved values are being unjustifiably raised. In the first case the property was valued in 1929-30 by the Land Tax Commissioner at £37,500, the city valuation- at the same time being £17,000. Another city property was valued by tho Land Tax Commissioner at £16,250. The matter was. referred to arbitration, when Mr. Justice Pike, in conjunction with four principal city valuers, assessed it at £9,500. I come back to country cases. The following is a typical case of an increase on a large holding: -
In that instance the company concerned showed a net profit of £17 8s. 3d. for the year ended the 30th June, 1930. It is now called upon to pay double the amount of the previous land taxation, for a period during which it estimates it incurred a loss of £9,000 ! In the next case the laud tax for 1929-30 amounted to £191 7s. 8d., while for last year it was £390 9s. 9d., an increase of over 100 per cent. The transactions of that concern for the year ended the 30th June, 1930, showed a loss of £480 5s. 6d., while from the 1st July, 1930, to the 1st May, 1931, its operations resulted in a loss of £4,166 5s. 6d. The following are typical oases of smaller holders : -
In a case in which the owner’s unimproved value at the 30th June, 1930, was £2 5s. an acre, the department’s assessment was £2 15s. an acre. In another instance a pastoral company had to pay land tax* amounting to £669 13s. 3d. for 1929-30, whereas its last land tax assessment was £990 7s. 5d.
The following examples are taken from different districts, and are all authenticated : -
I understand that the commissioner has been regarding sales of land as an indication of the value of properties; some of the sales date back two years, and the prices of two years ago cannot be regarded as a fair criterion of presentday values. To show the absurdity of that method I mention a property of 9,000 acres which was sold in 1927 for £5 10s. an acre cash. In May of this year, the same property was sold at £2 an acre. The assessment of the holding in 1927 was £2, and it is unchanged ; but it obviously is excessive because the improvements on the property are worth considerably more than £1 an acre. The instances I haVe mentioned are typical of many thousands, and it appears that the Government is determined to extort from the landholders at all hazards an amount far in excess of what is just. This taxation is iniquitous and verges on dishonesty. The Government is killing the goose that lays the golden egg. The primary producers are the mainstay of Australia ; they have difficulty in carrying on their industry to-day, and these iniquitous imposts are making their position much worse. Many owners are being threatened with legal proceedings if they do not pay the department’s assessments, and the most unreasonable demand is “ being made of those . who appeal. Landowners have been asked to supply within fourteen days a return covering all the details of their transactions during the last ten years, including purchases, sales, shearing tallies, annual increase, number of stock on agistment, time away, money expended on agistment and fodder, area under crops and returns therefrom, length and classes of fencing, description and dimensions of buildings, water supply, and the amounts attributable to the various items.
– I asked a question of the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) regarding that return about a week ago, and he promised to let me have a reply.
– Not one farmer in ten can make such a return, and even to those who have kept their books and accounts carefully, it would involve a tremendous amount of work. This additional burden is being placed upon people who are already embarassed, to serve no good purpose, because the information, when supplied to the taxing authority, will not have any bearing on the productivity and present-day value of the land. I understand that no provision is made in the act to take into account productivity. The commissioner has to administer the law as it is, but the Government should amend the act to allow productivity, which is the real test of the value of land, to be taken into account. I trust that the Government will remember that the people who are being victimized belong to the great body of primary producers who produce over 70 per cent, of Australia’s wealth, and 96 per cent, of its exports. They are the mainstay of Australia, and on their production the future of the country mainly depends.
.- J second the motion. The injustices mentioned by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) demand immediate rectification. When the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), as Treasurer, introduced the Land Tax Assessment Bill of 1927, the Federal Commissioner of Taxation in conjunction with the State taxation branches, was re-valuing land throughout the Commonwealth. A certain number of the valuations had beeB made, and the department was beginning to use them as the basis of land tax assessment. The valuers, however, have taken three years to reach some districts, and the list quoted by the honorable member for Riverina includes those owners who are beginning to bc hit now. But others have been paying increases of 300 per cent, and 400 per cent, since 1927, because the high prices then obtaining for wool and wheat had enhanced the value of land. Speaking on the Land Tax Assessment Bill on the 7th December, 1927, I said -
Of course, the Treasurer is ostensibly reducing the land tax by 1.0 per cent.,’ but this House must not imagine that the man on the land is to get that reduction. The department has men all over Australia re-assessing the unimproved value of land. As has already been pointed out, the present high value of land has been brought about by the increased prices of wool and wheat since the war. At a time when the farmer is getting little encouragement, the Taxation Department assesses his property at a value that is not inherent in it. I have with mo a report supplied by the Taxation Department and signed by the Deputy Commissioner of Federal Taxation in Western Australia, and in it is a schedule showing the old and new values in various districts. The acreage in Bruce Rock is 810,350, the old unimproved value was £279,020, and the new unimproved value is £818,433. In the face of those figures the Treasurer says that he is giving the farmers a 10 per cent, reduction! There is a little hit of the Hebrew in that. The acreage in Broomehill is 279,122. The old unimproved value was £180,058, and the new unimproved value is £247,428. In Quairading, the acreage is 402,450. The old unimproved value was £301,265, and the new unimproved value is £471,486.
Those figures should convince honorable members that at a time of peak values, caused by the abnormal prices for wool and wheat, a fictitious value for taxation was placed on land. Notwithstanding the subsequent fall of the prices of those commodities the land-holders, with a much reduced income, have still to pay taxation fit an extortionate rate. Those who -were valued in 1927 had their quarrel with the department then. The outcry now being raised is by those whose lands have been recently valued. Notwithstanding that prices have fallen recently, they are being doubly taxed. The matter calls for urgent attention, and I hope that this Parliament, not having been able to do anything for the growers of wool and wheat, will at least remove this iniquitous burden. The land values of to-day are not justified. The Land Tax Assessment Act of 1927 includes provision for a triennial re-valuation, and I hope that the Government will operate that section in order to do justice to land-owners. Even the present financial circumstances of the nation do not justify the continuance of injustice. Fiat justitia, ruat calum. The taxation branch has on its files the classification and particulars of all lands valued, and the re-assessment could be done in the office without a further inspection of them. It is generally recognized that during the last twelve months land values have depreciated by from 25 per cent, to 50 per cent.
.- The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) was quite justified in bringing the subject of federal land taxation before this House. Even honorable members who are in favour of this class of taxation must admit that it is very oppressive at this time of financial stringency. To-day no taxation is more unjust than land taxation. This tax applies to persons who have properties of an unimproved value exceeding £5,000. A large number of persons are to-day called upon to pay federal land tax on properties whose unimproved value is by no means £5,000. The value of properties has dropped considerably since the last assessment was made. This complaint is general throughout Australia, not only in respect of federal land tax, but also in respect of State land tax. Some of the State departments have now decided to make re-assessments. Some years ago land values increased far beyond actual values.
– Those values were based upon sales.
– The sales, of course, were based on the productivity of the land at a time when prices of wool and wheat were soaring. Last night I heard one honorable member say that the prices of those products are to-day 25 per cent, lower than they were in 1928. That being so, land values must have decreased by at least 50 per cent, in the same period. In many instances land that is to-day valued at perhaps £8,000, is worth considerably less than £5,000. Many honorable members may think that most landholders are fairly well off, but the position is that many are actually worse off than those who are unemployed. The unemployed person, who certainly deserves our greatest consideration, remains at least at one level; his financial circumstances do not change. But a large number of land-owners are losing money day by day, and are being compelled to pay federal land tax and will be called upon to make up arrears later. Our taxation system is wrong. To-day I asked the Treasurer the following questions : -
The Prime Minister, on behalf of the Treasurer, replied -
Those answers seem to be satisfactory. If the department is to take into consideration the complaints that have been received, and will re-assess properties when that is found to be necessary, then my objection to the incidence of this tax will be removed. I hope that, pending the departmental inquiry, this tax will be held in obeyance
– The practice of taking legal proceedings for recovery of the tax should also cease.
– That practice should also be suspended while the inquiry is taking place. Never before in the history of Australia has there been such a rapid decline in land values as has taken place during the last four years. In my own electorate, land which in 1928 was sold at £20 an acre, is not worth £8 an acre. A large number of the settlers are suffering severely because of the . decline in the value of their holdings. Now that the Government has promised to inquire into complaints, and to give consideration to necessitous cases, at least some of our settlers are likely to receive just treatment.
.- J support what has been said by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen). Taxation generally is unusually heavy just now, but the people as a whole realize that there is no escape from it. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) admit that the -community generally, knowing that it must submit to heavy taxation, is standing up to it in a Spartai,like manner. It is one thing, however, to pay heavy taxation when one feels that it is just, even if severe, but it is an entirely different thing when one has a rankling sense of injustice in regard to it. There is no doubt that the landholder who has recently had his land values increased to the extent illustrated by the honorable member for Riverina, or even to a slight extent, must feel that such a tax is wholly unjustifiable, and nothing else but extortion. A little while ago, I heard of a man who is grazing an area of 1,700 acres having the unimproved value of his property increased by 10s. an acre. Land values have fallen by from 30 per cent, to 60 per cent, in some instances, and the only excuse which a land valuer could have to-day for increasing valuation would be that the former assessment was absurdly low. Even if the previous assessment were 30 per cent., or even 50 per cent, below what it should have been two or three years ago, it might now, if based on present-day values, be too high. I also agree with what the honorable member for Riverina has said with regard to this inquisition - one can call it nothing else - this demand for details of operations extending over the last ten years. It is impossible for any man with a holding of an unimproved value of £5,000 and over, to provide all these details within fourteen days.
– The individual who was responsible for drafting that questionnaire should be hauled over the coals by the responsible Minister.
– It is impossible for any property-holder to give these details. There is nothing extraordinary in the feeling in the minds of those who have been subjected to this treatment, that it is intended by the authorities to embarrass and obstruct the rural landowners. I do not say that that is actually the case, but I say that those who are required to supply this information cannot be blamed for coming to that conclusion. I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) will, in his reply, indicate that some steps are to be taken to remove this injustice, and that the assessments will be brought down to something like present-day productive values.
– At the outset, I thank the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) for agreeing to my request yesterday to postpone this motion, so that, in my position of Acting Treasurer,I might have an opportunity to give consideration to it. If he will submit to me the specific cases which he has mentioned, I shall have them investigated, and I promise to treat the names of the persons concerned as confidential. Complaint has also been made about the notice of fourteen days that has been given in respect to a demand for certain information. The length of the notice is fourteen days in the city areas, and 21 days in the country. I am informed by the department that in no instance has even a reminder been sent immediately upon the expiry of such a notice. Therefore the action is not so drastic as honorable members have represented. The records of the Taxation Department show that after notice has been given reminders and further reminders are sent out, and it is only as a last resort, when it is clear to the department that the taxpayer is wilfully withholding information, that action is taken.
– It is unreasonable that the particulars set out in the return should be asked for at all.
– In many instances it is absolutely essential to obtain that information. The honorable member will be the first to admit that when taxation is imposed it is only right that our citizens should pay their just taxes, otherwise some would have to pay for the debts of others. No one desires that our landholders should pay more than their just taxes. The complaint about the department’s request for information is not a sound one, because it must obtain information in order to make fair assessments.
– In the majority of instances it is impossible for the settlers to supply that information.
– I have never known an instance of a taxpayer being asked to do the impossible. Honorable members’ have emphasized the fact that the prices of wool and wheat have fallen suddenly. Very few wheat-growers are paying federal land tax.
– Quite a lot are.
– Most of the wheatgrowers who are paying this taxation are graziers as well as wheat-growers.
– Both industries have been hit very hard.
– That is so ; but I am speaking at the moment of the wheatgrowers only.
– They often have a big debt on their property.
– That may be so; but there is a £5,000 unimproved land value exemption. On very many farms the improvements are nearly as valuable as the land. I am not putting this forward as an excuse for high or wrong valuations. When these complaints were first made the Land Tax Commissioner was asked to furnish a report on the subject, which he did. He obtained information from his deputies in the various States, and his report was presented to Parliament. It disclosed that there has been no general increase in the assessed value of land during the period between June, 1927, and June, 1930.
– That is not correct.
– The report shows clearly that there have been many cases of reductions. A good deal of this trouble has arisen because of a mischievous amendment which was made to the act in 1927 at the request of the landowners. This amendment not only prevented land values being reviewed on a rising market, but it also substituted triennial for annual reviews. Everyone knows that it is impossible to keep an army of land valuers employed. The valuers of the department go right through the Commonwealth, and it takes years to reach some properties. In such cases, the valuations of the owners are accepted until they can be reviewed. Some of the assessments which have been made in the last three years have involved the review of valuations up to eight years old. In 1927, many properties had not been reviewed for many years, and the amendment to which I have referred made it impossible for them to be reviewed for three years. The first opportunity to review many valuations which were five, six, and even eight years old, came at the 30th June, 1930. At that time, although the price of wool had dropped to some extent, it certainly had not dropped as much as it did later.
– There had been a drop of 25 per cent. or 30 per cent. even then.
– That is so ; but later the drop reached 50 per cent. . The effect of the amendment made in 1927 has been that the valuers are bound by the law to accept the facts as they exist at the time the valuation is made. They are precluded from making any anticipation or from taking into account anything that has passed. A decision of the High Court determined that procedure. The valuers are obliged to determine the ascertainable value of the land at the time the valuations are made. . Some of the properties in regard to which complaints have since been made had not been valued for many years, and naturally there was an increase.
Mr.Killen. - Even when they were valued an excessive figure was placed on them.
– The simple answer to the honorable member’s interjection is that Parliament has provided for the cheapest possible form of reviewing valua tions. A board of review has been provided for on which the farmer, if the appellant is a farmer, or the pastoralist, if he is a pastoralist, can be represented. I have not heard a single complaint about the impartiality of the board of review.
– It is an appeal from Caesar to Caesar.
– That is not correct. The honorable member has not approached this matter with theopen mind that I have always given him credit for possessing.
– Nevertheless, there is a good deal of truth in his interjection, for the officials who make the valuation take part in the inquiry.
– Naturally. The valuers are there to justify their valuation just as the owners are there to justify their complaint. Both sides are heard.
– I have had experience of the board, and I know what I am talking about.
– The honorable member also knows that through the good yearsmany land-owners paid taxation on very low valuations.
– That is quite right.
– Almost the whole of this trouble has occurred through the 1927 amendment of the act. If any evidence can be adduced to show that the appeal boards are not impartial, I shall have it investigated. If it can be shown that in specific cases the constitution of the boards has been objectionable, I will also have a thorough investigation made. I have never heard anything to this effect before. But I shall want something more than general statements on a point like this. I was always under the impression that the boards of review were acceptable to the taxpayers and the public generally, and that every one had confidence in them. If this is challenged I shall require something specific to act upon. If it can be proved that an amendment of the act is necessary, the Government will take the matter up.
It might be imagined from the speeches that have been made this afternoon that the department has adopted an unjust attitude. As a matter of fact it was believed until quite recently that valuations could not be cither increased or decreased in the three-year period. The Government has had the whole position thoroughly investigated since these complaints were first made. The departmental officials have been working at very high pressure on it. A legal opinion has been obtained which shows that, while downward revaluations may be given effect, no upward revaluation may take effect until a new period begins. It is a bad law that cuts only one way. It was thought that this law would apply both ways, but it has now been found that it does not.
– There have been reviews upwards.
– There had been a continual upward tendency in land values until very recently. The purpose of the 1927 amendment of the act was to prevent annual valuations on a rising market. If honorable members will look up the debates on that proposal they will see that I strongly opposed the amendment because I believed that there should be power to review land values constantly in the interests of the taxpayers and the public generally. To give effect to that policy would require an amendment of the act, and hitherto the Government has been too busily occupied with other urgent matters to give attention to it. Honorable members will realize that if an amendment of the act is introduced, the flood gates will be open for a very big discussion; but the position will have to be faced. In the meantime, the Government has issued instructions that valuations are to be based on reductions since the last valuation at the 30th June, 1930.
– They should be based on productive values.
– It would require an amendment of the act to give effect to that proposal. It is questionable whether such a policy would be practicable. Who can really decide the productive value of land ?
– Self-assessment is the only solution.
– Even self-assessment must be followed by re-valuation. It is questionable whether there is constitutional power to assess land on its productive value.
– Is the sale value of the land the sole element that is considered ?
-No ; it is a guide which is followed to some extent because it is assumed to be fair. It should not be taken for granted that land values have fallen everywhere. Honorable members would be astonished if they had access to some of the information with which I have been furnished. There has been a decided increase in the value of many city properties since 1927.
– There has been no increase in the value of country lands.
– That may be true. There have, of course, been heavy slumps inthe value of certain city properties. The Government anticipates greatly decreased returns from land taxation this year because of the lower assessments that have been made. There is a tendency to believe that the department always drives a hard bargain with the taxpayer; but, in no case where a complaint has been made because increased land taxation has been imposed, has the amount of the increase been demanded. In every such case an extension of time has been given in respect of the increased amount until the whole matter can be reviewed by the board.
– I know of taxpayers who have been threatened with legal proceedings unless they paid up promptly.
– I assure the honorable member that instructions have been issued to the officers of the Treasury Department that, where complaints have been made, an extension of time must be allowed for the payment of the increased taxation, pending the submission of the matter to the board of review. Only the previous amount of taxation has been demanded in such cases.
– Taxpayers are being called upon to pay at the old, and not at the new, rate, I take it.
– That is so.
– Does that apply only to appeals ?
– It applies to every complaint that is made. The payment of the amount of the increase is not demanded. Surely that is reasonable and considerate treatment! Those who are growing wool and wheat and produce generally should be accorded such treatment, because they have suffered a blow the like of which the producers of this country have never before suffered, and which I hope they will never again have to . suffer.
.- I have listened with much satisfaction to the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin). I was not aware that the Government had instructed the department to go to such lengths to meet the cases of injustice which undoubtedly have occurred. But, still, I do not think that all the needs of the situation have been covered. I certainly agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), who, by interjection, said that the person who prepared the questionnaire referred to by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) should be given to understand that it would be impossible to supply the information desired. I know from personal experience that what the Prime Minister has said about the granting of extensions of time for the payment of this taxation is quite true. If the Deputy Commissioner is satisfied that the taxpayer is not deliberately trying to “ point “, he generally gives full consideration to applications for extension of the time allowed for the lodging of returns; but this is a case where I think that even the improvements in administration which the Prime Minister has announced do not go to the full length required. A sense of injustice arises from the knowledge, not only that certain assessments have been increased, but also that the 1930 assessments on the whole are based on those of 1927, when they really ought to reflect the considerable reduction that has occurred in land values. In 1930, there may have been a few sales of city properties which showed a comparatively even, level of prices, but anybody who has anything to do with land must know that during June last year it was almost impossible to sell land, at any rate, country property. Such sales as were made were of rare occurrence.
In the report which the Prime Minister quoted, the point was made that, on the whole, assessments had not been increased, but that the 1930 valuations had. been based on those of 1927. Then the Commissioner went on to note - and the Prime Minister actually quoted this - that at that, time the price of wool had not fallen substantially, and that the price of wheat was still protected by the possibility of a guarantee of 4s. a bushel by the .Federal Government. I do not think that the Prime Minister was in possession of the facts when he said that, although the price of wool had fallen by the 30th June, it had not then dropped to as great an extent as it did afterwards. The bulk of the fall had occurred by the 80th June.
– I was referring particularly to wheat, and. not to wool.
– The best indicator of the price of wool in any given month is the price of 64-tops at Bradford. From 1926 to 1928, in two consecutive seasons, they ranged from 46d. to 56d. In June, 1930, they were 28d., and they had been lower than that in March, when they were 26d.
– That would not reflect the value of the raw material in Australia.
– It would give a good indication. I will mention for the information of the honorable member the returns per bale of wool. The value per bale in 1926-27 for the whole of Australia averaged £22 8s. 5d., and in 1929-30, £13 5s. 9d. The subsequent fall this year, up to the end of May, was to £11 4s. 7d. : therefore, although there has been a substantial further fall in the price of wool, the bulk of it occurred before the date of the triennial valuation, and the fact that land was unsaleable gave an indication that the wool market would not recover rapidly. For the whole of Australia, the average price per lb. in 1927-28 was 19^1., and during 1929-30, it was 10.29d. During June of this year, it was about 9£d., showing a further fall, but the bulk of the fall, as I have pointer! out, had taken place before the date of the triennal valuation. There had been a considerable fall in the price of wheat by the 30th June last year, but the greater fall occurred during last August. The average price at Port Adelaide was 5s. 3½d. per bushel in 1927; 6s. 2£d. in 1926; and 6s. Id. in 1925. In 1930, the average price was 4s. 2d., showing a fall since 1925 of approximately one-third, and, at the 30th June last, the price was considerably below 4s. 2d. ; speaking from memory, it was certainly under 4s. To base taxation assessments on the possibility of legislation which has been introduced into Parliament, but has not actually become law, is certainly a questionable practice on the part of the taxation authorities.
I was much relieved to hear the Prime Minister say that it has been found legal to revise assessments in a downward direction, as I have received many complaints regarding the assessments. This will make substantial relief available; but the valuations (last year certainly should not have been based on the 1927 prices. The fact that they have been fixed on those inflated values will, undoubtedly, lead to much litigation, correspondence, and expense to taxpayers, and, probably, to the department as well. I have no suggestion of unfairness te offer regarding the Appeal Board, but, in South Australia, the taxpayers feel that the constitution of the board gives it a natural bias towards the departmental point of view. In that State, the board is composed of an ex-Deputy Commissioner, the department’s chief valuer, and a representative of the taxpayers. That means that the nominees of the department are in a practical majority on the board, and it speaks very highly for the individual members that there have not been more complaints than have been re- ceived. Their natural fairness must be of a high order. I hope the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Scullin) will give consideration to the matters that I have mentioned; yet I note with satisfaction what has already been done.
Question resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
The Budget,1 93 1-32 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable J. H. Scullin, M.P., for the information of honorable members (containing final information additional to that set out in Parliamentary Paper No. 244, presented to the House on the 10th instant).
Ordered to be printed.
Patents Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No.88.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Order for variation of the plan of lay-out of City of Canberra and its environs, dated 16th July, 1931.
WAYS AND MEANS (Formal).
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair - resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 22nd July (vide page 4260), on motion by Mr. Parker Moloney -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Lazzarini had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “be” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “ withdrawn and immediately re-introduced containing provisions for the stabilizing of the wheat industry over a period of three years by fixing the price for wheat at a sum based on the average cost of production plus 30 per cent. “.
– I intend to oppose this bill, because I object to the principles underlying it. Neither the farmers, nor any other section of the community should be compelled to place their entire assets in the hands of a government board that would be utterly inexperienced in dealing with a vast and intricate enterprise.
– A government board !
– Yes ; that is what it would amount to, owing to the various regulations that would be drawn up.
– That is misrepresentation.
– I will not tolerate such a suggestion. The farmers should be entirely free to market their produce without compulsion. The term “ compulsory pool “ connotes ineptitude, incompetence and, often corruption, as past experience has proved. The recent vote of the farmers in New South Wales gave clear and substantial proof that a large body of opinion in New South Wales, at least, is opposed to the proposal of the Government.
– They gave their reasons when they gave their vote, and I do not propose to analyze that vote now, but shall have something to say regarding it later. The primary producers are also dissatisfied with the Egg Board, the Honey Board and all other forms of government interference with their business. Yet in this bill there is proposed another instalment of this interference, and, strangely enough, it is being supported by the farmers’ own representatives in this House. The history of pools throughout the world is studded with examples of colossal losses resulting from the incursion of governments into business. The wheat pools of Canada and the United States of America have involved the wheat-farmers of the world in enormous losses, and resulted in the complete smashing of the wheat market. It made the farmers a prey to Russian competition, and caused losses to the Canadian farmers amounting to £15,000,000. The farmers of the United States of America also suffered heavy losses, amounting to approximately £20,000,000. A pool does not improve the farmers’ position in the least. It creates no new markets, and does not help to obtain a better price. It merely throws ordinary marketing arrangements into chaos, and reduces the farmers’ returns. The socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, although part of the platform of the Labour party, is not endorsed by either the Country or Nationalist party, and I ain not prepared ;to support a measure which will foist on the farmers this system in its worst form. I am not alone in the views I have expressed on this matter. Professor Shann, of Western Australia, speaking on the 21st July, at a. ceremony at the Hawkesbury College, at which the Governor of New South Wales was present* said -
Others seek to stimulate industries by raising local prices. As regards the effect of the first of these schemes - the sugar embargo - I will not say what Western Australians like myself think of it.
After being cross-examined by a number of the farmers present, he went on -
I believe in co-operation among farmers, but if you try to practise co-operation on the Soviet idea of compulsory organization, you will court disaster. The only healthy way for the market to regulate itself ‘is for some of the weaker producers to drop out.
That is the opinion of a distinguished economist, whose advice has been given and taken on even more important matters than this.
Dealing with the same subject, exPresident Coolidge said that any form of price-fixing, once started, had alike no. justice and no end. It was eco’nomic folly. No man could foresee what the effect on a nation’s economic life would be of disrupting the long-established channels of commerce. That it would be farreaching was undeniable, and it was not beyond the bounds of possibility that it would threaten the very basis of national prosperity through the dislocation and slowing-up of industry, and the disruption of the farmer’s market. That statement sets out clearly what must inevitably, take place if interference of this sort is tolerated and encouraged by governments.
During th’e course of this debate it has been suggested by interjection and otherwise from across the table that no one has a right to express an opinion on this subject if he does not happen to be a wheat-grower. My justification-for doing
So is that I represent 52,000 electors who, with their families, are deeply concerned iti. the ‘price of wheat. Not only have I the right, but I regard it as a duty, to express the opinions of that section of the community on this most important ^matter. Every one of these people has to eat bread, and they are only a part of the population of Australia. Every man and woman ‘will be intimately affected by what the Government does in regard to the marketing of wheat.
Some honorable members referred to the promises which had been made to the wheat-farmers. I am prepared to admit that this is a most .promising government, and that we have a most promising Minister foi- Markets. In fact, he seems to do little for the farmers other than give them promises-; he has never carried out those promises, nor has he the faintest hope of doing so. Hi’s political career has been built oil promises which he has never been able to keep. The present bill constitutes another promise by which he hopes to ‘beguile and mislead the farmers. The farmers are crying out for relief; they have asked for bread, and the Government has given them a stone. All sorts of promises were made during the last election, and some honorable members owe their presence in this House to the lavish promises they made on that occasion. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons), for instance, promised the farmers 6s. 6d. a bushel, and but for ‘that promise we should, never have heard either of him or the Gibbons plan. During th’e last State elections, Mr. Lang promised the farmer 7s. 6d. a bushel, and obviously, he was believed by a large section ‘of the farmers,’ because his candidates were successful in the electorates which ordinarily returned Country party or Nationalist representatives. The only result of those promises was some political advantage to the Labour party.
– That is contrary to facts.
– It is of no use the honorable member making interjections of that kind, because I have in my possession full page advertisements which appeared in the Bulletin, the Labor Daily, and elsewhere, bearing the signature of Mr. Lang, and stating that the farmers had received 7s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat before, and there was no reason why they should not get it again. I blame the farmers’ representatives in this House for deceiving, misleading and exploiting the simple-minded farmers by making them promises which they know cannot be fulfilled. We should not overlook the fact that many of the farmers’ representatives are now engaged in marketing enterprises, and they desire to secure for themselves from private traders the business of marketing the farmers’ produce. It is a national tragedy that the farmers should be misled in that way. They are simple folk. I say that without disrespect to them, for they have my admiration. When the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) can lead them, they could be led by a child. As a class they are subject to misrepresentation because, from the very nature of their employment, they have not the same facilities for keeping abreast of current matters as have those who are in close association in the cities. They are. naturally, conservative and antisocialistic in their views. Yet they allow themselves to be led’ astray by these false prophets, who disseminate alluring and specious promises, and set aside their lifelong convictions to adopt a system of State socialism in connexion with a matter that vitally concerns them and their families. It is worth remarking that, in the main, the advice tendered to them emanates from “city” farmers, and not from practical men directly engaged in farming pursuits.
Those who have spoken to the bill, apparently, are disinclined to speak against the farmer because of the political pull that he can exercise; but I am not concerned with that aspect of the matter. My desire is to do the right thing by all sections. The bill should be dealt with entirely on its merits, as the interests of all sections are indissolubly wrapped up in it. As the bill provides that an Australian price is to be fixed for wheat, the consumers are vitally interested. I have the same interest in that as have hundreds of thousands of other Australians.
– The bill does not fix the price of wheat.
– It provides that that may be done. I myself heard the Minister say so. I am opposed, to fixing a local price for wheat which is above import parity. We have had too much of that sort of thing already in connexion with other commodities. I made some observations on the subject last Monday, and I notice that Mr. E. H. Tout,, the president of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, has replied to them in the columns of the Sydney Morning Herald. Mr. Tout is an estimable citizen, and I take no exception to his remarks so long as they are confined to wool, fat stock and wheat. However, he brings in the conditions of primary producers, to which I made no special reference. Mr. Tout said that the prices of wool, fat stock and wheat were “back to pre-war levels, while the costs remain at post-war levels.” That is quite true. Had that gentleman gone into the matter of sugar, rice, butter, eggs, wine, canned fruits, peanuts, ginger and many other items, he would realize that because of the action of the Government the prices of those commodities are above import parity, to the serious disadvantage of hundreds of thousands of Australian workers and their families. The consumption of butter in this country has declined because of the prevailing price, . and a similar remark might be applied to other items. Yet we are told that it does not matter to what height you increase the local price of wheat, it will have no effect on the price of bread ! That has been said on numerous occasions in this chamber by the Minister and others.
– I have said many times that it makes no appreciable difference to the price of bread.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.When I demonstrate the actual position, perhaps the honorable member will refrain from making such misleading statements. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) has lived among farmers all his life, and represents them in this Parliament. Of course, he was never a farmer himself. The honorable gentleman stated that in New South Wales there is a Flour Acquisition Act, under which the price of wheat is fixed’ at 4s. a bushel ; and that price also obtains in Queensland, where similar legislation operates. He said that although the farmers of South Australia received only ls. 9d. a bushel for their wheat, bread sells at the same price in each State. “ So much,” he declared, “ for the argument of those who say that we must fix the price for home consumption, because that would result in putting up the price of bread. That contention is not borne out by fact.” Those are the remarks of one who professes to know all about the subject, and who leads honorable members opposite in this matter. Did he really know what were the prices of wheat, flour and bread in South Australia when he made that statement to the House? I submit that he had not the faintest knowledge of them. Otherwise he could not truthfully have said what he did. No doubt that honorable gentleman thought that, as the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) was sound asleep, all other honorable members in the chamber were semi-somnolent; that it did not matter what he said, he would get away with it.
– Will the honorable member show where the Minister was wrong.
Mr. ARCHDALE P ARKHILL.Here are the facts. In Queensland, as a result of the operation of the Wheat Acquisition Act, the price of flour has been fixed at £12 10s. a ton, and in Brisbane the price of a 2 lb. loaf of bread, over the counter, is 5¼d. Remember, there is no Wheat Acquisition Act in operation in South Australia. As a result, the price of flour in that State is £6 12s. 6d. a ton, wheat being1s. 9d. a bushel, and the public can purchase a 2 lb. loaf of bread over the counter for 3½d. I make that statement on the authority of Mr. Dudley D. Burley, secretary of the Master Bakers Association, Bowman Buildings, King William-street, Adelaide. It provides a convincing answer to the contention of the Minister that the price of wheat and flour may be raised to any height without affecting the price of bread. It should cause the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) to indulge in a little introspection, and question the desirability of disseminating inaccurate information. I really believe that he has done so inadvertently. He has made the statement so often that he appears to have convinced himself. What will the increase in the price of wheat and flour mean to the people in the industrial areas? What will it mean to the one-and-a-quarter million people in Sydney, the one million in Melbourne, and the hundreds of thousands in the other capital cities and large country owns ? By the operation of this measure the staff of life will become dearer to every consumer.
– The honorable gentleman would apparently support a sales tax on flour.
– I would not. I shall come to my remedy in time, but at this point I am asking what will be the effect on the workers of Fremantle of the increase in the price of bread? I know what it is even in my own electorate, where there are people who can hardly find the money to buy bread at present prices, and I shall not be a party to placing a further heavy burden upon them. If the effects will be felt in an electorate which may be said to be comparatively affluent, we can imagine what they will be in Hindmarsh and other industrial electorates. What will this increase mean to the 300,000 unemployed who have no incomes? Is it a Labour Government that is proposing to raise the price of the people’s bread?Is this being done by men who represent industrial electorates and claim to have at heart the interests of their constituents? They are sacrificing the people, including the unemployed, who are only able to buy bread out of the dole, and the proceeds of intermittent employment. I admit that the farmer is entitled to consideration. What, then, is the remedy? It is to decrease the cost of production.
– Reduce wages!
– Parrot-like, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) merely repeats the cry which I hear when I address meetings at the street corners in Woolloomooloo. Wages are not a large item in the price of wheat, and the reduction of them is not necessary. I tell the House frankly that I am prepared to vote for the reduction of any tariff duties that add to the farmers’ costs of production. But I am not afforded a chance to do that. The party that claims to represent country interests is content with feeble gestures; it never comes forward with a definite proposal which would have the effect of actually reducing duties.
– What of the vote on the budget last week?
– The amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) to, reduce the Estimates by £1 could have had no effect on tariff duties. Had the amendment been carried the only direct consequence of it would have been t hat the country would have been plunged into a general election and the rehabilitation plan, which the Opposition believes to be essential to the restoration of financial stability, would have been scattered 10 the four winds. The amendment was merely a pretence, and that is evidenced by the fact that only five members of the Country party voted for it. For this “ monster demonstration “ against the tariff, and in favour of the farmers, only five “ monsters “ could be mustered. Political history shows that the Country party has assisted in the increase of tariff duties; it has been quite satisfied to create’ t his class of special benefits so long as the farmers could participate in them. The members of that party in this chamber have assisted to rivet about the ankles of the Australian people, the shackles of high protection, and their only excuse is that “ everybody is doing it “.
– On a point of order. ls the honorable member in order in discussing the tariff?
– The honorable member would not be in order in discussing the tariff in detail, but he is entitled to make passing reference to it.
– The only excuse I have ever heard honorable members of the Country party offer for their repeated votes in favour of increased duties is that everybody is dipping into the fount of high protection, and they intend to get their share. A great and glorious policy for the socalled Country party! I repeat that I am prepared to support any legitimate effort to reduce the cost of production, because with such a reduction is bound up the welfare of our people. No great good can come to the country until costs are reduced to world parity, so that our products may be exported at competitive prices. I am not, however, ready to engage in mere sham fights such as the members of the Country party staged last week. The insults which have been heaped on the private traders are entirely unjustified. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) made an unprovoked and unnecessary attack upon
Mr. Darling, a gentleman whom I do no: know. The only ground of criticism adduced by the honorable member was that Mr. Darling poses as a friend of the farmers. Has he not a right to do so? The records show that the private traders have been greater friends to the farmers than have the pools. Moreover, the Darling family has made extensive public benefactions in South Australia.
– Order. The honorable member’s time has expired
Motion, by Mr. CURTIN, proposed-
That the honorable member for Warringah hu given leave to continue.
– 1 shall not require more than five minutes more.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Rather than press the matter to a division, I withdraw my request for an extension of time.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
.- Despite the farmers’ difficulties, which are not of their making, but are a consequence primarily of world conditions, and partly of past happenings in Australia, the policy of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) is to talk pious platitudes about reducing the cost of production and do no more, hoping that the weaker farmers will go to the wall, and as a result of the reduction of the number of growers, the contraction of the acreage under cultivation, and the diminished production of wheat, there will be a recovery of prices which will benefit the growers who survive.
– I said that the price of bread should not be increased to the people of Fremantle.
– I think I have fairly and faithfully summarized the honorable member’s contentions. He is opposed to pools, and to any interference with private trading, and the only solution of the farmers’ difficulties that he can suggest is to reduce the cost of production. He also attacked a section of the Opposition for having contributed to conditions which, he said, have been responsible for increasing artificially the cost of production. He implied that in view of the political circumstances in
Australia no relief from the high costs of production is to be expected. The honorable member is quite satisfied that to the extent that the fiscal policy has increased costs to the farmer, no material alteration will be effected. That burden, hesays, is permanently imposed on the farmers as a result of the general policy of protection which the Australian people as a whole endorse. The honorable member’s outlook on this problem is one of entire negation. I asked him whether he would support a sales tax upon flour, and he said that he was not in favour of it, although the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) had criticized this party for not imposing such a tax. If I comprehend the honorable member’s argument aright, he cannot logically support a. sales tax upon flour, because one of his objections to this bill is that its iucidence will result in an increased price of bread to the consumers of Australia. A sales tax upon flour would have the same effect. If the honorable member is speaking for his own party, it is evident that it has no policy to propound as an alternative to this bill.
– The honorable member is misrepresenting the position.
– Let me give the honorable member full credit for his strikingly original contribution to this discussion, in which he urged a reduction in the cost of production. That proposal is obviously self -condemned, because the accumulated consequences of the past which fall upon the farming community make it impossible for the wheat-growers to bring down their costs so as to enable them to sell profitably at anything approximating world parity. I believe that, at bedrock, wheat can be produced more cheaply in Australia than in any other country. Taking things by and large, over a spread of years, with normal seasons, I believe that any reasonable computation of costs would suggest to us that wheat-growing in Australia could, in normal times, be made at least a profitable industry. As a matter of fact, we can, I think, claim that the major development of Australia as a country has been made possible by the success which has attended the wheat-growing and wool-growing industries. They have given to us not only a settled countryside, but also the permanent occupation of the vast territories of this continent which, if we look at the distribution of population in our cities, is so lopsided that were it not for the activities of these two important primary industries it would indeed be absurd to call Australia a nation. I represent a metropolitan electorate, and I recognize, of course, that the great mass of my constituents have no direct pecuniary association with the wheatgrowing industry. But I feel that that industry is of vital importance to the economic security of Australia. I believe, too, that in a variety of ways it contributes to the employment of the Australian people, that the industry is entitled to be regarded as a great national institution, and that we have to pay due respect to the difficulties in which those engaged in it find themselves. I shall not traverse what this Parliament has attempted to do in the way of establishing the home market. With the present world prices for wheat, it is impossible for the Australian wheat-grower to continue without assistance in some form from this Parliament, or without some steps being taken by this Parliament which will enable the wheat-growers to help themselves. If they are to be left to the merciless law of supply and demand in respect of wheat prices for the next two or three years-
– Even that does not operate.
– If they are to be left to the ordinary activities which will operate in connexion with world prices for wheat, we are faced with the certainty that the acreage under cultivation in Australia will shrink, not from below the area from which 18,000,000 bushels were reaped last year, to the area which it is computed will yield 13,500,000 bushels for the coming season, but probably to an area which will produce 10,000,000 bushels, or even less. With a shrinkage of acreage, representing practically a 60 per cent. reduction in the acreage cultivated for wheat in Australia, the volume of employment available in this country must rapidly decline. The whole possibility of the rehabilitation of this country is dependent upon at least maintaining the normal degree of activity in connexion with our primary industries. The railway systems of Australia will not be made capable of budget equilibrium if this important industry is allowed to shrink until it- assumes a minor place among our industries. I feel that this Parliament has, after all, incurred a moral obligation to the wheat-growers of Australia in respect of last season’s harvest. On that point I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). I also feel that, with respect to the coming harvest, and harvests immediately following, at least for the period of this so-called rehabilitation plan, the wheat-growing industry, particularly in certain States, has a right to be allowed to effect such changes in the marketing of its product as will, for the time being, save it from the worst effects of intensified international competition. This bill makes no attempt to impose governmental control on the wheat industry in respect of either production or marketing. There is no financial obligation incurred hy this Parliament under the terms of the bill. What is really contemplated in this measure is the giving of statutory power to the wheat-growers to organize the marketing of their products. That provision is only operative when a majority of the wheat-growers in at least three of the States intimate- by ballot that they desire to establish cooperative marketing of their product, as against the system, which has hitherto prevailed. That is the first principle of the bill. The second principle is, of course, that if a majority of the wheatgrowers do indicate their desire to establish collective marketing as against individual marketing, then there must be in the scheme that element of compulsion which would make it impossible for vested interests to organize machinery to destroy the advantage of co-operative marketing. It may, of course, be said “ Why not let the wheat merchants have an open go V In Western Australia we have had the experience of a highly organized and effective voluntary pool which over a .term of years has marketed 77 per cent, or thereabouts of the wheat exported from that ‘State. That voluntary pool has found itself greatly handicapped by the absence of similar organizations in the Other wheat-producing States.
It has, therefore, been’ exposed to attack, organized capital in the other States competing with it for charters in connexion with shipping freights, and also dumping wheat, upon the market, even the Australian market, without any proper recognition of what is the saturation point, so that there could -be no stability for the wheat-grower in respect of marketing in Australia. He has been at the mercy of the millers’ ring, which purchases wheat for flourmilling purposes within Australia and also for export. The Master Bakers Association and the flour-millers’ ring have always been able to get the best of ‘the competition, because the wheat-grower has marketed his wheat for the most part individually. The purchasers of wheat are not the ordinary men and women of the country who go into retail shops, nor are they to be found among the individual citizens of the country, as is the case in respect of the purchasers of boots and meat. The purchasers of wheat in. Australia are either the agents of the wheat merchants buying for the purpose of selling overseas, or the flourmilling associations purchasing for the purposes of gristing in Australia. Thus the actual competition for wheat in Australia has been strictly limited. There has been almost a monopoly control over the purchase of wheat, and the voluntary pool in Western Australia has recognized the reality of those elements, and has- felt that only by organization can these counter organizations be compelled to give the wheat-grower a fair deal. Of course, other factors complicate the business. A,t best, the Australian consumption of wheat in any one year does not exceed 50,000,000 bushels. About 15,000,000 bushels are used for seed in a normal year, about 31,000,000 bushels are required for human consumption in Australia, and a’bout 5,000,000 bushels are required as food for stock and poultry and for other purposes. We produced last year 212,000,000 bushels of wheat, and, as our local requirements are 51,000,000 bushels, 160,000,000 bushels had to be sold overseas. Practically two-thirds of the Australian wheat yield is exported. This wheat has had to be sold in a year in which there has ‘been what is termed by the economists a catastrophic fall in prices. It matters not what the commodity is that has to be exported, it has not only to compete with the low labour conditions and so-called low production costs of other countries, but also to sell in competition with countries, handicapped by the dreadful fall in prices arising from what I shall describe as a derangement of the monetary system. Our wheat has to be sold during a period of artificial and intensified depression, due to causes which are beyond the scope of this bill. Is this Parliament to accept the philosophy of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) and say that the interests of those associated with this important industry are not to be the concern of this legislature?
– He did not suggest that.
– He suggested nothing else. There is nothing for us but to introduce a sales tax, organize a compulsory pool, or leave the farmers to the mercies of the wolves of competition.
– It is possible to fix a local price for wheat.
-A pool can do that. Among the powers which are to be vested in the State boards is the power to fix a local price for wheat. The federal board will have control over exports and interstate wheat movements to prevent the dumping of the produce of one State into another to the detriment of prices within that State. I see nothing wrong with an attempt by this legislature to establish a stable price within Australia, not only for wheat, hut for other commodities also. I support the principle of a stable price for labour. I do not believethat the workers should have to sell their labour for whatever they can get in competition with 300,000 others who are looking for employment. Without some regulation of price, so keen would he the competition for jobs, that there would be no limit to the extent to which the situation might be exploited by those prepared to take advantage of it. I am convinced that a wheat pool could, by means of effective organization in other countries, eliminate many of the weaknesses of the farmers’ marketing board in the United States of America, and the Canadian wheat pool organization. The trouble in respect to wheat is not due entirely to over-production, and the carry-over from previous years. Low prices are attributable, in some degree, to the fact that millions of human being have had their purchasing power enormously reduced. There could be an immediate improvement in the price of wheat if only the 25,000,000 persons now out of employment in the various civilized countries of the world could once more become effectual consumers.
The losses incurred by thefarmers in connexion with last year’s harvest have affected the national income of Australia, and it is only fair, I think, that the loss should be spread over the community as a whole. This contention is justified by the fact that the farmers increased their acreage last year in response to a definite appeal by the Government to grow more wheat. In order to increase the area under cultivation, many of them incurred debts which they have not since been able to discharge. The return which they received for their crop was hopelessly inadequate to meet their liabilities. In Western Australia a royal commission has been inquiring into the losses of farmers during the last two or three years, and while it is true that many of the farmers’ debts cannot be attributed directly to the movement for the production of more wheat, the fact remains that their net indebtedness very closely approximates the difference between what they would have received if their wheat had been sold at is. a bushel, and what they actually received for it. We must remember that the farmers received actually less than half of what they were led to expect when the crop was sown. This loss will be reflected in a reduced demand by the farmers for commodities, for labour with which to cultivate their land, for railway freights, and for shipping space. It will be seen, therefore, that the whole community is affected, and not only the farmers.
As a metropolitan member I support this bill, regarding it as a means by which the farmers, without direct levies statutorily imposed by this Parliament, may themselves develop an effective marketing organization, and exercise some control over the placing of their wheat upon the markets of the world. It will enable them to minimize, to some extent at least, the evil effects of competition, intensified by the necessities of’ each individual farmer. The establishment of a pool should protect the grower against having to accept the first offer for his wheat, and may protect him, also, against having to sell his wheat to an agent to whom he is already indebted. In this way the farmers will be protected against the worst effects of the depression.
It may be that, during the committee stage, certain clauses of the bill will be altered. The farmers of Western Australia cannot expect to share fullyin the increased price of wheat consumedlocally, and also retain the full benefit of the lower freight which they pay on that portion of their crop which is exported overseas. They cannot have it both ways.
– Will the honorable member show that there is any relation between the freight advantage, and the higher price for locally-consumed wheat?
Mr.CURTIN.- One is a natural advantage, I admit, and the other is the result of a deliberate policy. That portion of the Western Australian crop which is likely to be consumed in Western Australia will be considerably less than the proportion of the Victorian and New South Wales crops’ which will be consumed in those States respectively.
– The honorable member must know that Western Australia provides work for many Victorians in the manufacture of goods which Western Australia buys.
– If we try to kill all the birds with one stone we shall miss the lot. I am prepared to support a proposal by which Western Australia would have to surrender its freight advantage in order to participate in the higher price for wheat consumed within Australia. I hope that Parliament will be able to do something for the farmers, who have taken such an important part in the development of Australia. They are a desirable type of citizen who, for the most part, perform their duties efficiently and well. I shall vote for the second reading of the bill.
. -Once again we have under consideration in this chamber the subject of wheat marketing. On other occasions I have made my position quite clear in regard to it, and I do not intend to go over the same ground again. I have risen to draw the attention of the Minister to that clause of the schedule which relates to the distribution of the extra money received for that portion of the wheat crop which is consumed within Australia. Paragraph c of subclause 2 of the schedule states that “ prior to the effecting of any equalization, any advantage of a State arising from an excess over the average price enjoyed in respect of the wheat of any season sold for use or consumption within a State over the average price for Australian wheat of that season sold for export, shall, &c.”I was surprised to hear the honorable member forEchuca (Mr. Hill) express any concern about the matter. It has certainly occasioned concern to growers in South Australia, and, I think, in Western Australia; but I do not think that Victorian growers have anything to worry about. As the clause is now worded, it would be possible to make each State a self-contained pooling area, reserving for its own growers the advantage which might be derived from the sale of wheat for home consumption.
– I did not go so far as that.
– No ; but that is what the growers in South Australia are afraid of. It is feared that this provision might be used as a means of keeping from the States which have only a small local consumption, the advantage of the higher Australian price for wheat.
– It is proposed to give such States some of the advantage, but not the whole of it.
– I trust that the Government will not accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). He suggested that at least 50 per cent. of the advantage derived by the thickly populated States as a result of their greater consumption of wheat should be retained by the growers of those States, while the other 50 per cent. would be put into the equalization fund, and spread over all the States participating in the pool. If it can be shown that last year Victoria derived an advantage of 3d. a bushel, and New South Wales an advantage of 2d. a bushel, as is claimed, in respect to handling, &c. there can be no objection to that being taken into consideration in the administration of the equalization fund ; but the growers in South Australia are afraid that the thickly populated ^States may retain the whole advantage derived from their increased powers of consumption. It is suggested that the clause be amended by striking out the words “ any season “ and substituting “ previous season “ ; or by inserting “ 1930-31 “. We should not mind if an average were struck over the five previous years.
– That would be contrary to the agreement arrived at by representatives at the conference.
– That may be so, still, we are not now considering that agreement, but the bill before the House. It is going to be hard enough as it is to get this proposal accepted by the growers in South Australia. So far as I can make out, it is just possible that there may be a 60-40 vote in favour, but it will not be better than that. If the opponents of the pool can point out to the growers that they will derive no advantage from the higher local price for wheat except on the 2,500,000 or the 3,000,000 bushels consumed in South Australia, it will be much easier for them to induce the farmers to vote against the proposal.
– The position will not be left at that.
– I am glad to hear that remark. The South Australian and Western Australian growers are, undoubtedly, penalized in order to support the secondary industries in the Eastern States. There are several reasons why I support this bill, and one is that I can see in it an opportunity for the growers in South Australia and Western Australia to obtain some compensation for the penalty to which I have referred. I was pleased to hear the Minister say that he would not allow New South Wales and Victoria to obtain an undue advantage over the other wheat-producing States, because of their large local consumption. The growers in Western Australia and South Australia, as members of a Commonwealth pool, should receive the full benefit afforded by co-operative marketing in the Commonwealth.
I take exception to the remark made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), who said that the proposal savored of soviet compulsion. That is sheer misrepresentation. The wheat growers in each State will have an opportunity to accept or reject the pool, and, if they accept it, they will elect a majority of members on each .State board, who will nominate representatives on the Australian board. The honorable member remarked that he spoke “ in all seriousness “, and I am inclined to think that that was the only serious observation he made, because his speech left the impression on my mind that, since he had always voted against schemes for the co-operative marketing of wheat, he intended to oppose this one. I believe that this bill will be passed by both branches of the legislature. Any effort made by the Government to give primary producers an opportunity to control their own marketing arrangements is a move in the right direction.
– Even if it puts, up the price of bread?
– In all industries, governments are trying to ensure to the primary producers a return commensurate with their efforts, and anything that I can do. to assist the important industry of wheatgrowing will be gladly done. I am prepared to support this bill, even if it involves ah extra impost on the consumers in the form of a slight increase in the price of bread.
I welcome this opportunity of assisting the wheat-growers to organize their industry, and to take control of their own marketing arrangements, if they so desire. All that I have read and seen of the operation of pools in Queensland leads me to believe that this proposal should be accepted by the House. The report of the Wheat Commission that was appointed in South Australia some years ago, shows what took place under the so-called “honorable understanding” among the wheat merchants, in pre-war days.
.- I have listened carefully to the speeches of those honorable members who advocated the passage of this bill, particularly to those of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and I agree with their remarks, in the main, because I realize that it is necessary for the wheat industry to be organized”, and the method proposed under this bill is the beat available. Since this is an age of organization, industries that are disorganized are placed at a disadvantage. 1 do not appreciate the element of compulsion any more than other honorable members do, but, if the scheme will benefit the growers, we ought to adopt it. As a wheat-grower, I am willing to accept a compulsory pool ; I think that it will be in the best interests of the industry. Having grown wheat for nearly 40 years, 1 have experienced a variety of marketing conditions. In my earlier farming experience I had forcibly brought home to me the drawbacks of lack of system. I. first grew wheat in 1893. In the following year, the lowest price realized for wheat until this year was received. 1 well remember being offered ls. Sd. for my wheat in the paddock, but I did not accept that price. The great majority of the farmers in my district had to take ls. 8d. or ls. “9d. a bushel, because they had certain commitments to meet. Although we considered that a low price, it was as good as double that amount to-day, because the cost of production was then only half the present amount. I was in a position to hold my wheat for some months, and I eventually received ls. lid. a bushel for it. If a pool, such as is proposed under this bill, had been formed at that time, the majority of the wheat-growers would not have had to sell in December, January and February, and glut the market, making it easy for the speculators to obtain the wheat at practically whatever price they cared to offer, but they would have received a considerably higher price for their crop. They would probably have received an extra 3d. or 4d. a bushel.
I have experienced wheat-selling under a voluntary pool in New South Wales, and I would prefer the voluntary system if it could be made successful, but difficulty has arisen in putting it into operation. At one time, between 50 and 60 per cent, of the growers in New South Wales put their wheat into a voluntary pool, but it was ineffective because it did not embrace the Great majority of the growers. When a comparative scarcity occurred, that enabled those who remained outside the pool to sell at a payable price, for which the existence of a pool was responsible. That is the objection that I have to a voluntary pool. A number of growers who can afford to hold their wheat, and benefit from the pool without supporting it, can reduce the price of the pooled wheat. We must try to do the greatest good to the greatest number. My argument that co-operative marketing is in the best interests of the wheat-growers applies equally to wool. Only by organized marketing, and the stabilization of prices, can we obtain the full value of our wool. We had an excellent example of the benefits of cooperative marketing in the operations of Bawra, at a time when a mountain of wool, had accumulated overseas and was ruining our market. Many persons advocated burning it, or sinking it in the sea; but, by adopting organized marketing, Australia received £30,000,000 more for its wool at that period than it would otherwise have obtained. I strongly believe that the wheat-growers will be acting against their own interests if they do not accept, the present proposal. I regard the vote taken recently in New South Wales, in which a majority of the wheatgrowers expressed opposition to a State pool, as one that might well have been expected. Of course, a great deal of propaganda wa3 indulged in by the opponents of the pool there, and that had some influence on the result. What really caused the defeat of the proposal, however, was distrust -of Mr. Lang and his legislation. There can be no doubt about that. Despite the propaganda, on which much money was spent, the proposal would not have been rejected if the wheat-growers had not feared that the Government might introduce a system of communism or socialism, under which wheat and all other products would be commandeered by the State.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), who is opposed to the principle embodied in the bill, stated that the merchants had been able to pay higher prices in the past than the State pools. Even if that be correct, it should be recognized that the pools have controlled a large portion of the total production, with the result that the comparatively small quantity of wheat available to the private agents ha? forced them to pay an extra price Except for the pool the farmers who sold their wheat to the merchants would no) have obtained such a good price for it.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has indicated his entire disapproval of this bill, and also his opposition to the fixing of the price of wheat for home consumption. He argued that price-fixing for home consumption -would increase the cost of bread to the people. Surely the honorable member realizes that the farmers cannot continue to grow wheat at the present price, which -not only give3 them no profit, but involves them in a heavy loss. Unless something is done to assist the wheat-growers, they must inevitably cease wheat production. That would mean that we should have to import wheat or flour, a policy which must’ certainly greatly increase the price of bread. It is entirely unreasonable to expect wheat-growers to continue their operations with prices as they are at present. Our wheat-growers are undeniably in a desperate plight. After two or three years of drought in most of the wheat-growing areas, a year of plenty comes only to find the Trice of wheat lower than it has ever been. These circumstances have had a disastrous effect upon the industry. So far as I can see,’ the orderly marketing of our wheat through an organization controlled by the growers is the only practicable way to help us out of our difficulties at the moment. It certainly is not practicable at present to fix a guaranteed price for wheat. In these circumstances, I intend to support the bill, though some amendment of it may be necessary in committee to equalize the receipts from home consumption sales.
– As I have already spoken on several occasions during this session on measures designed to promote the interests of the wheat-growing industry, I shall not make a lengthy speech on this occasion. I must, however, express my appreciation of the action of the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) in bringing forward this bill. In view of the defeat of the Wheat Marketing Bill in another place last year the honorable gentleman would have been justified in taking no further action to assist the farmers to evolve a scheme for the orderly marketing of their wheat. The fact that this bill has been introduced is an indication that some of the criticism levelled against the Government, and particularly the Minister, last year, was unjust. The bona fides of the Minister were attacked last year, and I regret that I was one who joined in adversely criticizing him. If ever a government had an excuse for making political capita] out of a measure that was badly treated by ite political opponents, this Government had it, because of the treatment last year of its proposal to establish an Australian wheat pool.
– The Government shoould not have made its legislation contingent upon the passing of the Fiduciary Note* Bill.
– That is not a fair line of argument, for the Fiduciary Note? Bill had not been introduced when the Wheat Marketing Bill, with its provision for a guarantee of 4s. a bushel for wheat, was under consideration. Honorable members know the circumstances surrounding the introduction and ultimate defeat of that bill. The measure was passed in this House, without a division on the second reading, but was defeated in another place by the narrow margin of two votes. A tremendous amount of lobbying occurred after the passing of the bill by this House, and before its introduction in another place. I am not prepared to say that that lobbying was responsible for the defeat of the bill, but it certainly had something to do with it. I am satisfied, from what I have seen in various documents that have been shown to me since that time, that the fate of the bill was determined by the influence brought to bear upon certain Western Australian senators by the wheat-growers’ organizations in that State. Telegrams were sent from Western Australia to those honorable senators urging them to vote against the measure.
I have on other occasions taken exception to the action of certain honorable members opposite in trying to make political capital at the expense of the Country party out of the rejection of the first Wheat Marketing Bill. I am referring to the attitude adopted by the Western Australian senators in this connexion, in the hope that, when the facts are fairly stated, honorable members will not continue to indulge in this propa- ganda. lt is stated that two members of the Country party in another place took a hand in bringing about the defeat of the bill.
– Was not the measure defeated by two votes ?
– It was ; but those honorable senators were not actually hostile to the pooling proposal - they merely acted in accordance with telegraphic instructions sent to them by the Western Australian farmers’ organizations.
– They were entitled to vote as they thought right, and presumably they did so.
– They were not free agents. We all know that honorable members are influenced by various organizations, particularly of primary producers, when measures affecting the primary producers are before the House. They have a right to consider the views of these organizations. Every returned soldier member of the Parliament pays attention to the view of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, and it is only reasonable to expect representatives of the primary producers to consider the views expressed by influential and representative bodies of producers. It is much more desirable that members of Parliament should express the views of such organizations than that they should merely give effect to their own personal opinions.
– How many organizations are entitled to dictate to the members of the Country party?
– I do not regard the expression of an opinion by such organizations as dictation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) is putting me in a wrong light. What I say is that, when legislation which may vitally affect the welfare of the primary producers is before Parliament, honorable members who represent primary producers have the right to consider the views expressed by organized bodies of primary producers. I consider that it would be audacious for any honorable member to give expression to his own personal opinion in opposition to the opinion expressed by representative organizations.
– The farmers have always been divided on the principle of wheat pooling.
– We know very well that the attitude adopted last year by the Western Australian farmers was determined very largely by the declaration of the Western Australian Government that it was not prepared to undertake the financial commitments which the State would have been involved in had the bill passed. It was contended at that time that the passage of the bill might force the State Government to impose an additional burden of taxation of £400,000 upon the people of Western Australia. Although the other wheatgrowing States of the Commonwealth were prepared to accept the condition laid down, Western Australia was not. prepared to do so. The panicky attitude of the Western Australian wheatgrowers’ organizations was brought about by the declarations of the State Government.
Having made it clear that the attitude of the Country party, as a whole, towards the last Wheat Marketing Bill was different from that adopted by the Western Australian senators to whom I have referred, I sincerely hope that honorable members opposite will not attempt to make political capital, during the general election campaign next year, at the expense of our party. It is not fair to suggest that the Country party joined with the enemies of ‘the farmers, the wheat agents, in trying to defeat the proposal for the establishment of an Australianwide wheat, marketing organization.
Perhaps I should mention here that the attitude of the wheat-growers’ organizations of Western Australia towards this bill is favorable. I understand that all the Western Australian members of this chamber who have so far spoken in this debate are prepared to support the general principles of the bill, but -will endeavour to have amendments made to cer tain clauses. I believe that the country party will assist them in that connexion. The Minister is trying his best to mee every reasonable wish of the representatives of the wheat-growers, and is anxious to make the measure as perfect as possible.
– As I understand that honorable members of all parties desire to attend a meeting this evening, I shall not resume the Chair until 8.30 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8.30 p.m.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
.- I move -
That the resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the 19th June, 1930, imposing a special duty of customs on goods included in certain tariff items specified in column 1 of the schedule thereto, he amended by omitting from column 2 of that schedule, opposite thefigure 1 in column1 of that schedule, the words “ whole item “, and inserting in their stead the words “whole item except porter and stout”;
And that, on and after the 24th July, 1931, at 9 o’clock in the forenoon reckoned according to standard time in the Territory for the Seat of Government, the special duty of customs specified in that resolution be imposed, in accordance with that resolution as so amended.
This resolution is introduced under circumstances affecting the marketing of Australian hops abroad, and is for the purpose of exempting porter and stout from the special duty imposed in April, 1930. The special duty amounts to 50 per cent. of the existing tariff rates of -
and amounts to1s. 6d. a gallon British, and 2s. 3d. general, on bulk importations, and1s. 9d. British, and 3s. 3d. general, on supplies imported in bottle.
Since the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) has been a member of this Parliament, he, as the representative of a big hop-growing district, has been most persistent in his advocacy that something further should be done to find a market for the surplus Tasmanian hops.
– Is he the only one?
– No; I admit that others also have been interested in the matter, but he has been the most persis tent. To that end he has ardently supported the scheme which I am now about to outline.
I conferred with the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), as the marketing of hops is a matter in which he has taken a very keen interest, and asked him to have inquiries made byhis officers into the condition of the hop industry. After making these inquiries, he was able to advise that, in the interests of the Australian hop industry and for the purpose of finding a market for the surplus production, in his opinion, the scheme under review should be adopted. This, together with the favorable arrangement made by the Minister for Australian hops entering Canada, will substantially assist the Tasmanian hop industry.
Owing to the incapacity of the Australian market to absorb the total production of hops in Tasmania, large stocks - amounting to 4,000 bales - have accumulated, and it was found impossible to find a profitable outlet for them. The hop-growing industry was faced with the serious position of having to restrict production, and that would have necessitated many of the growers going out of production, and being added to the already large list of unemployed. Representatives of the growers urged the Government to find a market for these accumulated stocks, as the carryover to the next season would have a disastrous effect on that season’s production. Consequently, the Government entered into negotiations with the manufacturers of Guinness’ stout, in Dublin, for the sale of the accumulated stocks of 4,000 bales of an average weight of 240 lb. An arrangement has been made with Guinness’ whereby they will purchase 4,000 bales of hops, representing 2,500 bales of the 1930 crop, and 1,500 bales of the 1931 crop, and, in addition, 1,000 bales per year from 1933 onwards at world’s parity prices, provided the Government on its part will exempt stout from the special duty, and as regards stout, lift the rationing provisions established under the proclamation gazetted on the 4th April, 1930, prohibiting the importation of certain specified goods. This resolution, by exempting porter and stout from the special duty, will enable the sale of the hops to be completed. The Government also proposes to exempt Guinness’ stout and porter from the rationing provisions above-mentioned. The price to be paid for the 4,000 bales of hops is entirely satisfactory to the local growers. It is £5 per cwt., c.i.f., English currency, and Guinness’ state that it represents double the price at which they could have purchased similar hops elsewhere. In English currency, it represents £42,000, and in Australian currency, £57,000. The Government considers that the waiving of the special duty and the rationing provisions in this case is fully justified by the special circumstances. The effect of their abolition will be to open up an avenue for the disposal of an embarrassing accumulation of hops. The stout imported will make a substantial contribution to the customs revenue, because there will be a duty of 3s. 6d. a gallon on it. The financial position of the hop-growers in Tasmania will be considerably improved by the distribution among them of the sum of £57,000, which should enable a large percentage of the growers to continue operations who otherwise would have had to go out of production. It will also provide a means for the growers to employ additional labour on their farms.
The removal of the surcharge will not in any way interfere with the protective incidence of the duties under the customs tariff, under which stout has a substantial protection with which local manufacturers were satisfied. When the special duties and the prohibitions were brought down it was very definitely stated that they were emergency measures, adopted for the rectification of the adverse balance of trade, and that in no way did they relate to the protectionist policy of this Government.
I think honorable members will agree that a good deal has been effected on behalf of the Tasmania hop-growers.
Debate resumed from page 4314.
– I repeat that I consider that the Minister for Markets is to be congratulated upon the manner in which he has stuck to this proposal for a Commonwealth wheat pool. Although the honorable gentleman and his colleagues in the Cabinet had every justification for discontinuing their efforts in this direction, in view of the fate which overtook their previous proposal, they have decided to make another attempt to give the wheat-growers of Australia the great advantage of a Commonwealth-wide organization. Because of his persistence and courage in this matter, the Minister deserves to secure the acceptance of the pool by Parliament and by the wheat-growers of Australia. Personally, I consider that when the advantages of the proposed pool are placed before the wheat-growers, no . difficulty will be experienced in inducing a majority of them in at least three of the wheat-growing States to approve of it.
A good deal has been said about the State pools that are in existence, and also in relation to the ballot that was held recently in New South Wales. All that I have to say about State pools is that, since the war, we have not had one that could be taken as a test for the purpose of deciding the issue of a Commonwealth pool. If there were State pools all over Australia, it would not follow that they were a sound alternative to the proposal that is now to be placed before the wheatgrowers, for the obvious reason that they can exercise control only within their own boundaries. They have no export control powers, and, therefore, are useless as a factor in the solution of the problem of world marketing. I believe that the wheat-growers are sufficiently educated to realize that fact. I hold the opinion that a State pool would not be accepted by the growers in any State except Queensland to-day. But it does not follow on that account that the growers would decline a Commonwealth pool if it were offered to them. No guarantee is attached to this proposal; nor could one be. Its advantages, however, are very great. Those advantages have been outlined by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) and other honorable members, as well as by the Minister. I point out, however, that there is one fundamental advantage associated with the scheme which has not been sufficiently stressed. A good deal has been said regarding the fixation of a price for the wheat consumed within Australia ; but that, after all, is not the basic problem of the wheat-growers. That problem is the marketing of their wheat abroad. It has been shown that we can consume in Australia only about 50,000,000 bushels of our wheat, and that the balance of our annual harvest must be exported overseas. Last year the exportable surplus amounted to 160,000,000 bushels, involving the growers in a loss of £21,000,000. It is obvious that the great problem to be solved in connexion with the wheat industry is, not so much that of home marketing, as that of export. The proposed Commonwealth wheat pool will do a great deal to solve that problem. If the growers obtain no benefit other than that of being able to control the marketing of their surplus product abroad, they will be amply compensated for any difficulties that may arise in connexion with the scheme.
This will bc the world’s first nationwide wheat pool, and from that standpoint alone it is worth a trial. The task of endeavouring to regulate the disposal of our wheat on the world’s market is a gigantic one. Australia has already led t!ic way in many social and economic experiments. This innovation allows it once more to give a lead to other countries in a great effort by the primary producers of the nation to market their product. We know that, as a result of the disastrous collapse of the wheat market last season, the wheat-producing nations, notably Canada, the United States of America, and Argentina, have been endeavouring to evolve a scheme to regulate the marketing -of wheat. A conference that was recently held in London came to nothing, but it was only a preliminary step. I suggest that, from the day that the Commonwealth’s wheat pool is established, it will go ahead rapidly, and that other wheat-producing nations will be pleased to co-operate with Australia in its courageous action.
Certain criticisms have been advanced by honorable members on both sides against the proposal. I shall deal with only two, the first being that of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr.
Lazzarini), who submitted au amendment that was defeated, but I understand he will take further action later, I cannot see any advantage in the Government accepting an amendment of the nature submitted by the honorable member. Any attempt to hold up this scheme will be decidedly to the disadvantage of the wheat-growers. After the pool has been in operation for a time it should be a simple matter for this and the State Parliaments to consider adding to the duties of the Commonwealth pool the task of devising a stabilization scheme for a period based upon the average cost of production. At the present time an experiment of that nature would be fatal to the success of the project.
I now turn to the criticism of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), who, as is usual with him, particularly of late, has gone out of his way to be very critical of honorable members of the Country party. To me it is most astounding to hear the honorable member casting aspersions upon the tariff bona fides of members of that party. We know that the honorable member is a master of constructive statesmanship, and that he never rises in this chamber without suggesting that he has a better scheme to deal with the problems that confront Australia than that before Parliament. In the circumstances it is not surprising to find that he has a scheme to deal with the problems of our wheatgrowers. When asked what it was, he said, “ To reduce the costs of production “. Honorable members of this party were so taken aback at that unique suggestion that they were unable, at the moment, to size up its real merit. When the honorable member was asked later for details, all he could say was that members of the Country party had merely talked about the costs of production, and had at no time done anything to reduce them.
– When I have been here as long as the honorable member, he may ask me for a constructive suggestion. He has supported every protectionist tariff that has been introduced.
– This is the first occasion on which the honorable member for Warringah has suggested that, after all, his panacea for the ills that beset
Australia is an attack on the tariff. I ask him why he did not support the various moves that have been made in this House to reduce the tariff.
– The Country party has never made such a move, and it has not given me the opportunity to assist it.
– At al! times, when it suits him, the honorable member is prepared to swear that black is white. At the moment he is stretching his imagination. On many occasions the Country party has submitted amendments in an endeavour to reduce the tariff.
– The Country party has been very successful in increasing the tariff on a number of occasions.
– Honorable members of this party have never had any help from the honorable member and his colleagues to reduce the tariff. The honorable member for Warringah knows very well that the tariff policy of the Country party is to encourage primary industries. If it is possible to establish an industry in Australia, or extend its operations, this party is prepared to assist to give it reasonable tariff protection. It has been consistent in that regard. It is also the policy of honorable members of this party to reduce the present high tariff in an endeavour to effect a reduction in the cost of living. The honorable member for Warringah has not assisted us in any way.
– The honorable member and his colleagues have never given me a chance.
– The honorable member was given a chance only recently.
– I never take part in a sham fight.
– It appears that the honorable member takes to himself the right to decide what is a sham and what is a real fight. The fights which are not to his liking he classifies in the sham category ; those which will not hurt him in any way, but which give him political kudos, are the real fights.
The honorable member is extremely solicitous about the consumers in the electorate of Warringah. His main objection to this pool is that it will “ crucify the consumers “. He is the self-appointed champion of the consumers of Australia.
I have never heard the honorable member say a good word about the primary producers, and I doubt whether he has ever seen a real farmer. I believe that the only “ farmers “ of which he has knowledge are those who are fortunate enough to be able to afford to go down to the centre of his electorate, where he meets most of his constituents, the Manly Esplanade. Here he is talking boldly about the woes of the consumers, and suggesting that the farmers are exploiting the community.
– I repudiate that entirely.
– That is what the speeches of the honorable member convey to me. If he cares I will arrange a meeting of real farmers, at which the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) can also attend. Both can then expound their views to those genuine farmers, and I guarantee that after their experience we shall never hear another word from the honorable member for Warringah speaking disparagingly of our primary producers.
– If I attended such a meeting I should want better company and a better chairman than the honorable member. .
– The honorable member may name his own conditions. It comes with very bad grace from him to attack the Country party on its tariff actions. He is a member of a pretty powerful party, the majority of whom have crossed the floor whenever they have bad an opportunity to vote for the imposition of a high duty. Those honorable members included the Leader and several others recognized as prominent members of the honorable member’s party. If the honorable member were sincere in his views about the Country party, he would make some effort to convert those honorable members instead of attacking us.
– The honorable member should start on his own party first. He had only five supporters on one division the other night.
– Before long the honorable member will have an opportunity to show his bona -fides on tariff matters.
The bill before us is ohe of the finest measures that has been considered in this Parliament during my nine years experience. It is the first that has caused honorable members to concentrate on the vital problems of the wheatgrowers.. By setting up a compulsory wheat pool it mates that section of primary producers, for the first time, a definite issue in the federal political arena. When that pool is established, the farmers will become an even stronger element in federal politics, until eventually they will secure concessions hitherto denied to them.
.- This is the fourth bill introduced by the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) to provide assistance for the wheatgrowers of Australia, and although it is different in many respects from its predecessors, I am opposed to it, not because I lack sympathy with the wheat-growers, but because it contains no true solution for the difficulties with which they are confronted. There is scarcely a primary industry in Australia to-day that is not assisted in some form or other, either directly by the government or by a tax levied on the people themselves. The only industry that stands out as independent of such assistance is wool-growing. But it is a sheer impossibility for that industry to carry all the others on its back. In the past, we could look to wheat and wool to see us out of any financial trouble into which the country may have drifted, but to-day wool is the only industry that even approaches solvency, although as a matter of fact the persons engaged in it find difficulty in covering their expenses. We are now asked to agree to a bill which will result in the payment of an additional amount for each bushel of wheat consumed in Australia. Money does not drop from the skies; it comes from the pockets of the people, and they should decide how it should be spent. My principal objection to the bill is that all wheatgrowers are to be treated alike; no differentiation is to be made; no matter how successful a man may have been in the past or how much capital he may have at his command, he is to receive as much per bushel as the man struggling for his existence.
– They all get the same amount now.
– Yes.. By selling in the open market the successful wheatgrower gets as much per bushel as the struggling wheat-farmer. But the money to which I am referring is the extra 6d. per bushel above the market value which would have to be provided by the people of Australia. That sum is to be distributed among the wheatgrowers generally. I do not wish to call it by any hard name, but it is in the nature of a gift.
– A Queensland member talking about gifts to producers !
– I am prepared to discuss the sugar issue with the honorable member at any time. Abraham Lincoln said that it is impossible for a man to raise himself by his own boot-straps. Yet that is what we in Australia are endeavouring to do; we are trying to make the country prosper by giving assistance to all sorts of industries. It is a financial impossibility to do so.
– Will the honorable member say that to the Queensland sugargrowers ?
– I have always done so. I stand for a fair deal to all parties. I am not lacking in sympathy so far as the wheat-grower is concerned. I may be asked what I am prepared to put in place of this proposal. Unfortunately, the present season has been a particularly good one so far as rain is concerned for wheat-growers in certain parts of South Australia. Generally speaking, the men who are farming the poorer land, have had the best season. The result is that they have been encouraged to remain for a still further period engaged in growing wheat on that poorer land. It is many years sincecotton was first grown in Queensland. Experience shows that cotton may be successfully grown by persons engaged in mixed farming, who can depend on family labour forthe picking of the crop. When it was found that the soil of parts of Queensland was highly suitable for the growing of cotton, certain individuals persuaded the Government to offer a bounty on its production, and as a consequence many people started growing cotton, and failed. But instead of allowing them to go out of the business, they were encouraged to remain in it by the offer of an additional bounty. They were done a disservice, and not a service. It would have been far better to let them get out then instead of buoying them up with hopes and getting them to put an additional area under cotton only to meet with ultimate failure. The same remarks apply to many of the wheat-growers.
– The wheat-growers of Queensland receive a bounty.
– I no more favour the payment of that amount to the wheatgrowers of Queensland than I favour the payment of a bounty to wheat-growers all over Australia, at the expense of the whole community. The question is, what are we to do for the wheat-growers ? The price they can obtain in the market to-day does not half cover their expenses, and I am, therefore, an advocate -of giving assistance to them, but not to all and sundry. This afternoon, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) mentioned some wheat-growers who are complaining about the valuations placed, upon their properties by the Commonwealth Land Tax Department. Why should men who have reached the stage at which they can be called upon to pay federal land tax receive from the general community another 6d. a bushel on their wheat? By all means let us give assistance to the necessitous wheat-growers, but do not let the assistance be given indiscriminately. As I said at the outset of my remarks, this is the fourth time the Minister has come forward with a proposal dealing with the wheat-growers. I think I have spoken in opposition to each of the three other bills, and it is not my purpose to-night to further prolong this debate. I am opposed to the bill not because I am not in sympathy with the farmers, but because I am not satisfied that the proposal now put forward will meet the situation.
.- I am not nearly so optimistic about such experimental legislation as this as is the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson). I am afraid that the way in which Australia has been indulging in experimental legislation in defiance of economic laws has brought it into its present position. One of the finest countries under the sun has now ten times the unemployment it has had in other years.
I do not intend to make this a tariff debate as other members have done, but I shall give a vote to-night contrary to every principle I have advocated since I have been in this Parliament. I shall vote for the bill for one reason only. Year by year the producers of Australia have been exploited. They have been exploited to the extent of £6,000,000 or more to assist the sugar industry. Not long ago, when we protested against an increase of duty amounting to 1,450 per cent, on cotton tweeds, every Queensland member crossed the chamber and voted in favour of it, and on another occasion, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) abused me for asking that Parliament should have a voice in arranging the sugar agreement. I am voting for this bill for the reason mentioned by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). It will enable the wheat-grower to do a little exploiting, as well as everyone else in the community.
– When the honorable member addressed the Constitution Club, he condemned wheat pools, root and branch.
– I do condemn them. The honorable member for New England regards this as the most important measure that Parliament has yet had under consideration relating to wheat-growers. In my opinion, the most important of this series of measures was the Wheat Advances Act under which Parliament approved of the payment of 3s. f.o.b. to the wheat-growers. I shall deal with that a little later. In my opinion, the Government’s main desire in this series of bills has been to foist on the community its proposal for the socialized control of production, and the tenor of the speeches from the corner makes this abundantly clear.
For many years the wheat-growers have needed no assistance from the Government. In 1922, the price paid for wheat was 5s. 9d., and in the succeeding years until 1929 it was 5s. 5d., 5s. 8d., 6s. 8d., 6s. 4d., 5s. 7d., 5s. 6d., and 5s. In Western Australia there has been a marvellous development in wheat-growing. The area under crop in 1922 was 1,200,000 acres, with a yield of 14,000,000 bushels.
By 1930, the area had increased to 4,000,000 acres, with a yield of 50,000,000 bushels. Although the policy adopted by this Parliament added considerably to their cost of production, the men in Western Australia cleared their land, fenced it, provided water supplies, stocked it, and involved themselves in heavy financial obligations. They were developing the country, not only for themselves but also for the State. The only appeal they ever made to this Parliament was that some reduction should be brought about in the cost of production. The cost of everything they ‘ required had been increased as the result of federal policy. Since 1920 there has been a steady increase in the cost of living and the cost of production until now with embargoes and the most extreme duties the position ha3 become impossible, and the only remedy left to the wheat-growers is to do some exploiting themselves. The growers entered into heavy obligations, and through the subsequent fall in the prices of primary products, particularly wheat, these people, who are helping to build up the nation, are on the rocks. The Government, pressed by honorable members who favoured compulsory pooling, and desirous to give effect to its policy for government control of production and distribution, introduced in 1930 a Wheat Marketing Bill, which included provision for a compulsory federal pool. But, fearing that compulsion would not be favorably entertained unless the socialistic pill was coated with sugar, the Government included a guarantee of 43. a bushel at sidings. In regard to this matter the Government’s previous policy underwent a peculiar change. For a long time the Commonwealth had been paying bounties to industries, but in respect of the wheat industry the Government insisted that the States should accept a halfshare of the liability for any losses that might be sustained. Western Australia’s home market is very small in comparison with its export trade, and, if a compulsory pool had been in operation last year and sustained a loss of only 3d. a bushel, the cost to the Western Australian Government would have been £487,000; a loss of ls. a bushel would have mulct the State in an amount of nearly £2,000,000. I moved an amendment to the bill to provide that, if the Parliament insisted on a compulsory pool, and the State Government declined to accept any responsibility, the producers of Western Australia should be allowed to come into the pool on the same terms as were available to the growers in States which entered into agreement with the Commonwealth. That amendment was not accepted; had it ‘been, I believe the bill would have been passed by the Senate. Probably, it is just as well that it was rejected, because I believe the Government shared my opinion that the Commonwealth has no power to guarantee the price of wheat. For that reason the amendment proposed to-night by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) is unconstitutional, but the Commonwealth can pay a bounty on export.
– When did the honorable member become a constitutional lawyer ?
– I am guided by the opinion of Mr. Menzies, K.C. -
I am therefore of the opinion that the proposed guarantee, so far as it is a guarantee by the Commonwealth, is ultra vires the Commonwealth Parliament. The executive powers of the Commonwealth, so far as they rest upon the Constitution itself, extend to “the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, and of the laws of the Commonwealth.” (See section 01 of the Constitution.) Those express executive powers are, therefore, for the reasons which apply to the legislative power, insufficient, and there are no inherent executive powers which can repair the defect. It follows that in my view the joint guarantee by the Commonwealth and the States is legally binding upon the States only.
Since the rejection of the Wheat- Marketing Bill, the position of the primary producers has been frequently discussed at conferences, and a decision was reached that money should be borrowed for the purpose . of giving assistance to the farmers. At a conference in Canberra of representatives of the wheat-growers in all States, the Government was asked to impose a sales tax of £7 12s. a ton on flour, and with the proceeds pay a bounty of approximately 7d. a bushel on exported wheat. The Government rejected that recommendation on the ground that it would increase the price of bread ; but has now introduced a bill which will enable the price of wheat to be increased by 2s. a bushel. For months the position of the wheat-farmer has been growing more desperate, and, whereas 4,000,000 acres were cropped in “Western Australia last year, the area this year is reduced to 3,000,000 acres.
In December last, following strong representations by many honorable members who recognized the desperate needs of the farmers, the Government introduced a bill to guarantee to the wheat-growers an advance of 3s. a bushel f.o.b. It was agreed to by both chambers, but was not proclaimed by the Government. There is an obligation on this Parliament to honour the undertaking contained in that measure. I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to-day whether he intended to take action at the forthcoming meeting of the Loan Council and the Premiers Conference to enable the definite promise made by Parliament to the wheat-farmers to be fulfilled. The right honorable gentleman stated that the matter will be brought before the Loan Council, and I feel sure that he will be sympathetic. I know the difficulties of raising money, and, when the “Wheat Advances Bill was before the House, I said that it would be preferable to issue government vouchers payable six or nine months hence, for the payment of a bounty of 6d. a bushel on wheat exported. There is not the slightest doubt that the farmers were led to believe by the “Wheat Marketing Bill of last year that they would get 4s. a bushel ; but for that many of them would have sold for 3s. 9d. or 3s. lOd. Through delaying sales in expectation of a guaranteed price, the growers sustained very heavy losses. I mention this fact because I believe that assistance to the primary producers is necessary in the interests of Australia. All the rehabilitation plans will not restore prosperity unless primary production can be placed on a profitable basis The increases in the cost of production have nearly destroyed the mining industry, and have put the wheat-growers on their beam ends; and I am afraid that very few wool-growers will be able to produce profitably at present prices. ITo man can be expected to continue producing without prospect of profit.
Last year the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) drew attention to the serious adverse trade balance and appealed to the farmers to produce more in order to establish credits overseas. They answered that appeal and, in consequence, thousands of them are hopelessly ruined. The fall has involved’ storekeepers, warehousemen and manufacturers; in fact, every section of the community has been more or less affected, and the army of unemployed has been greatly increased thereby. Because Australia is a debtor nation it must build up an export trade. Why cannot those who are engaged in the sheltered secondary industries do something to rectify the adverse trade balance ? Why, instead of exporting their products, do they rely on the wheatfarmers, the wool-growers, and the dairymen to get them out of their difficulties? The primary producers have been basely deserted by the Government and Parliament. They have been misled by spurious promises. The wheat industry is worth almost any sacrifice, but although the growers loyally responded to the Prime Minister’s appeal to produce more wheat, they are merely being led into misery and bankruptcy, and have had to sacrifice the assets built up by a life’s toil. In my own constituency many of the farmers are ruined, and I believe that in the Mallee conditions are equally bad. I have had a large number of telegrams urging that the Government should give effect to the guarantee contained in the Wheat Advances Act. The executive council of the women’s section of the producers of Western Australia has telegraphed that it -
Views with grave concern failure of Premiers Conference to definitely deal with promised bonus on last year’s wheat, and urges Western Australian members to bring matter before government.
Telegrams from various country organizations point out that the farmers relied on the Government’s promise, and I hope that if it cannot pay an export bounty, as promised by Parliament, steps will be taken at the Premiers Conference to give assistance at least to the necessitous farmers. Instead of the bill now before us, I would have preferred an assurance that the Government would pay a bounty on export. Last year the Government, introduced bill after bill for the payment of bounties to Other industries, but to wheat production, which has been hit harder than any other industry, the Government has failed to give practical aid. On the contrary, by tariff imposts and embargoes on the machinery and other requirements of the primary producers, the lot of the farmers “who grows for export has been made ten times more difficult.
– Machinery is cheaper to-day than it was before the embargo was imposed.
– Much nonsense is talked about the cost of machinery. The advocates of high protection are continually quoting the prices in 1920 and 1921, when all oyer the world they were 200 per cent, and 300 per cent, above normal, with the prices obtaining to-day, to prove that reductions have taken place. Of course there should be reductions. The honorable member cannot deny that this Government has imposed embargo after embargo on the importation of various commodities, and has increased the duties on imported galvanized iron, barbed wire, and agricultural machinery. Recently the Minister was asked to remove the embargo on the importation of reaper-threshers so that farmers may be able to reduce their costs of production. [Quorum formed.] All my life I have been opposed to the principle of compulsion. I believe in the right of the individual to use his own discretion, and, in the case of our primary producers, I contend that they should have the rightto dispose of their products in the way most acceptable to them. We all know from experience that if there is only one organization operating in any particular business or industry there is not likely to be the same efficiency as when there is active competition. A voluntary pool has been operating in Western Australia for some years. That highly efficient Organization handles from 70 to 80 per cent, of the wheat grown in that State, and it has been of the greatest benefit to our wheat-growers.
These experiments in monoply control have by no means been uniformly successful, as witness the rubber stabilization scheme, the coffee valorization scheme in Brazil, or even the vast organization of the Federal Farm Board of the United States of America, and wheat pools in Canada. The bill provides that the pool will not be established unless the State
Parliaments pass the necessary legislation, and a majority of the farmers of three States in a secret ballot, approve of the proposed pool. With their experience and local knowledge the farmers should be the best judges in this matter. This being so, I should not be justified in denying to them the right to express their opinion on the Government’s scheme. The payment of import parity for wheat sold for home consumption should receive the support of all high tariff advocates, because that principle is observed with regard to the sale of practically all other commodities in Australia. Local manufacturers working under shelter of the present high tariff fix the sales prices for their commodities as near as possible to the import parity. Surely our wheat-growers are justified in asking that the wheat industry be placed on the same footing? If the wheat-growers in, say, New South Wales and Western Australia decide not to join the pool, they should have absolute freedom in the disposal of their product. Although the bill provides that if a majority of wheat-farmers in three States decide in favour of a Commonwealth pool, the Minister may, by licence, control the sale of all wheat in those States, it should be made quite clear that the Australian Wheat Board shall not have authority over the export trade in wheat of those States which may decide against joining the pool. On the general principle, I take the view that if we are going to have an Australian pool, it should be all in, or none at all.’ Because Western Australia is nearer to the world’s wheat market, our growers have an advantage of approximately fd. per bushel over farmers in the Eastern States, and I think they produce a better class of wheat. Possibly this is due to the more favorable climatic conditions for wheat-growing there. At all events, their wheat usually commands a higher price in the overseas market than grain from the other States. Therefore, if we are to have this Commonwealth wheat pool with its provisions for an equalization scheme, it must be all in, or I believe that the people of Western Australia will not accept it. The Wheat Growers Union in Western Australia has telegraphed to me urging the elimination of the provision in clause 12 of the schedule relating to any advantage of a State arising from its geographical position, subject to an equal division of all profits from internal sales. It may be possible, and I think it is probable, that our growers will be able to get 4s. a bushel for home consumption, and those States that join the pool should do so on the clear understanding that any profits arising from the sale of wheat in Australia should be equally divided among the producers in all the States. I had intended, in committee, to move an amendment limiting the operation of the pool to a period of three years, but I notice that the Minister has circulated an amendment drafted on similar lines. It will also be advisable, I think, to insert provision giving Parliament control over regulations by enacting that any regulations that have been disallowed by either House shall not be re-introduced in the same session. With these reservations, I intend to give the bill my support. When the measure is in committee, I hope to be able to insert amendments dealing with the powers of the Minister in regard to sales of wheat produced in States that might decide to stand out of the pool, and also in regard to the equalization scheme.
.- The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) appears to think that one remedy for the difficulties of our wheatgrowers is to starve growers off the poorer areas. That would be a bad advertisement for Australia.
– The honorable member for Oxley did not advocate that.
– He may not have done so in so many words, but at all events he implied that wheat-farmers on the poorer areas should be discouraged from continuing operations.
– That is a very different statement.
– There is very grave danger that if substantial assistance is not given to our farmers large numbers of them will be driven into the ranks of our unemployed. If the Government is sincere in its desire to help our wheatgrowers the opportunity is to its hand, but this assistance should be given in such a way as to make it possible for them to carry on till next season. The Minister states that if the bill is passed it should be possible, without increasing the price of bread, to pay our farmers 4s. a bushel for wheat for home consumption. This will be equivalent to a bounty of 6d. a bushel over the whole production. If the honorable gentleman is correct in his assumption, and if his desire to assist the wheat-farmers is sincere, why does he not at once bring in a measure imposing a sales tax on flour? That would give our wheat-growers promptly the assistance to which they are entitled. I object to the method of compulsion that is to be adopted. We should allow all sections of the community the greatest freedom in the conduct of their business. No pool should be established unless a great majority of the wheatgrowers approve of the scheme. The bill provides that if a simple majority of farmers in three States approve of the proposal a compulsory wheat pool will be established.
– The bill makes no reference to a majority vote of 51 per cent.
– That is so. There is no mention in the bill of the proportion of votes necessary to carry the pool, and that is one of its weaknesses. It should provide either that the whole of the wheatgrowing States shall be in agreement or that a poll of 55 per cent, or 60 per cent, in favour of the pool is necessary before the scheme can be given effect. Other agreements made between the Commonwealth and the States had to be unanimously approved. I refer to such agreements as the Financial Emergency Agreement and the Financial Agreement, which was made a few years ago between the Commonwealth and the States. Except in connexion with wheat, there has never been any suggestion that some States by a bare majority should be allowed to enforce their views upon the dissenting States. It is unfair to include Queensland in this scheme, because that State produces no wheat for export. It does not grow sufficient wheat for its own consumption, although it has a pool for its local requirements. There are only four wheat-producing States in Australia that export wheat, and it would be quite unfair if two of those States, assisted by one non wheat-producing State, were able to enforce their will upon the two largest wheat-producing States in Australia. Another objection which I have to the bill is its un-federal character in respect of the equalization scheme. The smaller States, such as South Australia and “Western Australia, are not to share in the benefit that will accrue to States such as Victoria and New South Wales, because of their larger local consumption of wheat. The sugar industry, the iron and steel industry, and other industries of the Eastern States are all protected by high tariffs and prohibitions ; but no assistance is being given by this Government to the smaller wheatgrowing States. In this instance the policy of equality is being brushed aside, because the Eastern States are not prepared to sacrifice some share of the benefits that they are likely to obtain under this scheme owing to their greater local consumption of wheat. The Minister should reconsider the position, because I can safely promise him that so long as that principle remains in the bill, South Australia and Western Australia will reject it.
– To what is the honorable member referring?
– I am referring to the refusal of the Government to allow the equalization scheme to be applied on an all-Australian basis.
– In proportion to the production of each State ?
– Yes. That is not provided for in the bill.
– Is it not contained in clause 12 of the schedule?
– That clause reads -
Prior to the effecting of such equalization any advantage of a State arising -
– I have circulated an amendment dealing with that part of the schedule.
– I hope that the amendment will meet the situation. The Government might very well have refrained from introducing this bill. When the Minister introduced the trade agreement with Canada we were all prepared to applaud him, because we believed that he had accomplished a useful work which was likely to increase our trade; but we are becoming very tired of the manner in which he has persisted in his attempts to force the wheat pooling system on Australia. The recent vote in New South Wales should surely convince him that the farmers generally have no confidence whatever in the Government’s attempts to assist them.
– What did Mr. Nock say?
– I do not agree with what that gentleman said. It is quite obvious from the vote cast in New South Wales that the farmers there are tired of government control, and this Government might, with the best grace, accept the knock and withdraw the bill.
– The farmers in New South Wales did not want Mr. Lang interfering with their business.
– For years we have had experience of the disastrous results of government interference with trade and industry. Most of our troubles are mainly governmental. Our production is good; our manufacturers are on a very fair basis; and, but for government troubles, we should be in quite a good position. I intend to oppose the second reading of the bill.
.- I intend to oppose the bill, and for this reason I shall briefly explain my objections to it. The first consideration of a producer or any person who has something to sell is to study possible markets. Yet, in this debate, I have not heard one speaker refer to the market that we have lost in Great Britain because of the dumping of Russian wheat there. With regard to the dumping of butter in Great Britain, I have, on many occasions, asked what the Minister intended to do about it, but in each instance, he made his usual evasive reply. I asked the Prime Minister whether he would ask the British Government to sequestrate the Russian wheat that was being dumped there as an offset against loans which had been repudiated by Russia. The right honorable gentleman saw difficulty in the way of doing that. Surely every honorable member representing a rural constituency knows that Russia, during last season, sold Great Britain more wheat than Australia did.
– Is the honorable member aware that before the war Russia did a much bigger business with Great Britain?
– We must expect the members of the Lang group to put in a good word for Russia, but I ask them to restrain themselves for a moment. We had a potential market in Great Britain for the whole of our primary products, but a large section of it has been lost to us by unfair competition. Russian wheat dumped in Great Britain was ordered to ‘be sold at ls. a quarter less than the cheapest wheat offering there. That represented 1½d a bushel less than the price at which Australian wheat was being sold. Is it any wonder that Russia disposed of its wheat in Great Britain? Despite that, this Parliament is taking up valuable time of the country in proposing to charge an additional price for wheat sold for local consumption, forgetting all the time that we have lost considerable trade with Great Britain - which country is our best customer - because Russia has established its own wheat agencies there. If the slow intelligence of the Minister will not permit him to realize that fact, surely he knows that Russian timber is being dumped into Australia, and that this Government is taking no serious action to prevent any further shipments. Recently, I asked the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) why a certain individual who was deported from Australia in July, 1918, was re-admitted to this country in November of last year, this person having been deported because of being a member of an unlawful association. The Minister gave no valid reason for re-admitting him. He admits that this man represents Russian Oil Products Limited, a Soviet organization which will do its best to undermine our trade. Having found that mere propaganda is useless, Russia has embarked on a fiveyear plan, under which timber, wheat, and manufactured goods, including soap, fruit pulp and paper are being dumped in other countries, including Britain.
-Order 1 The honorable member is getting wide of the question.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member is speaking about Russian wheat. I understand that this bill deals with Australian wheat.
– I have already called the honorable member to order. He must confine him self to the question before the Chair.
– I give the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) credit for having arranged a satisfactory trade agreement with Canada. I suggest that he should endeavour to negotiate a similar trade agreement with Britain, for by so doing he would achieve his objective of finding a market for our wheat at a satisfactory price. Australia could give Britain some preference in the matter of imports, and Britain could give Australian primary products preference over foreign goods.
– I assure the honorable member that I did not neglect those matters when in London.
– I believe that the Minister did his best in that direction; but I urge that even stronger representations be made.
– I am continuing the representations that I made when in England.
– I hope that the Minister’s efforts will be successful.
I am not surprised that the Country party supports this bill.
Honorable members interjecting,
-Order ! I shall not call order again.
– The Country party, like the Labour party, is essentially sectional in its outlook. The Labour party has as its objective the socialization of industry, and, therefore, the establishment of a board to control the wheat grown in this country finds favour with it. The socialistic shadow which hangs over this bill mikes it objectionable to me at the outset. The policy that everything becomes the property of the State, that there shall be no individual ownership, is the policy of communism. Labour seeks the same objective, but by different means.
– Under this bill the farmers themselves will control the pool.
– The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) must be silent.
– The Country party, being a sectional party, places, the interests of the primary producer first, last and always, without regard to the claims of others. So long as it can further the interests of the farmers, it is prepared to disregard the consumers.
– The manufacturers taught us that lesson.
– Although very few members of the Country party are themselves farmers, they all are united in placing the interests of the farmers first. They were even prepared to vote for a bill which, in order to provide a guaranteed price for wheat, relied upon a fiduciary currency. On the one hand they were prepared to give the farmers a bounty, and with the other to take it away. Surely they realized that a fiduciary note issue would reduce the purchasing power of the farmers as well as that of other sections of the community, in addition to raising the ra.te of exchange and causing a flight of capital. The Country party does not stand for the whole of the people; it is, therefore, not a national party. While recognizing the plight of the farmers, I point out that the creation of a wheat board will inevitably mean a rise in the price of bread.
– What does the honor- ‘ able member I propose to do to assist the farmers in their plight?
– I shall come to that presently. In certain mallee districts in Victoria there are men who, through no fault of their own, have had failure after failure of their crops. The outlook before them is black, indeed. Sooner or later many of them will be forced to abandon their blocks if they are not assisted. But is their position any worse than that of a man who is thrown out of employment? Nothing but black despair faces the man who has to tell his wife and family that he has lost his employment. It is hopeless for him to seek another job. There are thousands of men in this country who would willingly undertake any class of work, if only they could get it. I submit that their plight is worse than that of the farmer, for the latter at least is not starving. Until the economic situation improves, a man who is thrown out of employment cannot hope to find further work. In my opinion, that time is yet a couple of years off. The Country party would take action which would result in the price of bread being raised to these unfortunates merely that the mau on the land might reap an advantage.
– How did the honorable member vote on the sugar agreement?
– And the duty on tea?
– I opposed them both. I submit that these men who have been thrown out of employment should receive our first consideration.
The Country party would have us believe that every farmer in Australia is in a serious plight. That is not so. Indeed, several members of this Parliament are themselves successful wheat-farmers, who, in more prosperous times,’ have done well from farming. They are in the same position as a business which, in the good years, built up reserves. Now, in lean years, they should be able to rely on those reserves. Are wealthy farmers to be given a bounty at the expense of the unemployed and of those who have invested their savings in property and lost their equity ? I say emphatically, “ No “. The cry of “ the poor farmer “ is over done. I do not say that the wheat industry does not present a problem for us to grapple with, but I do submit that there is a proper way of tackling that problem. I suggest nothing new, because what I propose has been done in the past by every wheat-producing State. Relief should be given by the State only to necessitous farmers by means of long-term loans.
– The honorable member is too late with his suggestion; the farmers have already passed the stage at which such loans would be of any advantage to them.
– Why should the Commonwealth Government come to the direct assistance of the farmers? I realize that the Commonwealth can appreciably help them. Indeed, I have asked numerous questions on this subject - questions which I am surprised mem- bers of the Country party did not ask - urging that there should be no primage duty on cornsacks and superphosphates. This, I am pleased to say, has now been granted by the Government.
– Members of the Country party have brought that matter up repeatedly.
-Would the honorable member apply the same principle to manufacturers, and urge that the tariff should be scrapped?
– The honorable member allows himself to run amok in his opposition to the tariff.
– Order !
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that I am entitled to use the word “ amok “, seeing that it has become anglicized, and is now in the dictionary. I agree that some duties should be high, and others low. In the matter of protection the Government has gone to extremes; its policy is now one of prohibition.
The manufacture of agricultural machinery is an Australian industry which has reached the mass production stage, can compete with machinery from overseas and should be preserved. At the moment the importation of agricultural machinery is prohibited, the embargo being based on a promise given by Australian manufacturers that they would reduce their prices by 5 per cent. The Government now proposes to impose a sales tax on agricultural machinery, which will increase the cost of production for the wheat-farmer.
– The sales tax has been in operation for some time.
– I am surprised that the Country party has not discovered that it can save 6 per cent. by having that tax removed.
– The sales tax is a part of the plan.
– Each government was given a good deal of freedom in the matter of raising required revenue. The Commonwealth Government could assist the farmers by omitting agricultural implements from the operation of the sales tax, and by making further concessions of duty on essential farming machinery not produced economically in Australia. Other matters should be left to the States. Seeing that some States are wheat-producers, and others are not, any relief to wheat-farmers is a matter for the States. By assisting farmers with long-dated loans and seed wheat, and by giving needed help to necessitous farmers, more would be done to assist the wheatgrowing industry than the Minister will do under this plan, which, after all, is largely electioneering propaganda.
.- Some honorable members who have spoken, have referred to the pool which this bill proposes to establish as a Commonwealth pool. When the present Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) was sitting in opposition it was his habit to urge the then Government to establish a Commonwealth wheat pool. Under the Constitution a Commonwealth pool, as such, cannot be established. The only constitutional way in which to conduct a so-called Commonwealth pool is by creating a board to control export by State pools. That is all that this bill provides. The wheatgrowers were offered an export control board by the late Government. This bill does not, in reality, provide for a Commonwealth pool. Queensland is not regarded as a wheat-growing State, although it produces enough wheat for local consumption, and has occasionally exported a limited quantity. The reason, for the most part, is that the farmers in that State have not gone in for wheatgrowing as scientifically as it is produced in the southern States. A few farmers adopted the up-to-date methods of the expert growers in the south, and did consistently well, but in the last few years more attention has been paid to scientific wheat-growing, with the result that Queensland has now reached’ the stage at which it is capable of meeting its own requirements of wheat. Not having any wheat to export, the growers there are able to obtain a better price than is paid for local consumption wheat in the other States, to the extent of the cost of importing southern wheat into Queensland. This makes the Queensland price from 8d. to1s. per bushel above that ruling elsewhere in Australia. Wheat-farmers in the southern States sometimes say that they envy the Queensland growers; but the latter do not garner a regular crop, and the areas under cultivation are not large. The Queensland wheatfarmers have not made much money out of the industry of late years, although during the war period, when the price of wheat was high, some of them were fairly successful. In the course of my business, I inspect a large number of farmers’ income tax returns, and I can say that only a small percentage of them, if they made a fair charge for the cost of their labour, would be able to show a good return on their investment. For the most part, it can only be said that they make good wages by working long hours. This bill will not affect Queensland to the same extent as it will the other States ; but it has been asked for by the farmers generally, and it concerns them only. If they desire means of controlling the marketing of their output, they have a perfect right to consideration in that matter. Under the bill, they will be given an opportunity of deciding for themselves whether they will dispose of their product under a system of organized marketing.
It is said that the bill would have the effect of raising the price of bread. Today, in the southern States, with wheat at about 2s. 2d. a bushel, the price of bread is, roughly, 5d.
– It is as low as 3½d
– It may be sold at a lower price than 5d. by price-cutters and bakers who have a special trade. In Queensland, where the price of bread has been fixed by the State pool, and every farmer is in the pool, and never wishes to leave it, with wheat’ at 4s. a bushel, the price of bread is only about 5d. If wheat fetched 4s. a bushel in the southern States for local consumption, the price of bread should not be raised. How is the proper price of wheat to be determined? Is it to be fixed in the same way as every other commodity? If those who manufacture goods, or sell their labour, are entitled to fix their own price according to their costs, plus a profit, members of the Country party say *hat the farmers should be able similarly to fix the price of their wheat which is sold for local consumption. I, personally, do not go to the length of saying that they should, fix extremely high prices; but, if they wish to do so, they should not be told by those who fix the prices of their manufactured articles, and who enjoy protection under the tariff, that they are adopting an unfair attitude. According to these persons, prices should be fixed by the law of supply and demand, and on London parity. That means that, when wheat is plentiful, it should be almost given away, and when there is a scarcity of wheat, the price should be high. But should the farmers, in a year of scarcity, hold back their wheat, and demand, say, £1 a bushel for it? If the law of supply and demand is to be applied to the produce of the farmers, the price of all other commodities throughout Australia should be fixed by the same method, and the price of everything the farmer buys should also be fixed by London parity.
The honorable member for Balaclava (.Mr. White) made an attack on the Country party, and said that we merely represented the people who lived in the country. He did a great disservice to his own party, but he, unintentionally, paid a compliment to the members of the Country party, and at the same time stated a fact that the country people will remember. He had the temerity to suggest that, under this bill, the farmers wish to enjoy a bounty at the expense of the poor people in the cities, who would have to pay extra for their bread. But I have already shown that in Queensland, where wheat fetches 4s. a bushel, or nearly twice as much as in the southern States, the price of bread is about the same as in other parts of Australia. With wheat even at 5s. a bushel, bread would still be the cheapest form of food.
– If it were 8s. a bushel, the price of bread would not be increased, according to the honorable member.
– I would be glad if the price were not raised, even in those circumstances, but the millers and the bakers can always be trusted to look after themselves. The primary producers are now getting a starvation price for their wheat, and those who demand that there should be no improvement on that price do not ask that the price of bread should be reduced. Although I support the bill, it may be necessary to make certain amendments to some of the clauses in the committee stage.
– I purpose to refer, briefly, to some of the statements that have been made during the debate, but my task is a light one, because less criticism has been offered on this measure than on the previous wheat marketing bill, and little of the criticism is new. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) suggested that because the farmers in New South Wales had voted against a State pool, the Government should have abandoned this bill.
– If the vote in New South Wales had been favorable, the Minister would have regarded it as an argument in support of his measure.
– This bill does not propose the establishment of a wheat pool for any one State, but is designed to provide for an Australianwide pool. If a ballot had been held in Western Australia or Victoria, or any other State, and an adverse vote had been recorded in one of those States, that would not have justified dropping this measure, because it provides that it is only necessary that three States should vote in favour of a compulsory pool. To show that there has been a good deal of misunderstanding in regard to the ballot in New South Wales, I draw attention to certain resolutions of a conference of primary producers that is now being held at the Hawkesbury College. ‘ It is a conference of all the Agricultural Bureaux of New South Wales, and to-day I have received the following telegram from the conference : -
Most representative gathering wheat section State conference Agricultural Bureaux New South Wales carried unanimous resolution to request you to proceed immediately with the Wheat Act. (Signed) Watson, General President.
That State-wide conference is of the opinion that the result of the ballot recently taken in New South Wales has no bearing upon the present proposal.
On the occasion of the recent vote in New South Wales, the farmers had in mind a State pool, and, in the opinion of the conference, if a vote had been taken on the establishment of an Australianwide pool, the result would have been quite different. Another resolution reached by the conference was -
That the recent wheat ballot did not truly reflect the growers’ opinion, and that the Minister for Markets be requested to proceed with the Federal Wheat Marketing Bill.
That conference should be the best judge in the matter.
Nothing else that has been said in criticism of the measure calls for comment by me. Practically the whole of the speech of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) consisted of a recital from the numerous dodgers of misrepresentation distributed throughout every portion of New South Wales prior to the recent ballot. As the speech of the honorable member did not contain any constructive criticism, but consisted largely of a re-hash of the opinions expressed in those dodgers. I do not intend to reply to any of his statestatements. The honorable member apparently came to this chamber with a brief for the wheat merchants, and honorable members were not at all interested in what he said. The only occasion on which he refrained from using the literature circulated throughout New South Wales on behalf of the merchants was when he referred to the operation of the Canadian wheat pool. The honorable member has been informed on numerous occasions that only 60 per cent, of the Canadian wheat was placed under the control of the Canadian pool. A pool in which only 60 per cent, of a country’s wheat was handled cannot be compared with a 100 per cent, pool as is proposed to be established under this bill. The 40 per cent, of Canadian farmers who had not placed their wheat in the pool interfered with its successful operation. The best answer to the statements of the honorable member for Warringah is that the Canadian wheatgrowers are now appealing to the Government of that dominion to assist them in the establishment of a 100 per cent. pool. That completely shatters the argument of the honorable member with respect to the Canadian pool. The literature and general propaganda used against the proposed Commonwealth wheat pool were of such an objectionable nature that they should not be allowed to be forced upon the people again. It must be apparent to honorable members that certain individuals must have spent thousands of pounds in the printing and distribution of this literature and other propaganda which they obtained from the “ rake-off “ they have made from the primary producers of this country. If this measure is enacted, it will ensure that the profits now made by the merchants will be diverted into the pockets of those who grow the wheat instead of into the pockets of those who farm the farmers of this country.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma.
OPPOSED BUSINESS AFTER 11 p.m.
– by leave - For the purpose of enabling new business to be taken after 11 p.m., I move -
That Standing Order 70 - Opposed business after 11 p.m. - be suspended for the remainder of this month.
– This is a matter which has always been jealously guarded while I have been a member of this Parliament, and if the motion is agreed to we shall be establishing a dangerous precedent. The Government ought to be able so to arrange its business that it should be unnecessary to introduce new business after 11 o’clock at night. I had an experience of the Government’s tactics this afternoon.
– Will the honorable member agree to the suspension of the Standing Order for to-night?
– No. I was out of the chamber for only three or four minutes during the whole of to-day’s sitting, and during that short absence an amendment which I had moved to the motion, “ That the bill be now read a second time “ was negatived on the voices. If tactics of that kind are to be adopted I cannot say here what I think of the Government’s action, but shall express my opinion elsewhere. Honorable members should not agree to the suspension of the Standing Order, even for to-night.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) has moved that Standing Order No. 70, which provides that new business shall not be introduced after 11 p.m., be suspended for the remainder of this month. That is, I think, going too far. Honorable members would not know when new business was likely to be introduced. It would; be reasonable to suspend the Standing order for this sitting. I move -
That the words “ the remainder of this month” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “this sitting”.
– I accept that amendment.
Motion - by leave - amended accordingly.
– I protest against the proposed suspension of the Standing Order which provides that new business shall not be brought on after eleven o’clock. I have on previous occasions protested against alterations in the order of business without due notice to honorable members. Those who do not follow the proceedings of the House closely may be prepared to accept any alteration proposed by the Government, but honorable members who actively associate themselves with the debates desire that the order of business be adhered to. No intimation has yet been given as to what new business is to be brought on. It is possible that some honorable members may, after perusing the notice-paper, have come to the conclusion that no new business in which they were likely to be interested could come on to-night, and have in consequence left the House. Another point is that it takes some little time for honorable members to make themselves familiar with subjects to be discussed, and . they have, in some instances, to undertake research work to inform their minds on matters before the House. The Government, however, is attempting to establish the principle that it can do just what it likes, without paying any attention to the convenience of honorable members. I trust that honorable members will insist upon whatever privileges remain to them, and will not allow the recognized practices of the House to be interfered with.
.- I also oppose the motion. My experience in this Parliament has convinced me that legislation which is put through by exhaustion has had to be patched up afterwards.
By the time a man has sat in his place in this House from 2.30 p.m. until 11 p.m., he is not fit to give his attention to any new business.
– What is wrong with him?
– I admit that I have had enough of Canberra, but it would be better for the House to sit a week longer than have measures “ bull-dozed “ through as the Government proposes.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 42
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That Standing Order 70 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended for this sitting - put. The House divided. (Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 44
– According to May’s Parliamentary Practice - 10 Edition, pages 214-215 - as honorable members had crossed the floor and taken their places, and the tellers had been appointed before 11 o’clock, the vote is to be regarded as having taken place within the specified time, even though the count may not be completed. Moreover, this House has established a precedent of its own, whereby a resolution of this kind, even if passed at 1 a.m. or 3 a.m., is not subject to challenge.
Question resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority of the members of the House.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Sections 1 and 2 of this act shall commence on the day on which this act receives the royal assent, and the remaining sections of this act shall commence upon a date to be fixed by proclamation :
Provided that a proclamation shall not issue under this section unless and until an agreement in accordance with the form in the schedule has been entered into between the Commonwealth and at least three of the States.
.- I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “from each of which there has been a net export of wheat during the previous three years .
My object is to confine the vote to those States which export more than they import. Neither Queensland nor Tasmania raises sufficient for her own requirements, and should not take any part in deciding whether other States which are exporters shall have a pool. The essential feature of the measure is the formation of a pool for the purpose of what is called orderly marketing, or at any rate the handling of our wheat abroad. I contend that only those States which have wheat to export should be consulted in the matter.
– I cannot accept the amendment. The object of the Government is to have an Australianwide pool; but if the amendment were agreed to, the effect would be to cut out a State like Queensland, which, up to the present, has not exported wheat. A further object of the bill, to which the amendment is opposed, is to control the movement of wheat between States as well as its export.
. -I am in sympathy with the object of the amendment, for the reason that I consider it would be improper to coerce into a pool wheat-growers in any State who were opposed to it, merely because three States might, by a majority, endorse the formation of the pool. I wish, however, to point out the effect which the amendment might have on a State like Tasmania. That State is peculiarly situated in regard to the production of wheat. It produces at the present time almost sufficient for local requirements. The probability is that next year the production will be equal to what is needed, because the farmers are planting a larger area and the millers have undertaken to guarantee them a price very much in excess of what is being paid in Australia to-day. But, because the greater part of the wheat produced in Tasmania is considered unsuitable for bread-making, it is necessary for that State to import for that purpose. On the other hand, however, Tasmanian wheat is used very largely for the manufacture of biscuits, and a large quantity of it is sent to the other States for use in that direction. We might export a little more than we import, and, while not particularly concerned in the question of a pool, we might, if a ballot were taken, decide the question of whether there should be a Commonwealth pool. I feel confident that the wheatgrowers of Tasmania are not in favour of the proposed pool, and that they would prefer to be free to market their wheat in their own way.
– They could vote themselves out of the pool.
– But the other States could vote them into it.
– The other States would have more difficulty in voting them in if the amendment were carried.
– I admit that. I am in sympathy with the object of the amendment because it would improve the bill from my point of view; but I should prefer to increase the number of States whose consent must be obtained by ballot before the pool can be established. Taking all the circumstances into consideration, I have decided to support the amendment.
– I should like to know a little more definitely the meaning of the amendment. Whether it be because of bad acoustics, or on account of the buzz of conversation in the chamber, we who sit in this corner have not been able to hear what has been said or to gather the terms of the amendment. I understood the Minister to say that the amendment would cut out a State like Queensland.
– I should like the Minister to tell us how that could happen, and what the amendment really means.
– The honorable member for Perth wants the clause to apply only to those States that in the past have exported wheat. Queensland does not export it.
– So that if the amendment is carried, it means that a State that is not exporting wheat cannot come into the pool even if it wants to.
– It does not mean that.
– That is my interpretation. The Minister says one thing and those who support the amendment another.
– I was in the same difficulty as the honorable member, in that I could not plainly hear what was said by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). I understand that he proposes that any State that is not an exporter of wheat shall not be permitted to enter the pool.
– If it means that a State shall not have the opportunity to join the pool, if it desires to do so, I shall vote against it.
.- I desire to say a word on the issue raised by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell). I make it perfectly clear that, from the Tasmanian stand-point, it does not matter whether that State comes into the pool or not, as it is not an exporting State. Tasmania grows very little wheat that can be used for the manufacture of bread, and, therefore, it has to import all of its requirements for that purpose from the mainland.
– Does it not mix its own wheat with the imported product?
– To a certain extent. The Tasmanian wheat is not satisfactory for bread-making purposes when used by itself. Though that point has not anything to do with the wheat-growers of other States, it is connected with the bill. The flour-millers of the other States have wheat suitable for this purpose available locally, whereas Tasmania has to import it from the mainland. Unless some special provision is made in the bill, the cost to the Tasmanian millers will be higher than that to the millers on the mainland, which will place the former at a disadvantage, and probably jeopardize their very existence. When a previous wheat bill was before the committee for discussion, the Acting Minister in charge of it undertook to arrange that the Tasmanian millers should obtain their wheat under conditions similar to those which applied to the mainland millers, so eliminating unfair competition. I take the opportunity of bringing the matter under the notice of the Minister in order that he may incorporate a provision of that nature in this measure.
So far as the State of Tasmania is concerned, it really does not matter very much whether it comes into the pool or remains outside as it does not export wheat overseas. It exports a certain quantity to the mainland for biscuitmaking purposes.
– The Tasmanian millers will be able to buy their wheat at the same price that is charged to millers on the mainland.
– Victorian millers are able to buy wheat on the spot, whereas their Tasmanian competitors have to buy in Victoria wheat suitable for gristing into flour for bread-making, and pay the cost of carriage to Tasmania, which places them at a disadvantage.
.- This matter has been considered by my board, with a view to evolving a scheme to help Tasmania out of the difficulty, and I propose, at a later stage, to move an amendment suggested by the Victorian Wheat Corporation providing for the insertion of a new clause to follow clause 10. It reads -
So long as the State of Tasmania be not a party to this agreement the Australian Wheat Board may at any time accept wheat from Tasmania which is unsuitable for gristing into flour for bread, but which is suitable for manufacture into biscuits, in exchange for wheat from any of the other States which is suitable for gristing into flour for bread, an adjustment being made where there is any difference in the value of the wheat. The Australian Wheat Board shall also make available wheat required for consumption in Tasmania and shall not charge a higher price for such wheat than the price for the time being charged for wheat for consumption in Victoria.
– As I understand it, the effect of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) would not be to keep Queensland or Tasmania out of the pool. As the bill now stands, if any three States consented to the inauguration of the pool that would suffice to make the act operative for the whole of Australia.
If the amendment is accepted, three States which are exporting wheat will have to consent before the act can become operative. I shall give an illustration of what I think it means, and the honorable member for Perth can correct me if I am wrong. As the bill stands, if Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria consented to the formation of the pool, and Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales dissented, it would, nevertheless, become operative, although only one of the assenting parties was an exporting State. If the amendment were carried the three assenting States would have to be wheat exporting States. It would not prevent Queensland or Tasmania coming into the pool, but it would prevent the votes of those States being regarded as a factor in determining whether the pool should be operative or not.
– I support the amendment, as I consider that it is necessary. As the bill is now drafted it is possible for three States, only one of which is an exporting State, to form the pool, and under clauses 13 and 14 they would have the power to control the export of wheat from every State in the Commonwealth. New South Wales has already voted against a bill of this nature, and it is probable that at least two of the other wheatexporting States will vote against this proposal. It would, therefore, become possible for one exporting State, together with two States like Tasmania and Queensland, to vote in favour of the pool and make it operative. The resultant wheat board, representing only one of the wheat-exporting States, would then have the power to regulate and control the whole of the export of wheat from Australia.
It is provisions such as that which give colour to the propaganda which was circulated prior to the vote on the New South Wales pool. The Minister has deliberately brought the bill forward in a form which enables a small minority of the wheat-growers of the Commonwealth to obtain control over its wheat export, and have the industry at their mercy. It is no wonder that suspicion arises in the minds of the people whose livelihood depends upon the stability and prosperity of the wheat-growing industry, that an effort is being made to socialize the wheat industry.
The amendment of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) is quite reasonable. It provides that those in the wheat industry shall not be forced into the scheme unless, by agreement among the growers of three States which are vitally concerned in wheat-growing and exporting. Now’ that the Minister really understands the position, I hope that he will accept the amendment.
– I. dissent from the view that this amendment is reasonably conceived. Whatever may be the design of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), its effect will be to destroy the project and prevent Queensland coming into the wheat pool.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member’s amendment is designed to prevent a non-wheat-exporting State from coming into the pool. It will, therefore, destroy the scheme. The object of this bill is to create a federal wheat pool. Anything that tends to keep one or more States out of that pool, ‘ will defeat that object. Every State is concerned in this bill, and particularly in- the interstate movements of wheat. If some States are to be excluded from the pool-
– They will not be.
– This amendment, if carried, might very well have that effect, and I propose to prevent that if I can. If the Minister should be unwise enough to accept the amendment, he would be committing a distinct breach of the agreement with the representatives of the various States who met in conference and formulated the ideas upon which the bill is founded. The definite understanding was that a federal pool should be established, and that all States concerned should be in it. Even the non-exporting States are definitely and positively concerned in the proposed ‘ pool, and an amendment designed to exclude them is foreign to the purposes of the bill.
– I cannot accept the amendment, because, apart from all other considerations, I am advised by the Crown law authorities that it would create discrimination between
States, and would therefore be unconstitutional. We cannot have a Commonwealth pool unless we bring in all States.
– We shall not be bringing in all States if the pool is established on an affirmative vote by only three.
– All States will have the right to decide by ballot whether they shall join the pool, which, however, cannot be established unless three States vote affirmatively. If the amendment were agreed to Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales might vote in favour of the pool, and yet it could not be brought into being, because Queensland, not being an exporting State, could not be counted as one of the three whose approval was necessary.
.- Apparently the Crown law authorities misunderstood the purpose of the amendment. It would not preclude Tasmania or Queensland from joining the pool, but would merely ‘require that three wheat exporting States must vote affirmatively before the pool could be proclaimed. The clause, as drafted, already provides for a vote by at least three of the States, and I cannot see that the insertion of the words proposed by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) would make the clause more unconstitutional than it is now.
.- The Minister has very adroitly and unfairly tried to make the committee believe that the amendment would establish discrimination between States and prevent some of them from joining the pool. That is not its effect. The bill, if carried, will apply to the whole of Australia, and there will be no discrimination between States. Provision is made that at least three of the States must consent to the pool, and the amendment proposes that the three must be wheat exporters. How can that be termed unconstitutional discrimination? All the States are entitled to hold ballots, and if the pool is established all will be able to join it. It is obvious that the Minister is endeavouring to assure an affirmative vote by three States. Tasmania is eliminated, because a ballot is not to be taken there. Queensland already has a pool, so the Minister starts with one State in hand.
He need only get two other States to vote in favour of the federal pool, and it can be established. That would not be fair. If the wheat-growers are to be forced into a federal pool, let them be forced by a majority of the States directly concerned in the export trade.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has failed to establish his case. Tasmania is not regarded as a wheat-growing State, arid has never previously been mentioned in connexion with the proposed Commonwealth pool, but if the Government of that State decided to take a ballot and the wheat-growers voted affirmatively, I do not suppose that Tasmania could be prevented from joining the pool.
– No. But why should the affirmative vote of the few wheat-farmers in Tasmania impose a pool on other States?
– There is not the slightest reason why a ‘ non-exporting State like Queensland should not be one of the three original members of the pool. If three States subscribe to the pool, those that remain out will be governed by licence. They will not be able to dump their wheat into other States, but in other respects they can control their own affairs. They may even create State pools to compete with the Commonwealth pool.
– But they will not be allowed to export.
– Except under licence, and that is fair, because the control of export is the basis of the scheme, and if such control is to be prevented we might as well abandon the bill. Queensland is a wheat-producer, on an increasing scale, and is a potential exporter. The dragging of Tasmania into the discussion is like setting up an “ Aunt Sally “ to be knocked down. After the battle has been won by the representatives of the real wheat-producing States, Tasmania, previously unheard of in this connexion, is thrust into the picture and held up as a fatal objection to the constitution of the pool. If the amendment be agreed to, we might as well tear up the bill. I hope that the Minister will not accede to any side-tracking- proposal by those who are opposed to the whole scheme.
.- The amendment merely seeks to ensure that those States which are interested in the pool, because they produce sufficient wheat for export, shall determine whether a federal pool shall be established. Surely that is fair and just. But the bill allows Queensland, a non-exporting State, Tasmania, which is almost a non-producer of wheat, and one other State to decide whether a pool shall be brought into being. Those three could force New South “Wales, Victoria, and another big exporting State into the pool.
– No State can be forced into the pool.
– But its export trade can be blocked.
– The Commonwealth’s control of commerce will enable it to prevent the interstate movement or export of wheat. By pressure of this kind it can force other States into the pool. The Minister has said that he objects to this amendment because, if accepted, it would discriminate between States, and thus be unconstitutional. I do not know where he gets his advice. Probably, like myself, he is a layman, but it is strange that he has not referred to the section of the Constitution, which this proposed amendment, if inserted in the bill, would in his opinion violate. The amendment would not discriminate between States any more than does the clause as printed. The bill provides that if three of the States cast a favorable vote a Commonwealth-wide pool shall be established. I suggest that in that provision there is just as much discrimination between States as there is in this amendment, which provides that before the pool can be established, at least three of the wheat-exporting States must vote in favour of it. Section 92 of the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth, in exercising its trade and commerce powers, ..must not discriminate as between one State and another, and it appears to me that the amendment does not violate that section. If there is any other constitutional reason why this amendment should not be accepted I should like the Minister to state it. If he has no other objection to the amendment, I suggest that it should be carried by the committee.
.- The Minister has objected to the amendment of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), and he has refused all requests to incorporate it in the bill, on the ground that there are sufficient safeguards in the bill in respect of at least the majority of the States. I contend that that is not a fair representation of the wording of the bill, which undoubtedly makes it possible for three States, two of them not substantially interested in wheat-growing, to form a pool, and to control the exportable surplus of other wheat-producing States which are not in the pool. I suggest to the Minister that if he is really sincere in saying that the bill provides safeguards for the majority of the States, he should accept a further amendment definitely specifying a majority. Therefore, if the amendment of the honorable member for Perth is defeated, I shall move that the words “ at least three of the States “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “by a majority of the States “.
Sitting suspended from 11.50 p.m. to 12.30 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 24 July 1931
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has proposed that the proviso to this clause shall be amended so that instead of the condition of the issue of a proclamation being the concurrence of three States, it shall be the concurrence of three States which have exported wheat during the past three years. I understand that it has been suggested that if the terms of the proviso are altered in the manner proposed, a proviso which it is suggested is now valid would become invalid. I am unable to comprehend a suggestion of that kind. This clause contains a proviso with respect to the making of a proclamation, and it imposes a condition. That condition may be anything - the acquiescence of a particular body, the expiry of a particular period, or anything else that Parliament likes to adopt. The condition at present provided in the bill is the acquiescence of at least three out of six States. If it is suggested that all the States must be treated in exactly the same way under all the legislation passed by this Parliament, then this proviso would require the acquiescence of six States. But it does not do that. The only provision in the Constitution dealing with the matter is section 99, which provides that the Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce or revenue, give preference to one State, or any part thereof, over any other State, or part thereof. This proviso, while setting out the conditions upon which a proclamation shall become operative, does not prefer any State to any other State; or if it does, it prefers States over other States as much in its present form as it would in the form in which it is proposed to be amended. This clause cannot give preference to any State over any other State. It is within the competence of Parliament to provide that the proclamation shall not issue until only one State, or it may be two or three States, have approved, or subject to any other condition that the Parliament likes to impose. There appears to me to be no objection to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth, or that suggested by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker).
– The Minister claims that the amendment violates the Constitution. I . do not know whether the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) agrees with him.
– I cannot see how it violates the Constitution. At least, if the amendment violates the Constitution, then the original clause does so.
– At first we had some difficulty in ascertaining what the amendment meant. At a later stage, the Minister pointed out that it was impossible to accept the amendment because the Crown Law authorities had advised him that it was contrary to the Constitution.
– I am unable to understand that suggestion ; but it may be that there is something of which I have not heard.
– Perhaps the Minister can give us some information on that point.
– I point out that the Chair cannot be called upon to decide whether the amendment is constitutional or otherwise. I rule that the amendment is in order.
– I was not taking any steps to challenge the rights of the Chair; I was merely endeavouring to clear up the point raised by the Minister when be said that his main reason for not accepting the amendment was that it violates the Constitution.
– I said that, apart from that altogether, I could not accept the amendment, because it is entirely opposed to the principles underlying the bill. If the amendment would exclude a State like Queensland, as it probably would, I could not accept it.
– That clears up the matter. After all, it is not a question of constitutionality. During recent months, it has become almost a common practice, in relation to legislation introduced into this chamber which does not meet with the approval of certain persons outside, for those opposed to it to take the first opportunity to challenge it in the High Court. It is desirable that we should know now whether the Constitution would be violated by the amendment, because, if it is, according to recent experience we shall sooner or later reach the stage at which this Parliament can do so little that it might as well hand over its functions to the High Court.
– I am pleased that the Minister has signified his intention not to accept the amendment, which appears to be a sort of second barrel with which to destroy the bill in the event of the first barrel not being effective. Should the amendment be defeated in this chamber, and later be incorporated in the bill in another place, I hope that the Minister will be as firm in his attitude as he is now, and refuse to accept it.
– Seeing that the Minister has made it clear that he will not accept the amendment, I do not suppose that there is any chance of its being carried. I should like him to say whether, if this amendment is withdrawn, he will accept an amendment to delete the words “ at least threeof the States “, and to substitute the words “a majority of the States “. The Minister said that the bill already provided for a. majority of the States. I understand that I cannot move an amendment to that effect unless the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) is first withdrawn. I admit that I feel somewhat suspicious that the Minister is using the word “ majority “ as a bluff, and therefore I should like to have a clear indication from him whether he would be prepared to accept the amendment 1 have foreshadowed in the event of the present amendment being withdrawn. If he stands to his statement that the bill already provides for a majority by actually incorporating a provision to secure a real majority of the States, 1 shall be only too pleased to withdraw any suggestion that he was talking in a general way, and not expressing the actual meaning of the words now in the bill. Is the Minister prepared to accept such an amendment as I have indicated?
– I could not accept it.
– I should like to know whether there is any danger of three States, two of which do not export wheat - say Tasmania, Queensland, and New South Wales-approving of this legislation and thereby initiating the scheme for which it provides.
– That position could not possibly arise, because Tasmania has definitely declared that it does not intend to come into the scheme.
– I understand that Tasmania will not participate in the scheme because it is not a wheatexporting S tate. As it would be unconstitutional for this Parliament to pass a bill to exclude Tasmania from the operation of this legislation, what would happen if Tasmania chose to take a ballot and decided to come in?
– The honorable member’s doubt is whether any three States can set the machinery in motion?
– Yes, even if only two of them are exporting States. The mainland States ought to be safeguarded against such a position arising. Has any undertaking been given by the Government of Tasmania that it will not pass legislation providing for the taking of a ballot.
– The following telegram, dated 8th July, was received from the Premier of Tasmania in reply to a telegram which I sent to him : -
Reference your telegram 26th June wheat marketing proposal. My Government does not intend to introduce such legislation in this State.
– That appears to be conclusive. The danger which I foresaw is removed by that telegram. I take it that there is no objection to Queensland coming in.
– That is what some of us object to.
– The representatives of New South Wales regard Queensland as a State well qualified to be a member to initiate the pool; but we do not regard Tasmania as having similar qualifications, because it is not a wheatexporting State. Tasmania produces some wheat, it is true, but it is used chiefly for making biscuits.
– Queensland is in the same position, seeing that the State does not export wheat.
– Tasmania does not produce enough wheat for local consumption.
– It does; but that wheat is not suitable for all requirements. Consequently, the State both exports and imports wheat.
– Should the few wheat-growers of Tasmania desire to come into the pool, that should not give Tasmania the right to come in as an original member, but only after the pool has been established by the other States, and then only with their consent.
– I submit that Tasmania would not have any good grounds for coming into the pool without the approval of the other States.
– Does the honorable member mean that they may stand out if they prefer to?
– They could.
– Is not the honorable member satisfied, in view of the telegram that I have read from the Premier of Tasmania?
– If, after the pool had been established, the handful of wheat-growers in Tasmania moved the State Government to pass a fill to enable them to take a ballot-
– There is nothing to prevent that.
– Of course notSupposing the Tasmanian Government decided to take a ballot, and the few wheat-growers in that State decided to join the pool, is the Minister satisfied thai machinery exists to prevent Tasmania from ‘ entering the pool as an original member ?
– Have not the Tasmanian farmers some voice in the matter ?
– They could not come in unless the Tasmanian Government introduced legislation for the taking of a ballot. I am prepared to accept the assurance of the Premier of Tasmania that that State does not wish to join the pool as an original member. It may come in later, but that matter will have to be considered in the light of subsequent circumstances. I do not agree with those who wish to keep Queensland out of the pool.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Hawker) proposed -
That the words “ at least three “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word* “ a majority “.
– I understand from the Minister that Tasmania will not join the pool? Have any other State Premiers advised the Minister to a similar effect? When I visited Tasmania during the parliamentary recess, I was informed that the farmers in my State were in favour of a wheat pool, if any benefit was to be derived from it. I am sure that, if a ballot were taken, a majority of the growers would vote in favour of the proposed pool. The Premier of Tasmania is not in a position to decide this matter; it should be settled by the farmers themselves.
– There is nothing to prevent that.
– If there is a pool on the mainland, and Tasmania is excluded from it, it will not be possible to ship wheat to
Tasmania except at a certain price. Tasmania should be a member of the pool until the farmers in that State definitely say that they do not wish to join it.
– It is absurd to imagine that any provision in the bill could constitutionally debar Tasmania from entering the pool, if it so desired. The Premier of Tasmania has merely indicated the present intention of his government. There is no suggestion that Tasmanian growers will be debarred from sharing the benefits of this measure, if they wish to do so. I oppose the amendment, because it is merely aimed at wrecking the bill. The mover of the amendment, who voted against the second reading of the bill, has already indicated that his amendment is designed to include Tasmania as one of the “ majority of the States “. Yet he knows that Tasmania will not enter the pool at the present time. Therefore, four States must agree to come into the pool before the measure can operate. The amendment is of a hostile character, and of no constructive value.
.I strongly support the amendment. If honorable members who represent large bodies of wheat-growers are opposed to it, I am at a loss to find words to express my astonishment. The bill, as it stands, would mean that if a majority of the growers in three States voted in favour of the pool, the other three States, although they might be the biggest wheatproducing States, would be compelled to come into the pool, and submit to the regulations under the act. That means that an overwhelming majority of the growers of Australia might be opposed to the pool, and yet it could be formed.
– Only those States in which a majority of the growers desire to come under the scheme can join the pool.
– Every word uttered in support of the bill strengthens what I have said. The whole object is to compel the wheat-growers of Australia to join the pool; otherwise, there would have been no suggestion that the scheme should be endorsed by a majority of the States.
The effect of the amendment is to enable a majority of the States which grow wheat to determine whether there should be a Commonwealth pool. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) knows that, under the bill, the Australian Wheat Board would have power to regulate the movement of all wheat from one State to another or to prevent export except under regulation made by it, and thereby force all producing States to join the pool. Since those powers are mentioned in the bill, I presume that it is expected that they will be used. The proposal, as it stands, is undemocratic, and it might be grossly unfair to a majority of the wheat-growers.
– The amendment means that four States out of five would be able to carry the pooling proposal. The telegram read by the Minister shows that Tasmania does not intend to join the pool, and, even though the Premier of Tasmania might be compelled by the representatives of the wheat-growers in the local Parliament to make provision for a pool there, the chances are that the matter will be decided by the other States, long before that could be done. A few “ die-hards “ in this committee, having failed to defeat the bill on the second reading, are now trying to destroy it by underhand means. There being only five States left to decide the matter, three would constitute a majority.
.If there is any sense of fairness in the committee, it will accept the principle of majority rule. The amendment does not even require that a majority of the total votes cast should be in favour of the scheme, but that a majority of the States should support the proposal. Tolas long a time as I can remember, the Labour party has favoured majority rule and I appeal to honorable members opposite to be consistent in this matter.
– A majority of the States, or a majority of the farmers?
– I would prefer a majority of the growers, but all that is asked for under the amendment is a majority of the States.
– Does the honorable member desire that a majority of the States should compel the other States to join the pool?
– Thismeasure involves compulsion. Surely members of the Labour party will oppose such an undemocratic principle.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and other honorable members have said that the bill does not provide that the wheat-growers in a State which is not a member of the pool shall be compelled to place their wheat under the pool’s control. The bill may not so provide, but power is to be placed in the hands of the Australian Wheat Board to so interfere with the export and interstate trade in wheat that the wheat-growers in such States would have no option but to join the pool. When we reach clause 14, which relates to the issue of licences by the Minister, I propose to move an amendment to exempt the trade of those States which do not join the pool from any interference by the board. If that amendment is accepted, a good deal of the danger that may result from the coercion by a small majority or, possibly by a number of wheatgrowers not in a majority, will be avoided. When a previous measure of this nature was under consideration, the Minister refused to accept such an amendment, and it is possible that on this occasion he may adopt a similar attitude. The possibility of coercion which may be exercised by a small majority, instead of by a majority of the States which are members of the pool, should be provided against. The Minister has not attempted to reply to the points raised on this amendment. If the bill, as the Minister has previously stated, provides that a pool can be formed only by a majority of the States agreeing to the scheme, why does he not accept this amendment, which makes it clear that that is intended?
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Hawker’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Hon. D. Watkins.)
Majority . . . . 29
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
– I move -
That the following sub-clause be added to the clause: - “This act shall cease to be in force on a date notified by the GovernorGeneral in the Gazette as being the date upon which the agreement, in accordance with the form in the schedule, will terminate.”
Under this amendment the Commonwealth or any one of the States may withdraw from the scheme if it should so desire. The operations of the pool are to be limited to three years. When we reach the schedule I propose to move a similar amendment.
– Does the Minister suggest that if one State should withdraw from the pool the agreement may be terminated?
– The agreement may be terminated if the Commonwealth or any one of the States should decide to withdraw from the scheme.
– I cannot see the necessity for this amendment, which provides that the act shall cease to be in force on a date notified by the Governor-General in the Gazette.
– Only after the pool has been in operation for three years.
– We should not provide that the act shall cease to have effect on a date notified by the GovernorGeneral in the Gazette. If the measure is of sufficient importance to be considered by this Parliament it should be repealed only by the Parliament.
– It will be for the Government to decide.
– Yes; but it should be the responsibility of Parliament to repeal the act; that should not be left to the Executive.
– I trust that the committee will accept this proposal, particularly as the legislation is in the nature of an experiment. I am pleased that the Minister has inserted this new sub-clause, as it is provided that the agreement may be terminated after it has been in operation three years. That could be done if the scheme were found to be unworkable.
– Twelve months’ notice of withdrawal must be given. The pool must remain in operation for at least three years; but twelve months’ notice could be given after the scheme has been in force for two years.
– Why has this amendment, which provides that the GovernorGeneral may determine when the act shall cease to operate, been inserted ? The bill definitely determines the period for which the pool shall remain in operation. Is it provided that the pool shall operate for at least three years?
– A party to the agreement must give twelve months’ notice of intention to withdraw from the pool.
– The pool must remain in operation for at least three years.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 - (2.) The board shall consist of one member (in this act referred to as “the Commonwealth representative”) who shall be appointed by the Governor-General as the representative of the Commonwealth Government and one representative of each State, which has entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth in” the form in the schedule, appointed by the Governor-in-Council of thai State.
Mr.HAWKER(Wakefield) [1.15 a.m.]. - I move -
That after the words “ Governor-General “. sub-clause 2, the words “ on the recommendation of a majority of the other members of the board” be inserted.
The object is to ensure a 100 per cent. growers’ management of the pool. If the amendment is carried, there willbe a representative on the Australian Wheat Board from each of the State boards, and then one all-Australian member who will be appointed by those representatives instead of by Cabinet.
– Then there would not be a government representative on the board.
– The person to whom I refer would be the Commonwealth representative, in the true sense of the word. Though he might not be the nominee of the Commonwealth Government, he would not be the nominee of any particular State. That is very desirable. It is common in arbitration proceedings for parties with conflicting interests to appoint a representative, and then for those representatives to appoint an umpire, or chairman. A similar practice should be adopted in connexion with this Wheat Board. It would ensurea 100 per cent. growers’ management of the pool. The amendment should appeal to all honorable members, and particularly to those who represent country constituencies -in which wheat is grown.
– I cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). It would mean the adoption of an idea that does not apply to any other board. It is customary for the Government to have representation on all such bodies, on the understanding that the representation of the producers shall predominate. That will be so in this case. Before the scheme can become operative, at least three States must come into it. The Federal Board will consist of representatives from each State Board and as the producers will have a majority on the State Boards, that will ensure that the representatives of the States on the
Federal Board will be producers’ representatives. So that on a board consisting of four members, there will be three representatives of the wheat-growers, and one of the Commonwealth Government. Honorable members must bear in mind that the Government gives a wide statutory power for the establishment of this board, and that it will not be entirely free from responsibility as to the proper conduct of the board. It would be most undesirable if the Commonwealth Government had no representation on that body. Needless to say, the Commonwealth representative will not be a member of the Government.
– I believe that the Minister is quite justified in refusing to accept the amendment. Generally speaking, the wheat-farmers are well satisfied with the personnel of the board, for upon it they will have an overwhelming majority, at least three out of four. It is quite possible that, if four or more States come into the pool, they will have four out of five, or five out of six. It is only right that the Commonwealth Government should have a representative on the board, with the privilege of selecting him without interference by the producers. A similar right is given to producers with regard to their representation. If the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) were accepted, the Commonwealth representation on the board would be a farce. It must be remembered that the board selects its own chairman and, having a majority on that body, the producers will no doubt choose one of their number to fill the office. That should he a sufficient safeguard for grower control of the board. I believe that the constitution of the central board, as at present proposed in the bill, is quite satisfactory.
– I agree with the remarks of the Minister and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). This amend ment is most absurd. It proposes that the. Government, which is responsible for this organization, shall have no direct representation on the board. The Minister should allay the fears of some honorable members by giving an indication of the type of person who will be selected to represent the Government on the Australian Wheat Board. Perhaps he can give an assurance that it will not be a member of this Parliament.
– I can do that.
– I also hope that he will be able to state that it will not be a member of the banking institutions which are now oppressing the farmer. It would be a disaster to have a repetition of the appointment of Sir Robert Gibson to the Commonwealth Bank Board.
– Then let the honorable member vote for the amendment.
– I shall not. There is a clear line of demarcation between what I am saying and what the honorable member desires. He wants the Government to take all the responsibility, and have no representation. I trust that the Minister will ensure that the Commonwealth representative will be in sympathy with the Government’s legislation and administration, and that we shall not have the spectacle of a man being elected who opposes the aims of the Government in this matter.
– I believe that the preponderance of growers’ representatives on the board would render such attempts abortive.
– The honorable member knows that an appointee who was unsympathetic with the aims of the Government would be a nuisance and render nugatory some of the valuable work that an organization of this kind should perform. A man should be specially chosen for his qualifications for the position. I hope that it will not be a case of a round peg being selected to fit a square hole. That has happened in the past. I should not care to administer a government department if my officers were not in sympathy with, and prepared to give effect to, my administration. I do not desire to see the sorry spectacle of the representative of the Government throwing a spanner into the machinery of this wheat pool. I hope that the appointee will be animated by a desire to make a success of the scheme and give effect to this portion of Labour’s policy.
– I also oppose the amendment of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr.
Hawker), because, as stated by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), it would leave the Government entirely without representation on the board. I believe that when a government has appointments to make to tribunals, boards, and so on, it is under an obligation to see that its choice will reflect its opinions. It is unfortunate that Labour administrations have not followed that course in the past as strictly as they should have done. Anti-Labour governments have never failed to ensure that their appointees were of their own kidney, at all times prepared to give effect to their wishes. I hold the view that while a government may have a majority in Parliament, its real work is carried out by those who administer its laws. If that work is not performed sympathetically, the desired results are not achieved.
In moving his amendment the honorable member for Wakefield supported it by enunciating the theory that it gives voice to a practice that is adopted by trade unions in arbitration matters. I am at a loss to understand the force of his analogy. The trade unions have always insisted upon choosing their own representatives, although their right to do so has been challenged at times by governments. On one occasion I was involved because the government of the day did not approve of my being nominated for a certain mission, but the unions were solid and loyal and insisted on their right to choose their own representative.
– -Why should not the wheat-growers do likewise?
– I do not deny to other bodies the right that is claimed by the trade unions. The clause provides for the appointment of a representative from each State, and, no doubt, such appointees will be nominees of the wheatgrowers. The adequate representation of the producers is assured by the clause, but the amendment would have the opposite effect, as far as the Government ia concerned, and I shall vote against it.
– I am astonished that the Government proposes to appoint a board. I was under the impression that to the Labour party all boards were anathema.
– The Government will not appoint the wheat board.
– The Government is proposing the constitution of a board under legislative authority. It is actually providing the aegis of its authority for a body to be called a board. 1 have never been quite sure whether, according to Labour canons, a board is worse than a commission, or vice versa, but every ministerial member who understands even elementary political principles knows thai anything controlled by a board or a commission must be fundamentally wrong. Therefore, it is with grief as well as astonishment that I observe the Government falling away from so vital a political principle, of which Australia has heard so much. The Government has devoted itself to the education of the people in political ethics, the foremost tenet of which is that all boards and commissions are bad and to be reprobated.
– The body to be created under this bill will not be a government board. Our objection to the boards set up by the Bruce-Page Government was that they were government bodies.
– Apparently there is a distinction between government boards and non-government boards.
– But all producers” boards were included in the denunciation by the Labour party when in opposition.
– Of course. The one portion of the Labour propaganda pamphlet that was understood by all candidates, even the least intelligent, was that relating to boards and commissions and their functions. But when the Labour party has responsibility it realizes the need to constitute the necessary agents for the carrying out of certain functions, and it is immaterial whether those agent? are called boards or anything else. On many occasions the Government has, in a childish manner, appointed ineffective bodies called committees, which have conducted ineffective inquiries, in order that the Ministry should not incur the opprobrium of appointing a commission. Now the Government dares to appoint a board, and I suppose that somebody who has a real grasp of political principles will provide a list of boards under “ b “ and commissions under “ o “ to show how far the Government has departed from those principles.
– So steeped in party prejudice is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that he neglects no opportunity to give vent to his political spleen. He has twitted honorable members on this side with having opposed boards when they were in opposition, and with supporting them now. I opposed the boards and commissions created by the Bruce-Page Government because they were brought into being to do the work that Ministers were too cowardly to do. That is my answer to the hypocritical remarks of the honorable member.
– The Government has acted generously in the provision it has made for the appointment of the proposed board, and I cannot see that the amendment would serve any useful purpose. The farmers are assured of practically 100 per cent, of the representation ; in the least favorable circumstances their nominees will be in the majority, and in certain conceivable circumstances they may even have an overwhelming majority.
– The farmers cannot have less than 75 per cent, of the representation.
– That is so, and how anybody presuming to represent the farmers can contend that that is inimical to their interests I cannot understand. They should not have the whole of the representation, because this instrumentality is to be called into being by the Government and, as with every other board appointed pursuant to legislation, the Government retains the right to representation on it. The Queensland Wheat Board is a good example of that principle. The Government has a representative on the board, and I am not aware that such representation has ever been used to the detriment of the farmers’ interests. At all times, and under all conditions, the farmers have held the balance of representation. The board has functioned admirably in Queensland, and I hope the proposed Commonwealth board will operate with equal success.
– I support the clause because one of the objects of the system being introduced by this bill is to enable the representatives of the farmers to charge the Australian people any price they may choose to fix for wheat and flour. Therefore it is desirable that there should be a liaison between the Government of the day and the board in order that Ministers may obtain information of what that all-powerful body is doing.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Deputies of’ members).
– This clause makes provision for the appointment of a deputy of the Commonwealth representative. Is it to apply to the appointment of deputies of the other representatives on the board?
– Sub-clause 3 provides for that.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Fees and expenses).
– I wish to know whether the Commonwealth is to pay the fees of all the members of the board?
– That is the meaning of the clause.
– I know that this is the usual provision in bills of this kind, but I have a vivid recollection, when in Opposition, of unsuccessfully seeking information as to the nature of the fees to be paid to members of boards. In this time of depression, when the various sections of the community, particularly oldage and invalid pensioners, have had their incomes reduced, we should be informed of the approximate fee3 and expenses of these representatives and their deputies.
– Is the honorable member sneaking of Commonwealth or State representatives ?
– I am speaking of the fees that the Commonwealth Government will have to pay.
– The Commonwealth will not pay one penny of the fees ; they will be paid out of the funds provided by the farmers themselves.
– Clause 9 of the schedule states that all the expenses and costs expended or incurred by the Australian Wheat Board shall be provided for in a manner to be mutually arranged between the Australian Wheat Board and the State Wheat Board.
– Does that mean that the Commonwealth will bear none of this expense?
– In view of clause 9 of the schedule, clause 8 of the bill is quite unnecessary.
– Clause 8 provides that members of the board and the deputies of members of the board, while acting as such, shall receive such fees and expenses as are prescribed.
– The fees and expenses will be prescribed by regulation after consultation with the board.
– Clause 9 of the schedule states that the expenses shall be provided for in a manner to be mutually arranged between the Australian Wheat Board and the State Boards.
– There should be some limit placed on the fees and the expenses of the members of the board. We have, under the rehabilitation plan, reduced the wages of the great mass of the people, and this is no time to appoint members of boards at high rates of remuneration, out of all proportion to the work that they do, and particularly bearing in mind all the sob-stuff that we have listened to about equality of sacrifice.
– I am rather surprised to hear the Minister refer to clause 9 of the schedule as having a bearing upon the remuneration of the members of the board. If that clause covers the remuneration of the members of the board, then plainly clause 8 of the bill is quite unnecessary. But I doubt that the Minister’s contention is right; I think that he spoke without understanding the position. If, clause 9 of the schedule covers the expenses and costs incurred by the members of the Australian Wheat Board and the State Wheat Boards, then I think it needs some examination. However, it relates to moneys which the farmers themselves will contribute. The effect of clause8 is to authorize payment from Commonwealth funds.
– Clause 8 gives the Commonwealth power to ensure by regulation that there shall be no lavish remuneration in respect of fees and expenses.
– I take it that the Minister concedes that clause 8 is necessary in order to authorize payments from the Commonwealth funds.
– It is necessary in order to have some control over the expenditure of money which will be found by the industry itself.
– If clause 8 is not intended to impose any liability on the funds of the Commonwealth, it should be so stated. Will the Minister accept an amendment to the effect that no fees and expenses are to be paid out of Commonwealth funds?
– Such an amendment is unnecessary.
– I can refer the Minister to a dozen acts in which a section in this form appears, and in every instance it concerns payment out of Commonwealth moneys and is intended to confer authority upon the Government to make payment out of Consolidated Revenue. It is the ordinary practice, when a board is appointed, to provide that the fees shall be as prescribed. These are then fixed by regulation and paid out of Commonwealth funds. That undoubtedly will be the interpretation placed on this clause. Clause 9 of the schedule appears to me to deal with another matter.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Commonwealth Government will pay the fees of the board?
– This is the ordinary clause providing for payment out of Commonwealth funds.
– This clause will prevent the board from being paid exorbitant fees out of the profits of the marketing scheme.
– There is nothing in the bill limiting payment to the profits of the marketing scheme. I am not prepared to trust this Government with any power to make regulations. It is unlikely that an amendment to limit such power will be successful in this chamber, but I hope that it may be successful in another place. Because of the behaviour of this Government in deliberately flouting the intention of Parliament as expressed in statutes with respect to the power of making regulations, in particular, under the Transport Workers Act, I consider that it is entirely unfit to be entrusted with any power to make regulations.
– I rise to a point of order. What relevancy to the clause under discussion have the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) with respect to regulations made under the Transport Workers Act?
– I shall ensure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition confines his remarks to the clause, which, I point out to the honorable member, deals with regulations.
– If the honorable member will refer to the Acts Interpretation Act he will find that the meaning of the words “ as are prescribed “ is “ as are prescribed by regulation”, and if he looks at clause 23 of the bill, he will discover that it gives the ordinary general power to make regulations, which, hitherto, until a certain act was recently passed by this Parliament, has been incorporated in many of the Commonwealth statutes. However, the ordinary practice will now have to be changed, because this Government cannot be entrusted with any regulation-making powers.
– I should say that, as a general principle, bills should contain all essential provisions to express the will of the legislature and, as far as possible, little scope should be left for the making of regulations. The personnel of this board will be drawn from every State, and travelling expenses will, necessarily, be incurred. We must entrust the Governor-General in Council with authority to fix the fees of the members of the board, because it is almost certain that if Parliament fixed the fees, it would do so without accurate knowledge of what would be a reasonable re-imbursement for the expense, which they must, inevitably, incur. As for the declaration of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that this Government, more than any other, is not to be entrusted with the responsibility of making regulations, I submit that his own actions as Attorney-General in a previous government illustrate the importance of Parliament retaining its supremacy over the Executive. While many members of this Parliament might be diffident about vesting in any government the power to malco regulations, surely no honorable member of the previous Government should claim that there should be any restraint upon the Governor-General in Council in connexion with the gazetting of regulations, in view of what that Government did.
– Give an instance.
– One measure passed by the Government of which the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition was Attorney-General contained, little else than the section which gave the GovernorGeneral in Council power to make regulations.
– The honorable member has missed my point
– At this stage it would be difficult to improve upon the wording of this clause. Unless the committee feels that it can fix the fees and determine the limit of the expenses of the members of the board, it has no option but to leave these matters to the discretion of the Governor-General in Council.
– The point raised by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has not yet been answered. I now ask whether the Commonwealth Government would, in any way, be involved in respect of fees, or expenses?
– Not a penny.
– Would not the Commonwealth Government be responsible for the expenses of its own representative?
– The fees and expenses will come out of the industry, in the same way that similar costs in connexion with the Dried Fruits Board come out of a levy on the industry concerned. The Government, after consultation with the board, would determine the fees. Surely it can be trusted to see that they are not lavish. The board would be handling money provided by those in the industry. If its members did not act reasonably they would not be re-elected.
– The honorable member’s explanation is satisfactory, as is also his statement regarding the necessity . for consultation with the board. Perhaps he will indicate what the Government regards as fair remuneration. I suggest that, with the experience of a number of boards already in existence to guide him, that should not be difficult.
– At this stage I can give no opinion as to what fees would be equitable. This board will be different from other boards in that it will deal with our second largest industry. Without consultation with the board, when appointed, it would be impossible to say what fees would be reasonable.
– What is the necessity for clause 8 seeing that in the schedule provision is made for the remuneration of the members of the board? Clause 9 of the schedule provides that all expenses and costs incurred by the board shall be provided for in a. manner to be mutually arranged.
– I have already answered the point raised by the honorable member.
– The Minister does not explain things because he does not understand them. In the case of one board appointed under Commonwealth legislation, the provision in relation to fees is merely that the tenure and remuneration of the members of the board shall be as prescribed; I refer to the boards which may be appointed under the Industrial Peace Act. The members of any such board would he paid for out of Commonwealth funds. There is no other source from which they could be paid. I have before me section 22, subsection 5 of the Industrial Peace Act of 1920, the meaning of which is the same as that of the clause now before us. The Minister, having a majority behind him, and being incapable of making any explanation, says, sotto voce, without rising from his seat, that this clause does not mean what it obviously does mean, as I have demonstrated by the example I have given.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Export of wheat).
.What would be the effect of this clause on a big wheat exporting State which declined to come into the pool? Would the Minister be able to insist upon the wheat being sold only in such places and at such prices as the board may direct? Let us assume, for instance, that either Western Australia or New South Wales declined to join the pool. Would the Minister be able to grant licences only upon such conditions as may be prescribed after recommendation by the board to the Minister? It may be that a State which does not deem it wise to join the pool will be seriously penalized.
– It will be necessary for a State that is not in the pool to obtain a licence before it can export wheat either outside the Common wealth or interstate.
– Would the Minister be able to say that wheat could not be sold under a certain price?
– Leaving Tasmania out of our consideration for the moment, there are five States which produce wheat. If four of them were in the pool and one outside the pool, and the State not in the pool were free to ship wheat overseas and interstate, the whole machinery might be disorganized. That is the complaint now with regard to the voluntary pools. It is not desirable that a State which is not in the pool should be able to interfere in the interstate movement of flour or wheat. This clause will prevent any one State which is not in the pool from embarrassing the other States.
– I am glad that the Minister has given such explanation of this clause as he can. His explanation means that if three States come in, thus making the act operative, all movements of wheat, both interstate or overseas, will be controlled under the act. The wheat of all the States will be controlled in relation to its interstate or foreign movement, because it can move only on a licence being granted by the Minister.
– The provision is the same as in the Dried Fruits Act with which the honorable member agreed.
– The Minister may take his own time in granting a licence, or he may refuse a licence. New South Wales has already indicated its unwillingness to engage in a pooling operation.
– That is not true.
– It is true. I repeat that New South Wales is unwilling to engage in a pooling operation. I choose my words carefully. By the vote of a majority of its farmers, New South Wales has already indicated its unwillingness to come into a particular pooling operation, not necessarily the pooling operation referred to in thi3 bill. Obviously, there will be difficulty in obtaining a poll of farmers in New South Wales unless the State Government introduces a new measure. I do not know how the Minister proposes to deal with such an emergency.
– Will the State Government have to authorize another poll?
– In these circumstances, yes. Had the majority of farmers in New South Wales been in favour of the New South Wales pool the Minister would not have hesitated to claim their vote as a justification for this measure.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– I remember what happened when a similar bill was before this chamber last year. In the course of the debate on that measure, the Minister said that he would regard a favorable poll on a State pooling proposal as sufficient warrant for going on, as with the assent of that State, so far as the conditions set out in the bill were concerned, to the formation of a Commonwealth pool. The poll in New South Wales, of course^ resulted in a majority against the proposed pool. I have said all along that a ballot in connexion with a State pool has nothing to do with a Commonwealth pool. The New South Wales ballot shows that there is” not an overwhelming majority of the farmers in that State in favour of a pool. The effect of the clause is that the wheat trade, interstate and foreign, of dissenting States will be controlled, against the will of the farmers of that State.
– Their remedy is to come into the pool.
– Yet this bill is introduced under the pretence of allowing the farmers to control their own affairs!
– I could understand the objections of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), if we were discussing the second reading of the bill; but the principle of this measure is to provide for the control of wheat export by a board representative of the growers, that can come into being only after a majority of the growers in three States have approved, it seems to me that if the board is to be given the requisite authority to discharge its functions, this clause is essential. Once the principle of control of marketing under a compulsory scheme is admitted, this clause is requisite to enable the board to do the work which the majority of the growers in at least three States ask tha: it should do. Although a dissenting State cannot export wheat except under licence, the provision is obviously intended to protect the majority of the growers in the States which form the pool. Once the pool is established, it should be entitled to protection, so that its operations may not be unduly jeopardized, for, once the pool fails, all possibility of permanently establishing a system of collective marketing of wheat in Australia will disappear. I am quite willing to reinforce this system of collective marketing, and the control by the wheatgrowers of the export of their industry, with such statutory authority as may be ‘required to make the scheme a success, even though it may operate harshly against a dissenting State. When we have to choose between the success and failure of such a scheme, the committee should not be too concerned about the rights of individuals. In my opinion, the scheme will be endorsed in four States, or it will not be approved in any of them. If the farmers were contented with the marketing methods that have been in vogue up to the present time, pressure would not have been put upon members representing wheat-growing constituencies in this Parliament to support the principle of compulsion. I have had a telegram from the wheat-growers’ organization in Western Australia asking me to support the principle of this bill. I believe that the farmers’ organizations are more competent to reflect the wishes of their members than are members in this House who represent seaside resorts such as Manly.
.This clause confirms what I said in support of the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). If the clause Were passed, three States voting in support of the pool could force the other States into it against their will. Therefore, an overwhelming majority of the growers, though opposed to the pool, could be compelled by a minority to join it.
– Only so far as export is concerned.
– But power is given tr prevent a State from selling wheat for export, or from moving it from one State to another. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) has said, the bill would be useless without that provision. But my objection is that it gives power to a minority to force a majority of the growers into the pool. It would be interesting to know what would happen if the wheat-growers of Victoria, by a majority, voted against the pool, and, under this clause were forced into it through not being able to market their wheat, except under licence from the pool. I wonder what certain honorable members who represent Victorian wheatgrowing districts would then say. I shall be surprised if members in another place who have been returned to protect the interests of the smaller States agree to this provision.
– On the second reading of the measure, I pointed out that, under this proposal, the wheat of the farmers in this country would be entirely controlled by the Government. What would become of their wheat under a compulsory pooling arrangement is a dark and unfathomable mystery. The wheat of a dissenting State would be under the control of the Minister, who could issue or refuse licences. This means that although a dissenting State may have as many wheat-farmers in it as there are in the States which have agreed to the scheme, chose controlling the pool may take whatever steps they like to prevent its actions being interfered with by the free operation of the traders outside the pool. That will be so, even if the farmers interested in the pool form the minority of the farmers of the Commonwealth.
– That is a sound position.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That, is the position, but I do not regard it as sound; I consider it most unfair. I have not the least doubt as to what would .happen in Victoria, New South Wales or Western Australia if the wheat-growers in those States having dissented from the pooling arrangement, were prevented from selling their wheat as they desired, in order that the pool might have a clear run. Clause 14 provides that the Minister may issue licences for the export of wheat. The farmers outside the pool might have a ship waiting for a cargo of wheat, and, in the interests of the pool, the Minister might refuse to issue a licence for the movement of that wheat.
– Quite right, too.
– I say that that would be quite wrong. The Minister might similarly prevent interstate movements of wheat. I enter my strongest protest against this method of dealing with the farmers’ produce. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) remarked that he had received instructions from Western Australia to vote in favour of this measure.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member said that he had received an intimation from the wheatgrowers of Western Australia, whom he contends are in a better position to express a sound opinion on this matter than he is. He is supporting the bill because he has been directed to do so. He is accepting the intimation of the wheat-growers of his State as an instruction. I do not accept instructions from any one. I form my opinions irrespective of any directions from any outside authority. On this occasion I am expressing what I believe to be the views of a very large section of the wheat-growers who, ‘I know, are strongly opposed to this or any other Government directly or indirectly handling and marketing their wheat. It is unreasonable to suggest that wheat belong- ing to one section of growers should be deliberately manipulated’ to their disadvantage in the interests of those whohave placed their wheat in the pool. Any deliberate body that sanctions a proposal of this nature is- doing a great injustice to> a large a«3 important section of the community. I oppose the clause.
Mr. LAZZARINI (Werriwa ) [2.33].- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill)1’ has clearly shown that he is unsympathetic toward the wheatgrowers. He speaks on behalf of those who farm the farmers. He represents the John Darlings, the spielers, the go-getters who rob the farmers,, and those who directly or indirectly obtain their living from commissions or fees at the expense of the unfortunate wheat-growers who for many years have been in their hands. Unless the Australian Wheat Board has control of all wheat for export, the whole scheme will be a farce. I welcome- even this instalment of a socialistic principle”, and look forward to the d!ay when weshall have larger instalments’. I am sorry that the farmers are in such difficulties ; but I am- pleased that they realize that they can obtain direct benefit from theintroduction of this socialistic principle under which private enterprise can be broken down.
– It is not so bad as” Mr. Lang’s:
– Only three or four months- ago, honorable members opposite threw maid and filth, at the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) until prevented from doing so by the Chair. Hp has now been taken into their arms, and, apparently, they will now trust him with, anything. If Mr. Lang’ were to sell me in the same manner, they would welcome him with open arms. This measure provides for the introduction of a big instalment of a socialistic principle which will break down the cannibalism of private enterprise. If three States should decide” to form a pool, why should not the wheat-growers in the other States be compelled to come into au organization formed for the purpose of cooperative marketing under the control of a board consisting of their own representatives? I trust that future governments will use this precedent, and will march on to the real objective of the Labour party, which is the socialization of all means of production, distribution,, and exchange.
.- If a pool1 is formed by three of the” States coming into the scheme, the Minister, acting on the advice of the Australian Wheat Board, should have the power to prevent the wheat produced in other States being dumped into those States which are members of the pool, and thus affecting the price for home consumption. But I am opposed to the subclause 2 of clause 14 which provides that-
A licence under this section shall, subject to this- section, be for such a period as is specified, in the licence and shall be subject to such terms and conditions as are prescribed after recommendation by the board to the Minister.
It may be advisable to issue licences so that a record may be kept of those en:gaged in the export trade, and to- ensure thai wheat intended for export is not used for other purposes, but licences should not be subject to such conditions as may be prescribed- on the advice- of. the pool board. I am not surprised that the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini’) has admitted that this is an instalment of a socialistic principle, and will have the effect of breaking up private enterprise. His statement justifies what has been- said by those opposed to the establishment of a pool. Apparently it is the object of the board’ to control’ the marketing of all wheat, so that its inefficiency will not be disclosed. Even though, the price of wheat is low, it cannot be denied that the farmers have received better prices from the merchants than they would have received from a pool.
– I support the clause, because I feel, as does the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that, through it, the Minister has gone a long way towards giving, effect to- Labour’s objective with regard to the control of wheat. While the bill as a. whole does not go so far as the Labour movement would like, it is” pleasing to me and my colleagues that those who may be regarded as the direct representatives of the farmers in this Parliament are unreservedly supporting clause after’ clause embodying proposals which seek to give effect to Labour’s policy.I assure honorable members of the Country party that we in this corner appreciate that very much. They believe, as we do, that this is the only solution, at this juncture, of the difficulties at present confronting a very worthy section of the community. Honorable members of the Country party are satisfied that we have reached a stage of social development in Australia that makes the course proposed in this clause necessary, if the wheat-farmers are to obtain any redress for the injustices they have previously suffered. I repeat, it is most pleasing to my colleagues and myself to have the assistance of honorable members in the corner in. effecting the purpose of Labour. From the evolutionary standpoint, too, this is a most interesting occurrence. Those of us who hope eventually to work out the whole of Labour’s ideals in this country will be able to look back with a certain amount of pride and admiration to the happenings of the last 24 hours. A precedent is being established that must inevitably be followed by further activities of a similar nature in other directions.
We have reached the stage when those who really care for Australia now realize that it is a matter of all for the nation. Those wheatgrowers who, through some misguided reasoning, fail to recognize their obligation to make their wheat available to the Government for distribution will be forced, by the provisions of this clause, to co-operate with their fellow countrymen who are actuated by higher motives. If we can get thisprinciple of pooling established in a sufficient number of States, those in the remaining States who are. recalcitrant to the ideals of Labour will be forced into line. I am very pleased that we can now drag in all sections and make it obligatory on them to direct their efforts towards assisting the nation. It is satisfactory to know that the rural section of industry is at last turning in the right direction.
– If the wheat merchants publish the honorable member’s speech among the wheat-farmers, there will be no pool.
– The honorable member underrates the intelligence of the farmers, and is doing them an injustice. I honestly think that the Minister is to be congratulated for setting in action a measure which aims at giving effect to the objectives of the Labour party. My colleagues and I support this clause with all the enthusiasm at our disposal. It would be very nice to have it agreed to unanimously by the committee, but, in any case, we hope that when the vote is taken the majority in favour of it will be a large one.
– I listened with tremendous interest to the remarks of the last two speakers. Those utterances must have been as gall and wormwood to the members of the Country party who are supporting the bill in the belief that it will assist the wheatfarmers. It is amazing to me that there was no protest from honorable members of that party against the interpretation of the group in the corner of the principle that they are advocating. The only protest came from the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), who declared that the publication of the speech made by the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) would kill any prospects of the successful establishment of the pool. I emphasized at an earlier stage of the debate, as did other honorable members on this side, that this is a substantial instalment of the platform of the Labour party.
-Order! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the clause before the Chair.
– I desire to make passing reference to the statements of the honorable member for West Sydney, which you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, did not rule out of order.
– Order ! The honorable member must not reflect upon the Chair.
– I assure you, sir, that I have not the faintest intention of doing so. I desire to make passing reference to the speeches of the honorable member forWest Sydney and the honorable member forWerriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). Their welcome of this clause as a definite instalment of socialism is a crushing indictment of the bill as an honest and straightforward instrument for the control of the farmers’ wheat. I again protest against a clause of this nature being embodied in the measure, as it does rank injustice to a large section of the people who are entirely opposed to the views expressed by the honorable members for West Sydney and Werriwa.
.I support the clause, because it is a step in the right direction. It will protect the interests of the wheat-farmers under a system of co-operative marketing. I quite understand why the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) is opposed to the clause. It is his desire always to keep the farmers split into factions, so leaving them at the mercy of the parasites who are so ready to batten and fatten upon them.
I have always been a believer in cooperative ideals. This project will give protection to the man on the land, who has previously been at the mercy of agents and organizations similar to John Darling and Company, by whom the honorable member for Warringah is briefed.
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn, as it is entirely incorrect.
– The honorable member for Warringah takes exception to the comment that he has been briefedby John Darling and Company, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Having had the pleasure of saying it, I withdraw the remark.
– Order ! The honorable member must make an unqualified withdrawal.
– I withdraw the comment. The honorable member for Warringah stated that the speeches of the honorable members for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) were as gall and wormwood to the members of the Country party. No doubt they are to the honorable’ member and his colleagues. This bill will ensure that the wheat-farmers shall receive a decent price for their product. Incidentally, it gives effect to the ideals enunciated by my colleagues and myself. We aim at the accomplishment of one of the objectives of Labour, the socialization of industry. If it is of benefit for persons to co-operate when buying, surely it must be equally beneficial for our producers to co-operate when selling their commodities. The clause has my approval, and I hope that it will be agreed to in its present form.
– This is a most important clause, which undoubtedly confers very great powers upon the Federal Wheat Board. Those powers are necessary in order that Australian wheat may be effectively marketed. One of the evils of the present system of marketing wheat overseas is the competitive selling indulged in by wheat merchants and dealers, and even, in some cases, between pools and pools. That has had the effect of depressing the price of wheat at the expense of the farmers. This clause will give to the Australian Wheat Board the power to prevent undue competitive selling in connexion with the Australian wheat harvest. As other honorable members have pointed out, the remedy available to the wheat-exporting States is for them to enter the pool. The suggestion made by members of the corner party that this bill is the first instalment of the socialization of industry, is not taken seriously by the committee; certainly that objective is not intended by the farmers. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) rightly said that the motives of those honorable members who are advocating the establishment of a pool are different from those of himself and his colleagues. The farmers as a class are suffering from lack of cooperation. All other sections of the community have organized to fix the prices of their services to the community. The banks can, through their association, fix a flat rate of interest; the financial institutions can evade by organization the law of supply and demand, from which, we are told, the farmers cannot escape. Throughout the social life of the community individualism and competitive selling are practically non-existent. Even in the wheat-growing industry every section but the growers is organized. The unorganized farmer sells to the organized merchants. Delivery is taken of the wheat by organized agents, and the grain is handled by organized lumpers, transported by organized railway employees, and loaded into the ship’s hold by organized stevedores. In respect of that portion of the wheat which is consumed locally the organization is even more remarkable. The millers’, the employees of millers, the master bakers, and the employees of bakers all are organized.
– The bakers were actually asking recently that a higher price be fixed for bread.
– Every night the farmer, who is told that he cannot get away from the law of supply and demand, hears by wireless that such and such prices have been fixed by the Millers Association for flour, pollard, and bran. The farmers alone, of all those who handle wheat, are unorganized. This bill will help to overcome that cruel competitive selling which is forcing down the price of export wheat. The worst aspect of the system of fixing the price within Australia at export parity, is that the exploitation of the farmer by exporting combines not only lowers the price he receives for his wheat sent overseas, but automatically lowers the price of that sold within Australia. Therefore, some form of organization to prevent this senseless competition in the selling of Australian wheat cargoes on the world’s markets is essential. I hope that the Minister will stand by the clause.
– Some of the speeches which have been made this evening are dangerous and destructive. If this legislation is agreed’ to, it will provoke lively controversy amongst the primary producers; therefore those who are anxious that the scheme shall be submitted to the growers and approved by them cannot’ allow some of the statements made tonight to go unchallenged. Last week, the proposal for a New South Wales wheat pool was defeated by the influence of cleverly engineered propaganda. Mention has been made of a printed circular which was sent to every grower, and1 purported to be signed by three communists, who urged the farmers to vote for the pool because it was in line with the communist objective - the socialization of industry. We who represent” the farmersdo not wish the wool to be pulled over their eyes. .If they approve of the establishment of “a federal compulsory pool1. » radical change will be effected in Aus tralia’s largest primary industry. But on a simple machinery clause, which is vital to the bill, empowering the Minister to issue licences for the export of wheat, and so prevent the States, which are not in the pool, from smashing the scheme, speeches have been delivered which are intended to convey to the farmers the impression that the bill is the first instalment of the plan for the complete socialization of industry.
– So it is.
– The honorable member for Warringah is as hostile to this proposal as are the interests which wrought the defeat of the New South Wales pool last week. He glorified in the speeches delivered by honorable members in the corner, because he considers thai they will help to defeat the federal pool. If the interests which will be hostile to this scheme are not cognizant of those speeches, the honorable member will, no doubt, draw their attention to them.
– Yes, and I shall certainly include the speech of the honorable member.
– I accept thai promise to include my speech. The statement that the adoption of this clause would virtually confirm the communistic objective of the socialization of industry is so much illogical camouflage, intended to enable those who believe in that objective to justify their vote for the measure, and convince their supporters that they are earning their place in this Parliament.
– The socialization of industry has been the objective of the Labour party for years.
– The proposed pool is no more socialistic, in the sense of depriving the farmers of the control of their own product, and- placing their industry under the control of government. than, are those boards which control the export of. dried fruits, butter, and wine.
– The fundamental difference is that this’ pool is- designed to h? controlled by the farmers.
– Yes. The dried fruits industry, the butter industry, and the’ wine industry are controlled by” boards in the interests of the growers’ themselves, and not in the interests of private enterprise. Do honorable members in tlie ministerial corner claim that the success that has been achieved in those industries under the management of boards can be associated with their policy of the socialization of production, distribution, and exchange? During the war, the wool industry was controlled much more drastically than it is now proposed to control the wheat industry. Even the wheat industry was controlled at that period by the governments of Australia, and there was no acclamation from persons with communistic tendencies. It was said then that the governmental control of those industries was a patriotic move. This measure is no more socialistic in its objective, in the sense that honorable members in the ministerial corner are trying to convey, or in the sense that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), who wishes to make political capital out of the speeches of that group, is trying to convey,’ than is any other legislation providing for the control of primary industries by boards representative of the producers themselves.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) accused other honorable members of stonewalling the bill, but I remind him that he spoke for nearly his full time, and could have said what he had to say in three minutes. The honorable member went before his electors howling down the communists, but to-day he is prepared to swallow a dose of socialism without the flutter of an eyelid. We have now to resort to socialism in order to save the wheat industry. We have to call on the forces of the Commonwealth to organize this industry, and this bill is the first instalment of socialism in respect of the marketing of wheat. It is futile for the honorable member for New England to tell his electors that he is an antisocialist when he is prepared in this chamber- to support a socialistic ‘ideal. The honorable member who endeavoured to’ traduce the members of the party to which I belong, because they are prepared openly to advocate socialism, is willing, in this chamber, to accept a socialistic ideal in order to serve his own ends. I represent more wheat-growers than he does, and there is three times a3 much wheat grown in my electorate as there is in his; what is more, two-thirds of the farmers in my electorate vote for me.
– That is another of the honorable member’s exaggerations.
– Unlike the honorable member, I do not talk with my tongue in my cheek. This bill is a step in the direction of socialism, because it confers arbitrary powers upon the Minister to interfere with the marketing of wheat by taking it out of the control of private enterprise. I challenge any” economist, or any person who has written or read a line on socialistic principles, todisprove that what this bill provides for is 75 per cent, socialism.
– I should not have risen to speak again had it not been for the remarks of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson). (BDe went to great pains to endeavour to discount the honesty of our purpose in supporting this bill. Let me tell him that he has not a monopoly of good intentions with respect to the wheat-growers, or any other section of the community. He has been long enough in this Parliament to know that each member is entitled to express his own views, and those who belong to the Labour party have accepted its programme and have been elected to this Parliament upon it, have no need to run away from it. The objective of the Labour party is the socialization of production, distribution, and exchange. That objective is involved in this bill, and for that reason we have placed our views concerning it prominently before honorable members. I have no objection whatever to what honorable members may say as to the meaning of this clause. They can use whatever terms they like; but we are satisfied that, from a Labour standpoint, it is a step in the right direction. We are hoping that this precedent will become firmly established, and that once the bill becomes law the Government will give full effect to its provisions.
– It is necessary that anybody who happens to read in Hansard the various speeches on this bill should know exactly what has taken place in this chamber to-night. On the one hand we have an organized obstruction to this bill, by a group led by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill).
– That remark is untrue and offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– As the remark is considered to be offensive, I ask that the Minister withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. The honorable member for Warringah is playing the game of those who have a life-long and innate objection to legislation of this kind.
– I ask that the remark that I am playing the game of someone else be withdrawn. I expressed only my own views.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.As the remark in question is considered offensive by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), I ask the Minister to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. I can quite understand the remarks coming from that quarter, but equally objectionable are the remarks of those honorable members who are speaking on behalf of what is termed the “ Beasley “ group. They are trying to give the impression that they are earnestly in favour of this bill when they know in their own hearts that every word of theirs has been uttered in a deliberate attempt to destroy it.
– The remark of the Minister is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn. Since he ratted on the Labour movement he is prepared to say or do anything.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the Minister to withdraw the remark to which objection has been taken.
– I withdraw it. The honorable members of the Beasley group are playing the game of those whom the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales is seeking to-dayin order that he might prosecute them. The merchants of that State issued a circular, or the impression is that they did, which purported to be signed by three communists who were represented as making use of statements similar to those which have been uttered by members of the Lang group to-night.
– Does the Minister deny the objective of the Labour party?
– The honorable member, and those associated with him, including the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), are not in the Labour movement to-day, and all the loud and stupid guffaws that they are capable of will not alter that position. They have no right to say what is the policy of the Labour party, because they belong to a breakaway section of that party, and have deliberately violated the principles of the Labour movement.. Consequently, when they say that they stand for something which they call the Labour policy, it cannot be recognized as the true Labour policy, and does not represent their views at all. To-night they are engaged in an attempt to destroy this measure. They have no desire that it should be placed on the statute-books of this country.
– That is a lie.
– They have not the moral courage to vote against the bill.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) in order in calling the Minister a liar? Should he not be required to withdraw the remark?
– I do not take any notice of the honorable member’s remark.
– As I did not hear the honorable member for Werriwa make use of the word complained of by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan), I ask him if he called the Minister a liar.
– I object to being asked a question put to me by you, Mr. Chairman, at the instigation of another honorable member after you have said that you did not hear me use the word complained of. As the Minister concerned has not asked for a withdrawal of anything that I might have said, I submit that the honorable member for Darling Downs has no right to interfere.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member for Werriwa whether he called the Minister a. liar?
– Whether the honorable member for Werriwa called me a liar or not makes no difference to me. I never take the least notice of any of his utterances, nor does any one else, either inside or outside this chamber. He carries neither weight nor influence here or anywhere else.
– I only wanted to make it clear to all who may read Hansard that the views which have been expressed by honorable members in the corner group are not necessarily the views of the Labour party, seeing that that group is no longer entitled to speak for the Labour movement.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I cannot allow the Minister to continue in that strain. He must confine himself to the subject before the Chair.
– The remarks to which I have referred were made in an attempt to destroy the bill. They were not sincere.
– I rise to a point of order. I object to the Minister saying that the members of the group to which I belong are not sincere in their utterances, and have made speeches designed to destroy this bill. The statement is not true, and I demand that it be withdrawn.
– I ask the Minister to withdraw the remark complained of.
– If it is objectionable to the honorable member, I withdraw it. I was pointing out that statements similar to those which have been made in this chamber were alleged to have been made recently in New South Wales by three persons calling themselves Communists, who desired to affect the wheat pool ballot. Those remarks were considered by the Minister for Agriculture for New South Wales to be so opposed to Labour’s principles that he has engaged detectives-
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether anything that the Minister has said for the last quarter of an hour is in any way connected with clause 13, now before the committee.
– I take it that, in replying, the Minister has a right to refer to arguments which have been used during the debate. In the discussion on this clause a good deal has been said about the policy of the Labour party. I submit that the Minister is entitled to give his interpretation of Labour’s policy, and that, therefore, his remarks are in order.
– I remind the Minister, as well as other honorable members, that they must confine their remarks to the clause under consideration.
– I entirely agree with your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but since certain remarks, to which I called attention, and submitted that they were out of order, were permitted, I thought that it would be competent for me to reply to them. I point out that the principle embodied in this measure is in operation in connexion with a number of industries which are controlled by boards as, for instance, the dairying industry, and the dried and canned fruits industries, all of which are controlled by boards. It is not proposed to do anything in connexion with wheat that has not already been done in connexion with other products.
– There is nothing to prevent a butter manufacturer from exporting his butter.
– Will any one say that the legislation controlling the export of dried fruit means the socialization of the dried fruit industry?
– It provides for an orderly system of marketing.
– That is so. I stand for the orderly marketing of all our products. The only reason why some honorable members claim that this bill means the socialization of the wheat industry is that they know that their words will be used to destroy it. As I know that such tactics are adopted with the deliberate intention of destroying the measure, am I not justified in calling the attention of the country to them, especially when those who are doing these things have not the moral courage to oppose the bill openly ? I am surprised that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), for whom I have had a good deal of respect and who leads the group in the corner, should be willing to play into the hands of those who would use his words to destroy a bill which provides for nothing that is not already provided for in other legislation.
– I am not complaining about that.
– Will the honorable gentleman say that this bill, if agreed to, will accomplish what he understands is meant by the socialization of industry?
– He never said so.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) now says that the group with which he is associated does not think so.
– I said that it was a big instalment of socialism.
– It was worth while to rise, if only to obtain from the honorable member his assurance that he did not intend his remarks to mean that, this bill meant the socialization of industry. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) will not now be able to use that statement to help defeat the next wheat ballot.
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister has attempted to convey the impression that I said that the carrying of this clause would mean the socialization of the wheat industry. Hansard, I know, will have reported me correctly. The Minister should not attempt to put words into my mouth that I did not, utter. I shall not permit him to do so. I said that this bill was a big instalment of socialistic principle - a step towards a certain objective.
– I did not attempt to misrepresent the honorable member.
– No honorable member in this House is more often guilty of misrepresentation than is the Minister for Markets. While I stand for the objective of the Labour party, I do not want to be misunderstood. I did not say that this bill means the socialization of the wheat industry. The Minister has made much ado about nothing. He has been straining at a gnat and has swallowed a camel. I am prepared to allow my words as recorded in Hansard to circulate among the farmers of every wheat district in Australia, and to allow the farmers themselves to interpret them ; because I feel confident that they will place on them a different interpretation from that of the Minister, who has attempted to misrepresent the position.
Question- That clause 13 be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Hon. C. E. Culley.)
Majority . . . . 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 - (2.) A licence under this section shall, subject to this section, be for such period as is specified in the licence and shall be subject to such terms and conditions as are prescribed after recommendation by the board to the Minister.
Amendment (by Mr. Hawker) proposed -
That, at the end of sub-clause 2, the following words be added: - “but no conditions shall be prescribed restricting the sale or export of wheat to a plaice outside the Commonwealth from any State which has not entered into an agreement under the schedule of this act.”
– I cannot accept this amendment, because, apart from other objections, I am advised by the Crown law authorities that such a provision would be unconstitutional.
– The arguments that could be used in favour of this clause were advanced when the previous clause was under consideration. I protest, in the strongest possible terms, against the proposal, and suggest that the amendment should be carried, as a simple act of justice to a considerable section of the citizens of this country.
. - The powers given to the board in respect of wheat are, in the main, similar to the powers already extended to the export control boards that have been appointed in connexion with the butter and dried fruit industries, and under other legislation passed when the Nationalist party was in office.
– Mr. Chairman–
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) - put.
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Keane.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put, and amendment negatived.
– In reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), I may say that when the Prime Minister so ill-naturedly, and with sleep still in his eyes-
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) - put.
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Keane.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That clause 14 be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Keane.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15 (Interstate trade in wheat).
– This clause provides that the Minister, or any person authorized by him, may, after recommendation by the board, issue licences to permit interstate trade in wheat, and in that respect it differs from the provisions which the committee has just been discussing. This provision is justifiable so far as it prevents wheat produced in a State which is not associated with the pool, from being sold in a State which is a party to the agreement. But it is absolutely unreasonable to give the Australian Wheat Board or the Minister the power to prevent trading between two States which are not associated with the pool. As the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said, similar powers to those provided in the previous clause, are given to the Dried Fruits. Export Control Board, but the Dried Fruits Export Control Act does not permit a narrow majority of those engaged in the industry to coerce a large minority, as is possible under this clause. There are not the same strong reasons why the interests of a minority of those engaged in the fruit-growing industry should be safeguarded as there are for protecting the rights of the minority in this instance. Only three States are engaged in producing large quantities of dried fruits, and 90 per cent. of those engaged in the industry are operating in those States. This is not the case in the wheat industry.
– But the principle is the same.
– Yes, but in this case a minority of the wheat-growers could completely regulate or obstruct the trade of the majority. Under this measure a minority could secure the pick of the business, and leave the wheat-growers in those States which are not parties to the agreement, at the mercy of those who have placed their wheat in the pool. The wheat-growers of New South Wales who are opposed to a compulsory State pool, should have their ordinary markets secured to them until they should decide to enter a Commonwealth pool. I protest against the granting of such extensive powers, which may be used in such a way as to interfere with the rights of a large number of wheat-growers.
– Throughout the discussion of this measure I have contended that the wheat farmers should be placed beyond the control of a board. I direct the attention of the committee to this clause, which gives the Minister powers of an inordinate and extraordinary character. The clause simply means that the farmers shall be compelled to accept a large instalment of socialism and of bureaucratic government. The Minister is to administer the regulations which he himself makes. On this subject Blackstone says : -
In all tyrannical governments the supreme measure-
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) - put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Keane.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That clause 15 he agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Keane.)
Majority . . . . 29
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16. (1.) Any person who -
Penalty: Five hundred pounds.
.- The clause to which the committee has just agreed gives power to the Minister to cancel the licence of any person who is deemed to have contravened or failed to comply with certain conditions. This clause empowers the Minister to impose a penalty of £500 upon any person who exports wheat from the Commonwealth, or ships it from one State to another, in contravention of the provisions of the act. I protest most strongly against such powers being given to any Minister under an act of Parliament. Once again I cite the position of Tasmania, which produces wheat which is not considered suitable for manufacture into ordinary flour. Under the terms of this and the preceding clause the wheat-growers of that State could be prevented from selling that wheat, as it is necessary to dispose of it on the mainland. The penalty for so disposing of the wheat would be £500. I know that it will be said that such a power will not be exercised to the detriment of the wheatgrowers, but it exists, and every honorable member in this chamber who approves of the clause will be responsible for its existence. I remind the committee of the lines from King John. “ How off the sight of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done !”
Honorable members in the corner have declared that this legislation is a step towards bringing about the socialization of industry, one of the objectives of the Labour party. It is very likely that if ever we should have in power what those honorable members described as a “ real “ Labour Government, it will exercise the powers conferred upon it by this measure and the Constitution to keep down the price of wheat and other products of the farmers, allegedly in the interests of those that Labour claims to represent.
It has been said by the Minister (Mr. Parker Moloney), as well as by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), that the powers granted under this measure are identical with those given to the board which controls the marketing of butter. The Minister, at least, should know that that is not correct, and that he is misleading those who believe him. I am not surprised at the honorable member for New England making such a statement, as his arguments disclose that he is not well informed with regard to the powers given to other boards. I presume that the committee knows perfectly well that there is no law that prevents a producer of butter from selling that commodity when, where, and how he pleases within the Commonwealth. Therefore, there is no analogy between the powers which control the marketing of butter and those which are embodied in this bill.
– Similar powers exist in connexion with the marketing of dried fruits.
– I am not discussing dried fruits, a subject upon which the honorable gentleman is very well informed.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the clause. It deals with powers and punishments
– Yes, punishments which will affect the wheat-growers that I represent. I draw attention to section 92 of the Constitution, which reads -
On the imposition of uniform duties of customs, trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whetherby means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.
This measure gives the Minister power to prohibit trade.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member is delivering a second-reading speech.
– I have sufficiently emphasized the point that I desired to make, and I believe that all I have said is quite relevant to the clause.
– It will be observed that under this clause both the proclamation and the licence are to be issued by the Minister. That is an extraordinary position. This is what Blackstone has to say on the subject -
In all tyrannical governments the supreme majesty or the right both of making and enforcing laws is vested in the same man, or one and the same body of men. When these two powers are united together there is no public liberty.
Those two powers are united in this bill, and under it there will be no public liberty. The Minister is both making and enforcing laws, the penalty for the infringement of which is £500. In a free country like this no legislator in a national parliament should countenance the adoption of such a principle, and this clause should evoke the strongest protest from every section of the community. The proposed penalty of £500 is absurd and unfair. I therefore move -
That the words “ Five hundred “, sub-clause 1, be omitted with a view to insert the word “Fifty” in lieu thereof.
– The operations of an Australianwide pool will be much greater than those of any export control board now in existence, and because of the correspondingly greater risk of wrongdoing a penalty of £500 is not considered excessive.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Archdale Parkhill’s amendment) stand part of the clausesput. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Watkins.)
Majority . . . . 29
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 -
The Board may - (a)
– This clause prescribes the powers of the board. I move-
That the following paragraph be added to the clause: -
When speaking on the motion for the second reading of the bill, I foreshadowed this amendment.
– The Commonwealth has no power to fix a price.
– Unless there is some method of stabilising this industry by fixing a price which will guarantee to the primary producer, over a period of years, a reasonable margin in excess of his cost of production, the industry will languish and die. Men can not be expected to continue producing at prices which are constantly below cost. If that continues for another year, the majority of the growers who are on small holdings and already have heavy commitments, will be forced off the land. I indicated in my second-reading speech how the machinery for the fixation of a price could be established. It is not beyond the power of this Parliament to create such an organization, and without a provision such as I have proposed, the bill will fail to achieve what should be its real objective, namely, the stabilization of the industry and the guaranteeing of a price which will enable the farmer to produce at a profit.
– The amendment cannot be accepted because the fixation of prices is beyond the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth
– Why did the Government propose a guarantee in the last wheat marketing bill ?
– The guarantee of a minimum price is different from the fixation of prices.
– One of the principal objects of the bill is to enable an authority to be constituted by it to fix the price of wheat.
– That will be done by the State boards. The amendment relates to the Commonwealth Board.
– The Commonwealth Board should have power to reach an agreement with the State boards as to the price to be fixed for wheat, and I see no objection to the inclusion in the bill of a provision to that effect. If the farmers are to have inflicted on them a poisonous system of compulsion, which has been rightly declared to be the first instalment of the socialization of industry, they should at least be assured of some compensation in the form of a substantial drawback of the extra expenses in which they will be involved. The amendment of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) deals with the fixation of prices, and surely the fixing of a price in this instance would be some compensation for the drawbacks involved in the other clauses of the bill. I have noticed with considerable misgiving that some of the supporters of the bill, including the Minister, have suggested that it is not intended to fix the home price of wheat at above 4s. a bushel. As the wheatfarmers are to suffer marketing and other disadvantages, they should receive as an offset some benefit in the way of a substantial price for locally consumed wheat. The operation of the compulsory pool will bring about a tremendous waste and loss of money. I therefore trust that the Government will, through the provisions of this bill, indicate to the board the wish that it shall fix a local price which will be fair to the growers.
Question - That the proposed subclause (Mr. Lazzarini’s amendment) be added to the clause - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Watkins.)
Majority . . 34
. - Will the Minister explain what is necessary under this clause? I am not keen on informers of any kind, and I should like to know what is intended under this clause, and why the penalty is so severe.
– As I pointed out before, the penalties provided throughout the bill are more severe than those provided in other marketing bills, for the reason that the operation of this scheme will be much more extensive. It will be necessary for the board to have information concerning the quantities of wheat held by millers and others engaged in the wheat trade, and if that information is withheld to any extent serious complications may result. Consequently, the penalty, although not excessive, is adequate.
.- The Minister is adopting in respect of this bill a similar attitude to that which he adopted when the previous bill was before us. He poses as a strong man who will give way to no one. He is forcing every clause through the committee. That is an easy attitude for the Minister to adopt when he has a majority behind him, but in the previous instance his efforts to give effect to the bill were frustrated in another place. The Minister has not agreed to even one of the amendments which have been moved by honorable members on this side of the chamber, and it would be far better for him if he showed more consideration for the feelings and opinions of others.
– I object strongly to this clause. It provides that the board may call upon a trader or any other person to furnish within a given time such information in relation to wheat as the board thinks necessary. We are asked to pass a provision which permits the Minister, through the board, to call upon any citizen in this country, who is legitimately carrying on business, to disclose to the Minister and to the board, which body in this case is his trade rival, all his secret information with respect to his trade and industry. Is. that fair? Would any honorable member like to be put in that position ?
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 and 19 agreed to.
Clause 20- (1.) The board may, by notice in writing, call upon any person to furnish to the board within such time as is specified in the notice such information in relation to wheat as the board thinks necessary.
– The Government which the honorable member supported put some of the people of this Commonwealth in a worse position because of the operation of the Crimes Act.
– No position could be worse than that of the honorable member at the present time. No honorable member would like the principle involved in this clause to be applied to him in respect of his private business. Would a union like to be called upon by an employers’ organization to disclose all its secret information and the ramification of its operations? Yet, under this clause, the board may in this free country command certain men who are carrying on their vocations legitimately and honestly to disclose to their trade rival all the information connected with their business.
– The Minister may do that only on recommendation.
– Is it not conceivable that that is one of the first things that theboard will recommend when faced with competition ? Let us suppose that New South Wales declines to join the pool, and decides instead to dispose of its wheat in the open market through traders, and, perhaps, a voluntary pool. In that case, it will be within the power of the board to call upon those traders and the voluntary pool to disclose to it all the trade arrangements that have been made for the orderly marketing of their produce. A provision of that nature should not be included in any act of parliament, and for that reason the clause should be rejected.
– Imove -
That after the word “ wheat “, sub-clause (1), the words “in the Commonwealth” be inserted.
I realize that for the efficient working of the pool it may become necessary for. the board to secure information regarding the stocks of wheat held by individuals in different parts of the Commonwealth. In connexion with the overseas trade in wheat nearly every transaction is known throughout the world within 48 hours. There is, therefore, no necessity to grant inquisitorial powers to the board in order to obtain that information. If such powers are given to the board without restriction, that body will be in a position to demand information with regard to negotiations which are being carried on by persons in competition with the pool. That would be unfair. The amendment, if accepted, will give the board the power to obtain all the information to which it is legitimately entitled, but not authority to misuse its powers.
.- It might become necessary to trace wheat which has left the Commonwealth, and, as the amendment would limit the power of the board in respect of such wheat, I cannot accept it.
– I see the force of the objection raised by the Minister, and suggest that I be permitted to alter the amendment to insert before the word “ wheat “ the words “ stocks of “ in order to make it clear that the inquisitorial power shall not extend to the private negotiations of traders.
– It would still place certain restrictions on the board, whereas it is most desirable that there shall be no restrictions at all.
Amendment - by leave - amended to read -
That before the word “ wheat “, sub-clause ( 1 ) , the words “ stocks of “ be inserted.
– To hear Satan reproving sin was more than I could stand. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill), who urged that the board should not have the power to investigate the affairs of a rival concern, assisted the previous Government to pass legislation to amend the Crimes Act.
– I was not here when that legislation was dealt with.
– I have never heard the honorable member protest against the Crimes Act, which was introduced by the party with which the honorable member is associated.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to confine himself to clause 20.
– This clause gives the board power to make certain investigations. The honorable member for
Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill), who complained of its far-reaching provisions, has no complaint to make of the much more drastic provisions of legislation introduced by a government which he supported.
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) has made a remarkable speech, seeing that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) was not a member of this chamber when the ‘ legislation to which he referred was dealt with.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 21 agreed to.
Clause 22 (Members of board not personally liable).
– So far as I know this clause is without precedent in the legislation of the Commonwealth. It provides that the members of the board shall not be personally liable for any act or default of the board, done or omitted to be done in good faith in the course of the operations of the board.
– A similar provision i3 contained in other acts of a like nature.
– I hand to the new Assistant Minister a number of acts dealing with the dairying and fruit industries, and providing for their control by boards, and I ask him to find in any of them a clause similar to that which we are now considering. The Minister’s interjection is a sample of the irresponsible interjections we have heard from Ministers during this debate.
– W-ho will be liable?
– No one.
– The clause provides only that the members shall not be personally liable.
– The effect of the clause is that the members of the board shall not be liable for negligence, so long as they are honest. The clause sets a standard which is lower than that set, either by statute or by contract, for any person who accepts a position of responsibility. Some time ago, I was engaged in some litigation concerning the South Australian Wheat Pool, litigation which, I believe, is still going on. Honorable members are aware that numbers of claims for negligence were directed against that pool. Under this clause, negligence or incompetence, on the pari of the members of the board, may be demonstrated, but so long as these members can show that they meant well, they will not be held liable. The clause deprives the farmers of the ordinary remedy which every person in the community has against any person who assumes the responsibility of dealing with his goods.
– Having searched the acts handed to the Assistant Minister by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I find no clause similar to this one.
– Then I have the Attorney-General’s support so far for my statement, that the clause is without precedent. It is a serious thing to do what this clause proposes. The members of the board ought to be liable for negligence in the same way that other persons are liable. They should be required to show an ordinary degree of care and diligence. Although they will be called upon to discharge very important duties under this remarkable clause, they will not be personally liable for neglect or carelessness. I ask the committee to reject the clause.
, - This measure contains some remarkable clauses, to some of which I have already drawn attention; but this is the most astonishing of all with which we have dealt. It provides that the members of the board shall not be personally liable for any act or default of the board so long as they act in good faith.
– The clause means that as individuals they will not be liable.
– If the members of the board are not liable, who can be liable? Will they not perform a personal service for which they will be paid? Yet under this clause they will be absolved from any personal liability whatever. They can be inefficient and careless; they can let the mice devour the farmers’ wheat, and the farmers will have no redress whatever. They can repeat the Georgson scandal,, and yet not be held liable.
– That is not so. The board, as such, will be liable, although its members, as individuals, will not be.
-The board has no existence other than as a corporate body. I ask the Minister whose money will the board control ?
– It will be the farmers’ money.
– If the stacks of wheat are devoured by mice, the farmers will have every right to claim against the board, as such. That means that the damage will be paid for out of their own money. This clause offers a premium to inefficiency and incompetence, and in no other legislation of the Commonwealth can a similar provision be found.
– It is common sense.
– I challenge the Minister to show me any measure passed by this Parliament that contains a similar provision. The members of the Dairy and Dried Fruits Export Control Boards are not protected in this way, although they deal with large interests.
– I invite the attention of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) to section 22 of the Wheat Pool Act which was passed in Queensland in 1928. It is similar to the clause now before the committee.
– When perusing the statutes that were placed before me a few minutes ago I did not notice that one of the volumes was missing. I now find that a similar clause was inserted in the Dried Fruits Export Control Act 1924, but such a provision is not contained in any of the acts passed since that date when I was in the Ministry. All the objections whichI have raised to the clause before the committee are applicable to the section to which I have referred.
– In the Georgson scandal, which the honorable member for Warringah has mentioned,there were fraudulent practices ; in fact, downright robbery occurred. Men who are convicted of robbery should be sent to gaol, although many persons who ought to be in gaol manage to keep within the law. A person who has been placed in a responsible position on a board which happens to lose a few thousand pounds should not be held personally responsible for that loss if he has acted in good faith, and there is no suspicion of fraud or dishonesty.
– I do not attach great importance to this clause, but I would like to hear an explanation as to why it is necessary to include it in the bill. After all, the members of the board, in their personal capacity, would presumably be indemnified by the Crown, in the event of any breach of the provisions of the clause. It has been pointed out that there is, apparently, no general precedent for such a provision.
– No member of a board of directors is personally liable for the actions of the board.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 23 agreed to.
Agreement made the . . . day of . . . One thousand nine hundred and . . . pursuant to the Wheat Marketing Act 1931. . . .
Now this Agreement witnesseth:
For the purposes of this Agreement “ wheat “ shall include such products of wheat as may be prescribed by or under the Wheat Marketing Act 1931 of the Commonwealth of Australia.
. -I move -
That, before clause 1 of the agreement, the following new clause be inserted: - “1a. - (1.) This agreement shall remain in force for three years from the date of the making thereof and thereafter until terminated as provided in this clause. (2.) The Commonwealth and any State which is a party to this agreement may terminate its adherence to this agreement at the expiration of three years from the date of the agreement or at any time thereafter by twelve months’ notice in writing previously given in the month of November in any year to the other parties to the agreement. (3.) Where the Commonwealth terminates its adherence to this agreement, or where, by reason of the termination by one or more States of its or their adherence to the agreement, the number of States remaining as parties to the agreementis less than three, this agreement shall cease and determine save as to any rights, obligations or liabilities acquired, accrued or incurred thereunder,”
This amendment will limit the operation of the agreement to a period of three years, or such further time as the parties may agree upon. The object is to provide that, at the expiration of three years, if a State wishes to withdraw from the scheme, it may do so on giving 12 months’ notice. The amendment will give effect to a proposal that I foreshadowed at the outset of the consideration of the bill.
– I move -
That the amendment be amended by omitting the words “ three years “, sub-clause 1, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ one year “.
In making a dangerous experiment of this kind any State, on giving a year’s notice, should be allowed to withdraw from the scheme.
.I hope that the committee will accept the Minister’s amendment. The bill provides for an experiment with which some risk is associated. The Minister has submitted his amendment in good faith, and if the bill is to be passed, as I presume it will be, it would be useless to permit the arrangement to be upset at the end of the first year.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Parker Moloney) agreed to -
That the words “ the board “, clause 3 of the agreement, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ a Wheat Board for that State”.
– I move -
That, before the word “ majority “, clause 3 of the agreement, the word “ two-thirds “ be inserted.
That would secure some protection to the wheat-growers who do not wish to have their wheat commandeered by a central authority. Similar protection was given to the New South Wales growers by the composite government formed by the Country and Nationalist parties. A coercive system, in order to be efficient, needs the support of a large majority of the people concerned. One of the chief reasons for the success of Bawra was that it was willingly supported by the great majority of the wool-growers and woolbrokers, and all the other sections of the wool trade, receiving only slight opposition from the minority. There should be the safeguard I suggest, otherwise the provision will be even weaker than that in the New South Wales Marketing Act. One of the causes which led to the defeat of the proposals in that State was the suspicion with which the wheat-growers viewed the alteration of that law by which it was made possible for a small minority to coerce a large section. We should ensure that the tremendous coercive powers provided shall not be used tyrannically or invoked unless a substantial majority of those engaged in the industry are in favour of the scheme.
– I cannot accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), as it is opposed to the general principles of the bill, and as the marketing acts of States like New South Wales provide for a simple majority. It is considered that in this instance the simple majority is sufficient.
. - I suggest that there is a distinction between the case which the Minister mentioned under a State marketing act and this measure. A pool can be formed under a State marketing act when a simple majority is in favour of its establishment, but under this measure a pool can be formed notwithstanding the opposition of dissenting States. A pool to control all the wheat produced in Australia may operate only although a minority of the wheat-growers in Australia approve of the system. That is the distinction between this measure and all other acts which may be said to be similar. The Dried Fruits Export Control Act and other such statutes provide for approval by a majority of the growers. In view of the distinction between this proposal and certain other acts, I suggest that we should provide for at least a two-thirds majority.
Amendment negatived. 4. (1.) A majority of the members of each State Wheat Board shall be elected by the wheat-growers resident in the State.
– I move -
That before the word “ majority “, clause 4 of the agreement, the word “ two-thirds “ be inserted.
The Minister (Mr. Parker Moloney) has stated that the bill provides for the absolute control of the farmers’ wheat by the proposed pool. The last clause provides for a simple majority, but in this case a board of five members may consist of two representatives of the Government or of sections other than wheat-growers, and three representatives of the farmers. On some occasions a quorum may comprise non-wheat-growers. It is reasonable to provide that the growers shall be represented by at least a two-thirds majority.
– The same principle is involved in this instance, and I cannot accept the amendment.
– I move -
That at theend of clause 7 of the agreement, the following now sub-clause be added: -
Each State undertakes that the State Wheat Board of that State will take such action as may be necessary to ensure that, except for such purposes and upon such terms and conditions as the State Wheat Board of that State may determine, no wheat in that State carried over from any season prior to the first season to which the scheme applies shall after the commencement of that last-mentioned season be available for use or consumption within that State.
The object of the proposed new sub-clause is to ensure that any wheat carried over from the preceding season shall not be handled to the detriment of the new season’s wheat under the control of the board.
Amendment agreed to. 8. (1.) The State Wheat Board of each State shall-
Amendment (by Mr. Parker Moloney) agreed to -
That the words “ the operation of this agreement as may be mutually agreed between the parties hereto” clause 8 (1) (a) (i) of the agreement, be omitted with a view in insert in lieu thereof the words “ any season to which the scheme applies “. 9. (1.) All the expenses and costs . (2.) All proceeds of sales by the Australian Wheat Board shall be distributed between the States in proportion to the quantity of wheat made available to the Australian Wheat Board by the States.
Amendment (by Mr. Parker Moloney) agreed to -
That the word “ States “ first occurring, clause 9 ( 2 ) of the agreement, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ State Wheat Boards “.
At such times as wheat is offered for sale to any other country preference shall be given to millers for the purchase of reasonable quantities of wheat at the same price for the purpose of enabling them to export the wheat in the form of flour to such other country and, in the event of millers desiring wheat for export as flour to an overseas destination to which Australian wheat is not customarily sold, wheat may be made available to such millers at the same price as if the wheat were to be exported to the United Kingdom.
. - The clause reads “ At such times as wheat will be offered for sale to any other country preference shall be given to millers “. Does that mean wheat offered for sale to the government of any country or to any corporation or individual operating in that country? The clause is somewhat indefinite, and if passed in its present form may lead to litigation. Perhaps the Minister could consider the matter before the measure reaches another place.
– I think it means the buyers in any country.
Amendment (by Mr. Parker Moloney) agreed to -
That after the word “ price “ first occurring, clause 10 of the agreement, the words “as that at which wheat is offered for sale to that country “ be inserted.
.- Is it the intention of the Minister to accept the amendment which I brought under his notice, to provide that Tasmania shall be treated equitably?
I move -
Thatthe following new clause be inserted after clause 10 of the agreement: - “ 10a. So long as the State of Tasmania be not a party to this agreement the Australian Wheat Board may at any time accept wheat from Tasmania which is unsuitable for gristing into flour for bread but which is suitable for manufacture into biscuits, in exchange for wheat from any of the other States which is suitable for gristing into flour for bread, an adjustment being made where there is any difference in the value of the wheats. The Australian Wheat Board shall also make available wheat required for consumption in Tasmania and shall not charge a higher price for such wheat than the price for the time being charged for wheat for consumption in Victoria.”
This is a matter that has given the corporation with which I am associated some concern. Our solicitor has drawn up the proposed amendment with a view to facilitating the wheat trade between Tasmania and the mainland. It is suggested as a means to help Tasmania and, to be frank, to remove any objection that Tasmania might have to the pool.
– No representations have been made to me from Tasmanian wheat-growers in this matter. I point out to honorable members that clause 6 of the schedule contains exceptionally wide powers that cover everything embodied in the honorable member’s amendment, and will enable his desires in connexion with Tasmania to be given effect to.
– If the Minister can assure mo that the position of Tasmania is completely covered by the schedule as it stands, I am prepared to withdraw my amendment.
.- I wish that the Minister would agree to the amendment. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) thoroughly understands the position in which Tasmania is placed in regard to the wheat industry, and the organization with which he is associated agreed that the amendment, if accepted, would remove any objection to the bill by Tasmanian wheatgrowers. The Minister said that no representations had been made to him from Tasmania in the matter. I feel confident that had the wheat-growers of that State any idea of the powers to be given to the board by this measure, a good deal would have been said to the honorable gentleman about the position of Tasmania. I do not think that the provisions of clause 6 of the schedule cover what is desired by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and I urge the Minister to accept his amendment.
– On looking more closely into the matter, I feel quite satisfied that what is desired by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), is covered by clause 6 of the schedule.
.-I am satisfied, from a casual glance at clause 6 of the schedule, that if the Wheat Board were anxious to help Tasmania it has the necessary power to do so under the provisions of that clause. What concerns me is that the bill gives no assurance that it will do so, and I urge the Minister to make it mandatory upon the board to take such action by accepting the amendment of the honorable member Echuca (Mr. Hill), To that end I also urge that the word “ may “ in the amendment be altered to “ shall “.
.-If the Minister will read clause 6 of the schedule he will see that it states very distinctly that these powers are conferred on the board, but thatthere is nothing to say that the power must be exercised by that body with regard to Tasmania.
-If honorable members are satisfied that the necessary power already exists there is nothing to argue about.
-I disagree with the Minister. Who is to compel the board to give Tasmania a fair deal? I sympathise with that State, because for many years the wheat-growers of Queensland were in a similar position That State grew only soft wheat, which was considered to be unsuitable for breadmaking, so that for years it was necessary to buy from other States wheat of harder grain to mix with the softer variety for bread-making purposes. Unless an amendment such as that moved by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) is accepted, the wheat-growers of Tasmania will suffer severely. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Hill’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Keane.)
Majority . … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
The amount of the excess shall be contributed to an equalization fund and subject to sub-clause 2 of this clause such fund shall be distributed between the States. (2.) Prior to the effecting of such equalization any advantage of a State arising -
Amendment (by Mr. Parker Moloney) agreed to -
That after the word “ wheat”, second occurring, clause 12 (1) of the agreement, the words “ of that season “ be inserted.
.- I move -
That the words “subject to sub-clause 2 of this clause”, clause 12 (1) of the agreement be omitted.
The object of the amendment is to ensure an “ all in “ pool. There is an impression that according to clause 12 of the schedule, as drafted, the State which realizes a high price for sales in the local market will retain all the advantage arising therefrom. I have received the following telegram from the Primary Producers Association in Western Australia : -
Executive considers Wheat Bill provides that the premium obtained for locally sold wheat remains the property of the growers in each respective State. Executive opinion backed up by Keenan Parker and Parker. Executive request you ask Minister in charge of bill if scheme for distribution of excess, if any, of average price realized in respect of wheat of any season sold for consumption within any State over the average price of Australian wheat of the same season sold for export, means that such excess will be distributed throughout Australia on the production figures for wheat grown or whether it means that each State will retain for the benefit of such State the excess arising in respect of wheat consumed in such State. In respect to foregoing read clause seven in conjunction with clause twelve of schedule.
I desire that any profits obtained from local sales shall be divided equally amongst the States in proportion to their production and export.
– How will Queensland fare under that arrangement?
– Queensland will be able to retain all the advantage of the high prices realized in the local market. Western Australia produced last year 50,000,000 bushels of wheat, the greater proportion of which was exported. The eastern States supply the west with commodities to a very high value. Therefore, many people in the eastern States are supported to a large extent by “Western Australia’s production. In those circumstances, it is only fair to ask for an equal distribution between all the wheat producing States of the profit arising from the large internal sales in the more populous States. My amendment invites the committee to declare whether we are to have an “ all in “ pool, or whether those States which have a large local market are to be permitted first to take from the equalization fund a payment based on the average profit they have been obtaining for the last three years. If an equitable distribution of internal profits is agreed to, I would be prepared to forego Western Australia’s freight advantage now obtained by its geographical position, and the further advantage conferred by the higher grade of wheat it exports.
– This is the same clause as was in the 1930 bill and was agreed to at the Wheat Conference in Canberra. Its effect is that each State shall have power to fix the price for local consumption, and into an equalization fund shall be paid the difference between the net realization of wheat sold for local consumption and the ‘ net realization of such wheat at world parity price. Into that fund there shall be paid the difference between the amount received from the home consumption price and the export parity price, and, subject to deductions under sub-clause 2, there shall be paid from the equalization fund to each State an amount which bears the same proportion as their own local production of wheat bears to the total quantity in the pool. If in Victoria the price fixed for home consumption were 4s., and the parity price 3s., and if 10,000,000 bushels were required for local consumption, the difference between the local consumption price and the world parity price would be ten million shillings, or £500,000. That sum, together with all amounts secured in the same way in every State, would be paid into the equalization fund, from which would be distributed among the States an amount of money in the proportion that their production bears to the total quantity of wheat in the pool.
– That is very satisfactory for Western Australia, but not so satisfactory for Victoria or New South Wales.
– That is part of the scheme under the 1930 bill, which the honorable member supported.
– There is a difference in respect of taking the average price over three years.
– That relates to the deductions. I propose to eliminate paragraph c, in sub-clause 2, and to substitute a new paragraph which will enable the average price to be taken over a period of three seasons ending December, 1931. That is considered to be the fairest method of striking the average price. By stipulating the average price of any one season the board would be entitled to choose a particular season, which might not give fair results all round. With that exception the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) supported the proposals in the previous bill, and he then took the opportunity to satisfy the honorable member for Swan, who raised this objection - that Western Australia would not share proportionately in the increased price for home consumption - that under the equalization scheme that State would be fully protected. Under sub-clause 2 the distribution from the equalization fund takes place after providing for any advantage of a State arising out of its geographical position. For instance, Western Australia has a freight advantage of about fd. a bushel.
– Whether there is a pool or not.
– It is proposed, under the pool, to allow that State its present freight advantage of fd. a bushel. If, for instance, New South Wales suffers from any shortage in its production during the season to which equalization applies, owing to unfavorable conditions in that season, that circumstance shall be taken into consideration and accounted for to the State Wheat Board concerned.
– What does that mean?
– Representations will be made to .the federal board by the representatives of that State on the board.
– Paragraph b is of no value, and might just as well be left out of the clause.
– It will rest entirely with the representatives of any State concerned to show that, that State has suffered a disadvantage. I agree with the honorable member that probably in nine cases out of ten this provision will not be operated. Still, in exceptional circumstances such as a severe drought, the States could apply to the board for special consideration.
– How could that consideration be calculated?
– Provision is made for allowance in cases of that kind.
– There is something of the rule of thumb about the calculations.
– If there were shortage of production because of unfavorable conditions in a particular season, and, as a result, the local consumption price increased, that would bc an advantage and not a disadvantage. Would paragraph b cover such a case?
– Any advantage gained by one State in a case like that would have to be worked out by the board.
– Paragraph b could easily be dispensed with.
– There are not many cases to which it would apply, but it was considered that in special circumstances it might be of advantage.
– Is not paragraph b likely to lead to disputes that would otherwise be avoided?
– I admit that there may be difficulty in calculating the value of any disadvantage suffered by a particular State. This provision, with the amendment that I have indicated, will be fair to all States. I regret that I cannot agree to the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), because, if I accepted it, Queensland would immediately be at a disadvantage. The rights of Western Australia will be protected, and honorable members representing that State should be well satisfied with this provision.
– The proposition of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) to forgo the geographical freight advantage of Western Australia, in return for an equal share of the higher local consumption price, is a give-and-take proposition with which I have no quarrel; but there is a fatal objection to the amendment moved by the honorable member be cause it ignores entirely the case of Queensland. These provisions, relating to the distribution of the equalization fund, received a good deal of discussion at the conference of February, 1930, and they were inserted in the bill largely as a result of the representations of the Western Australian delegates, who insisted upon retaining their geographical advantage.
– The latest communications from them show that they are keen on retaining that advantage.
– Those representatives also wanted a share in the higher local consumption price in ratio with the eastern States. Not unnaturally, the representatives of the eastern States and of various organizations, pointed out that their States had certain advantages, one of which was that for home consumption they received 2d. or 3d. a bushel above the export parity price. They claimed that if Western Australia intended to insist on retaining its geographical advantage it should not ask to share in the advantage accruing to the eastern States because of their higher local consumption price. A compromise was effected. That compromise provided that Western Australia should retain her geographical advantage, that the other States which could prove that they had received a price above export parity should retain that advantage, and that the balance should be shared equally among all the States with the exception of Queensland. The arrangement excluded Queensland because it was felt that the growers in that State could not be expected to forgo their 100 per- cent, local consumption price for possibly only 28 per cent, if it were shared with the rest of Australia. It may be that the honorable member for Swan had a subtle object in view when he moved his amendment.’ He probably wanted to make the position so difficult for Queensland that it would be hard to get three States to join the pool. At least, that would be the effect of his amendment.
The wheat-growers of Victoria are giving away a great deal under this proposal, but I recognize the claims of the wheatgrowers of South Australia and “Western Australia, and realize that unless we give away something we shall get no pool at all. I believe that the advantages that would accrue to the Victorian growers from a pool would more than outweigh anything that they would give up if the clause were amended as indicated by the Minister.
The proposal to take an average over three seasons is fair, and I intend to support it. Sub-clause b of clause 12, which reads - from any shortage in its production, during the season to which the equalization applies, owing to unfavorable conditions in the season, is somewhat contentious. I do not care whether it is struck out or not. If New South Wales, for instance, through drought, rust or other unfortunate circumstances, grows only about 14,000,000 bushels of wheat and requires for local consumption, say, 12,000,000 bushels, the State would have very little available for export. In that case it might be possible to make an equitable adjustment. After all, we cannot insert in an act of this kind, provisions that will meet every circumstance that might arise. We must leave it largely to the good sense of the members of the federal board, upon which the growers of each State will be represented, to deal with these matters. I am convinced that there will be sufficient give and take among the representatives of the States to prevent the friction which some honorable members seem to fear. Considering the circumstances, I think that the Minister’s proposition is a fair one. In his absence, I occupied the chair at the meeting at which these proposals were put forward, and I feel it my duty to stand by them, as proposed to be amended by the Minister.
.I am glad that the Minister is standing to these equalization clauses, because they were discussed fully at a conference of growers before a previous bill was introduced. They were recognized by the members of that conference as ‘being a fair compromise. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) referred to the geographical position which one State enjoys. That matter is different from the advantage of local consumption which some other States enjoy. The local consumption price to-day may be favorable to a State which consumes little and produces much, but if the price of wheat were to rise to 4s. a bushel in the world’s market, that advantage would automatically disappear, and there would then be no give and take. On the other hand, a geographical advantage remains whether there is a pool or not. No Parliament can alter that advantage; it remains whether there is a rise or a fall in the price of wheat. As to the local consumption of wheat in Australia, we ought not to put that in water-tight compartments, for the reason that Australia is a Commonwealth. The wheat-growers of South Australia and Western Australia make heavy purchases from New South Wales and Victoria, thereby providing employment in those States for persons who eat bread made from wheat grown in those States. Western Australia is the biggest purchaser of the products of Hugh McKay Ltd. Nearly all the agricultural machinery used in Western Australia comes from Victoria. The workmen employed in the factories where that machinery is made use Victorian, not Western Australian, wheat. I am glad that the Minister has accepted that part of the argument. If it is departed from an injustice will be done to Western Australia. I point out that Western Australia’s adverse trade balance with the eastern States amounts to £9,400,000 per annum.
.- I want to see this bill as nearly perfect as possible, and will go a long way towards meeting the other States; but I am not prepared to go so far as the Western Australian members ask me to go. It is possible to pa-“ too great a price even foi a pool. If New South Wales and Victoria are to lose all the advantages that they would get otherwise, and give to South Australia, and particularly Western Australia, some hundreds of thousands of pounds more than they themselves will get, the pool will not benefit them greatly. To the sub-clause, which provides that, from any excess in the average price enjoyed in respect of wheat of any reason sold for use or consumption within tlie State over the average price of Australian wheat of that season sold for export, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has moved an amendment, and the Minister has indicated a further amendment. I prefer the Minister’s proposal to that of the honorable member for Swan. In no circumstances would I support the latter. I propose to move a further amendment on behalf of the farmers of Victoria so that the whole position may be thoroughly ventilated, and they will know where they stand. As I have said, I want a compulsory pool ; but I am not prepared to sacrifice everything to the western States in order to get it. If I cannot get a fair thing, I want to put my views on record so that the wheatgrowers of Victoria will know the attitude I took up. If they think that I have adopted a wrong attitude, they can still vote for the wool. I shall not advise anyone to vote against the pool; but I do not want to sell them a pig in a poke. I do not anticipate that Queensland will join the pool under the Government’s proposals. I had always thought that Queensland would suffer under the bill, but under the Minister’s proposal to go back three years Queensland will gain nothing, while losing much. Under the Minister’s proposal, clause 12, sub-clause 2, is to be amended to provide for the average amount of any betterment to be calculated over a period of three years. This season Queensland will probably enjoy a betterment of 2s. a bushel above export parity. I have not seen the figures for 1929-30 or 1928-29, but I should say that the average local consumption price in Queensland was not better than export parity.
– It was considerably above the export parity, and has been for some years.
– In my opinion, the price in Queensland has not been above export parity in the last two years preceding the present year. This year’s betterment, spread over three years, would give Queensland a betterment of 8d. a bushel. Under no circumstances would Queensland enter the pool under the proposal submitted by the Minister-. I wish to make the position clear to all country members, and particularly to members from New South Wales who represent wheat-growing areas. It is estimated that this year, New South Wales will have a harvest of 10,000,000 bushels, of which she will consume locally about 14,000,000 bushels. The amount to be paid into the pool-
– The honorable member is gambling on wheat remaining at the present price.
– In my opinion, the price twelve months hence, will be little better than it is to-day, unless some great catastrophe causes an unexpected rise in the price. When one considers the enormous carry-overs of wheat in all the great producing countries, one wonders how it is to be consumed.
– No one can tell what the price will be three months from now.
– That is so; but, if the overseas price were 2s. 6d. at the sea board next year, and the price of wheat for local consumption were raised 2s per bushel, the farmers would not receive less than 4s. 6d. at the seaboard, and that would give an average price at country stations in Victoria of about 3s. 10½d. a bushel. I base these calculations on a betterment contribution of 2s. per bushel to the general pool. Under this scheme, New South Wales would contribute £1,400,000 to the general pool, and draw out £720,000 ; Victoria would pay in £900,000, and draw out £720,000; South Australia would pay in £250,000, and draw out £620,000, while Western Australia would pay in £250,000, and draw, out £740,000. Thus, Western Australia would take from the pool £20,000 more than either New South Wales or Victoria, although she would put in £650,000 less than Victoria and £1,150,000 less than New South Wales into the pool. If that would be equitable, I do not know the meaning of the word. I am willing to go a long way in trying to induce Western Australia to enter a Commonwealth pool ; but I would be a traitor to the farmers of Victoria if I did not place the facts of the position plainly before them, before they are asked to cast their vote. I move -
That all the words after the word “ exported” to the end of clause 12 of the agreement, he omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “ each of the State Wheat Boards shall pay to the Australian Wheat Board onehalf of the amount of such excess. The
Australian Wheat Board may allow and pay portion of such moneys to any State Wheat Board to which the Australian Wheat Board considers an allowance should be made to meet any exceptional circumstance, and the balance of the money shall be distributed between the respective State Wheat Boards in proportion to the quantities of wheat received for the season.”
– The president of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association in New South Wales, who attended the Wheat Conference in Canberra last year, knows as much, if not more, about this matter than any other honorable member. He hasnot changed his opinions regarding this bill, but the honorable member is going back on what he agreed to last year. Why destroy the whole project?
– I have no desire to do that; I am endeavouring to put the matter fairly. The bill introduced last year by the Minister provided for a betterment scheme, under which Victoria could reasonably claim 3d. a bushel, and Western Australia was to claim¾d. a bushel, owing to freight advantage. I was prepared to throw a certain amount of Victoria’s betterment into the general pool, because the wheat-growers in that State could draw the 3d. out before the distribution was made. As it was contended that there would be an extra1s. a bushel, Victoria desired to retain 3d., and throw the 9d. into the general pool. The position of Victoria this year has entirely altered, and I do not think that it could claim that 3d., because it is not in so good a position as when the previous bill was before the Parliament. [Leave to continue given]. Another table of figures which I have before me provides for the retention of 50 per cent. of the betterment, but even then Western Australia would be better off than Victoria.
– The honorable member assumes that the price of wheat will remain at 2s. a bushel.
– If it goes up to 5s. a bushel, the betterment scheme will not be required. Assuming the local price to be 2s. above the overseas price, the extra amount realized on local sales would provide £900,000 in Victoria, £225,000 in Western Australia and South Australia, and £400,000 in Queensland. I do not intend to deal with the Queensland position, because the Minister’s amendment places that State out of court.
– The honorable member has not proved that. Any Queensland member will say that their advantage last year would amount to 2s. a bushel, and, for the two previous seasons, at least 6d., which would give an average of1s. a bushel.
– Next year there will be a betterment of 2s., but Queensland has no exportable surplus over which this betterment could be spread. Even in three years, Queensland may not have any exportable surplus. Assuming that Victoria put in £900,000, but took out £450,000, the payment to Victoria under the equalization scheme would amount to £298,578. Western Australia would realize an extra £225,000, pay into the general fund £112,500, and draw out £302,725 through the betterment scheme. If that State retains the benefit, which it now enjoys in the matter of overseas freights, it would receive another £125,725, thus giving it a return of £437,000. South Australia would pay in £112,500 and draw out £240,522. South Australia would get not only the benefit of £240,522, but of the £112,500. In addition, South Australia, in common with the other States associated with the scheme, would also derive all the benefits connected with the pooling system, such as the making of charters, and the effective handling and marketing of wheat, concerning which the average farmer knows nothing. In the matter of chartering and of despatching money, an Australian wheat-pool would obtain advantages which would amount to probably £80,000 or £100,000. I support the bill and, therefore, I trust that my amendment will be carried. I have given the position with respect to New South Wales and Victoria, and if the farmers in those States are prepared to support the pool I say good luck to them, so long as they will take the responsibility and will not attempt to place it upon me.
– I wish to refer to the position of Queensland as it is affected by this bill. I understand that the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) hopes that Queensland will come into the scheme; but as the bill is drafted that is most unlikely. I have a proposal which may overcome the difficulty, but which I do not propose to submit in the form of an amendment, because its purport must be carefully studied. That could be done before the measure reaches another place. Taking the Minister’s own figures with respect to Queensland, it would appear that that State enjoyed an advantage this year of something more than 2s. a bushel above export parity. The Minister has stated that in each of the two preceding years Queensland enjoyed an advantage of 6d. a bushel, thus giving that State an advantage of 3s. a bushel over a period of three years, or an average betterment of ls. in any one year.
– - I used those figures only as. a basis.
– And I am doing the same. The prediction of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) as to probable prices next year may be correct, but it is only an assumption.
– It is impossible for me to be guided by something based on an estimate of next year’s price.
– For three years Queensland has enjoyed an average betterment of about ls. per bushel over export parity. If the price next year were 2s. 3d. a bushel, and Queensland wheatgrowers were receiving 4s. a bushel, Queeusland would have an advantage of ls. 9d. a bushel above export parity. Under this bill Queensland would be entitled to retain ls. a bushel, and would have to divide the remaining 9d. a bushel among the other States in the pool. Queensland being a non-exporting wheat State would in the present circumstances he able to enjoy the full benefit of local consumption price, and would expect to retain that benefit until it became an exporter of wheat. On the other hand, if the export parity price were as high as the Queensland price, would not Queensland, still be entitled to an extra ls. owing to the fact that its price had averaged ls. above export price for the preceding three years? Under this proposal would not Queensland be entitled to a reimbursement, out of the pool - of ls. for local consumption?
– Only because of the advantages she enjoys.
– The honorable member is showing Queensland’s disadvantages under a low price; but under higher prices she would be at a great advantage.
– I understand that the Minister rather scouts the idea of the price of wheat remaining as low as 2s. 3d. a bushel. Assuming that the export price next year is as high as Queensland’s price for local consumption, the Minister appears to admit that under this bill Queensland would be entitled to the local consumption price of 4s. and to a dividend out of the general pool from the other States of ls. a bushel in view of the fact that she had obtained ls. a bushel above the export rate for three years. I surest an addendum to paragraph c of sub-clause 2 to read -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding section if in any year in which any State has no exportable surplus or an exportable surplus amounting to less than 25 per cent, of its total production in that year, such State shall be entitled to retain the whole of the advantage due to the local consumption price within that State.
I submit that that would overcome the difficulty with respect to Queensland. The adoption of the new paragraph would serve a double purpose, in that it would provide a substitute for paragraph b, which refers to a shortage of production when there is no exportable surplus, or where the exportable surplus is small. If my proposal were adopted and Queensland became an exporting wheat State, and there is every possibility of it doing so, Queensland would, when the 25 per cent, mark was reached, automatically come into the pool with the other States.
– Twenty-five per cent, is too much.
– That is only a suggestion, and may be the means of. overcoming the difficulty with which Queensland is confronted. It will also provide a workable substitute for paragraph b. The Minister will admit that if the price of wheat remains as at present for six months, and Queensland were asked to divide some of its spoils among the other
States, which under the present arrangement she can hold, and could not be deprived of, that would be a bar to that State coming into the pool.
– I have no intention of supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I agree withthose honorable members who have said that the average of three years presents difficulties; but what those difficulties are or to what extent they will operate against Queensland, I am not prepared to say. I have received a telegram from the Queensland Wheat Board which has a bearing on the point raised by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). That board considers that it should be specifically provided that Queensland should be exempt under the provisions of clause 12 of the schedule until the export trade of that State exceeds 50 per cent. of the crop, or until it makes application to come into the pool.
– The export trade is not likely to exceed 50 per cent. of the crop.
– No; but it may. The pool is to operate for a period of three years, and it is quite possible that within that time Queensland may become a wheat exporting State. I realize the difficulties with respect to Queensland, and I cannot at the moment see how they can be overcome; but the suggestion of the honorable member for Gippsland may provide a way out. I trust that the Minister will give that proposal his careful consideration, as it may be the means of removing some of the anomalies which are now quite pronounced.
– I am very desirous that the bill, as we leave it, shall be fair to all concerned, and I particularly want it to be Australian-wide in spirit as well as in name. With the exception of the three-year provision it is practically in no way different from the measure which had the approval of the representative wheat bodies which considered the subject in Canberra some months ago, I shall go carefully into the matter referred to by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), and see whether the difficulties anticipated can be overcome.
Amendment (by Mr. Gregory) - by leave - temporarily withdrawn.
-I move -
That all the words after “ exported “, clause 12 (1) of the agreement, to the end of the clause, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “each of the State wheat boards shall pay to the Australian Wheat Board one-half of the amount of such excess. The Australian Wheat Board may allow and pay portion of such moneys to any State wheat board to which the Australian Wheat Board considers an allowance should be made to meet any exceptional circumstance andthe balance of the money shall be distributedbetween the respective State wheat boards in proportion to the quantities of wheat received for the season “.
Before my amendment is put I should like to know what will be the position with regard to Western Australian freights. As the bill stands that State could claim those freights.
– The honorable member has already spoken twice to the amendment. He may ask a question, but not make a statement.
Amendment (by Mr. Gregory) negatived.
That the words “subject to sub-clause (2) “, clause 12 (1) of the agreement, be omitted.
Amendment (by Mr. Parker Moloney) agreed to -
That paragraph (c), clause 12 (2) of the agreement be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “ (c) from an excess in the average price foundby the Australian Wheat Board as being the average price obtained during the three seasons terminating with the season 1930-1931 in respect of wheat sold for use or consumption within the State over the average price so found in respect of those seasons as being that obtained in respect of wheat of that State sold for export.”.
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added after clause 12 of the agreement: - “ (3.) Any determination of the average net realization of wheat for the purposes of this clause shall be made by the Australian Wheat Board.”.
The intention is to make it clear that the determination of the average net realization provided for in sub-clause. (1), clause 12, is a matter for the Australian Wheat Board.
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule also verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 21st July (vide page 4175).
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
– The group with which I am associated registered its protest against these proposals because the Government has meekly submitted to the conditions laid down by the Senate. My colleagues and I believe that the clauses which provide for conciliation commissioners and committees willbe useless to industrial organizations, and we wash our hands of the bill, which is not worth a packet of crackers to industrialists.
– I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), though for different reasons, that it is very unlikely that the provision of this bill will be of any advantage to the industry of Australia, or that it will serve the real interests of industrial organizations of this country.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Validation of appointment of conciliation committee).
– The Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) intimated that he would introduce an amendment that would make it plain that this clause is not intended to invalidate a certain judgment of the High Court and of the Arbitration Court.
– I believe that an amendment has been prepared, but, owing to the unusual hour at which the bill is brought up for consideration, the draftsman is not available. Feeling that it was giving effect to the spirit and intent of the measure, and in an endeavour to assist industrial organizations, the Government has facilitated the appointment of these committees. I assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that steps will be taken to provide for the suggested amendment in another place.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Assessment. Act 1922-1930.
Bill brought up by Mr. Scullin and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until
Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
House adjourned at 7.32 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 July 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310723_reps_12_131/>.