14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House make a statement setting out the liability of the Commonwealth Government concerning the guarantee given in connexion with Mr. Ulm’s flight across the Pacific, and indicate when the necessary legislation to approve of that guarantee will be introduced ?
- Mr. Ulm’s flight across the Pacific was discussed with the Commonwealth Government, and, in the belief that it would have a very favorable influence in the consideration of the question of establishing a trans-Pacific air service, the decision was made to assist it with a guarantee of £8,000. The Government will take the first opportunity that presents itself to bring down the necessary legislation.
– I ask the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties whether he is aware that treaties have been entered into by Germany with Argentina and South Africa to facilitate the purchase of wool from those countries. If so, can the honorable gentleman give the House any idea as to whether these treaties have been an advantage to Argentina and South Africa, in the direction of raising the value of their wool production?
– I have seen the report that such treaties have been entered into, but as the Government is not yet in possession of full particulars of them it is obvious that I cannot say whether they have been or are likely to be of any particular value to the wool industry of South Africa and Argentina. Cables have been despatched with a view to obtaining as quickly as possible all the information available.
– “Will the honorable gentleman say whether the Government proposes to hold discussions regarding a trade treaty with the Japanese delegation that recently arrived in Australia? If so, may we be assured that before a definite decision is arrived at, or an agreement is made, this Parliament will be given an opportunity to discuss the matter?
– Representatives of the Japanese Government have come to Australia for the purpose of entering, into negotiations with the Commonwealth Government with a trade treaty in view. Those negotiations will probably take place during the latter part of January. The House may rest assured that no treaty will be finally entered into with any foreign country before it has been ratified by this Parliament.
-Is the Minister for Commerce aware that, according to cable reports received in Australia, the price received for cross-bred wool in Argentina is 2d. or 2-Jd. per lb. above the price obtainable for wool of a similar class in Australia, and that this is due to the factthat, as a result of a recent trade agreement, Germany has once more entered the market as a buyer in Argentina?
– The matter was not known to me until brought under my notice by the honorable member, but the whole subject of making favorable trade treaties with’ other countries is at present engaging the attention of the Government.
– In view of press reports to the effect that negotiations have been resumed between the New Zealand delegation and the Commonwealth Government, and the uncertainty that is being engendered in the minds of those who are engaged in the potato industry and other primary industries, can the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties state how the matter stands?
– As I informed the House yesterday, conversations have been carried on in Sydney this week between a number of members of the Government and the New Zealand delegation. I understand that to-day both the Prime Minister and the Minister for
Trade and Customs have been in consultation with the delegation. The honorable gentleman may take it that the negotiations will not be resumed in full before the return of the delegation to the sister dominion. There is some possibility of their being resumed somewhat early in the new year.
– Does thu Minister realize that the statement that he made recently, and which has received widespread publicity in the press, regarding the difficulty of reaching trade agreements on behalf of a partly-industrialized country like Australia, is liable to be construed as an intimation that there is not much prospect of the Commonwealth reaching an agreement with wool-buying countries, such as Germany and Italy, before the end of the present wool-buying season ? Is he in a position to make some re-assuring statement regarding our earnest desire to reach such an agreement, not only for the benefit of the woolgrowers, who would receive better prices as the result of more general competition, but also so that all sections of the community, including the unemployed, might benefit from the increased amount of money which would be in circulation if better prices were obtained for our exports?
– In the remarks which I made on this subject last week, I wished merely to point, out the very great difficulties which were encountered in the making of trade treaties with countries, such as Germany, which are still on the gold standard. I did not. want to convoy the impression that the Government regarded the prospect of treaty-making as a hopeless one. We are at present engaged in negotiations with Germany, and a number of other woolbuying countries, and we are exploring every possibility of bringing about credits in this country against which wool can l>e purchased. I suggest to honorable members, and particularly the honorable member who has asked this question - seeing that he has had experience as Minister for Commerce and also of customs matters in the preparation of material for the Ottawa conference - that, if they have any helpful suggestions to make for the solution of our difficulties, they should place them before the Government.
– Has the attention of the Minister been called to the following statement in to-day’s press as to Japan’s intention to increase its wool purchases in South Africa: -
Government officials to-day met wool industrialists, whom they advised to accept the Japanese exporters’ offer of half a million yen for a price compensating fund to enable them to purchase in 1935 between 25,000 and 30,000 bales of South African wool instead of Australian.
The object of the scheme is to foster exports to South Africa.
In recognizing the value of Japanese competition in the Australian wool markets, will the Minister take every possible step to ensure its continuance on the old basis, if possible?
– The reply is obviously in the affirmative. I may add that South Africa has a large adverse trade balance with Japan, and, therefore, it is somewhat easier for that country to enter into a trade treaty with Japan than for Australia, which already has an extraordinarily favorable trade balance with it.
– Can the Minister for Commerce say what action is being taken to give effect to the promise to make available to primary producers a grant of £250,000 to assist them to purchase fertilizers? Can the assistance be given in time to enable it to be of use to citrus-growers and others?
– The arrangement is that a subsidy of 15s. a ton shall be given to those who use fertilizers. It has been in operation since the 1st July last, and will continue until the 30th June next.
– In view of the position created in New Guinea by the competition of German shipping, will the Minister for Commerce say whether the Government will consider the application of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act to the Mandated
Territories so as to prevent undue exploitation of these islands by foreign shipping ?
– Representations have been made to the Government, and the whole matter of Pacific shipping is being considered in conjunction with New Zealand and Great Britain.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the matter of making Mascot the terminal air port of the England to Australia air mail service will be reconsidered after the present time-table has been given a trial?
– I am favorable to the extension of the overseas air mail service to Sydney and Melbourne, but there are, I understand, operational difficulties until more adequate night lighting equipment is available along the Australian section of the route, and until the company has gained experience in the actual operation of the service.
Prior to the recent accident to the D.H.86 aircraft, it was the desire of Qantas Empire Airways Limited to extend to Sydney immediately the Brisbane-Singapore route was well established and operating satisfactorily, which the company anticipated would be early in 1935. The latest advice from the company is that it confidently expects that operations to Sydney will be capable of commencement before the middle of 1935.
– Would it not be better, in the opinion of the Minister for Defence, to retain the already selected and approved site at Cootamundra asa distributing centre for air mails arriving from England, with each capital city as its own terminal? Is it not a fact that 200,000 more people live south and west of Cootamundra than live east of it, from which figures it is only natural to suppose that there should be a greater bulk of passengers and mail going to south and west of Cootamundra than to eastern New South Wales and Sydny? Is it not only fair that this larger population should receive facilities at least equal to those in Sydney?
– I am not prepared to dispute offhand the details set forth in the honorable member’s question, but I am ready to admit that, in this matter, the interests of the largest number of people should be the major consideration. I shall give further attention to the views put forward by the honorable member.
– When the overseas air mail service is extended to Sydney, is it intended to abolish the present base at Cootamundra or dispose of it?
– I do not accept the view that it is proposed to do away with the base at Cootamundra. That airport will be worked into the general scheme.
– Can the Minister for Defence give any reason for the slowing up of the Australia to England air mail service from thirteen to fourteen days? Can he reconcile it with the statement made in Brisbane last Monday that the Government’s immediate aim was to bring about a service of from seven to eight days?
– I have here a memorandum which I intended to read when the Estimates were under consideration, and which I shall now read -
The Government is anxious to see the air service between Great Britain and Australia operated to the fastest schedule that is reasonably practicable, but the Commonwealth itself is responsible for the section only us far as Singapore. This section is to open to a 4-day schedule between Singapore and southern terminals of the service, but the Government hopes that it will be possible, after short experience in operation of the service, and with the provision of adequate aids to night flying which, unfortunately, are expensive, at a n early date to obtain a 3-day schedule over this section.
The operation of the greater portion of the route, viz., between Singapore and London, is not under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government, but it is hoped that those concerned will be able also to speed up the time-table on that section. Should the authorities concerned find it possible to operate the Singapore-London service to a schedule comparable in speed to the 3-day schedule aimed at on the Australian section, an 8-day passage between London and Australian terminals should result within a short period. Such a time-table would be, in the opinion of the Government, all that can reasonably be expected in the near future - it being regarded as quite impracticable to operate a regular service with safety and comfort to the very spectacular times obtained in the MacRobertson Air Race.
I have no information as to the reason for the addition of a day to the time occupied in the service from the London end; but I assume that the reason which animates authorities at home, is that which animates the Qantas Imperial Airways: a desire to build up the service on confidence and safety before attempting to decrease the time occupied. May I say in regard to recent criticism of the Government by a newspaper circulating in New South Wales, that if we were entirely indifferent to the risks and lives of those engaged in this enterprise, if we were prepared to cut out a lot of stopping places in the interior of Australia which it is intended to serve, and were prepared also to spend twice theamount of money we are spending at the present time, then the news brought by air mail from England could arrive in Sydney in time to appear in the final edition of the Sydney Sun and before it could be published in the Sydney Morning Herald and other morning newspapers. But the Government is not prepared to do these things. The position is exactly as I have said. The agitation on the part of this newspaper does not spring from any patriotic impulse, nor from any special interest felt by it in the welfare of the people of Australia. It arises solely from what has always been the objective, the governing factor of that newspaper arapacious greed and desire to increase its profits.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral favorably consider making grants up to £100 to out-back settlers at a low rate of interest, the principal to be repayable over a period of years, in order to enable them to construct party telephone lines?
– I shall make representations on the subject to the PostmasterGeneral. There may be some works going on in this direction at the present time, but I can assure the honorable member that his suggestion will be considered.
Sir HENRY GULLETT laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Alternating Current Watt-hour Meters.
Drums and other parts of Water Tube Boilers.
Leather as covered by Items 324(b), (c) and (d ) .
Sanitary and Lavatory Articles of Earthenware including Glazed or Enamelled Fireclay Manufactures.
Vegetable Oils, Edible, n.e.i., including Cooking and Fish-frying Oils.
Ordered to be printed.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties. For some considerable time negotiations have been proceeding between the Commonwealth Government and the Dominion of Canada to bring about an enlargement of the present trade agreement. The Commonwealth’s representative in Canada, Mr. L. R. McGregor, while on furlough early this year, had many discussions with the Minister for Commerce and myself with a view to facilitating the completion of that agreement, and my belief is that it has almost been finalised. Can the Minister advise the House of the stage which the negotiations have reached, and whether it is hoped that it will be possible to lay the agreement on the table of the House at an early date?
– I will give consideration to the question put by the honorable member, and advise him of the position.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation in a position to inform the House what action has been taken in the last year or two in Britain, Canada and New Zealand to assist exsoldiers who, while not suffering from any accepted war disability, are to-day so mentally and physically handicapped, as the result of the strain of war service, as to be either unemployable or unable to obtain work within their very limited capacity - in fact, burnt out. If the information is not available, will the right honorable gentleman take steps to obtain from these countries copies of the legislation they have passed to deal with the matter?
– I do not know what action has been taken in the countries to which the honorable member has referred in order to deal with men suffering from the disabilities he has mentioned, but I shall endeavour to obtain the information without delay and let the honorable member have it. I am strongly of the opinion that some provision should be made for men suffering from the disabilities he has cited.
– Has the report of the
Tariff Board on motor body panels yet been received, and when will it be made available to honorable members?
– The report has not yet been received by the Department of Trade and Customs.
– Some time ago I asked a question regarding oil storage in Newcastle, and pointed out the danger the tanks constituted in a densely populated area. Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether anything has been done in regard to the matter?
– The information for which I asked has not yet come to hand, but I shall endeavour to secure it before the House rises.
– Has the Minister seen a press report to the effect that arangements have been made for the transfer of the head-quarters of his department from Melbourne to Sydney? Will he confirm or deny the report?
– I have already stated in this House that the matter has not yet been considered in any way.
” OVERBECK’S REJUVENATOR.”
– On the 29th November the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked certain questions relating to an article known as “ Overbeck’s Rejuvenator,” and I promised to make inquiries relating thereto. I am now able to advise the honorable member that, in the opinion of the Health Department this apparatus is not to be regarded as a reliable method of treatment, and advice has been given to the Trade and Customs Department that the article may be regarded as coming within the list of prohibited articles in respect of which the ignorant or innocent purchaser should be protected against himself.
– Is there any truth in the report that £100,000 of the money which has been voted for the relief of the unemployed is to be spent upon the extention of the Nymboida hydro-electric power scheme? If money is to be spent in this way, will the Acting Leader of the House give an assurance that consideration will be given to the proposal for establishing a hydro-electric scheme on the Snowy River?
– The money is being allocated to the various States for works recommended by State governments. If the honorable member can induce the Government of New South Wales to put forward the Snowy River proposal as a work on which relief money should be spent, consideration will be given to the matter.
– Will the Minister for Defence make arrangements for H.M.A.S. Moresby, after the completion of her work in Darwin waters, to proceed to the north-west coast of Western Australia for survey work, seeing that a large part of that coast is still uncharted, and that no survey work has been done there during the last 80 years?
– I shall be glad to consider the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral in a position to make a statement regarding the appointment of the Interstate Commission, and whether the commission will become the authority for making recommendations on the application of States for Commonwealth assistance ?
– The question might appropriately, perhaps, have been addressed to the Prime Minister, but, in any case, it is not customary to disclose matters of policy in answer to questions.
– Will the Government submit to the House before the adjournment the report of the Royal Commission on Petrol, and will it intimate to the Commissioner that it is nearly time that this apparently useless inquiry terminated?
– The Government will endeavour to have the report presented to the House before the adjournment if it is at all possible.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether it is a fact that the Lang Government in New South Wales at one time imposed a flour tax, why the money was raised, and whether the tax is still in force?
– So far as my recollection goes, a flour tax was imposed during the regime of the Lang Government in New South Wales for the purpose of assisting wheat-farmers of that State, and I understand that the money raised was so used.
– Does the Acting Leader of the House know whether the basic wage was then £4 5s. a week ?
– I shall have to ask the honorable member to give notice of that question.
– I notice that the Tariff
Board’s report on biscuits has just been laid on the table of the House. Will the Acting; Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the House will have an opportunity to debate this matter before the Christmas recess?
– I should say that it is extremely unlikely.
– Can the Minis ter for Defence state whether his department and the Government, when considering the desirability of developing the Fishermen’s Bend aerodrome site as an air port, will have regard to both the urgent need for this undertaking, and the fact that it would make ideal unemployment relief work owing to the fact that a large proportion of the money expended would be paid in wages?
– Reference has been made to this matter by several honorable members, and consequently I have endeavoured to expedite the inquiries being made concerning it. I have seen a lengthy report on the project, setting out many of the advantages, and also many of the difficulties. Certain arrangements would have to be made with the Victorian Government before anything like finality could be reached. I have asked the departmental officers to prepare, as speedily as possible, a definite statement as to the suitability of the site, and their opinion as to whether it would be adequate as an aerodrome for the port of Melbourne. I appreciate the views expressed by the honorable member as to the value of the work from the point of view of employment, and that aspect of the matter is being considered.
– On a couple of occasions I have drawn attention to the subject of the rentals charged for telephones in schools, and the Minister has promised to give consideration to the matter of reducing them to the former level. Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral state whether a decision has yet been reached?
– I am under the impression that the Postmaster-General has written to the honorable member personally regarding the matter, but I shall make inquiries, and ascertain what has been done about it.
– Has a report yet been furnished regarding the results of the aerial geological survey carried out by Dr. Woolnough some time ago in the north-western portion ofWestern Australia? If the report is not available, when is its receipt expected?
– A bill will be introduced shortly dealing with that subject.
– Will you have an investigation made, Mr. Speaker, regarding the present unsatisfactory and unhygienic practice of providing roller towels throughout Parliament House, with a view to making a more satisfactory arrangement?
– As the Joint House Committee will be sitting this evening, I shall bring the matter before it. The present system was introduced owing to the heavy loss of towels previously experienced. I am not in a position to indicate whether the present system is, or is not, unhygienic, but I shall consult with those who are able to inform me on the matter.
– Will you also, Mr. Speaker, ascertain who is responsible for the allegation that the system now in use is unhygienic?
– I shall do that.
– I was speaking this morning to a South Australian farmer who has suffered a good deal in recent years owing to the plight of the wheat industry. Can the Minister for Commerce inform the House whether the South Australian Government ever did anything to assist the wheat-farmers when the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was a member of the South Australian House of Assembly ?
– I think the records of the South Australian Parliament will show that a very considerable amount of assistance has been given to the wheat industry by the various governments of that State.
– Is it a fact that the money raised in New South Wales to assist the farmers was obtained by what was called a bread tax on the poor, and lent to the poor farmers at interest? If so-
– I remind the honorable member and other honorable members that the question raised by him, and also the previous question, are not quite in order.
– If it were possible to place 2,000 white men in the pearl-shell industry in northern Australian waters as divers and pearlers, would the Government do everything in its power to bring this about?
– The question asked by the honorable member is so hypothetical that it is impossible to give a direct answer to it.
Rates of Pay
– I have read in the press that the New South Wales Government has specified that certain sewerage works in country districts will be carried out under the unemployment relief schemes financed by the Commonwealth. As it is not definite that the State Government proposes to pay award rates of wages to men employed on these schemes, will the Commonwealth Government specify that award rates shall be paid?
– During the present week an opportunity will be presented to deal with this whole matter.
The following paper was presented: - -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1834, No.150.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn till 12 o’clock noon to-morrow.
It has been suggested that the House should meet early to-morrow to enable the business on the notice-paper to be completed, but as it is necessary for Cabinet to meet to-morrow morning it is proposed that the House shall meet at noon.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
NEW AND OPPOSED BUSINESS AFTER 11 p.m.
– by leave - I move -
That Standing Order No.70 - eleven o’clock rule - be suspended until the end of this week.
This motion is necessary in order that the business before the House may be completed.
– Will the Leader of the House indicate what new measures will be introduced in addition to those of which notice has already been given? Honorable members should be given some idea of what matters they may be asked to discuss.
– I should like to know what procedure the Government intends to adopt with regard to the hours of sittings still at the disposal of honorable members?
– It is the intention of the Government to deal with one measure, the Sales Tax Bill, which is not yet on the notice-paper, and which must be introduced in Committee of Ways and Means. In regard to hours of sittings information will be given to honorable members in the immediate future.
– Honorable members should be informed at once whether the discussion of bills now before the chamber will be allowed to continue in the ordinary way or whether it is the intention of the Government to apply the guillotine. The Acting Leader of the House dismissed my reference by saying that we would be informed in the near future, but I submit that we should be informed at once in order that we may make the necessary arrangements.
.- Will the Immigration Restriction Bill be proceeded with before the House adjourns? It is only reasonable that the Acting Leader of the House should give honorable members some idea as to whether he proposes to apply the guillotine or what method is proposed to be adopted in order to rush the business through the House.
– In order to permit of the business of the House being dealt with, and to obviate the necessity for all-night sittings, it is the intention of the Government to apply the guillotine on the wheat measures in order that they may be disposed of to-night.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the foregoing message be taken into consideration in committee of the whole House forthwith.
– Although the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) courteously advised honorable members on this side of the chamber of his intention to introduce this bill, a new situation has since arisen. If much time is spent on this bill at this stage, the proposed limitation of time for the debate of the bills dealing with the wheat industry may prevent certain honorable members from expressing their opinions on those measures.
– I shall occupy only about 15 minutes in moving the second reading of this bill, and the debate can then be adjourned.
– In that case I shall not offer any opposition to the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee. (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize and provide for the geological and geophysical survey of certain areas in the northern parts of Australia, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; report adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Dr. Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey and read a first time.
. - I move
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this measure is to create an entity to carry out an aerial geological and geophysical survey of North Australia, to define the powers of that entity, and to authorize it to enter into contracts. As the result of the Government’s negotiations initiated by
Senator McLachlan, Minister for Development, the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia have agreed jointly subject to the authority of their respective Parliaments, to vote a sum up to £150,000 for the purpose of the survey referred to in the bill. The measure provides that the Commonwealth Government shall be responsible for up to £75,000, and that the two States mentioned shall provide, by legislation, up to £37,500 each, being the balance of the total required. An amount of £30,000 was provided on the Commonwealth Estimates for the current financial year as part of the cost of this survey, but if this bill is passed that vote will be allowed to lapse. The scope of the survey will be confined to metallic minerals, particularly gold. The country to be surveyed will comprise certain selected areas north of approximately the 22nd parallel of south latitude. It is provided that the following work shall be performed : -
A committee consisting of the Commonwealth Minister in charge of Development, and the Ministers for Mines of Queensland and Western Australia will direct the survey. This committee, referred to in clause 6 of the bill, is the entity to which I have already referred. It is intended that complementary legislation shall be enacted by the Parliaments of Queensland and Western Australia, thus providing for a tripartite entity. The proposals are in consonance with the announced policy of the Commonwealth Government for the development of the northern part of the continent, and represent an important step forward in that regard. I pay a tribute to the State governments for the ready manner in which they have agreed to co-operate in bringing to fruition such a far-sighted policy. It is, I think, particularly appropriate that this bill should come before the House at the present time, when the Commonwealth Government is giving consideration, in conjunction with the States, to methods by which the goldmining industry may be encouraged.
It is unnecessary to develop argumentsregarding the employment-finding possibilities of gold-mining generally, because honorable members must be seised of them.
I shall deal now with the methods proposed to be employed. Aerial survey is beginning to be recognized as an essential preliminary to the economic development of undeveloped areas. Within the last five or six years it has been exploited in various parts of the world in connexion with mining, mapping, road and rail development, oil, timber, water supply, land settlement, and many other purposes. We are proposing to employ it for the specific purpose of the development of the mineral possibilities of Northern Australia, although the maps furnished in the process will subsequently be available for any of the other purposes I have mentioned.
From the mining view-point there are three stages in the work of the proposed survey.First, there is the taking of aerial photographs of selected areas that are thought worth while; secondly, there is the geological interpretation of those photographs, with the object of locating areas suitable for further ground investigation; and, thirdly, there is the use of geophysical methods, and possibly the diamond drilling of selected small areas, arising out of the taking of the photographs and their geological interpretation. Prom the photographic mosaic - a collection of photographs properly pieced together - valuable information is available to those who are trained in this work as to major and minor land formations, rock outcrops, faults and vegetation. To the trained eye these afford clues which direct ground geologists towards small areas that are worth while making the subject of a detailed investigation, and possibly a geophysical examination later. I may say briefly that, generally speaking, the many geophysical methods which are now in use throughout the world may be divided into three types. The first is the seismic method, which consists of making a small explosion and measuring the rate of propagation of the sound waves through the earth. The second is the gravitational method of measuring the distortion of the gravitational field, due to specific gravity changes, owing to mineralization or its absence. The third is the electrical method of measuring electrical conductivity, which is either higher or lower than normal according to whether mineralization exists or is absent.
Tenders for the aerial photographic work have already been called, and will close on the 31st January, 1935. It is intended to cover in the first twelve months about 3,000 square miles of country selected from the aerial photographic point of view. It is estimated that the funds available will enable a total of about 30,000 square miles to be so treated during the operation of the survey.
The methods proposed to be adopted are by no means untried. The most highly developed scientific methods have been worked out by experience in many countries, including “Western Australia, South Africa, Iraq, South America, Canada, and Rhodesia.
– What new discoveries have been made by their means in Western Australia?
– In that State they have been tried out under the aegis of a private company; but I do not think there has been any disclosure of the results. In other parts of the world, however, many discoveries of mineralized ore bodies, new lodes, and the extension of existing lodes, have been brought to light, by means of air surveys and the geological and geophysical investigations that have followed them.
With this brief description, upon which I hope to have the opportunity to enlarge at a. later date, I submit the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. A. Green) adjourned.
Declaration of Urgency.
.- I declare the bill an urgent bill.
Question - put.
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the second reading - until9 p.m. this day.
For the committee stage - until 11.45 p.m. this day.
For the report stage - until 11.50 p.m. this day.
For the third reading - until 12 o’clock midnight.
.- I protest against the curtailment of the debate on such an important measure. I do not think that one of greater importance has been brought before this Parliament since it first met. The iniquitous flour tax proposed was roundly condemned yesterday, not only by honorable members on this side of the House, but also by quite a number of Government members. It is evident that those latter gentlemen have been outspoken, not only in the House, but also at meetings of their party. Are we to stand for the stifling of discussion? Are we to prevent certain members of the Government party from making public what they said at the party meeting? If Dame Rumour be truthful, they have something very interesting to relate to us. I strongly protest against the proposed limitation of time, because each of the 33 clauses of the measure needs to be carefully scrutinized. Parliament was in recess for months. This House sat only from the 28th June to the 2nd August last. We met again at the end of October, and now, after we have been sitting for only six weeks, we are told by the Government that this most important legislation must be rushed through in the last hours of the session. This legislation is of the most objectionable and obnoxious character, and was roundly condemned by one Minister (Sir Henry Gullett) when he was a private member.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the merits of the bill upon the motion now before the Chair.
– I want to hear what that Minister has to say concerning this bill. It is outrageous that he should hide behind the Government and not be ready to say on the floor of the House what he did not hesitate to say before he joined the Ministry. It is a disgrace to the Commonwealth Parliament that so important a measure should be hurriedly rushed through the House.
– I think it is wise that we should calmly consider just how far the time limit proposed by the Government will permit honorable members to express their opinions on this important bill. If the second-reading stage is to close at 9 o’clock, only four or five will have an opportunity to debate it.
– Allowing for the tea adjournment, we shall have only some three hours in which to debate it.
– That is so. The measure is of such importance that honorable members should be prepared, if necessary, to sit all night, or at all events until the early hours of the morning in order to permit of its adequate consideration. Apparently, it is the desire of the Government that we should go into recess at the end of the week, but, even so, it should be prepared to allow honorable members a full opportunity to express their views on this highly-contentious piece of legislation. The debate so far has covered three bills relating to the wheat-growers, but has largely hinged upon that providing the means by which the necessary revenue is to be raised. There are features of the bill which many honorable members would like to discuss in committee. There again, however, they will be denied an opportunity to do so. It is perfectly useless to protest, I suppose, but I do think that, in fighting against the time limitation sought to be imposed, we should have the support of those who are opposed to the bill. We look particularly for support from those who have already spoken. If they have any sense of justice, they will see to it that time is allowed for others to discuss the bill. It is of the highest importance. It affects large sections of the community, and, that being so, ample opportunity for its consideration should be allowed.
.- The allotment of time for the several stages of the bill is ill conceived. In the first place, we have good grounds for protesting against the rushing of this legislation through Parliament. We recall that the guillotine was applied to the Estimates, which covered an expenditure of many millions of money, and that subsequently the Government almost begged honorable members to proceed with private business because they had nothing ready for the House. That was the position last week, when the Government could not induce its own supporters to make up their minds with regard to this legislation. The whole week was almost wasted, and now the Government, without any justification whatever, proposes to apply the guillotine.
A reasonable time for the consideration of this legislation should be permitted. The arrangement of times must have been arrived at with very little thought. The debate on the Flour Tax Bill will start to-day, and we shall have only three hours in which to deal with it during the second-reading stage. Two and three-quarter hours aro to be allowed for the committee stage in which we shall deal merely with the machinery clauses, whereas we shall have only three hours in which to discuss the principle of the bill itself.
– It was discussed yesterday.
– The five or six speeches delivered yesterday dealt, not only with the Flour Tax Bill, but also with the whole question of relief for the wheat-growers. Is it reasonable to ask us to to deal with the principle of this highly important bill in three hours which means that only some three or four members will have an opportunity to speak ? If the Government is determined to use its numbers to take this course, then I appeal to it at least to reconsider the time proposed to be allowed for the various stages of the bill, and to give us more opportunity for debate on the second reading. In committee, we ‘ shall be dealing only with the machinery clauses, which are largely a repetition of previous legislation. The principle of the bill is more important than is its machinery. I suggest that the whole programme is ill-balanced, and might, well be reconsidered.
.- In proposing to apply the guillotine at. this early stage, the Government is actuated by a desire to gag members of its own party. Usually the guillotine is used against the Opposition, but. apparently Ministers have been unable to gag their supporters in the caucus room, and they propose now to use the forms of the House to enable them to do so. The ministerial party sat in caucus practically every day last week. The House was almost deserted. There were times when not a member of the Government was present, and the quorum bells were constantly ringing. Finding it imposible to bring their supporters to heel in the party room, the Government now proposes to gag them, and I suppose that honorable members opposite who wanted to talk boldly yesterday will follow Ministers like lambs, and vote for this motion. I object to this system of turning out legislation as sausages are turned out of a machine. Several days have been allowed for the discussion of bills of far less importance - bills involving no important economic principle. Many honorable members have indulged in much research work, and are anxious to place before the House the results of their investigations, but they are not to be allowed to do so. The Government is racing into recess, and Parliament will probably remain in recess during the greater part of next year, while Ministers are making holiday jaunts round the world. Because of that the bill is to be passed in an ill-digested form. In committee several honorable members doubtless will desire to move amendments, but when the time limit is reached clause after clause will go through without any discussion whatever. When we have disposed of this bill the guillotine will probably be applied to its complementary measures. The whole parliamentary machine is becoming farcical. The Government might as well close down Parliament, and call upon honorable members to register their votes by pressing a button. The sole desire of this Government appears to be to shut down Parliament as quickly as possible. I protest against this proposal, .and I hope that those who object to the bill will join with us in voting against the application of the guillotine.
– I do not wish to discuss the proposal, but I would ask the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey), if possible, to extend the time proposed to b6 allotted to the second-reading stage, having regard to the fact that so much time has been occupied by preliminary business. I suggest that the time should be extended by one hour, even if it means our remaining here for an hour longer than was originally intended.
.- It is becoming a common practice on the part of the Government to exclude as far as possible any criticism of its programme. It would curtail the opportunities for honorable members to express their views on matters of high public importance. All parties recognize that the measure now under consideration is of first-class importance, and that being so, the debate upon it should not be unduly cut down. The application of the guillotine is grossly unfair to those who have not had an opportunity to speak. I understand that yesterday ten honorable members addressed themselves to this question, so that there are 65 members of the House who have not had an opportunity to voice their opinions. If those honorable members who have already spoken have any sense of fairness they will not support the Government’s proposals for restricting the debate. I had occasion a fortnight ago to protest against the action of the Government in curtailing the debate on the Estimates, and now we are confronted with a similar situation. Yesterday the debate on these bills became somewhat uncomfortable for the Government, particularly the remarks of some of its own supporters, and it would seem that the Government is determined to stifle further discussion. I register my earnest protest against the way in which honorable members are being deprived of the opportunity to express their opinions upon so important a matter, particularly one that vitally affects the poorer sections of the community. I urge that the Government reconsider its decision.
.’ - I support the proposal of the Government to limit the time for consideration of the bill, and I am unable to understand the reason for the objections raised by honorable members opposite. A little while ago it was generally understood that members of the Opposition were just as anxious as was the Government to conclude the present session on Friday next, but now they all seem to want time to register their protest against the Government’s wheat legislation. My understanding of parliamentary procedure is that protests are registered by voting, not by talking, and that debates. are for the purpose of bringing new arguments for or against proposals. There is no occasion for honorable members on either side of the House to repeat arguments that have been already expressed. Unless honorable members have something new to say they would best serve the interests they represent by remaining silent and voting in division. Moreover, I do not agree with the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that less time should be taken over the committee stage of bills. The best and most effective work of Parliament ia always done in committee, when a bill is taken clause by clause and line by line. It is not done during the general debate on the second reading. The time is short for the consideration of these bills, and the need to do something to help the farmers is urgent. Nothing new can be said regarding the proposal, and honorable members have had ample time to make up their minds as to how they shall vote.
– I desire to register my protest against the Government’s proposal to curtail the debate on this important matter. I was particularly interested to hear the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that debates were for the purpose of bringing forward new arguments. All those honorable members who have already spoken on this measure have spoken on the same subject a dozen times before in this House, and on every occasion have’ expressed the same opinion. Now, before there is an opportunity for other members to bring forward any new arguments, the “ guillotine “ is .to be applied. The honorable member who has just spoken in favour of curtailing the debate happens to have the next call. I wonder whether he is prepared to forfeit his call in order to provide another honorable member with an opportunity to say something new.
The matter before the House is the most important that has engaged its attention for a long time. We are dealing with proposals to alleviate distress among those engaged in a great primary industry. We are dealing, not .only with a grave matter of policy, but also with important first principles. There is a general agreement, it is true, that something must be done to assist the farmers, but there is wide diversity of opinion as to how that assistance should be rendered. The Minister said that the present proposed legislation represented the first instalment of the Government’s rehabilitation programme. Up to the present we have had three years of makeshift palliatives, and even the £4,000,000 which is to be paid to the farmers this year is, we are told, no more than a temporary expedient.
The time allowed for the committee stage is two -and three-quarter hours. During the second-reading debate a number of alternatives to the Government’s proposals was suggested, and the only way in which the feeling of the House can be tested upon those alternatives is to divide the House during the discussion in committee. The Government could, by a little clever planning, and by the effective use of the guillotine, rob honorable members even of that opportunity. At this moment, a sheaf of amendments has been brought into the House, it being thus made plain that, although the Government has had weeks in which to consider its policy on this matter, it has not, even up to the present, been able finally to make up its mind.
We have heard members of the Cabinet speak on this matter, and we have also had speeches from members of the Country party and from a couple of rebels among the Government’s own supporters. Not one of those people contributed anything new to the debate, find now those of us on this side of the House, who might have something new to offer, are to bo excluded. Two weeks ago the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) said that, if we were to overcome the problems with which we were confronted, there would have to be a greater degree of co-operation between the Government and the Opposition.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am opposed to the proposal of the Government to limit the time for the debate. Yesterday, honorable members on this side of the House tried to induce the Acting Leader of the House (Dr. Earle Page) to call Parliament together earlier in the day so that more time might be available during which honorable members could express their opinions upon the important matters submitted to them. Many honorable members on the other side of the House, who support most of the legislation introduced by the Government, may not be in agreement with it on its wheat proposals, and the Government seems to be anxious to title expressions of opinion from those honorable members. I appeal to those honorable members who have already spoken to vote against the Government’s present proposal, in order that others may have an opportunity to speak.
.- Honorable members on the other side of the House have said that those who have already spoken on this proposed legislation should vote against the Government’s proposal to curtail the debate, and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) suggested that the Government had not treated members of the Opposition fairly. I assert that the attitude of the Opposition to the first, three measures that were introduced to this Parliament was an absolute disgrace. First there was a proposal to borrow £5,000,000, and that was discussed fully’. Then an amendment to the Estimates was moved, and we had the same discussion over again; while later another amendment was moved, and we had the discussion a third time. There never was a greater abuse of the privileges of this House than that of which members of the Opposition were guilty on that occasion.
– 5 rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has accused members of the Opposition of ‘abusing the privileges of this House, and has suggested that we have not conducted ourselves with due decorum. That is a reflection on every member of the Opposition, and I ask that he be requested to withdraw the statement, and tender an apology.
– Any reflection upon honorable members is out of order, and I ask the honorable member for Barton to withdraw his statement and express regret.
– If I have reflected on honorable members of the Opposition, I express my regret.
– The time allowed under Standing Order 257b for the debate on this motion has expired.
Question - That the motion be agreed to -put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debateresumed from the 7th December (vide page 939), on motion by Mr. Casey) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- In the course of my remarks yesterday on the Wheat Bounty Bill, the Wheatgrowers Relief Bill, and the Flour Tax Assessment Bill, I pointed out that I would not then be in order in submitting an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the third measure, because it was the third order of the day, but I foreshadowed an amendment which I intended to move at this stage. I do not propose to repeat what I said in my speech yesterday, but I formally move -
That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ the bill be withdrawn, and assistance be provided to wheat-growers by the re-imposition of taxation on large incomes and wealthy landowners, and thatearly steps be taken to establish a compulsory Commonwealth wheat pool, with power to control the marketing of the whole of Australia’s wheat crop in cooperation with compulsory State wheat pools.”
– When the second reading of the Wheat Bounty Bill was moved, and it was suggested by the Minister that the debate on the three measures before the House should be taken together, I ruled that that course might be followed. We now have another of the related bills before us, and if honorable members desire it - no doubt they will - they may continue to discuss the three measures together.
– I oppose the amendment, because I consider that it would not provide a solution of the difficulties in which the wheat industry is placed. Our problem is an immediate and pressing one, and, while arguments could be advanced in favour of some of the points raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in his amendment, this is not the occasion to press for alterations of the methods of marketing wheat, or of the incidence of taxation.
The House certainly has a very wide range of difficulties to consider, and a great deal of information is at its disposal if honorable members desire to understand thoroughly the causes of the present disabilities of the wheat-growers, and the methods by which they can be remedied. Much has been said as to the hardships of the unemployed, and the iniquity of placing a tax on the bread of those in lowly positions; but I am not in any way moved by arguments such as those advanced yesterday by the Opposition and one or two members of the United Australia party. If distress and poverty are prevalent in South Australia, they are not confined to the metropolitan area. In many cases the difficulties of the people are far greater in the electorates of Grey, “Wakefield, and Barker, and particularly in Grey. I know the conditions of the people in my State from one end of the farming areas to the other.
When honorable members opposite speak about the sufferings that will be imposed on the unemployed if this legislation is given effect, they must be talking with their tongues in their cheeks, because they know that it will not result in one ounce being taken off the bread allowance of the unemployed. If any extra cost is incurred, it will be borne by the taxpayers of the States.
– But this legislation will increase the price of bread.
– It may, or it may not. The party to which the honorable member belongs professes to stand against sweating and “ scabbing, “ and I claim that the attitude of the Australian consumer of bread during recent years can best be described, in the language of the trade unions, as “scabbing “ on the wheat farmers of Australia for cheap bread. At a time when poverty and unemployment were prevalent in New South Wales, the party to which the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) belongs, saw fit to impose a flour tax, taking out of the mouths of the starving people of that State some of the bread which they should have received. That party’s great Mahomet, who leads his followers from a distance and who put a tax on the bread of the poor in order to raise money to be lent to distresesd farmers at 5 per cent., should be made a presentation by the Commonwealth Government of a well illustrated copy of The Merchant of Venice, with certain portions underlined for his instruction.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Perkins), who was a member of the Cabinet a few weeks ago, has protested against its action in introducing the present proposal; but, when the honorable member w,as a Minister, the Government saw fit to impose a tax on flour milled in Australia. On that occasion we heard no protest from the honorable member, and I make bold to say that, if he were still a member of the Ministry, he would have been silent on this subject last night. One who holds such strong views as those expressed by the honorable member should be reminded of what happened to the late honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. P. G. Stewart), and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), who now occupies a position on a back bench instead of being in the Cabinet. There is a way open to any man who has a conscience so sensitive as that exhibited last night by the honorable member for EdenMonaro. An honorable member should not vote for a proposal <as a member of the Cabinet, and say it is right, and then, simply because he falls from office, reverse his opinion, condemn the proposal as iniquitous, describe it as robbery, and claim that it means taxing the bread of the poor.
– That applies also to the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties.
– Members of the Opposition, with the sole exception of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) know nothing of farming, and have displayed an alarming lack of knowledge of the way in which wheat i» grown, and of what the industry means to this country, and to the people whom they claim to represent. I have an intimate knowledge of the condition of affairs in my own State. A few years ago, before the depression, the farmers in South Australia were paying 16 per cent, of the total income tax of that State; to-day they are paying only 3 per cent.
– Does the honorable member suggest that farmers with a taxable income should receive this assistance?
– Yes. Quite recently I heard honorable members putting up a plea for the glass industry, despite the fact that that industry had been paying a dividend of 9 per cent., and was setting aside considerable reserves. Honorable members said that there was no justification for a reduction of the tariff, which would have the effect of reducing the profits of this monopoly. When the tender corns of monopolistic institutions are trodden on it is surprising how speedily honorable members of the Opposition nock to their assistance.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition had a little to say in regard to the profits made in the flour-milling industry. I immediately communicated with Mr. Frisby Smith, solicitor, of King Williamstreet, Adelaide, who looks after the affairs of the Mill Owners Association in South Australia, and the information he has furnished me is confirmed by the Investment Digest of Australia. Since 1927, only one flour-mill in South Australia, the Adelaide Milling Company, has paid a dividend on the capital invested in it, and the payment of a dividend in that sole instance was made possible because the company had with the permission of the Supreme Court written down its share capital from £200,000 to £100,000. Other flour-milling companies in that State, including Vercoe’s, one of the largest, have recently been forced into liquidation. Responsible men like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should vouch for the accuracy of the assertions they make. As a matter of fact, millers have been subjected to heavy losses. I doubt if the wheat merchants are making much out of the industry to-day. Indeed, during the last five or six years, nobody could expect to make a great deal out of wheat.
I do not wish to traverse the arguments in favour of debt adjustment, farm relief, and general agricultural reconstruction. Those are matters which can be left until the major measure is introduced early next year. Consequently, in this debate I shall confine myself to replying to one or two of the arguments advanced by the Opposition.
Listening to some honorable members opposite, one would imagine that wheat was the basic diet of the whole world, and nothing else. Mankind may be divided into four classes of grain-eating communities, the wheat-eaters, the maizeeaters, the rye-eaters, and the rice-eaters. More than half of the continent of Europe is not a wheat-eating territory at all. Europe could be divided by a line. To the west of that line the western Baltic countries, western Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Great Britain and Austria may be said to be wheat-eating areas. To the east of the line in eastern Germany, the eastern Baltic countries, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and parts adjoining the Danube, rye forms the staple diet, not because the people of these countries are too poor to buy wheat, but because the soil is more suited to the cultivation of rye. Rye has been eaten in those countries over a long period of years before the depression was thought of. In the new world we have wheat-eating territories; in Canada and the United States of America in the north, also in Chili and Argentina in the south. In between these is a territory of maize and bean-eaters. On the continent of Asia, apart from India, wheat is not cultivated. What is not generally known to the farming community is that the best wheat-producing country in the world is northern China, but the residents of northern China are rice-eaters. That wheat forms the one staple article of diet of the working population of the world is a misconception shared by a number of people. One of the most significant facts in connexion with the diet of humanity is that, since the war, the consumption of wheat has been diminishing in every country without exception. The following figures are taken from an unimpeachable source - The League of Nations Review of the Agricultural Crisis - and show that since the war, taking Europe as a whole, the consumption of wheat, not only for human beings, but also for all purposes, has declined in all countries from 129.9 kilos to 128.7 kilos. It has fallen in the United States from 147 to 124 kilos; in Argentina from 170 to 149 kilos, and in the Commonwealth of Australia, which members of the Opposition tell us is the great market which must be considered by the wheatgrower, from 160 to 146 kilogrammes per head of population.
– People have not the the money to buy it.
– Rubbish ! Wheat no longer forms the staple article of diet of every man in the community. It is a diminishing article ofl consumption in all parts of the world, and yet honorable members tell us about people not having money to buy it. I have known good troops to fight on less than the unemployed are receiving in the cities to-day. I have carefully compared the ration list of men on active service with that of the unemployed to-day.When I was in Opposition in the South Australian Parliament these figures were placed before a Labour Minister in the Government of that State. He was about to raise “ Cain “ in the interests of the unemployed, but when he looked at them his attack went into oblivion.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that there is no poverty in Australia at the present time?
– I do not say that. I say that there is poverty in practically every part of Australia, but what Opposition members fail to realize is that some of the worst poverty exists in the newly settled wheat areas in South Australia and Western Australia. Most of the people in those areas can never pay their debts, but with their wives and families, they stick to the land, not accepting relief from the Government and giving nothing in return, but working hard every day and becoming worse off as a result of their toil.
– Because they are trying to grow wheat on areas that will not produce five bushels to the acre.
– That is a responsibility of governments which the honorable gentleman has supported. Nothing can absolve any government from responsibility for the tragedy which exists in the wheat areas to-day. All governments must accept their share of it. Every manufacturer in the Commonwealth was behind the move to grow more wheat - each wanted to see new country opened up - and every working man was behind it because it meant more employment for those in the secondary industries. When you place your finger upon that aspect of the wheat industry, you also place your finger on the cause of unemployment. It is the duty of this Parliament to place the wheat-grower back into the position in which he can purchase the things necessary for the cultivation of the land, and, by opening up new country, do something towards restoring employment in the metropolitan areas. Any man who studies this subject knows that one farmer on the land keeps six men employed in the secondary industries, and it is due to the lack of purchasing power of the farming community to-day that we are not able to re-employ men in the metropolitan areas. In South Australia where there are about 13,000 bread-winners out of work to-day, there are more than 13,000 farmers and hardly a farm employing labour as it did five or six years ago. If every farmer in South Australia wanted to employ one additional hand on his property I believe that there would not be enough labour in the State to meet the need. I have no doubt that the same is true of New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. But if that extra employment could be given the demand for the products of our factories would be so great that their plants would all be in constant operation and not standing idle as they have been during the last few years.
Something has been said during this debate about the International Wheat Agreement. One honorable member of the Opposition thought that perhaps something might “ turn up “ in that connexion in the next year or two. I am a supporter of the International Wheat Agreement, not because I like international agreements for the limitation of either trade or production, but because I recognize that certain new factors have arisen in the wheat industry since the termination of the war which must be faced. A new fertilizer was invented during the war which I will call Price. In consequence of the war great areas of European wheat land went out of cultivation and great areas of land in the United States of America, Canada, Australia and Argentina were put under wheat crops for the first time in order to provide wheat for the people of Europe. Some people seemed to think that the new conditions would continue for ever; but there was no ground for such a hope. Other new factors which have to be considered are science and mechanization. Scientific research has resulted in the cultivation of new varieties of wheat. In consequence of the development of the Red Bobs variety, the wheat belt of Canada was pushed 100 miles further north, which had an important effect upon the wheat production of North America. It must be recognized, too, that to-day the wheat industry of the United States of America and, to a less extent, that of Canada, has been mechanized, with a consequent huge increase of the exportable surplus of wheat from North American farms. The factories of the United States of America built tractors not only for the use of the farmers of that country, but also for the use of tens of thousands of farmers in other countries of the world. Calculations made by the American Department of Agriculture show that in ten years no less than 14,000,000 acres of land went out of hay cultivation and into grain cultivation through the mechanization of the industry. An average return of twelve bushels to the acre from those 14,000,000 acres would more than account for the exportable surplus of the United States of America during the last ten years. Another factor that must be considered when dealing with the wheat industry is the changing diet habits of the people. In Europe, America, and Australia people are undeniably eating less wheat. A study of the articles of diet of those countries shows that in the last few years a big increase has occurred in the consumption of butter, cheese, fruit, vegetables, cocoa, sugar and articles of that description, with a corresponding decreased consumption of grain. It may seem rather far fetched to say that the consumption of grain in the United States of America and Canada has been adversely affected by the stoppage of the flow of immigrants to those countries; but it is nevertheless true. The people who went to America from southern and south-eastern European countries, consumed more wheat as a general rule than the native American people. Food fashions in various countries have most certainly affected the consumption of wheat. Reference is made in one of the publications of the League of Nations to the propaganda of the medical profession designed to influence women to eat less farinaceous food than formerly because of its effect upon their figures. All these elements have contributed to the decline in the consumption of wheat which is a marked feature of the present situation. Definite figures are available which show that an enormous decrease of consumption occurred in Europe between 1913 and 1929-30. In that period the total amount of wheat used fell by 12.5 per cent, and the total amount used per head of the population fell by 19 per cent; but, during the same period, wheat production increased in a much higher ratio than the population, outstripping it by 4 per cent. These conditions were developing for seven or eight years before the crash came.
In view of these facts it must be evident to honorable members that any action that this Parliament takes with the object of rehabilitating the farming industry should have relation to overseas conditions. Only by recognizing fairly and squarely the whole circumstances of the industry, and taking in account, both the production and trading difficulties, can we hope to solve our problems. Wheat trading methods have been almost revolutionized since 1920. To-day it may be said that two firms, with very few minor exceptions, control the export of wheat from Argentina to the United Kingdom, whereas, before the war, probably thousands of small individual purchasers were buying their requirements on the open market. To-day we find that three concerns in the United Kingdom control 62£ per cent, of the British wheat trade. The Co-operative Wholesale Company controls 22£ per cent of it; Spillers Limited 20 per cent., and Joseph Rank & Company Limited 20 per cent. These factors have an important bearing upon the problem which faces us.
A good deal has been said during this debate about the incidence of the flour tax. I shall not spend much time on the subject. In dealing with this aspect of the problem honorable members should at least be consistent. If it is a fair thing to impose burdens upon the general community in the interests of, say, the sugar, banana and peanut industries of Queensland - burdens which, of course, fall upon the poor working man - it can hardly be denied that it is equally fair to adopt similar measures in the interests of the wheat industry of Australia, which gives employment to more men than -any other industry, primary or secondary, in the Commonwealth and, with the single exception of the wool industry, provides the bulk of our export trade. A few years ago the wool-growers and wheat-farmers prided themselves upon the fact that they bad never sought assistance from the Government of Australia; but to-day the wheat industry has fallen from grace in this regard, and the wool industry alone among our exporting industries is standing on its own feet. Further, it is assisting every other primary and secondary industry to maintain operations.
I wish now to say a few words about the official Opposition in this Parliament. Yesterday its Deputy Leader (Mr. Forde) delivered an eloquent speech on what the Labour party would do if it were in power. I remind the honorable gentleman that not long ago the Labour party was in power. I could not help thinking as I listened to the honorable member yesterday that he was talking with an eye on the future, when, perhaps, he would be leading a great Labour government, and could lay down conditions for the control of the wheat industry of the Commonwealth. It seems to me that the Labour party is concerned about helping the wheat industry in a particular manner more than about helping it in a general way. If the wheat-growers of Australia would swallow holus bolus the wheat policy of the Labour party, all would be well ; but if they dare to disagree with it then they must be individually and collectively condemned to eternal damnation. I do not know that the Labour party assisted the wheat industry to any extent while it was in office. Some genius in the party was responsible for the imposition of an embargo on the export of sheepskins, and possibly another genius was responsible for an embargo on the importation of governorsgeneral. Probably it was thought that one of these embargoes would in some curious manner counterbalance the other, and even assist the wheat-growers. Early in 1930 every wheat-farmer of Australia was exhorted by circular and otherwise to grow more wheat. State Ministers of Agriculture, with the approval and possibly at the instigation of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), communicated with every farmer, and asked him to sow an additional area of wheat.
-We had a premier of New South Wales at one time who said that we needed a million farms for a million farmers.
– So many contradictory things have been said by premiers of New South Wales that I like to have specific information before paying much attention to their remarks. The Commonwealth Government and every State government declared in 1930 that the salvation of the country depended upon an increase in our production of wheat for export, and the farming community, being of a rather trusting nature generally, took them at their word with the result that in that year our area under wheat was increased by more than 3,000,000 acres. Co-incident with that increase we had a very heavy crop, and also, unfortunately, a disastrous crash in prices. When the crop was being harvested, the ruling prices for wheat at Australian ports were the lowest within living memory. Yet I do not know that the Labour party, which was then in power, did anything that was effective to assist the wheat-growers. In 1931, legislation was passed which authorized the payment of a bounty of 4½d. a bushel, but that was probably wrung from the Government by political pressure. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), a rather distinguished member of the Labour Government at that time, cannot plead ignorance of the position of the wheat industry, but he must have been very effective in his advocacy in Cabinet of the cause of the wheat-growers.
– The Scullin Government provided a greater bounty at that time than any other government has since provided.
– Whatever the Scullin Government did in that regard was more than offset by the introduction of some of the heaviest taxation measures that have ever afflicted the industries of Australia, and for. this the honorable member for Kalgoorlie must accept some responsibility. Since the Labour party hasbeen sitting in opposition we have heard one continual cry about what Labour would do for the wheat industry when it was given another chance to do something. What the Labour government did for this industry when it had its opportunity was a disgrace to any Commonwealth Government. To its discredit it sought to put on the statute-book an act which provided for a guaranteed price of 3s. a bushel to the farmers, but it did not have the courage to put the legislation into effect or to resign and go to the country on the issue. I do not think that Labour can claim any consideration from the farming community for what the Scullin Government did for the wheat-growing industry while it was in office.
Every honorable member can appreciate what is behind the amendment moved yesterday by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Labour, in my opinion, is not so much concerned about assisting the wheat industry as it is about putting upon the statute-book an act providing for the establishment of a Commonwealth compulsory wheat pool. That, as a matter of fact, seems to be the main objective of the party. Let me inform honorable gentlemen opposite that it is extremely doubtful whether even 40 per cent. of the wheat farmers of South Australia would favour a compulsory wheat pool. The farmer is an individualist, not a socialist. That fact seems to be overlooked by our friends opposite.
– He is a socialist insofar as he wishes to obtain as much assistance as possible from every government.
– The honorable member is not justified in saying that. From the inauguration of federation, the farming community carried on its back the secondary industries of Australia, with very little complaint or objection. Any restitution that is now made to it on account of its disabilities is long overdue. I say, with all due respect, that the Government is disposing of the matter much more cheaply than would have been the case had it adopted the recommendation of the Royal Commission on theWheat, Bread and Flour Industries. All that Parliament is being asked to commit itself to is assistance to the amount of £4,000,000. The recommendation of the royal commission was that the industry should be entitled to £4,000,000 with wheat at 3s. a bushel at ports. The price is a long way below that to-day. The present quotation at Port Adelaide is from 2s. 7½d. to 2s. 8d. a bushel - 4d. a bushel below the price mentioned by the royal commission.
– And 4d. a bushel below what the Government promised on the hustings.
– I am not responsible for what the Government promised on the hustings. I always refrain from making promises on such occasions, because I regard that practice as a foolish one. If candidates for election were to confine themselves to the discussion of matters of policy, there would bo an improvement. The difficulties of the farming industry will not be overcome - it is not intended that they should be - by this measure. Everybody knows that the Government is committed to the introduction early next year of a thorough-going scheme for the rehabilitation of the wheat industry. Some of the States have already embarked upon proposals having that object.
I was interested last night in the remarks of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) concerning the faults of the farming industry. I admit that, as a body, the farmers have a few faults. Listening to the honorable member, however, I was led to believe that the only section of the community which has no faults, and which perpetually wears a halo round its head, is that independent section of city business men which has very little knowledge of the conditions under which are produced the wheat, wool, fruit, meat, wine, and other products by handling which they make their livelihood.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) referred to the inefficient farmer. We recognize that in every State there are farmers who should not be on the land, because of their unfitness for that occupation. There are also farms on which the Lord never intended that wheat should be grown.
– Very often wheat production on such areas has been undertaken at the invitation of State governments.
– State governments have cut up the land, built railways, and provided irrigation schemes, at great expense and often unjustifiably, out of loan money; yet there is an inclination on all sides to blame the victims of the circumstances that have ensued instead of those who were responsible for them. I believe that South Australia has given a lead to the States in the matter of the righting of the difficulty. Under legislation passed in that State,18 per cent. of the applications for assistance to remain on the land, totalling from 500 to 600 persons, were rejected by the Farmer Assistance Board.
-What became of that 18 per cent?
– Some of them remained on the land and endeavoured to carry on without outside assistance, while others drifted into the city. I told quite a few that the best thing they could do was to leave the land, because they would never make farmers so long as they lived. The report on insolvency with which honorable members were supplied yesterday shows that last year there were in the Commonwealth 2,130 insolvencies, of which 443, or over 20 per cent, were farmers; and of that 443 no fewer than 307 were in South Australia. Those figures show that quite a lot of difficulty is being experienced in the farming industry to-day.
I have no patience with the arguments that are advanced by some honorable members. Last night the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) had quite a lot to say about the writing down by the farmers of the value of their land. I agree with him up to a point; but the difficulty is that 99 per cent. of the farmers have their land mortgaged to private persons or financial institutions.
– In many cases the mortgage is greater than the value of the land.
– That is one reason why the writing down is difficult. If the mortgage were less than the value of the property, there would be no need to write down. But since the necessity to do so has arisen, action along those lines has to be taken at the instance not of the farmers, but of their creditors - an entirely different matter. In this connexion we have to recognize that the two most interested parties are the State governments - which governmentally and through the agency of State banking institutions, are the biggest individual creditors of the wheat industry - and the private trading banks. Attacks are frequently made on the private banking institutions; I have launched a few myself. But, although I do not agree in many respects with the methods they em ploy, I know of dozens of cases in which they have stood up to their losses and written them off. The variety and complexity of the problems of the farming community to-day arc so great that it is not safe for a member of any political party to attempt to lay down hard and fast rules as to what should be done or left undone. Mistakes have been made by all, including business people. I argue that if the competent business men who are supposed to know so much about the running of this country had been able to see further than the farming community into the future, they would not have loaned so much money on many properties. Bankers are deserving of as much blame as anybody, because they were chasing high interest. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro referred last night to the country storekeepers, who have stood by the farming community as no financial institution has done, and yet have received very little consideration from either State or Commonwealth authorities. In creating the credits demanded by federal policy a few years ago, the country storekeeper bore far more than his fair share of the responsibility, and is still suffering as a consequence of the losses since incurred, yet no arrangement has been made as between him and the wholesaler. If he cannot meet his commitments with the city wholesaler, all that is left to him is the insolvency court. His sole crime was that of assisting the farming community to give effect to the deliberate policy of the Commonwealth Government.
.- As the Government has strictly limited the debate, I have jettisoned many of the points that I intended to raise in connexion with the general consideration of the position of the wheat industry, and shall practically confine myself to the method proposed by the Government to raise the finance necessary to assist the industry.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) expressed himself strongly in favour of the curtailment of the debate and in denunciation of the time occupied in the making of secondreading speeches, yet exhausted the time allowed to him under the Standing Orders. I hardly think that that was fair. I ignore entirely his cheap reference to the representative of His Majesty the King as well as much of the party bias that he imported into this matter, which, after all, should be considered from a broad national viewpoint. When he said that the Opposition had failed to realize the difficulties of the farmers of Australia he made what so obviously was a misstatement that it calls for no refutation. Honorable members of the Opposition have supported every proposal placed before this Parliament for the assistance of wheat-growers and of struggling farmers generally throughout Australia. In reply to his very cheap remark that we are concerned only with getting on the statute-book a compulsory wheat pool, I remind him that that is what the representatives of the wheat-growers have requested again and again. They realize much better than does the honorable member that they are the victims of market manipulators and food speculators, to protect them against whom we stand for orderly marketing and a compulsory wheat pool, which is the only possible foundation of any plan designed to place the wheat industry on a permanent basis. There must be organized marketing through a compulsory wheat pool, upon which the farmers will have such representation as will practically give them control of the marketing of their own product. Action should be taken along the lines of the measure introduced by the Government that I led in this House. Every honorable member who is acquainted with the history of the last five or six years knows that there is no truth in the statement that the Labour party did not attempt to assist the wheatgrowers. We made many attempts to do so, and eventually succeeded. The assistance then given was not wrung from us. Our efforts extended over a period of two long years, and eventually we were able to grant a wheat bounty, the first that had been granted in the history of the Commonwealth.
In our opinion there must be a marketing scheme if- the wheat industry is to be placed on a permanent basis. But the welfare of the consumers must also be safeguarded if a home consumption price is fixed. I believe in its fixation. I do not wish, nor do those whom I represent, to scab on the working farmer of Australia. There is not a representative of an industrial electorate in either of the groups in Opposition who has ever opposed the principle that the working farmer has as. much right to a living Wage for his labour as has any man who is employed in a factory or a workshop. But we have insisted - and I think it is reasonable that we should - that when we come to the aid of the working farmer by ensuring him a home consumption price for his wheat, the interests of the consumers of Australia shall be safeguarded - that there shall be control of the marketing of wheat and of the price of flour gristed from that wheat. Wc have very lively recollections of the fact that under the compulsory wheat pool, established by virtue of powers conferred by the War Precautions Act, the farmers received 4s. 9d. a bushel for their wheat and the price of a 2-lb. loaf of bread was 4d. If bread could be sold at 4d. a 2-lb. loaf with wheat at 4s. 9d. a bushel, there is no reason why there should not be a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel for home consumption without an increase of the price of bread. I mention 4s. as against 4s. 9d. .because I realize that there is some difference in the rates of wages. It cannot be argued, however, that existing rates of wages are substantially higher than those that ruled in 1918, when wheat was 4s. 9d. a bushel and bread 4d. a 2-lb. loaf. But with the manipulation of the market by speculators, and the control exercised by the flour combine, a home consumption price without safeguards and organized marketing would strike an unnecessary blow at the consumers of bread.
With every desire to avoid a charge of reiteration may I say in passing that a tax on bread, is a heavier tax than any other on the food of the people, and that the poorer the people are the more of the tax they pay. That is all I propose to say on the general aspect because I want to keep m.y promise not to occupy the full time allowed me, now that the guillotine Ls operating.
We stand for the orderly marketing of primary products, wheat included, by the method of the wheat pool, for which the trusted representatives of the wheatgrowers have asked again and again. We realize that that cannot be done in respect of the present season; but that does not mean that we cannot affirm the principle, if we can, as expressed in the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). We are earnest and honest in our desire to help the struggling man on the land. I do not agree with some of the gibes at farmers that have come from Government supporters. As working farmers they are as much entitled as any to consideration. Realizing their difficulties we are prepared to support the temporary expedient of this Government and to support the bills providing for a grant of £4,000,000 for the relief of wheat-growers. There is no difference between us in that regard und therefore no need for the political party bias introduced by the honorable member for Barker. We have stood always for the assistance of the farmers, and will continue to do so in spite of some of their alleged champions who put their case very badly on the floor of the House. When we come to the method by which this relief is to he financed we are entitled to ask honorable members at least to weigh the point of view we put forward. How is this to he financed ? From revenue raised by taxation. This £4,000,000 is to be provided from the taxation of the people of this country. I n dealing with this temporary expedient without the control that we should have with orderly marketing, we have to ask ourselves what is the most equitable method of raising the £4,000,000 necessary to meet this commitment. I suggest that the amendment submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is a more equitable and honorable method than that proposed by the Government. To raise the extra £1,500,000 that is required we propose the re-imposition of taxation upon those who are in the best position to pay it. Let mo examine, in broad outline and very briefly, the taxation position of Australia, in order to support the justice of the case that we put up. A sum of £4,000,000 is to .be found, of which £2,500,000 is to be taken from existing revenues, and approximately £1,500,000 is tr- oe raised by the imposition of a <ix* upon flour. In support of that proposal, yesterday the Assistant Minister **(Mr. Thorby) Bought to reply to the case so well put up by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) and others from both sides who hold that a flour tax is an unjust imposition upon the poorer section of the community. The Assistant Minister’s answer waa that the working class f amilies would provide only a proportion of the £1,500,000, whereas the taxpayers, as consumers, would not only provide their proportion of the £1,500,000, but also, as taxpayers, would provide the £2,500,000.
When the honorable gentleman says that the working class families are providing “ only “ a proportion, the use of the word, “ only “, suggests that the proportion is a small one. As a matter of fact it is an overwhelming proportion. I do not wish to stress that part of his statement, but when he says that the £2,500,000 will be provided by the taxpayers, he suggests that they are something apart from the working class families. That is the point I want to examine. It is quite true that in our direct taxation we have exempted incomes up to £200 from income taxation, and £200 certainly does embrace working class families. But even taking the poorer families for which a special plea is made - the unemployed, the pensioners and those getting less than the basic wage, who will be the chief sufferers under this flour tax, which is a bread tax - taking all those who pay direct taxation as not being in the category of the poorer section, we find that, while this Government has made very substantial reductions of taxation in respect of those receiving incomes in excess of £200 a year, indirect taxation, at the same time, has been very greatly increased by it. I agree that the rates have been reduced, but the Minister suggested, by inference, that none of the £2,500,000 would be provided’ by the poorer people of this community, and it is to that point that I wish to direct attention. I want to substantiate the justice of our claim that it willbe provided from the general taxation of this country, to which the people, poor and rich, willbe paying their proportion according to consumption. Let me give the House some figures in support of that view. Taking the period 1930-31 and 1931- 32 as representing the two years during which the Labour government had control - although in the latter part of 1932 we were not in office - we find that the revenue from direct taxation was £35,780,000. For the following two years 1932- 33 and 1933-34, during which the Lyons Government held office, the direct taxation was only £25,988,000. There was approximately a reduction of £10,000,000 for the two years as compared with the two years during which Labour was in office. But when we turn to indirect taxation we find that for the years 1930- 31 and 1931-32 the indirect taxation was £68,597,000 as against £86,565,000 during 1932-33 and 1933-34, so that during the last two years there has been an increase of indirect taxation amounting to £18,000,000.
Surely the Government should be satisfied with the increased amount they are collecting by way of indirect taxation without imposing a tax amounting to another £1,500,000 on the staff of life - the only means of life in many cases, of the poorest people in Australia. Let me analyse these figures, Income tax for the financial year ended 1931- 32 amounted to £13,000,000, whereas in round figures the revenue derived from that source last year was only £9,000,000. We have heard a lot of boasting about the return to prosperity. If prosperity has returned we should be getting more from income tax, but because of the deliberate reduction of the taxation borne mostly by those who can afford to pay it, there has been a falling off of £4,000,000. If we look at the statistics of taxation we find that fully three-fourths of the income tax revenue is paid by those who are in receipt of salaries of over £1,000 a year, so that £3,000,000 out of the reduction of £4,000,000 was for the benefit of those in receipt of more than £1,000 a year. Can we not in justice reimpose half of that tax and save the bread eaters from this bread tax? Let us reimpose half of the reduction of the tax paid by those who receive over £1,000 a year and so raise £1,500,000 to provide the amount necessary to give relief to the wheatgrowers. Surely that is a reasonable proposal. It has been laid down as an axiom throughout the ages that you can better judge the attitude of mind of a government by its taxation than by any other means. In that way governments show their sympathy or otherwise with those who have to struggle for a livelihood. Those who are enjoying the protection of the laws which are passed by every Parliament and making good incomes under those laws should bear the burden of the taxation necessary to carry on the government of the country. That principle has been departed from by this Government. I do not say that the direct taxation is not heavy. It is, but other imposts are still heavier. Before any reduction of direct taxation was made there should have been greater relief from the emergency measures of cuts in indirect taxation. That is a fundamental principle that we have to discuss when considering the method of raising the money to meet this proposal to provide £4,000,000.
Another reduction made by this Government was in respect of land tax. The land tax is not imposed on any man the value of whose land does not exceed £5,000; yet that tax has been reduced. A special plea is put up on behalf of struggling farmers who want a reduction of the land tax when as a fact we know that no struggling farmer pays federal land tax, and that two-thirds of the amount collected by the tax is paid by city land-owners. The banks alone in that way have had their taxation reduced by £100,000.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon.G. J. Bell).Order! The right honorable member will realize that that is not relevant to the debate.
-The amendment proposes a reimposition of some of the taxation struck off by this Government.
– But the right honorable member is not in order in discussing the bearing of taxation on different sections.
– With due respect to you, sir, I think I am. The whole case against the flour tax is that it falls most heavily upon the poor. I want to show that we should reimpose taxation that is paid only by the wealthy, and that in order to relieve the wealthy the Government has to impose a tax on bread. If anything is relevant to the subject-matter of the bill and the amendment that surely is.
– The right honorable member’ will realize that the taxation imposed on banks as institutions or on fanners aB such has no bearing on the subject-matter of the bill. I do not wish to interrupt the right honorable member, but I want to keep honorable members somewhere near the question.
— 1 want to contrast the position of the banking institutions with that of the unemployed and old-age pensioners, who will have to pay this bread tax. If I am to make a case against this iniquity, I must place them in juxtaposition, otherwise I shall not be able to do so. However, I shall leave the matter at that. I regret, sir, that you have limited me in respect of a line of argument that is so essential to my case.
When we imposed a sales tax, reluctantly, because of the financial exigencies of the moment, we exempted the basic food of the people of Australia. We imposed a sales tax which reached 6 per cent, in the worst period of our financial difficulties. Had we imposed that tax on flour there would have been a. protest throughout Australia. None would have been louder in their condemnation than honorable members opposite had we. attempted anything of the kind. But this Government comes along and imposes a sale tax of 35 per cent, on flour from which the bread of the community is made, and because of that we ask the House to carry the amendment.
– The issues now before us have been narrowed down considerably. In the first place, all honorable members are agreed upon the fact that it is absolutely essential that some assistance should be given to the wheat-farmers of Australia. We can take that for granted, and we can also take it for granted that all of us realize the importance of the wheat industry as part of the agricultural life of the country. ‘ There are probably more persons employed in it than in any other single industry, and it is of tremendous value to Australia as a source of food to our people, and as a means for building up oversea credits. The following table shows the extent to which the industry has contributed to the economic life of the community: -
As regards the need for assistance, the mere fact that the industry is carrying a debt of approximately £140,000,000 indicates that something must be done at once. There are two points upon which disagreement has become evident. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) stated last night that he did not agree with the manner in which the money was to be distributed, and in this he has support of some honorable members opposite. Everybody seems to agree that £4,000,000 is a reasonable sum to grant, but the honorable member suggested that those farmers who have a certain income, or who are not in need, should not participate in the bounty. In the last Wheat Growers Relief Act, an attempt was made to discriminate between those who were in need of financial assistance, and those who were not, and a section was inserted stipulating -that payments ‘.Vere to be made only to those who were without taxable income or in need of assistance. In operation that section proved most unsatisfactory. It was a complicated piece of machinery, and imposed a heavy responsibility upon the State which has to administer it. Moreover, we know by experience that it worked - out unjustly to some farmers. Therefore, the Government is justified in dropping such an unsatisfactory system, and in substituting for it the present one, which is in all respects identical with that operated by the Scullin Government in 1931. Indeed, the terms of the two measures are the same, the relevant words being as follows: -
Bounty under this act shall be payable on the production of wheat which has, on or after the first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-four, and prior to the commencement of this act, been sold or delivered for sale, or which is sold or delivered for sale on or before the thirty-first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirtyfive, or on or before such later date as is prescribed.
In both cases the grant is unconditional. Some honorable members have objected that, under this scheme, payments will be made to wealthy persons who are not entitled to them, and to answer that objection we must consider whether there really are so many wealthy wheat-farmers who might become entitled to participate in the bounty. The report of the Income Tax Commissioner for 1934 shows that, for the year 1932-33, the last year for which figures are available, 10,403 farmers paid income tax, and of these, 4,026 received taxable incomes derived from personal exertion, totalling £1,079,092. A total of 1,410 taxpayers received £155,919 taxable income from property alone. Farmers who enjoyed composite incomes, that is, incomes derived from property and from personal exertion as well, numbered 4,967, their total incomes being £1,434,034 from personal exertion . and £631,424 from property. These figures do not refer to wheat-farmers alone, but to all farmers, including those engaged in dairying, horticulture, and other rural pursuits. The number of wheat-farmers earning a taxable income is comparatively small. There is no evidence that there is any large number of farmers, and particularly wheat-farmers, in receipt of large incomes, so that there is little justification for discriminating between them in the payment of the bounty. Last year, the attempt to do so caused considerable trouble to many who applied for payments. There are 70,000 wheatgrowers in Australia, of whom 60,000 grow wheat alone, and every applicant for the bounty was subjected to an annoying examination as to his income and position. The amount saved was comparatively small, and was not worth the trouble.
The next issue between the Government and honorable members opposite turns on the question as to bow the money is to be raised.
– Does the honorable member think that those who run sheep, and also grow some wheat, should participate in tho bounty?
– Yes. If mixed farmers are to be excluded, a large number of farmers on the Darling Downs might not be allowed to participate, because many of them combine wheatgrowing with dairying. Indeed, an effort ha» been made to encourage mixed farming, on the principle that, during times of depression, the mixed farmer is in a better position at least to keep himself, and he is not so dependent upon market fluctuations for a single commodity. As I have said, on the Darling Downs, many farmers combine dairying with wheatfarming. In the early stages of the crop the stock are allowed at times to graze on the wheat, while out in the Roma district if the season is not a good one for wheat, the crop provides suitable fodder for stock. The mere fact that a man has two sources of income should not exclude him from the benefits of this scheme. After all, what is our object in assisting the wheat industry? We desire to encourage production, and to provide a« much employment in the industry as possible. The cry throughout Australia at the present time is that there should be no restriction of production, and the best way to encourage production is to make the benefits of this scheme applicable to all wheat, whether grown on large areas or on small. This money is not a dole, but its payment represents an attempt to assist the wheat-grower, so that he will get a better return for the product of his industry.
The next question is: what is the fairest method of raising money; and that is a matter that we should be able to discuss without party bias. The Government proposes to raise it in two ways; £2,500,000 is to come out of general revenue, and £1,500,000 is to be raised by a tax on flour. There i3 no dispute regarding the £2,500,000, so our debate is now on the question of whether the sum of £1,500,000 should be raised from the consumers of flour generally, or in some other way. Well, what is the alternative? Honorable members opposite say that there should be a compulsory wheat pool, and a home consumption price for wheat. That implies that the price of wheat is 90 low to-day, that a special home consumption price should be fixed which would give the farmer an adequate return, and that inevitably means an increase of the price of wheat products - an increase of the price of bread. How can we escape it? The present quotations for wheat are about 2s. 7d. a bushel according to a statement I had from the Department of Commerce. Under a properly regulated system of marketing it naturally follows that the price of wheat for home consumption will be increased, and obviously the price of bread must go up with it. Queensland has a compulsory wheat pool, and a system of price fixation. The report of the Commissioner of Prices in that State, dated the 30th August, 1934, shows that at 30th June the cash price of a 2-lb. loaf, delivered, was 4id. in Brisbane, and the price of flour was £9 5s. a ton, while in Sydney the prices were 5jd. and £8 respectively. In Queensland, the farmer had obtained the following prices through the operation of the State pool, and bread was cheaper- than in Sydney. The Commissioner reports in regard to wheat -
The basis of sale between the State Wheat Board and the Queensland millers in regard to the price of wheat, which was agreed to on the 6th June, 1934, was as follows: -
Those figures show the results of regulation ; but, if the price of wheat gradually went up by the provision of a homeconsumption price, the consumers, of necessity, would have to pay more for their bread. If, in Queensland, the price of wheat rose to a figure higher than that ruling when the price of bread was fixe’d, then” speaking generally a higher price would have to be imposed, or an injustice would be done. Obviously under a properly regulated system the price of bread must rise or fall in accordance with the price of wheat, and it is admitted that, at the present time, the price of wheat does not enable the growers to make ends meet. When a customs duty is imposed on boots, clothing, sugar or any other article, no discrimination can be shown as to who shall benefit or lose by the duty; it is imposed on the community as a whole, and, in the long run, the burden of any increase of prices must fall on the consumers. If wages rise through an increase of the cost of the necessaries of life, this ultimately imposes an additional burden on the consumers. The amendment involves an admission that, at the present time, in order to meet the needs of the wheat industry, it is impracticable to bring into operation a Commonwealth-wide wheat pool, because of the constitutional provisions, which would necessitate joint co-operation between the Commonwealth :>nd the States. That would mean considerable negotiations, whereas the present proposal provides for the granting of immediate assistance to the industry.
I now come to the question as to whether it would be fair to impose any tax on flour. Some honorable members say that this would be a tax on the poor, and on them only; but it must be admitted that it would fall on everybody -who is a consumer of bread, and the larger a family the more tax it would be called upon to pay. The case of the wealthy bachelor is cited as one who pays so little compared with the family man. The wealthy bachelor is not an average citizen, and a tax on flour cannot be called altogether -unjust if it falls on all alike. Of the £4,000,000 proposed to be raised to assist the wheat industry, £1,500,000 will be taken from the consumers of bread, so that the major portion of the taxation will fall on the community as a whole.
– The worker will pay twice.
– Nobody will pay twice.’ The burden of providing the other £2,500,000 will also fall on the community generally, because it will be derived from the general revenue. Reference has been made to the reimposition of taxation that has been remitted. The general scheme of tax remission was designed to increase employment as far as possible in addition to giving general relief. Take, for instance, the remission of the tax on tea.
– That was never passed on.
– The Government cannot be blamed for that. A complete scheme was introduced in order to give relief to the community generally. It is now proposed to impose a tax for a particular purpose, and the tax will be temporary. Following what has been done in connexion with other industries a tax is being imposed on the product of the industry itself in order to assist those engaged in that industry. Like all taxes, a tax on Bour is objectionable; but, if the duties on boots were increased, honorable members opposite would not object on the ground that the increase would result in the poorer clases of the community paying higher prices for their footwear. On the whole, it seems to me that the measure is just and equitable, and I intend to support it.
.- The Minister who spoke’ on behalf of the Government last night said that he desired honorable members to take a non-party view of these measures, because he was fully convinced that every honorable member recognized the parlous position.of the farming community. He said that if this important industry collapsed the whole economic structure of Australia would be most seriously affected. Every honorable member is therefore agreed that some assistance should be rendered immediately to the wheat farmer. I have doubt, however, as to the ability of the Royal Commission on the “Wheat Industry to lead this country out of the present impasse. The inquiry made by that body lias been very costly, and its reports are lengthy, yet, if we peruse them carefully, we see in them the same old story. They do not contain one new or constructive idea. They vouchsafe no guiding principle as to the course that should be pursued. The mountain has laboured, and has brought forth a mouse! Like other commissions, it has proposed a number of expedients; but the people of Australia desire to know what it costs the farmer to grow his wheat, and what the millers and the bakers are making out of the industry. Some blame the farmers because of the uneconomic conditions prevailing in the industry; others attack the millers or the bakers. The Government jumps from the farmers to the bakers. One member of the Cabinet, at any rate, has put the blame on the bakers. I point out that the committee of inquiry appointed by the Stevens Government in New South “Wales has reported that the bakers should get more money for their bread, not less. Five inquiries have been held in New South “Wales into bakers’ profits, but no investigation has been made by any parliament, Commonwealth or State, into the millers’ profits. Soon after the flour tax was imposed last year the bakers were indebted to the millers to the amount of £800,000, because they could not collect the tax from their customers, and by the time the tax was lifted this amount, according to the reports of the royal commission, had risen to £1,200,000. The bakers thus found themselves in the same position as the wheat-farmers. An unemployed customer allowed his account to mount until the baker was forced to cut off his supply of !bread. The customer then turned to another baker whom he treated in the same way. Thus the indebtedness of the customers of the bakers increased. Indeed, the report of the royal commission clearly demonstrated that this positon was not due to any action taken by the bakers. Although the average price paid to the farmer for his wheat is only 23. 7d. a bushel, 5d. is charged for a 2-lb. loaf of bread. Evidently there is something wrong somewhere. It was thought that the royal commission on wheat would ascertain the cost of production of a bushel of wheat and what profits were made by the millers and bakers. But did the royal commission’s report contain one constructive proposal? Far from it. It simply recommended continuing in the same old way with a policy of patching. The trouble with any attempt to patch things up is that the fabric is most likely to burst where the patch is applied.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said that the farmers of this country had, during the last four years, sold their wheat at ls. a bushel below the cost of production, and worked out the total loss to the farmers of Australia during that period at £8,000,000. But this Government alone has given to the farmers more than £8,500,000. I do not agree with the logicused by the honorable member, but 1 do agree that it is our duty to come to the aid of the wheat-growers.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has placed before this House the only constructive policy for assisting the wheat industry. He has said that there are four alternatives in the provision of assistance for the wheat-farmers. No honorable member has criticized them. Indeed, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) said that in the main he agreed with the views expressed by the honorable member for West Sydney. But that honorable member was the first to raise a controversy which has been referred toby many honorable members, and I regret that the limitations of debate do not permit me to deal with the honorable member as I should like. All honorable members on this side of the House believe in a home consumption price. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr, Maxwell) has asked whether thatwould not mean a higher cost for the finished product. It would with no control of prices, but honorable members on this side want controlled prices.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the price of bread all over Australia could be controlled by this Government without constitutional authority?
– During the war such control was exercised, and the period through which this country is now passing presents greater difficulties than did the war. The Government could introduce emergency legislation as was done during the war. Otherwise the farming community of this country can never be rehabilitated.
– Would the honorable member welcome the reenacting of the War Precautions Act?
– Only in respect to this industry: The honorable gentleman, however, is side-tracking the issue. As Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties he knows the difficulties which confront this country to-day. Door after door is being shut against us. We entered into a wheat agreement last year, but the United States of America has been enabled to escape its obligations by making a pact with China which permits it to capture the Chinese wheat market. Only twelve months earlier Australia had sold 20,000,000 bushels of wheat to China. In the current year our sales to China dropped to 886,000 bushels. The Minister knows the reason for this. Actually America did not break the wheat agreement, but it sold cotton to China at cost price and made up the difference between the full market price and the actual price received from China by selling cotton at a reduced rate.
– Does the honorable member admit that the price of bread must represent the price payable to the farmer for the wheat from which the loaf is actually made?
– Yes. By this legislation the Government is only tinkering with a problem which can only be met by the introduction of emergency legislation designed to take control of the product on behalf of this country and to give the farmers such relief as will enable them to remain on their farms. The honorable member for West Sydney has put forward the only constructive suggestion; that is, that emergency legislation should be introduced to deal with the problem facing this country and which will face it for a number of years because of the growth of economic nationalism in every country in the world. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties is facing the greatest problem in his political career in connexion with our trade relations with other countries. He himself was opposed to legislation of this sort when it was introduced last year. He said that there should not be a bread tax, and that of all taxes a bread tax was something that every member, irrespective of his position in the House, should oppose.
All newspapers, city and country, are in agreement that the Government should not place this tax upon the poor section of the community, because bread is the staple diet of the poor, who would have to pay this tax in the proportion of three to one compared with the rich;
And I am sure no farmer in the Commonwealth desires to receive assistance which is taken out of the pockets of the poor. No farmer in this country, no business man, no newspaper, and no section of the community is in favour of this legislation. Even members on the Government side revolt against it. Yet the Government says we can assist the wheatgrowers in no other way than by taking money from the poor people of this country. Last year I read with great delight the speech of the Minister negotiating trade treaties on a proposal of this sort and I concurred in tha arguments which he then put forward that such a tax should be applied only as a last resort. If the Government were faced with no other means of escape this tax might be justified. The honorable member for West Sydney has suggested the English method of deficiency payment under which as the industry prospers -the efficiency payment decreases. There should be a home consumption price for all wheat produced in this country, and as markets improved in other countries the deficiency payment would decrease. Unless we deal with the industry on a broad basis instead of as recommended by the royal commission we can get nowhere.
After analysing the report of the royal commission it seems that the Government said to the commission “ Work on a basis of £4,000,000. The farmers are expecting something great from you “’. The first report of the royal commission should have constituted the basis upon which the superstructure could have been built, but it contained not one constructive proposal to afford, help to the wheatgrowers of this country.
Sitting suspended f rom 6.16 to 8 p.m.
– A sales tax on flour should be used by the Government only as a last resort as a means of providing, money to help the farmers. The people generally, including the farmers themselves, will resent the adoption of this method to provide the money which the Government requires. Some of the accumulating surpluses from Consolidated Revenue could be used for the purpose. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said that the farmers have been penalized by the Scullin Government’s tariff policy to the extent of ls. on every bushel of wheat they had produced during the last four years, and that the nation owed the farmer £8,000,000 on that score. I remind the honorable gentleman that since this Government has been in office remissions of taxation to the extent of more than £9,000,000 have been granted, principally to primary producers. In addition they have received £8,500,000 in relief, and now they are to receive a further £4,000,000. I do not agree with the honorable gentleman’s estimate of the extent of Australia’s debt to the farmers, which, in my opinion, is far in excess of £8,000,000. The honorable gentleman’s logic was sadly at fault. ‘Australia owes so much to its primary producers that every honorable member of this House agrees that some national provision should be made to help the wheatgrowing industry. I was surprised, however, to read in the press within the last day or two a statement that the Premier of South Australia, after consultation with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment (Mr, Stewart) proposes to make 700,000 acres of new land available in South Australia for primary production. Seeing that the Commonwealth Government is being asked to agree to n still further restriction of its wheat production, tha.t seems to me a very unsatisfactory and contradictory move which must ultimately make the position oi the wheat-growing industry worse than ever.
The Scullin Government has been criticized for having adopted the advice of the British Government and advised the- farmers to grow more wheat; but I remind honorable gentlemen that when that advice was given our leading professors of economy and so-called advisers almost unanimously held the view that we could best assist the country by increasing the area under wheat. Some honorable gentlemen associated with the State Labour party of New South Wales were even at that time opposed, to the adoption of that policy, and their view of the situation has been .amply borne out by our experience in the last few years.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Hughes), in the course of his speech, asked what policy the Labour party had to meetthedifficultiesof the wheat industry. He also asked whether there was a single industry in Australia which was not being assisteddirectlyor indirectly by the Government. The honorablemember for Hunter (Mr. James) quickly directed the right honorable gentleman’sattention to the coal-mining industry, which is in a worse position to-day thanany other industry in the Commonwealth. Eighteen years ago the country had been faced with the situation that faces it to-day, and the thenGovernment had suggestedthe imposition of a sales tax on flour, the right honorable gentlemanwould have vociferously urged the wharf labourers and coal-miners to strike, on the ground that the Government was taxing the people’s food. Unfortunately,his views have sadly changed since that time. Although it has been said in the course of this debate that the Labourparty has no policy for the assistanceof the wheat industry, the honorablemember for Riverina (Mr. Nock) admitted that our policy was good in that it provided for a home-consumption price for wheat. But the fixation of ahome-consumption price for wheat must be accompanied by the fixation of the price of flour and bread or, undoubtedly, the staple foodstuff of the people will become more expensive. The honorable member for DarlingDowns has indicated clearly that the marketing of wheat through a compulsory pool is beneficial to the wheat-growing industry, for the farmers of Queensland are receiving 5d. a bushelmore for wheat marketed through a compulsory pool than the farmers of the other States are receiving for wheat sold on the open market. Further, the price of a 2-lb loaf of bread is 4¼d. in Brisbane and 5d. in Sydney, so the consumers are also reaping a substantial benefit.
The intense economicnationalismof many countries of the world was referred to bythehonorablemember forBarker (Mr. Archie Cameron)who told us that as much as 15s. a bushel was being paid in one country for home-grown wheat, and thatthe price of home-grown wheat was in France7s.6d. a bushel, and in Great Britain 5s. a bushel. Some of the older countriesof the world which were formerly big importers of wheat are closing their door’s to the surplus wheat of the principal grain-growing countries, with the result that the wheatgrowing industry is getting intomore serious difficulties as the years go by. In these circumstances economic emergency legislation, as suggested by the honorable member for West Sydney should bepassed by this Parliament without delay. The policyof this Government cannotbecalled constructiveby even the most enthusiastic Government supporters. In 1931-32,a bounty amounting to £2,000,000 was provided for the assistance of the wheat industry; in the next year £3,000,000 was provided, and this year £4,000,000is being provided; but, unfortunately; the root causes ofthe problem are notbeing touched. Honorable gentlemenopposite have Said that theWheat Commission is preparing a report which will enunciate a comprehensive policy for rural rehabilitation, but if the reports which the commission has already submitted to the Government are any criterionof the constructive ability of the membersof that body, then nothing of any value isto be expected fromthat quarter. Thecommissionhas shown itself to be quite incapable of dealing adequately with the industry.
Before the dinner adjournment, I devoted some attention tothe baking trade, and pointed out that,although several inquiries have been held into its operations in New South Wales,nosatisfactory resultshave been achieved. Why should we nothavean inquiryinto the milling industry?
– It is being inquired into now.
– If honorable members expect any satisfactory outcome from the inquiry of the Wheat Commission into the milling industry, they will be sadly disappointed. The honorable member for Barker discussed at some length the serious extent to which the farmers of this country are committed to banks and other financial institutions. On this point the Wheat Commission expressed the opinion that farmers’ debtsthrough- out the Commonwealth amount to £140,000,000. While acceptingthat figure, I am of the opinion that very few farmers are to-day actually controlling their farms. The agricultural industry of the Commonwealth is gradually getting into the hands of comparatively few people. This view is also borne out by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) who, in the logical speech which he delivered last night, said that farmers here and there were actually buying out their neighbours. In these circumstances, I agree that the Government should provide immediate financial relief for necessitous farmers to enable them to hold their properties; but I am totally at variance with its proposal to raise £1,500,000 for this purpose by means of a sales tax on flour, for that must inevitably bear harshly on many men, women, and children who are already on the verge of starvation. I do not believe that any farmer in the Commonwealth would accept money raised by this means if he realised the degree of sacrifice that the payment of the tax imposed upon the people generally. I do not think that a single metropolitan or an independent country newspaper is favorable to the adoption of this method of assisting the farmers. In these circumstances, the Government should reconsider its position, and devise some other means to provide the £1,500,000 that it is now seeking to obtain by means of the sales tax on flour.
– I regret that my absence from the House last night prevented me from hearing several important speeches on the measures that have been introduced by the Government for the assistance of the wheat industry; but by the courtesy of several honorable gentlemen I have been supplied with copies of the Hansard report of their speeches, and so have been able to appreciate the general trend of the debate. Last year, when a similar measure was before the House, I spoke very warmly and voted against it.
– The honorable gentleman was not then in the Cabinet.
– At the last general elections, I modified my attitude before my electors, and to-day, in supporting this bill, I stand four square with those who sent me here. At that time
I had no thought of either joining or being invited to join the Ministry, nor did I think that my health would permit me to accept an invitation to do so.
I should like to say a word or two about the considerations which led to the modification of the view that I held last year. I do this not merely in an attempt to put myself right, but also because I believe that my remarks will have a very definite bearing upon the present proposal. For years, in this House and in the State Parliaments, proposals have been introduced for the establishment of compulsory wheat pools. Right up to the fight which a number of honorable members waged in this House last year, I understood that the price to be fixed by these compulsory pools was to relate to all wheat, whether it was consumed locally or exported. My conception, which I believe was the right one, was that the prices of flour and bread for local consumption were to be sufficiently loaded to enable the wheatgrowers to obtain a fair return for all wheat sold, whether locally or abroad. That was a very generally accepted view.
– Oh, no!
– There has never been a discussion of the subject in which it has been suggested that the money should be raised from other than the Australian consumers of bread.
– And the taxpayers.
– The taxpayer was never referred to in those days. Mention was made of all sorts of fancy prices that were to be paid on the locally consumed portion of the wheat crop, but the idea was that the total burden should be borne by the Australian consumer. Therefore I was opposed - as I still am, to anything in the nature of a compulsory pool; because, sooner or later, the local consumer would bear the whole burden of the price of both the export quota and that locally consumed. The subsidies paid out of Consolidated Revenue in connexion with butter, sugar, dried fruits and other export products have all been loaded on to the local consumer. That was always at the bottom of my uncomprising resistance to anything in the nature of pools. I rejoice particularly because I believe not only that the change which has occurred is directly attributable to last year’s fight, but all parties are now agreed that any price lifting in connexion with wheat shall be confined to local consumption, and that the balance required to subsidize wheat for export shall come from other sources. I say to-day, as I said last year, that it should come out of Consolidated Revenue. I should prefer that, in the main, it should come out of direct taxation. I am still in the fight to keep off the bread-eater the burden of any subsidy paid to the wheat-grower. I contend that we are progressively succeeding in our endeavours in that direction. In my opinion, but for the efforts that we made last year, the whole of the tax would have fallen on the bread-eater. We had, first, the declaration that it would be removed on the 30th June, and subsequently, that it would be taken off as soon as that course was justified by the state of the revenue.
– Two months before the elections.
– It was withdrawn on the 31st May because the surplus then justified that action. The elections took place on the 15th September, That represented very definite progress. The question which I asked myself before I changed, in a degree, my attitude on this matter, was, whether there was a sporting chance of achieving success during my time in this House in the fight to obtain a fair price with parity where it is to-day, without some tax being imposed upon the bread-eater. I have been a member of this House for some ten years, and have witnessed various changes in the world over a period of 30 years. I am conscious of no more pathetic figure in politics than the follower of forlorn hopes. I am elected to this Parliament, not to pursue forlorn hopes, but to give of my best along practicable channels. As I pointed out last year, to bring about a position that would not adversely affect the bread-eater, the incidence of taxation would have to be on a scientific basis. I have urged this upon the House for many years, but my labour has been entirely wasted. I have argued that our indirect taxation is too high, and that the greater incidence should be progressively against wealth. I objected last year to the sales tax on flour, because of its progressive incidence against poverty; and I am still opposed to it on t hat ground. I would fight the matter if I believed that there was a reasonable chance of victory; but I have heard nothing from either side of the House that leads me to believe that Parliament is about to be committed to a scientific incidence of taxation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) raised this point this afternoon, and said that the great urge of his party is to put this tax - as the amendment would put it, but only for the time being - on high incomes, and, I think, wealthy land-owners. I would remind the right honorable gentleman that he has never in this House given effect to that principle. When he was almost distraught for money in 1930 and 1931, and piled up direct taxation, he piled up equally indirect taxation against the poor.
– The present Government has made greater reductions of direct than of indirect taxation.
– It was the Government led by the right honorable gentleman which imposed the sales tax.
– And raised the income
– The right honorable gentleman subscribed to indirect taxation to the greatest extent witnessed in this House. He raised millions of pounds by means of the sales tax and primage duty. He was entirely reckless, in a political sense, as to where that taxation fell. We all know that, in the main, indirect taxation always falls on the poor. If the right honorable gentleman were in a responsible position tomorrow, he would find himself affirming indirect taxation as freely as he did in the past.
– But I would not lower direct taxation.
– I admit now, what I admitted when I cleaned up after the last fight, that, so long as the people accept smilingly taxes on petrol, alcoholic spirits, tea, and numerous other commodities in daily use, and yet go crazy if their income tax is increased by £20 a year, the best one can do is to make as light as is politically practicable and socially possible the burden imposed on the bread-eater as the result of the payment of a subsidy on the production of wheat. I did not say that last year; but, unless one states a case up to the maximum, one gets nothing, and that we gained a great deal from that fight is shown by this year’s figures. I claim no exceptional credit for the fact that the flour tax was very greatly reduced, and the period of its operation limited. A number of honorable members participated in that fight. Last year the flour tax was designed to raise £1,600,000 out of a total of £3,000,000. That was more than half. This year it will raise about £1,500,000 out of the £4,000,000 to be provided. That again is a very definite rate of progress. I do not think we can achieve miracles, but I am well satisfied with what has been done. And I give this pledge to the House that, in the Government or out of it, I shall continue on the lines that I advocated last year. I do not expect now, and I did not expect then, a complete victory.
Practically every party in the House is committed to a bread tax and has been for years. I say definitely that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) committed himself to it in his last policy speech and so did the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley).
– An absolute misstatement.
– Let me quote from the right honorable member’s policy speech.
– Read the whole of it.
– I shall read every reference in it to wheat. The right honorable gentleman said-
For the past four years the wheat-growing industryhas been in a parlous plight-
There is nothing new in that -
It is on industry of great national importance, providing employment and food for our people as well as producing an exportable commodity to pay for necessary imports-
This is almost the first time I have read of the honorable member admitting that any imports are necessary.
– Ridiculous. Read my speech without silly comments.
– I shall certainly read it. The right honorable gentleman continued -
In view of these facts the wheat industry must he placed on a sound basis. Temporary assistance from year to year leaves it in a precarious position. The Labour party proposes that, after reference to the growers by ballot, and with the co-operation of the States, a stabilization plan be adopted covering a period of three years.
I ask what the right honorable gentleman would have been able to do between the date of his return on the 15th September and to-day to bring about a ballot of the growers, the co-operation of the States and the stabilization plan which would have meant the financing of this policy. On the face of it his proposal was preposterous -
The outlines of the plan are: a national wheat pool on lines similar to those proposed in thebill introduced by theLabour Government in 1930; a guaranteed price of 3s. 9d. per bushel f.o.b. for all wheat sold off the farm -
And now we come to the particular statement which I say must have meant a tax on bread -
Wheat for home consumption to be sold to the pool at 4s. a bushel-
– Hear, hear!
– Who was to pay ? The miller. And who was to buy the miller’s flour? The baker. And then we come to the buyer of the baker’s bread-
– The people.
– The people every time.
– Read on.
– I certainly shall do so. The pool was to be established by the legislation of six States within a few weeks.
– Legislation by three States would have been sufficient.
– Well, let us say three of the States. This was to be done in respect of a three years’ period and this tax is only for the present year -
The pool to be financed through the Commonwealth Bank; 50 per cent. of any increase in price over 4s. a bushel f.o.b. to be paid to the bank until the money advanced has been liquidated. The home consumption price-
And this is the significant statement - to remain at 4s. during the three years’ period-
Whether the price of wheat went up or not the bread-eater was to pay for his bread on the basis of wheat at 4s. a bushel. Under our scheme, as I shall show, it would be substantially less.
– Read the whole of my remarks. Do not omit the important passages.
– I have let myself in for the reading of a long story -
The price of flour to be fixed on a fair basis in relation to the price of wheat.
– Hear, hear!
– So that, had the right honorable member been returned to power it would have been necessary for him, not only to induce at least three States to pass the necessary legislation, but also to amend the Constitution. We have no power to do this thing.
– The States could do it.
– Does the right honorable member say that all this could have been done in two or three months? Under his proposal the breadeaters would pay for bread on the basis of a higher price for wheat than our bill proposes. The right honorable member continued -
State and Commonwealth legislation will be required enabling the wheat-growers and government representatives to control the pool-
All in three months- and to protect farmers from foreclosures during the period of stabilization-
All in three months-
The whole position to be reviewed at the end of three years-
The bread-eaters were to pay on the basis of 4s. a bushel for wheat for three years. We put them on the basis of 3s. 3d. a bushel for one year -
During the years 1916, 1917, 1918 there was a national wheat pool-
Under the War Precautions Act-
The price of wheat was fixed at 4s. 9d. a bushel, and the price of bread was 4d. per 2-lb. loaf. There is no reason, therefore, why breadcould not be sold at its present price with wheat at 4s.
– Hear, hear! That is our answer, and we stand by it.
– I shall finish there, because if there is one statement more childish than another, it is the assertion that the miller and the baker could be controlled by this Parliament, or that they could even be properly controlled within a period of eight or ten weeks by Commonwealth and State legislation.
I shall read one short paragraph from the policy speech of the honorable member forWest Sydney, who spoke very cavalierly of the wheat industry after having referred to the wool industry. We know how profoundly moved he is whenever the wool industry is mentioned. He said -
Similarly the wheat industry which has been reduced to chaos by the international agreement must be given the opportunity to rehabilitate itself under its own control-
No suggestion of State and Federal legislation here. The whole matter was to be left to adjust itself-
The marketing will be carried out through a Commonwealth pool-
No reference to State legislation. The assumption is that we have a power that we do not possess- financed by the Commonwealth Bank and secured by a guaranteed home consumption price. Other primary industries, as fruit, poultry and dairy farming, will similarly be organized on the basis of a producer control.
I wish now to compare the Government’s proposal with the proposals of the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the New South Wales State Labour party (Mr. Beasley). I want to get at what would be the relative prices of bread under the Opposition scheme, and that proposed from this side of the House. I notice in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald that yesterday’s price for new season’s wheat in Sydney was 2s.11d. a bushel. Allowing an average of 8d. for trucking that means 2s. 3d. a bushel at country sidings. The present price of wheat at sidings in New South Wales is 2s. 3d. Our scheme would provide a subsidy of about1s. a bushel, so that the price would be about 3s. 3d. a bushel on farm. That is not high. To any but big farmers working on an extensive scale, it means getting down to the bread and butter line. The Leader of the Opposition proposed 4s. a bushel f.o.b., which means that he would add1s. 9d. artificially to the price of wheat, whereas under our scheme1s. a bushel would be added. That is the relative position against the bread consumer of this country. But more than that, we propose to put the tax directly on to flour, and the tax and nothing more than the tax will be passed on to the baker. The right honorable gentleman’s scheme for the payment of 4s. a bushel would mean that the miller would have to pay the substantially increased price and would take his profit on that added price, so that the price of his flour to the baker would carry an additional burden. The further away from consumption that you place a tax, the greater is the burden of that tax in its ultimate form. I have no hesitation in saying that under our scheme the price of bread will be increased by not more than id. per 2-lb. loaf, and Id. per 4-lb. loaf ; but, under the scheme advocated by the Leader of the Opposition, the price would increase by not less than Id. per 2-lb. loaf, and 2d. per 4-lb. loaf. In other words, the scheme for the fixing of a homo-consumption price of 4s. a bushel for wheat, though it might promise a little more to the farmer, would place twice the burden on the workers and the poor people of this country whom our friends opposite profess so loudly to serve, and the same applies to the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley).
.- The protest against the proposed sales tax on flour has been summarized by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), who said that “ the tax on bread, a basic foodstuff, was a heavier tax on the poor of this country than any other tax, and the poorer they are the heavier the tax.” That is an expression of opinion which, whether we agree with it or not, we are compelled to respect if the person who expresses it is consistent in his attitude, and I think it is right that we should examine the records of those who express such opinions in order to see whether they have been consistent. The proposed tax on bread, as it has been described, would amount, according to figures compiled by the Royal Commission on Wheat, to a levy of 3½d. a week on the average family. But bread is not the only basic foodstuff. Let us consider a few other items which appear with the same regularity on the diet of the people who may be described as comprising the poorer classes of the community. Other foodstuffs which come readily to mind are butter, sugar and tea. The sugar agreement has received the unreserved approbation of all those honorable members who have taken such a definite stand against the flour tax, yet, under the sugar agreement, the retail price of sugar is 4Jd. per lb. as against 2d. per lb. at which the people would be able to buy it if there were no agreement. Taking figures for the average annual consumption of sugar per head, we find that the extra loading placed upon the average family as the result of the sugar agreement amounts to ls. lid. a week, as against 3£d. a week which it is proposed to levy on behalf of the wheat industry. Butter is another basic foodstuff, and the butter stabilization scheme has also been approved by those honorable members who have condemned the proposed tax on flour. Again taking the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures of annual per capita consumption, and taking as the average family that which is assumed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, we find that under the butter scheme the extra loading upon the average family amounts to ls. 8d. a week. Let us now turn from the consideration of Australia’s primary industries, and consider tea. When the Ministry, which was led by the present Leader of the Opposition, came into office there was a tax of Id. per lb. on tea in packages of 20-lb. or less, while tea in packages of greater weight was admitted duty free. Within a few months of attaining office the Scullin Government imposed a tax of 4d. per lb. on tea coming into Australia in the larger packages while the duty on the smaller packages became 5d. per lb. The imposition of that duty placed a loading upon the average family of 3d. a week. That was not done in the interests of any Australian industry, but merely to obtain revenue. The Government had to have revenue and chose to obtain it by imposing a tax upon a foodstuff of the poor rather than by increasing the taxes of the wealthy who have the greatest capacity to pay. Now honorable members’ of the Opposition propose that this Government should do what they themselves refrained from doing.
The tax waa imposed upon a necessary article of food as an alternative to taxing those with the greatest capacity to pay.
I have too high an opinion of the intelligence of those who are opposing the Government’s present proposal to believe that they are unconsciously inconsistent. They are inconsistent for a purpose, namely, to make party political propaganda for themselves at the expense of one of Australia’s greatest industries.
The idea of taking government action to assist an Australian industry is not new. lt is an accepted principle, and has been applied by governments formed from all parties. There are only three methods by which an industry can be assisted. First, it can be paid a bounty out of revenue raised by taxation; secondly, we can fix by process of law a price for the sale of it3 products, as has been done in the case of sugar and butter ; and thirdly, we can place a loading on the price »f product of the industry, so that something more has to be paid by Australian consumers in the interests of the industry concerned. As to the first method, it is a good plan to pay a bounty out of revenue to certain isolated industries that need assistance ; but to apply that method to major industries, one of which requires assistance to the extent of £4,000,000 in a year, would lead to such an increase of taxation as would have serious repercussions throughout the whole of our economic structure. Therefore, we must dismiss that method. We cannot fix the price for the sale of primary products, or of any other product for that matter, by act of this Parliament, without the’ passage of complementary legislation by State parliaments, and we have no time in which to secure the passage of such legislation in order to operate for this harvest. There i# only one other method, and that is to place a loading on the price of the produet to be paid by Australian consumers in the interests of the industry. It is the same principle as is applied in the case of protective customs duties, and which will continue to be applied so long as we pursue a policy of protection. Honorable members who have supported a protection policy in regard to other industries are most inconsistent in opposing it when applied to this industry. They claim to be protectionists;’ but they would perpetuate a system whereby the return to the wheat-growers is reduced whenever overseas shipping freights are increased, whenever the wages of dock labourer* overseas are raised, whenever the purchasing power of. our Chinese customers falls, or whenever Russia chooses to dump wheat on the markets of the world. As 1 have said, I do not believe that their inconsistency is unconscious. I prefer to believe that they are acting deliberately for the purpose of creating favorable election propaganda for themselves. As has been pointed out, the proposals embodied in the policy speeches of both sections of the Labour party mean nothing more or less than that a levy should be placed upon the price of bread in order to enable the wheat-growers to receive an adequate return. There is no other way of assisting the industry, and I believe that every honorable member in Opposition knows in his heart that that is so.
I support the Government’s proposal wholeheartedly, but I greatly regret that, it applies to the product of one harvest only. I hope that the Government will introduce legislation on the lines indicated by the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) in order to provide a permanent plan for the assistance of those engaged in the wheat industry. There is only one satisfactory plan, and that is to place the control of the industry in the hands of the growers.
.- The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) must admit that when there was a compulsory wheat pool in 1916, the price of bread did not rise. It is unbecoming of him to reprove honorable members on this side of the House for having supported the placing of imposts on sugar, tea, and butter when he himself is prepared to place imposts, not only on those commodities, but upon the people’s bread as well. It, therefore, ill becomes the honorable member to offer any reproof of members of the Opposition.
– The time allotted for the debate on the second-reading of this- bill has expired.
Question - That the words proposed to beomitted (Mr. Forde’s amendment) stand part of the motion- put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Majority . …… 20
Questionso resolved in the affirmative.
Original question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon.g. j. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 8
Original question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).If the bill is discussed as a whole, more liberty will be given to honorable members who did not have an opportunity to speak on the second reading. Is it the desire of the committee that the bill be taken as a whole?
Honorable Members. -No!
– Is it the desire of honorable members that the bill be taken in parts?
Question put -
That theclausebe agreed to.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . …16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
. -In this clause “ flour “ is defined as follows; - “Flour “ means any substance produced-
It seems to me that that definition will affect many other items than flour, such as breakfast foods and other products processed from wheat.
– The definition is comprehensive, but the honorable member will find later in the bill a fairly long list of exemptions.
– Why cloud the issue? A simple definition of flour should be sufficient. It seems to me that the definition is drafted in a way that must cause misunderstanding. Everybody knows what flour is.
– The matter is not so simple as the honorable member suggests.
– I cannot understand why such a long rigmarole of words is necessary to define flour.
– This definition was the subject of considerable thought last year, and it has been reviewed in the drafting of this bill. The issue is much more complicated than the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) seems to realize. Many attempts were made to draft a simple definition of flour, but in the end it was found necessary to make the definition comprehensive and later exempt certain specified articles.
.- There is considerable need for a close scrutiny of the mixtures which are put on the market as self-raising flour. The Health Department should be authorized to keep a close watch on various food products to ensure that only pure ingredients are used in their manufacture. I am sorry that I did not have an opportunity to speak on the motion for the second reading of this bill owing to the limited time allowed for the debate. I regard the measure as being only one degree less infamous than the measure which reduced the rate of invalid and old-age pensions. In my opinion some honorable gentlemen opposite who vote for this bill will find that the people will vote against them at the next election.
– The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the clause.
– I shall content myself with saying that the Government could provide money for the payment of the bounty by minting silver coinage for the purpose. This would injure nobody and make possible the payment of even 7s. 6d. a bushel to the wheat-growers.
.- I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney). I also have no doubt that some honorable gentlemen opposite who support this measure will lose their seats at the next election.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause.
– I have had some experience as a member of other legislative and local governing bodies, and have always understood that persons pecuniarily interested in any of their business transactions are debarred from voting in connexion with certain measures. I am surprised therefore that some honorable gentlemen who will undoubtedly benefit by the provision of the bounty on wheat have voted for this bill.
– Order! The honorable member may not proceed along those lines.
– The explanation of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has not satisfied me. I do not see in the exemption clause any provision for the exemption of breakfast foods from this tax. Everybody knows what flour is, and if a simple definition of it were included in the bill in place of the cumbersome definition to which I referred a few minutes ago, there could be no room for ambiguity. It seems to me that the Government desires to impose a tax on other commodities than flour. The Minister could well consent to the elimination of provisions relating to all commodities other than flour. If he did, my objection would be met. want at this early stage an explanation of what is meant by the proposed exemptions. Food for poultry and pigs is to be exempt from the tax - a distinct concession to country interests - and members of Parliament, who draw an allowance of £825 a year, and are also wheatgrowers, are to participate in the bounty : yet, when it is a question of exempting food eaten by unemployed, and others who are destitute, no provision is made. I am not clear as to what is meant by “ flour held by a public charitable institution for its own use.”Would the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) accept an amendment making it abundantly clear that charitable institutions will be exempt from the tax in respect of the flour contained in bread and other goods that they purchase?
– That is the case.
– It is not made clear.
– That was clearly the intention of Parliament when it passed the last Flour Tax Assessment Act, and the administration was along those lines.
– There are hundreds of relief committees, which are really charitable organizations, in industrial centres. Will the Minister agree to exemption in their case ?
– The definition of flour is the principal of many definitions in this clause. It is defined as everything that comes out of a flour mill. Later in the bill the exemptions are set out. In the case of public charitable institutions, there is an exemption with respect to all flour purchased in the form of bread, cakes, or any other product. Stocks of flour on hand are not taxable, or, if taxed, a refund is made.
– What the draftsman has attempted to do, and has succeeded in doing, is to cover all flour made from wheat. I wish the committee to understand that there are several kinds of flour which are not made from wheat. For example, there is the flour in everyday use, known as maizena or cornflour, which is made from maize. It is not intended that that should be brought under the act. There is also a flour which is made out of barley. I have seen flour that was made out of peas, packed in a long paper carton, like a plug of dynamite, and sold as “ pea sausage,” under a German name. It is not procurable to-day. There is flour which is made out of certain varieties of bean; and, lastly, that which is sold in little square tins, the label on which depicts a bull’s head, and notifies the reader of the advertising matter on it that the tin contains the pure flour of the mustard seed. Having all these in mind, the draftsman had to see that the tax on flour was limited to that made from the grain known as wheat.
– In different parts of Australia aborigines missions, which are rendering valuable service, are experiencing considerable difficulty in securing funds for their support in these times of depression. Flour is the principal ingredient of the food of the aborigines. Will the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) therefore consider the advisability of exempting these missions from the flour tax?
– I understand that these particular institutions were exempt from tax under the administration of the last Flour Assessment Act. This bill makes no alteration in that regard.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 (Exemptions).
– I move-
That after the word “ Semolina “ paragraph d, the word “ Macaroni “ he inserted.
A special class of wheat used only in the manufacture of macaroni has been introduced into Australia. It is of no use whatever for bread-making purposes. When the last Sales Tax Bill was under discussion there were various deputations to Ministers with the object of exempting this special wheat from the tax, and we had from more than one Minister an admission that he was not aware that it was cultivated in Australia or used only for making macaroni.
– It is used by one manufacturer.
– By a manufacturer in South Yarra, who is in a very large way for business. He established the industry in Australia on a sound basis and observes wages boards rates and conditions of labour. He is producing better macaroni than any which can be imported and is rapidly obtaining a hold on the Australian trade. The exemption of wheat used in the manufacture of macaroni will do no injury to the wheatfarmer, but it will mean a difference to this taxpayer, who went to the expense of introducing Durum wheat into Australia specially to enable macaroni to be made here. I hope that my amendment will be accepted by the Minister.
– I may, perhaps, be allowed to state the general principle which the Government has recognized in granting exemptions from this tax. If the exemptions are widened, the revenue will very definitely suffer. By exempting one foodstuff, we shall open the door to similar requests in respect of many other items. The general principle that the Government has followedhas been to make such exemptions as will prevent the creation of competitive anomalies between different foods which are competing with each other. That led us to grant an exemption from tax to coarse-grained semolina which is used as a breakfast food and competes with other non-wheat breakfast foods. We also exempted the flour contents of flour products which are not used for food for human consumption as well as the flour contents of cornflour and one or two other items. Macaroni is made principally from semolina, and semolina, in actually only one case, is made from Durum wheat. To do what the honorable member suggests would be to give rise to competitive anomalies, and I therefore, ask him not to press his amendment. This bill is drafted almost wholly on the lines of the act which was administered, I think, successfully, for five or six months. It was not an easy bill to draft.
– Macaroni was exempt under the last measure.
– Macaroni made from coarse-grained semolina was exempt, but in this bill that exemption is withdrawn. That is one of the instances in which this bill is different from the last act. It was found in actual practice that we could not properly exempt any of the semolina used in the manufacture of macaroni. We examined scores of samples and not one of them could be properly classified as a coarse-grained semolina. All manufacturers of macaroni are, therefore, on an equal footing. No competitive anomaly is created as between one macaroni manufacturer and another. As to the ability of the manufacturer of macaroni to bear this tax as compared with other manufacturers of wheat products, I would remind the committee that the wholesale price of macaroni is approximately £25 a ton. I think no great damage was done to the industry by the previous flour tax of £4 5s. a ton. In this case the- tax is only £2 12s. 6d. a ton. The relatively large export trade that we have in macaroni will not be affected because there is a rebate of all tax paid on flour or flour products which go into the manufacture of macaroni that is exported.
– The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has told us that the flour tax will not apply to macaroni manufactured for export.
– That is so.
– But it will apply to that used for home consumption.
– That is so in respect of exports of biscuits and other flour products.
– So that the people of Australia who eat this macaroni will pay the tax whereas those abroad who use it will not have to pay it.
– We do not wish to wreck the export trade.
– We were told during the second-reading debate that the effect of this tax upon the price of foodstuffs would be practically nothing. Now we are told by the Assistant Minister that its incidence is so heavy that if it were applied to foodstuffs for export, the export trade in foodstuffs would be wrecked. The one statement is contradictory of the other. We have from the Minister himself, an admission thatthis tax makes a substantial addition to the price of the food of the poor people of this country. If it is sufficiently high to wreck exports of foodstuffs in which flour is used, then it is calculated also to seriously affect the cost of living of the people who are on the dole. Some of these exemptions are paradoxical. Bran and pollard - pigs’ food - are exempt; childrens’ food is not. Birds’ food - food for birds condemned to be kept in captivity for the term of their natural lives - is free, but childrens’ food is taxed. How can this be justified? Pigs’ food is free. The Minister will probably say that pigs are food. In one sense they are, but people on the dole are not able to buy much ham or bacon. Like the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), I think there should be many more exemptions. It is absolutely disgraceful and indeed a sad commentary on our civilization that we should tax the food of hungry children while at the same time we specially exempt birds’ food and pigs’ food from this impost. The whole thing tends to bring Parliament into contempt. Throughout the whole history of the world, oven under the despots of old, the principle has been followed of so arranging taxation that it will fall heaviest on those who are best able to pay, but this Government has been following an exactly contrary policy.
Amendment - by leave - ‘amended to read -
That the following new paragraph be inserted: - (da) Flour which is sold or held for sale for UBe as on ingredient in the manufacture of macaroni, vermicilli, spaghetti, or substances of similar composition, and in respect of which the Commisioner is satisfied that the flour will be so used.
– I am not sure that there is any necessity for the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). It is true that certain varieties of wheat are used for the manufacture of semolina, but only part of the grain is used for that purpose, and after it has been removed the residue is devoted to the manufacture of flour. I am not quite sure of the meaning of paragraph 1 of the clause, and I should like to hear an explanation from the Minister.
– Semolina is already exempt, but I wish to add these other commodities to the list of exemptions.
– The exemption refers to granulated semolina, not to the breakfast food. *
– This is largely a proposal to tax ‘bread, so why should we add to the list of taxable goods foodstuffs which are not manufactured from wheaten flour at all? Surely we do not wish to make the burden any heavier. Macaroni is not made from wheaten flour, and so will not be affected. It is largely an invalid food, and is also eaten to a considerable extent by the working classes. I intend to press my amendment to a division.
– I think the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) is mistaken when he says that macaroni is made only from flour produced from durum wheat. For years past it has been manufactured from other kinds of flour. In the main, macaroni i3 consumed in this country by southern Europeans, who eat it in place of bread. It is the form in which- a very large number of people in southern Europe take their farinaceous foods. I endorse what the honorable member said about the good work being done by a certain specialty miller who has gone to great trouble and expense to import durum wheat, and to conduct experiments regarding the best way to mill it, but I cannot see how the House can in justice vote for the exemption of a farinaceous food made from wheat, while at the same time imposing a tax on flour for the manufacture of bread. For the most part durum wheat is grown in South Australia, and I know practically all of those engaged in its production. Although I agree that the industry is deserving of encouragement, I do not think that we would be justified in making the exemption asked for..
– We might just as well extend the tax to sausages.
– The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) pointed out that wheaten flour used in the manufacture of cornflour came into direct competition with flour made from maize, just as “wheaten flour used in the manufacture of starch competed with flour made from rice. The effect of putting a tax on one kind of flour would be to create a margin in favour of the other. Flour used in sausages is in the same category.
. - Paragraphj of clause 14 exempts from tax flour used by certain charitable and religious organizations. I should like to know whether, under that clause, the exemption would be extended to flour used by the Salvation Army, and by other semi-religious organizations, of which there are several in Brisbane. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey), when replying to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), stated that those institutions which were exempt last year from payment of the flour tax would also be exempt from this tax on bread, but there is no mention of bread in this clause.
– There is a reference to it in sub-clause 6 of clause 24.
– Macaroni, or, as it is generally called in’ Australia, spaghetti, is a very fine food, and I am glad that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has moved that it should be exempt from this tax. The successful manufacture of this foodstuff in Australia is largely due to the work of Farrar in New SouthWales, and of Hugh Pye, who conducted his experiments at Dookie College. For years the latter has been experimenting for the purpose of producing a variety of hard wheat suitable for the manufacture of macaroni. The Italians, who make macaroni in Australia, have told me that practically any kind of flour will do, but in order to get the best results it is necessary to use a percentage of flour made from a variety of hard wheat. Experiments have also been conducted at Dookie College in the production of a variety of wheat which is so rich in oils and gluten that people who eat it may be able to dispense with the eating of meat altogether.
.- Paragraphj provides for the exemption of “ flour held by a public charitable institution for its own use”. I desire to be assured that flour contained in bread and other goods sold to public hospitals and other charitable institutions will be exempt from the tax.
– Either those institutions will be exempt, or the tax will be refunded.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) was anxious to have flour used by missions exempted. Is the Minister satisfied that the words, “ public charitable institution “ include missions ?
– I asked that honorable member how they fared under the last act, and he said that they were exempt.
– But that act does not specially exempt public charitable institutions.
– That is so, but exemption was granted by means of refunds.
– Are we to take it that this will be done again, and that missions will be in the same favorable position as under the previous act?
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Hollo way’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Under the last act flour held for the manufacture of cornflour and starch was exempt from this tax. Will such flour be exempt under this bill?
– Flour used in the manufacture of cornflour is exempt under paragraph c, and that used in the manufacture of starch is exempt under paragraph i.
.- I move -
That the following new paragraph be inserted: - ” (k) flour used for the manufacture of bread sold to and distributed by unemployed organizations “.
A considerable number of charitable organizationsin industrial centres are doing laudable work in feeding the children of the unemployed at various State schools.
– Are these co-operative movements?
– No. The work is done by voluntary committees, of whom there are a number in my electorate. They make soup for the school children and supply thorn with a hot meal once a day. I have no doubt that similar committees operate in other parts of the Commonwealth. The Government would suffer no loss of dignity if, as an act of grace, it agreed to the exemption for which my amendment provides. Flour fed to pigs is to be exempt, and I suggest that the children of the unemployed are at least entitled to similar consideration. The clause, if amended as I suggest, would not be unworkable. It could be operated quite easily, as it would only be a matter of the particular unemployed organization applying for exemption from the Commissioner of Taxation. My proposal, I submit, must appeal to every fair-minded supporter of the Government who desires to give at least some consideration to these people. Therefore, I ask the Minister to accept the amendment.
– The honorable member’s amendment would not prove effective in the direction he suggests. In clause 3, a public charitable institution is defined as “ a public hospital, a public benevolent institution, or a religious organization “. Administrative experience gained through the operation of the last flour tax showed that such a definition could be very broadly interpreted, as it was in all cases, by the department, and I feel sure that it could include in a general way all the organizations which the honorable member mentions in his amendment.
– It does not include the unemployed organizations.
– If such bodies come within the scope of the honorable member’s amendment, I think they would come within the scope of the present definition.
– The Minister only thinks so.
– When the last flour tax was imposed, a long list or organizations enjoying exemption from the tax was drawn up, and I assure the honorable member that all organizations named in that list, if they have not since varied their constitutions, will remain exempt from this tax.
– Those that I seek to cover were not exempted from the last tax.
– I can only assure the honorable member that the organizations he has in mind generally will be safeguarded through the broad interpretation of the definition of a public charitable institution as set out in clause 3.
– Why will the Minister not accept my amendment?
– Because its terms are too vague, and it would be impossible to give administrative effect to it.
– The Minister apparently proposes to leave to the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner, whoever the case may be, the duty of interpreting the definitions in clause 3. This is a most unsatisfactory position. Parliament ought to know definitely what is intended, and it should not be the duty of any public servant to declare Parliament’s mind on this question.
– Three classes of institutions are mentioned in the definition clause. Why not insert a fourth to safeguard definitely the position of the unemployed organizations?
– That is exactly what I am asking. The question of administrative difficulty hardly arises. There is nothing ambiguous about the terms of that amendment. Experience gained by the Government in the administration of a tax of this nature during the last eighteen months has shown that charitable institutions to-day represent a very big element in the community. Many institutions exist which are at present carrying on very useful charitable work, and they always receive a large measure of public support. The importance of the factor of interpreting definitions has been demonstrated very forcibly in the administration of the Income Tax Assessment Act. In my own returns, I have claimed deductions for donations to certain charitable institutions which I thought were allowable under that act. In some eases my claims have been allowed. In others they have been rejected. It all depends on the official who handles the return. An official who is called upon to give such a ruling usually saves himself from criticism by declaring that Parliament has left the interpretation of the act very wide. For these reasons, I suggest that this committee should adopt the proposal advanced by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). Parliament should carry its own responsibility in matters of this nature. It should know clearly what it proposes to do, and it should also be able to define clearly its intentions. It is not as though we were dealing with some law of which we had no administrative experience. The flour tax has already been in operation. The Government is fully equipped in that respect ; and the Minister, instead of contending that the organizations named by the honorable member for Hunter are covered by a broad interpretation of the definition, should be specific; he should not leave the matter to be dealt with by any outside authority whatever. We should feel more confident and satisfied if we had had time to arrange our amendment in such terms as to provide that unemployed people generally should be able to receive bread directly free of this tax, but the honorable member for Hunter and I were afraid that if we framed an amendment on those lines it would be opposed on the ground of difficulties in administration. I do not know whether that would be the case, but I should think honorable members generally would readily support a proposal whereby any unemployed family would be enabled to buy bread free of tax direct from the master baker. However, I again urge the Minister to provide specific definition to cover unemployed organizations, and not to hand this duty over to any official.
– The honorable member should have submitted his amendment on clause 3 which dealt with definitions. A State or municipal unemployment relief organization is already included under the definition of a public charitable institution.
– That would cover organizations with head-quarters and an administrative staff. I am appealing on behalf of the ordinary relief organizations.
– I think it is sufficient to state that a State or municipal unemployed organization will be exempt from this tax.
– Would an organization of which a municipal councillor is a member be exempt?
– Not necessarily.
– How would the Minister define the term “ municipal “ ?
– There are many municipal organizations of this nature in many electorates.
– Would an unemployed organization which has the imprimatur of a municipal council such as the organization operating at Richmond be included in the definition?
-I do not know the details of that organization. In many electorates there are organizations which can he called municipal unemployed organizations. Usually the mayor is the chairman. I think that many centres outside metropolitan areas have the same kind of organizations.
– In. many cases where a municipal council is indifferent other sections of the community take up the work of providing relief.
– Does that not suggest that there is possibility of some failure on the part of the organization? lt would be impossible . to administer the provisions of the bill if we made the exemptions as broad as the honorable member for Hunter suggests in hi» amendment. The present definition proved quite satisfactory during the operation of the last flour tax, and under those definitions no undue hardship was caused.
– That was not so.
.- The Minister seems to be bursting with benevolence. If the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) had suggested apparently that State or municipal organizations should be covered by a specific definition the Minister would probably have accepted the amendment, but so far as my experience goes, there are no such organizations operating in New South Wales.
– All the bona fide benevolent societies in New South Wales are presided over by the mayors of the districts in which they operate.
– The Minister has stressed the point that the definitions in clause 3 include public hospitals, public institutions and religious organizations. These organizations would cover the whole field of benevolence in normal times, but these are not normal times. We are not living, and have not lived, in normal times for a number of years. The work of the bodies mentioned by the Minister, particularly in the industrial areas where there are large aggregations of unemployed, has had to he supplemented by the voluntary services of unemployed men and their sympathizers. In many cases municipal authorities and local aldermen have been interested in these efforts, but the organizations cannot be officially designated as charitable or municipal unemployed organizations. The honorable member for Hunter merely desires that these organizations be officially recognized as unemployed organizations of a voluntary character, and that they should participate in the exemption. Provided these organizations have municipal endorsement, and are reputable organizations, they are as much entitled to this relief as the organizations mentioned in the bill, because they are carrying out precisely the same work. We have been told that the department places a very broad interpretation on the provisions of acts under its control; but we have had experience of the interpretation usually placed by it on legislation passed by this Parliament. Very seldom is the strict letter of the law departed from, and if any responsible officer departed from the exact words of clause 3 I am sure he would be immediately rapped over the knuckles for doing so. Our experience of these matters has taught us that the wording of bills should be explicit, and that nothing should be left to the determination of the departmental officers. I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter in a desire to ensure that the same consideration will bc extended to bona fide unemployed organizations carrying on charitable work as is extended to those organizations mentioned by the Minister as coming within the scope of the clause.
.- If the only organizations to be covered are municipal unemployed organizations, it would limit the application of the exemption under this clause to only nine of such bodies in New South Wales, and possibly also the central State Labour Bureau. As a matter of fact, in all States there are central organizations covering relief for unemployed. I do not know that they are particularly concerned in the distribution of bread. I understand that they confine their activities to fruit and vegetables. The distribution takes place in New South Wales and Victoria at 2 o’clock every Friday afternoon, and I believe that the same practice obtains in Western Australia and South Australia. I suggest to the Minister that the point raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) will be covered by extending the exemption to those unemployed organizations which have their head-quarters in each capital city, and branches throughout the States.
– Are the central organizations recognized by the municipalities?
– Yes. They are bona fide unemployed organizations, conducted on a voluntary basis. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment.
.- This is the first time that I have heard that unemployed relief organizations distribute bread. I have received letters from the Returned Soldiers Unemployed Relief Organization, the Australian Labour party and the Communist relief organizations asking for donations for Christmas cheer for children; but I am not aware that any of them distribute bread, although I have no doubt that miners’ organizations in the Hunter electorate may do so. None of the organizations within my knowledge is officially associated with municipal councils in any way, although aldermen may be on one or two of them. Many church committees are also doing excellent work in the dis- tribution of relief to necessitous persons. The Premier of New South Wales has announced that, if necessary, legislative action will be taken to prevent any increase of the price of bread following the imposition of this tax.
.- I heartily support the amendment of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). The explanation of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) indicates the desire of the Government to recognize the work done by unemployment committees, but the clause, as drafted, is too indefinite to satisfy honorable members on this side. There is some doubt that unemployment committees will be included in the list of exempted organizations, although it is very desirable that they should be. In my own electorate a number of public spirited citizens have banded together for the purpose of giving a substantial midday meal and other forms of assistance to school children whose parents are unemployed and iu necessitous circumstances. They now have semi-official recognition from the local governing body. All such committees should be exempted from the tax in order to carry on more effectively the good work which they are doing. The explanation of the Assistant Trea surer did not convince me that organizations of the kind mentioned by the honorable member for Hunter will be placed on the exempted list. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) mentioned the discretionary power given to officials in the administration of the act. It is desirable that the intention of Parliament should be expressed in the clearest language possible. The honorable member for Hunter is to be commended for having emphasized the valuable work which unemployment committees are doing, and his amendment to ensure their official recognition, should be carried.
– I hope that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) will press his amendment to a division, because it seems to me that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was endeavouring to evade the issue. He told the committee that in the clause dealing with definitions, a “ public charitable institution “ meant “ public hospitals, public institutions, or religious organizations”, and added that unemployment committees would probably be included. Therefore, the amendment was superfluous. We take the view, however, that no harm can be done by carrying the amendment, thus ensuring the inclusion in the exempted list of unemployment committees of the character described by the honorable member for Hunter. If, as the Assistant Treasurer has indicated, the proper place to insert this amendment is in the definition clause, the Minister might agree to recommit that clause with a view to having these unemployment committees inserted. In my own electorate, an organization called the Central Relief Council, distributes bread, fruit, vegetables, meat, clothing, and other forms of assistance to unemployed and necessitous persons. As all these bodies are gratuitously carrying out important work similar to that being done by recognized public and charitable institutions, it is only logical that they should be exempted from the tax. It seems to me that whenever the Government is asked to do anything to assist the organizations of the unemployed it closes up like a clam. The statement of the Assistant Treasurer that a most sympathetic interpretation is always given to legislation of this kind carries no weight with me. If necessary, I hope that clause 3 will be recommitted in order to include in it a satisfactory definition to cover organizations of the kind we have in mind.
.- I support the amendment. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has said that certain organizations of the unemployed, of which he has knowledge, are not doing charitable work ; but I know of two organizations of unemployed in the Barton electorate that are doing valuable work of this nature. In my own electorate four or five similar organizations, apart from those presided over by the mayors of various municipalities, are also doing exceptionally valuable work for the unemployed in distributing bread and other foodstuffs, and clothing. Until the beginning of this month I represented perhaps the poorest part of Sydney on the City Council, and I know that at the Pyrmont Belief Depot between 200 and 300 adults, and perhaps twice that number of children are provided with soup, bread and other food twice daily. Several returned soldiers’ organizations in my electorate are also regularly distributing food relief. Similar organizations are to be found in other electorates. Surely it is not intended that sales tax should be im- posed on the bread which they distribute, was for four or five years the mayor of a certain suburban municipality, and during tha.t period an organization of unemployed people numbering 300 was regularly engaged in valuable relief work. I made it a practice to lend my car every Friday night for the purpose of distributing bread, vegetables and other foodstuffs to needy people. I hope that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will agree to the insertion in the bill of a provision to exempt the operations of such bodies from sales taxation on the foodstuffs they handle.
.- I also hope that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will act generously towards the deserving section of the people whom the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) desires to befriend. Apart from the State-wide organizations for the relief of the unemployed many organizations conducted by reputable unemployed people are doing valuable relief work in many districts. They collect money, organize entertainments, and distribute food and clothing to the most needy of their associates. This is all voluntary work which occupies a good deal of time. The Assistant Treasurer has said that he desires to help such organizations, and, therefore, I hope that he will agree to the insertion in this bill of a provision to exempt their operations from this tax. The honorable gentleman has probably learned by this time that it is wise for the Minister in charge of a bill to accept amendments from time to time, even if by so doing he helps the Opposition to some extent. This, I suggest, is an amendment that should be accepted. I have no doubt that if the form in which the honorable member for Hunter has submitted his proposal does not commend itself to the honorable gentleman, the draftsman could easily substitute other words that would be more appropriate. I trust that the. Assistant Treasurer will accept the reasonable amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James).
– I suggest that the purpose which the honorable member for. Hunter (Mr. James) has in mind can best be served by amending clause 3, which has already been passed, but which I propose to ask the committee to reconsider. If that course is agreed to, I propose to move to insert after the word “ organization “ words such as “ and in’ eludes any public organization which the commissioner is satisfied is established for the relief of unemployed persons “. By extending that definition of “charitable organizations “ in all cases where they are covered by the bill, organizations established for the relief of unemployed persons will have the right to obtain a refund when the price paid for bread includes the tax.
.- If the closure will not be applied before the clause can be reconsidered, I am prepared to withdraw my amendment to enable the Minister to move to insert the words he has suggested. They cover my intention.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Reconsideration;).
In this- act, unless the contrary intention appears- “Public Charitable Institution” means a public hospital, public benevolent institution, or a religious organization
Amendment (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That after the word. “ organization “ the words “ and includes any public organization which the commissioner is satisfied is established for the relief of unemployed persons” be inserted.
– Although I am in entire accord with the amendment moved by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) I am somewhat in doubt as to the interpretation which may be placed upon the word “ unemployed “. I gather from the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that these organizations sometimes include women and children, who, normally, are not unemployed. Should not the word “unemployed “ be more clearly denned ?
– To make the provision perfectly clear, I suggest that after the word “ unemployed “ the words “ and their dependants “ be inserted. I do not know whether dependants would be covered by clause 14w
– It will be left to the discretion of the commissioner.
– It would cover the wife and children of an unemployed person.
– I do not think there will be any difficulty in the matter of interpretation.
– I understand that the Minister definitely asserts that the families of unemployed persons will be included.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 (Returns of flour held in stock on the 7th January, 1934.)
.- Will the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) explain the procedure to be adopted in connexion with the submission of returns of flour. Last year I received complaints from a number of bakers in my electorate who had submitted returns to the department giving the quantity of flour on hand, but when interviewed by the officer appointed by the commissioner he worked the confidence trick upon them. I make that statement deliberately on information I have received from reputable persons at Gunning, Dalton, Crookwell and Goulburn.
– What was the nature of the confidence trick?
– At Dalton, one baker submitted a return showing that he had 5 tons of flour on hand. When the inspector arrived he asked to see the stock, and after putting the tape-measure over the stack he said that the weight was say, 5 tons 2 cwt. The baker replied that he had submitted his return in accordance with his invoice, and had also counted the bags. The departmental officer, however, asked him to amend his form so that the records would be correct, but this man was prosecuted for submitting a false return. I could quote a dozen cases in which the same thing happened. When I was a Minister I brought the matter before Cabinet and as a result some refunds were made.
– The cases which the honorable member brought before Cabinet were in respect of persons who had been prosecuted for fraud.
– No. I know the reputation of some of the people on whose behalf I am speaking. In Goulburn there was nearly a riot because not only bakers but also reputable citizens were incensed at the action of the department.
– They were prosecuted, and some were fined.
– Yes, for frauds which they did not commit. If frauds were committed why were refunds made ? I know also of instances in which bakers who had a few pounds in excess of 1 ton of flour on hand were told by reliable citizens that they need not submit returns, and some of them were subsequently lined £20 and costs in the Goulburn court for failing to send in a return. One man closed his shop rather than submit to such injustice. I trust that the person who carries out this work in future will reflect more credit upon the department than the officer who conducted the investigations last year .
– Was he an officer of the Sales Tax Department?
– That is not the fault of the act.
– No. Under this clause I have an opportunity to state what actually occurred. If the Minister has to use tools they should be clean.
– What was the motive ?
– I do not know, but the circumstances were as I have stated.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has made a charge against an officer of the department. For the information of honorable members generally I would point out that the cases he has mentioned were tried by the court and that, notwithstanding the submission in evidence of the statements to which he now refers, the men concerned were convicted, in many cases, of fraudulent evasion of tax.
– They pleaded guilty.
– The honorable member brought several of these cases to me. They were cases of gross fraud, and I would take no action upon them.
– These men were certainly fined. I would point out, however, that no course was open to them other than to plead guilty, because their second return differed from their first. It was submitted that upon the representations of the officer a mistake had been made in the first, and that it was merely a case of amending the particulars.
– Unless the honorable member has points to raise that he did not bring forward as a member of the Cabinet, the re-opening of the matter is most unfair. I deeply resent the suggestion of trickery on the part of an officer of the department. There was no evidence of trickery in the cases that the honorable member placed before me. They were cases of gross fraud, in which I would not raise a finger to interfere with the course of the law, even could I do so.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 17 to 25 agreed to.
– The time allotted for the committee stage of the bill has expired.
Question put -
That the remainder of the bill be agreed to, and that the bill be reported with an amendment.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- While in division, during the taking of a vote on another portion of the bill, I asked for your ruling, Mr. Speaker, in regard to the eligibility of certain honorable members to record a vote on this measure. I am not clear regarding your ruling. I then mentioned four members who came to my mind as persons directly interested as participants in the distribution of this money. Since then I have found that the numbers of members of this House who are so directly interested are sufficient to have altered the decision in regard to this legislation had they been debarred from voting. I refer to the honorable members for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), Wimmera (Mr. McClelland), Grey (Mr. McBride), Riverina (Mr. Nock), Forrest (Mr. Prowse), Swan (Mr. Gregory), Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), Gwydir (Mr. Abbott), and. Calare (Mr. Thorby). From information supplied to me, all those honorable members will directly participate in the distribution of this money.
– That is not correct.
– Outside this chamber I shall probably test the eligibility of those honorable members to record votes on this bill, and I now ask for your ruling, sir, whether they would be in order in recording a vote on this measure if they are directly interested, as participants in the distribution of the money raised by means of it?
When the House was in division at an earlier hour, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), with his head covered, asked a question of me as to the eligibility of certain members to vote on the question then before the House. I said then that the honorable members whom he had mentioned would, no doubt, accept full responsibility for the vote they were casting. The honorable gentleman now asks for a further ruling. I therefore read to him Standing Order 296 which governs this question -
No member shall be entitled to vote in any division upon a question in which he has a direct pecuniary interest, not held in common with the rest of the subjects of the Crown, and the vote of any member so interested shall be disallowed, but this shall not apply to motions or public bills which involve questions of public policy.
The point raised by the honorable member is whether members who may benefit from the distribution of certain moneys under proposed legislation are eligible to vote for the bill authorizing such distribution. The honorable member will realize that I cannot have a knowledge of the private business of honorable members, and therefore cannot know whether certain members have, or have not, a pecuniary interest in the bill. From the Standing Order which I have read the honorable member will understand that the words “ not held in common with the rest of the subjects of the Crown “ really decide this question.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. On two occasions the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has referred to me in making his complaint, notwithstanding that I told him that his first reference to me was incorrect. That the honorable member should have repeated the offence after my denial is evidence of his carelessness in making charges against other honorable members. He ought to have omitted my name on the second occasion on which he voiced his complaint.
.- I desire to address myself to the principles of the bill, ind to oppose its passage. After an absence of two and a half years, I was again elected to this chamber to oppose legislation which would weigh oppressively on the working class, whom I represent. In my election addresses I said that legislation of this kind is particularly obnoxious, in view of the relief given during the last Parliament to men of wealth and substance, in that taxation imposed by the laws of this country upon persons well able to bear it was remitted in their interests. One of my first experiences in this new Parliament is to bear witness to an aggravation of the offences committed during the last Parliamentmatters which I was elected to resist. Owing to the operation of the Standing Orders, as manipulated by this Government in the interests of its wealthy friends, I was debarred from discussing the principles of this bill earlier, and of recording my protest against its provisions. I rise now with but three or four minutes of the time of this session available to me to speak upon a subject of this character. I register my opposition and protest. It will probably be a fairly long time before the electors have an opportunity of recording their protest. When they do, I have no doubt that the protest will be short, sharp, and to the point. We must wait until then. The time has now elapsed, and the guillotine devised by this Government is about to fall.
Thursday13, December 1934.
– The time allotted for the third reading of the bill has expired.
Question - That the bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Motions (by Mr. Casey) agreed to - (No. l.)
That flour tax be imposed at the rate of two pounds twelve shillings and sixpence per ton upon each pound of flour (not being flour held in stock on the seventh day of January, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-five by any person not being the manufacturer of that flour) manufactured in Australia by any person and -
That flour tax be imposed at the rate of two pounds twelve shillings and sixpence per ton upon each pound of flour in excess of One thousand pounds in weight held in stock on the seventh day of January, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-five, by any person not being the manufacturer of that flour. (No. 3.)
That flour tax be imposed upon flour and upon the goods specified in the Schedule to this Resolution, imported into Australia, and, on or after the seventh day January, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-five, and prior to the seventh day of January, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-six, entered for home consumption under the law relating to the Customs, at the rate of Two pounds twelve shillings and sixpence per ton in respect of each pound of that flour and in respect of each pound of flour used in the manufacture of those goods.
Diabetic bread and flour;
Gluten biscuits, bread, flour and meal;
Mellin’s food biscuits;
Standing Orders suspended; report adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is the rates bill. If honorable members will direct their attention to clause 2, they will see that the Flour Tax Bill (No. 2), with the exception of clauses 11 and 12 and sub-clauses 2 and 3 of clause 13 which impose rates other than those which the bill is to implement, is to be read as one with this measure. As there can be only one element of taxation in one bill, other elements are cut out of the Flour Tax Assessment Act when it is read in conjunction with this bill. The only other clause of importance is that which fixes the rate at £2 12s. 6d. a ton.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read asecond time.
The bill relates to the imposition of the tax on stocks of flour. The first measure was in respect of excise and the third will be in respect of a duty of customs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill deals with the duty of customs. It is similar in all respects to the other two measures with which the House has just dealt and imposes a rate of £2 12s. 6d. a ton.
– I oppose the second reading of this bill. It seems to me that the Government might very well have exempted invalids foods from this taxation. Apparently, not satisfied to single out the poorest and most destitute in the community to bear this tax, it wants now to tax the food of the sick and the dying. Under this bill, the tax is imposed on diabetic bread and flour, Allenbury’s Food, Benger’s Food, and other foods imperative for the use of sick people. The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) no doubt has often prescribed the use of such foods for his patients. I assure the Minister that he is not going to get this bill through the House in five minutes. I am prepared to move for the deletion of many of the items in the schedule and to call for a division in every case.
– I think I have the honorable’s point.
– That is all very well. It is now a little after midnight, but the Minister will not get this bill through before three o’clock unless he is prepared to exempt some of these invalids’ foods from the tax. If he will delete from the schedule diabetic bread and flour, gluten biscuits, bread, flour and meal, Allenbury’s Food and Benger’s Food, I shall be satisfied. It is even proposed that this tax shall apply to Passover bread.
– And to spaghetti.
– I am very much opposed to the inclusion of my national food on this list. If the Minister will delete from the schedule foods that are absolutely essential for the sick, I shall say no more. I hope that the Minister will recognize this claim. Surely he is not so inhuman as to try to drag a few shillings by way of taxation out of the sick and suffering.
.The tax on these goods represents about ¼d. on a 1-lb. tin. What relation does that bear to the tariff duty on the selfsame goods?
.I find myself in this difficulty. Under the general provisions of the bill, a tax has been imposed on flour, so that the Australian manufacturers of biscuits, cakes, invalid foods, &c., have to pay a tax of £2 12s. 6d. a ton on the flour they use. If the tax is not imposed on similar imported goods they will be placed in an advantageous position as compared with Australian products. If the honorable member has in mind any special food, for which no substitute is manufactured in Australia, he should mention it, and special consideration might be given to it.
– If there be merit in the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) the Government should consider remitting taxation on foods of this kind, whether manufactured locally or imported. Honorable members must realize the value of certain foods in cases of sickness, and we should not make it more difficult for the sick to obtain supplies.
– The object of the Goverment in preparing this schedule was to make the tax applicable to all imported goods which are known to contain a percentage of flour. If we did less than that we should not be doing our duty by Australian industries which manufacture similar kinds of food, nor should we be carrying out the policy of protection to which this Parliament is committed. Some of these are patent foods, and we know that foods bearing different names, but generally similar in nature, are manufactured in Australia. It would be unfair to the Australian manufacturers if we were to remove any item from the schedule.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Schedule). (Imposition of tax.)
– The Minister stated that substitutes for the goods enumerated in this schedule are manufactured in Australia. Whether that be so or not I do not think that Parliament should take it upon itself to prescribe what foods invalids shall eat. Members of the Opposition are opposed to the imposition of a tax even on goods made in Australia, and it is still further increasing the burden upon the old and sick to place this tax also upon necessary foods that have to be imported. Many invalids are in receipt of pensions and they find italmost impossible to obtain the special foods which they need, owing to the miserable pittance on which they have to live. We should not accentuate their difficulties by increasing the cost of these foods. Honorable members, like the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), who greedily gather in the farthings that this tax upon the food of invalids and children will produce, should be prepared to show some consideration to that section of the community which is unable to help itself.
– I take it that it will not be competent for a member of the committee to move for the deletion of a particular food from the schedule until the schedule itself is under consideration.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).This measure being founded on a resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means, such an amendment would not be in order.
– Would it not be competent for an honorable member to move an amendment to a money or taxation bill, so long as the amendment did not involve an increase of the appropriation?
– An honorable member would be quite in order in voting against the schedule, but it cannot be amended. A bill imposing charges and levies on the people can be originated only on a message from the Crown, or by a resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means. If that committee reports a resolution, and the House adopts it, it becomes the resolution of the House on which the bill is founded. The present bill is so founded. Rulings in these terms were given by Mr. Speaker Watt in the 1923-24 session.
– Then we must either pass the schedule as a whole, or vote against it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) have said that similar foods to those mentioned in the schedule are manufactured in Australia, and are available to the people. The honorable member for Riverina referred to the duties on foods imported for invalids, but I would abolish those duties. The interests of industry carry no weight with me when the health of the people is at stake. I speak feelingly on this matter, because one of my children would have died in infancy had I not been able to obtain a particular imported food.
– The maximum tax in the case of the food mentioned in the schedule that contains the most flour will be about id. per lb.
– If this is so trifling a matter, why does a Government that deals in tens of millions wish to make sick folk pay a tax amounting to a fraction of a penny per lb. ? Despite what doctors say or analysis may reveal concerning the similarity of certain invalid foods made in Australia, I claim that articles such as Benger’s Food are essential to health in particular cases of illness, and no effective substitute is manufactured in Australia. I object to a penny piece being placed in the coffers of the Commonwealth at the expense of the sick and suffering. The majority of those who require the special foods which doctors frequently order belong to the poorer class. When it suits the Government to get the last farthing out of the people nothing seems to be sacred to it; people suffering from sickness, poverty or distress are not given the least consideration. This is the attitude adopted by members of the Government on practically every issue of this nature. We now find that it is impossible for us to move for the deletion of items from the schedule, and that being so, we shall be forced into the position of having to vote against the taxation of any of the articles in the schedule.
– Will the honorable member indicate what particular items ho suggests should be deleted?
– Yes. Allenbury’s food, Benger’s food, Bowen’s food, diabetic bread and flour, Gluton biscuits, bread, flour and meal, and perhaps Mellin’s food and Mellin’s food biscuits. I am not greatly concerned about the two last mentioned items, but I suggest that the others should be eliminated from the schedule.
– It is a pity that because of the involved procedure which we have to follow to impose this tax we are unable to eliminate certain items which, I feel sure, most honorable members desire to eliminate. I sympathize with the view expressed by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). As we cannot eliminate- any items at this stage I suggest that if this schedule were defeated, the Government would ask the Senate to re-insert it, but omitting the items to which exception is taken. If the Government would undertake to eliminate in the Senate some of these invalid foods perhaps the committee would be prepared to pass the schedule.
– As it is not competent for the committee to amend the schedule, the Government will be prepared sympathetically to re-examine the position, to discover whether it will be practicable to exempt from the flour tax any invalid foods appearing on this list of possible imports as well as similar foods manufactured in. Australia. If it is practicable to make such exemptions the Government will be prepared to propose the necessary amendment in the Senate.
– Honorable members on this side of the Chamber are opposed to the principle of a flour tax which will increase the price of bread to the people of this country, but we thought that it would end there. The proposal to tax invalid foods goes too far. The Government exempts from the tax bran and pollard to be used for pig fodder, but it does not hesitate to tax the food needed by invalids and children. Such an action I submit will not be tolerated by any honorable member. Only quite recently I drew attention to the fact that taxation was being levied on water supplied to the public at Mount Isa. Where is such a policy of taxation going to stop? The Assistant Treasurer has stated that it is not competent for this committee to make any amendment to the schedule.
– I was only repeating the ruling given by the Chairman.
– The Government could have the bill resubmitted after the necessary amendments have been made. As to the Minister’s objection that the exemption of certain foods would give to imported goods an unfair advantage over the locally manufactured product, why not exempt the latter also? The Government raises no such doubts as this when it considers exempting hog and chicken feed from the tax. In doing this it is in effect giving monetary benefits to those in the industry who will reap the advantage of the bounty which this bill is to finance. Surely the Government will agree to eliminate from this schedule such foods as Allenbury’s food, Benger’s food, and Mellin’s food, which are necessary to the health of children. It is all very well for honorable members to treat this matter as a joke. The same attitude was adopted by them when I mentioned that a tax was being levied on water supplied to the public in the far Western districts of Queensland - at Mount Isa for instance - although the people who required this water are producing wealth for the nation. This matter is not regarded as a joke .by parents who are rearing big families; no matter how small the tax may be they cannot afford to treat the matter lightly. Thirty per cent, of the people of this country are in a worse plight than the farmers. There are people, travelling round the Commonwealth through lack of employment, who are rearing children under bag shelters. The imposition of a tax of even id. on the bread required for subsistence by these people may mean nothing to honorable members, who will benefit from taxation and who, in addition to their income from the land, draw a comfortable salary. The conditions attached to last year’s wheat bounty prevented them from participating in it and they were very annoyed on that account. If it is not competent for this chamber to amend the bill, and if honorable members have any regard for the welfare of the infants and sick and invalid persons, the measure should be defeated.
– Will the Minister give some indication of the intention of the Government in regard to the request of the honorable member for Werriwa? Merely to say that the Government will sympathetically consider it is not sufficient for most honorable members on this side of the Chamber. The Minister’s offer may be a very convenient way of disposing of this measure quickly, but a more definite undertaking should be given that the honorable member’s request will be granted. The Assistant Minister has said that the imposition of this tax will mean only a slight increase in the price of the foods because their flour content is very small. If that is the case, I join with the Leader of the Opposition in suggesting that the Government should promise to propose in the Senate an amendment to exempt both the imported invalid foods and those produced locally. If the Assistant Minister will say definitely that the tax will not be applied to infants’ and invalids’ foods the committee may be prepared to allow the bill to pass without further delay.
– I say in set terms that the Government will sympathetically consider the elimination from this schedule of both imported and locallymanufactured foods for invalids and children.
– Does that mean that the Government will exempt those foods?
– No; I cannot commit the Government beyond saying that it will sympathetically examine the request and, if the granting of it is practicable, the necessary amendments will be introduced in the Senate. Honorable members will realize that at such short notice it is not possible for me to say more than that now.
– How can the schedule be amended in the Senate if it cannot he amended here?
– This chamber has already resolved in favour of the provisions of the bill by adopting the resolution of the committee of ways and means upon which the measure is founded.
– I imagined that my request would have been conceded by the Minister without a moment’s hesitation. Surely he does not need time to consider whether the Government should tax the food of invalids and children. I shall register my vote against this schedule unless a definite undertaking is given that the items I have mentioned will be deleted in the Senate. I want it to be definitely understood that though I am not opposed to the inclusion of a number of the items contained in the schedule, the Government has given us no option but to approve of the whole of the items or of none.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) put - That the question be now put.
The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Question put -
That the schedule be agreed to.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
An honorable member must vote on the side of the House where he is sitting when the tellers have been appointed. I do not know how the vote of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) was recorded in the division just taken, but if his vote is challenged, I must rule in accordance with the procedure that I have just outlined.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) pro posed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.Mr. Speaker -
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 37
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . ……. 10
– The figures recorded in the division show that a quorum is not present. The House stands adjourned until 12 noon this day.
House adjourned at1.30 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated -
e asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he endeavour to obtain an assurance from the Minister for Railways of the State of Victoria that the present daily express train service between Melbourne and Adelaide will be maintained next year?
– It is not considered that this is a matter in regard to which action, as suggested by the honorable member, can appropriately be taken by the Minister for the Interior.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Have the following facts been brought under his notice: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) On the 1st August, 1934, a tariff schedule was tabled in the House of Representatives imposing increased duties on certain cotton piece goods.
Yes, but the particular section referred to does not come into operation until the 1st January, 1935.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 December 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19341212_reps_14_145/>.