13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Unsigned Newspaper Comments
– Has the attention of the Acting Leader of the House been drawn to the fact that a number of newspapers are publishing comments on federal politics and federal members during the progress of a federal byelection without complying with the provisions of the electoral law, which provide that such articles must be signed with the names and addresses of the writers?
– I was not aware that the procedure indicated by the honorable member was being followed by some newspapers. I shall instruct that investigations be made into the matter, so that the electoral law may be enforced.
Government’s Developmental Policy
-Will the Minister for the Interior state whether it is a fact that a prospectus has been issued embodying the proposals of the Government for the development of the Northern Territory? If it has, when will it be available to honorable members?
– A prospectus was prepared a few days ago, and is now being printed. Proof copies of it have just been made available to Ministers. I expect that it will be available for general distribution within the next few days.
Breach of Postal Regulations
– In view of the disclosure made yesterday that the copy of last Sunday’s issue of the Sunday Sun, which was handed to Mr. Speaker, did not bear the imprint of the names of the printer and publisher, will the Postmaster-General instruct the officers of his department to take action against Associated Newspapers Limited for a breach of the postal regulations ?
– The Government naturally noted during the. discussion yesterday that the names of the printer and publisher of the Sunday Sun did not appear on last Sunday’s issue. Steps will be taken to ascertain the exact position, particularly along the lines suggested by the honorable member.
Purchase of American Recordings
– Is the PpstmasterGeneral aware whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission recently contracted to purchase a series of longplaying American electrical recordings, specially produced and suitable for use only on the national service, thus displacing Australian artists, notwithstanding the fact that the national stations receive a considerable proportion of the revenue derived from listeners’ licence-fees for the purpose of providing entertainment by live artists?
– I am not intimately acquainted with the work of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and am, therefore, unableto say whether it has purchased the recordings referred to, but I shall make inquiries along the lines indicated.
– In view of the favorable financial position of the Postal Department, will the Postmaster-General give further consideration to the question of restoring the concessions formerly granted to hospitals in connexion with telephone rentals, which were withdrawn some time ago?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
Imports by Belgium.
– Has the Minister for
Commerce yet received a reply to his cable to the High Commissioner, inquiring as to the position in regard to Australian barley entering Belgium ?
– The High Commissioner has intimated to me officially that he has made representations on this matter to the Belgian Government, through the British Foreign Office.
Sydney “ Sun “ : Comments on Parliamentary Allowance Decision.
.- I rise on a question of privilege. Yesterday, by a unanimous vote of honorable members of this House, the publishers of the Sydney Sunday Sim were adjudged guilty of contempt. They have aggravated the offence complained of, by the publication of the following sub-leader in the latest issue of their daily newspaper: -
As an example of how one abuse .of power may lead to another, the people of the Commonwealth are invited to consider in what manner members of the Federal Parliament take the protests voicing the taxpayer’s mind against the salary grab.
The M101 0 venomous tongues of the Parliament are spilling their venom regardless of facts, and among the suggestions of our legislators is that pressmen shall be deprived of their right to report Parliament, and of their living, while for editors and publishers there are threats of imprisonment in the dungeons of Canberra.
The public may judge whether these threats are the result of honest indignation on behalf of the public or of a certain uneasiness of conscience, a.nd a feeling that the press has better guaged popular opinion than the legislators in this sordid business of the dipping of unauthorized hands into the public treasury. The vapourings would be ludicrous were they not so pitiful. !Not only has the original offence been aggravated, but the article does not accurately state what occurred in this House yesterday. No honorable member even suggested that pressmen were to be deprived of the right to report the proceedings of Parliament. This article would lead the public to believe that Parliament had done something underhand, and was endeavouring -to cover tip some wrongful action. I suggest that honorable members should show their resentment of this latest attack upon them, and make it plain that the unanimous vote given yesterday cannot lightly be brushed asideby any outside press influence. With a view to proving whether honorable members were sincere in their expressed desire to bring to book those who had brought this Parliament into contempt, I move -
That, in view of the printer and publisher of 8-un Newspapers Limited having been adjudged guilty of contempt, they now be called to the bar of this House forthwith, in order that the House may demand from them an explanation of their conduct, and, if necessary, deal with them as it thinks fit.
That, I think would meet the situation. Probably sufficient was said yesterday regarding the slanderous attack upon honorable members in the last issue of the Sunday Sun. I then said, and I now repeat, that* that attack was made deliberately, in order to divert public attention from the robbery of basic wageearners that was being perpetrated in New South Wales. Honorable members expressed indignation at the imputation of this newspaper that they were robbers, pickpockets, pirates and burglars.
I shall not labour the question, nor delay the important business with which the House has to deal. I urge honorable members to back up the vote which they gave yesterday, by supporting this motion, thus proving that they are sincerely desirous of bringing to book those who have been guilty of maligning members of Parliament, and of bringing this institution into contempt.
.- I second the motion. I took no part in the debate which was held yesterday, because I felt that an expression of opinion by the leaders of the different parties in this House should be sufficient. The vote which was taken at the conclusion of the debate proved that honorable members were unanimously of the opinion that the proprietors of the Sunday Sun were deserving of censure for the article published last Sunday. In that article, honorable members were referred to as thieves, pickpockets, vagabonds and sneaks. One could be pardoned for thinking that, this House having justified the partial restoration of members’ allowances, and expressed its disapproval of » the terms, in which that action was referred to in the Sunday Sun, the proprietors of that newspaper would have expressed contrition, ‘or at least have refrained from further comment of a similar nature. But they have aggravated the offence in the subleader which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has read. That sub-leader says that the vote taken yesterday was an example of how one abuse of power may lead to another. In my opinion, it was clearly demonstrated during the debate that the partial restoration of members’ allowances was not an abuse of power, but an exercise of power which honorable members alone possess. Nor was the action taken yesterday an abuse of power. The Parliament has the right at any time to express its opinion, if an unscrupulous attack is made on the character of its members. Therefore, neither in the restoration of members’ allowances, nor in the action taken yesterday, was there the slightest abuse of power. This latest article also says -
Thi; more venomous tongues in the Parliament are spilling their venom regardless of facts.
Arc we to allow that to be said of the leaders of the different parties in this House? The statements made by those gentlemen yesterday were statements of absolute fact. If honorable members of all parties suffer that insult to their respective leaders without protest, they will deserve whatever the press may say concerning them.
This article also suggests that it is intended to deprive pressmen of the right to report the proceedings of Parliament. No such issue has been raised. I doubt whether any honorable member who spoke yesterday made the slightest reference to the possibility of the press being prevented from reporting the proceedings of this Parliament. The article goes on to say that we intend to deprive pressmen of the right to earn a living. The only reference yesterday to the living of pressmen was made by a member of the party to which I have the honour to belong, when he said that the newspaper mergers in which Associated Newspapers were concerned had resulted in thousands of pressmen having to walk the streets looking for a job. Protest was uttered against the action of Associated Newspapers in dismissing journalists and increasing unemployment in their ranks ; but no word was spoken, or hint given, that any honorable member desired to prevent pressmen from reporting the proceedings of Parliament or desired to rob them of the right to earn a living. The article proceeds -
The public may judge whether these threats arc the result of honest indignation
This paper suggests that the unanimous vote in this House yesterday was not honest indignation, but was prompted by a certain uneasiness of conscience resulting from the revelations in the last Sunday Sun. It goes further, and refers to the “sordid business of the dipping of unauthorized hands into the public treasury”. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) made it clear yesterday that the only authority in this country which has the power either to raise or to lower parliamentary allowances is Parliament itself. Whatever a person may think of the action itself it certainly was not unauthorized. I do not rise for the purpose of bashing the press, for I am not one who resents criticism. The party to which I belong has, for many years, been subjected to the most venomous criticism by these newspapers, and probably for that reason its members are not so affected by press criticism as others may be. The Sun may claim that the article which appeared in its issue last Sunday was justifiable criticism, of Parliament and of its members; but since Parliament has expressed its opinion of that criticism a further challenge to its authority has been issued. Did Parliament mean wha.t it said yesterday ? If the Sydney Sun is not called to account for the article which appeared in yesterday’s issue, it will, no doubt, continue its barrage of infamous abuse of members of Parliament; but if Parliament shows that it was serious in the conclusion at which it arrived yesterday, and deals with the persons responsible for their further contempt and the aggravation of the original offence, the Sun and other newspapers will be more careful in the future in unscrupulously criticizing persons and things in which they do not believe. It is now a question of the supremacy of the press or of the Parliament. A precedent was created yesterday in. this Parliament, when this House found the Sunday Sun guilty of contempt. The original offence has been aggravated, and it is now the duty of Parliament to go further and carry its decision of yesterday to its logical conclusion.
– Both the mover and the seconder of the motion have substantial ground for the course they have taken this morning. The statements of which they complain are -entirely untrue, and constitute an aggravation of an offence concerning which this House came to a unanimous decision yesterday. The object of this newspaper company is clear; in pursuance of the policy of bowelless commercialism which has always characterized it, it is maintaining its attack on this Parliament and its members simply because it believes that by so doing more of its newspapers will be sold. But, although I agree that no more contemptible attitude could possibly be adopted by any journal in any country, I am not convinced that it would be wise to bring the editors of this paper to the bar of the House, because I understand that the editor of the Sunday Sun is not the same person who is the editor of the Sun issued on other days of the week.
– It is the same company.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL. That is so ; but I doubt whether any good purpose would be served by inflicting such an indignity upon the men who were engaged in the mechanical process of writing these attacks, as their appearance at the bar of the House would entail. Are they not in the position of having to write along certain lines, as instructed by the directorate of the newspaper ? I have some sympathy with these men. A few weeks ago I spoke to a journalist who had written some cruel things about myself. I told him that he had known me for over 30 years, first a3 an acquaintance, and, later, as a friend, and I inquired how he could meet me in a friendly way and yet hold the views which he had written about me. He could not answer “ yes “ or “ no “ to my questions, and I was forced to the conclusion that journalism to-day requires that a man shall write what he does not believe in order that more pence may go into the pockets of certain individuals. The pressmen in the gallery of this House see daily the members of this Parliament who are endeavouring to carry out their duties honestly and conscientiously, and I am sure that their opinions regarding them are not those which these articles suggest. They know that the members of Parliament are decent, clean-living citizens, who are trying to do their best, according to their lights, in the positions to which they have been elected. Foi1 those reasons, I suggest that we should direct our attention rather to the directorate of this company, which comprises Sir Hugh Denison, Sir Graham Waddell, Mr. F. H. Tout, Mr. David Roxburgh, Sir John Butters and Dr. Ziele - men for whom I have the highest respect, and whose reputation and character are equal to my own. Do these men agree with what has been written in this newspaper regarding me, or the right, honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), or the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) - to pick out a few at random from honorable members of this House? On other occasions the columns of this newspaper have expressed approbation and praise of public men. When the directors of this company meet us in private life they speak in the highest terms of the work which we are doing in this Parliament. If they do not. agree with what has been written, they should take steps to stop further similar comments in the columns of their newspaper.
The directors of a newspaper have a greater responsibility than i hat’ of accepting positions on tin- directorate, with the emoluments and credit attaching thereto. I admit that they are responsible to their shareholders, and must have regard to the finances of the newspaper which they control; but a. far greater responsibility devolving on them is their duty to the public of Australia, on whose behalf they are controlling a semi-public institution. I say advisedly that the newspapers of Australia are semi-public institutions, for the reason that the taxpayers contribute £1,000,000 a year to them in concessions. The department under my control grants concessions in postal, telephonic and telegraphic rates to ; newspapers amounting to £500,000 a year; and State Govern- moats, by concessions in rail freights and in other ways, contribute a similar sum. An institution which obtains from die public subsidies and concessions amounting to £1,000,000 per annum should ask itself why those subsidies and concessions are granted to it. They should know that the reason is that the newspapers were once regarded as institutions of educational value which had :in elevating influence on the community generally. “We should direct our attention to the directors of this newspaper, and ask whether the vendetta which is being carried on in this scurrilous and contemptible fashion against honorable men in this country, shall be permitted to continue. Why should I, who have been before the public of Australia for 30 years without any charge of dishonorable conduct having been levelled against me, receive, anonymously, a cutting from the Sunday Sun containing the article attacking the honesty of honorable members of this Parliament, with a pointer indicating the word “thief”, and accompanied by the words,1 “What do your wife and daughter think of you?” Other members are getting similar communications. My wife and daughter think of me as the public think of me - as a man who has tried to do his best for the country,’ and who is willing to sacrifice his private and personal interests to that end. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has temperately and fairly presented this matter to the House this morning, and the seconder of the motion has spoken in a similarly restrained way. To their presentation of their case no one can take exception. The matter which they have raised is, however, too important to be dealt with off-hand. Any action taken by this House should be effective and of a salutary nature. T therefore suggest that the motion be “withdrawn for the present, on the understanding that the Government, in consultation with its law advisers and others, will look into the matter which has been raised with a view to adopting the best course, in view of all the circumstances, it is not desirable to assist this newspaper to make more money out of this incident. A course should be followed that will have some effect in maintaining the good reputation of journalism, and will protect decent citizens from swinish attacks of this kind.
– In what way would the carrying of the motion hinder any action that the Government may decide to take?
– As Acting Leader of the House I suggest that the honorable member accept my assurance. I am not desirous of precipitate action which may not be as complete and effective as action taken after the matter has received deliberate consideration.
– The. motion merely gives an indication to the Government that it desires certain action to be taken.
– It indicates definite action in the direction of bringing persons to the bar of the House.
– But it would not prevent the Ministry from taking further action.
– I give the assurance that the fullest consideration will be given to the matter.
.- I do not intend to repeat what I said yesterday about a certain newspaper. The Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Parkhill), and the mover . and seconder of this motion, have spoken in a most reasonable “way, and have made a justifiable protest against the inaccuracy of the report in that journal about what transpired in Parliament yesterday. No suggestion was made by us that men should be deprived of their livelihood, and I agree with the Acting Leader of the House that the responsibility for the reflection upon the Parliament rests not upon the working journalists, but upon those in control of the newspaper. As one who was associated with press work for a number of years, I have a large circle of personal friends among the journalists of Australia, and I have a deep-rooted desire that the press of every country should be free; hut licence cannot be permitted. Like the Acting Prime Minister, I do not agree with the suggestion that .the editors, or anybody else, should be brought to the bar of this House. I would ‘ not agree to anybody being brought here. Opinions should be expressed in this chamber only by those1 who are elected as representatives of the people.
The motion invites the House tq take a certain course of action which it may not be prepared to adopt, and, if it were forced to a division, the wrong impression might be conveyed that the House is not so unanimous to-day as it was yesterday regarding this matter. I endorse every word that has been uttered by the mover and seconder of the motion, and I particularly commend the statement of the Acting Leader of the House. He went to the crux of the whole matter, and therefore I support his request that the motion should be withdrawn for the present, in order to give the Government an opportunity to confer with its legal advisers, and determine the best course to follow. I am not concerned whether the motion is withdrawn or adjourned, but I support the request of the Acting Leader, particularly in view of the absence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham). It is wise that steps should be taken to decide the proper action to take in upholding the honour of this Parliament, not from a vindictive motive, but because of our determination to maintain the dignity of the Parliament and of its members.
Br. EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [11.5].- I add my appeal to that of the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Parkhill) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that the motion should be either adjourned or withdrawn to enable the Government, at its leisure, to give the fullest possible consideration to thematter, so that the wisest action may be taken. If necessary, I am prepared to move the adjournment of the debate to enable that to be done.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mabb) adjourned.
– I have received from the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this morning for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The necessity for providing for the immediate purchase of the excess surplus of the forthcoming wheat crop, and the provision of finance for a subsidy for wheat-growers.”
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
My reason for submitting this motion is the delay that has occurred in formulating a plan to deal with this season’s wheat harvest. We are facing a serious crisis in the history of Australia and of the wheat industry. As the Government has been practically forced into the International Wheat Agreement, which provides for the restriction of exports, and has taken control of the exportable wheat, it is essential that some action should be taken immediately to bring relief to the growers. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) has issued an ultimatum in regard to the control of the crop. He seeks no legislative authority whatever, other than that he assumes control by proclamation by virtue of a power given in the Customs Act, which, I submit, was never intended to confer such power. He intends to issue licences for the export of wheat and flour, and the proposed procedure includes the following:
Licences to export will be subject to conditions. Each licensed exporter will be required to undertake to buy from farmers, so long as they are freely offering wheat for sale, or to hold for farmers and make advances in respect thereof, one bushel of wheat for every two bushels which he is entitled to export during the year from the 1st August, 1933, to the 31st July, 1934, this being necessary to ensure sale for the estimated carry-over on the 1st August, 1934, of 52,500,000 bushels, which is exactly half the export quota.
If at any time stagnation occurs in the movement of wheat, the Minister proposes that certain action shall be taken so long as farmers are “freely offering” wheat; but what will be the position when wheat is being rushed to the railway sidings, as it will be within the next fortnight ? The Government restricts freedom and leaves to the grower no alternative but to “ freely offer “ at any sacrifice. No doubt, the farmers will have to be prepared to accept almost any price that is offering. It is apparent to me that the Minister has been guided more by wheatbuyers, flour-millers and business people generally than by wheat-growers.
– The honorable member should be reasonable.
– The Minister had an opportunity to consult with the wheatgrowers.
– I have consulted with them, and with the honorable member, amongst others.
– The Minister has said that a . consultative council of growers, flour-millers, and exporters will be established. If such a council is to be formed, the representatives of the wheatgrowers should be in the majority, because action is being taken to deal with their product. Are we to give authority to the Minister to control the export of wheat, and merely have a wheat-grower, a wheat-buyer and a flour-miller as a consultative council? This body should be be almost wholly representative of the wheat-growers. The representatives of the growers in this Parliament waited on the Minister regarding this matter, and I was one of those who were more than satisfied that he intended to do all he possibly could in the growers’ interests.. But I fear now that that practical and sympathetic consideration will not be forthcoming, “We agreed that the situation that had arisen was not the fault of the Government; but it has taken ihe responsibility of restricting exports and must, therefore, protect’ the producer. “When the international agreement was entered into we suggested the formulation of a wheat marketing scheme controlled by the growers. I have not advocated control of this land in the past ; but after several years of wretchedly low prices for wheat, and huge losses by the growers, I have come to the conclusion that, while these restrictions are being imposed a marketing scheme is justified, and others who have held views on this subject similar to mine are now unanimous in saying that a marketing board should be appointed for the time being. If action on these lines had been taken immediately the agreement was entered into by the Government, the farmers would have received a price which would have enabled the pool to give them a dividend on the wheat being exported. We suggested, however, that if the Government could not agree to a marketing scheme, a bounty on export should be provided, and we recommended the imposition of a sales tax on flour for that purpose. Such a tax would have little effect on the price of bread. When wheat was selling at 8s. or 9s. a bushel, the price of bread was not very different from the price ruling to-day. So far, however, we have not been told that the Government intends to give any financial assistance to the wheat-growers. Time is the essence of the contractThere should be no delay in making an announcement. Unfortunately, many wheat-growers have already been seriously alarmed by the failure of the Government to make a definite statement on the subject. Within the next fortnight, the farmers will be rushing their wheat to many railway sidings throughout the Commonwealth, but no one knows what is likely to happen in the wheat market. It has been variously estimated that Aust tralia will produce between 20,00,0,000 and 30,000,000 bushels of wheat more than she will be allowed to export under the wheat agreement or consume locally. The Minister himself puts the figure at 30,000,000 bushels. What is to be done with this wheat? The destination of it should be decided early in the season, or the condition of the market will be chaotic. It is absolutely essential that the Government should remove this wheat from the market by purchasing and storing it, or that it should make advances to the farmers on some general scale. If the Government takes possession of this surplus wheat and stores it until the market becomes normal, it will have good security. I am, at the moment, suggesting not that a bounty should be paid, but that effective steps should be taken to safeguard the interests of the farming community in respect of wheat that the Government will not permit to be exported from the Commonwealth. Such steps must be taken early in the season. No doubt the handling of this wheat by the Government would involve big financial operations, but the wheat would be ample security for any money advanced on it. Unless something is done rapidly, the price of wheat must definitely fall to a serious extent for many farmers, realizing that there will be a big carryover, will be only too ready to sell at any price. If that happens, this year’s harvest will be a “ harvest for the speculators and not for the farmers. The responsibility for action rests upon the Government which has restricted the export of wheat from this country. I do not blame the Government for having become a party to the wheat agreement, but for having failed to announce to the farmers what it proposes to do with the wheat that in other circumstances would have been exported. It has been well known, for a long while, that a big surplus would be harvested this year, over and above our export quota and our requirements for local consumption. Surely it is not intended that the growers shall bear the loss involved in the signing of the wheat agreement. The price of wheat is already disastrously low. To-day shippers are offering 2s. 6d. a bushel at ports which is equivalent to 2s. a bushel at railway sidings. That is not a payable price for the producers. The price of wheat in Chicago is 88 cents, which is equal to 3s. Sd. a bushel in sterling. Yet the farmers of the United States of America are going on strike! If the farmers of that country are unable profitably to produce wheat at 3s. Sd. a bushel how can the ‘Australian farmers be expected to make a profit when paid 2s. 6d. a bushel at ports ? “We therefore urge the’ Government to arrange a plan for the purchase of the surplus wheat and contend that if it does so it will have a good asset in the wheat.
But we also ask for a sales tax on flour. Other honorable gentlemen who will speak to this motion will enlarge upon this aspect of the subject and show that the price of wheat has not, in the past, seriously affected the price of bread. When wheat was 8s. 6d. a bushel, bread was being sold at ls. Id. per 4-lb. loaf. It is obvious, therefore, that no great risk would be involved in imposing a sales tax on flour.
It is in the best interests of the country that the farmers should be kept on the land. In fact, if they are forced off their farms/ calamity, must overtake the country, and a great deal of “misery and distress must fall upon all sections of the community, with the result that prosperity will not be recoverable for many years. Wheat cannot be produced for less than 3s. 6d. a bushel. Some people affirm that the cost of production is 4s. 6d. a bushel; ‘but 3s. 6d. is generally looked upon as the minimum. In these circumstances, the demand of the farmers for a guarantee of 3s. a bushel at sidings is surely reasonable. In every tariff debate in this Parliament the Government a.nd its supporters have argued that .manufacturers should be assured of reasonable profits and workers of fair wages. We are entitled to ask, therefore, that the farmers should be assured of reasonable conditions. Consistency demands at least that degree of consideration. But, unless a reasonable price is assured for wheat before wheatbuying, commences,’ many farmers will be adversely affected. Arbitration courts and special tribunals of one kind and another have been operating for many years to ensure that fair conditions shall prevail in secondary industries; but, if the Government persists in its present policy of silence, ruinous conditions will prevail in the wheat industry. For the past four years wheat-growers have had a very bad time in Australia, and few of them, except those on old-established farms, have been able to pay their way. The majority are practically bankrupt, and many, after years of arduous toil, are worse off than those upon the dole. Although many farmers have been expending their capital for the last ten or twenty years on the improvement of their properties, they find themselves to-day with practically nothing for all their work. Yet these men are the foundation of this nation’s wealth and prosperity. If they fail our big cities must also collapse. The primary producers undoubtedly create the greater part of the people’s purchasing power, but are obliged to take tremendous risks. The farmers, for instance, risk floods, fire, drought, and diseases such as smut, take-all, rust and so on. They are also compelled to buy all their requirements in the dearest market of the world and to accept, even in Australia, world’s market price for their wheat. That price is determined after taking into consideration wheat produced in many low-wage countries. Yet there are many people in Australia who, while seeking the fullest protection for their own industries, insist upon the farmer selling his product here at export parity. An alarming change lias occurred in the circumstances of the Australian wheat industry in the lastfew years. In 1927-28, 220 bags of - wheat would purchase a harvester costing £180, but to-day it takes 620 bags to purchase the same machine; one bag of wheat would purchase 50 loaves of bread, whereas to-day it purchases only seventeen loaves. In view of its present policy of protection, the Government cannot consistently fail to .provide assistance for the wheat industry -to ensure that it shall not be carried on at a loss. It is in the interests of the nation, the manufacturers, the traders generally, and the banking and financial institutions of the country, that this industry shall be sustained ami not allowed to collapse. I can logically claim the support of the Government for it, particularly in the interests of the wheat-growers of my own State, especially as the Government so consistently guards tho interests of every other section except, perhaps, the wool-growers. In one year Western Australia exported half the- total exports of wheat from Australia, and in four years its annual exports averaged 66,000,000 centals out of the average of. 113,000,000 centals exported. Practically the whole of the wheat produced in Western Australia has to be exported and sold at world prices, yet the Government now proposes to restrict exports, and the position of the Western Australian farmers, unless assistance is forthcoming, will be such that they will have to sell their wheat at world’s prices. In this circumstance, I submit that it must grant relief by providing a scheme for the removal of the surplus wheat from the market, and for financial assistance to the industry.
– A Sydney newspaper published a week ago to-day, attributed to one of the most influential men interested in rural .industries in 2sTew South Wales, a statement that neither thu Government, nor the Minister for Commerce had any knowledge of the aspirations pf the wheat producers. But surely no one will deny that we have recently heard sufficient about the aspirations of the wheat-growers from their protagonists in this House to provide us with a great deal of information on the subject. The fact is that this Government is interested in not only the aspirations of the wheat-growers, but also those of the whole constituency of the Commonwealth, l t is the desire of the Government to do what can be done for every industry with out inflicting any injury or doing any unfairness to other industries. The newspaper article to which I have referred also stated that the Minister for Commerce knew nothing about wheat, having never produced any wheat, and was, therefore, unqualified to speak or act for wheat-growers. May I ask whether the honorable member for Swan (Mr.1 Gregory) has ever produced any galvanized iron? I think he has not, but this has not prevented him from discussing this subject time and time again. The honorable gentleman said, in tho course of his speech, that the Government had not consulted the wheat-growers, but he knows that on Friday evening last, I had a consultation with the well-known and accredited representatives of the wheat-growers who sit with the corner party in this chamber. The honorable member was himself among those whom I consulted.
– The Minister did not consult me last Friday evening; that consultation was a fortnight ago.
– Immediately after that- consultation. I consulted in Melbourne with Mr. Bussau, the vicepresident of the Wheat-growers Federation; Mr. McDonald, the chairman of the South Australian Wheat Pool ; Mr. Tilt, the assistant manager of the Victorian Wheat Pool; and many other representatives of the industry. The Government has not been unmindful of the interests of the wheat-growers. When I spoke on this subject in the House recently, I stated that the Government realized- that if the price of wheat continued at its present low level, some action would have to he taken to relieve the growers; but I pointed out at that time that it was impossible to determine, in October of any year, the exact measure of need that might occur during the ensuing year. I pointed out that in October, 1931, the average export price of wheat was 2s. 4d. a bushel, but that it rose in November to 2s. lOd. a bushel, and in December to 3s. 3d. a bushel, anc! that it remained at 3s. 2d. a bushel throughout the balance of the season. I now have even better evidence in support of the Government’s attitude. The following table gives the price of wheat on the 18th October, and to-day: -
Perhaps the price of futures is an even surer guide to the prospects of the coming season. The following table gives the price for futures on the dates indicated.
Those figures indicate the wisdom of the attitude which the Government has adopted. Very careful attention is being given to the market to ascertain what price wheat is likely to bring during the season. The Government is under obligation to watch the market carefully in the interests of the general taxpayers, who will have to provide any money above the market price which the Government might .grant for the assistance of this industry. Those figures prove that the Government was justified in taking the action that it did. It has been claimed that the only method by which the wheat industry can be adequately provided for during the coming season is by means of a compulsory pool. I have received that suggestion from many sources, including the honorable member for Swan. I have here a copy of the Sydney Telegraph, of the 23rd October, in which Mr. W. C. Cambridge, general secretary of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, is reported to have said that “ It is all rot to talk about pools at this time of the season “.
– Was not that statement made because of the lateness of the season ?
– No. The claim is chat it would be three months before the necessary formalities for the establishment of a pool could be completed. When formulating its policy to implement the world, wheat agreement, the Government was actuated by the single purpose of allowing the grower to have the same freedom during this season as he has had during any other season when no such agreement was in operation. When I made my speech to the House in connexion with the world wheat agreement, I said that the Government believed that its plan would accomplish what it was designed to do, and added that if it failed to do so the Government would take any additional action that it found to be necessary. I intimated that, if necessary, the Government was prepared to enter the wheat-buying market and ensure that the farmer would receive at least world parity for his crop.
The honorable member for Swan said this morning that, as the result of the action of the Government, the growers would be stampeded into selling their wheat at any old price. He ignores the Government’s assurance that it will take the responsibility of seeing that farmers get export parity for their product.
Those who are urging the establishment of a compulsory pool are not really voicing the opinions of the wheat-growers of Australia, who for years have had the opportunity to operate through a wheat pool. Experience has shown that, in normal times, farmers do not patronize pools to the extent to which they might, as will be seen from the following figures which relate to crops harvested in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia in 1932-33 :-
A few years ago a pool operated in New South Wales, but ifr has gone out of existence. The table which I have given indicates that growers prefer to have the dual opportunity to deal either through the pool or through wheat merchant’s. That is all that is contemplated by the proposal of the Government - to preserve to growers the right to determine whether they will send their wheat to existing pools or to merchants with whom they have been accustomed to deal.
The honorable member for Swan said a good deal about the tremendous surplus of wheat which we are likely to have this season, and the chaos that will arise from that circumstance. There have been varying estimates regarding the crop for this year, and also what the honorable member described as the “ export surplus “. Particularly have those estimates varied during the last month or six weeks. It has been suggested that the export surplus will represent, something like 30,000,000 bushels. Unfortunately, it will not be anything like that figure. Since the subject was last discussed in this chamber the forecast has been seriously affected by adverse weather conditions; and the latest estimate, based on information gathered from an authoritative source, indicates that we shall have a crop of from 165,000,000’ to 175,000,000 bushels, in which case the surplus will not be more than 15,000,000 or 20,000,000 bushels. That will aggravate the difficulty of carrying out the proposal of the honorable member for Swan, who suggested that the Government should immediately buy the “ excess crop “ - presumably meaning the unexportable surplus. How can he, or any other person, definitely say what that surplus will be? A great deal still depends on the weather conditions of the next week or so.
I desire to reassure honorable members, particularly those directly associated with the wheat industry, that the Government is not neglecting, or even unduly delaying, to take action in this matter. The figures which I have quoted clearly show that there is an upward trend in the value of wheat, and I forecast that, instead of farmers having difficulty in disposing of their crop, they will be loth to sell, preferring to wait and participate in any further advance in price. I assure the House that the Government, which indicated through me only a week or so ago that it was keeping the matter well in mind, will, when it considers that it can safely hypothecate the taxpayers’ money for the purpose, extend the fullest and most sympathetic consideration to the wheat-growers of Australia.
.- I do not propose to say a great deal on the motion, because the subject has been discussed many times in this chamber ; but I must confess that I still find myself in agreement with the proposal that has been submitted by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). The explanation that was given by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), and his assurances of a rising price for wheat, are somewhat encouraging, but they are not yet sufficient to indicate that the rise is likely to be of a permanent nature.
The thing that troubles me because- it troubles the wheat-growers, is what ‘will be the position of the growers who want cash - and 95 per cent, of them do.
– A compulsory pool would not give them cash.
– Rightly or wrongly the Government has restricted the export of wheat. In my opinion, the action was wrong; still, it has been taken. Having accepted the responsibility of restricting the export of wheat, surely it is the responsibility of the Government to purchase that portion of the. crop which is unexported, or to dispose of it through whatever channel the Government thinks best. The Minister gave an assurance, and I accept it to the extent that it shows that the Government is endeavouring to take steps to see -that the farmer gets world parity for his wheat; hut. I want to know when he will get it. Does the Government also give an assurance that the farmer will immediately receive world parity for the whole of his wheat? If not, there is nothing to prevent farmers who are in need of cash from selling below world parity. That is what the honorable member for Swan meant when he spoke of a possible stampede. The assurance of the Minister is not a definite one that the Government will undertake to take over Australia’s surplus wheat at export parity, place it in store, and pay the grower in cash. Unless that is done growers, because they are in need, will rush their wheat on to the market and sell it to private buyers below export parity, and that is apt to cause great hardship. If the Government is simply going to take over and store Australia’s surplus wheat, financing it as would be done by a pool, thatis by making a preliminary advance, the problem will be that growers will prefer to take cash even if the price is lower than to wait for a final dividend.
– How would the right honorable gentleman provide for groAvers under a compulsory pool?
-I would provide for them in accordance with present circumstances, and suggest that the wheat should be placed into an existing pool and financed at to-day’s world parity, irrespective of whether the Government sustains a loss or not. The very fact that the Government has prevented persons from exporting their wheat places on it the responsibility to have that’ wheat stored or put in silos, or to finance it through the ordinary channels of the voluntary pool, or even through private buyers, at . the same time ensuring that the farmers are paid in cash at the price that they would have received had they been allowed to export. That is a fair and. reasonable proposal.
– I agree with every word the right honorable gentleman has uttered on this subject.
– I am glad of that. Tt is not often the honorable member and I arc in agreement. During the war, when we had wool and wheat pools, the Commonwealth Bank financed producers of those commodities to the extent of over £100,000,000. And as the Minister well knows that could be done to-day on the security of the wheat crop.
In normal times neither a compulsory nor a voluntary pool is able to give an advance to the full value of a farmer’s wheat, as a margin has to be kept for safety. That is right in ordinary circumstances. But these are not ordinary circumstances; they arc abnormal conditions imposed upon the growers by the action of the Government, whether rightly or wrongly.
The Minister has quoted figures to show that only 35 per cent. of the wheat produced in Victoria last year went into a voluntary pool.
– He did not allow for seed.
– Even allowing for seed it shows that a comparatively small portion of the wheat grown in that State goes into the farmers’ own pool, but I remind the Minister that there was a time when the proportion was high.
– Eighty per cent. used to go intothe pool in Western Australia.
– There is an explanation of the figures that were given by the Minister, and to me it is a simple one; it is the need of the growers to have cash. When they were not in such extreme need for cash they put their wheat into voluntary pools. To-day buyers come along with cash and buy the crop, giving the farmer the full amount. The financial position of a pool does not permit that to be done. But if the Government stood behindthe voluntary pool and indicated that it would take all the wheat, financing it at world parity through the Commonwealth Bank, the story would be a different one. And that is the action that should be taken. With regard to the subsidy, if the price of wheat is rising - and we hope it is - then the 3s. guarantee will cost the Government nothing. If, on the other hand, the price is not rising, then is 3s. too much to give the men who grow wheat? I suggest that it is not. We have striven to maintain a certain standard of living for Australia, but unfortunately that standard has recently fallen. Every section of the community has had to accept sacrifices, but there is hardly another section which has suffered tothe same extent as the wheat-growers. I have always in. mind the fact that when the nation was in peril, the wheat-growers made the readiest response to the appeal for increased production for export purposes. I have heard it said that the growers have been betrayed by the . governments which appealed to them to grow more wheat. So far as I am concerned, as head of the Commonwealth Government which made the appeal, I did not betray the growers. We did all that was possible, and pursued our policy to assist the growers, until finally we provided them with a subsidy of £3.500,000. It would be a dreadful thing for Australia if we were to reduce our acreage of wheat, or cut down our production. Therefore, wo are justified in raising this matter now in the National
Parliament, and asking that action be taken by the National Government to assist the growers.
.- This is a matter which should engage the earnest attention of the Government.
– Another wheat-grower!
– I come from a State which is more interested in the production of wheat than any other in the Commonwealth, and though I represent the capital city of that State, it is dependent for its prosperity, to a very large extent, upon the wheat-growing industry. The honorable member who made that interjection is apparently one of those who thin k that the wheat-growers should be prepared to carry on their business on the basis of world parity prices; but world parity has no application to secondary industry. In regard to secondary industries, only internal wages and the high cost of living are taken into consideration when fixing an Australian price for the article made in Australia. Those who are so fanatically devoted to the interests of secondary industries should be prepared to apply the same principle to the wheatgrowers, the men who are actually bringing capital into the country, and not merely taking advantage of the local market.
Tho commission which inquired into the tariff in 1927 estimated that the cost to Australia of protecting her secondary industries was £26,000,000 a year. Today, it is probably much more, because duties have since been raised. That subsidy is being paid year after year, but the wheat industry has received only two grants totalling £5,000,000. Some honorable members grumble at the giving of even that trifling assistance although the industry has had four years of bad prices, and growers are in a deplorable financial condition. The income tax returns show that, for some years past, the profits of the wheat-farmers, and of others on the land, have been going down, whereas those of persons engaged in manufacturing enterprises have been going up.
I am satisfied that the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) is sympathetic towards the wheat farmers. Two weeks ago I asked him in this House what the Government proposed to do for those who produced wheat over and above the quota provided for in the international agreement. The Minister then said that the Government would protect the growers of surplus wheat, who would not suffer any disadvantage as the result of the Government agreeing to restrict exports.
– I repeat that assurance now.
– There is no need to keep hammering at that subject, seeing that we have received the premise of the Minister that the growers will not suffer as the result of this agreement. I agree that some form of direct assistance to the growers will be necessary, and the figure of 3s. a bushel at sidings has been mentioned. Of course, it is somewhat, early) before the probable surplus and average price are known, for the Government to make a definite statement regarding the extent of the financial relief it is prepared to give. However, I accept the assurance of the Minister and of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), that the Government will not be unmindful of the interests of the wheatgrowers when full information is available, and that provision will be made to ensure to the growers a price, not sufficient, perhaps, to recompense them for their labours, but enough to encourage them to continue in production.
Some honorable members have stated that too much wheat is grown in Australia and that the remedy is to allow the less-productive areas to go out of production. They are opposed to the making of any grants to the wheat industry, but what will be the position in Australia if a considerable section of the wheat-growers are compelled to walk off their farms ? They will have to migrate to the towns and cities to swell the ranks of the unemployed, so that all sections of the community will suffer. Therefore, from the point ‘of view of national economy, it would be disastrous to allow any considerable area of wheat-growing land to go out of cultivation. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has performed a useful service in bringing this matter forward now, not because it was necessary to remind the Minister of what ought to be done, but because all members of this House should be made to realize the need for doing something to assist the men who are developing the outer areas of Australia.
.- I do not think that the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) would wilfully make a mis-statement, but when he said that the present price of wheat was 2s.11½d. a bushel he left it to be inferred that farmers at the present time were receiving that price. According to the latest market reports, parcels are quoted at 2s. 9d.,and truck lots from 2s. 10½d. to 2s. l1d. Shippers are offering 2s. 6d. for wheat on trucks at “Williamstown, which is equivalent to a price of approximately ls. l1d. to the growers.
– I quoted the figures for the 18th October and for to-day, and they show that there has been an advance of 3d. a bushel.
– The Minister did not say that wheat was being sold at 2s. 6d. a bushel on trucks at Williamstown. That is the export price to-day. The Minister said that he had consulted with the representatives of the growers. There are between 60,000 and 70,000 growers in Australia, and how did the Minister go about consulting their representatives? There are six big wheat merchants in Australia, and one wonders how many of those he interviewed. My opinion is that the Government’s plan is based entirely on advice received from the wheat merchants.
– That is quite wrong.
– I am certain that, under the Government’s policy, the growers, the men who sweat to produce the wheat, will be allowed no say in the disposal of their product.
– They would have had no say if the honorable member’s proposal for a compulsory pool had been adopted.
– If the Government had had any courage it would have adopted the policy of a compulsory pool.
– The farmers do not want a compulsory pool.
– We do want it. So far as we can learn, the carry-over on the 1st August, 1933, was 42,000,000 bushels, and this year’s harvest, according to the official estimates which we accept, will be 175,000,000 bushels, a total of 217,000,000 bushels. Our export quota is 105,000,000 bushels, which, with 50,000,000 bushels for seed, feed and food, makes a total of 155,000,000 bushels for which there is a market, leaving a carry-over of 62,000,000 bushels. The normal carryover during the last three years has been 30,000,000 bushels, so that we are going to have an excess carry-over next year of 32,000,000 bushels. Under the agreement we can continue to export all or portion of this 62,000,000 bushels on and after the 1st August, 19.34; ibut whatever proportion may be exported will reduce the Australian quota for 1934 to that extent. If this season’s crop estimate is correct, we shall have an exportable surplus of 50,000,000 bushels after providing for home consumption requirements to the end of December, 1934. Consequently, our exportable surplus for the year ending the 31st July, 1935, will be limited to the difference between 50,000,000 bushels - our surplus carry-over for 1933-34 - and the quota allowed, namely, 150,000,000 bushels, which really means that only 100,000,000 bushels ‘of the 1934-35 harvest can he exported before our quota for that se’ason is filled. We have had three bountiful but unprofitable wheat seasons during the last three years, with an average of about 205,000,000 bushels per annum, and at the moment it appears as if we may harvest this season 175,000,000 bushels, and perhaps more. After four successively good wheat years, we might reasonably gamble on the fifth year - 1934-35 - not being up to the average of the previous four. I am inclined to think that the Government is gambling on the price and the probable production. If there is any material decrease in production, we may be able to absorb our surplus carry-over. That is in brief the statistical position, and from the growers’ view-point it is anything but satisfactory. A conference, consisting of representatives of eighteen principal exporting and importing countries, considered the measures to be taken to adjust the supply of wheat to effective world demand, and to eliminate abnormal surpluses which have been depressing the wheat market, and also to bring about a rise of and stabilization of prices at a level which would be remunerative to the farmers and fair to the consumers. Personally, I do not favour restriction of acreage or of production; ‘but, in view of all the circumstances, the agreement entered into between the Government and other countries concerned is reasonably satisfactory if the Government would only adopt proper measures to implement it. The Government is sitting back waiting to see if the price will rise. If the Minister cai ‘ say how price levels can be raised under this agreement between the principal exporting countries, I should like him to tell me. This is the first time in history that the representatives of the principal wheat-exporting countries have met for the specific purpose of endeavouring to raise world prices. If the representatives of nations can meet for the specific purpose of providing quotas, which will not accomplish the object in view, they can proceed a step further, and decide that no wheat shall be shipped from any of the exporting countries until a certain minimum price is paid.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I submit that the International Wheat Agreement recently entered into by the Government will not achieve the object desired. I am opposed to any arrangement restricting the production of any commodity, because the people of this or1 of any other country cannot improve their position by producing less. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) suggested that it is possible for an agreement to be entered into between various exporting countries to fix the export price of wheat. I contend that the calamitous position in which the wheat industry finds itself to-day is due largely to actions such as that to which the honorable member referred. A few years ago compulsory pools were formed in the United States of America and in Canada, with the object of raising and maintaining a high price for wheat. That was the beginning of the fall of wheat* prices generally. Those engaged in the wool industry, with which I am more intimately associated, have avoided the necessity for pools, price fixing and other such schemes, and although they have had their difficulties, are to-day receiving a fair price for their wool. I realize that in accepting; thi* agreement, the Government was not. fol lowing the dictates of its own wishes. We have evidence of that in the statements of Mr. Bruce at the World Economic Conference, but owing to the exigencies of the situation the Government was forced to accept some restriction of wheat exports. I accept that position. The Government, having been forced’ into this very undesirable and unpleasant position, should avoid the urge from many quarters for the establishment of compulsory pools. Honorable members who say that wheat-growers desire compulsory pools should remember that on two occasions when a vote of the wheatgrowers in one State at least was taken, the proposal was turned down, showing that, as a body, they do not favour compulsory pools. The Government, which is committed to the agreement, is under a certain obligation to the farmers, and in considering the scheme we must separate its two different phases. The agreement with respect to the export quota is one feature, but the assistance, which it may and probably will be necessary to render to farmers, is an entirely different matter. The Government has given the fullest possible assurance of security to farmers, as has been urged by previous speakers, who have said that owing to their present financial position many of the wheat-growers will be compelled to sell at less than world’s parity. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), on behalf of the Government, has announced that it will see that those who wish to sell will receive world’s parity. It has been said that pools will not be in a position to make full advances to the wheat-growers who place their wheat in pools, and that if a pool wants to sell at world’s parity, the Government will be prepared to take the wheat from it. In these circumstances, the allegation that farmers may be compelled to accept below world’s parity has no foundation in fact. We have not yet heard what steps the Government proposes to take in this direction. As a conference of those interested in the subject is to be held in Canberra next week, the Minister should make a definite announcement that the necessary machinery has been set up to enable the Government to buy when the necessity arises so that the farmers may be. assured that they will not suffer from this agreement, which has been reluctantly entered into by the Government. In regard to the suggestion that the Government should give a guaranteed price of 3s., while . I agree that it is necessary that the farmers should receive sufficient to enable them to carry on their industries, I also suggest that on account of the experience we have had in past years, owing to widely fluctuating prices, the Government should, at this juncture, refrain from making any announcement as to a guaranteed price. If it were to announce a guaranteed price of 3s. a bushel, would that guarantee automatically cease when wheat reached 3s. a bushel? If wheat went oyer that price a farmer might, in view of the security offered, hold his wheat for a, higher price, and if the price subsequently dropped below that figure, regard it as an obligation, on the Government to pay him 3s., although he had had the opportunity to obtain that price in the open market. I urge upon the Government the real necessity for assessing the amount required to allow farmers to continue in the industry. I agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) that it would be most disastrous for this country if production were allowed to lag to any extent. It is difficult to assess the actual cost of wheat production in Australia, but probably the most complete and accurate estimate is that of the controller of debt adjustment in South Australia, who states that the cost of producing wheat varies considerably in different districts, and also according to the efficiency or otherwise of the methods employed in production. That estimate shows that, by and large, the cost of production of wheat in that State is about 3s. a bushel.
– -The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I heartily support the action of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I listened with great attention to the remarks of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride), .and his contribution to the debate was ‘undoubtedly useful. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart.) has assured us that the Government is not unmindful of the position of the wheat-growers. I admit that lie has given much thought to this matter, but the warmth with which he replied to the criticism directed at the Government for its delay in giving assistance to the wheat-growers was quite unnecessary. We know that the delay is not ‘ his fault entirely, because the money has to bc found by the Treasury, and Cabinet has to agree to its expenditure. The Government should do what has been done on other occasions. It should guarantee to the grower a price which will enable him to stop on his farm.
– That was not done last year.
– Last year the farmers received assistance in cash, but this year anything le3S than a guarantee of 3s. a bushel to the farmers will not meet the position. The Minister has read a set of tables to show that the price of wheat has advanced during the last few months.
– During the last ten days.
– If the Minister is satisfied that the price will advance progressively, then there is no reason why the Government should not guarantee a price of 3s. a bushel. The position of this industry is worse than that of any other because, although good seasons have been experienced, the price of wheat has fallen below the cost of production. Even with a guarantee of 3s. a bushel, the farmer would have to exercise the utmost economy in order to remain on the laud. The Industries Assistance Board of Western Australia, which has in the past been of considerable assistance to the farmers there, has had 1,000 farms thrown back on its hands in recent times. Western. Australia is a new State, and its agricultural development is practically at the pioneering stage, yet 1,000 farmers have been forced to allow their farms to revert to the Industries Assistance Board.
– Does the honorable member, in referring to a guarantee of 3s. a bushel, mean at the siding or at the port?
– I am referring to the, guarantee of 3s. at the siding, which would be roughly 3s. 6d. at the port. South Australia has some of the best wheat-farmers in the world, mainly of German descent. We know that they are good farmers because many of them have taken up land in Western Australia. Even in South Australia, 3,000 farmers have had to be assisted by the Government to enable them to remain on the land. In Victoria, 2,000 farmers are receiving what amounts to a weekly dole. This is a national problem, and one which has to be solved, not only by Australia, but also by other parts of the world. The methods adopted by the United States of America to assist industry there may be open to question, but President Roosevelt has undoubtedly exhibited great courage in attempting to place ‘ the wheat industry on a better basis, by levying a tax on milling. It is termed the processing tax, and enables the Government to return to the farmer an allowance of 30 cents a bushel. Figures were quoted by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) this morning showing that in Chicago the price of wheat at par is equivalent to 3s. Sd. sterling, or 4s. 7d. in Australian currency. Yet, in the United States of America, the fanners are in a serious position, probably more so than the farmers of this country, because of the overcapitalization of land there, and the tremendous distances between the wheat areas and the seaboard. So serious is the position that the farmers of the United States of America are practically on the verge of revolution. We learn from the press that large bodies of the wheat-growers of that country have declined to sell their products.
– Was not similar action taken in Western Australia last year ?
– Yes. A split developed in the Primary Producers Association and, as a result, the Wheatgrowers Union was formed, the members of which, owing to the stress of circumstances, decided to take direct action. They refused to load wheat at many sidings and tried to prevent others from doing so. Their efforts ultimately broke down, because most of the farmers were forced to realize upon their crop immediately it was harvested. The Government must assist the farmers, because if they go off the land they will go on the dole, and, as a result, the whole industry will collapse.
– And other industries with it.
– The national edifice will tumble a bout our ears. On other occasions sneers have been directed at me, in my position as a wheat-grower, for being specially interested in obtaining assistance for the farmers; but surely I am entitled to place before honorable members the serious position of an industry of which I have first-hand knowledge, and which is of the most vital importance to Australia. It has been said that the wool industry has had to carry on without assistance, but I would point out that Australia has a monopoly of merino wool, with the exception of a small quantity produced in South Africa. Wheat has no monopoly and has to be sold in the markets of the world.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Swan. (Mr. Gregory), when moving this motion, made a statement to the effect that the surplus wheat must immediately be taken off the market before the farmers begin to sell their wheat. I suggest that that statement is striking evidence of the confusion of thought that exists in the minds of some honorable members who are anxious to direct the Government as to the course it should pursue. The honorable member for Swan is suggesting that the Government should buy surplus wheat, which, of course, does not exist, and may not come into existence ; even if a surplus eventuated, we have no means of estimating its magnitude. That is an example of the wanton and reckless abandon with which some responsible men approach this problem and which should be suppressed in all honorable members. I suggest that the honorable member for Swan is asking the Government to embark on a wild gamble on the future of the wheat market. I maintain that the Government is under an obligation to endeavour to keep the market as steady as possible.
– That cannot be done by the Government.
– It may not be able to steady the market absolutely, but if it accepted the advice of the honorable member for Swan the very object which it had in view would be defeated, because, although the market might improve for the wheatgrowers who are able to sell their wheat early, it would certainly slump for those who have to sell their wheat at the latter part of the selling season. I admit that it may be necessary for the Government to buy wheat; but it should buy, as the Government proposes in this instance, for the purpose of steadying the market in order to sustain the growers in as equitable a manner as possible during the whole of the selling season and not for a speculation.
Some honorable members have strongly advocated a compulsory pool, and I do not know whether they claim to speak for the whole of the wheatgrowers or for merely a particular section of them. It is the definite obligation of the Government to take into consideration the views of the whole of the wheatgrowers. A compulsory pool was in existence in 1921, and a vote was taken among the farmers of New South Wales to ascertain whether they desired its continuance. The result was that 11,683 farmers voted in favour of the continuance of the pool, and 1,782 voted in favour of a return to the system of open marketing. That vote was taken under the conditions similar to those which obtained during the war. In September, 1928, another vote of New South Wales wheat-farmers disclosed that 6,071 were in favour of a compulsory pool and 7,502 against it. In September, 1929. S,795 wheat-farmers voted for the proposal and 5,736 against it. The vote taken in September, 1930, showed 10,406 in favour of a compulsory pool and 6,153 against it. In 1931, 7,277 voted in favour and 9,789 against the establishment of a compulsory pool. I do not wish to argue the merits or demerits of that proposal. All I affirm is that the figures given show that .there is an enormous body of opinion among wheat-farmers in New South Wales emphatically opposed to the establishment of a compulsory pool in that State. I also remind honorable members of what happened to those parliamentary supporters of the Scullin Government who represented wheat-growing areas when they faced the electors shortly after attempting to establish a compulsory Common-wealth pool.
It has been asserted that the Government is delaying unduly in formulating its policy for the assistance of our wheatfarmers. This allegation, I contend, ‘cannot be sustained. In other years proposals had not been made earlier in the season. For instance, when the Scullin Government decided to grant a bounty to wheat-growers, the Governor-General’s assent to the bill, embodying its proposals, was not given until about the 7th November ; and last year when this Government brought forward a scheme for the assistance of wheat-farmers, it was again November before the bill was agreed to. It’ will thus ‘be seen that previous practice favours the present cautious attitude of the Government.
– The special circumstances this year demand immediate action.
– I mention the facts about the Scullin Government’s proposal because, when the Leader of tho Opposition (Mr. Scullin) declared so vehemently this morning that his Government had never let the farmers down, I heard no dissents .from honorable members who should have been fully cognizant of the circumstances. The present Government, is facing problems which, probably, are more intricate than any that have required attention at the hands of previous governments. We ha ve a fluctuating market that is improving almost daily. The Minister has just told us that in the last’ week or ten days the price of- wheat has advanced by about 3d. a bushel.
– To-day’s market is lower.
– Since every increase of Id. a bushel means an additional £750,000 to the wheat-farmers, on an estimated yield of 175,000,000 bushels, the advance of 3d. should give them an additional £2,000,000. In the circumstances no government having a proper realization of its responsibilities, not only to the wheat-growers, but also to the people generally, could, at this juncture, bring forward a definite proposal. Regard must be had for the future possibilities of the market. We should have a more definite indication of the probable trend, and the possibility of the price being stabil- 3 zed at a higher level than it is today, before the Government asks Parliament to sanction an expenditure of perhaps millions of pounds in excess of the amount which the circumstances may ultimately warrant.
.- I have not the slightest doubt of the sincerity of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) in his desire to assist the wheat-growers, but I know that there is a great deal of anxiety among the farmers because of the indefinite nature of the Government’s proposals to assist them. So many letters had been received by members of the party to which I belong that we deemed it necessary to bring this matter before the House without delay. I do not wish to traverse the ground that has been covered by other speakers in this debate. The Minister mentioned the present price for wheat, and spoke of the improving outlook. Present market rates, if put on a gold basis, represent ls. 4d. a bushel, the lowest price on record in the history of wheat-growing in this country. L’u view of the importance of the industry fo Australia, it is essential that something should be done immediately to help the growers and enable them to meet their liabilities. 1 am glad to know that the Minister fully realizes the seriousness of the position, and that the Government contemplates taking some action to meet it. Numerous proposals have been submitted, some from honorable members on my right, and others from members of my own party. One is that the Government should guarantee wheat-growers 5s. 6d. a bushel for home consumption ; another is that it should guarantee 3s. a bushel all round at country sidings. It would not be possible to put either proposal into effect without control of the wheat. I admit, of course, that the Government cannot do everything, but all are, I think, agreed that it should do whatever may be possible to meet the position that has arisen. If the Government guaranteed 8s. a bushel at country sidings, and if this season’s wheat marketed totalled 160,000,000 bushels, it is estimated that the> Government would have to find an additional £8,000,000 to recoup wheat-growers for the difference between the guaranteed price and export parity. I am afraid that would be beyond the capacity of the Government, either by further direct taxation or by indirect taxation; and I am averse from any proposal to borrow or mortgage the future to provide a bounty for- the current season. Whatever is done should, I believe, be met from the income of this year. If the- Government would agree to pay a subsidy equivalent to 6d. a bushel, it could finance it by imposing a sales tax on flour. This would not materially increase the cost of bread to consumers, .because 2s. 4d. a bushel for wheat represents only Id. on every 2-lb. loaf of bread. Since the average consumption of bread per family is approximately eight loaves a week, the adoption of this plan would mean an addition of 8d. a week to the family budget. The resultant advantages to the community would be well worth the extra cost, because if the wheat industry could be placed on a safer and sounder basis, additional employment would be provided in so many directions, the demand for superphosphates would improve, revenue from railway freights would begin to mount, machinery makers and, indeed, all traders would benefit, and there would be a general return to prosperity. On the present prices for wheat and flour, the cost of bread to Australian consumers is too high, and if it were shown that, following the adoption of the proposal which I have made, the price of bread further increased, action could be taken by the Government to prevent exploitation. Three years ago, when wheat was down to ls. 7£cL a bushel, bread was being sold over the counter at 5id. per 2-lb. loaf ; but, by gristing wheat, I was able to arrange with my baker to supply my requirements at the equivalent of 2d. a loaf. The bakers, as is well known, are under the control of the millers’ combine. If a journeyman baker decided to start in the ‘business for himself, and if he attempted to sell bread .at prices lower than’ those charged by other bakers, his supply of flour would be cut off by the millers. The Government should prevent this domination. The price charged for bread should be reasonable. We affirm that the Government could subsidize wheat-farmers to the extent of 6d. ‘a bushel and finance the subsidy on an acreage basis by means of a sales tax on flour without rendering necessary any increase in the price of bread.
– Is the honorable member referring to the Federal or a State government?
– The Federal Government, with the co-operation of State governments, could put such a scheme into operation, and enable the wheat-growers to meet their commitments and carry on their industry.
The Minister has told the House that to ensure the carrying out of the wheat agreement, which fixes the export quota for Australia, a proclamation would be issued under the Customs Act prohibiting the export of grain and flour except under permit. He added that licences would be issued to all exporters, that quotas would be allotted, that exporters of flour and grain would be required to furnish particulars of their exports of these commodities, and that licences to export would be subject to certain conditions. The proposal submitted this morning by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will make unnecessary any of the restrictions mentioned by the Minister. All that is necessary is that the Government should get into the market early in the delivery season and relieve it of the anticipated surplus over the stipulated export quota for this season. The Minister has also declared that if exporters and merchants did not stand up to their obligations and if they did not purchase freely from wheat-farmers, action would be taken against them. When conditions arise justifyingGovernment intervention, it will be too late. How can the Government compel wheatmerchants to buy wheatin February or March at a price which might expose them to the risk of loss when they are allowed to export it in August? That position might arise. A surplus of wheat on the Australian market would have the same effect as a surplus of sheep in a fountry stock market. The glut would inevitably weaken the price.
– Then the Government would step in and pay the wheat-farmers world’s parity.
Mr.NOCK. - Government action in March or April next would he too late, because the bulk of the wheat is delivered to merchants by the end of January, and the export quota may by then have been filled. If, by purchasing earlier in the season, the Government took the anticipated surplus off the market, it would leave an open market for merchants and, because of the competition, farmers would have some assurance of receiving export parity. There would then be no necessity for the issue of export licences, or for interference in any way, and full and free competition would be assured.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- The subject before the House raises two questions - what action is necessary to ensure that the international wheat agreement will cause the least injury to Australian wheat-farmers, and what assistance those farmers require to continue their operations in the present very serious position of the wheat industry. I dissociate myself from any criticism that has been directed personally against thentheMinister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart). I do not consider it essential to the consideration of the wheat problem that the Minister handling the subject should be a wheat-grower, although he might be better equipped for the task if he were. The honorable member for Parramatta has always brought to the consideration of problems of this character a vast fund of commonsense, business capacity and experience, and real sympathy. But the steps which, on behalf of the Government, he proposes to take, to implement the international wheat agreement, make one wonder whether the Government’s policy in regard to wheat marketing, and trade and commerce generally, is directed according to definite principles. The Minister has said that legislation is not needed for the licensing of exporters of wheat; that that can be done by proclamation. On a previous occasion, the honorable gentleman enumerated the details. He then said that permission to export wheat would he given conditionally on merchants handling for storage or speculative purposes a certain quantity of wheat to every two bushels exported by them. To my mind; that step in the direction of government control and regulation is beyond anything experienced in Australia except during the war period. It surely should be a fundamental principle of any administration which claims to be reluctant to embark on government control of, and interference with, industry, that when such action is unavoidable, it should be taken legislatively and not by means of a proclamation at the whim of a. minister or a government. It is not difficult to imagine the dangers that might beset an industry if a minister with avowedly socialistic leanings had this precedent, to guide him; one’ as ruthless as the ex-Premier of New South Wales could point to it as justification for turning trade and industry upside down. The Cabinet appears to have no trading sense ; and it has definitely declined the cooperation of members of the Country party, despite the fact that those members have much in common with the Government’s general policy for the maintenance of private enterprise.
But apart from the general principle involved, there is also the question whether the proposed regulations can protect the interests of the wheat-grower. The Minister has said that the Government is prepared to purchase wheat should the need to do so arise. That proposal may have the effect of protecting the farmers, so long as the Government is prepared to make these purchases at any time during the season, and can let the farmers know, from time to time, at what figure London parity stands, so that they may protect themselves against merchants who will not pay the full price. I shall not, at present, either endorse or condemn the Government’s scheme, because the details need much more elaboration and clarification. I do not like the mixture of intense government control on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the uncertainty as to the extent to which the Government is prepared to support the market. When purchasing wheat, merchants must make some allowance for the risk that they take. Even though that amounted to no more than one halfpenny a bushel, it would be a serious matter to the wheat-grower with the price of wheat at less than 2s. a bushel. The
Minister quoted- certain figures to indicate the rise that has taken place in wheat prices. I am certain that he did not either intend or attempt to mislead the House; but care must be taken to avoid the confusion of prices at the seaboard with those paid at railway sidings. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the price of wheat to-day is on the basis of ls. 10-Jd. a bushel at railway sidings.
So long as it is definitely understood that, in case of emergency, the Government is prepared to assist the wheat industry, no objection can be raised to its awaiting accurate information concerning the probable harvest before announcing the nature and extent of its assistance. At the moment it is difficult to gauge the Government’s intentions. We have its general assurance that it will render assistance if it is required; but we have no idea of what it ‘considers may be necessary. On these general matters the Government should be able to make an early pronouncement. The wheat-farmers are in the dark, and inclined to become panicky. Already in some portions of South Australia deliveries, of the new season’s wheat have taken place.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The party to which I belong is interested in the wheat position, because it realizes that the farming community has rendered wonderful service to this country. It desires to assist the wheat-growers in their present difficulty, the causes of which are both national and international. But while the party is prepared to assist the wheat-farmers on this occasion, it is of the opinion that the farmers should be told that subsidies of this nature cannot be continued season after season. The position is that Australia, in common with other wheatproducing countries, has lost a considerable portion of its overseas market, due to the policy of greater agricultural development which many European countries have adopted during recent years. As a result of their experience during the war, when they were practically, on the verge of starvation because they had not developed their own agriculture sufficiently to ‘ make themselves independent of outside food supplies, they have decided to encourage their peasant farmers by erecting customs barriers and, in some instances, paying subsidies on production. This policy has increased their home production of wheat, with a consequent decrease of imports. The proposal to control the export of wheat is not ne% for, apparently, a determined effort of that nature wa3 made in Europe as far back as 1931. Some very interesting sidelights on that aspect of the problem are contained in the following extracts from the October circular issued by the Bank of New South “Wales: -
At tho International Wheat Conference held in London in 1931, the Director of the Swiss Farmers Union suggested a council elected by the exporting countries, which would set export quotas to which these countries were expected to pledge themselves. In 1031, the whole project of regulating supply broke on the obstacle of Soviet Russia’s refusal to restrict production.
There is a possibility of this wheat agreement also breaking down because of the desire of Russia to increase her wheat > exports with a view to creating credits abroad in order 1 to obtain funds f or developmental purposes. The circular continues -
Early this year, however, there was a revival of activity amongst the agricultural planners of Continental Europe and amongst the Worth American holders of surplus wheat. In May, there met in Berlin a gathering that represented some 28 nations and 115 national agricultural organizations. This body resisted strongly any suggestion that its members should reduce their acreage of wheat or even control the increase thereof.
That indicates that, not only nationally, but also internationally, the agriculturists of Europe have come together and, in furtherance of their desire to encourage agriculture in their own coun-tries in order to become more selfsup.porting, they have joined in an international effort to prevent pressure from being applied by other wheatproducing countries against the tariff barriers which they have raised. The bank’s circular puts the position thus -
As the European countries are not responsible for over-production, there can be no reason to impose on them the reduction of their production capacity. If, on the other hand, the large exporting countries overseas should bring about a definite reduction in their production through an international conven- tion, it is clear that this would contributelargely to restoring the general situation.
Significantly, too, this conference, with tho conclusions of which the Rome Institute associated itself, warned the World Economic Conference against any meddling with the ramparts of import duties erected in defence of European peasant farming.
The circular proceeds to ask whether the present agreement will last for two years or will be permanent. It points out that, ostensibly, there is a balanced representation of exporting and importing countries, and then proceeds -
But the idea of restriction rules supreme in the committee. They have chosen as chairman, a United States diplomat, and as secretary, an energetic young . Canadian from the western prairies. The text of theagreement may assert that no question arises of establishing a permanent committee, but it does net and cannot exclude a steady pressure with that aim. Committees ore like that, and these appointments emphasize that a permanent control threatens to plan and manage the wheat trade with a view to maintaining European agriculture in its protected position and working off gradually the North American surplus stocks.
The prospect, if one regards only this strange outcome of a conference which was thought to aim at “solving” the world’s economic and financial difficulties, is one of ruthless pressure for wheat markets, and,, therefore, lower prices.
Although the position of the wheatfarmers of Australia would have been difficult had there been no international agreement, the gravity of the situation has been accentuated by the details of that agreement, and as the Government, through its representative at .the International “Wheat Conference, has helped to create the present difficulties it is in duty bound to assist the wheat-farmers in connexion with this season’s crop. I emphasize that Australia has definitely and permanently lost a number of its former customers for wheat, and must adjust itself to the* new situation. . This Parliament must have the courage to tell the farmers that, so long as the present methods of production, distribution and exchange exist, there is nothing ahead of them but ruin if they continue to plant the same acreage as heretofore.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- To the request that the Government should assure to the wheat-growers the payment of 3s. a bushel for their crop, the Minister for Commerce said that he had to consider the interests of the taxpayers generally; but I remind the House that . for many years the development and protection of secondary industries has imposed a 16 per cent. burden on the export industries. In view of the Minister’s fear that the imposition of a flour tax the proceeds of which would be applied to granting assistance to the wheat-farmers might he prejudicial to the best interests of Australia, I commend to the Minister some figures prepared by the Director of Markets in New South Wales.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
The follo wing paper was presented : -
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Ninth AnnualReport of the Dried Fruits Control Board, dated 31st July, 1933, together with a statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests resumed from the 26th October (vide page 4027) ).
Iron and steel, viz.: -
Plates and sheets, plain tinned, ad valorem - British, free; general, 10 par cent.
And a deferred duty as follows: - On and after 1st October, 1933 - Iron and steel, viz.: - 147. Plates and sheets, plain tinned, per ton -
British, 70s.; general, l15s.
Senate’s request -
Leave out deferred duty.
Motion (by Mr. White) proposed -
That the requested amendment he notmade, but the deferred duty be altered . from 1st October, 1933, to 1st January, 1934.
.- I am glad to know that the Minister will not accept the Senate’s request. His amendment to alter the date of the operation of the new duties is reasonable. The Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, which has spent £500,000 in laying down plant and conducting research work for the manufacture of tinned plate, is not yet in a position to supply the market, and will not be ready to manufacture it, I understand, until towards the end of next year. The Minister cannot make the deferred duty operative until he has received a recommendation on the matter from the Tariff Board, and we know that the present Ministry is pledged to be guided by the board’s recommendations. I assume that when the board is satisfied that the company is able to supply a substantial proportion of the local requirements of tinned plate, it will recommend that the deferred duty be made operative. It is pleasing to find that a large and enterprising organization such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, in conjunction with one of the biggest tinned-plate manufacturers in Great Britain, contemplates making this article in Australia, and supplying it at a lower price than that charged for the imported article. From my experience of the establishment of other industries in this country, particularly those producing heavy commodities such as tinned plate, I have no doubt that this enterprise will result in lower prices. The company has already spent £518,000 in connexion with the venture. It sent a senior technical officer and another expert overseas to visit all the important tinned-plate mills, and to obtain information as no the latest methods of production.No money has been spared in providing an up-to-date plant in Australia. In company with the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), who is an enthusiastic worker in the interests of the secondary industries in New South Wales, I inspected the company’s works, and am convinced that it will be able to furnish tinned plate of as good a quality as the imported article, at a lower price. The experience of overseas manufacturers, notably in America, was that they needed prohibitive duties to enable them to establish their enterprises. Similarly, Australian companies must have the aid of duties sufficiently high to keep out imported articles ; otherwise they will be overwhelmed by the competition of the old manufacturing firms of Great Britain, which can afford to sell their surplus product on the Australian market at prices against which local manufacturers cannot compete. Immediately the manufacture of galvanized iron and wire was commenced in Australia the importers brought down their prices, but the purchasers of those goods can now get them at lower rates than were charged for those from abroad. The American Congressional Record has republished a portion of ex-President McKinley’s speech on the American Tariff Act 1890, which imposes a much higher duty on tinned plate than is charged in the Australian schedule. This statement shows that the Government of the United States of America at that time, did not fight imports with kid gloves, but imposed a prohibitive duty. The following is an extract from the speech : -
The existing tariff presents the anomaly of placing a higher duty upon the sheet iron and <steel, which constitutes the chief clements in the production of tinplate, than upon the tinplate itself, which is a manifest wrong demanding correction independent of the question of encouraging the manufacture of tinplate in the United States.
The duty recommended in the bill is not alone to correct this inequality, but to make the duty on foreign tinplate high enough to ensure its manufacture in this country to the extent of our home consumption.
The only reason we are doing it now, and have not been able to do it in the past, is inadequate duties..
We have demonstrated our ability to make it here as successfully as in Wales.’ We have ;tl ready made it here.
The speaker then gave the following brief history of the establishment of the tinplate industry in the United States of America : -
Two factories were engaged in producing tin-plate in the years 1873-4-5, but no sooner had they got fairly under way than the foreign manufacturer reduced his price to a point which made it impossible for our manufacturers to continue. When our people embarked in the business foreign tin-plate was selling for 12 dollars per box, and to crush them out before they were firmly established, the price was brought down to 4.50 dollars per box, but they did not remain there. When the. fires were put out in the American mills and the manufacturing thought by the foreigners to be abandoned the price advanced until in 1870 it was selling for 0 and 10 dollars pur box. Our people again tried it, and again the prices were depressed, and again our people abandoned temporarily the enterprise, and as a gentleman stated before the committee twice they have lost their whole investment through the combination of the foreign manufacturers in striking down the price, not for the benefit of thu consumer, but to drive our manufacturers from the business; and this would bo followed by an advance within six months after our mills were shut down.
The experience of the United States of America in respect to this industry will be our experience unless we make provision in the tariff schedule for the imposition of a deferred duty. Even if this duty be endorsed, the users will be amply protected, for the duties will not become operative until the Tariff Board has been consulted. Recent experience of the Tariff Board should assure even the most ardent freetraders that such a deferred duty would not bo brought into operation until this company could supply a substantial proportion of Australia’s requirements at a fair and reasonable price. We have had an assurance from the company that if this degree of protection is afforded, the price of tin-plate will be reduced. The establishment of this industry on a considerable scale has been delayed because the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited has been investigating the most up-to-date methods employed in the industry in other parts of the world. The result will be that when production commences the Australian industry will have up-to-date plant and be thoroughly efficient in every respect.
I have no doubt that oven after the industry is established, complaints will he made about the quality of the product. Such complaints about Australian products are frequent, but most unjust. It was complained at one time that the galvanized iron manufactured in’ Australia was of poor quality. To show the worthlessness of a good deal of ori.tici.sm of this character, I quote the following letter addressed to the Minister for Trade and Customs by the Fernbrook Primary Producers Union : -
I have been instructed by the Fernbrook branch of the Primary Producers Union to draw your attention to a grievance of the men on the land, namely, the inferior quality of manufactured goods particularly galvanized iron and fencing wire. The poor quality of these two items are very apparent, and the members of my union consider it a grave injustice that while they have to accept the ‘ low market value for their farm produce ruling to-day they are compelled to pay n highly protected industry an inflated price, compared with pre-war standards, for an article that is decidedly inferior. Any action taken with a view of improving the quality of manufactured goods generally would be appreciated.
Investigations were made into that complaint with the result that the Primary
Producers Union subsequently wrote to the Minister in the following terms : -
Regarding the .complaints set tout in our letter of the 7th May last as to the poor quality of galvanized iron and fencing wire, we find we are unable to substantiate the charges made therein as to Australian-made goods to the representative of the firms concerned, who has proved conclusively that the materials complained of are imported. We therefore withdraw unreservedly the letter in question and sincerely regret the inconvenience and annoyance caused.
– That kind of thing has happened on many occasions.
– Yes, unhappily for Australian industries. An unfortunate tendency to criticize adversely the products of Australian industries is fostered by certain people who favour freetrade. Producers’ organizations are often encouraged to make complaints about certain products in the hope that duties will be lowered.
– It can be freely admitted that in the early stages of manufacture, the locally-made galvanized iron was sometimes faulty.
– But English galvanized iron also has been faulty. There need be no fear of the quality of Australian tinplate, for the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited will be associated with one of the largest tin-plate mills in the world; it is installing the latest machinery, and no doubt will introduce a number of expert leading hands. The placing of the local product on the market will undoubtedly cause a reduction of price. The committee will make a grave blunder if it accedes to this request, which is typical of many that have been made by another place without proper investigation or information. A leavening of protectionist sentiment is needed in the Senate, the honorable members of which seem to be chiefly concerned about flooding Australia with cheap products from .abroad. We should reject this request and also others that will be submitted to us later.
.- Honorable members should be furnished with additional information about the tinned plate industry. Has the Tariff Board reported upon it, and, if so, does the report indicate that the industry, if established, will be valuable or parasitic? It was said last night that the price of galvanized iron was not of very much concern to ‘the primary producers. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) said that it represented only a fraction of a penny on a bushel of wheat. But an accumulation of straws of this kind ultimately makes a crushing load. Tinned plate is an important requirement of our fruit, meat and dairying industries, and the committee should certainly be informed whether the rejection of this request will endanger the welfare of these and other over-burdened primary industries, and impose additional costs on the general consuming public.
We should remember also that wc are dealing with a deferred duty. Some doubt has arisen about the good faith of the Commonwealth Government in carrying out the provisions of the Ottawa agreement in regard to deferred duties. There is no actual’ reference to. deferred duties in the agreement, the subject really being dealt with in the article which provides that no new duties shall be imposed and no existing duties increased until after investigation by the Tariff Board. That was announced by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) on the 27th June last, when the item, hoop iron, was being debated in the Senate. He revealed that there is in existence a supporting agreement which provides that deferred duties shall be removed from the tariff schedule except in those cases where considerable capital commitments have been incurred in anticipation of such duties being made operative.
The Government has allowed a good deal of doubt to exist as to whether a proper investigation was carried out forthwith to determine whether heavy capital commitments had been incurred before the date of the Ottawa Conference. The suggestion has been made in various quarters that such expenditure has been incurred since then. In the circumstances I hope that the Minister will supply the committee, with detailed information on the subject. If these commitments had been made at the time of the Ottawa Conference the Minister is probably justified in asking that the deferred duties should be allowed to remain.
.- This request was moved by a member of the Country party in the Senate in an endeavour to ease the costs of certain industries, and particularly canning. At the present time tinned plate comes in free, almost exclusively from Great Britain. A deferred duty was imposed on tinned plate in 1920, to be applied when Australian manufacture began. It was agreed at Ottawa that deferred duties should be deleted, unless it could be proved that the companies concerned had expended considerable capital as a result of having been promised protection. Honorable members will agree that it would be unfair suddenly to take away deferred duties in those circumstances. As the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has asked for a definite statement concerning the commitments entered into by the manufacturers, I quote the following information, which has been supplied by the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited since the request was made in the Seriate : -
Had it not been for fundamental changes in manufacturing processes, either actually adopted or pending, a tinplate plant would have been established several years ago.
– Is there any evidence that the company has begun to erect its plant, or that it is likely to produce tinned plate within the next twelve months.
– The company has already expended a considerable amount of money in preparatory work, but I understand that it will be at least two years before manufacture actually begins.
– In view of the contract made with the British Government in regard to deferred duties, should this committee continue the deferred duty on tinplate until it is assured that the company has entered into substantial capital commitments?
– On the other hand, would, the committee be right in striking out the existing deferred duty until the matter has been considered by the Tariff Board? There is no danger of the duty being imposed pending such inquiry, at which those concerned will have to substantiate their case. A recommendation will then be made by the Tariff Board, and considered by Parliament. I suggest that the request of the Senate is unfair to the industry, and, therefore, should not he accepted.
.- The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has raised an important issue by pointing out that, some months ago, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in another place, said that, in accordance with an agreement entered into with the British Government, no deferred duties are to be continued unless the industry concerned has already committed itself to substantial capital obligations, and then only after investigation by the Tariff Board. It is twelve months since the Ottawa treaty was signed, and as the Minister has moved that the deferred duty shall commence in January next, sixteen months will then have elapsed between the signing of the agree- ment and the operation of the duty if the Tariff Board makes a favorable recommendation. I do not think that business people would incur large capital expenditure of this kind over a period of sixteen months without getting some return from it, so that there is considerable room for doubt whether any substantial expenditure has actually taken place.
– The stipulation regarding the removal of deferred duties was not incorporated in the agreement which Parliament ratified.
– No, but a responsible member of the Government gave an assurance in the Senate that the arrangement had been entered into between this Government and the Government of Great Britain, and it is our duty to honour it.
Mr.White. - The board is now inquiring into the matter, and the undertaking will be honoured.
– At the present time we obtain our supplies of tinned plate from Great Britain, and the importations are substantial.
– There is no duty on tinned plate imported from Great Britain.
– That is in our own interest, because the tinned plate is the raw material of some of our own industries. There is a duty of 10 per cent. on foreign plate, so that Great Britain enjoys preference to that extent. In return, Great Britain gives us preference on the canned fruits, &c, which we export to it in containers made from the tinned plate which we import. The benefit is mutual.
– We have been conferring a benefit on Great Britain for years by means of our preferential tariff.
– Yes, and now Great Britain is responding, though we had to wait a long time. During the four years from 1928-29 to 1931-32, inclusive, we imported 192,000 tons of tinned plate, or an average of 48,000 tons a year. In 1932, nearly 28,000,000 cans of apricots, peaches and pears were packed in Australia for local consumption or export, while a. great many more cans were used for packing jams, meats and butter. It is important, therefore, that supplies of tinned plate should be avail able to our manufacturers as cheaply as to their competitors. One factory at Shepparton, in the electorate of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) sometimes turns out no less than 250,000 cans for fruit and jam in a single day, some of them for its own purposes, and the balancefor two neighbouring factories.
– The Government, as well as admitting tinned plate free of duty, has just given a further concession of 5 per cent. in primage duty.
– Is it a fact that we have been charging 10 per cent. primage on a material which , is to be reexported ?
– Yes ; the honorable member knows that primage duties have a general application.
– Tinned plate ought to be completely exempt from such charges, because it is impossible to justify the imposition of a revenue duty on a material which is to be re-exported.
The cost of the fruit and sugar is only a smallproportion of the final cost of a tin of canned fruit. For instance, in a 30-oz. can, of which thewholesale price is, say, 8d., there is only about 2d. worth of fruit and sugar, the other 6d. representing the cost of the can, and charges incurred in processing, labelling and selling. It is evident, therefore, how necessary it is that packing costs should be kept as low as possible. I am sure that every member of my party would welcome the local manufacture of tinned plate, provided supplies could be made available to the canners at prices which would at all times compare favorably with those at which supplies could be obtained from overseas. If, however, we can produce tinned plate only under cover of duties of 76s. and 115s. a ton, it is obvious that products therefrom cannot possibly be made available to the users at world parity prices. What is the use of starting one new industry in Australia if it means the death of another industry already in existence ? I hope that the Minister will give us some further information regarding the capital expenditure which has been incurred in connexion with the manufacture of tinned plate in Australia. It is futile to drag in expenditure which really belongs to some other part of the iron and steel industry.
– Does the honorable member allege that that has been done ?
– No, mrt we must be careful that only expenditure that’ is relevant to the production of tinned plate is included. If such a high duty is needed there appears to be little prospect of obtaining tinned plate at anything approaching world’s parity. The fruit-canning and jam-making industries are supplied at world’s parity with the sugar used in the production of goods for export, and it is just as essential that they should receive tinned plate also at world’s parity. I shall support the Senate’s request.
– I am rather surprised that tha honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) doubts that the tinned plate industry can be successfully established in Australia.
– I should like to see it economically established.
– Information supplied by tlie Tariff Board shows that since 1920 large sums of money have been expended on the construction of buildings and. the purchase and erection of plant for the manufacture of tinned plate in Australia. At present Great Britain has practically a monopoly of the Australian trade. When I visited the British Industries Fair at Birmingham, I met manufacturers who rejoiced in the fact that their best market for tinned plate was in Australia. Visits have been made to Australia by persons interested in the manufacture of this commodity, and when its production here is undertaken, the services of experienced, men from overseas will be obtained to instruct our workmen, as has been done in connexion with other industries. If it was decided at the Ottawa Conference that no deferred duties should be provided for in our tariff schedule, my opposition to the decisions reached at that gathering is strengthened. It is most serious from an Australian, and also from an Empire, view-point if anything was done at Ottawa to interfere with the establishment of new industries in Australia. Butter was the first Australian product to be exported in tins, and as huge quantities of canned fruits, meats, and other goods are shipped from Australia each year, the demand for tinned plate is likely to be permanent, and will provide a good market for local manufacturers. I am in agreement with the proposal of the Minister to carry out the promise made to the company in 1920. Evidence has been tendered to the Tariff Board that since that year money has been expended in extending the buildings and plant at Newcastle, and even if some of the plant is now being used for other purposes, it will eventually be employed in the production of tinned plate. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland that the fruit-growers must not have additional burdens placed upon them, and I feel sure that the Tariff Board will see that their coats are. not unduly increased. With the raw material at their disposal, and modern buildings and plant, Australian manufacturers should be able to produce tinned plate at a price not exceeding that now charged to users. In view of the attitude which Parliament has adopted, and of recent decisions of the Tariff Board, it should not be long before manufacture in Australia is commenced. Approximately £500,000 has already been expended on preparatory work, and the company is justified in seeking tariff protection, especially as the duty will not operate until further investigation has satisfied the Tariff Board that economical production is possible. I regret that there should be anything in the decisions reached at Ottawa to prevent the inclusion of deferred duties in the tariff schedule.
– I am afraid that the honorable member has misinterpreted the agreement.
– I hope that I have. The members of the British delegation at Ottawa were influenced to grant preferences to Australia by the Australian preferences to Great Britain amounting during the last 25 years to over £100,000,000. Some manufacturers in the United Kingdom, who are in the British Ministry, have stated that Great Britain has not yet responded sufficiently to the preferences granted by Australia. Not one ounce -of .raw material is needed to bc imported into Australia for the purpose of manufacturing tinnedplate. I feel certain that the Broken Hill. Proprietary Limited will be able to justify itsclaim before the Tariff Board. There is no doubt that the board as at present constituted would . not recommend the operation ofthe deferred duty if it considered that by so doing it would impose a burden upon the fruit-growers of this country. This country needs more population. The greatest experts of the world say that if a country is to progress, especially a young country like Australia, which is blessed by Providence with a great abundance of raw materials, itmust, in conjunction with rural production, develop a highly industrialized community. The best way to increase our population is to expand our secondary industries, and so provide variety in employment for our own people and others who are likely to be attracted here.
.- T am surprised that the members of the Labour party should support the Government’sproposal to reinsert in the tariff schedule this deferred duty of 76s. British and 115s. general.
-We contend that the deferred duty should remain in the schedule, since it has been there for many years.
– I gathered from the attitude of members of the Labour party that they were totally opposed to the Tariff Board being the tariff dictator of Australia, and that they consider that Parliament must bo the final arbiter in fiscal matters.What is the position in regard to this deferred duty? It was inserted in the schedule by this Parliament some thirteen years ago, when conditions were absolutely different from what they are to-day, when there was no immediate prospect of the tinned plate manufacturing industry being started, and when little interest was taken in the duty because it was known that it would not be immediately operative. At that time the Tariff Board was not in existence. The Senate has now made a request that this item be deleted from the schedule. If the deferred duty is left in the schedule then the Minister can, on the advice of the Tariff Board, and without the know ledge of Parliament, impose it, even though it has not been considered by this Parliament during the last thirteen years. That is quite wrong. I can understand the attitude of the Labour party on other items, but not on this item, in regard to which the Tariff Board will become the final arbiter. The general principle of protecting this prospective industry is not being discussed at all, because no one would suggest that a duty which was inserted in the schedule thirteen years ago should be applicable to-day. No one knows whether the Tariff Board would recommend such a duty.
– Duties generally were much lower then.
– The Tariff Board might recommend a higher duty.
Mr.White. -Why did not the right honorable member have this deferred duty deleted from the schedule when he was a member of the Bruce-Page Government?
– Forseven years I. subordinated my tariff attitude in many respects for the purpose of giving stable government to this country, and enabling legislation, such as the Commonwealth Batik Act, to be passed and the Loan Council to be established. In view of that, it ill becomes the Minister to twit me or my party regarding what was done or left undone in regard to tariff reform at that time. All that we ask is that this Parliament and not the Tariff Board, or the Minister alone, shall be the final arbiter in this matter. Surely the action of the Government should be along the lines indicated by its representative in the Senate, Senator McLachlan, who stated -
The Ottawa Conference considered the tariff schedule as it was at that date, including the deferred duties. The British Government argued that where no capital expenditure had been incurred by an industry, the deferred duties relating to it were to be deleted, but where capital expenditure had been incurred, the deferred duties would have to run the gauntlet of article 12. As far as has been practicable, the Australian Government has given effect to the agreement. In respect of several items upon which no capital expenditure has been incurred, the Minister has already, following departmental inquiries, cancelled the deferred duties.
The Minister has said that it would be quite unfair to cancelthis deferred duty since it has been in theschedule for a number of years. Yet the Government has already cancelled other deferred duties which have been in the schedule just as long. Those cancellations are apparently quite fair. The Minister should be consistent. What harm would be done by the deletion of this deferred duty?
– It might cause those who are contemplating starting this industry to abandon the idea.
– Even if the duty were deleted they could apply to the Tariff Board for consideration of the whole matter. That will have to be done in any case.
– Is the right honorable member opposed to ‘the establishment of this industry?
– No. This deferred duty has been in the tariff schedule for thirteen years, and it is only right that before it becomes operative it should be subject to parliamentary discussion. If it remains in the schedule, the Minister, on receipt of a recommendation from the board, can immediately impose a duty without reference to Parliament . at allMr. White. - We cannot impose a duty higher than that recommended by the board.
– What I object to is the imposition of duties of any height by executive act.
– That could not be done even if the Government wished to do so.
– The provisions relating to the imposition of deferred duties require the Government to refer the matter to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report, but state that the Minister may, upon receipt of a report from the ‘board, by notice published in the Gazette, “ so act in respect of all, or any portion of, the goods, specified in the notice.” I want an assurance from the Minister that the deferred duty in this item will not be imposed before this Parliament reassembles.
– It will not be done by executive act. I give the honorable member that assurance.
– There is no dispute that, under article 12 of the- Ottawa agreement, the Minister has no authority to impose rates of duty in excess of the board’s recommendation. My sole pur pose is to ensure that Parliament, and not the Minister, shall be the authority to impose duties.
.- No item in the schedule perturbs me more than does this proposal for deferred duties on tinned plates, because for one reason, no one is more anxious than I am to encourage rural development such as, we hoped, would be the outcome of the Murray River waters’ scheme, and other similar proposals. No branch of rural industry offers more scope for expansion than the cultivation of fruits for processing purposes. The imposition of these deferred duties on tinned plates would, more than anything else, retard the development of all those rural industries which depend for their success on the processing and exportation of their products. If our costs of production were udt bo high, we should be able to secure a much larger share of the enormous world market. What I fear is that, if deferred duties are imposed on this item the additional costs in which producers will be involved will bring about a collapse of the industry. A return relisting to the jam industry shows that some years ago, we were processing 82,000,000 tins a year. Now, with a population which has been almost doubled, the output is only 76,000,000 tins annually, the reduction being duo to higher costs of production all round; because the prices of sugar, tins, cases, hoop iron for binding, nails, wrapping paper, and all the other articles required in the export trade have been increased. The purpose of the Murray River waters’ scheme was to settle a much larger population on areas that would be made available for irrigation, and to export the products from those area3. In Victoria, a large population settled on land along the Goulburn River is engaged in the growing of all classes of fruit. In Western Australia also, many people arc settled in several of the beautiful spots in the hills, and are cultivating fruits suitable for export in processed form. The future of all these people should be considered. No greater asset could be created in Australia than by the placing of thousands of workers on small holdings producing fruit, butter and similar products.
The deferred duty on tinned plates was placed in the schedule prior to the appointment of the Tariff Board. Consequently there has been no investigation upon which to base a recommendation as to the rate of duty that should be imposed. Although the Customs Act provides that a deferred duty cannot be imposed without a report from the board, notion in this direction was taken by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) when he was Minister for Trade and Customs in the Scullin Government. However, we have the assurance of the Minister that ho will comply with the act. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has just told us of the marvellous developments at the Newcastle steel works, and has urged that the development of the secondary industries should bc carried on handinhand with that of the primary industries. But remembering what happened in connexion with galvanized iron, we have good reason to fear that, if the deferred duties on tinned plates are imposed, higher rates will be charged for the product. That our fears are not altogether unwarranted is seen in the higher prices charged for Australian steel plates, namely, £8 and £9 a ton, compared with £4 15s. a ton in England. There is, I believe, every reason to believe that, if the deferred duties in this item are imposed, higher prices will be charged for tinned plates, with the- result that our export trade in all classes of canned goods will be jeopardized. I object to a proposal which, while promoting the birth of an industry that is new to Australia, might sound the death-knell of another of far more importance to the future welfare of this country. I hope that the committee will not lightly reject the request of the Senate to strike out the deferred duty, with a view to the matter being further considered. The Minister has suggested the extension of the period to the end of January, 1934. but even if that were adopted there would be no opportunity for this Parliament to give further consideration to the matter before the duty became operative, and it would bo left entirely to the Government to SAy what should be done. Surely it would he a wise policy to try to induce settlement on small areas for the production of fruits for jam-making and preserving. Every addition to the cost of conducting those operations minimizes the possibility of giving effect to such a policy.
– Tho steel industry is situated in my electorate. Having followed the history of these big works from the genesis of the enterprise, I am surprised that there are in this National Parliament men who would break faith with the company, which already has expended £500,000 on plant and buildings to be used in the production of tinned plates. From the inception of federation the object of deferred duties has been to encourage the establishment of new industries and to assure the promoters that their capital will be adequately protected. This company will be able to produce the larger steel plates which, in time of war, could he utilized in the construction of battleships. The Minister has assured the committee that the matter must be inquired into by the Tariff Board before the deferred duty becomes operative. I trust that the committee will conserve the interests of the Australian manufacturers.
Sitting Hours on Fridays - Tragedy on Trans-Australian Railway - Transport of Lepers - Commonwealth; Bank, Adelaide- Sales Tax on Material vor Roadmaking.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– As a member of the committee which, in 193.1, framed amendments of the Standing Orders, I protest against the growing practice of extending the sittings on .Fridays until after 4 p.m. It will he remembered that, with a view to promoting the rapid despatch of business, honorable members agreed to amendments which substantially limited the time allowed for debate; and, in addition, consented to the hour of meeting on Friday being 10.30 a.m. instead of 11 a.m. With the extension of the sitting beyond 4 p.m., it is impossible for
Queensland and New South Wales members to be present at divisions iri which they wish to participate, without missing the train which leaves Canberra at 4.15 p.m. I realize that it is difficult for the Government so to arrange the business that the House will adjourn at a fixed time. I trust, however, that in future every effort will be made to observe the promise to conclude the sitting on Friday in time to allow honorable members who so desire to catch the afternoon train without being prevented from taking part in the adjournment debate.
– I desire to read to the House the report of a tragic happening on the trans-Australian railway last month, which appeared in the Fremantle Advocate of the 28th September, and a letter that I have received concerning it. The report was as follows: -
Lust March, Triplett, a native of Fremantle, wont to Sydney, where his brother, R. Triplett and sister, Mrs. P. 6. Burnett, had been residing for aline years. On 27th August, the two brother? and Mrs. Burnett and her husband and four children, set out by car for Fremantle. All went well until they reached White Well station, close to the head of the Bight, where Mr. and Mrs. Burnett and R. Triplet! became ill with pneumonia “ M.v brother appeared to be the worst,” aid 6. M. Triplett to a Daily Hews representative at Kalgoorlie on Tuesday. “ I decided to get to. the trans line and made it at Cook. When the east-bound train came through a doctor aboard examined my brother and advised that he should bc got to a hospital as early as possible. We were not in a position to pity train fares, but the stationmaster wired to Port Augusta for us, asking if my brother could be put on the train for Kalgoorlie, and stating that I would be willing to sign any acknowledgment for liability. The authorities, however, wired back slating that guarantees were required, and lief ore I could arrange this the train arrived and would not take my brother without authority. “ We pushed tn in tho car. With three sick persons and four children in u car that was not too reliable, I had my hands full. My brother was delirious .part of the time, and my sister and brother-in-law needed a lot of attention. The few people on the track were very good to us, hut I did not stay, thinking the. best thing to do would be to get to Kalgoorlie and put all the sufferers iu the hospital. “ My sister had .borne up well and did not admit- being bad until the morning she died. On Saturday at 2 p.m. past Naretha, I got out to fis a flat tyre and found my Bister was dead. She had passed away quietly without any of us knowing. There waa nothing to do but carry on, and we did so until about eighteen miles from Zanthus, when the .car broke down completely, and there we were stranded among the sandhills. I had made my brother and brother-in-law as comfortable rs possible and laid out food for them and the children, and was setting out to walk to Zanthus for help when along came Mr. j. M. Mummy, of Kalgoorlie, in a car. I could have cried with relief when he took us all aboard and a few hours later we were all in Kalgoorlie.”
E. Triplett and Burnett are expected to be in hospital for some time, but are out of danger.
The Fremantle Road Board, the authority in that district, discussed the matter and recommended that I be asked to bring it before the Government. I immediately waited on the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) who wisely called for a report. In due course a report came to hand. It was stated that the officer did not know that there were any sick people in the car, let alone a sick woman, and that he had not refused transport. I thereupon sent a telegram to the Fremantle Road Board, stating that I would take no further action in the matter, until definite information was supplied to me, for fear that I might do an injustice to some one. Yesterday I received the following letter from the secretary of the Fremantle Road Board : -
Further to your wire of the 13th instant. Enclosed please find copy of the statement made by Mr. John M. Triplett personally for your information.
I know something of this family, for one of the brothers was in my employ for 30 years. Mr. Triplett’s statement is as follows : -
As a full report is wanted of my overland trip and my attempt to secure a berth on the tea and sugar trans train, I am pleased to write a full and accurate account of my experiences with the Commonwealth railways.
I arrived in Cook on the 13th September, 1033. I hod on the car when I arrived at Cook, Mr. and Mrs. Burnett, and four children and my brother Robert. Mr. and Mrs. Burnett were slightly unwell, but Robert Triplett was very ill. On Thursday, the 14th September, 1D33, I procured a doctor’s assistance, who was a passenger on the east-bound express. The doctor examined my brother and gave me some sleeping pills for him, as he could not sleep from the terrible pain in his chest. I received instructions from the doctor of how to treat my brother and should this fail, and him get worse, to remove him to a hospital.
My brother become much worse that day, and during the night I thought he would die. On Friday morning, the 15th September, 1D33,
I approached the station master at Cook, regarding a passage on the tea and sugar train for my brother and myself. I made my position known to him and he immediately despatched a wire to the officials at Port Augusta, stating my case and requesting a berth on the train. The wording of the first wire to Port Augusta I will try and word to the best of my ability.
Two Triplett brothers and brother-in-law. overlanding by car toW.A. RobertTriplett is seriously ill with supposed pleurisy. Triplett wants berth on train for brother and himself, as doctor ordered R. Triplett’s immediate removal to hospital. Triplett states he is unable to raise the money to pay for fares, but will guarantee to pay a few days later.”
The following reply was handed to me some 40 minutes later by the stationmaster from the officials at Port Augusta. “ Re Triplett brothers’ application for berth on train. They may be allowed a berth on train, but cannot Triplett wire to the bank at Kalgoorlie and have the money paid to the stationmaster at Parkeston on arrival of train.”
As this was an impossibility, I asked that another wire be sent and it contained the following: - “Re Triplett brothers. Triplett states he is unable to raise thefare but is willing to sign a statement to sayhe will pay the fares at sonic later date.” (At this point I explained to the stationmaster that I would have to wire to Fremantle for money and would not be able to got thu fares until the Monday or Tuesday next week). The following reply camea few minutes before the train departed : - “Re Tripletts, not clear why Triplett cannot pay his fare, something definite should be done regards this matter. Take all particulars nf car registration number, chassis number, where they came from and where going to.”
Upon receipt of this wire, I said to the stationmaster, “ It does not look as though I am going to be granted a berth on the train.” He replied, “No, it seems not. but please do not think hard of me as I am doing my best for yon, hut you know what red tape is.”I assured the stationmaster that I did know what red tape was after that.
I said to the stationmaster, “What benefit will 1 get by giving yon the details of my destination, and the particulars of the oar? The train is leaving in a few minutes and I am. just as bad off again, and the officials have not grantedme permission for a berth on the train even though I waste time giving you these particulars. I cannot give you an order on the car to sell it for fares as it is not my property, and to do so is a criminal offence. My best plan would be to get to Kalgoorlie as soon as possible and get these people medical treatment.”
At no time was I granted a full permission to travel on any train, and I deny most emphatically that Mr. Artlett gave me that permission as he said he did in the Daily News newspaper. If I was granted permission to travel on the train, why did not the stationmaster at Cook tell me, and show me the wire? That is onu lie that Mr. Artlett isnot getting away with. Had I not had so far to carry my brother I would have put him on the train and defied anyone to eject me. After I had returned to the railway shed in which the people were laying up, my sister said, “ Did you get a passage for Bob?” I said, “I did not,” and she said “’ I would have gone in too had you been granted the berths.”I did not think my sister was as ill as she was at the time. I left Cook at 10 a.m., on Saturday, 16th September, 1933, and arrived in Kalgoorlie the following Saturday, 23rd September, 1933, at midnight. My sister had been dead approximately twelve hours, and my brother-in-law and brother very close to death. J. am quite prepared to say on oath that everything herein is perfectly true and correct.
I am, yours faithfully,
JohnM.Triplett. 16th October,1933.
That wasa very sad happening. The tragedy could have been averted, hut it is possible that, indirectly, through a lack of humane feeling on the part of the railway officials, four little children are left motherless. I hope that the Minister will take action to prevent a recurrence of such a regrettable affair. The cost to the department of allowing the party to travel on the train would have been inconsiderable. In cases of serious illness, railway officials should not hesitate to allow the sufferers to travel by train to the nearest point at which medical aid can be had.
.–It was recently found necessary to transport twelve lepers from Broome to Darwin, where, I believe, an up-to-date lazaret has been established; but the patients were carried in a 13-ton lugger under conditions so revolting, considering their condition of health, that the affair is a disgrace to a civilized community. The trip occupied eighteen clays, and the lepers were herded in the hold, which measured only 4 feet from floor to roof. The party comprised men, women, and children, and three of the children werenot aboriginals. It was necessary to remove the hatch for ventilation purposes, and the lepers were drenched with water during the greater part of the voyage. It is the most shocking case of the kind that has come undermy notice. It has been suggested that provision could be made for the accommodation of lepers at Broome or Derby, where, I understand, the mission sisters are prepared to take care of them. I do not know whether the blame rests with the Western Australian or the Commonwealth authorities. I hope that the Government will take steps to ensure that in future lepers are transported under more humane conditions. Alternatively, the establishment atBroome or Derby of additional stations at which persons afflicted with leprosy could receive the attentionto which they are entitled from a civilized people, may he advisable.
.-Yester day, I asked the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) whether the stone to be used for additions to the Commonwealth Bank in Adelaide was to be obtained from New South Wales, and, if so, why South Australian stone had been rejected. The Minister replied that alternative teuders had been invited for (a) portion of the front of the building in local stone, and the remainder in stone from other States ; or (b) all stonework in stone from other States, with the exception of the base of the building which will be in local stone. ‘The Minister also stated that the materials to be used were freestone and granite. There is a strong feeling in South Australia that, whenever possible, preference is given to the eastern States in supplying governmental and semigovernmental requirements. On various occasions, I have received letters from- the Chambers of Commerce and Manufactures in that State about the materials used on Commonwealth works. Considering that unemployment is proportionately greater in South Australia than in any other part of the Commonwealth, and that many kinds of valuable stone are available there, the least the Commonwealth Bank authorities might do is to give employment in that State by using local stone.
– What is wrong with the stone in South Australia?
– Nothing. South Australian quarries can provide stone equal to that from the other States. The quarries at Murray Bridge yield freestone of high quality, and at Angastown, which lies within 50 miles of Adelaide, are to be found some of the finest deposits of marble in the Commonwealth. If it is necessary to use granite, why should the supplies be brought from the other States? Probably the cost of marble would be greater than that of granite ; but if granite were transported from New South Wales to Adelaide by train, the freight would be extremely high, and I doubt whether it could be landed in Adelaide at a lower cost than that of the excellent marble which could be supplied on the spot. The Government would be doing a good service to South Australia if it induced the CommonwealthBank Board to order the use of local stone for the work. I ask it to make representations in that direction.
. -The revelation made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) surprises me. I did not know that anything of the kind was contemplated; but, having heard his speech, I should be remiss in my duty if I failed to protest against the importation of stone from other States for the proposed new Commonwealth Bank building in Adelaide. The South Australian Parliament House is built of local marble, and granite equal to the best obtainable in any part of the world. It would be ridiculous in the extreme to bring stone from other States to Adelaide, for South Australia has deposits of building stone as good as those elsewhere in the Commonwealth. I trust that steps will be taken to ensure that only South Australian stone will be used in this building. The people of that State suffer enough disabilities without having an injustice of this kind done to them.
.- The sad incident referred to by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) was brought under my notice toy him a fortnight ago. I had inquiries made from the Railway Department, and furnished the honorable gentleman with a reply which, I thought, he regarded as satisfactory. Apparently, as a result of further communication from Western Australia he desires the matter to be reopened.. I am o’f the opinion that the reply I gave to him exonerated the Railway Department from blame. As a matter of fact, there was no reference in the correspondence, until the very last paragraph, to the lady who died. Reference was made only to the brother, who was said to be ill. The report furnished to me on this subject reads as follows: -
On the 15th September, 1933, Mr. Triplett called on the stationmaster at Cook, transAustralian railway. He stated that he had travelled overland with a party from one of the eastern States, and was going to Western Australia by the Eucla route, but had come into Cook because his brother was ill. On account of the illness of the brother, he had changed the route. The car was some little distance outside Cook, and he had walked in to see the stationmaster.
He asked if he and his brother could travel from Cook to Kalgoorlie by train. Ho told the stationmaster he had no funds available, but immediately on arrival at Kalgoorlie he would get into touch with his bank and arrange for a settlement.
The stationmaster at Cook at once telegraphed the Chief Traffic Manager, Commonwealth Railways, Port Augusta, and advised him of the position. In view of the circumstances, the Traffic Manager authorized the conveyance of the sick person, and also the brother, to Kalgoorlie by train on their underbaking to pay their fares after arrival at Kalgoorlie.
The Chief Traffic Manager asked that something definite should be given in the way of an undertaking, and this undertaking should include the address of the place from which the party started, and the address on their arrival at their destination. It should also include the motor car registration, &c. The Chief Traffic Manager further asked that Mr. Triplett communicate with his people by wire from Cook, so that the money could be telegraphed to Kalgoorlie to be available on the arrival of the train there.
The stationmaster, Cook, is very definite that he did not decline to carry these passengers free of charge for the time being. He states that he made the message from the Chief Traffic Manager clear, but apparently, on being asked for the addresses, means of identification, &c, Mr. Triplett elected to go on. He certainly was not refused transport.
The first that the Commonwealth Railways knew of a woman being in the party was telegraphic advice from the editor of the Daily News, Perth, notifying the death of the woman, and asking for particulars. So far as the railways knew, the party consisted of three men, two of them wishing to go on by train, the other electing to remain with the motor car.
It would, therefore, appear that the railways officials took a sympathetic view of the case as it was presented to them. The stationmaster obtained permission for the sick man and his brother to travel by the train. It seems to me that the General Traffic Manager was quite right in taking the precautions that he did. It should not have been difficult for the driver of the motor car to give the number of the car and to state where he came from, and also his destination. Inquiries of this kind are necessary in such cases for the protection of railway officers, otherwise people would be obtaining free transport .who were not entitled to it. In view of the honorable member’s remarks, however, I shall make further inquiries. The railways officials knew only that one of the brothers was ill ; yet he got through safely, and the lady, who was not mentioned, died.
The matter referred to by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) does not come under the authority of the Commonwealth Government. The patients came from Western Australia in a boat chartered by Western Australians, and the party travelled, I understand, with the approval of the State Government. The Commonwealth Navigation Department insisted that the boat should be in charge of a certificated mariner. All the other conditions seemed to be satisfactory to those concerned. The Premier of Western Australia intimated that, in his opinion, everything was all right. No complaints had been received by the Commonwealth Government regarding this case.
– But surely the Minister would have some control in a case of this kind !
– Only that provided for in the Navigation Act. If the boat was in sea-going order and properly manned, the Commonwealth Government could not interfere.
– But four more persons were carried than could be properly accommodated.
– The Navigation Department insisted upon a certificated man travelling on the boat, and that cost those concerned an additional £75.
– Will the Minister undertake to have inquiries made into the circumstances of the case?
– I suggest that the matter should be brought up in the Western Australian Parliament, for the people travelled from a Western Australian port in a Western Australian boat. They did not come under Commonwealth control until they landed at Melville Island. No complaint whatever was made by them.
I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) state that building stone for the Commonwealth Bank building in Adelaide was likely to be obtained from outside the State. I do not know anything about the quality of the building stone of South Australia, but I suppose that it is as good as that obtainable in the other States. The Federal Government is merely the constructing authority, and any objection must be made to the bank through the Government. As I advised the honorable member in my reply to his question, no decision will be given on the subject until tenders have been received. I shall see that the matter is brought under the notice of the bank authorities.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Parkhill) a matter of considerable importance to local governing bodies in New South Wale3, and, no doubt, of other States. In New South Wales there are two road construction authorities, the Main Roads Board and the local governing- body. Shire and municipal councils in my electorate have represented to me that, although recent amendments of the sales tax legislation exempt material used by the Main Roads Board for road construction, the impost is still levied upon similar material used by local governing bodies. I urge the Government to place local governing authorities on the same footing as the Main Roads Board in this respect, as, particularly in country districts, they are the principal bodies which absorb unemployed. I admit that the proposal would involve a considerable loss of revenue, but that could he regarded as a form of unemployment relief. I ask the Minister to have an investigation made of the probable extent of the loss of revenue, and supply the information to honorable members. I should also like the Government to ascertain what relief from taxation local governing bodies can obtain in order that they may he encouraged to spend additional money on road work for the absorption of the unemployed. I should be glad if he would treat these matters as urgent.
. - I have listened to the remarks of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), and I shall peruse them in Hansard to refresh my memory. I fully appreciate the desirability of placing local governing authorities on the samebasis as the Main Roads Board, by ex empting from sales tax the material they use for road construction. As a result of the concessions that have been granted by the budget a number of anomalies have been created, which will have the consideration of the Government. I give the honorable member an undertaking that his request will receive sympathetic consideration.
I agree with the contention of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that an endeavour should be made to adjourn the House on Friday at about 3.45 p.m. so that honorable members may have ample time to catch the train. Unfortunately, it was found necessary to-day to allow an additional speaker to express his opinions somewhat late in the afternoon. I hope that, in future, the honorable member’s suggestion will be carried out so far as circumstances permit.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at4.32 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he inform theHouse -
Mr. Lyons (through Mr. Archdale Parkhill). - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
(a), (b) and(c). The commissioners state that they ure nut prepared to disclose details.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
ll). - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Adelaide-Perth Air-mail Service.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice-
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
son asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the federation nf broadcasting stations has received an intimation that the fees charged by the Australian Performing Eight Association to the “ B “ class stations may be increased by 200 per cent.; if so, what action does the Government propose to take to set up a tribunal to determine disputes arising out of the performance of musical work, as recommended by the Royal Commission on Performing Rights?
– The department has no knowledge of the intentions of the Australasian Performing Bight Association in regard to “ B “ class broadcasting stations. The matter of introducing legislation to give effect to the royal commission’s recommendation regarding the establishment of a tribunal Taises some very difficult legal problems. The Government considers that the solution of the points at issue between the parties should preferably he by agreement rather than by way of legislation, and the Attorney-General is at present engaged in an endeavour to have the disputes settled by agreement.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the national importance to Australia of securing the production of liquid fuels and other products from our coals, oil shales,and lignites, will the Government be prepared to give limited assistance, under control, to approved qualified persons engaged in developmental andexperimental work towards determiningthe beat methods of treatment of local raw materials, in order to assist them to operate the small plants in existence, ono of which is stated to have been used with successful results?
Mr. Lyons (through Mr. Archdale Parkhill). - The Government fully recognizes the importance to Australia of the development of processes for the production of liquid fuels from coal, oil shales, and lignites, and with the object of obtaining the most up-to-date information in this regard it secured the services last year of Mr. L. J. Rogers, an eminent authority on fuel problems, to fill the position of Commonwealth Fuel Adviser. In addition, the Government is in close touch, through the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Mr. L. J. Rogers, with the results of the work of the British Fuel Research Station at Greenwich, and with developments in fuel production in other parts of the world. Mr. Rogers is due to arrive in Sydney on the 4th November, after having conducted extensive investigations into fuel problems in Great Britain, Europe, and America. The production of oil from shale with Newnes as the focal point of investigation at present forms the subject of inquiry by a technical committee appointed by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales. In the circumstances, it is not thought that the granting of assistance to persons engaged in a small way in developmental and experimental work would be justified, as it is anticipated that far more up-to-date and reliable information will be obtained from other sources to which reference has been made.
s. - On the 19th October, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked me the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : -
In addition, the sum of approximately £70 was paid direct by the Joint House Committee for repairing the roof overcovered ways.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 October 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331027_reps_13_142/>.