14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G.J.Bell) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– This morning the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and I waited upon the Prime Minister and placed before him certain proposals in relation to the dispute which is at present affecting the shipping services of the Commonwealth, in tho belief that they would assist towards a solution of the difficulty. Is the right honorable gentleman now in a position to reply to any aspect of our representations?
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) placed before me certain proposals which indicate that they are making attempts to solve the difficulty. On behalf of the Government Iwelcome their co-operation and help, and am desirous of co-operating with them. I understand that, as the result of their intervention in the dispute, a meeting will be held in Melbourne to-morrow of all those who may be involved. In these circumstances I am agreeable to the 48 hours’ notice, which I last night gave to the seamen, operating from the close of that meeting. We are anxious to help, and not to hinder, any efforts that may be made to preserve peace on the waterfront.
– The notice does not begin to operate until the termination of that meeting?
– That is so; assuming, of course, that the meeting is held to-morrow.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the removal of the duty on British cement, in accordance with the recommendation of the Tariff Board, places a severe handicap on the Australian cement industry? Does the the honorable gentleman realize that the tabling of the report of the board a few days before the commencement of the recess may have the effect of paralyzing the trade of the Australian companies until the report can be considered early next year?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! I have no wish to restrict honorable members in the asking of questions, but it appears to me that if the Minister were to answer this question, the result might be a debate on the tariff schedule. I request the honorable member to make bis question perfectly definite, and not to introduce into it his personal opinions.
– Would it be possible to have the recommendation for the removal of the duty on cement deferred until next year, when an opportunity may be presented for the discussion of the matter?
– The change of the duty on cement was effected by the last schedule tabled. I do not know whether this is a question that can be answered.
– Order , The Minister may answer the question whether it is possible to defer consideration of any matter.
– Consideration of the matter cannot be deferred. An open inquiry was held, before which both manufacturers and importers appeared. The Tariff Board has given reasons for the change, and has shown that excessive prices have prevailed for some time.
– Order ! The Minister is now debating the tariff schedule.
– If the honorable member who has asked this question will read the report of the Tariff Board, which has been tabled in this House, he will find in it reasons for the change.
– Order ! That was not the question.
– When I introduced the last schedule, I said that if any reason were given which justified the resubmission of the matter to the Tariff Board, it. would be considered. I understand that a deputation is now in Canberra for the purpose of making representations to me.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Brushware and materials therefor.
Electric current rectifiers.
Lamps and lanterns, n.e.i., and lamp chimneys.
Metal workers’ bench vises of under 21/4inch jaw.
Piston rings for internal combustion engines.
Reducing machines for refining chocolate.
Wireless receiver parts and accessories.
Ordered to be printed.
The . following paper was presented : -
Third Annual Report and Balance-sheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, for year 1934-35.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that the penal provisions of the Crimes Act have been incorporated in awards of the Arbitration Court? If so, does he believe that such a policy should be practised?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is, “ No “. I have sent for a copy of the award which I understand the honorable member has in mind. The second part of the question relates to policy, which it is not usual to indicate in reply to questions.
Position of Melbourne Herald - Proposed Inquiry - Stations in Central and North Australia.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral been directed to a signed statement by the editor of the , Melbourne Herald that that newspaper partly owns only one broadcasting station - 3DB Melbourne - and not eleven stations as the honorable gentleman stated; that it has a minority interest in 5AD Adelaide, with its relay station 5PI, and a small station at Murray Bridge; and that it has no further interests other than a few non-voting shares in 4BK Queensland, and its relay station ?
– I have no wish to misrepresent any fact in regard to this matter, nor have I any feeling except a desire to state the position accurately. In the course of my speech yesterday I said that there are different ways in which virtual control could bo exercised: for example, by the direct ownership of a predominant shareholding; by the exclusive control of transcription programmes; and by a monopoly of sponsored advertisements which would assist to destroy individual contracts by reason of certain stipulations. I was discussing at the time the matter of direct and indirect control, and I indicated that a scrutiny of the list which I obtained permission to have incorporated in Hansard would show the share-holding of this company in the number of stations I mentioned. I am satisfied that the statement which I have made will bear the construction that I have placed upon it.
– Order ! I again ask honorable members to observe the rules governing the asking and answering of questions, which are printed on the back of the form used for asking questions upon notice. It is impossible for the Chair always to understand the significance of questions until they have been asked. The answering of this question has necessitated the Minister debating a matter that was dealt with by the House yesterday. If honorable members will observe the rules, it will not be necessary for the Chair frequently to call them to order.
– Yesterday I stated that I would give notice of a motion for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into wireless broadcasting. The Minister, in his reply, said that the Government would consider the institution of such an inquiry. ‘ I now ask him if he can state the basis upon which that inquiry will be instituted?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The question may be best answered by repeating what I said yesterday, that “ While the Prime Minister was in England earlier in this year, both he and the Attorney-General had interviews with the head of the British Broadcasting Corporation with reference to the modern problems of broadcasting. Since then, the Government has had under consideration the matter of obtaining an expert report upon broadcasting control and policy in Australia. Any such inquiry would be unsatisfactory, however, until the question of the Commonwealth’s power over broadcasting has been authoritatively decided by the High Court of Australia. Immediately such a decision has been given, the Government will finally determine the method and scope of the inquiry “. I would only add that I think I can say it will be a full and complete inquiry into all aspects of the matter.
– In view of the fact that the people in the southern portions of Australia appear to be oversupplied with wireless broadcast programmes, will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral take steps to sectionalize the continent, so that the areas of central and northern Australia, which are now inadequately supplied with these services, may have their needs met by both A and B class stations ?
– I have no objection to a number of broadcasters going out into the centre of Australia. I shall make a suggestion to that effect, and see if consideration can be given to it.
– In view of the fact that the select committee appointed by the Government of Victoria to inquire into the matter of the reduction of the number of working hours’, has reported that the establishment of a shorter working week without reduction of pay is a social and economic necessity, and has stated its belief that a maximum working week of 40 hours should be established by law, is the Government prepared to take early action to effect the reduction of the number of working hours throughout the Commonwealth ?
– The Government is not prepared to accept the decision of. the select committee appointed in Victoria. All that I can say is that the whole matter is being considered.
– Is the Prime Minister able to inform the House as to when proposals for the redistribution of electorates in Victoria will be brought forward for its consideration?
– This matter is at present receiving the attention of the Minister for the Interior. It will not be possible to introduce proposals before the approaching adjournment, but I hope that they will be brought forward early in the new year.
– Has the Treasurer given consideration to the removal of the sales tax from aerated waters and cordials, which are largely used as a medicine and can definitely be placed in the category of a necessary food? If not, will he do so?
– This matter was considered by the Government in conjunction with the many other requests for exemption from sales tax. The Government found itself unable to include aerated waters and cordials in the last list of exemptions allowed, but it remains on the list of items to be considered when future exemptions are being dealt with.
– Is it correct to say that innumerable complaints have been made to the Treasurer by business people regarding the extraordinary expense now attendant on the operation of the sales tax, owing to the many exemptions granted, and will the Government consider the substitution for it of some other impost ?
– A great deal of correspondence necessarily takes place with respect to this tax, and representations regarding it are made to the Government from time to time. I am not aware that the correspondence on the subject has been particularly voluminous lately, and I can give no guarantee that the Government will consider any substantial variation of the present method of granting exemptions.
– In view of the Commonwealthwide interest in the sugar agreement, and the unsatisfactory position that has arisen in regard to the industry, will the Prime Minister postpone the discussion on the Sugar Agreement Bill until next session, so that the people of Australia may have a full opportunity to ascertain the views of honorable members concerning it?
– I remind the honorable member that his question concerns a matter which will be the subject of debate in this House in a few moments.
– In view of the wide publicity given in a section of the Sydney press to the important pronouncement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Archdale Parkhill), at Mosman, regarding the defence of Australia, will the Minister state whether his speech contained anything in addition to what he has already said in this Parliament on the subject, and, if so, will he let honorable members know what he did say at Mosman ?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Honorable members should, I think, ascertain for themselves what I said there, because they might not accept the construction which I should place upon my remarks. At any rate copies of the speech are being printed, and will be made available to honorable members for their full perusal.
– Why did not the Minister make the Speech in this House ?
– It was- supplementary to the statement which I made in this Chamber, and merely amplified my previous remarks. I set out in a comprehensive way the objectives of defence. To save the time of the House, I thought it proper to deliver the speech in a public place, so that it could be reported in the press, and distributed in pamphlet form.
– Can the Prime Minister state when the report of the Royal Commission on oil and petrol will again be considered by the House?
– I am afraid the honorable member has asked me an awkward question. He is aware, I think, that we cannot deal with this matter prior to the Christmas recess, but I hope that when the Parliament meets again in the New Year, this matter and a number of other important questions will receive consideration.
– Will the Government carry out the definite promise given that the matter of the embargo on sulphur will be dealt with without undue delay?
– The withdrawal of the embargo has been considered. I had intended to get into touch with the honorable member for Swan and other honorable members who have complained that importers are being embarrassed.
Debate resumed from the 3rd December (vide page 2406), on motion by Mr. Beasley -
That the bill be referred to a select committee.
.- The proposed sugar agreement needs more consideration than has been given to it. No objection can be taken to the production in Australia of any commodity which the country needs, but there is something wrong if its production imposes a heavy penalty on the people. If the agreement would place a burden on the community for only a short period, my objection to it would not be so great as it is; but I fear that a permanent, penalty, from an economic point of view, will be imposed upon the people, and the question arises whether this Parliament should permit such an injustice. I should have no objection to the imposition of a. reasonable amount of duty on sugar imported into Australia. One would imagine that a duty of .100 per cent, would be a fair impost, in order to assist the industry. The quantity of sugar produced in this country is in the vicinity of 600,000 tons a year, and the consumption in Australia amounts to only 335,000 tons. It should be possible for the people to obtain sugar at half the present price, whilst the producers could get a higher return than they now receive for their product. The trouble is that Australia is growing, roughly twice the quantity of sugar that it requires, the other half being sold abroad at approximately one-third of the price which the people of Australia have to pay for their requirements. Of course, the price is so regulated that the industry is profitable to the growers. I submit that the penalty now imposed upon the people by reason of the sugar agreement is excessive. If the production were considerably reduced, the growers and the consumers would be benefited. The Deputy Leader of tha Opposition (Mr. Forde) said that vessels from Queensland brought sugar to the southern States and returned to Queensland laden with the products of those States; but I can assure honorable members that those conditions are not experienced in the electorate which I represent. In one year, Western Australia purchased goods to the value of £10,600,000 from the eastern States, whilst in the same year the goods bought from it by the eastern States were valued at only £1,200,000, showing an adverse balance of £9,400,000.
– But Western Australia receives an annual grant from the Commonwealth.
– I did not interject when the honorable member was addressing the House on this measure.
– The honorable member was then in the chair.
– And the honorable member took a mean advantage of the situation.
– I merely quoted facts.
– The honorable member uttered half-truths, which are worse than lies. There is no trade reciprocity between Queensland and Western Australia. The latter State is penalized to the extent of £500,000 a year on the sugar which it uses.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) endeavoured to compare the sugar industry with that of wheat. Up to the time of the depression, the wheat-growers stood on their own feet, notwithstanding the fact that they were carrying the burdens of many other industries in Australia. Wheat and flour exports brought an average of £23,000,000 a year into this country, and, with a normal revival of the industry, due to an increase of the price of wheat in the world’s markets, it would no longer need assistance from the people. In the past, and even through all the depression years, the people of Australia have been receiving wheat at a lower price than they would have had to pay for imported wheat. This cannot be said of sugar. Honorable members who support the sugar agreement refer to the admittedly great advantage which the industry conferred on Australia during the last war;but the sugar industry is not singular in that respect. It is computed that the wheat industry contributed to the nation, by means of reduced prices, no less than £140,000,000 during the war period. Whilst the price of wheat in other countries was between 8s. and 12s. a bushel, the average price in Australia was only about 3s. Sd. a bushel.
I am prepared to support the granting of a great deal of help to the sugar in dustry, and I consider that protection to the extent of a duty of 100 per centshould be sufficient assistance. Otherwise the sugar embargo must prove a permanent handicap to the nation. If the industry is responsible for the increase of population in the north-eastern portion of Australia, it naturally follows that it is depopulating the north- western portion, thus handicapping the development of Western Australia. At thepresent time a considerable number of foreigners are employed, in the sugar industry, and, even if they were all loyal citizens, Australia could provide a standing army in Queensland for the defence of that portion of its territory for the sum which the people are contributing to maintain the industry on the present basis, even on Professor Giblin’s estimate that the cost of the assistance is £5,000,000 a year. I say again that for the annual cost of sugar to the people of Australia we could maintain a standing army there. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) put in a lot of special pleading on behalf of the industry, but I ask him to read again the speech which he delivered in this House not long since when he pointed out that we were losing something like £7,000,000 per annum on sugar and admitted that embargoes were always evil.
– I did not say that. The honorable member should quote Hansard and not take a statement out of its context.
– Another honorable member will ‘deal with the statements made by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and I have no desire to steal his ammunition. This industry, to which Australia has contributed so much, is an aristocratic and protected industry, and those engaged in it are in a better position than the bulk of the people helping it by paying an excessive price for its product. It is not fair that people in other States should be asked to place an already bolstered industry in an infinitely better position than their own, which are in a wretched plight to-day. I hope that this Government and the Queensland sugar industry will take into consideration the need for the reduction of production. It would not only lead to a reduction of the price of sugar to the consumers in Australia, but also to an increased return to the grower. It is not a fair proposition for the sugar farmers to continue to grow twice the sugar requirements of this country and compel the people of Australia to pay a high home-consumption price to permit of the excess production being exported at a profit. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) pointed to the concessions given to jam ‘ and biscuit exporters in respect of their sugar requirements, but their requirements in respect of their products for Australian consumption are loaded with the full charge. The house-wives of Australia formerly found that it was a great help in the cost of upkeep of the home to make jam from fruits grown in their small orchards. By this heavy impost on sugar we are increasing the cost of living in the home. States like Western Australia derive no advantage from this> agreement. On the contrary, Western Australia has to offend its overseas customers and is deprived of many opportunities to engage in reciprocal trade. If we were able to buy abroad three .tons of sugar for what we now pay in Australia for one ton, as could be done but for this agreement, we would not pay one penny in cash, but would merely exchange goods and other products for the sugar received. This agreement is, therefore, having a strangling effect upon Western Australia. Doubtless, the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties will be able to confirm the truth of what I am saying when he tells us of the difficulties he has had to encounter among the nations of the world because of our insular attitude. We ask the people of other nations to buy from us, yet we expect to buy nothing from them in return. If Western Australia could purchase its requirements on an open market, it would be able to sell its own goods, but unless we enter into reciprocal arrangements with them, the people of other countries cannot afford to pay for our goods. While I am prepared to extend to the sugar industry reasonable help compatible with that given to other industries, I am not prepared to support a measure that imposes a permanent burden on industry generally.
I support the motion for the appointment of a committee of inquiry.
.- I support the motion moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). This year, with other honorable members I visited North Queensland, and spent a number of weeks among the sugar farmers in that area. I could see no signs of that wave of prosperity which is said to exist among them. On the contrary, I found a grim determination among them to carry on under difficult conditions. Before my visit, I had already made up my mind against the farmers, but I came back convinced that whatever support we could give to the growers and the workers engaged in sugar production in Queensland should be extended to them. The sugar industry is the only primary industry in this country in which the workers get a living wage. In the butter industry, and in the wheat-growing industry, the workers do not get a living wage. In fact, no one can say that the wages of the workers engaged in primary producing industries in the Commonwealth have hampered the prosperity of the farmers. The average wage in primary producing industries in New South Wales is as low as 10s. a week. When honorable members opposite complain about the sugar industry receiving assistance, I am surprised, because they are always clamouring for assistance for other industries. I support up to the hilt the claims of the primary producers ; I believe in a stabilized price for all the things that can be produced in this country. Honorable members opposite have not complained about the butter industry, yet butter is sold in London at 9£d. per lb., against ls. 6d. per lb. in this country. 1 have never heard the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) complain of that, and I have no objection to it, because, as I have said, it is an advantage to have a stabilized price for a primary product, and I believe that we should sell our goods on the markets of the world at the best price we can obtain for them, while paying a fair homeconsumption price. Our policy in that respect should be an application of what is called the new protection, and I hope the day is not far distant when that policy which would unite the farmers and the workers of this country will be put into operation, so that those who now batten on the farmers may be wiped out.
I have nothing against the sugar agreement, but I am opposed to the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which controls the biggest food racket in this country. Any government worth its salt must recognize that a company distributing hidden reserves amounting to £7,000,000 in the form of bonus shares, must be conducting a racket. In the United States of America persons controlling food rackets such as that conducted by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are gaoled. If this Government had any courage, it would gaol the people responsible for this questionable distribution of bonus shares. The operations of this octopus should be carefully scrutinized. Although there have been in the past four inquiries into the sugar industry, another is justified. We have been told that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company receives only 15s. a ton for refining sugar, but the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) did not inform us what profits it derives from by-products, such as treacle and golden syrup, obtained in the refining process. As a matter of fact, the profit it makes on these byproducts is so great that the company could well afford to pay a bonus to the growers for the privilege of refining their sugar. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has the whole market in the Pacific for golden syrup and treacle. Though, as I have said, four inquiries have been made in the past into this industry, the full facts of the ramifications of this company have never been elicited, or the power of the company has been used to keep them hidden. When the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is able to distribute bonus shares amounting to £7,000,000 there is obviously something wrong. The company has said that it makes nothing out of the sugar agreement, but it is significant that the day after the agreement was signed by the Government, the shares of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company went up by 30s. Surely we are not to be regarded as innocents abroad, and to be expected to believe that there is no significance in that ! The power of this company is evidenced by the recent amend ment of the Income Tax Assessment Act, which rendered the £7,000,000 bonus share issue to its shareholders immune from taxation. Bonus shares were classed as undistributed profits, upon which the company had already paid tax of from1s. to1s. 4d. in the £1. What a Christmas gift! Had the ordinary company rate of tax been assessed the shareholders would have had to pay in respect of these bonus shares, 4s. 6d. in the £1. What a rake off! The more we go into the affairs of this company, the more we are convinced of the need for an inquiry. The Government is afraid to raise its voice against this monopoly, and I have had letters from farmers in northern Queensland who are afraid to open their mouths because the company dominates the whole of theeconomic life of Queensland.
– How would the honorable member deal with it?
– A thorough inquiry should be held into all the ramifications of the company. I repudiate the suggestion of the honourable member for Kennedy that those who criticise the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are opposed to the payment of adequate wages to workers in the sugar industry. The party to which I belong believes in maintaining wage standards, and ensuring to primary producers an adequate return. At the annual meeting of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in November, 1934, it was disclosed that, for the previous financial year, profits totalling £937,000 had been earned, and that a dividend and bonus amounting to 121/2 per cent, had been paid. The company distributed 350,000 bonus shares of £20 each, thus increasing the capital of the company from £7,000,000 to £14,000,000. We have been told by apologists for the company that it makes its profits out of its Fijian operations. I point out, however, that the company has now been divided into two distinct parts, one company controlling the Fijian operations and another wholly separate organization controlling the Australian operations. The profit of £937,000 was made in Australia by the Australian company.
– The company has investments in other things besides sugar.
– I know that. It has important interests in banking and shipping, and it advances money to the farmers and sugar mills at 1 per cent, less than even the Commonwealth Bank. In this way the company controls the economic life of the sugar producers, even though it does not directly engage in the production of sugar.
– Cannot the honorable member bring pressure to bear on theQueensland Labour Government to control this company?
– The Labour Government in Queensland is not involved in this matter. It is doing its best for the primary producers, and for that it has our approbation. The honorable member for Kennedy said that the sugar agreement had been renewed by four different governments, and he asked whether it was reasonable to suppose that all of those governments had yielded to political domination by the company. I believe that they did, having been influenced, not directly by the company perhaps, but by the forces and propaganda it was able to control.
– Can the honorable member explain why the Federal Labour party, when it was in power, did not attack the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– No, I cannot, but I arn convinced that a Labour government in the future will have to deal with these food racketeers. I have no quarrel with any section of the primary producers, who will always receive the benefit of my voice and my vote, but I do not stand for food monopolies. Although the sugar industry has been frequently inquired into, it is obvious that the full extent of the financial ramifications of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have never been revealed. That was amply demonstrated when the company suddenly distributed £7,000,000 of untaxed and previously hidden assets. The signatories to the minority report of the 1930 committee of inquiry stated that no evidence had been produced to show whether the admittedly large profits of the company had been made from its interests in the Australian sugar industry or from its Fijian operations. It is necessary that we should have that information. The farmers of Northern Queensland would like to know more about the company’s operations, but they dare “ not ask too many questions because they rely on the company for finance to carry them on from year to year. In 1920, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company divided itself into two separate companies, each shareholder receiving two £20 shares, one in each of the new companies. Later, each shareholder received a cash bonus of £20 in respect of each share held in the Fijian company, so that all the capital originally subscribed by the shareholders was returned to them. Colonial Sugar Refining Company shares are at present quoted on the Stock Exchange at £44 each, at which valuation the assets of the company are worth £23,000,000. That enormous sum is backed by not one penny of shareholders’ money, because all the capital originally subscribed has been returned to the shareholders. .When honorable members on this side of the House asked the then Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) why the operation of a taxation measure at that time before the House had been deferred thus enabling the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to distribute £7,000,000 in bonus shares before the new legislation ‘ would operate, he said that he was staggered at the action of the company, but nothing was done about it by the Government. No action was taken to tax’ these food racketeers and robbers of the people as they should have been taxed. The Auditor-General, in a report to Parliament, referred to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company as follows: -
There can he no doubt that this company has attained its present prosperity and monopolistic position as a result of the high price which the consumers of Australia have paid, and continue to pay, for sugar.
He recommended that a searching inquiry be made into the monopoly which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company enjoyed in the refining and distribution of sugar. I trust that steps will be taken to ensure the release for general distribution of mill white sugar at, say, 3d. per lb. All medical authorities are agreed that this sugar has greater food value than the refined sugar, and it should be made possible for the people to buy it.
The people of Victoria, and the other southern States complain of the sugar agreement because it ensures protection for the sugar industry. The Victorians forget that their State benefits -very largely from the policy of protection to secondary industries, and they should be prepared to extend similar protection to the primary industries of another State. 1 do not believe in extending protection to one industry, and denying it to another. I believe in the policy of new protection supported by the Labour party, which involves protection for both primary and secondary producers. A majority of Western Australians seem to be prepared to break away from the rest of the Commonwealth, so that they may trade directly with Great Britain, selling their products to that country, and buying goods imported from there. I hope that they will realize that Australia is a nation, and that it must speak and act as a nation. I recognize that Western Australia, and certain of the other State3, suffer disabilities under federation, but I believe that a remedy can be found for those disabilities without breaking up the Commonwealth. The matter of protection to industries, both primary and secondary, should be dealt with comprehensively. We should not endeavour merely to patch the economic fabric here and there by means of bounties, first to one industry, and then to another. It should be made possible for the people of Western Australia, for instance, to enjoy some of the benefits derived by the manufacturing States of the East as the result of the protection conferred upon their industries.
,- Before entering upon the main part of my speech, I ask the Minister in charge of this bill whether, in view of the limited time at our disposal to deal with the measure at the committee stage, he will make provision for a vote to be taken on all the amendments that have been circulated?
I do not associate myself with the exaggerated attacks that have been made upon the sugar industry. I deeply deplore the attempt made by certain organizations, prior to this debate, to stir up interstate prejudice in regard to the subject. It has been shown by both the
Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that such prejudice is t quite- unwarranted. Undoubtedly, the sugar industry places certain burdens upon the people of other States than those in which it is carried on, but these are definitely offset by the burdens placed upon sugar producers by those associated with the protected industries of those other States.
While I cannot associate myself with the unjustifiably extravagant attacks that have been made upon the sugar industry, I cannot ally myself with the more or less fanatical supporters of it. Nor can I accept the contention of the Minister for Tradeand Customs and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that no modification of the sugar agreement is possible. The complete sweeping away of this agreement is unthinkable; it would be most unfair, and indeed impracticable; but it is obvious that the heavy cost of this industry to the “ Commonwealth should be reduced as soon as possible. The cost of the sugar industry has been compared with that of the dairying industry, one authority stating that the cost of each to the people of Australia is practically the same. I point out, however, that while 32,000 persons are engaged in the sugar industry as growers, workers in the mills and cane-cutters, 169,000 are directly engaged in the dairying industry. The cost to the consumer of the sugar industry, looked at- from the point of view of the number of people engaged in it, is six times greater than that of the dairying industry; therefore, the comparison which has been made is quite unfair. I realize that the sugar industry is of considerable value to Australia. Any one who has flown along the coast from Brisbane to Rockhampton mustrealize that the settlement in that area is due almost entirely to the sugar industry and that without it practically no settlement would have been made there. I consider that the sugar industry is efficient. Its efficiency does not stop at the production of sugar, but extends to providing the fanatical advocacy of some of its political supporters. But even though the industry is efficient, the cost of it to the Commonwealth is excessive. The urgent need for a reduction of this cost should be taken into consideration and action designed to achieve that end should be set on foot now by modifying certain provisions of the agreement.
At first glance the possibility of reducing the cost of sugar to the people of Australia does not seem to be great. The four main avenues along which one would at first look to effect a reduction of cost are: The profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ; land values; farmers’ profits; and wages in the industry. It cannot be gainsaid that the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are large ; but I point out that they represent only one-twelfth of a penny per lb. of sugar refined and distributed, so that if the whole of the profits were eliminated very little reduction could be effected. It has been shown clearly that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company refines and distributes sugar at a cost which compares very favorably with, that of companies doing similar work in Great Britain and elsewhere. Some persons consider that the reduction of sugar-land values offers scope for a reduction of costs, and this seems reasonable in view of the fact that land used for farming of practically every description has, in the last five or six years fallen considerably in value. But figures which I have had prepared, and in the correctness of which I have the greatest confidence because of my knowledge of the person who. prepared them, indicate that if the value of sugar lands was written down to nil, calculating interest at 5 per cent, it would only effect a reduction of lis. a ton in the price of the sugar produced. If we were to eliminate this cost altogether, I calculate that a deduction of only V10 of a penny per lb. could be made in the price of sugar. I come now to the farmers’ profits. It has been pointed out that only 23.5 per cent, of the farmers engaged in sugar production pay income tax. Those figures do not impress me greatly, because the percentage is probably higher than could be obtained in respect of any other considerable section of farmers in the Commonwealth. My knowledge, however, of our agricultural industries generally leads me to the conclusion that probably the farmers do not get very much out of their work. There is, therefore, little room for a reduction of the price of sugar in this connexion. As to the wages of the persons employed in the industry, we are not in a position to take any action. “We have adopted the Arbitration Court method for the fixation of wages in industry, and the wages of workers in the sugar industry must be left for determination by that tribunal. I am well aware that the wages in this industry are high, but considering the climate in which the work has to be done, and the onerous nature of the work itself, I should not be prepared to say that they are too high. All I shall say on the point is that if I had to choose between earning my living as a cane-cutter with regular hours or as a dairy-worker, with hours extending from daylight till dark, I should at least try cane cutting first. The wages in this industry are, in my opinion, not a concern of this Parliament. The examination of these four avenues, therefore, does not lead to optimism regarding the possibilities of a reduction of the price of sugar. I am optimistic, however, that certain figures disclosed by the Minister in connexion with the beet sugar industry of Victoria indicate a direction in which action could be taken to effect a substantial reduction in the price .of sugar to the consumers of this country. The honorable gentleman submitted the figures in order to indicate the folly of greatly increasing the production of beet sugar, but it is not to that aspect which I desire to refer. It was pointed out that in the last eight years the Maffra Sugar Company had made a profit of £217,000 from the production of 34,000 tons of sugar, but that if the company had shared in the unprofitable export trade in sugar, which represents 45 percent, of the total production, it would have incurred a net loss of £115,000, and its position would have been hopeless, for the export price, as honorable members know, is ruinously low.
A fair deduction from the figures that have been submitted is that if a reasonable reduction of our exportable surplus of sugar were made, the sugar sold locally would not have to bear such a heavy loss, and could therefore be sold at a lowerprice than at present, and still yield a fair profit. The argument, reductio ad absurdum, could be advanced that the price of sugar could be reduced by almost half by eliminating this surplus; but I do not suggest that that is a correct view. I merely say that a substantial reduction of theprice of sugar consumed locally could be made if the exportable surplus that we have to dispose of at a loss, could be considerably reduced.
– That would mean a considerable reduction of the employment afforded by the industry.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) is aware that only a limited time is available for the discussion of this bill. He showed no regard whatever for the desire of other honorable members to speak to it, for he occupied a full hour in delivering his speech. I therefore do not propose to take notice of his interjections. My wish is to speak as briefly as possible so that time will be available for other honorable gentlemen to present their viewpoint upon the measure. The point that I am making has not been made hitherto in this debate, nor was it made on the last occasion on which a bill of this description was before the House, whereas the points raised by the honorable member were all referred to previously when a similar debate occurred, and I have ho doubt they will be introduced on every similar occasion throughout the period of the membership of the honorable member of this Parliament.
I do not suggest that all surplus production should bediscontinued, but unless our production is curtailed, disastrous results may overtake the Queensland sugar industry. I suggest, for instance, that it is legitimate for Victoria to develop the beet-sugar industry, it would also be practicable for South Australia to embark upon the production of beet sugar. This undoubtedly would result in an increase of our exportable surplus of sugar, and if any substantial increase of this nature occurred, the position of the Queensland sugar industry would become untenable. It is possible that even 4d. per lb. would not prove to be a profitable price. I therefore urge that all reasonable steps should be taken to . reduce our exportable surplus, for this course undoubtedly offers hope for a reduction of the price of sugar, and it would act as a. safeguard to the industry. At the same time, I consider that it would be unfair for this Parliament to provide in this agreement that an immediate reduction of1/2d. per lb. shall be made in the price of this commodity. Some time will be necessary in order to market the cane already planted and the exportable surplus which will be available in the next two years. In committee, therefore, I propose to move an amendment that the price of sugar be reduced by £4 7s. 6d. a ton on and after the 1st September, 1937. Reduction of the price of sugar by £4 7s. 6d. a ton would reduce the retail price per lb. by1/2d. The making of provision for a price reduction two years ahead will give the sugar industry sufficient time to make the necessary arrangements for the production of sugar at the reduced price. If the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company can be made to form part of the contribution to the price reduction, I shall be pleased, but any reductions of costs are a matter for the industry itself, and what cannot be gained from economies in the industry must come from a reduction of the unprofitable surplus of sugar production.
I should like to forecast another amendment, as it is possible that the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken), who wishes to move it, may not have an opportunity to speak in this debate. This amendment will have the effect that grocers, who have banded together as a wholesale co-operative purchasing organization, will be acknow- ledged by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I consider that co-operative purchasing and marketing will come more and more into commercial practices in this country, and it is wrong that grocers, primary producers or other individuals who co-operate to purchase in bulk, should be refused the advantages of doing so. I do not propose to say anything further regarding this matter, for I hope that the honorable member for Ballarat will have time to enlarge on the argument in committee.
The sugar industry is of great value to Australia, especially to the north, and although we may think that the cost of the industry is greater than it should be, it would not be fair or practical to cripple it by refusing to renew the agreement. It is, however, the duty of this Parliament to bring about a reduction of the cost of sugar for the benefit of the general public. Unless there is such a reduction disastrous effects to the cane sugar industry will be felt within a few years, because of the expansion of the sugar beet industry in the southern parts of Australia. None of the powers of this Parliament or any other Parliament will prevent the expansion of the sugar beet industry, which has a right to be established. Therefore it is in the interests of the industry, as well asthose of the general public, that my very moderate proposal should be adopted.
.- So that honorable members will have an opportunity to speak on amendments which are proposed to be submitted in committee,I move -
That the question he now put.
– The honorable member cannot move the gag when the guillotine has been applied.
– On a point of order. I submit that when the guillotine was applied to this measure it was applied to the remaining stages of the measure, and to all matters which may be raised in connexion with the consideration of the measure which are relevant to it. Under the guillotine procedure, when the time limit fixed in the motion for the guillotine is reached, the Chair must proceed to put, not only the motion before the House, but also every other matter essential for the consideration of the remaining stages of the bill, whatever they were. The guillotine, therefore, applies to the whole of the discussion relevant to the consideration of the bill. That being the case, the revised standing order, the closure, adopted by this House on the 23rd November, 1905, shall not apply to any procedure in respect of which time has been allotted under this standing order. Time has been allotted for the consideration of everything relevant to this bill, and I contend that a motion for the appointment of a select committee is- relevant to the proceedings for the consideration of this bill. If this motion is disposed of, time can then be allowed for the consideration of other matters relevant to the bill, and they must be dealt with in accordance with the time limits imposed by the guillotine.
The point of order raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) is one that I think can be easily decided. I do not agree with the honorable member in his statement that the time limit applies to everything relevant to the bill, because the limitation of time is for different stages of the bill as set out in the motion - the second reading, the committee stage and the final stages. There has been no allocation of time for the motion now before the House. The standing order referred to by the Leader of the Opposition reads -
Standing Order “A” (The Closure) adopted by the House on the 23rd November, 1905, shall not apply to any proceedings in respect of which time has been allotted in pursuance of this Standing Order.
The only question that I have to decide, therefore, is whether the motion, “ That the bill be referred to a select committee,” is a proceeding before the House, and is within the motion for the limitation of time. I reason it in this way: The proceedings before the House are the motion referring the bill to a select committee; no time has been allotted for this motion. It appears therefore to me’ to be logical, and in accordance with the strict interpretation of this standing order, that the motion for the closure can be moved so as to allow the next stage of the bill to be reached for which time has been’ allotted. Therefore, I rule that the motion moved by the Minister is in order.
– On the point of order. Is the House right in assuming that when this discussion on the question of appointing a select committee is disposed of, the full time provided in the guillotine resolution will still be available for the discussion in committee, or is it for the House to assume that the time taken in discussing the motion for a select committee will shorten the length of time available for the committee stages?
– The time limit, for the committee stage is until 3.30 p.m.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 9
Adequately represented in this House in point of numbers, does the Chair not consider that it is unfair that those honorable members who represent northern constituencies, particularly the sugar areas, should not have a chance to discuss this bill.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the bill be referred to a. select committee (Mr. Beasley’s motion) - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 33
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
The agreement made between His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and His Majesty’s Government of the State of Queensland (a copy of which agreement is set forth in the schedule to this act) is approved.
– On behalf of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), I move -
That the following words be added to the clause - “ subject to that agreement being amended to provide that the prices of sugar referred to in clause 5 of the agreement shall, on and after the first day of September. One thousand nine hundred and thirty-seven be reduced by £4 7s.6d. per ton.”’
I shall not occupy the time of the committee by enlarging upon the reasons for this amendment, because they have already been fully stated by the honorable member for Flinders. I strongly support the amendment, believing that the dangers pointed out by the honorable member are very real, and must inevitably react upon the industry if some such action as this is not taken.
.- Needless to say, I am one of those who oppose this amendment. The desire is firmly implanted in certain honorable members to attack this particular industry. In that connexion, I refer particularly to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), who has said that he would like to see wiped out practically the whole of the surplus production of sugar in Australia. I ask him whether he would favour the wiping out of practically all the surplus production of other primary products that are exported overseas?
– If the loss upon thom is as great as upon sugar, yes.
– This industry is not in the wonderful position suggested by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Flinders has expressed himself as having been very little impressed by the figures relating to the income tax paid by the cane-growers. I submit that one must be impressed by them. From what one is told by influential interests in the south, through the press and in other ways, about the existence of sugar barons in north Queensland, one would imagine that everybody connected with the sugar industry is wealthy, whereas the fact is that few of those who are associated with the industry fall within that category.
The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) has asserted that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company obtains the benefit derivable from golden syrup and treacle which are the by-products of the refining process. That is not true. This company is merely the agent of the sugar pool and those by-products are the property of the pool, and therefore of the producers.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) quoted from a letter written by some person at Bingera. Not having the advantage of knowing who wrote the letter, I am unable to appreciate its value. The owners of Bingera estate grow more than half the cane which they crush each year, and are thus able to make far greater profits than would accrue to them if they had to purchase all the cane they crushed. As one who has had a lengthy association with this industry,I consider that an investigation, not only into the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company but also into the conduct of the proprietary mills, might be of real value to the people of this country. I do not believe that, as the letter read by the honorable member suggests, a lower price could be obtained by a better distribution of profits.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I cannot agree entirely with the honorable member for West Sydney that the more equal the distribution of profits in the industry can , be made the greater will be the benefits to the consumers; but, no doubt, if the profits were more evenly distributed, the growers would receive some benefit. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) made reference yesterday to propaganda indulged in by the sugar interests. 1 suggest that similar tactics are adopted by the interests which he represents, and I have in mind the Consumers League, the Henry George League and the Housewives Association, which are one and the same organization. An examination of the Taxation Department’s statistics and of the Income Tax Commissioner’s reportr, comparing the figures for 1934-35 with those for 1933-34, shows that the number of taxpayers generally has increased, whilst the income of the sugargrowers has decreased -
Number of taxpayers generally - Increased. 4 per cent.
Number of cane-growers who are taxpayers - Decreased 20 per cent.
Net income of all taxpayers - Increased 10 per cent.
Net income of cane-growers who paid tax - Decreased 30.65 per cent.
The taxable income of all taxpayers - Increased 13.9 per cent.
The taxable income of canegrowersDecreased 32 per cent.
The total tax assessed for all taxpayers - Increased 20.5 per cent.
The total tax assessed for cane-growers - Decreased 41 . 3 per cent.
Since the compilation of these figures another sugar season has been completed. The average price of Queensland sugar for last season was 13s. a ton less than for the season covered by the Commissioner’s last report. The present position of the cane-growers is naturally much worse than is indicated by the statistics which I have quoted. It will thus be seen that the condition of the sugargrowers is not so prosperous as has been suggested.
The Mirror, a Western Australian publication, in its issue of the 7th September, 1935, pointed out that butter producers receive £70 a ton more for butter sold in Australia than they get for that disposed of overseas. Australian primary industries are heavily protected, yet the sugar industry alone is attacked. Informative figures put the true state of affairs. The journal to which I have referred asked why Australians have to pay £15 18s. a ton more for their sugar than the price at which it is sold overseas. That question is always being put by critics of the sugar industry. Do they ever ask why the people pay about £70 a ton more for their butter than is obtained for it abroad? In the perpetual attack on the great Australian sugar industry, that vitally important comparison is overlooked. Butter sold in Australia returns a minimum wholesale price of about ]s. 3d. per lb., whilst overseas it seldom averages more than half that figure. Does that mean that we should wreck the butter and dairying industry of Australia. If protection is required for butter production, why not for sugar-growing?
The charge is often made that Australia’s secondary industries are unfairly protected, and that the primary industries are saddled with extra costs to pay for that protection. The actual figures give a conclusive answer to that allegation. The cost of supporting and subsidizing some of the primary industries is tremendous. At the last annual conference of the Australian Institute of Political Science held in Melbourne about February last, Professor L. F. Giblin, of the Faculty of Economics, at the Melbourne University, quoted the economic cost to Australia each year of protecting certain primary industries. This can now be reckoned at about £16,000,000 per annum. Of this huge total, butter loomed large with £5,300,000, which was £200,000 higher than the much discussed and so often attacked sugar. Wheat wa.? not far behind with £4,000,000, whilst rice and dried fruits accounted for £800,000, and other industries, excluding tobacco, for £600,000. Wool alone continues to stand on its own legs. If, as critics suggest, sugar should be subjected to free-trade conditions, why not say that the others should be subjected to the same treatment? If the secondary industries are not encouraged, but are allowed to languish, the primary industries will lose the ‘best market which they could have. I say, advisedly, that the best interests of the primary producers will be conserved only if the secondary industries flourish. In a pamphlet issued some time ago, Mr. E. J. Craigie, M.P., of the South Australian Parliament, dealt with what he described as “ The case against the sugar embargo “, and, in the course of his comments declared “ For the first time this agreement will have to be ratified by the Federal Parliament “. If that is a fair sample of Mr. Craigie’? treatment of the subject, one can well afford to ignore his remarks.
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is alleged to be profiteering at the expense of the consumers, and, particularly, the growers. The honorable member for Cook and the honorable member for West Sydney have made reference to the operations of this company. The former stated that the refining cost was 15s. a ton, but that is not so. The company receive.0 £2 13s. lid. for refining, and 7s. 3d. a ton for selling. These are really reimbursements of actual expenses incurred with regard to labour, material, &c, in doing the essential work of refining and distributing sugar throughout the Commonwealth. Another payment is 6s. 4d. a ton for interest on money supplied by the sugar pool, so that sugar mills may be paid cash for all sugar when it is placed on board ship. Without this payment the mills would not be able to pay growers for their sugar-cane, and many grower.* would find it- difficult, and sometimes impossible, to pay cane-cutters’ wages. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, with its diverse interests in Australia and overseas, has large liquid cash resources available during the Australian>,sugar season, which enable it to advance the necessary money, the peak amount each season running up to £6,000,000. The company finds these advances on raw sugar a convenient means of investing its cash resources, and it does so at less than bank rates of interest. The final payment to the company is the 15s. 4d. a ton for administration, taxation, and profit. In terms of raw sugar this payment gives a net profit of 14s. 9d. a ton, which is, in practice, included in the long-established fee of £1 a ton on raw sugar melted for home consumption. The remaining 5s. 3d. represents depreciation on the refinery, and is included in the item of £2 13s.11d. for refining costs. These were the unanimous findings of the Commonwealth Sugar Inquiry Committee of 1931.
I stated earlier that I would support the appointment of a royal commission or any other tribunal to investigate the alleged unfair profits made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the sugar mills generally. If the inquiry failed to prove exploitation of the public, it would at least satisfy many people that the charges levelled against the industry from time to time are untrue. Probably the proprietary mills secure more profit than they are entitled to. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company owns four large mills in Queensland, and enjoys a complete monopoly. By its economic pressure, it requires the cane-growers to sign an undertaking that they do not want cane-price legislation applied to them. Some exposure in that direction might be possible.
The statement has been made that the cost of land in the sugar areas imposes hardship on growers and other interested persons, and that, if land values were reduced, the consumers of sugar would benefit. But the effect of high land values is not confined to the cane-fields.
-What is the price of sugar land?
– About £50 an acre.
– What is the value of the adjoining land, on which people are not allowed to grow sugar?
– It is very considerable in many localities, and much higher than in the State from which the honorable member comes, yet sugar lands do not fetch such high prices as they did a few years ago. It was suggested yesterday, and this morning, that certain canegrowers had paid exorbitant prices for their land, and that the sellers insisted upon 60 per cent, of the total proceeds of their crop.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I cannot support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Elinders (Mr. Fairbairn), which would practically mean a reduction of id. per lb. in the price of sugar. In the brief time at my disposal I shall point out the financial position of those engaged in the industry since June, 1931. At that time, before the Premiers plan was adopted, the agreement which was renewed by the Scullin Government maintained the price of sugar at 41/2d. per lb., and at that time the index figure for all food and groceries was 1496. In December, 1932, the Lyons Government reviewed the agreement, and by consent of the sugar producers the price was reduced to 4d. per lb. This brought the industry within the scope of the financial emergency principle. The index figure was then 1369, a fall of 127points as compared with the position in June, 1931, when the Scullin Government renewed the agreement. The agreement now before the House, of course, provides again for the price of 4d. per lb., but the index figure to-day for all food and groceries is 146.1, or nearly 100 points above the figure in December, 1932, and only 35 points below the index figure when the Seullin Government agreed to the continuance of the price of 41/2d. per lb. As the arbitration courts have restored the financial emergency wages cuts during , the last year or two, and as pensions, public service salaries and parliamentary allowances have been partially, and, in some instances, fully restored, it could well be argued that the price of 41/2d. per lb. for sugar also should be restored; but that has not been asked for by anybody, either in this House or outside it.
The Government is merely maintaining the reduced price of 4d. per lb., and at a time when the trend of wages, index figures, interest rates and general costs of living is distinctly upward. It surprises me that some honorable members wish to apply to the sugar producers what one might almost call another financial emergency reduction. The earnings of the sugar producers do not remotely justify another cut in their revenue through a reduced retail price. I should like briefly to quote some figures to support that statement. No committee or commission could hope to prove that a further reduction is possible which would still permit this industry to carry on. The Income Tax Commissioner’s last . annual report showed the total personal exertion income of all the paying cane-growers for last year as £7S0,0O0. A reduction of £cl. per lb., as proposed by the honorable member for Flinders would reduce the cane-growers’ earnings by £875,000 per annum. Thus, if the reduction were brought abour., all cane-growers would be removed from the taxation field. No committee or commission is required to check this simple fact.
Another important point which we cannot overlook in considering this amendment, and other amendments foreshadowed, i3 the fruit concession fund of £216,000 per annum. When the retail price of sugar was 4$d. per lb. this fund was £315,000 per annum, and the reduction to £200,000 per annum was merely the equivalent of the A. fall in the price of sugar. If the price of sugar were further reduced by d., the fruit concession fund would disappear. The sugar producers could not then continue this subsidy. Without the fruit concessions, exports of Australian canned fruits and jams, which have increased enormously because of the sugar subsidy, would be most seriously reduced. Nearly all the fruit-growers’ associations concerned, and the canneries, have declared ,4at the sugar concessions are absolutely vital to the continuance of the export trade. If I am not right in this statement I stand subject to correction. Therefore, I maintain that those who advocate a reduction of the price of sugar by id. would, if successful in their efforts, do irreparable harm to sugar and fruit producers, and bring about economic loss and unemployment on a huge scale.
– Has the honorable member considered the possible expansion of the beet sugar industry?
– I shall refer to the point later. Some honorable members favour a reduction of the price of sugar by id. per lb. because it would cause the sugar industry to shrink to a point where it would produce little more than Australia’s domestic requirements, with the result that producers still remaining in the industry would receive an average price of approximately the present rate of £16 or £17 a ton for raw sugar. Apart from the fact that the present average price is unprofitable to 75 per cent, of the growers who are not earning enough money to pay income tax, the proposal to reduce the sugar output by about 2,000 tons per annum, would cripple the finances of many sugar towns and shires, greatly reduce railway revenue in respect of freights on sugar and upon the goods used by sugar producers, increase unemployment among sugar, waterside, and other workers, increase State unemployment relief payments, and cause the migration of surplus sugar farmers and workers into other industries that are themselves developed to the fullest marketing possibilities now. existing. It would also cause the reversion of a number of sugar mills, worth several millions of pounds, to scrap value - a similar result would apply to many dwellings - and the destruction of numerous retail businesses now serving the needs of sugar producers.
It seems to me that the long continued Commonwealth policy in regard to sugar production is the wisest. The policy, recognized ten years ago, when overproduction first became evident - and this is the point to which the honorable member for Flinders referred - was that it was better not to destroy the sugar assets and related business _ activities then existing, but rather to ‘ prevent any further expansion of cane growing and allow the natural increase of Australia’s popula tion gradually to absorb the excess production. It may be asked why should sugar, which is now 13 per cent, cheaper than all foods and groceries, compared with prewar prices, be compelled by a reduction of ½d. per lb., to become only 16 per cent, above the pre-war rate, whilst all other foods and groceries remain 46 per cent, above that rate and probably will rise still higher, especially when, sugar has to contend just as much as other goods with higher Australian wages, CoSts of material!* and of living, and taxation both direct and indirect* The checks on production, instituted by the Commonwealth, such as the restriction of further plantings and the imposition of economic penalties on mills which produce more than their allotted quantities, are having the desired effect. As a matter of fact, production this year will be nearly 50,000 tons less than in the record output year.
In conclusion, may I remind honorable members that this industry of the north has been subjected to wider investigation than any other industry in Australia. Reference has been made to the fact that four inquiries have been instituted in regard to the industry. As a matter of fact, within recent years, there have been five inquiries, as the result of which long and complete reports have been presented. Sometimes I am rather inclined to doubt whether those who criticize the industry - and I do not wish to be unfair to them - have very seriously studied these reports. Undoubtedly, the protection of sugar does impose a burden on the people of Australia, but we cannot overlook the great and important compensation. The 1912 Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry, referring to the unsettled areas of northern Queensland, reported -
They are not only «. source of strategic weakness; they constitute a positive temptation to Asiatic invasion and may give the White Australia policy a complexion which must inevitably weaken the claims of Australia to external support. As we have already remarked, the ultimate end, and in our opinion, the effective justification of the sugar industry, lies beyond questions of industry and wealth production. It must bc sought in the very existence of Australia as a nation.
.- The amendment cannot be accepted by the Government, largely for the reasons mentioned by the honorable member for
Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron). If the price of sugar could be reduced in 1937, as suggested by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), I think honorable members would agree that it should be done. But, though his proposal has the merit of appearing equitable, the honorable member has not shown how it can be done. In my second reading speech. I analyzed the figures showing how the price of 4d. per lb was arrived at. If any honorable member can show how a further saving can be made, let him do so. If a reduction of the price of sugar were made arbitrarily, many sugar assets would be destroyed, and a loss to the growers of £875,000 per annum, and to the raw sugar mills of £375,000 per annum, would be incurred.
– What about reducing the surplus production of sugar?
– That is the honorable member’s proposal; but I remind him that our overseas funds are built up by these very exports. They would be reduced by a diminution of the export of sugar. A check is already being exercised on plantings, as the result of which production this year will be 50,000 tons less than in the record output year. For the reasons I have advanced, the Government cannot accept the amendment.
.- This amendment was recently circulated by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), but he has given to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) the doubtful honour of moving it, for the obvious reason that it cuts across everything that the honorable member for Flinders said when he argued at length against the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the industry. The proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney was not particularly aimed at any section of the sugar industry; its purpose was merely to determine the best possible way of reducing the price of sugar, and to ascertain whether any inordinate profits were being made by any section of the industry. He proposed, by the use of scientific methods, to determine whether the consumers were being compelled to pay too much for sugar. The honorable member for Flinders rejected the suggestion that a scientific inquiry should be undertaken and, after voting against the proposal, now suggests that the price of sugar, from. September, 1937, shall be arbitrarily cut by id. per lb. His attitude is most illogical First, as I have said, he argues against a scientific inquiry, and then, without any inquiry at all, proposes, from a certain date, to cut the price of sugar in an arbitrary manner. If it is good enough to cut the price of sugar in 1937, what is wrong with cutting it now? Why fix on that particular year? If it could be done in 1937, surely it could be done this year, next year or in two years’ time ! Who is to benefit by this reduction? From a political point of view it is very desirable that people should believe that the honorable member who moved this amendment did so with the object of bringing about a reduction of the price of sugar to the consumers. But will the consumers or the retailers get the benefit? The honorable member has laid down in his amendment, not a fixation of the retail price, but only the price that will be charged when the product leaves the refining mills of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. There is no evidence that the general public, to whom the honorable member makes his appeal, will ever get the benefit of the reduction proposed. Most likely the_ retailer or the distributing middleman would derive whatever benefit might accrue from the acceptance of the honorable member’s amendment. The only suggestion put forward by the honorable member’ for the reduction of costs in the sugar industry was a proposal that the export of sugar from Australia should be reduced or stopped, because this trade was carried on at a loss, and the losses had to be made up by charging a higher price for sugar sold within Australia. The honorable member did not say that the growers, the workers, or even the Colonial Sugar Refining Company were getting too much out of the industry. He merely said that sugar was being sold overseas at a loss. If the amount of sugar exported be reduced, production will have to be cut down and this, in turn, will result in many growers, who have put their life savings into their holdings, having to go out of the industry and join the ranks of the unemployed. The honorable member’s amendment stipulates September, 1937, as the date upon which the price of sugar should be reduced. How can he or any one else forecast what conditions will be surrounding the industry in September, 1937? We know that there is a general improvement in industry at the present time, and interest rates are being increased. It is possible that, in two years’ time, the farmers will have to pay a higher rate of interest than now for necessary financial accommodation. Of course, interest rates may be lower, but the general trend now is upwards. It is impossible to forecast at this stage what the internal conditions will be like in two years’ time, or, owing to international trade conditions over which we have no control, whether we shall have any export trade in sugar. My point is that if a reduction in price is justified, it should be made now when we are aware of the conditions of the industry, not in two years’ time. We know the costs of the industry now, what the ‘ cane-cutters receive, what the growers receive, and what the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is paid for refining the sugar. We should be able to determine what the present price of sugar should be, but it is absurd to decide now upon a reduction of price to take effect in two years’ time when no one can safely forecast the conditions. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), coming as he does from Victoria, where the Housewives Association is very alert, feels that he must tickle the ears of the members of that’ body by putting forward a proposal for a reduction of the price of sugar, even though it is not to take effect for two years. If the honorable member were sincere, he would move for the immediate reduction of the price, so that the housewives might obtain the benefit now. The honorable member voted against the proposal for the holding of a scientific and comprehensive inquiry into the industry, and the affairs of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, yet he now comes forward with this tinkering proposal that something should be d<un> about the matter in two years’ time. The honorable member should know that it is impossible to control the price of sugar, or of any other commodity, sold over the counter. The price paid to the grower, and the amount received bythe mills, may be fixed and enforced, but the retail price is a different matter.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am in favour of the renewal of the agreement, because I believe it to be necessary to an industry which is necessary to Australia. The sugar industry is a ready source of wealth in northern Queensland, and provides a tremendous amount of employment. It creates purchasing power, which is used very largely in the purchase of products of the secondary industries in the southern States, a fact that is often overlooked even by those who favour a high protection policy in regard to most industries. , The industry furnishes a medium for the development of the tropical parts of Australia, and, by keeping a population continuously employed in the north, contributes to the defence of the country.
I propose to answer some of the criticisms advanced by honorable members against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and I base my statements upon the report issued by the committee which investigated the sugar industry a few years ago. The committee presented a majority and minority report to Parliament, and even the minority report does not accuse the Colonial Sugar Refining Company of making undue profits. Dealing with the activities of the company in financing the sugar crop, the minority group, consisting mainly of consumers’ representatives, stated on page 135 of the report -
Aprofit of£119,000 was made for financing, but the company loses on account of financing, as this profit only represents the low rate of 3.76 per cent, on the average amount of money required.
This is a complete answer to the charge made by the honorable member for West Sydney that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was making undue profits out of financing growers. With regard to the profits derived from its refining services, the report goes on to say -
The profit of £400,000 made from services under the agreement represented 6.5 per cent, of the capital value of the assets at the refineries, i.e., the written down book value of the fixed plant, plus the value of the average stocks. If income tax at 4s.6d. in the £1 is deducted, the profit represents 5 per cent, of the capital value of the assets.
Yet honorable members opposite have described the company as a great financial octopus battening upon the public. As a matter of fact, there is no reference to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in the sugar agreement. The company acts merely as an agent for the Queensland Labour Government, and surely that Government can. be relied upon to take into consideration the interests of the workers, as well as of the growers, when it appoints the company as its agent to refine the raw sugar. In attacking the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, honorable members opposite are, in effect, attacking a State government of their own political faith. I suggest that no exploitation is taking place of the kind feared by honorable members opposite.
The sugar industry is necessary to Australia because, being a source of great wealth, it benefits, not only northern Queensland, but also the whole Commonwealth.
I have gone to some trouble to compile some statistics relating to this industry. They reveal that the assets of those associated with the industry are valued at more than £30,000,000, not taking into consideration railways, roads, port facilities and the like, and that the amount of capital invested in it exceeds £50,000,000. Surely no honorable member would suggest that an industry of such magnitude should be threatened with extinction, for it must obviously be of tremendous value to the Commonwealth. Certain honorable gentlemen who have proposed measures that would retard and ultimately destroy the Australian sugar industry should visit northern Queensland and examine for themselves its efficiency and effectiveness. The value of the production of sugar in Australia is £11,000,000 per annum. The cultivation, harvesting, milling and other operations in connexion with the industry ase responsible for a wages bill in excess of £5,000,000 per annum, which, of course, constitutes, to a large extent, the purchasing power of the people of northern Queensland. No one comparing the developments in the tropical areas of Queensland with the almost entire absence of development in the Northern Territory and the hinterland of Queensland, could lightly suggest the taking of any action that would be detrimental to the sugar industry. The value of our exports of sugar is approximately £2,000,000 per annum, although in the peak year the figure was somewhat higher than that. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) has referred to what he has termed the overproduction in this commodity; but, in view of the fact that Australia is a member of an Empire in which the annual consumption of sugar is approximately 1,200,000 tons, and supplies only about 2SS,000 tons per annum of that quantity, it is surely a misuse of terms to talk about the over-production of Australia. We have taken extraordinary steps to obtain increases of our export quotas for beef, dairy produce, dried fruits and other commodities, and I wonder that the Government has not also made strenuous efforts to obtain an increased quota for sugar. I hope that the sugar conference, which is to meet next year, will consider this subject, and that the need for an increased quota for sugar from Australia will be stressed by bur representatives. The limitation of time makes it impossible for me to present other telling figures for the consideration of the committee.
I come now to a brief consideration of the need to increase development in the tropical parts of Australia, and of the importance of the sugar industry in this regard. I question whether many honorable members realize that two-fifths of this continent lie within the tropical belt, and that the only closer settlement that has ocurred throughout this immense area is that connected with the sugar industry. Yet closer settlement is essential if we are adequately to develop and populate this country. Huge cattle and sheep runs will never lead to the settlement, of large populations in remote areas. We must adopt some procedure that will ensure closer settlement if we wish to exploit the resources of our tropical areas and the sugar industry offers the very best possibilities in that regard. From the defence viewpoint it is essential that we populate the northern parts of this continent. This need is being emphasized daily in the newspapers, and in books that continue to pour from our printing presses. The population of tropical Australia is only 176,000, which is equal to 0.15 per mile of the area of 1,149,320 square miles involved, or only one-<twenty-fourth of the population of 3.56 persons per square mile in our temperate zones. Of Australia’s tropical population of 170,000, 94 per cent., or 165,000, dwell in the far north of Queensland and are located principally on the coastal fringe where they are dependent directly or indirectly on the sugar industry. If the sugar industry had not been established in northern Queensland, the position in that area to-day would be similar to that of the Northern Territory and would offer just as serious a problem for us to solve. Inquiry has revealed the fact that only a small part of the land in northern Queensland would be suitable for cultivating other than sugar cane. This surely is a substantial argument in favour of the encouragement of this industry. Unless we can settle a contented and thriving population in our northern areas, we must continue to regard them as being open to invasion. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government financially assists many other primary industries - I have in mind, particularly, the dairying, wheat and meat industries - it is not too much to ask that it shall continue to support and encourage the sugar industry. From an employment point of view, the Australian sugar industry is of vast importance to northern Queensland. It is estimated that 120,000 persons in the north are directly or indirectly provided with employment in this industry. Moreover, the refineries in the capital cities of Australia provide work for an additional 1,760 people. The purchase of raw materials to the value of £5,000,000 per annum, and the payment of £300,000 per annum in wages are facts of signal value in considering the affairs of the refining section of this industry, and provide substantial reasons why it should be* encouraged and helped. The provision of employment in Queensland is also of much importance to the people of the southern States, for a good deal of the money finds its way, ultimately, to the south.
I have already stressed the importance, for defence reasons, of populating northern Australia, and particularly northern Queensland, but I think it not a waste of words, even though the time for this debate is so strictly limited, to reiterate that every legitimate step should be taken to defend Australia from possible attacks by the teeming hordes of the East. We have had an illustration of the extent to which an undefended nation may be menaced and subsequently attacked by a strong nation. I refer, of course, to the relations between Abyssinia and Italy. In order that honorable members may form a clear conception of the population position of various countries, I direct attention to the following table, which gives the population and number of persons per square mile in Australia and certain Eastern countries: -
These figures are of immense concern to Australia, and offer the strongest possible reason for our continuing to encourage the development of the sugar industry in northern Queensland.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) upon the comprehensive and effective review he has made of the Queensland sugar industry. His speech is the more noteworthy because he is a representative of a city constituency in New South Wales, a State not vitally interested in the industry. His thorough examination of the whole position is commendable in every respect, and his deductions are sound. His utterance was in direct contrast with that of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) who has moved an amendment with the object of bringing about a reduction of the price of sugar by id. per lb. from the 1st September, 1937. Usually the honorable member for Flinders makes himself au fait with all the facts in relation to any subject that he discusses, but he hasnot done so on this occasion. His arguments were quite unsound. Even the premises upon which he built his case were nebulous. He gave us no real reason why the desired reduction in the price of sugar should be id. and not3/4d. or1/4d. It seems to me that the honorable member has been influenced by the screamers from a certain office in Melbourne. Propaganda from this source has, for a long time, sought to develop an opinion that the price of sugar should be reduced by1/2d. per lb., but no reasons have been advanced to support this contention. We know very well that those behind this propaganda really favour the importation of sugar grown by black labour in certain foreign countries. The organization to which I refer was instrumental, when the previous sugar agreement was being considered, in bringing about a reduction of id. per lb. in the price of sugar. Its arguments were based on the minority report of an inquiry which investigated the industry. The Housewives Association, at that time, gave its support to the contentions put forward. In view of the unfortunate economic condition of the whole country at the time that agitation was set on foot, those engaged in the sugar industry agreed to share with the rest of the community the trials and tribulations of the times, and so the price of sugar was reduced. The result is that the economic condition of the sugar industry to-day is very much worse than it was then. This makes the present agitation for a further reduction of price entirely unreasonable and unfair. The Housewives Association, which allied itself with those who sought the reduction of price some years ago, is not a party to the present propaganda - doubtless, because it realizes that the present price is as low as it can possibly be if the welfare of those engaged in the industry is to be considered. It appears to me that certain women who are supporting the present agitation are the wives of the leaders of the free-trade organization to which I have already referred. Those who advocate a further reduction of the price of sugar seem to pay no regard whatever to the present economic position of the industry, or the damaging effect that would follow a heavy reduction of the sugar-workers’ wages bill, and the loss of employment that must inevitably occur if the price of sugar is lowered. If the conditions of the sugar-workers of Queensland are seriously impaired, the result will undoubtedly be a reduced consumption of products sent to the north from the southern States. A reduction of the price of sugar by id. would force the sugar industry out of existence, with consequent grave disadvantages to this country. Apart from the economic position of the industry and its relation to the development of Australia, it has another most important national aspect. Whilst we are spending huge sums on defence, in realization of the danger suggested by the situation in Abyssina, and of the fact that we must guard ourselves against the millions in Asia, who have a right to a country which is undeveloped, we must also realize the enormous contribution made by the sugar industry to the defence of this country. It populates the tropical part of Australia most contiguous to the Asiatic races, and is, .therefore, an infinitely better means for defence than a large military force. Three-fifths of this country is situated within the tropics, and the population of the tropical area is about 250,000 persons, of whom 241,000 are settled within the sugargrowing belt, compared with 9,000 in the tropical section of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, where there is no sugar grown. If the sugar industry were abolished the population in northern Queensland, which is dependent on it for a means of livelihood, would be forced to leave the area, and the country would suffer. In the hope of developing it, a great amount of money which is now dead has been invested in the Northern Territory, despite which, in the last five years, the population of the territory had dwindled from 5,000 to 4,100 persons. The sugar industry has meant the expansion of other businesses in Queensland, and ha3 made possible greater consumption of the produce from the south. I do not believe that there is one responsible section of Australia which honestly desires to bring about the ruination of the sugar interests. I think the attitude of the housewives was best expressed by a South Australian woman at a conference of the Housewives Associations in Sydney, in these words: “ The Australian women are pleased to pay an Australian price for Australian sugar “.
– She was expelled after that.
– ‘.She was not, but if certain “ low tariffists “ could get hold of her, I have no doubt that she would be assassinated.
Without having any knowledge of the sugar industry, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) has asked for what he described as “ a small reduction of id. per lb.” in the price of sugar, because other countries, he claims, are selling sugar at prices lower than the Australian price. I would remind him that this is the only country which produces sugar entirely by white labour. The product is being sold overseas at world parity. It has been said by opponents of the industry in this House that in Great Britain sugar is sold at a fraction over 2d. per lb., whereas actually the price of sugar in England is 4.001d., as against the Australian price of 4d. per lb.
– Not according to figures given in the press.
– In arriving at the price of sugar in England for purposes of comparison with the Australian price, the exchange rate must be considered. The British Government pays £5,380,000 a year to bolster up the doomed sugar-beet industry in that country. That money has to be found by the purchaser of sugar in Great Britain. All of these facts show that the British price is slightly more than the Australian price, but in fairness to honorable members I will take it as being equal to the Australian price.
– The actual retail price of sugar in England in the shops is 2-^d. per lb.
– Plus the subsidy of £7,000,000 which is to be paid this year to the English sugar-beet industry.
– Yes, this year it is proposed to increase the annual sugar-beet subsidy by nearly £2,000,000. A large section of the people in Britain claims that the sugar-beet industry is costing more than it is worth, and is clamouring for a reversion to cane sugar.
– Grown in the West Indies !
– Why suggest “ West Indies sugar “, produced by coloured men paid wages which should nor, be tolerated? The honorable member knows that the unfortunate person struggling in the heat and conditions in which the sugar industry thrives, is entitled to the best treatment that can be given to him. The men who have pioneered the Australian sugar industry have cleared- the jungle -and the scrub, and have made possible such important defensive measures as railways, roads, and harbours, to enable ships of commerce from the south to trade in the north. The sugar industry has enabled homes to be built in the tropical regions, and families to be reared which are a credit to this country. Surely something can be said for the retention of an industry which has accomplished that! Workers in the industry receive wages fixed by the arbitration courts established by the parliaments of Australia. All honorable members must agree that from the viewpoint of labour, development, and protection, in the sugar industry we have an industry which is the most efficient primary industry in the country.
The honorable member for Flinders declares that the people are crying out for the reduction of the price of sugar by id. per lb. During the war years, when sugar in Australia was sold at ‘did. per lb., its price in America and Italy was ls. 6d. per lb., and in England ls. 2d. per lb. The sugargrowers of Australia were bound by an agreement to sell at 3½d., but they did not squirm and cry out about it.
– The wheat-grower did not get the world prices for wheat sold in Australia during the war.
– Sugar growers were governed by legislation, but the wheat-grower failed because of inaction and lack of organization. We are at present endeavouring to give the wheat-grower a home-consumption price, and the honorable member for Swan will support it. Way does he not support a home-consumption price for sugar?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is my intention to support the amendment. At the same time I would prefer the removal of the embargo and the imposition of a protective duty. By this embargo the Commonwealth Parliament is assisting in playing the greatest confidence trick ever played on the people. It enables all sorts of ramps to be indulged in. Not one argument has been advanced in justification of the price which is being paid for sugar in Australia to-day, but all sorts of abuse have been heaped on opponents of the renewal of the agreement. The White Australia policy, the defence policy, black labour, and a multitude of other arguments have been advanced in support of the renewal of the agreement; but not a single argument has been made out in favour of the existing price. I suggest that the sugar industry should be brought down to something like a fair level. For many years the people have been subjected to enormous penalties to keep it in operation. In his speech the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) did not say one word about the enormous profits made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It cannot be claimed that, in recent years, the company has been making huge profits in its oversea trade, because it has had to meet with strong competition in markets from which the returns are low. It follows that the profits have been made in Australia. On the figures supplied by the Minister, the cost of sugar cane, when it goes into the mill, is greater than the cost of . the granulated product in European countries. After the sugar cane has been sent to the mills it costs £7 12s. 2d., and the cost of distribution and refinement is £6 4s. 5d., making a total cost a ton of £13 16s, 7d. That is something which demands examination. There is not the slightest doubt that a big reduction of the price of sugar could easily be made to the public of Australia without detriment to the industry.
I do not believe for a single moment that the grower is getting a fair deal. I do not believe that the majority of the growers are making undue profits. The profits are made by the people who handle the sugar after it has been grown, those, who run the mills on the fields, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and those who get permits to put land under cultivation for sugar cane. An undeveloped block adjacent to a block in production might be worth from £2 10s. to £5 an acre, but, after a permit has been issued for its development as a sugar-growing block, the price rises to from £75 to £100 an acre.
– The honorable member will agree that it costs £50 an acre to clear the scrub.
– Land worth from £2 10s. to £5 an acre would not be left with scrub on it. It could be used for grazing and dairying. As long as people can get permits for land, the price of sugar will be high. I repeat that the profits go to the persons who can get permits and handle sugar afterwards, and not to the growers; and these conditions are made possible by the existence of an embargo instead of a protective duty, which would ensure the charging of a fair price for sugar.
It cannot be argued that a high price is absolutely necessary to keep the industry in production. I believe that, if the industry were placed in proper order and exploitation were prevented, the sugar-grower would be able to make a much larger profit on his work than he is able to make at present, when the processors take all the profit. There is an old saying that figures cannot lie, but they can be manipulated. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) have given us the prices of sugar in other countries, but they have failed to mention the enormous excise duties on sugar that are levied in those countries.
– That is all contained in my speech.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the committee stage of the bill has expired.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Street’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 40
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. White) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- Not having had the opportunity previously, I desire to make a few remarks at this stage. I hope that the House will reconsider what has been done, and, if necessary, either recommit the bill or vote against it. A number of honorable members who sit on this side have been accused of being supporters of black labour.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! I remind honorable members that it is not competent for them to reply at this stage to the debate on the motion for the second reading of the bill.
– I support this bill with the exception of that portion of it which fixes the price of sugar. I have always been an ardent supporter of the sugar agreement, because the industry employs white labour and has been responsible for raising, in the north, the population which is very necessary for the safety of Australia. For those particular reasons, honorable members should stand behind the industry. But I know of no reason why £1,500,000 should be unnecessarily taken out of the pockets of the working class people of this country. When the reduction of1/2d. per lb. was made in the price of sugar a year ago, the very men who say in this House to-day that a further reduction cannot be made, then declared that it would not only impoverish the industry but also send it bankrupt. It was only by virtue of the pressure exerted by the Government that they were compelled to agree to the restoration of1/2d. per lb. to the consumers of sugar.
– The reduction was made voluntarily.
– It was made voluntarily because otherwise financial emergency measures would have been applied. When I visited Queensland eighteen months ago, I discovered that, from Innisfail to Cairns, the growers were supplying to the mills 1,000 tons of cane during the crushing season. I was told by representative persons that if the whole of Queensland’s sugar-cane areas were growing cane at the same profit as that at which it was grown north of Innisfail, the reduction of the price would present no difficulty.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The time allotted for the debate on the third reading has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Orange Bounty Bill 1935.
Income Tax Bill 1935.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare the Wheat and Wheat Products Bill an urgent bill.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the second reading - until6.10 p.m.
For the committee stage -
Clauses 1 to 4- until 8.30 p.m.
Remainder of committee stage - until 12 o’clock midnight.
For the remaining stages - until 12.10 a.m. Thursday, 5th December.
– It seems strange that the Minister should take this action, seeing that the Government of New South Wales has decided not to apply the measure until 1936. Since the Commonwealth Government intends to bring down a bill to provide for the re-imposition of the flour tax, I am at a loss to understand why ithas adopted this course. The period that will be occupied in discussing this bill will cut into the time available for the consideration of the other measure. I protest against this motion, and shall vote against it.
.- When the provisions of the guillotine were first introduced, honorable members were reconciled to the view that occasionally circumstances render their application, if not necessary, at least excusable. The allotment of time for the discussion of a series of important measures in what is presumably to be the last week of the session may operate harshly against honorable members generally. This bill deals with the interests ofprimary producers, and the measure under consideration a few minutes ago was of a similar character. The Government seems to consider that sufficient time is allowed for the consideration of bills if those honorable members who are particularly interested in them are permitted to say a word or two regarding them. The representatives of the working classes in great industrial electorates, like those represented by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. M’akin), the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and myself, are presumed, one would suppose, to have no opinions upon the measures, and are excluded from any voice in the matter. All I can do in the circumstances is to make my protest. You,, sir, have limited me to discussing whether the time to be allotted for the consideration of this bill is adequate. Of course, the time is inadequate, because it gives me and others no opportunity to speak. It will not allow the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) much time.
– The wheat-growers in my electorate are up in arms!
– I object to this method of conducting our proceedings, which makes great masses of the people inarticulate in their own Parliament.
.- The proceedings of this Parliament have been Gilbertian in the last few weeks.
– The honorable member is not in order in reflecting on the Parliament.
– Legislation has been passed without reasonable consideration, and our proceedings have been reduced to a screaming farce.
– The honorable member must discuss the allotment of time for the consideration of this bill, and not refer to legislation that has been passed.
– For a long time honorable members have been endeavouring to ascertainwhat the Government proposes to do for the assistance of the wheat industry, and now on the eve of the Christmas recess, when a bill is brought down to give effect to the proposals of the Government, they are denied an opportunity to criticize the policy adopted. Two hours have been allotted to the discussion of the motion for the second-reading stage of the bill, and a total of four and a quarter hours for the further stages. Honorable members who desire to move amendments to the bill in committee will be denied an opportunity to do so because of the very limited time allotted. If the bill is considered clause by clause and not as a whole, it appears likely that before the third clause is reached the guillotine will be applied and honorable members will be denied the right to speak. There is no justification for this action. To afford honorable members ample time to discuss a measure of such importance as the one now before the House, the G6vernment should be prepared to ask Parliament to assemble next week. If that were done, honorable members would still have time to reach their homes for the Christmas season. Under the Standing Orders, the Leader of the Opposition is entitled to speak for one hour on the second reading of a bill. If he takes his full time, and he is fully entitled to do so, only one hour is left for the speeches of the other 74 members of this House. In other words, less than a minute has been allowed for each of the other 74 members to state their views.
– The honorable member is wasting time now.
– I object to that remark, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
– The time allotted for the discussion of this bill is totally inadequate. 1 contend that the remaining hours of the present sitting, the whole of to-morrow and Friday, should be devoted to the consideration of this- bill.
.- The Government has wasted quite a lot of time during this year.
– Order ! The honorable member must discuss the allocation of time, and not what has been done in the past.
– I am endeavouring to point out my reasons for opposing the curtailment of the debate on this bill. The Parliament should have sat longer-
– Order! The question of the sittings of the Parliament in the past is not relevant to the motion now before the Chair.
– We are now rushing into the Christmas recess, and the Government is seeking to stifle debate in order to make up for the time wasted in the past. I have been prevented from speaking on many matters recently because of the application of the guillotine. When a time limit is imposed on the discussion of a particular measure, some honorable members, despite the fact that they have spoken on the second reading of. the bill, rise again’ in committee
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in discussing that matter as it concerns the proceedings in committee.
– I contend that the time allotted is not sufficient to discuss an important measure, dealing with one of the staple foods of the people of this country. Under this proposal honorable members will not be given an opportunity adequately to voice their opinions regarding it. I lodge my emphatic protest against the action of the Government in imposing a time limit on the consideration of this bill. If every honorable member took half his full time in debating the motion for the second reading, only four speakers would be able to put their views before the House. That is grossly unfair.
.- This measure could properly be regarded as an urgent measure at this stage.
– Order ! I remind the honorable member that the House has already decided that it is an urgent measure. The question before the Chair is the time allotted for the various stages of the bill.
– Under the circumstances, I think that the time limit submitted to the House is a fair schedule, and that a fair distribution of the time has been made between the secondreading stage and the committee stage. This measure deals with the recommendations of the royal commission on the wheat industry, and it is necessary that it should be passed after fair debate, so that the State parliaments may act in the knowledge that the Commonwealth has done its part in implementing the decisions arrived at by the Australian Agricultural Council. It was agreed between the representatives of the States and of the Commonwealth that all the Parliaments of Australia should introduce complementary legislation for the control of the wheat industry. . Two States have not yet finalized their proposed legislation.
It is necessary, I believe, that an opportunity should be given to honorable members adequately to debate this bill, so that the State governments may be fully informed of the motives actuating the Commonwealth Government in bringing it forward.
– This question resolves itself into one. of the allocation of time for the consideration of various stages of the bill. In this connexion honorable members have to consider the nature of the bill which they are called upon to discuss in order to ascertain if it is right to alter it. As a matter of fact, this bill is founded upon an agreement entered into between the Federal and State governments; consequently, the necessity for a lengthy discussion is not great. In effect, we are called upon either to accept the agreement arrived at. between Commonwealth and State Ministers two. months ago, or to reject it, and refer it back for reconsideration. Therefore, the bill is not one which honorable members can debate at any length or modify in any way. Furthermore, the various parties in this House have had a knowledge of the terms of this agreement for the last two months, and. therefore, have had ample opportunity to decide their attitude towards it. As I have said, we are confined to either the acceptance or the rejection of this allAustralia plan. For that reason there is no necessity for a number of secondreading speeches to be made. The stand I take is that the view-point of the various parties in this House could be fairly stated by their respective leaders. I understand it is the desire of the Government that most of the time allotted to the discussion in committee should be spent in the consideration of clause 5. 1 point out to honorable members that clause 5 will permit of the discussion of the general principles of the bill. Therefore, anything that an honorable member wishes to say on the second reading can be said with equal force, and with equal freedom during the discussion in committee of clause 5. The other point is that ten minutes has been allowed for the stages of the bill subsequent to the committee stage. I contend that the bill by its very nature does not permit of much discussion on the third reading. Consequently, I feel sure that all honorable members will have had opportunity to discuss the merits or demerits of the bill prior to that stage. Taking all these things into consideration, I contend that the Government has extended a fair amount of latitude to honorable members.
– Actually far too much!
– I am glad to find the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in agreement with me on this occasion. It is gratifying, indeed, that for once the honorable gentleman should recognize that the Government is doing the fair thing. Having agreed with him on a most important matter yesterday, it is nice to find him reciprocating on Wednesday the friendly gesture I made to him on Tuesday. Having received that very “helpful assurance from the Leader of the Opposition, I think there should be no further demand from any section of the House for an extension of the time allotted for the discussion of this bill.
.- I desire to record my protest against the limitation of time for the discussion of this measure. During the last week, many bills have been declared urgent by the Government. I have been in constant attendance in this chamber, and have waited for an opportunity to voice my opinion on some of those measures, but have been unable to do so because the Government has limited the time for discussion, in order io prevent the rank and file members of the various parties from speaking. It has been said that the purpose of this bill is merely to give effect to an agreement arrived at by a conference of all parties concerned in the industry, but I maintain that all parties were not represented. The workers who, in the final analysis, must pay for these marketing schemes, were not represented at the conference. The only opportunity for the workers to have their opinions voiced is through their representatives in this chamber ; but when the time for debate is limited, even that opportunity is denied them. Honorable members are sent to this Parliament, not merely to record their votes, but also to express their opinions, and the opinions of the constituents, on matters which engage the attention of Parliament. I represent the workers of East Sydney, and I am to be denied the opportunity to express their opinions on this and other important measures. Parliament is no longer a deliberative assembly. The country isbeing ruled by a minority, even of those elected to Parliament. The bill now before us does not represent the opinion of a majority of Government supporters. The Government’s policy is determined by the Cabinet, and probably not even by a unanimous Cabinet.
– The honorable member must discuss the proposed allotment of time, and not the bill.
– The schedule of times submittedby the Minister is inadequate to permit honorable members to express their opinions properly. If the conference of wheat interests which decided on a wheat marketing scheme had been really representative of the industry, it would have included trade-union representatives of the workers, who would express the opinion of those who are really responsible for the production of all wealth, whether it be wheat or anything else. Ifthis scheme is put into effect, it will probably result in increasing the price of the people’s food, and, on so important a matter as that, the Government should not deliberately stifle discussion.
Question put. The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in theaffirmative.
Debate resumed from the 1st November (vide page 1257), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The motion for the second reading of this bill was submitted on the 1st November by the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), who occupied what he regarded as sufficient time to explain its provisions.
– He took only 25 minutes.
– The time allotted for the consideration of the bill in its remaining stages seems to be in strange contrast to the time that has elapsed since the second reading. The length of that interval may be associated with the fact that legislation in connexion with this scheme is to be passed, not only by this Parliament, but by the State parliaments also. The bill seeks to establish a home-consumption price for wheat, quotas for export and wheat authorities for administrative purposes. It prescribes that receivers of wheat, millers and shippers are to be licensed. It also prescribes export quotas for flour and other wheat products. Warrants are to be issued for the homeconsumption portion of the crop, and others for the export quota delivered. In order to carry out the scheme there will be required a vast and complicated arrangement involving adjustments between the ruling export price, and the homeconsumption price. It is a bad plan, a medley of warrants, documents and adjustments. It leaves the industry unorganized, and the problems affecting the growers unsolved. The industry is still at the mercy of those interests which, for more than a generation, have sucked its blood and left it without vitality. Therefore, I move -
That all the words after “ That “ he omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that immediate steps be taken to establish a compulsory wheat pool with power to control the marketing of the whole of Australia’s wheat crop in co-operation with compulsory State wheat pools.”
The wheat-growing industry is of such importance that we should do everything in our power to place it on a sound basis, and by that I mean a basis upon which it will be able to function on its own account.
When Australia was in financial difficulties we asked the farmers to grow more wheat, and they responded to our call. Unfortunately, owing to the depression that spread throughout the world at that time, the price of wheat fell to a price far below even cost of production. Australia could not afford then, and it cannot afford now, to let this industry languish. It is essential that the people shall stand by this industry, which is of such vital importance to production and employment throughout the Commonwealth. The significance of the wheat industry in respect of the budgets of the Commonwealth and of the State governments, trade and enterprise generally, and the balancing of our vocational opportunities, is such that it deserves at the hands of this Parliament much more consideration than we shall be able to devote to it in the very limited time which the Government is giving us to discuss it. It is useless to ask, as the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) did in 1931, when he was on the opposite side of the House -
Why should the Commonwealth Government come to the direct assistance of the farmer 1
Having put that query, the honorable gentleman added that -
The cry of the “ poor farmer “ is overdone.
The fact is that the nation must stand by the wheat-farmers, because the wheat industry is essential to the economic stability of the nation. We cannot afford, as a nation, to let our wheat-growers go out of production. The question thus arises: What are the best steps to adopt to place the industry on a proper economic basis? It is at this point that I join issue with the Government. During both the 1931 and the 1934 election campaigns, the Country party and the United Australia party both assured the farmers that if they were returned to power, they would stabilize the wheat industry by legislation. Up to date, however, they have failed lamentably to fulfil their promises. During the four years that have elapsed since the first of those two elections, conditions in the wheat industry have remained chaotic and insecure. Production has been maintained only on an unprofitable basis, and the various political plasters which this Government has used to cure the ills of the industry have been quite ineffective.
Eur al rehabilitation was one of the schemes of the Government to place the wheat industry on a sound basis, but the plan advanced with this object was not “ rural rehabilitation “ in its true sense of the term. It provided merely a debt adjustment plan. It is true that debt adjustment may form part of a rural rehabilitation scheme, but it can by no means be the most important part of any successful plan to place the industry on a sound basis. In any case, though months have passed since this Parliament endorsed the plan, and passed the necessary legislation to implement it, hardly anything has been done. In reply to a question that I asked on the 28th November, as’ to the amounts that had been paid to respective State governments under the terms of the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjusment) Act 1935, the reply was -
It was also stated that South Australia was the only State that had made any payments out of the advance made to it, the payment being the trifling amount of £471. At this rate of expenditure the £12,000,000, which this Parliament made available for the adjustment of farmers’ debts, will never be expended. According to the report of the Royal Commission on Wheat, it is estimated that the total debt of the wheat-farmers of Australia amounts to £151,000,000. This estimate of liabilities does not take into account the large amounts of private capital invested by farmers in their properties, for these are not shown as debts in the commission’s calculations. The commission reported ‘that on a hypothetical sheepcarrying basis, the total value of the farmers’ assets in stock, machinery and land may be computed, tentatively, under existing conditions at about £136,000,000.
Mr. E. A. McLarty, managing trustee of the Agricultural Bank, Perth, in giving evidence before the Commonwealth Grants Com mission, stated that the cause? of farmers’ indebtedness were -
I have given them in the order in which they were stated by the witness. From this it will be seen that the attitude adopted by the banks and financial institutions is, to a great extent, both directly and indirectly responsible for many of the farmers’ financial difficulties.
The Country party, which has taken a conspicuous part in the discussion of the problems associated with the wheatgrowing industry, presents two facets to us When the present Government parties were sitting in Opposition, and the Scullin Government was in office, the Country party, which was not then directly associated with the United Australia party, made various proposals for the stabilization of the industry. The then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Latham, now Sir John Latham, speaking on the Wheat Bounty Bill on the 29th October, 1931, said -
This is not a permanent contribution to the solution of theproblem of the farmer. In order to deal with the real position we have to deal with cost of production.
He went on to say that any government which essayed to solve the difficulties of the industry would be forced to consider the problem of the cost of production. In this regard I point out that labour costs have been reduced to a minimum ; but while they are now on a fairly uniform level, interest charges bear more heavily on the farmers, in many instances, than do labour costs. About two years ago the Auditor-General of South Australia reported that in many cases interest represented more than half the acreage cost of production in that State. A return from 43 farmers in one of the principal wheatgrowing districts of South Australia showed that interest charges amounted to 16d. a bushel, or 44 per cent, of the total cost, while working expenses amounted to 13.7d. a bushel. According to the report of the Wheat Commission, returns submitted by 452 farmers showed that 40 per cent, of them had to pay interest charges of10d. a bushel and over, while 61/2 per cent., or approximately 5,000 farmers, had to pay1s.10d. and over. Financial reform is, therefore, a pre-condition of the rehabilitation, of rural industry. Recent events in New Zealand indicate that this fact has been recognized in the sister dominion.
The reduction of the cost of production is not, however, the only solution. The marketing arrangements of the industry are also of vital importance to Australia. Time and again the Commonwealth Parliament has stressed the importance of organized marketing, yet this Government is doing everything possible to prevent its accomplishment. Many false remedies have been proposed by both members and supporters of the Government, while what would be a really effective factor in the solution of the problems of the industry has been neglected. Senator Pearce, speaking in another place on the 30th July, 1931, said -
It is obvious that the only way to cure the ills of the farmer is to bring down the cost of production, and that can only be effected by a reduction of the tariff.
The present Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) also stated, according to a report in the Argus on the 23rd August, 1932-
Practically every primary producer is facing bankruptcy because of the Federal Government’s failure to reduce the tariff.
This Government has made extensive and repeated reductions of tariff duties, hut this bill is, itself, evidence of the Government’s recognition that tariff adjustments cannot get to the root of the difficulties of the wheat industry. Tariff adjustment, which has often been heralded as the solution of the farmers’ difficulties has, in fact, proved to be a dismal failure. The “Wheat Commission formed an entirely different opinion on this subject from that expressed again and again by members of the Country party and some members of the United Australia party. Tariff adjustment is the wrong course for this Parliament to pursue to remedy the ills of this great industry.
The report of the commission, in referring to primary and secondary industries, points out that -
The interests of the wheat-growing industry and of the manufacturers of agricultural implements are in the final issue identical.
It also states that -
In general, the Australian farmer is to-day paying no more for his machinery than he would pay if machinery were not made locally and were imported duty free.
This statement is significant in view of the fact that the royal commission’s report more often than not constitutes the text-book of those honorable members opposite who often advocate reductions of duty on agricultural implements. The substantial recommendationsof the commission pay very little regard to tariff adjustment as a possible remedy for the ills of the farmer.
I come now to the consideration of the price aspect of the problems presented by the wheat industry. In this connexion the commission, with the sole dissent of Mr. Cheadle, stated -
That, in any case, a compulsory marketing scheme for Australian wheat be adopted, provided that the majority of the wheat-farmers of each of three wheat-exporting States express their approval of such a scheme, and that the principles upon which the compulsory marketing scheme is based shall be those recommended in paragraph 273 of sub-section6 of section V. of this report.
– The farmers would not have a compulsory pool on that basis.
– I shall probably have something to say later on that point. This bill is the result of certain conferences that were held recently, but, in my opinion, the measure has been con- ceived in confusion, and the Government has no faith in it. It is seeking parliamentary approval of the bill, although it has no intention to enforce it. It is merely an anodyne to another unpalatable tax which is to be enforced.
– The Leader of the Opposition is mistaken in that regard.
– I do not think so. This bill, even if it becomes law, cannot operate, because its implementation is dependent upon the passing of collateral legislation by the State Parliaments which has not been passed. In fact, one State Government has absolutely refused to pass the required bill.
– What State is that?
– South Australia.
– The bill has been introduced into that Parliament.
– The Premier of South Australia has got off that perch !
– If that is so, it is also true that he has not surrendered his ability to get on it again. The Government of New South Wales has decided that the scheme contemplated by this legislation will not be put into operation in respect of the coming harvest. With the greatest respect to the Minister for Commerce, I submit that the declaration of urgency which he made a few minutes ago was entirely unjustified by the facts and, in common decency, should not have been made.
– The Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) will answer the points that the Leader of the Opposition is raising.
– If, as I have stated, this measure is not intended to apply to this year’s harvest, any necessity for unjustifiably hasty action on the part of this Parliament to pass the bill disappears, and the action taken by the Minister for Commerce this afternoon should not have been taken. I put the point in that simple language, because the forms of Parliament would prevent me from using stronger language.
In reply to a question I asked him on the 19 th November, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said -
Until the other wheat-growing States have taken action as agreed upon, the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to announce any policy for the forthcoming harvest. The Commonwealth Government feels that the governments of the States should shoulder their obligation, and desires to point out that if no provision is made for the wheat-growers for the coming harvest, the responsibility for that position will lie upon the States which do not take the action agreed upon.
J have given the right honorable gentleman’s reply in full, because I do not want if to be suggested that I have misrepresented him in any way. It would appear from that reply that the Government is anxious to implement this legislation in time for the 1935 harvest, and wishes to place the fault for any nonimplementation of the scheme in time for that harvest at the door of the State governments.
The Government of New South “Wales has had legislation passed to give effect to the proposals contained in the bill we are now discussing, but although it was intended that it should apply to the 1935 harvest, on the 19th November, the day on which I asked a question in Parliament, and the day on which the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Collier, arrived in Perth from a meeting of the Loan Council, Mr. Manning, the Attorney-General of New South Wales, made the following statement : -
During the last few days the Premier (Mr. Stevens) has been in touch with the Commonwealth Government on the question whether this legislation should apply to the present harvest, and in view of the discussion this Government has decided to inform the House that this act shall not be made applicable to this harvest, and it is thought in consequence that the flour tax will be continued in the meanwhile.
That statement by the Attorney-General of New South Wales was made as the result of consultation with the Commonwealth Government. The Parliament of New South Wales could be informed of the policy of this Government regarding this year’s wheat harvest before this Parliament can be informed of it.
– The statement was incorrect.
– The Assistant Minister and Mr. Manning are members of the same party, and they can argue it out between themselves; but, whatever Mr. Manning said is distinct from what the Assistant Minister says that he should have said. What I quote him as having said is a remarkably accurate prophecy.
– That may be so.
– His prophetic statements, I submit, were based not on guess work, but on the result of consultation with the Commonwealth Government, which gave him justification for saying what he did say. What he did say has been borne out.
– The Attorney-General of New South Wales was misquoted.
– In view of the state of the session this bill could stand over without prejudice to this harvest, for even if passed it will not apply to this harvest.
The week-end before Mr. Manning made his statement several Ministers, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the Attorney-‘General (Mr. Menzies), and Senator Pearce visited Sydney, and from the statement of Mr. Manning it is quite evident that the Commonwealth Government must have asked the Government of New South Wales to alter its legislation, so that it would apply to the 1936 harvest, clearly indicating that the Commonwealth Government has decided not to bother about having this bill made operative for this harvest. If this bill is to become effective this season, there is no need for another bill which is on the notice-paper. On the other hand, if this bill is not to become effective, all the declarations of urgency about it falls to the ground and this Parliament is going through unnecessary, yet perfunctory, consideration of a complex measure, which should be carefully scrutinized and examined only at a time when it becomes necessary to consider it, and without time limitation. The Government cannot have it both ways. If it goes on with this bill, it should drop the bill which it proposes to introduce for the re-introduction of the flour tax. If it is intended to proceed with that bill, the consideration of this bill should be deferred until Parliament resumes next year.
The Prime Minister, in his reply to me, endeavoured to make out that the fate of this bill depended on the States. Mr. Manning evidently knew that the Commonwealth Government was about to re-introduce the flour tax for the current harvest, while Commonwealth Ministers professed ignorance of any such proposal.
What is the use of trying to place the onus on the State governments? The Federal Government had no intention of having the machinery contained in this measure made operative for the 1935 harvest. The Government of New South Wales would not have altered its legislation to make it operative for the 1936 harvest, and not the 1935 harvest, unless it had been requested to do so by the Federal Government.
I direct attention to the manner in which wheat-growers have been fooled by this Government and its supporters. The main feature of the Country party policy at the elections was stabilization of ‘the wheat industry. The elections were held on the loth September, 1934. Since then there has been plenty of time for the Government to do something of a practical nature to give effect to its election promises; but, even when this bill was introduced, it was placed low down on the notice-paper, and no definite information as to the Government’s intentions could be obtained. The farmers have expressed their opinions regarding the Commonwealth Government’s plan. “ It is difficult to work up any great enthusiasm for the federal scheme, which really can only be described as a half-measure,” asserted Mr. A. Wilson, of Tempy, the representative of the Australian Country party at the Canberra conference. “ The Commonwealth scheme was a half-baked one,” said Mr. Field, president of the Farmers and Settlers Association, “ though farmers were prepared to accept it in default.” The final objective, he emphasized, was a Commonwealth pool. Speaking at the annual conference of the Farmers and Settlers Association, Mr. Field stated that the farmers had become impatient and disgusted at the vacillating policy of certain governments, and their continued failure to act quickly and place the industry upon a permanently stabilized basis, and so restore confidence in the industry.
It must be patent to the farmers throughout Australia that, in order to gain the full return from their wheat, to make it marketable on a reasonable basis, and to effect economies in the cost of production and marketing, they must work through the agency of a Commonwealth pool. The following is a resume of the history of Australian pools : - 1915-16 to 1920-21.- -Compulsory pools operated in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. 1921 to 1922. - Voluntary pools in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia; compulsory pool in W estern Australia. 1922-23 to 1927-28.- Voluntary pools in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia; compulsory pool in Queensland. 1928-29 to 1929-30.- Voluntary pools in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia; compulsory pool in Queensland. 1930-31 to 1934-35.- Voluntary pools in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia; compulsory pool in Queensland.
Therefore, there has been a history and a foundation upon whichthe organizedpoolmethod of dealing with the Australian wheat industry rests.
When the Scullin Government introduced its Wheat Marketing Bill (No. 2), which provided for a compulsory wheat pool controlled and run by the producers themselves, every member of the Country party, including the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) himself, supported the proposal, whilst the United Australia party members opposed it. It is, therefore, clear that it is the Country party’s policy to strive for a compulsory pool, with grower control, when it is in Opposition; but, as soon as it is linked up with the United Australia party in the Government, this policy is thrown to the wind. The Country party prefers office to policy.
Prom whatever side this question is approached, it is found that a compulsory pool is one of the main things necessary to stabilize the wheat industry. The promise of a compulsory pool by Country party supporters at the polls is one of the reasons why rural electorates elect Country party candidates to this Parliament. In the first place, a compulsory pool will bring about a complete organization of the industry, which is one of the most essential things necessary, to the growers. It would give the farmer all that is in his wheat - a full return.
It has been stated by a representative of the Country party that the price paid to the Australian wheat-grower is on the average from. 2d. to 5d. a bushel below the world market price. That is due to the handling of the wheat in the markets by private enterprise.
– Why do not voluntary pools get world parity?
– They cannot overcome the speculative practices.
– Voluntary pools sell in the world market, just as the compulsory pools do.
– Such discrepancy would not be possible under a compulsory wheat pool. On a 137,000,000-bushel crop, with a 32,000,000-bushel home consumption, 2d. a bushel would mean a loss of £800,000 to the farmers. At the recent Canberra conference, Mr. Simpson, president of the Wheatgrowers Association of Australia, moved a motion for the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool, but the Minister for Commerce refused to accept the motion, and submitted the Government’s proposals, which the delegates had to accept, because there was no other course open to them. It was a much wider conference than a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
– There were two conferences.
– The same personnel attended both.
– Not at all.
– Well, then, one was merely a formal thing to accept the proposals of the other.
– Nothing of the kind!
– That is how it worked out. I challenge the Minister for Commerce to produce the reports of the debate which took place. When he struck anything ticklish, the conference went into committee. I should prefer to accept the reports made by the delegates to the interests which they represented.
– How could they make reports when they were not present at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council?
– It is hard to reconcile the Minister’s attitude when he was not a member of the Government with his attitude to-day. Speaking on the Scullin Wheat Marketing Bill on the 21st May, 1930, he said-
I support this hill because it will bring about 100 per cent, co-operation among the wheat-farmers of Australia in the marketing of their produce.
The farmer needs to practise co-operation to the fullest extent, not merely to obtain an Australian price for the wheat consumed within Australia, but to secure the best possible price for that which is sold oversea.
How can they accomplish this, except by way of a compulsory pool? He proceeded -
There must be created a se1 ling organisation which, by means of collective bargaining rather than by the haphazard methods that have been adopted in the past, will obtain for him the full value of the product.
The Minister for Commerce went on to explain that, in Great Britain, three important companies have practically complete control of the wheat imported in England. Private speculators and agents ravage the industry at home and abroad. The only possible remedy for that is, as the Minister for Commerce put it, for the farmers to practise cooperation to the fullest extent through acompulsory pool. It will be realized, with selling agents in Australia all. trying to sell to three buyers in Great Britain, how the price can be affected, and how detrimental such a procedure is to their interests. As Country party leader sitting in the Opposition, the Minister for Commerce further pointed out how the other large wheat-producing countries - America, Canada, Russia, and Argentina - have organized and unified sales, and said : “ Unless we are to be at a disadvantage compared with other selling countries, we must organize our selling on a national basis.” I am entitled to say that a statement of such significance would receive the attention of the country electors, and of the wheat-growers par-: ticularly. It is because the leader of the Country party has made statements of that character that there is such a considerable representation of the Country party in this Parliament. I call on them legislatively to carry out the policy on which they won votes, and secured their election to this Parliament. The Minister for Commerce went on -
If we sell our wheat in a chaotic fashion we shall receive for it very much less than can be obtained by organized marketing.
Has he changed his views, and does he intend to remain passive and prevent growers from getting out of the chaotic selling state that at present exists?
– This Government, has taken a very big step forward. It is the biggest step ever taken in connexion with the wheat industry.
– The right honorable gentleman continued -
If it is found that a compulsory pool is not acceptable to all the farmers of Australia, and that the proposal is turned down by two or more States, I urge the Government to take steps to establisha voluntary pool to control a large proportion of the wheat that is produced in Australia.
A system of marketing must be evolved to stabilize prices. The farmer must be able to secure the highest prices ruling for his commodity in the markets of the world, and he must be able to obtain the best freight rates available, which can only be secured th rough a compulsory pool, and not individual haphazard methods.
The advantages of a compulsory pool are worth stressing, because a great deal has been said about its possible disadvantages.
He then said -
The fact that the whole of the wheat will be pooled and that the farmers will be organized on a co-operative basis will enable
1 ) a reduction of chartering rates ;
a cessation of competition between States ;
the reduction of administrative charges ;
the complete elimination of the risk of glutting the oversea markets by the haphazard offerings of big cargoes.
That is the case for a compulsory wheat pool put forward in this Parliament by the Leader of the United Country party, who, as Minister for Commerce in a coalition government, now abandons the policy upon which he was elected, and puts forward a confused and chaotic plan which involves a vast documentation, and does not organize marketing either at home or abroad, but does, in fact, by a round-about method, enhance the price received by the wheat-grower for the portion of his product which he sells in Australia. Instead of organizing the wheat industry in its marketing operations by the elimination of excessive costs, the right honorable gentleman’s plan now is to allow those who have sucked this industry bloodless to continue their vampire-like practices and impose the losses upon the consumers within Australia. He would make the workers of Batman, Melbourne Ports, and East Sydney, pay for his failure to live up to the policy of rural rehabilitation upon which he was elected. An amendment was moved by the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr., now Sir John, Latham. To show that when the United Country party was in opposition and had no share in the Government, it presented its view fearlessly and regardless of the vested interests which may be said to operate in this industry, and that when it was completely detached from the United Australia party, it was able to face the matter squarely, I quote the following remarks of the right honorable gentleman concerning that amendment.
I cannot understand the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition : - “ That this House is of the opinion that, while present circumstances justify a guarantee by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States of a minimum price of 4s. per bushel’ for f.a.q. wheat, season 1930-31, delivered at railway sidings, legislation providing for such a guarantee should be introduced separately from any legislation providing for the establishment of. a monopoly in the marketing of Australian wheat by means of a compulsory pool’.”
It is quite impracticable for the Government to offer a guarantee in the absence of some organization to deal with marketing.
– We are giving the wheat-growers an organization under this measure.
– The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
If the marketing were left to individuals, the door would be open for corrupt practices.
I do not propse to traverse further the history of the United Country party and its Leader in this connexion, other than to say that the country is entitled to believe, and does believe, that if there is one policy for which that party stands in connexion with the wheat industry, it is the pooling of wheat and the establishment of organized marketing. The right honorable gentleman has said that there was agreement among those who were present at the conference recently held at Canberra, and that there were two conferences. In reply to what I have said, lie will probably offer a similar excuse to that which he offered when addressing the conference - that doubt exists as to the constitutional validity of a compulsory wheat pool. My rejoinder is that the United Australia party, with which the right honorable gentleman is now in coalition, has always been definitely hostile to a compulsory pool. The reason, I submit, is not hard to find. The wheat agents, those who make their living out of the farmers and to a large extent may be said to have a vested interest in the business, are definitely opposed to any such proposal.
– Are they in favour of this proposal? It does mot seem as though they are in New South Wales.
– The right honorable gentleman confessed to the conference that was held the other day that the validity of his proposal is as questionable as would be the validity of a co-operative pool.
– Or the butter scheme, or the dried fruits scheme.
– That is so. Therefore, the argument addressed to the conference was, that a compulsory pool was undesirable.
– The States would not agree to it.
– I have yet to learn that the States would not have it.
– Two of the States definitely turned it down.
– The way out is to provide that no bounty shall be paid under legislation passed by this Parliament dealing with the position of the wheat-growers, unless the States pass complementary legislation. I should say that this bill is just as dangerous from the view-point of ability to enforce it, and is just as weak, if it depends upon State legislation, as would be a cooperative pool or a compulsory pool, because the States can refrain from passing the correlative legislation. What would happen in such a case? It would collapse. There is no essential constitutional distinction, and no procedural distinction, between this bill and a bill for a compulsory pool.
– There is. All of the States agree to this, but they would not agree to a compulsory pool.
– I have yet to be satisfied that the States are opposed to a compulsory pool.Furthermore, I have yet to be assured that if this Parliament wished to pass legislation for a compulsory pool its trade and commerce power would prove inadequate to enable it to establish such a pool. The real objection to a compulsory pool is, not the constitutional objection, not the attitude of the States, but that the right honorable member is in alliance with a party which is opposed to it, and cannot induce a majority on the ministerial side of the House to support the policy upon which he was elected. The rational course for the farmers of Australia to adopt, if they wish to organize the marketing of wheat, is to refuse permission to their political representatives in this Parliament to abandon their principles merely for the sake of office.
Let me deal with the constitutional aspect, which was dealt with by the recent conference in Canberra. Mr. Stott, who was a delegate to the conference
– He was not a delegate.
- Mr. Stott was chosen to represent the Wheat-growers Association, which is solidly in favour of a Commonwealth compulsory pool. The Premier of South Australia objected to Mr. Stott’s presence at the conference, but the position was such that the Minister for Commerce had to accept him as a delegate. That is the report which appeared in the Wheatgrower of the 24th October, last.
– He is not named in the official proceedings. The matter of his attendance was discussed and, by courtesy, he was allowed to remain.
– The right honorable member tells me that this man was allowed to sit at that conference.
– A number of men were.
– Nothing of the kind. I was in Canberra while the conference was being held, and I know that representatives of the press were not permitted to be present.
– They were, for the whole of the public conferences.
– I emphasize the misleading way in which the proceedings are being referred to. When representatives of the press were present, the conference was a public one; but they were not present when other aspects of this legislation were being worked out.
– It was then purely a governmental conference.
– Was Mr. Powell present at that conference?
– Did the governmental conference alter the proceedings of the other conference?
– The members of it discussed the matter as representatives of the different governments.
– These experts- Mr. Powell, Mr. Stott, representatives of the Country party and of other interests concerned - were invited to Canberra. There was an “ open go “, and various recommendations and findings were made. Those findings were sent on to the conference of representatives of the Commonwealth and the States. I challenge the right honorable member to tell me whether the conference of the Commonwealth and the States was not purely a formal one, which gave substantial effect to the proposals formulated elsewhere.
– Nothing of the kind.
– I challenge the right honorable member, and the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby), to say that the reports submitted to their respective bodies by men like Mr. Simpson, Mr. Powell, and Mr. Stott, all of whom were in Canberra and deliberated in connexion with thislegislation, are unreliable and untrustworthy.
– I have not seen those reports.
– Then I shall inform the right honorable gentleman. Mr. Stott said in the Wheatgrower of the 24th October -
asked, admitted that this scheme of the Government would be equally unconstitutional as a pool if the Privy Council decided that section 02 would bind the Commonwealth.
– That is quite true.
– Then, evidently Mr. Stott was present at the conference. The report continues -
It is therefore quite obvious to any unbiased observer that the reasons why a pool could not be introduced were more political than constitutional.
Mr. Wilson, a representative of the United Country party, at the conference, said in the Wheatgrower of the 14th November last-
Certainly nothing was conveyed to us at. Canberra by the Federal Attorney-General, other than that a doubt existed - nothing more and nothing less.
That doubt relates to the constitutionality of a compulsory wheat pool. He went on to say that other legal opinion could be found which would assert that not even a doubt exists, and that the Commonwealth can take unto itself all the necessary power under the Constitution.
– Surely the honorable gentleman does not say that the Commonwealth should discard the advice of its Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), who is a constitutional lawyer !
– The right honorable gentleman has said that Mr. Stott, Mr. Wilson, and other gentlemen were not present at the conference. I have now quoted them as having reported what the Attorney-General said. I put to him the question, which he can answer or not as he likes: Did the Attorney-General discuss the constitutionality of a compulsory pool in the presence of the gentlemen whom I have named?
– He discussed it in the presence of the press.
– The right honorable gentleman has said that Mr. Stott and Mr. Powell were not present; that, in fact, there were two conferences, and that they were at one and not at the other. The Wheatgrower of Western Australia, which is the official organ of the growers in that State, ought to know what is good for the farmers. On the 9th May last, it said -
The wheat merchants, manufacturers and distributing interests, which controlled the United Australia party, were unanimously opposed to a compulsory pool, and had instructed the Ministry to resign rather than establish it. Already the Federal AttorneyGeneral and Prime Minister-elect, had announced his intention to resign from the Ministry, if the Government went on with the proposal. lt further pointed out that the growers could expect little support from the Country party, most of the members of which were not interested in wheat-growing, and all of whom regarded their jobs as their first and only consideration.
The fact is that at no time has the Federal Government had any intention of establishing a pool. But despite this obvious fact, the Federal Country party has embarked on an intensive propaganda campaign in an endeavour to persuade growers that they did not betray the growers’ interests.
Official statements, in which it is claimed that the federal marketing plan is just as good as a pool, are being sent out to every newspaper in Australia. The Country party, mindful of the fact that farmers will remember their treachery at the next elections, are endeavouring, by wholesale misrepresentation, to justify their betrayal of the growers’ interests.
The honorable member may not quote opinions which reflect on Parliament in that way.
– Although the language contained in the article is unparliamentary, members of the Country party will have to face that criticism in their electorates. I contend that the amendment which I have submitted is justified. This measure will not be proclaimed ‘ law for a considerable time and even if it were put into operation at an early date, it would not affect the price of wheat for the coming harvest. If the plan for which the bill provides is put forward as offering a permanent solution of the problem of the wheat-growers, I say that it is utterly wrong in principle to commit Australia to this measure without full consideration of it, and a precise examination of all that is involved. I challenge the Government to say either that the bill is to operate for the coming harvest, or that it is not. If it is not intended for this harvest, careful consideration should be given to a scheme to provide a permanent solution of the problems of the growers.
It is not my fault that I have taken up so much of the time of the House. The allotment of the time to be devoted to the discussion of the bill has not prevented the Minister and myself from addressing the House upon it, but I regret that others, who, no doubt, have important contributions to make to the debate, will not have a similar opportunity. I have spoken at some length, solely because I am convinced that to put the industry on its feet we must eliminate unnecessary competition and speculation in the buying of wheat, and unnecessary agencies in the shipment of it. We must, in effect, rationalize the organization of the industry in the interests of the community, so that the growers and the public will have a common interest in overcoming the difficulties which, as has been pointed out for many years, beset the industry. I refer to the excessive cost of capital, and the unnecessary marketing costs. We are told that the high cost of labour is & handicap to the industry, but its chief drawback is the high charges imposed bv merchants and agents, and the cost of finance and charters.
The real friends to the wheat-farmers are to be found on the Opposition side of the House. We believe in giving Australia a population which will make a home-consumption price worth something to the growers, whereas the general desire of honorable members opposite is to increase the price of wheat, and to reduce the price of sugar. They wish to increase the profits of agents, but to reduce the wages of the masses of the people. The view that was expressed by the
Minister for Commerce when, as leader of the Country party, he sat in the corner, and was not affiliated with the United Australia party, is fundamentally hostile to that put forward in this bill by a government that has a United Aus.tralia party Prime Minister. This measure is foreign, in principle, to all proposals put forward in the best interests of the growers, and the growers themselves do not accept it as a contribution to the solution of their difficulties. Even if it is passed, I venture to say that the growers will have to come again to this Parliament for aid, unless through fortuitous circumstances they are placed out of difficul tv by a great increase of the price of wheat. If the price increases it will not be because of this measure. If the price does not increase, this bill will not save the growers, but their representatives in this Parliament will soon be calling out again for assistance for them.
– I am positively astounded to hear the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). He has spoken in direct opposition to the bill, although it has been brought forward to do something definite in the interests of the wheatgrowers generally. This is the first time in the history of Australia that a comprehensive effort has-been made to get the growers out of their difficulties. If the amendment were accepted the scheme submitted could not be put into operation during the remainder of the season. The Leader of the Opposition has stated repeatedly - and several of his supporters have reiterated his assertion - that there is no urgent necessity for the passage of this bill. It is suggested that, if it does not come, into operation for the present season, it should not be dealt with now, because another piece of legislation may be introduced to provide other means of assisting the growers. I emphasize the fact that this bill was brought down by the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) considerably over a month ago, as the outcome of an agreement entered into between representatives of every State government and the Commonwealth Government, who, together with representatives of the various organizations interested in the production and marketing of wheat, met in conference in Canberra In October last.
– Did they all agree to the proposal embodied in the bill?
– They all agreed to recommend the State governments to pass legislation in the terms of the bill now submitted to the House. The Minister for Commerce made his second-reading speech on this bill on the 1st November last, and a member of the Opposition secured the adjournment of the debate. This course was followed to give honorable members an opportunity to study the bill, and an understanding was reached that the State governments would introduce the necessary complementary legislation. This legislation has been passed in the New South “Wales and Queensland parliaments, and in one branch of the Parliament of Victoria, yet the Leader of the Opposition has the effrontery to suggest that the Commonwealth Government is not sincere in declaring this to be an urgent bill, and desiring to pass it before the termination of the present session, in accordance with an undertaking given to the State authorities and to the wheat-growers. If this measure does not become operative this year, the responsibility will rest upon the shoulders of those State parliaments which have not passed the complementary legislation.
The Loader of the Opposition also said, practically, that this bill would not provide permanent relief to the wheatgrowers, and that it should be withdrawn for the purpose of substituting a Commonwealth compulsory pool, supported by the States. Nobody knows better than the honorable member and his predecessor that the governments of several of the States have refused to introduce legislation to enable them to participate in a Commonwealth compulsory pool. I have been one of the keenest advocates in Australia of such a pool ; but, because we find insuperable difficulties hi- the way of its establishment, we are not justified in casting aside other means of providing relief for the growers. This bill does not introduce new principles. It is strictly in accordance with principles embodied in legislation brought down many years ago. and operated since that time by every succeeding government, and by every’ political party. I refer to the legislation passed for the control of the export of dried fruits, which has been in operation for many years, and which was amended some time ago to embrace the control of dried tree-fruits. Similar action has been taken for the organization of the dairying industry throughout the Commonwealth in the interests of the producers of dairy products. As the result of the organization of tlie dairying industry on lines similar to that foreshadowed in this legislation, the dairy farmers have received benefits over the last ten years amounting to about £40,000,000. I wish to make it clear that the conference which took place in Canberra to consider the position of the wheat industry of Australia was attended by representatives of the various State governments, by officials, by representatives of the milling and shipping sections, and by representatives of the growers from every State in the Commonwealth ;. and I emphasize that tlie State Ministers did not represent any one political party or group of parties. The conference was attended by men representing Labour, Country party, and United Australia party governments, and the decisions arrived at in respect of the principles embodied in this bill were unanimous. As I have said, several States have already passed their legislation, and if the Commonwealth Government did not press on with this complementary bill and pass it before the Christmas recess, it would not be keeping faith with them; it would be failing in its responsibility to make its attitude known to the wheat-growers and every person interested in the wheat industry. It would be futile to introduce this bill, merely move the second reading, and allow it to lie on the business-paper until the next session of Parliament. There has been already too much procrastination so far as the wheat industry is concerned ; too many empty promises have been made to the growers, many of them by the last Labour Government.
– Nonsense !
– Many of them were made by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) when delivering flamboyant speeches to which I listened when I came to Canberra as Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales. He made promises, but they were never fulfilled. Guarantees were promised, but were never met.
This bill represents a definite effort on the part of the Government to place on the statute-book legislation which will be complementary to legislation introduced in all the States, and will give to the wheat-growers of Australia what honorable members opposite said they were prepared to give them last year, a homeconsumption price for their product. Honorable members opposite then said that, in preference to imposing the sales tax on flour, they were prepared to give the wheat-growers a home-consumption price for wheat. Last year the Opposition, led by the right honorable member for Yarra, strenuously opposed the passage of a bill imposing a sales tax on flour, and said that the members of his party were definitely behind any scheme designed to establish a homeconsumption price for wheat. Yet now, when a bill to provide for a homeconsumption price is introduced, we find the Leader of the Opposition striving to find fault with the principles behind it,, and endeavouring to ridicule the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) by suggesting, that he has changed his ground. I say, definitely, and without fear of contradiction, that the Minister for Commerce has never altered his views on rural industries. Nor has the Country party done so. What we have said in season and out of season, in Parliament and out of Parliament, is that the primary producers are entitled to have the necessary legislation placed on the statute-book to enable them effectively to organize their industry and to secure a home-consumption price for that portion of their products which is consumed in Australia, in view of the fact that they are producing under Australian costs, and conditions. This right is conceded te every other section- of the community, and we now ask that similar conditions be conceded to the wheat-growers for the first time. That the wheat-growers are entitled to some form of assistance no one will deny. They cannot carry on if left to their own resources. . Nor will any one deny that they are entitled to more than world’s parity for that portion of their product consumed within Australia, when world parity is below the Australian cost of production. Other sections of the community are not expected to hand over to the people the resultsof their labour at a price below the cost of production.
The desire of the Commonwealth Government is to place this legislation on the statute-book without delay, in order that there should be no misunderstanding on the part of State governments or the wheat-growers as to what the intentions of this Parliament are. At the present time, the people of this country have only the statement from the Government that it was prepared to introduce this bill, but the Government wants to be able to say to the people by the time the Parliament adjourns for the Christmas recess, “ This legislation has been passed by the Commonwealth Parliament; it is now the law of the country; and the responsibility rests on the several State parliaments to give to the wheat-growers an opportunity to organize their industry in such a manner as to give them a chance to secure a reasonable home-consumption price for the whole of the wheat consumed in Australia “. In that way we shall place the wheat industry of Australia in such a position that it will be able to look after its own affairs so far as homeconsumption quotawheat is concerned.
The imposition of the flour tax was only a temporary measure which provided financial relief to the industry from year to year. We are determined to place on the statute-book legislation to control the future activities of the wheat industry in Australia on a permanent basis. If any State stands out of the scheme now before the House, it cannot hope to secure a compulsory pool in the future. This is a very definite step forward in extending assistance to the wheatgrowers of Australia on a permanent basis. Instead of those engaged in the wheat industry having to come cap in hand year after year asking this Parliament to provide afew millions of pounds to tide them over their difficulties, this bill willremain on the statute-book for all time. In order to overcome certain difficulties which may arise in the future, it maybe necessary to amend it, but, in general, it is of a permanent nature. I draw the attention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to statements made inthis House by the then Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) when the Wheat Marketing Bill introduced by the Labour Government was being considered on the 8th April, 1930, Hansard, page 917. In his second-reading speech, referring to the question of compulsory pooling, Mr. Parker Moloney said -
Because of the limitations imposed upon the Commonwealth by the Constitution, it was not competent for the Government to bring down a scheme for a compulsory Australian wheat pool. We therefore had to seek the co-operation of the State governments. Honorable members will gather how great are the limitations’ of the Federal Constitution from the roundabout method which had to be adopted. Even if a great majority of the wheat-growers of Australia approved of a compulsory pool, the Commonwealth Government would be powerless to give effect to their wishes, without first calling together representatives of the State governments and securing their approval.
– You have to do that now.
– We have already done it. That limitation was recognized.
– Why have the States delayed in passing the necessary legislation ?
– When in a few days the Leader of the Opposition returns to Western Australia he should put that question to the State Government in Western Australia, and ask why it has done nothing whatsoever to assist the wheat-growers of Western Australia to get a home-consumption price for one bushel of wheat. And on his way to Western Australia he might put the same question to the Premier of South Australia, and ask him if he is prepared to continue with the legislation he has introduced into the Legislative Assembly of that State.
– The same question might be put to the Leader of the Labour Government of Tasmania.
– There must be some reason for the delay.
– The reason why there has been so much delay in Western Australia and Tasmania, the two States controlled , by Labour governments, is exactly the same as that which prompted the Leader of the Opposition to stand up in his place this afternoon for one hour and for party political reasons deliberately attempt to misconstrue the terms of this bill; and which actuated him in his attempt to destroy the efforts of this Government to give the wheat-growers of this country some benefit in the form of legislation of a permanent nature. It is nothing but political tactics. The Commonwealth Government is determined to honour its pledge to the wheat-growers of Australia, and the understanding which it entered into with the State governments, by passing this legislation and placing it upon the statute-book before the House adjourns for the Christmas vacation. The Leader of the Opposition even endeavoured to misconstrue the reports of the conference held in Canberra when representatives of State governments and of the wheat-growers met to evolve a satisfactory scheme for the benefit of the wheat industry. He endeavoured to ridicule the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) in connexion with his attitude in this matter. I say, definitely and deliberately, that the honorable member knows very well that the representatives of the wheat industry mot in open conference; the press was admitted, and all the pros and cons of the wheat industry were discussed by government representatives and by representatives of the wheat-growers, the shipping industry, the millers and others.
– Ministers of State were present.
– That is so. It was a public session of the conference. Subsequently committees were appointed to investigate certain proposals. Those committees met, and recommendations were put forward in the form of resolutions which were submitted for approval to the whole conference. Then the Agricultural Council met, and the honorable member knows that the Agricultural Council was distinct from the conference called in the first place. Afterwards, the full conference re-assembled, and that is why certain delegates were present during part of the discussions, and were not present during other parts. The full conference, however, unanimously agreed that legislation should be introduced by the Com monwealth and all the States to give to the growers a reasonable homeconsumption price for all wheat used for human consumption within the Commonwealth. The point upon which the Leader of the Opposition has tried to mislead the House-
– ‘I do not object to the Minister saying that I inadvertently misled the House, but I emphatically object to his saying that I tried to mislead it.
– If the honorable member objects, I withdraw the statement, but it is true that what the honorable member said would mislead the House if it were allowed to go uncorrected. Every Minister who attended the conference in Canberra was pledged to recommend to his Government that legislation should be introduced in the State Parliaments in accordance with the decisions arrived at by the Agricultural Council.
– What has been done in Western Australia?
– So far as I know, the Western Australian Government has not moved as quickly as have some of the other governments. However, there is an obligation on every State Government to introduce the necessary legislation to cooperate with the Commonwealth, and with the other State governments, in order to make this scheme operative as soon as possible.
– Why is it, if all the States and the Commonwealth were so unanimous at the conference, that, almost immediately afterwards, one State government refused to pass the necessary legislation, while several others have been most reluctant to do so?
– The State Government, representatives who attended the conference left Canberra after giving an undertaking that they would recommend to their Governments that legislation be introduced in accordance with the resolutions carried at the conference. What difficulties they may have encountered after their return to their own States I do not know. Nevertheless, several State parliaments have already passed the necessary legislation, while, in other State parliaments, it has been introduced.
We are all anxious to do our best to place this legislation on the statute-book now in order to avoid the risk of having to pass it when the wheat is actually being delivered at country sidings. Even if the scheme cannot bc put into operation for this harvest, it is not too early to pass the necessary legislation, so that the whole organization will be completed long before harvesting operations begin the following year.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, which is in these terms -
That all the words after “that” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following1 words: - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that immediate steps be taken to establish a compulsory wheat pool with power to control the marketing of the whole of Australia’s wheat crop in co-operation with compulsory State wheat pools.”
I believe that a compulsory pool is the only means by which the farmers will be able to obtain a proper return, free from danger of exploitation by the milling and financing interests, while at the same time the interests of the consumers will be adequately protected. The bill introduced by the Government makes no provision for fixing the price of wheat products to the public, and in that respect it falls short of what the members of my party expect. We believe that the farmers should receive an adequate price for their product, one that will enable them to carry on at a profit, and that will compensate them for their labour. We also claim that the consumers should be able to buy their bread at a reasonable price. A compulsory wheat pool, with the necessary safeguards, is the only scheme which will achieve all these things.
This bill is being rushed through the House, and it will be possible for only a. few honorable members to speak on the second reading. In view of the fact that the States have not passed the necessary complementary legislation, and that the act passed in New South Wales does not come into force until 1936, I cannot see the reason for the Government’s haste. Government supporters, and particularly the Minister now in charge of the bill, committed themselves during the last election campaign to a Commonwealthwide wheat pool. The need for such a pool was clearly recognized then, and it should be recognized now. The scheme embodied in the bill is not what was promised to the farmers, nor is it what the farmers asked for. At a conference of farmers’ representatives held in New South Wales in August last, a resolution was carried urging the’ establishment of a compulsory pool. The Government is not giving effect to the wishes of the farmers, and is not even taking steps to protect the consumers. This measure still leaves the way open for the -millers to exploit the public as they have been doing all the time. The Government has stated that it is opposed to the restriction of production,1 yet, since it has been in office, it has committed Australia to an extension of the international wheat agreement limiting the export of wheat from Australia, while enlarging the export quota of Argentina, although that country failed to observe the terms of the original agreement.
My party believes that only under a compulsory wheat-pooling system can the interests of the farmers be conserved, while at the same time the price of flour and bread can be regulated to prevent exploitation. This can be done by fixing an adequate home-consumption price for wheat used in Australia, and selling the surplus on the open market overseas. We believe that the farmers are entitled to receive a fixed price for their wheat over a period of years, and that this price should be paid to them as they put their wheat into a pool. One of the greatest troubles confronting the farmer’s at the present time i3 that they have to sell their wheat when it is harvested, at a time when prices are usually at their lowest. They cannot afford not to sell their wheat, because they need the money to meet their commitments. Usually the price of wheat is at its highest when the wheat is in the hands, not of the growers, but of the speculators. It is generally recognized that there is more money to be made out of buying and selling wheat than out of growing it. The man who buys the wheat is generally assured of his profit, whereas the farmer is not. Under a compulsorypooling system the farmer would put his wheat into the pool, and be paid a fixed price for it immediately upon delivery, the pool authorities being financed by the Commonwealth Bank. The hank would recoup itself from the proceeds of the wheat as it was sold for consumption.
The Labour party is .particularly concerned with the setting up of a board to work in conjunction with the pool authorities in the fixing of prices for the products of wheat, so that the consumers will not be exploited, and the market for the farmers’ products decreased. Under a compulsory-pooling system, such a hoard would be able to function.-
– This bill provides for the fixation of prices.
– It makes no provision for fixing the price of bread or flour. We are opposed to this measure, because it still leaves the way open for exploitation of the public who consume those commodities. Those who are exploiting the farmers are impairing the market for the farmers’ product and so decreasing the consumption of it. In considering the price of bread I remind honorable members that in 1916, when wheat was 4s. 9d. a bushel and flour was £10 15s. a ton, bread was 4d. a loaf; in 1920 when it was Ss. 8d. a bushel and flour £17 12s. 6d. a ton, bread was 5£d. a loaf; in 1930 when it was 2s. 5d. a bushel and flour £7 15s. a ton, bread was 5½d. a loaf; and in 1933 when wheat was 2s. 5-Jd. a bushel and flour £7 10s. a ton, bread was 5d. a loaf. This shows clearly that neither wages nor the price of wheat have very much to do with the price of bread. I submit that part of any comprehensive scheme to deal with the wheat industry should provide for the appointment of a board to fix the price of all products from wheat, and particularly the price of bread.
– How does the honorable member suggest that a board may be constituted?
– By the co-operation of the State governments. That has been obtained in connexion with the introduction of this bill, and it could be obtained in connexion with the establishment of a compulsory pool. We have no guarantee whatever that the passage of this bill will lead to the implementation of the policy outlined in it. The Government of New South Wales, for example, has passed its complementary legislation, but has provided that it shall not become effective until 1936. The governments of certain other States have not yet even introduced the necessary bills in their parliaments. Unless a board is established to fix the price of wheat and wheat products the producers will be left to the mercy of market riggers and manipulators. It is necessary also that provision shall be made for the payment of adequate wages to farm workers. The present conditions of farm workers are worse than those of any other section of workers in the community. If provision .were made for the setting up of a statutory body to fix the price of wheat and wheat products, farm employees would be much more likely to obtain a reasonable rate of wages. This would be beneficial not. only to those directly engaged in the wheat-growing industry, but also to all those who live, and carry on business, in country towns, for more money would be a va iia bie for spending.
I should like an assurance from the Minister that if this bill ever becomes operative care will be taken that moneys paid under its provisions and intended to benefit the farmers shall be actually paid to them. “ Wheat-grower “ is defined in the bill as follows : - “ Wheat-grower “ means a person who owns wheat grown from a crop sown during tha year One thousand nine hundred and thirtyfive, or in any subsequent year, and who harvests such wheat or on whose account such wheat is harvested and includes the legal personal representative of any such person;
In my opinion the definition is not specific enough. The benefits which the Government intends for the farmers may actually go to speculators who buy and sell wheat for profit. That has been an unsatisfactory feature of several bounty bills that have been passed by this Parliament.
– Does the honorable member think that a farmer should not be permitted to give a lien on his crop?
– There has been far too much exploitation of the farmers. The policy of the Labour party is to protect the interest of the primary producers. We believe that marketing through a compulsory pool with complementary State pools is the most effective way to assist the wheat-grower ; and any proposal with that object in view will have our support. We are, however, opposed to the policy which the Government is seeking to implement in this bill.
– The speech which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) delivered on this bill this afternoon indicates that he has not carefully considered the circumstances of the Australian wheat industry. His purpose, apparently, was to delay the passage of this bill ostensibly to leave the way clear for the setting up of a compulsory wheat pool. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) showed conclusively this afternoon, as did also the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) when he introduced the bill, that the co-operation of the State governments could not be obtained for the setting up of a compulsory wheat pool. The Leader of the Opposition is in the curious position of actually supporting certain wealthy commercial interests which hold the well-being of the wheatgrowers in their hands, and every move that he may make to delay the passage of this bill will simply play into the hands of individuals whom he frequently tells us he wishes to overcome. Had the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters taken the trouble to read the report of the recent wheat conference in Canberra, he would have realized that the speech he delivered this afternoon was quite illogical. Copies of that report have been made available to all honorable members, and there can be no excuse for any honorable gentleman pleading ignorance of its contents. At that conference the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), and also the Minister for Commerce and certain other representatives, clearly stated the difficulties in the way of the setting up of a compulsory pool; but, as a kind of answer to the statements of those responsible individuals, the Leader of the Opposition was content to cite passages from certain irresponsible newspapers, which were in several respects quite inaccurate. The honorable gentleman did not see fit to refer to an attack made in a certain newspaper from which he quoted on Mr. Troy, the Minister for Agriculture of
Western Australia, who was held up, as we would hold a kitten up by the back of its neck, and exposed to public ridicule. I do not say that the honorable gentleman intentionally neglected to refer to that particular part of the report from which he quoted, but we all know that a forgetful memory is a convenient one at times.
– What did the newspaper say about Mr. Troy?
– It is not my duty to provide information of that kind for the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden). The great majority of the representatives of the wheat-growers, merchants, millers and shippers at the recent Canberra conference were definitely opposed to the setting up of a compulsory pool. As one of the representatives of the wheat-growers at that conference, I can say definitely that complete failure met every attempt to obtain an agreement to a compulsory pool. I believe that 90 per cent. of the wheatgrowers of South Australia are opposed to that system of marketing.
– The time allotted for the second reading has expired.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Curtin’s amendment) stand part of the question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 6.17 to 8p.m.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions).
.- Among the different definitions in clause 4 is the second definition dealing with wheat which reads - “Wheat” means wheat grown from a crop sown during the year One thousand nine hundred and thirty-five or in any subsequent year.
We are not yet satisfied that this bill will have any application to wheat grown during the 1935 season. If the bill is to apply to wheat grown during the 1935 season, no other legislation is required to deal with that wheat. The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot have this machinery for the establishment of a home-consumption price for wheat grown this season, and at the same time other legislation providing for a tax which is for the purpose of a separate and distinct method of assisting the wheat-growers in respect of wheat grown in the 1935 season. It is not right that the Government should retain in the draft of this bill a definition referring to wheat harvested this season, and at the same time have in mind other legislation applicable to this year. It is using a double-barrelled treatment of this year’s crop. It is not possible, surely, to say that this bill is intended to apply to the crop of 1935 as a crop? There may be some carry-over which will be affected by the present bill, but if there is it will be negligible. I ask the Government to treat the committee candidly in this matter. It already has on the notice-paper a bill which would have no logical reason for its appearance unless it related to this year’s harvest.
– The reason why this definition of wheat is stated as it is, is that the 1935 crop may have to be dealt with in one or two ways. So far, wheat sold up to this year has been subject to payments of bounty out of money made available last year. The wheat to be dealt with under this bill is the wheat that has not been dealt with under that method, but as to whether it will be possible to implement this scheme during the present season, it is not yet clear. Consequently, the Government could not possibly alter the definition. In any case, whenever a new scheme commences there must be provision for overlapping even though it may be seven or eight months before the scheme provided for in this bill can be brought into operation. Wheat harvested this season but not sold by the time the Government’s proposals are in readiness for operation may come under the effects of the legislation.
– This legislation is complementary to that which the States are required to pass, or, to put it the other way, the States are required to pass legislation complementary to this. This bill would have a very direct bearing upon the States if it is argued that it is for purposes similar to the dried fruits legislation and similar legislation. For the Minister to say that the Government has no knowledge of the attitude of the States in regard to this matter is begging the question. The Minister is aware that in New South Wales the bill has been altered to such an extent that it will not be applicable to the 1935 wheat crop, and will apply only to the 1936 and subsequent crops. The Government is not treating the Opposition fairly.
– Honorable members are under a misapprehension as to what will take place in the change-over from the existing system of wheat relief to the proposals contained in this bill. It is certain that there will be a period in the change-over when we shall have to deal with certain wheat produced this season. This scheme, undoubtedly, will deal with wheat grown and harvested in this season which may not have been sold at the time when it comes into force.
.- The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) said that he was doubtful whether the scheme provided for in this bill would come into operation before another seven or eight months have elapsed. That is a complete contradiction of answers to questions given by the Minister in the last fortnight. On every occasion when asked whether the home-consumption price would be paid for this season’s crop, he stated that legislation providing for the home-consumption price was before the chamber in this bill. He also said that the New South Wales Parliament had passed legislation, and that Victoria would pass similar legislation this week.
– I said the Lower House.
– I neither know, nor want to know, what the honorable member said, as I am talking about what the Minister for Commerce said. We do not know whether or not this bill is to be implemented by the States. The Government of New South Wales has decided that it will not pass legislation to operate this harvest. The Victorian Parliament has not passed complementary legislation, and the South Australian Government has definitely decided to have nothing to do with it.
– That is not so.
– I do not know what Western Australia has done. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) as a representative of that State will know, however.
– Western Australia has done nothing.
– That makes the position even worse. Without action by the four principal wheat-growing States to pass complementary legislation, the Commonwealth can do nothing. What is the use, therefore, of passing this legislation? The whole business is “hocus pocus “. We are doing in this Parliament what we used to do as children - playing “ make believe “. Honorable gentlemen opposite will tell the people of Australia that they have passed this bill and try to take credit for it, but, in fact, they will have done nothing.
– Does the honorable member think that the farmers’ conference in Sydney has anything to do with it?
– The men who farm the farmers might have had something to do with it. Reference to the 1935 harvest in this bill is totally misleading, because the Minister has said that it may be seven or eight months before the scheme is brought into being. What will become of the crop in eight months? By that time, we shall be preparing to harvest another crop. Although we do not want to be taken entirely into the Government’s confidence, we should like the Minister to be more definite than he has been in his replies to the two previous speakers. The committee is entitled to be informed of what is in the Government’s mind.
– If honorable members who are complaining had been present when clause 2 was passed, they would know that there is no need for an explanation of the reason for the definition of wheat applying to the 1935 crop. They would know that it is essential to the drafting of the legislation. The mention of 1935 implies that the legislation is to start at some time. It may be required to start before the commencement of the 1936 season. The fact that this legislation will be fixed by proclamation means that it can be applied to any year.
.- Assuming that the legislation by the States is not passed until March or May of next year, and assuming that this bill would be proclaimed following the passage of the State laws, say, about June next year, the position will be that wheat sold prior to next June, but grown during the present season, will not be subject to the proposed act, whereas wheat grown in the present season and not sold by the grower will be subject to it. It would be made clear that all wheat grown during 1935 and retained by the grower would be subject to this act. But it would not have force regarding wheat sold by growers to agents prior to the proclamation date. It seems to me that that would be the logical consequence of theproclamation coming midway between the harvests for 1935 and 1936.
– The whole of the discussion on the Labour side proceeds on the assumption that nothing will be done by the State governments. It will be possible to operate this proposed act if any three exporting States decide to operate it this season. The mere fact that the legislation of the Government of New South Wales may not operate this season, will not prevent the scheme from operating if the Commonwealth and three of the other exporting States decide that it shall operate. In any case, I have no doubt that, in those circumstances, it would be possible for an amendment to be made by the Parliament of New South Wales to give effect to the scheme this year. Quite apart from that question, however, the proclamation of this proposed act would have no effect in respect of State legislation to which it is complementary unless that State legislation were actually in force. The manner in which this bill will work will be by a system of licences which are to be issued in co-operation with the State authorities. There would be no possible chance of such a situation as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) envisaged occurring. The definition to which exception has been taken must be left in the bill in order that this scheme may be able to start work, as it almost certainly will, before the whole of the current harvest is sold. A bounty has been paid on all wheat prior to that mentioned in this bill, and until the machinery provided for is put into motion, it may continue to be paid, but when the bounty is supplanted it will be by the scheme provided for in this bill.
– The definition of “ wheat-growers “ demands some explanation. I direct particular attention to the inclusion in it of “ the legal personal representative of any such person”. To whom does that refer? Apparently the mortgagee, or some other person who may have a lein on the wheat, or the authority to exercise control over its disposal, here comes into the picture. Where public funds are distributed for the purpose of affording relief, there should be no doubt as to their destination; they should pass directly into the hands of the persons concerned.
– The money goes to the credit of the grower.
– Some claims by mortgagees may be beyond what they are strictly entitled to make. This Parliament should not be a party to guaranteeing payment from the public revenues of exorbitant interest and other claims. I am not here to protect the interests of the banking and financier class. A further feature is that the application of the provisions of the measure to a crop sown during the year 1935 may enable speculators to go on the market this year and collect from the common wheat pool the accumulated amount which would bo at their disposal next year when the home-consumption price was agreed upon. That that will be possible is obvious from the fact that “ wheatgrower “ means a person who owns wheat.
– And who harvests such wheat ?
– I am not in a position to argue along legal lines. The people of whom I speak are able to do many things. A large number of those who are associated with the wheat industry have their backs to the wall, and are compelled to dispose of their product in order to purchase the necessaries of life. Consequently, the banking and insurance interests, which are always on the look-out for such opportunities, will be able to take advantage of their position.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) rather misapprehends the meaning of this definition. To understand the clause and the necessity for the definition, one must read clause 5 in conjunction with it. That clause lays down what a wheat-grower shall and shall not do, and the penalties that he will incur, amounting to £500, if he does certain things in contravention of the act. It is necessary to have a definition of “ wheat-grower “ which will cover all of those who have an interest in the matter. The institutions that. the honorable member has in mind will have to obey this law in common with the ordinary John farmer who is not tied up financially. I feel sure that if the honorable member will study the matter a little more deeply he will realize that fact.
.- “What the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said, is quite correct. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) will obtain further information if he were to place this bill alongside the State legislation. This measure does not provide for the distribution of any money, but merely controls interstate trade, so that the effects of the legislation passed by the States may not be evaded.
– The ultimate object is to obtain finance through an increased price.
– It is. But this bill is designed to prevent trustees, executors, or any persons other than the farmer, from evading the conditions prescribed, and from prejudicing the scheme. The provisions relating to the distribution referred to, provide that the farmer or his representative must deliver the wheat, and only the fixed quota of wheat of the season referred to in the proclamation will be eligible to receive the homeconsumption price fixed by the State boards.
.- The statement of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) is the exact opposite of the explanation given by the Minister to the honorable member for West Sydney. The Government is giving protection to banking and financial interests. Why not confine it to the man who grows the wheat?
– That is what is done.
– It is not.
– This provision has been embodied in ‘State and Federal legislation on numerous occasions.
– That is why a loophole has always been left for members of the legal fraternity to derive profit.
– This is absolutely necessary with respect to all share-farming agreements.
– If share-farming were mentioned, the matter would be clear. As the bill is drawn, however, the banks and other financial interests will have the first lien on a man’s property. The guarantee of the Government of a payment of 4s. 9d. a bushel is the best security they could have. The position should be clarified so that money will not be wasted on litigation. This is clearly a “ramp.” for’ the bankers.
– A trustee or an executor could send wheat over the border of a State and sell it direct, if this provision were not made.
– Then the bill should refer to a trustee or an executor.
– This will impose a liability on the banker, and if he breaks the law he will be subject to a penalty of £500.
– The State legislation which I have read does not correspond with the explanation that has been given, t hope that the Minister will see that only the farmer who produces the wheat benefits from this legislation. He should stand up for the wheat-growers, and not sell them to the banks. He was criticized at the last conference of farmers, and a resolution was passed in condemnation of what he had done. There will be another “ squeal “ at the next conference if it is found that their interests have not ‘been conserved.
.- The honorable member who has just sat down (Mr. Garden) obviously has not the foggiest notion of the effect of the bill. The measure is designed to impose certain restrictions on interstate and overseas trade in wheat, which will enable every farmer to obtain his fair share of the home-consumption price. If such restrictions were not applied to a banker who Had a lien over a crop, the opportunity would be presented to him to get more than his- share of the homeconsumption price.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The time allotted for the discussion of this clause has expired.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Deliveries of interstate wheat by wheat-growers).
.- This clause embodies the crux of the bill, but owing to the shortness of the time allotted for the consideration of the remaining clauses, and in view of the possibility of a protracted discussion on this clause, I suggest that the remaining clauses be discussed together.
– Honorable members will be in order at this stage in discussing the remaining clauses.
– Extraordinary powers are to be given to prescribed authorities. The clauses set out, not what shall be done, but what shall not be done by a grower, a receiver, a processor of wheat, or prescribed authorities. I invite attention to the fact that although the term “ prescribed authority “ occurs in several clauses, no definition is given of its meaning. Nor does any clause set out the powers and functions of such authorities. Obviously, these authorities are to be constituted under State legislation, and the contents of the State acts are not known to us. We understand that in some of the States the complementary legislation has not been passed.
This committee is asked to give to the Governor-General power to make regulations of an extraordinary character, vesting in the hypothetical authorities power.-; which ought to be the subject of legislation. For instance, not only does the bill prescribe that a wheat-grower shall not deliver wheat to a receiver, unless he is licensed, and that the receiver shall not accept wheat from a grower unless the latter is licensed, but furthermore, the conditions under which licences may be issued have not been determined. Clause 11 provides that the Governor-General may make regulations prescribing the conditions upon which licences may be issued. That means, in effect, that this Parliament will deny to a wheat-grower the right to sell his wheat unless he is licensed. I can understand the necessity for that as a national precaution, this Parliament should determine the appropriate conditions under which licences should be issued. This measure contemplates handing over to the Executive what practically amounts to unlimited legislative power. It will determine the conditions under which licences may be obtained, and without which it will be unlawful to trade in wheat. I submit again that that is an extraordinary power to grant to pre scribed authorities which are to be con. stituted under acts of which we have no cognizance.
– It has been done before.
– Probably after the same limited consideration as has marked the proceedings of this chamber to-day in the consideration of this important measure. I said in my secondreading speech that the bill makes necessary a most complicated and extensive documentation before the grower, who, after all, is not an expert in business, can be assured of his rights with regard to wheat sold for home consumption. In the ordinary course of harvesting operations, he is too busily engaged in taking off his crop and in delivering his wheat to a railway siding to be able to make the minute examination which is essential in safeguarding his interests. In all probability an agent, or some other person engaged by an agent or company interested in the marketing of wheat, will do this work, and the grower, as a matter of fact, will have to trust absolutely to a scrutiny by those who are busily engaged in exploiting him. Owing to the complicated nature of this measure, I am sure that the rights of the growers will be jeopardized, yet, after all, the preservation of those rights should be the paramount consideration of this Parliament. When the grower delivers his wheat to a siding he must get an export warrant.
– He will get the same receipt as at the present time, as to quantity and quality.
Mr.CURTIN- Who will determine the quota to be used for export and the quota required for home consumption?
– Read the report of the proceeding of the recent conference.
– No court would take notice of speeches made in a conference heldin camera, or even of speeches delivered in Parliament. If this bill is to safeguard the interests of the growers, we must rely upon the terms of the measure itself. The proposed procedure is too uncertain and insecure. Let me direct attention to the legislative character of the powers to be delegated to the Governor-General. I have already referred to the fact that he may make regulations prescribing the conditions upon which licences are issued. He may also make regulations prescribing “ the maximum quantity which may be contained in a consignment of wheat or wheat products which may be carried from a place in one State into or through any other State to a place in Australia beyond the State in which the carriage begins, without the issue of a licence under this act “. That means that in regard to every parcel of wheat delivered by the farmer, the prescribed authority may fix the quota to be sent, not only overseas, but also into another State. Thus the grower will be uncertain as to the price he will receive, the proportion of his wheat that will be sent overseas and the proportion that will besold in Australia.
– The same uncertainty is experienced by the growers in the dried fruits industry.
– Wheat-growing is carried on under totally different conditions, and I cannot accept the method of control exercised in regard to dried fruits as a guide to the system to be adopted in connexion with the much greater and far more important industry of wheat-growing.
The Governor-General may make regulations prescribing the “grades and qualities of wheat or wheat products “. I confess I do not know what that means, because it is impossible to say what interpretation will be placed upon those words by the authorities that will put the regulations into operation. I have no objection, in any Scheme of marketing or economic planning, to giving boards powers which are essential to them in discharging their functions; but the Opposition insists that whatever power is to be delegated to various instrumentalities should be clearly stated.
– How can that be done? That is a matter for the State parliaments.
– We are told that they have not all passed the necessary complementary legislation.
– It has been passed by the Parliaments of Queensland and New South Wales. In the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, the measure was agreed to on the voices, and the Labour party expressed approval of it.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As the honorable member who has just resumed his seat has indicated, this clause practically throws open for discussion the whole scheme which the Government is submitting for our approval. I commend the Government for having introduced this bill, which is an attempt to provide an orderly system of marketing and a homeconsumption price for the whole of the wheat industry of Australia. We in Australia have to realize now that the large primary-producing industries, operated over the greater part of the Commonwealth, have to be treated as one economic unit in the Commonwealth as a whole, even though we must have State units exercising political jurisdiction over portions of the same common area. It is because of the existence of these two political organizations, Federal and State, exercising control over one area, that it is necessary to introduce measures such as that now before the House, which proposes to exercise Commonwealth jurisdiction in regard to interstate trade and overseas matters, and leaving it. to the States to exercise the adequate powers they possess to complete the portion of the scheme operating undertheir jurisdiction within theirown boundaries. This bill is introduced, not as the result of an agreement signed by parties, but rather as the result of an arrangement entered into between the Federal and the State Governments to introduce legislation necessary to give effect to a common policy. The importance of pooling throughout Australia generally is being more and more recognized. In Queensland, pooling is becoming increasingly popular and is being increasingly resorted to by the primary producers of that State in their common interest. In the latest report of the Department of Agriculture of Queensland, issued this year, it is stated -
At the present time, primary products with an aggregate value of£l7,000,000 per annum arc disposed of through marketing organizations. Over the term of years which ordinary marketing hasbeen in operation, more than £100,000,000 has been distributed by pool boards to primary producers.
That indicates the growing tendency towards pooling in Australia. Those engaged in the industry desire to organize in order to secure the best results for their labour, which is the primary object of pooling. The pooling system was introduced in Australia during the war period, when the Wheat Marketing Board was established in the Commonwealth. That scheme was operated by the Governments of the Commonwealth, and of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, for the purpose of realizing to the best advantage the 1915-1916 wheat harvest and to enable the States named to make advances to the farmers pending realization. That system continued in subsequent years until 1920-1921. Queensland, however, was excluded from participation in that scheme. It was a principle that all growers should participate equitably in the realization of the proceeds of the harvest. The overseas price was higher than the homeconsumption price. Queensland, on two occasions applied for permission to participate in that scheme, but was refused. What was the reason behind this refusal? The Royal Commission, which recently inquired into the wheat and flour industry in Queensland, stated in its report -
During the period of war control, two efforts were made by the Queensland Government tosecure the entry of this State (Queensland) into the scheme of controlled marketing of which operated in the Southern States. The requests were refused, mainly on the ground that Queensland did not produce sufficient of the product for its own requirements.
That is to say, they refused the request because the growers of the northern State were not exporting. As Queensland did not export wheat, the growers of that State were not allowed to get the benefit of the scheme under the Wheat Marketing Board. Later on, the question of wheat marketing came before this Parliament, and two bills were introduced by a Labour government for the purpose of setting up wheat pools, one in 1930 and the other in 1931. Once again the problem that Queensland was not an exporting State had to be faced. The last paragraph of the schedule to the 1930 bill, which provided that an agreement should be executed by the States under authority by the statute, read as follows: -
The amount of the excess shall be contributed to an equalization fund and subject to sub-clause (2.) of this clause such fund shall be distributed between the States in the proportion that the quantity of wheat of that season grown in each State and delivered to a State wheat board bears to the total quantity of wheat of that season grown in all the States and. delivered to State wheat boards. Any financial adjustments necessary shall be made accordingly by the Australian Wheat Board acting as a clearing house and the State wheat boards concerned shall pay on demand by the Australian Wheat Board such amounts as by such equalization account may be shown to be due by them and the Australian Wheat Board, shall disburse to the State wheat boards concerned such amounts as may by such equalization account be shown to be due to them. (2.) Prior to the effecting of such equalization any advantage of a State arising -
Again in the 1931 bill, a somewhat similar clause appeared in the last sub-section of paragraph 12 of the schedule, which reads as follows: - (2.) Prior to the effecting of such equalization any advantage of a State arising -
The principle which ought to be followed is the proposal to put into operation a big pooling scheme embracing the whole of the Commonwealth, and every attempt should be made to mitigate, reduce or entirely eliminate any injustices done to those in the particular industry in any particular State. In this instance an injustice would be done to Queensland.
When it was being discussed in this House the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), then sitting in Opposition, realizing that an injustice would be done to the Queensland growers, suggested an addendum to paragraph c of sub-clause 2, as follows: -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding section if in any year in which any State has no exportable surplus or an exportable surplus amounting to less than 25 per cent, of its total production in that year, such State shall be entitled to retain the whole of ‘the advantage due to the local-consumption price within that State.
The honorable gentleman submitted the principle that States not having an exportable surplus should be entitled to the advantage of the home-consumption price. These bills, however, did not become law. Then we come to the present situation. Queensland has been asked to come under the present scheme, and the Government of that State has already passed an act to do so. The Minister for Commerce has said that in order to get a complete grip of the whole scheme, the Commonwealth and State legislation must be read in conjunction. The Queensland Labour Government has introduced a bill, and has brought the wheat-growers in that State entirely under the scope of that bill.
– Queensland agreed to come under it.
– The Queensland Government agreed to como under the scheme, and the Minister for Agriculture in the Queensland Government introduced a bill under which the wheat-growers of that State will suffer very seriously. The State Wheat Board protested. During the last fifteen years, they have organized, and have been carrying on under a wheat pool of a most successful character. Under the scheme now proposed, they will be materially deprived of the value of their organization. As a matter of fact, their organization will be injured, and, if they come under the federal, scheme, they will be deprived of the advantages of their geographical situation. They will lose the benefit of the present homeconsumption price, and the scheme of marketing under which they sold their wheat to the millers who paid the price for it at the sheds in the country districts. After the members of the State Wheat Board had interviewed the’ Minister, the following statement was published -
After carefully analysing the provisions of this measure, they pointed out to the Minister as has already been stated iu the press, that if it became law it would mean a loss of about 4d. and possibly 5d. per bushel - in other words a sum calculated at £50,000 oi, the present year’s crop . . . The board also submitted that with its present constitution provided by the Wheat Pool Act as operated for the past 15 years, it could show a better return than could possibly be achieved under any likely set of circumstances under the proposed legislation. For that reason, Queensland should not be pooled with the other States, where conditions are different. Queensland at the present time enjoys a distinct geographical advantage amounting to from Oil. to 7d. per bushel and the proposed homeconsumption price of 4s. Od. per bushel at ports on one quarter of the crop only, could not by any means more than partially compensate for this for the reason that the other three-fourths of the crop would be paid for through the operations of the federal scheme at only export price. It is because of this and the loss of the geographical advantage now enjoyed that the board contends that the wheat-growers of Queensland would be losing 4d. to 5d. per bushel over the whole crop.
It has been found that even amongst growers there is- a considerable amount of misunderstanding as to what the proposed homeconsumption price of 4s. Od. really amounts to. In the first place, the 4s. Od. only applies to 25 per cent, of each grower’s wheat, that is to say, one bushel out of every four, and moreover this price is not the price to be paid by millers for delivery at the board’s sheds where the. wheat is taken in from the growers, hut at the mills sidings in Brisbane. This means that instead of the millers having to pay the freight as at present the grower would have to pay the freight. The other 75 per cent, would in effect he sold at export price, the board or the grower again paying the freight, and this three-quarters of the crop would be paid for at whatever the export price might bc, which at the present time is 3s. Id. Adelaide. Under the scheme all States, including Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne. Sydney and Brisbane, would have to come on to one and the same basis. The averaging of the one-quarter at home-consumption price, with the three-quarters at export price, would bring the payment to growers in this State very far below what the board claims it can obtain and has been .obtaining under its present system of marketing.
In Queensland wheat is sold according to quality.
– That does not say much for the scheme put forward by this Government.
– Generally speaking, the scheme is right; but I am asking that an adjustment be made to accord with Queensland conditions. The system of grading the wheat, which is in operation in Queensland, encourages growers to produce wheat of the best quality. I urge the Minister to see- that the special conditions of the Queensland wheat-growers be provided for, and to see that they receive justice under the proposed scheme.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The very disappointing and extraordinary speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on this bill was nothing more than so much shadowsparring, in which the honorable gentleman succeeded in demolishing spectres of his own creation. The Leader of the Opposition must be well aware of the limitations which the Constitution imposes on this -Parliament in any attempt which it may make to assist the wheat-growers. A Minister in the last Labour Government, Mr. Parker Moloney, when introducing a measure dealing with subject, said -
Because of the limitations imposed upon tlie Commonwealth by the Constitution,, it was not competent for this Government to bring down a scheme for a compulsory Australian wheat pool. We therefore had to seek the co-operation of the State governments.
That is what the present Government has done; it has sought the co-operation of the States. It was found that it was necessary, in order to place any effective legislation on the statute-book, to have complementary legislation passed by each of the State parliaments. The bill now before us is an integral part of a system of involved composite legislation. The Leader of the Opposition chided the Government for introducing this bill before the State governments had passed their part of the necessary legislation. If this Government had refrained from acting, as the honorable member suggests, the honorable gentleman’s friends in the
State parliaments would, I have no doubt, chided their governments for having attempted to introduce legislation in the States before the Commonwealth had taken action. Then the position would be stalemate. The action of the Government in this regard is supported by the royal commission which inquired into the wheat industry. In its report the commission states -
The commission has considered the advantages and disadvantages of controlled marketing, and has come to the majority conclusion that the advantages outweigh the objections. It does not propose to recommend any hardandfast scheme for the creation of the necessary marketing authority, because the cooperation and assent of the States will be necessary before a workable plan can be constructed, and because an interstate conference of interested parties should be called to assist in working out the details.
That is exactly what the Government did. Recognizing the limitation imposed by the Constitution on the Commonwealth Parliament, the Government called a conference representative of all sections of the wheat industry, and of the various State governments, in the hope of evolving a practical scheme for assisting the industry. All sections represented at the conference were invited to submit schemes for discussion. The Commonwealth representatives went to the conference armed with a scheme, which, is substantially that embodied in the bill now before the House. The Government of New South Wales, a composite United Australia party and Country party government, also submitted a scheme, a.s did the Country party Government of Victoria. In addition, the wheat-growers put forward a proposal of their own. There were at the conference representatives of the Labour Governments of Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania, but not one of them submitted even the vestige of a plan. In spite of that, Ave have listened to a chorus of bleats from members of the Opposition to-day, in which they have set forth what the Labour party would like to do for the wheat industry. When the Labour party had an opportunity to submit a scheme to the conference it failed to avail itself of it.
– That is not correct.
– I have read the report of the conference proceedings and the Leader of the Opposition actually quoted from the report to-day. He must know that if any of the Labour State governments’ representatives at the conference had submitted a concrete scheme, and had convinced the conference that it was both meritorious and practicable, it would now have been embodied in the bill Ave are discussing. This scheme proposes to give to the wheat-growers the benefit of a home-consumption price.
– To raise the price against the workers.
– Yes, to raise the price of wheat products against the workers, and against all other citizens in Australia, in exact conformity with the protectionist policy that is sponsored by the Labour party, and, in varying degrees, by every party in this Parliament. If there is any policy in Australian politics that is definitely settled, it is that of artificially raising the price of commodities generally in Australia, not wheat commodities only. We have deliberately set out as a nation to raise prices against the consumers in the interests of certain industries and in what. Ave regard as the best interests of the nation. That is accepted as being right by a majority of electors. Some of us may quarrel with the extent to which that policy has been pursued, but none of us quarrel with the funda mental principle, and it would be les3 than fair to oppose its application to the wheat industry. I am sure that no member of the Opposition, no matter how he may speak, will dare to vote in division against the proposal to give to the wheat industry the benefit of a homeconsumption price. Though a division was called for on an amendment originating from the Leader of the Opposition, no division has yet been called for on the measure itself, though every speech from the Opposition has been caustically critical of every aspect of the measure. I shall be interested to see whether any of those honorable members who have been so critical of the measure will have the courage to vote against it.
This proposal embodies the only practicable method of giving a homeconsumption price to the farmers. I dismiss as so much hot air the criticism that the bill should not have been introduced until complementary legislation had been passed by the State parliaments. It is declared in this bill itself that the measure shall not come into force until it is proclaimed by the Governor-General, which makes it clear that it is recognized as being merely a part of a scheme of composite legislation. The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) stated that the necessary State legislation had already been passed by two State parliaments, and was in the last stages of consideration in the Victorian Parliament. A bill has been introduced in the Parliament of South Australia, and. I believe that the Premier of Western Australia has announced that he will introduce legislation of a similar character. As soon as the various State governments have honoured the undertaking given by their representatives at the Canberra conference, proclamations Will be made simultaneously through the Commonwealth and State authorities bringing all the acts into force at the same time. I compliment the Government on having brought in this bill, which represents the first step in an attempt to secure a home-consumption price for the wheat-Growers
– I realize, in common with most other honorable members, the necessity for helping the wheat-farmer, and for Avant of a better scheme I propose to support that submitted by the Government. I believe, however, that greater consideration should have been given to the proposal, so that a more balanced scheme might have been evolved. We have all read in the newspapers that, since the Canberra conference, FaMouS farmers’ organizations have been passing resolutions which amounted to prayers that they might be preserved from their friends. We have been told that at least four schemes were placed before the Canberra conference, but it seems to have been made very clear at the conference that the scheme submitted by the Commonwealth Government had to be adopted if anything was to be done. Now the various State parliaments are rushing through the legislation necessary to implement the scheme. The whole proposal was, in my opinion, conceived in haste, and is being born in confusion. I have before me a copy of a bill, of fourteen pages, which was introduced into the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. Before the consideration of it had advanced very far, a budget of twelve pages of amendments had been submitted by the Government. The measure as finally passed, contained 24 pages. This undoubtedly indicates that it was introduced with undue haste, with the result that endless confusion was caused during its consideration by Parliament. At the Canberra wheat conference the Attorney-General expressed the opinion that it would be wise to defer action of the nature proposed in this bill at least until the Privy Council had announced its decision in regard to section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution. If a decision adverse to the Commonwealth is given on that particular section and the provisions of this bill are consequently declared ultra vires, it is an open question whether the business concerns which will lose money through the operation of this scheme may not be entitled to heavy compensation from the Government. I urge that careful consideration be given to that point. I submit that action of this kind is unwise until the Privy Council has given its decision.
Another objection I have to the bill is that insufficient consideration has been given to its probable effect upon our export trade. At present we are exporting about 700,000 tons of flour annually from Australia. About 300,000 tons of offal is produced from the wheat from which this is milled. We are exporting to Manchukuo about 200,000 tons of flour annually. There has already been a suggestion that, a dumping duty should be imposed by Japan on the flour that we export to that country, and to Manchukuo. If anything is done which will interfere with our flour export trade, it will undoubtedly have a serious effect upon employment in regard to both the wheatfarmer and those engaged in subsidiary industries, and it will adversely react upon the many people who are to-day engaged in the various operations associated with the production of offal from wheat. When Mr. Debuchi was in Australia in connexion with the Japanese goodwill mission, he attended a conference of flour- millers. At that time the difference between the price of export flour and that of flour for consumption in Australia was £1 10s. a ton, and Mr. Debuchi asked why Japan should not consider the imposition of a dumping duty on the flour exported to J apan at the lower figure. Let us suppose, for a moment, that the price of wheat for local consumption is ls. a bushel more than the price of wheat for export. This would make the price of flour for local consumption £2 10s. a ton dearer than the price of flour for export. There would consequently be that additional degree of justification for the imposition of a dumping duty by Japan. I make that observation because the price of wheat is lower now than it was when the proposal was agreed to for a home consumption price of 4s. 9d. a bushel. I have been furnished . with a copy of a letter received by a Sydney firm from Messrs. Mitsui Bussan Kaisha Limited, in reply to an inquiry as to the possible effect upon the exportation of Australian flour under the scheme which the Government is seeking to implement in this bill. The letter reads as follows: -
We acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 17th instant.
You asked us to express our opinion of the possible effect upon exportation of Australian flour under the system which the Commonwealth and State governments of Australia are contemplating introducing, by which the home consumption value of wheat will he fixed in lieu of the present Flour Sales Tax, in -which event the home consumption price of flour in Australia will be in the vicinity of £12 12s. per ton straight out.
You will remember, some little time ago, there was a question raised in Manchukuo as to the alleged dumping of Australian flour on account of the sale tax imposed upon flour locally consumed in the Commonwealth. The suggestion of imposing dumping duty in Manchukuo on Australian flour on this account, however, was stayed, possibly by the explanation offered that the flour tax in existence does not form the price of flour, but is a definite taxation measure.
According to the scheme now contemplated, there will he a definite straight out price of flour for home consumption, as apart from its export price, showing in bold relief the actual state of dumping, although there is very little difference in effect compared with the imposition of sale tax as heretofore.
For the reason above given, we are afraid that if this new system is instituted, a further move in favour of the imposition of dumping duty on Australian flour exported to the East is bound to ensure, which in our opinion, is a deterrent to the furtherance of Australian flour trade.
It is not for us to comment upon the political aspect of this proposed system, or to go into the technical procedure of its working, but, as exporters of some 200,000 tons of Australian flour to the East annually, principally to the State of Manchukuo, it is difficult for us to see the wisdom of the adoption of this new scheme.
In these circumstances, I submit that it would have been much wiser had the Government adopted the recommendation of a sub-committee of the recent conference which provided, broadly speaking, for the imposition of a variable excise duty. The sub-committee suggested that -
The Commonwealth Government’s scheme should be modified to do away with quotas and restrictive legislation, and a simple method adopted, by which the trade would operate exactly as it had done previously, with millers payinga tax between the export value as agreed weekly, and the fixed homeconsumption price, probably 4s.9d. a bushel, very much the same as is done at present in connexion with the flour tax. This would be a simple procedure, and would not involve the sotting up of any elaborate government machinery. It would remove the political aspect of theflour tax, and it would eliminate the dangers of a dumping duty being applied to export flour in importing countries, in view of a straight-out price for wheat being fixed for home consumption of wheat.
That suggestion should have been carefully considered by the Government for it would have obviated all necessity to set up costly boards with their consequent expense to the farmers. The subcommittee also reported to the conference that-
It will be recognized that in aiming at a 25 per cent. home-consumption quantity which (taking present wheat prices as a basis) would give approximately1s. per bushel above export parity, it would mean over the whole crop a distribution of 3d. per bushel. The cost of administering such a scheme, it was thought, would probably be1d. per bushel, whilst interest on advance on home-consumption wheat pending sale and collection, say, 4s. at 4 per cent. for six months -1d. per bushel on the home-consumption quantity.
– That is ridiculous.
– I disagree with the Assistant Minister, and I now direct his attention to a statement appearing on page 901 of the Commonwealth Year-Book, 1934, which he will not be able to describe as ridiculous. It shows that the cost of administering the pools in various States has been as follows: - Queensland, 41/2d. a bushel; South Australia, 31/2d. a bushel; Western Aus tralia, 23/4d. a bushel. It must be apparent that any scheme which will load the farmer with such administrative costs will be. unwelcome.. It will hardly be suggested that the boards that it is now proposed to set up will be able to administer their affairs at a lower rate than that which has applied to the pools to which I have just referred. Briefly, the difference between the Commonwealth scheme and the scheme advanced by the sub-committee of the Wheat Conference is that under the Commonwealth scheme flour will be £12 12s. 6d. a ton, and may be subjected to a dumping duty overseas, while under the excise scheme flour would be £10 a ton, plus an excise tax of £2 12s. 6d. a ton, without any likelihood of the imposition of a dumping duty.
I hear an honorable member say that I opposed the flour tax when it was introduced last year. It is true that I did so. I felt that the basic wage earners should not be forced to make the principal contribution towards the assistance of the farmer; but seeing that wages have now been adjusted according to the cost of living - that followed the increase in the price of bread - part of my objection has been met. I am prepared to give every possible assistance to the wheat-growers, but I consider that the Government would have acted more wisely had it adopted the variable excise method in preference to the one provided in this bill.
Another objection to this scheme is that it will seriously interfere with the normal trading operations of the millers. As honorable members are well aware, certain millers have, in the course of many years of business, adopted certain mixtures of wheat for the purpose of making their flour. Under the scheme of this bill millers may demand from licensed receivers only f.a.q. wheat. They will have to purchase on warrant from licensed receivers and will not have the opportunity to approach individual farmers in order to obtain the particular varieties of wheat which they have been accustomed to buy. This, I submit, is likely to have a serious effect on their operations. It will also cause farmers to concentrate on the production of highyielding wheat to the detriment of special varieties of wheat for which at the moment they are receiving a premium. The Government should have given more consideration than it appears to have done to this aspect of the subject. The subcommittee of the recent conference and the Royal Commission on Wheat both reported favorably on the variable excise proposal to which I am now directing attention, and for that reason also it should have been more carefully con sidered.
I have serious objections to the proposal outlined by the Leader of the Opposition foi’ u compulsory pool. I feel that if that honorable gentleman had investigated the conditions which have developed in the wheat industry in the United States of America and Canada under the compulsory pooling system, he would not have advocated a compulsory pool for Australia. Mr. Carl Williams, acting chairman of the Federal Farm Board of the United States of America, and an authority on production, particularly in America, states : -
The Federal Farm Board repeated the board’s refusal to continue stabilization purchases. He said ; “ The board for two years has cushioned American farmers against price declines, and has accumulated a store of wheat, which is virtually frozen , . .”
We know very well that in those two great countries large accumulations of wheat have occurred. I regret that I cannot develop this argument against the compulsory pool because of the limited time allowed for debating this measure. I fear that the compulsorypooling system would encourage uneconomic production. In this regard also I direct attention to a report made some little time ago by the AuditorGeneral of South Australia on wheat production in that State, in which he referred to a group of 1,500 settlers which he called No. 1 group, and also to a second group chosen haphazard from the settlers who. in 1931, were able to pay their way. He said -
In many eases in this group (Group No. 1) the reason for failure was not the low price but the low yield per acre. If the price had been ls. per bushel higher than it was, only four of this group would have been able to pay their way over the last two seasons.
Later in his report he stated -
Many of the settlors could not pay their way without any capital liabilities, even if the price of wheat were 5s. a bushel.
I believe that it was stated in evidence before a commission which inquired into this subject in South Australia recently, that it was costing one farmer 27s. 6d. a bushel to produce wheat. It was also indicated in certain statistics compiled recently in South Australia that 36 per cent, of the export wheat grown in that State was produced on land yielding only 5 bushels to the acre.
This bill does not do anything whatever to provide assistance for necessitous farmers who, in consequence of ru3t, other diseases, and drought, may have no crop to reap this year. It will, on the other hand, have a tendency to bolster up uneconomic production.
– The honorable member’3 time has expired.
.- This bill has been drafted having regard to the provisions of section 92 of the Constitution, and the various decisions made upon it. All that the measure professes to do is to assist the Commonwealth Government to fill in gaps in State marketing powers. It proposes, as it were, to give extra-state operation to the laws on this subject passed by each State. I presume that the Government does not intend to proclaim this measure until all the States have passed complementary legislation, although I have heard, during the course of the debate, a suggestion that it may be proclaimed even though some of the States do not pass such legislation. It seems, however, that the bill is drawn on the assumption that all the States will take the necessary action, for clause 5 refers to “ a prescribed authority constituted under any State act ‘”.
– We have been told that if three States pass complementary legislation, the Commonwealth will issue the necessary proclamation.
– I have heard something to that effect, but subclause 2 of clause 5 undoubtedly implies the passing of the complementary legislation by every State, for it covers wheat grown in any State. Should the States be inconsistent, in their policies, should, for instance, the policy of New South Waifs be diametrically opposed to that of Victoria, or should South Australia desire to have free trade in wheat as between the States, whereas New South “Wales desires a scheme of regulation of interstate trade, one State, by passing adverse legislation and setting up a different substance of agreement, might upset the whole scheme of clause 5. If an agreement provided that the manner of the disposal of wheat should be prescribed by the State in which it is grown, any one State would be prevented from defeating the object of five other States.
The other point I want to make, is, in my opinion, most important. Sub-clause ] of clause 5 reads -
A wheat-grower shall not deliver in the course of interstate trade and commerce, any wheat except to a receiver or to a person (being the holder of a licence under this act authorizing him to carry that wheat) for subsequent delivery to a receiver.
Clause 10 of the bill reads -
In any prosecution for an offence against this act or regulations, in relation to interstate trade and commerce in wheat or wheal products, the averment of the prosecutor that the wheat or wheat products, as the case may be, were the subjects of interstate trade and commerce shall be deemed to be provided in the absence of proof to the contrary.
The onus of proof is therefore placed on the defendant. Sub-clause 3 of clause 5 is designed to protect the farmer who sells or delivers “wheat for use as seed or as food for stock or poultry “. In my opinion, the protection is very uncertain because, unless the Minister is “ of the opinion “ that the wheat is sold in accordance with the sub-clause, the farmer is without defence in a. court. In my opinion, the words “ in the opinion of the Minister “ should be deleted and the farmer should be able to use as a defence in the court the fact that the sale has been for the purposes mentioned in the sub-clause.
– If that were done there would not be enough lawyers in the country to defend the farmers.
– There would not be enough Ministers to decide all the cases. One of two things could happen : Either the man who wants to sell his wheat for seed or poultry-food must go to the Minister before selling it, and satisfy him, which would be impracticable; or, before the prosecution was launched, the Minister would decide whether an unauthorized - sale has been made. It should not be left to the arbitrary decision of the Minister to decide whether a farmer has or has not committed an offence. The farmer should be able to give evidence in the court that he has sold the wheat for seed, foi1 stock food, or for poultry food. But that right is taken away from him by the sub-clause. He has no defence at all in the court, and the only tribunal to which he can appeal is the Minister. Unless he satisfies the Minister, he has no defence in court. I am sure that the bill will ‘become unworkable if every farmer who wants to sell wheat for seed or poultry-food has to approach the Minister before being able to do so.
– Can the farmer not go to the court even if the Minister objects?
– No ; the clause provides that, if a farmer delivers wheat, except to a receiver or a licensee, he has committed an offence, and may be fined an amount up to a maximum of £500. But there is a distinction under subclause 3, which provides that the farmer shall not be punishable if he satisfies the Minister that he has sold his wheat for seed or stock-food, or poultryfood. The farmer should not be placed in that precarious position.
– lt is a question of fact, and one for the court to decide.
– Yes, the magistrates can easily decide- the fact, but the bill makes the Minister the judge. The Minister will not be able to deal fairly with the multiplicity of cases which will be brought before him. I do not want the Minister for Commerce to do anything in this matter without advice, but I ask him to consider deleting in another place the words to which I have objected.
.- I am more than surprised at the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on this bill. Time after time, and year after year, the Labour party has declared itself in favour of a homeconsumption price for wheat. The only means by which that can be obtained is the measure which is before the committee to-night. The Government’s legal advisers have clearly and distinctly told the Commonwealth Government that it has no power, by its own action, to establish a compulsory wheat pool for the Commonwealth. This is confirmed by the statements made by Mr’. Parker Moloney, when, in introducing his bill in 1930, he pointed out that supplementary legislation by the States was necessary. The recent wheat conference held in Canberra was unanimously in favour of the scheme proposed in this bill, but grave doubt exists as to whether the decisions of the High Court as to what constitutes free trade between the States will be endorsed by the Privy Council, and it is only on the supposition that the High Court’s decisions are right that the Commonwealth Government and the States are proceeding with this proposal. Despite its frequent declarations of its endorsement of the principle of a home-consumption price for the wheatgrower, all that the Labour party has done regarding this bill is to set up “ Aunt Sallies “ to be knocked down again. It has made no suggestions of a constructive character, although honorable members of the Opposition are always declaring that, if they were in power, they would do their utmost to give to the wheat producer a homeconsumption price. I would support a compulsory pool if it were possible, but instead we must accept this as the next best thing. Here is a suggestion by the Commonwealth Government to do what the Labour party is always saying that it would do. It is essential that this bill should be passed to show the States that this Government is in earnest. If the States pass the complementary legislation, the Commonwealth will have power to control interstate trade. The Leader of the Opposition, (Mr. Curtin) has professed himself to be a friend of the producer and I am surprised at the arguments he has raised in opposition to this measure.
– To what remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition is the honorable member taking exception?
– The Leader of the Opposition has raised objections to every clause of the bill. If the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) had been here he would have known that.
– That is too general. We are not opposing the bill.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) seems to oppose every effort to aid the primary producers. He opposed the sales tax on flour when it was introduced and said to-night that he was in favour of an excise tax. Only the other night, we heard him defend the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Now he has a brief for the millers. He does not know that when wheat is brought to the country railway sidings, certain handling charges have to be paid for by the millers.
– I do know that the honorable gentleman does not desire to make any comparison with overseas prices. The Australian price of wheat should be adjusted on a rise-and-fall basis in proportion to the movements in the overseas prices. An excise is the only way in which that can be done.
– The honorable member isrunning away from the allegations he made against the wheat pools for excessive charges. If the majority of the State parliaments pass legislation complementary to this legislation, it will be possible to create a home-consumption price for wheat. If we do not pass the bill, it is more than probable that the States will not pass their legislation. This legislation will be absolutely futile unless the States do their part and, unless the Commonwealth takes action, no steps which might be taken by the States will be of any use.
.- It is very apparent from discussion that has taken place in this Parliament from time to time that all sections of the community are given some consideration by this Parliament with the exception of the workers. The most pleasing part of the discussion to-night, to my way of thinking, is the fact that many honorable members who are in opposition to the bill have expressed the opinion that this legislation will never be made effective because it is contrary to the provisions of the constitution. I cannot see a great deal of difference between fixing a home-consumption price for wheat and placing a direct tax on the flour which is used to make the food of the workers. It is extremely likely that it will have the same effect and increase the price of bread to the workers.
A great deal of time has been taken up in this Parliament with various measures to assist the wheat-growers. Time and time again, large sums of money have been voted to the farmers by way of bounties. We now have a scheme which will operate after the States have taken the necessary action to pass complementary legislation to introduce a homeconsumption price. A point that has not been mentioned by honorable members is that raising the price of wheat to 4s. 9d. a bushel will have the final effect of increasing the price of bread to the working classes.
– Practically every piece of legislation that this Parliament has passed has increased the costs of the farmers and benefited the other interests in the Commonwealth. The farmers should receive similar benefits when opportunity offers.
– One thing that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) cannot contradict is that the farmers have the protection of this Parliament. If the returns of the farmers are to be fixed by Parliament, it is just as logical to say that the prices of labour should be fixed by Parliament and not by a tribunal presided over by men who have no sympathy with the workers and who examine the evidence merely for the purpose of determining the poorest minimum at which the workers can exist. This Parliament and every State parliament gives protection to the wheat-grower, and the passage of this bill and its complementary legislation in the State Parliaments will fix the prices of his product.
– That is not in this bill.
– There may be some things in this bill which the Minister did not approve of when he was a member of the Parliament of New South Wales. He was chased out of State politics. The Minister needs to examine his attitude in regard to this measure, as it is quite different from his attitude when lie was Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales.
– My attitude now is exactly the same as it was then.
– The Minister, when arranging for a ballot for the introduction of a compulsory wheat pool in Nev/ South Wales, provided for a majority of 66 per cent, instead of a simple majority of the voters before the pool could be placed in operation. For that reason he was chased out of State politics.
– -I was promoted.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) must address himself to the matter before the Chair.
– An honorable member on my left desires to know if an increase of the price of wheat will automatically increase rates of wages. That might be all right theoretically, but it does not work out in fact.
– There is no protection for the workers.
– That is so. Every section of the community other than the working class is given protection by this Parliament. I say to those honorable members opposite who have referred to the different inquiries and reports that have been made in connexion with the ramifications of this industry, that even if the decisions of those bodies be accepted, it will be found that a price of 4s. 9d. a bushel will give to many farmers much more than they are entitled to receive or is necessary to return them a fair profit upon their investment. According to the reports, the circumstances of the farmers are not uniform, but differ. This Parliament has, until recent years, limited the application of legislation for the payment of bounties. Previously it was provided that any wheat-farmer who had a taxable income was not entitled to receive the bounty: but because the Country party was able to exert undue pressure on the Government, and many men who were operating as wheat-farmers, in addition to discharging their parliamentary duties, were anxious to participate in the bounty, that particular limitation was removed. Many wheat-farmers who are not entitled to benefit from this toll upon the general community are prepared to use their position in this Parliament to extract from the pockets of the people what they are not entitled to receive. On the other hand, there are wheat-farmers who, because they are mortgaged up to the hilt, find it essential to seek some measure of governmental assistance if they are to continue their operations. But, are the wheat-farmers such a select class that they must be given prior consideration? Many other sections of the community, who have invested money in small business undertakings and manufacturing enterprises, find it impossible to carry on : yet it is not suggested that they should be given a bounty to enable them to continue to operate. Only what are termed the primary industries are to be given this preferential treatment. As a matter of fact, whenever under such schemes as the scheme here proposed, boards have been established to give to the primary producer control of the marketing of his commodity, that control has been exercised, not for the purpose of assisting the needy farmers, but to benefit the greedy farmers by an increase of the price of the commodity beyond what was expected or was fair. It is perfectly true, as some honorable members have stated, that the policy of the Labour party is in favour of the control of different industries by the producers themselves. But honorable members of the Labour party say that, before those sections of the community which in every way are much better off than a large number of the workers, are entitled to receive protection by means of a fixed price for their product, the workers must receive some measure of justice for the labour which they have given to industry. They must be given the opportunity to pay the increased price for their food which is involved by the passage of legislation regulating the marketing of primary produce. Honorable members discuss only the effect upon their incomes, and the profit they will make on their investment. The passage of thi3 class of legislation means much more than that to the workers of the industrial areas. The operation of this measure, in conjunction with complementary legislation passed by the States fixing the homeconsumption price for wheat at 4s. 9d. a bushel, will mean an increase of the price of the loaf of bread, with the result that the quantity of bread consumed by the workers will be lessened. I do not think it is right for the Parliament to use its powers so to exercise control over an industry as to increase the price of foodstuffs. The worker is finding it increasingly difficult to carry on even under present conditions. I certainly believe in the control of industry, but not solely with the object of raising prices. The whole of the national economy should be so regulated that every person in the community would receive fair and just treatment. The workers- are given no protection, but are left open to attack by every set of unscrupulous employers. The wheat-growers themselves have fought against every proposal to improve the wages and conditions of their employees. If they had their way, the unemployed would be working for them merely for keep. They would say that they were doing some service by providing these unfortunate people with food and shelter. They have opposed every piece of progressive legislation to assist their employees that has been proposed in the State of New South Wales. If they are given a fixed price of 4s. 9d. a bushel, what benefit will be derived by the workers who plant and harvest their crops, and who lump their wheat and transport it to the railway sidings? Not one member of the Country party, when talking about the preservation of his own interests, has said that, if this scheme becomes operative, and a home-consumption price of 4s. 9d. a bushel is paid, the workers will receive some benefit.
– The wheat-growers will receive 4s. 9d. a bushel for only 25 per cent, of the crop.
– Even so, their, income will be relatively increased. The reports make it clear that a large percentage of the wheat-growers can carry on at much less than 4s. 9d. a bushel. What does that section propose to do? What is the intention of a wealthy and prosperous wheat-grower, who is a member of this branch of the legislature? Does he propose to utilize the excess amount in the payment of award wages to the workers who plant, harvest, and stack his wheat, and cart it to the railway siding; or does he propose to pocket it, as he has pocketed every bounty passed by this Parliament? I believe that this measure will not operate immediately. In my opinion, which has the support of many eminent legal men on this side of the chamber, it is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, and unless every State Parliament passes complementary legislation, if the matter is taken to the Privy Council, will be declared invalid. The Minister himself is very dissatisfied with what has been done. He knows full well that this will not give to the needy farmers what they expect. Even the recent conference of farmers held in Sydney expressed dissatisfaction with the scheme. It is not a farmers’ scheme, but has been propounded by parliamentarians for the purpose, not of assisting the needy farmers, but rather of deluding them into the belief that something is being attempted on their behalf. It is not the policy of the Labour party to “grease the fat pig,” to assist the wealthy wheat-grower, who neither needs nor is entitled to assistance. The Labour party will assist the struggling producer, whether he ‘be in a primary or a secondary industry, in the best way that any government could assist production, by increasing the wages and reducing the hours of labour of the workers, placing more men in employment, raising the purchasing power of the community generally, and giving many thousands of kiddies who have committed no crime against society the opportunity to consume the food that they require. By providing a home market for the commodities produced, and by giving to the workers an income that will enable them to pay reasonable prices, the Parliament would assist the needy primary producer.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member who has just hissed out a few bitter remarks seems to have taken the line that the wheatgrowers should not be placed in a position to receive the equivalent of a living wage in the form of a home-consumption price for that relatively small proportion of their product which is sold in Australia, and he objects to that being done in a country in which the wages of the workers are protected by Arbitration
Courts, Federal and State, and the majority of the secondary industries are protected by a tariff.
– The honorable member does not pay award rates of wages.
– The personal affairs of honorable members should not be the concern of the committee. An honorable member has just stated that I do not pay award rates of wages. I definitely and categorically deny that infamous lie, and call for its withdrawal, together with an apology for what appears to be an unwarranted attack, made without foundation or knowledge, upon the private conduct of a member of this chamber.
– The honorable member must state who made use of the expression of which he complains.
– It was the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). As a matter of fact, I do not believe that he made the remark seriously; but I am afraid it is typical of the casual abuse which from time to time is bandied about in this chamber, and is tending to lower the parliamentary institution in the opinion of the public. I ask for the withdrawal of the remark.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member for Dalley to withdraw the remark complained of.
– If it is offensive to the honorable member, I withdraw it, and say that the farmers as a class do not pay
– I support this bill, of which the clauses under consideration are the most important. I do not propose to deal at length with arguments in favour of it, because they have been fully and explicitly placed before the committee by the Minister and the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby). First and foremost, I support the measure as one of several alternative methods of securing to wheat-growers the principle of a home price for that portion of their production which is sold on the Australian market for the use of the Australian consumers. Subject to possible constitutional difficulties, I regard the machinery proposed to be set up under this bill as the most effective and advantageous from the growers’ point of view that could be provided. It is modelled on that used in the dried fruits and dairy produce export control legislation, which has withstood the attacks made upon it in Australian courts for a number of years. I have no reason to consider that we should anticipate that those decisions will be reversed until they have been successfully challenged. The marketing legislation passed in connexion with the dried fruits and dairying industries has proved effective.
– Is not 3s. 7d. a bushel a fair price for wheat?
– That price at the sidings for all wheat would be adequate, but it is not realized to-day. With a home-consumption price, as distinct from a flour tax or levy, as the price goes up the total amount received by the industry is automatically reduced. That is why this type of assistance is more effective, and less costly to the public, than a straight-out excise duty or flour tax.
Another feature of this scheme is that it could be made to work under any type of State marketing legislation, so long as it is not directly in conflict with the principles of the Commonwealth act. It would operate equally well under systems like those in operation in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, where the growers can sell their wheat in the open market, store it or pool it as they choose; and it would fit in equally well with a system such as that in operation in Queensland, where all the wheat is compulsorily pooled. Inside and outside this Parliament are a number of wrecking influences, which seek to defeat this type of legislation in the hope that they will eventually succeed in imposing on the industry their favorite form of marketing control. We have on the Opposition side those who desire to defeat every alternative to a compulsory pool. We have other sections which would be glad to see the assistance cut down until it almost vanished, and they would confine it to raising money by the imposition of a flour tax or an excise duty. We have certain strong financial vested interests trying to wreck any alternative legislation except that which would suit their particular business. There are those with fixed ideas on economics and socialist control, who would defeat every alternative except a compulsory pool.
I welcome this legislation because it will confer upon the growers benefits which are obtainable either by a poolor by the imposition of a flour tax, and it will give them in such a way that they will be able to control the handling and administration of the scheme, and to secure assistance when it is needed most, so that it will automatically taper off and eventually cut out as the world price of wheat rises. Those, briefly, are the reasons why I support the bill. I regard the measure as urgent, and even though it will not operate this year, it provides definite proof that the Commonwealth Parliament, at any rate, is earnestly determined to carry out its part of the agreementreached at the conference held recently in Canberra. I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of the measure. There are certain advantages in not putting it into full operation this year, until the case to be heard before the Privy Council makes clear the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and the States in regard to marketing legislation. Nevertheless, I consider that it would be advantageous to place the bill on our statute-book as a clear manifestation that this Parliament, at least, is prepared to give to the growers themselves a scheme whereby they can cushion off some of the effects of the depression in a manner which will not impose undue exactions on other sections of the community.
.- I also congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this bill. For five years the wheat industry has been kicked about the political cockpit and torn to tatters. What other industry, I ask, has been treated in this way? The wool and wheat industries are the only two which have not received and cannot receive the benefit of a tariff protection. If it were a secondary industry, the case of the wheat-growers would have been immediately referred to the Tariff Board, and within a few months the recommendation of the board would have been placed before the parliament, and a protective duty would have been imposed. Yet year after year, this important primary industry, this admitted national asset, has been made almost a mendicant, but the clauses with which we are now dealing will at last provide the industry with some degree of stability. I was rather surprised at the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). He repeatedly stated that he opposed the bill, and the only reason he gave was that it was complicated, and that he could not understand how it would work. He advocated in its stead the establishment of a compulsory pool. Throughout New South Wales, I have spoken in support of a compulsory pool probably to a greater extent even than the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby), who claimed first place in that regard.. My advocacy of a pool was due to my desire to get a home-consumption price for the wheat-grower. If such a pool could not be obtained, and if a homeconsumption price could be secured by some other method, I should be prepared to accept such a method ; but that is not the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, who said, “A compulsory pool or nothing.” It is futile to harp on what we cannot secure.
– He said nothing of the sort. He supported the bill.
– I am not wedded to this particular scheme; I am prepared to accept any proposal, even a continuous excise, which would ensure to the farmer a home-consumption price.
– Surely 3s. 7d. a bushel is enough for the farmer.
– The price offered to-day is only 2s. 9d. a bushel, and not 3s. 7d.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the report of the royal commission on the wheat industry, and said that the prices of machinery were as low as if there were no tariff; but in another portion of that report we have the statement that, on a 1,280 acre farm, the burden of the tariff has increased the farmer’s capital outlay by £500. The interest and depreciation on that amount represents approximately 3d. a bushel on every bushel of wheat that he grows. For that reason I claim that the farmer is entitled to some compensation, and he should be treated as generously as secondary industries are under the tariff.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) urged that increased purchasing power should he made available so that consumers could afford to give better prices for primary products, but I would point out that any money which the Government makes available in the community by means of loans or taxation is merely a transfer, and does not add one penny to the community’s purchasing power ; while as against this every pound which comes to Australia for wheat exported - and it averages about £20,000,000 a year - is new money. It represents more than that amount of purchasing power, because the velocity of money multiplies it by at least five, which means that, as the result of wheat exports, not less than £100,000,000 is circulated among our people. This proves what an asset the wheat industry is. The extra £19,000,000 received for wool the year before last had a similar effect, and did more than anything else to give Australia a push along the road to recovery. A compulsory pool has two advantages - it secures a home-consumption price, which is to be provided under the bill, and it also gives the minor advantages of economy in administration, chartering and transport. The home-consumption advantage represents 95 per cent., whilst the other advantages amount to about 5 per cent., yet, because the minor advantages are not attainable, objection is raised by Labour to the scheme that will ensure a homeconsumption price.
Many statements have been made by the Opposition regarding the meagre wages paid in rural industries. Seven or eight years ago 14s. a day was paid to men at harvest time, and £1 a day to hay stackers. To-day the rate is from 8s. to 103. a day and keep. But the farmer himself receives Chinese coolie wages for his work. The price at which wheat is delivered to China to-day is the same as that at which it is produced there by coolie labour, and this is the price, less transport costs to the East, we pay our farmers for it. Employees in the industries which supply the farmer with machinery, superphosphates, fencing wire and galvanized iron, receive Arbitration Court award rates, whilst wheatlumpers get from £1 to 35s. a day. Railway employees, shire council employees, who are paid out of rates contributed by the farmer, and blacksmiths receive arbitration award rates, but it is not possible at the present time for the farmer to increase the low wages now prevailing in rural industries. Even after the wheat leaves the farmer, mill employees, bakers and bread deliverers receive award rates, and the only reason why rural employees have not been paid higher wages of late years is because the low return which the farmer has obtained for his wheat would not allow it.
This bill embodies the first practical scheme which has been submitted to this Parliament for the purpose of stabilizing the wheat industry. I have never advocated that the Government should make industry pay, that is impossible. I do contend, however, that the wheat industry should be placed on the same basis as the secondary industries. There will be an opportunity under the provision of this bill to do this. The scheme will provide 4s. 9d. a bushel at ports for a certain proportion of the farmer’s wheat, and will add on an average 3-£d. a bushel to the whole of his crop. If in the future the wheat-growers should desire to establish a compulsory pool, the bill provides the necessary federal machinery that will allow it to be done. But having obtained the 95 per cent, advantage which the bill gives through the home-consumption price, it is doubtful if the farmers would submit to compulsion to secure the other 5 per cent. This scheme will be of material advantage to all engaged in the industry. It can easily be understood by those who try to understand it. Although the farmer transfers 25 per cent, of his crop to the local board for sale, he would have complete freedom in respect of the disposal of the remaining 75 per cent., or export quota, of his production. A statement has been made by the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) that M. Debuchi, the J apanese ambassador, issued a warning that if the present wheat policy were adopted, Japan might place a dumping duty on flour imported from Australia. This is mere bluff. The honorable member also referred to the sales tax imposed on flour. In the past this tax has been collected at the rate of £2 12s. 6d. a ton, not £1 10s. as the honorable member stated, and under the proposal of the Government £2 10s. a ton will be added to the price of flour but the former tax of £2 12s. 6d. will be removed. The position would be almost identical. There would be no greater difference between the home-consumption flour price and the export price. The honorable member has only been putting up scares which are quite unwarranted.
He also spoke about an excise price. What is the difference between an excise price and the price fixed by. the board? The price of wheat would be fixed at 4s. 9d. and if the excise brought it to the same price the flour price and the margin between home price and export price would be exactly the same. There will be no difficulties of financing the scheme. The Commonwealth Bank has already given an assurance that funds will be made available to pay a large percentage, probably 3s. 6d. a bushel, so that the farmer will be very materially assisted in his financial arrangements and be able to hold, should he desire, a greater portion of the balance of his crop. With regard to the fear that the consumers of bread may be exploited by an undue rise of the price of wheat I remind honorable members that the tariff on wheat is 10½d. a bushel and that the cost of importing wheat from some other part of the world would bring the price of such imported wheat only up to 5s. 2d. a bushel. There is no serious possibility that any exploitation by State boards would penalize consumers of bread. The farmers themselves appreciate what the Government has done, although there may be some individuals who see no good in anything but a compulsory pool.
.- I confess, after listening to the discussion that has taken place on this measure, that I am afraid that the people of Australia will have to be saved from the farmers. It seems to me that if this bill is passed, the farmer will have the whole situation in his own hands. From past experience, I believe that we can trust him to fix the price of wheat. . It has been said that the State parliaments are implementing complementary legislation to provide a homeconsumption price for wheat. When this question was discussed in the House last year the price of wheat was down to as low as 2s. a bushel; but to-day, the farmer is getting from 3s. 4d. to 3s. 7d. a bushel for his product.
– Not at all; he receives only 2s. 9d. a bushel.
– I have no objection to fixing a home-consumption price, provided it is not out of all proportion to the price charged for bread. When the farmer was receiving 2s. a bushel for his wheat, I said I was in favour of the creation of a pool or the fixation of a home-consumption price. But immediately the price of wheat rises an entirely different state of affairs exists. Referring to a home-consumption price for wheat the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) is reported to have said -
The home-consumption price is 4s. 8d. a bushel at country sidings; the price of wheat is therefore about 5s. 3d. f.o.b. at ports.
– I did not say that.
– The fact that the honorable member is blushing to the roots of his hair shows that there must be some basis of truth in the assertion. I was prepared to listen to his story when wheat was sold at 2s. a bushel, but the same story does not apply now when the farmer is receiving up to 3s. 4d. a bushel. This country is suffering as a result of the pressure exerted upon the Government by Country party members. The United Australia party was indeed unfortunate not to be able to carry on without their support! When the Country party secured the balance of power it squeezed the people of this country as much as it dared. This legislation is being introduced into the House at the behest of the members of the United Country party, who have held a pistol to the heads of members of the United Australia party, threatening that if they did not come into line and support it, they would be put out of office.
– That is untrue; such a thing was never done.
– It is being done now. When the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) joined the Ministry, the price of wheat was down to 2s. a bushel. Country party members urged the Government to impose a sales tax on flour and to provide a bounty on wheat. As a matter of fact, many farmers have received up to from 7s. to 8s. a bushel for wheat farmed on lands yielding 30 bushels to the acre.
– They were fortunate if they received 30s. for each acre of wheat planted.
– ‘Honorable members cannot deny that, in some cases, farmers received from 7s. to 10s. a bushel for their wheat. Last year I drew attention to the fact that 20 per cent, of the wheatfarmers received 80 per cent, of the bounty.
– That is true.
– Honorable members who have criticized my former remarks are dumb when I make this assertion.
– What is your authority for making that statement?
– When the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was Minister for Markets, he said in this House that 20 per cent, of the wealthy farmers of Australia received 80 per cent, of the bounty. Can any honorable member deny the truth of that statement? As a matter of fact the honorable member for Parramatta supplied a list of the bounty payments to individual growers, which included amounts of £1,466; £1,434; £1,006; £1,2S3; £1,252; £4,382; and £1,339.
– The farmer who received the largest amount went insolvent shortly afterwards.
– In the neighbourhood of all the principal towns of New South Wales the wheat lands are held by people who secured them many years ago, for almost nothing. They and their descendants have held those lands ever since. It is iniquitous that wealthy farmers, holding the hest land adjacent to the principal country towns in New South Wales, are taking from the Government and the people of Australia an unfair proportion of the wealth produced in this country.
– >What about land values in Sydney?
– Nearly all the wealthy wheat-farmers make their money in the country, invest it in the cities, and thus make it doubly reproducing. Recently I visited a country town and was taken to task by a wealthy farmer for having misrepresented the true facts concerning the primary industries. Subsequently, in conversation with another gentleman, I was informed that this man’s wealth was so great that if he received nothing at all for his wheat crop, he would still remain a wealthy man. But he received a fail price for his wheat. Though the farmer is getting a fair price tq-day, he is not satisfied with 2s. 9d. a bushel; he asks for 5s. 4d. a bushel. Last year I cited figures which showed that, under test by. the Royal Agricultural Society, 38 farms yielded an average of about 32 bushels to the acre. In many instances, returns were as high as 38 bushels to the acre. If members of the Country party would speak the plain truth concerning their affairs, no one would object to their receiving a fair deal; but never, when they have asked for bounties or for the imposition of a sales tax on flour, have they been satisfied with a fair thing. They have insisted upon schemes under which the money provided by the public goes, not to the needy farmers, but to the wealthy ones.
During this debate, we have heard a good deal about the wonderful State of Queensland. We know that the sugarfarmers in that State are doing very well at the expense of the rest of the Commonwealth ; but it is not so generally known that, for some years past, there was in Queensland a wheat pool, under which the farmers received on an average ls. a bushel or more for their wheat than did those in other States. Indeed, it was possible to buy wheat in New South Wales for 2s. a bushel, take it to Queensland, and still make a profit of ls. a bushel on it. To-night the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) spoke about the poor wheat-farmers in southern Queensland, and he asked that they be exempt from the operations of this scheme. He said nothing about the fact that these “ poor “ farmers had, for years past, been making a good thing out of other States. This honorable member, who believes in the principle of federation, and strict equality as between one State and another, is now advocating preferential treatment for the wheat-farmers of the Darling Downs. Ever since Mr. Theodore became a commanding figure in Australian politics, I have always given Queensland the credit for producing very astute men, who have been able to make money at the expense of the rest of Australia. The following extract regarding the effect of the tariff on wheat production costs is illuminating: -
The royal commission’s report states that the Australian tariff has added £500 to the capital cost of an average wheat farm of 1,280 acres.
This represents an added burden for interest and depreciation of £50 per year, or 3d. per bushel on 4,000 bushels average production as the burden of the national policy of protection on the wheat-grower.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable .member has exhausted his time.
.- There has been a good deal of misrepresentation regarding the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), the effect of which was to provide for the setting up of a compulsory Australia-wide wheat pool. However, that amendment has now been voted upon and defeated. The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) knows that, at the Canberra Wheat Conference, the representatives of three of the largest States favoured a compulsory wheat pool, and the representatives of the farmers asked that a poll of the farmers be taken to ascertain their opinion on a compulsory pool. However, the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to allow the farmers to vote on this issue. What is wrong with giving them a vote? Does the Government believe that the farmers have not enough intelligence to decide the question for themselves? The Labour party doubts whether this scheme, when put into effect, will be of any real benefit to the farmers, and it will have the disadvantage of blocking any subsequent proposals for the introduction of a compulsory pool. In Queensland, the general opinion is that compulsory pooling would provide a solution of the farmers’ difficulties in regard to wheat production, and the people of Queensland have had thirteen years’ experience of a compulsory wheat pool.
– They make money out of their pools in Queensland.
– The farmers make money out of them, instead of the money being made by those who, for many years, have battened on the farmers. The wheat pool in Queensland has put millions of pounds into the pockets of the farmers in that State, having obtained for them an average of 5½d. a bushel more than the ruling price in the southern States. Moreover, its operations have resulted in the consumers obtaining cheaper bread than has been available to the people in other States.
– This scheme will not prevent any State from creating a compulsory pool of its own.
– Queensland has already abandoned its wheat pool,, because it recognizes that, if it is to have the support of the rest of Australia for its sugar industry, it must be prepared to join with the rest of Australia in supporting the wheat industry. The scheme embodied in the bill now before us is not the one of which the Canberra conference approved. The bill recently passed in the Queensland Parliament anticipated that a measure consisting of 20 or 22 clauses would be passed through the Commonwealth Parliament, whereas this bill contains only eleven clauses. In Queensland, a ballot of producers has been taken in regard to all compulsory pools, and every ballot has favoured the continuation of the pooling system. I am sure that, if the wheatgrowers throughout Australia were given an opportunity to express their opinion, they would favour a compulsory pool in preference to this scheme. They would prefer to manage their own affairs rather than have them controlled by the middlemen. The Government of Queensland recognizes that it must make some contribution to the effort for achieving solvency in the wheat-growing industry of Australia. This contribution will be made by the State legislature, which will pass legislation that may occasion some embarrassment to wheat-growing interests in Queensland; but it is realized that those interests cannot be made superior to the claims of the butter and sugar producers.
– But the burden will fall on the wheat-growers alone, and not on the whole State.
– If we refuse to support this scheme, how can we logically ask the other States to continue to support the sugar agreement? That was the consideration which induced Mr. Bulcock, the Minister for Agriculture in the Queensland Government, to support the proposal of the Commonwealth Government. Discussing this scheme, Mr. Bulcock stated -
The proposed Commonwealth legislation attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable. On the one hand, it is argued by the Country party that they stand for pools, which, it is maintained, will return to the farmer the full economic return for his labour, but this attitude appears to have been entirely abandoned, and the Country party section of the Commonwealth Government has weakly yielded, and agreed with the principle that alleges to preserve the right of the farmer, at the same time, secured the .profit of the middleman. In endeavouring to reconcile these two factors, the commodity will suffer, as the ultimate price of bread is made up of wheat costs, handling charges and milling charges and tariffs.
It is interesting to note the changed attitude of the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby). “When he was Minister for Agriculture in New South “Wales, he was an urgent advocate of pools. Indeed, his advocacy lost him his seat in Parliament. The millers and merchants combined to defeat him, and it is pleasing to note such a charitable disposition on the part of the Minister, and the manner in which he is .now bowing his head to the dictates of the middlemen, who have succeeded in laying down Commonwealth policy on this matter. Their voice is much more articulate than the voice of the growers, and they are more insistent in advocating their policy, which resolves itself into the right to exploit the public. We recognize that the farmer is entitled to a full return for his labour, and we also recognize that a rural labourer is entitled to a living wage. In Queensland, the farmers are in a position to pay award wages to their workers, and this obtains, not only in the sugar industry, but also in every other rural industry. If it be true that the wheat-farmers cannot afford to pay a living wage to their workers, that is all the more reason why this Parliament should take steps to ensure for them an adequate home-consumption price for their product. It is not true to say that the Labour party is opposed to the interests of the farmers. The Labour Government of Queensland was the first to establish an effective butter-selling organization. We should endeavour to increase the prosperity of the wheat industry until it is on a level with the sugar industry, instead of trying to pull the sugar industry down to the present level of the wheat industry. Another statement which has been made is that the Labour party has never done anything for the farmer. The Scullin Government was the first administration which ever granted any assistance to the wheatgrower.
– It took two years to get that assistance.
– The Scullin Government provided a bounty of 41/2d. a bushel during the worst financial depression in the history of Australia. Previously, it had introduced a bill for the payment of 4s. a. bushel, but the measure was defeated by the Senate. Later on, the Government brought in another measure for the payment of 3s. a bushel; the Senate agreed to it but the banks refused to provide the requisite finance.
– Did not the Government know of the banks’ refusal before the bill was passed?
– Why should the banks have refused this assistance ? Who stands behind the credit of the banks? It is the producer of this country. If the producer is ruined, what would become of the financial interests of the banks? In the final analysis, the production of a country is at the back of finance. Allow the primary producer to go out of existence and the securities of the banks will become valueless. It is nonsense for the honorable member to say that the Government was not aware that the banks would not support its proposal. The late member for Wimmera (Mr. P. G. Stewart) supported the proposal as did the present Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) and members of the Country party. Were they aware that the banks would not finance the measure? When the Scullin Government was putting its policy into operation, the Country party, which was then sitting in opposition, supported the proposal of pooling, but now that it is linked with the “ middleman’s “ party, it has thrown overboard its policy for power and office.
– Order! The honorable member must not digress.
– No honorable member knows beter than you do, Mr. Chairman, of the discussions which have taken place in the party room and you are aware of the pressure that has been brought to bear on the Country party. I know how you must feel on this matter ; I am aware that you stand for the elimination of the middleman and that you advocate a fair deal for the farmer. Although you endeavour to suppress my criticism, I am aware that you have offered similar comments at meetings of the Country party. When the division bells rang, I am sure that you were sorry that our amendment for pooling was not carried. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) offered a very fair criticism of the bill, and, unfortunately, his amendment for the establishment of a system of pooling was defeated. The Labour party supports the bill and has offered constructive criticism of various clauses.
– What clauses ?
– Clauses 4 and 5.
– What is wrong with them?
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– At the outset I desire to express my regret that the Governments of Australia should not have seen their way to take a ballot of wheat-growers, as was recommended by the royal commission, to ascertain their views on pooling.
– Why did not the Governments adopt that recommendation?
– I do not know why, but I regret that they omitted to take the ballot.
– The honorable member supported the Labor party’s proposal in 1930.
– The Agricultural Council devoted some attention to this matter last May and had the State Governments, who were represented on the council, desired to ascertain the growers’ views, I presume that it would have been done. However, it did not materialize and the Agricultural Council again met a couple of months ago and the measure now before the committee is the result of its deliberations. Much has been said during the debate about the necessity for a wheat pool, and as one who has been a consistent and ardent advocate of a compulsory wheat pool, I welcome the opportunity that the consideration of this clause, and clause S in particular affords me to state my reasons for opposing the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. The astounding aspect of the contribution to the debate by the Leader of the Opposition, in my opinion, was that he devoted practically none of his time to the discussion of a compulsory wheat pool, and he never- suggested one method by which such a pool could be established. Afterwards, the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) pointed out that a member of the Labour party who a few years ago introduced in this House a bill to provide for a compulsory pool, had clearly demonstrated the impossibility of bringing into existence a compulsory pool without obtaining the co-operation of the States. Another thing which surprised me was that throughout almost the whole of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition his one objective seemed to be an endeavour to belittle, if possible, the efforts of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) who, in my opinion, deserves to be complimented on having for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth succeeded in bringing all the States into line to provide the wheat-growers with the benefit of a homeconsumption price.
– Are they in line?
– During his remarks, the Leader of the Opposition stated definitely that in his ‘ opinion the Minister for Commerce and the Country party in particular were doing their utmost to fool the farmers. I shall endeavour to show what I consider to be the most glaring instance of an apparent attempt to fool the farmers ever placed on record in this country. Honorable members will recall that the Scullin Government, in 1930, introduced two measures designed to establish a com”pulsory wheat pool. The first one was quite a reasonable measure, but it was rejected by another place; and later on, in an earnest desire, as the Labour party professed, to do something for the wheat-growers, the Government brought in another measure which was passed not only by this House, but also by the Senate. Let me remind the committee of the actual state of affairs which existed in regard to the finance required when that measure was introduced by the then Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Forde). Prior to the introduction of the bill he said -
We asked that an advance of 2s. 6d. per bushel f.o.b. be made by the bank to the wheatfarmers. The bank considered the proposal but intimated that it was unable to grant more than 2s. per bushel f.o.b., which is equivalent to from ls. 4Jd. to ls. 6d. per bushel at country railway stations.
That was the only assurance the Government had prior to introducing the measure. The then Minister proceeded -
The Government has examined all the proposals that have been made for assisting the wheat-grower and has come to the conclusion that the only practical method of helping him is to guarantee him a fair price for his wheat, having regard to the present price of wheat on the world’s markets. It ha’s decided after very careful and serious consideration to guarantee the grower 3s. per bushel f.o.b., equivalent to an average of about 2s. 6d. at country sidings for f.a.q. wheat of the 1930-31 crop.
Early in this debate the Labour party took great exception to the remark of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) when he asked “ What did the Labour party do for the wheat-grower when it was in power?” In view of the irritation displayed at that juncture, in conjunction with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition in charging the Minister for Commerce with having attempted to fool the farmers, I have no hesitation in saying that the instance I have quoted is the most glaring example of an attempt by any political party in this Parliament to fool the wheat-growers. Every time that the Government attempts to obtain a homeconsumption price for wheat-growers the Labour party professes to be in favour of it, but in the next breath it opposes what is practically the only possible means of giving effect to it. Practically every secondary industry in this country - and I include in this statement the man on the basic wage, whose remuneration is fixed by the Arbitration Court - receives an Australian price for Australianproduced goods, which is made possible through the tariff. The fact that the advantage is given indirectly through the tariff, may possible be one of the reasons why the Labour party is so keen on giving it. But when the Country party asks for similar treatment for one of the great basic industries of Australia, on which practically every industry in the Commonwealth depends, members are told that, if this be clone, it will be the means of raising the price of bread. “We have it on the authority of the royal commission which I have mentioned that ever since wheatgrowing commenced in Australia the Australian community has been receiving this commodity for ls. a bushel, not above parity, but below the cost at which wheat could be imported into Australia. Much has been said in this chamber from time to time, during discussions of similar measures, about the amount of bonus paid to the wheat-growers during the last six years, the only period in which this great industry has received any consideration whatever. The amount of assistance is approximately £12,000,000. and the wheat-growers have been selling 30,000,000 bushels annually for human consumption over the last six years for £9,000,000 below that which Australia would have paid at the rate df import parity. I have no hesitation in asserting that since federation the Australian community has benefited at the expense of the wheat-farmers to the extent of £40,000,000. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) offered no objection to the taking of his share of this benefit, but every time a proposition is made to assist the farmers, he accuses certain honorable members of putting their hands into the coffers of the Treasury for their own personal benefit. It may surprise him to know that there are members here who are deriving no benefit from these measures - such a statement should be unworthy of him. In my opinion, this bill offers the only means available at the moment to assist the wheat industry. Although I am an ardent advocate of the compulsory-pool- ing system,. I realize that constitutional difficulties make its adoption impossible at the moment.
The Leader of the Opposition appeared to be grossly ignorant of the decisions of the Wheat Conference held in Canberra last October. For his benefit, I direct attention to the following statement made by the Minister for Commerce of the principles that were unanimously approved at that conference: -
The purpose of this bill is to give effect, as far as it is possible for the Commonwealth to do so, to those principles. It is perhaps significant that the most vigorous opponent of the compulsorypooling system at that conference was the representative of a Labour government.
I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this bill. It might have been better, but it seems to be the best obtainable with the co-operation of the States. I also congratulate the Minister for Commerce upon the great patience he displayed during the four days that the conference lasted, and I am glad that he was ultimately able to bring the Commonwealth and State Governments into line on the important issues that faced them on that occasion. Unfortunately, measures for the assistance of the wheat industry have, for the last four or five years, been under discussion at the very beginning of the wheat harvest. One effect of the early passage of this bill will be that State governments will have ample opportunity between now and next harvest to propose any amendments to the scheme that may be desirable. One commendable feature of the bill is that it leaves the way open for State governments which desire to do so to establish compulsory pools. It is regrettable that the Opposition, with the single exception of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. “Blackburn) has indulged in unrelieved destructive criticisms of the measure. The few constructive ideas in the speech of the honorable member for Bourke were like rays of sunshine on a dull day. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) made the astounding statement in the course of his speech this evening that the administrative costs of wheat pools in three States of the Commonwealth have varied between 2Jd. and 4½d. a bushel of wheat handled. I wish to say that I am a member of a pooling organization which has not cost .the growers a copper for administration.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this bill. I claim to be the first advocate in this Parliament of the principles of the orderly marketing of commodities and the fixation of prices for home consumption on an Australian basis. I had a motion on the notice-paper last session in favour of the adoption of the principle of the fixation of commodity prices for all primary products of Australia, and a similar motion appears in my name on the notice-paper this session. My motion goes a good deal further than does this bill. We have yet to see, of course, whether the anxiously-awaited decision of the Privy Council will nullify all the pooling legislation that has hitherto been operative in Australia. I have, for a considerable time, urged that the wording of section 92 of the Constitution should be altered to make possible full control, in the interests of the producers, of all our primary products. So far as the wheat industry is concerned I believe that this bill represents the only honest attempt that has been made to advance along this line. Had it not been for the apathy of the wheat-growers they could before now have forced all the southern and western State governments to pass the necessary legislation _ to complement the provisions of this bill. I understand that three States have already taken the necessary action. The farmers of Western Australia and South Australia could have organized themselves in such a way as to oblige the governments1 of those States to fall into line with the other States and the Commonwealth in this matter. When the last measure for the assistance of the wheat- farmers was before this Parliament, I strenuously opposed the dole system, and declared my intention to resist any later attempts to adopt such methods to assist the wheat-growers. I said that the wheatgrowers should be prepared to organize themselves a3 the producers of other commodities have done, in order to form marketing organizations for their own immediate benefit. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) suggested that everything was being done for the primary producers and nothing for the industrial workers ; but I remind him that all the workers who handle the wheat from the time it leaves the farm until it is placed on board ship for export are covered by industrial court awards of one kind or another. The lumpers, the carters, the railwaymen and all other workers who handle the wheat are provided for by Arbitration Court enactment. and the unfortunate wheatgrowers have been left without protection and assistance of some kind. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has referred in disparaging terms to the efforts of the Country party to implement the scheme provided for in this bill. His speech also constituted a serious attack on the Government which he is supposed to support; but we are so accustomed to being amused by the remarks of the honorable member that we do not regard what he says seriously.
Although the provisions of this bill may react to the disadvantage of the Queensland wheat-growers, the Queensland Government and Opposition are supporting the whole scheme. It is unfortunate that the governments of some of the other States have not been able to look beyond Stateborders to the wider interests of this great Australian industry. We were confronted to-day with the spectacle of certain representatives of Western Australia and South Australia resisting every effort of the Government to safeguard the interests of the Queensland sugargrowers, presumably because no sugar cane is grown in Western Australia.
– They are State-conscious.
– That is true. Although this measure may do harm to the Queensland wheat-growers, its principles are being supported by the representatives of that State. I feel that primary producers of all the States must be prepared to pay regard to principles in preference to personal interests. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) pointed out this evening that during the war years Queensland was denied the benefit that accrued to the people of the other States through the price of wheat being lower in Australia than overseas. I remind honorable members also that when endeavours were being made to organize the Australian dairying industry certain interests in South Australia urged the exclusion of that State from the provisions of the bill on the ground that South Australia did not export butter. This Parliament was influenced to accept the South Australian outlook on that subject. “While such exceptions are permitted under our federal schemes they should be capable of being applied to other States, and I am inclined to think that Queensland would be entitled to exemption under similar circumstances. I wish to make it clear, however, that Queensland will not always be prepared to make sacrifices in the interests of the States generally unless the other States show a disposition to act similarly. The wheat-growers of the Commonwealth must be educated to the advantages of co-operative action in the marketing of their wheat; but co-operative action implies unity. Some complaint has been made because a poll of all the wheatgrowers has not been taken to ascertain their desire in connexion with this bill; but very great difficulty was encountered in securing a unanimous vote at’ the Wheat Conference by even the representatives of the wheat-growers of the various States on the principles of this bill. This has now been secured, however, and the measure was approved and supported by the farmers’ leaders in the various parliaments of Australia. I hope that a sufficient number of States will pass the necessary complementary legislation to enable the principles of this bill to be applied to the wheat harvest that is almost upon us.
– How many States does the honorable member think would be a sufficient number?
– It is not for me to educate the honorable member for Batman on legal subjects with which he should be well acquainted; but I should think that if three States pass the necessary complementary legislation the scheme could be made operative. Opportunity would then be afforded for a demonstration of the advantages of the system, and this, I have no doubt, would ultimately lead to a unanimous adoption of it.
– That may be equity, even if it is not law.
– We have yet to learn whether any of our pooling legislation is valid. [Quorum formed.]
.- Listening patiently, although sometimes a little resentfully, to the diatribes against the Labour party for its attitude to the bill, I begin to wonder whether, in the support which I have given to various measures for the relief of those engaged in several branches of primary production - projects involving the expenditure of many millions of pounds - I have been doing my full duty to my own constituents, who comprise mainly workingclass people in an industrial electorate. I examine my conscience with even more zealous care when I find that the rewards which I get in this Parliament for my advocacy of rural interests are insolent and ill-informed criticism of Labour’s attitude to the general policy of rural relief. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) dares us to vote against the bill. And, in daring us to do this, he apparently invites us to vote against it, although in the whole course of this debate we have never indicated an intention to do this.
– Nor have we at any time in this Parliament indicated opposition to rural interests.
– As an Opposition, we have, it is true, proposed amendments which, we believe, would improve the measure; and we have suggested lines of improvement which have been accepted and advocated by many Government supporters. We have at all times favoured the principle of a compulsory pool. In our advocacy of that principle we do not stand alone. Indeed, we nave found ourselves in good company, for we have had the support of many Country party members.
– Does the honorable member suggest that Country party members arc good company?
– Good or bad, in relation to that proposal at all events they were content with our company, and we with theirs. When the Scullin Labour Government introduced its proposals for the relief of the wheatgrowers in 1930, proposals which included the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool designed to ensure 4s. a bushel for growers, although the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) was not then in this Parliament, he gave the measure the weight of his very considerable influence and patronage. That bill, the committee will remember, was passed in this House, and went to the Senate with the blessing of the right honorable the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page).
– I always supportany good proposal.
– The right honorable gentleman supported that measure, but, unfortunately, he did not exercise sufficient influence over Country party senators to ensure its passage through that chamber. It would now appear that in his new legislative environment, if he has not changed, at least he has somewhat modified, his views with regard to this matter.
– The Scullin Government’s wheat bill was defeated in the Senate after intense lobbying.
– It was, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has said, rejected in the Senate after intense lobbying.
Despite what was said in criticism of that proposal, which, as I have said, involved the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool, it could and would have been financed had it survived the ordeal to which it was subjected in the Senate. If that measure was open to objection on constitutional grounds, the same may be said of this proposal, for all that members of the Ministry know to the contrary. But the efforts of the Labour Government to assist the wheatgrowers did not cease with the introduction of the legislation to which I have referred. It brought forward another measure which the honorable member for Wimmera derided, on the ground that it was lacking in common honesty and sincerity. He said that it was an attempt to fool the people. It is true that it did not provide for the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool, but the worst that could be said of it was that it represented the limit of what the House of Representatives, as then constituted, would accept, with any assurance that it would be supported by the banks and financial institutions which were behind those who were opposed to us in this Parliament. I mention those incidents in order to remind the committee of the forces against which the Labour Government had to contend, and I repeat that I wonder, sometimes, whether our efforts on behalf of rural interests were really worth while. Why did we, as a party, continue to struggle against the banks and similar institutions associated with the Country party and the United Australia party whose common purpose is to defeat every legitimate proposal of the Labour party to advance the interests of the farming community in the hope that, in turn, we might forward the interests of the more or less sweated workers who make their money for them ? The derided Scullin Government, whose honesty was impugned by the honorable member for Wimmera and the honorable member for Echuca - these newcomers in this Parliament who so evidently lack knowledge of Labour’s achievements in this country - did not even then discontinue its efforts to do something of a practical nature for the wheat-growers.
– Does the honorable member deny the truth of the statements quoted by me ?
– What the honorable member quoted was a faithful record of the occurrences at the time. What I do deny is his imputation against the sincerity of the Labour government, whose proposals, as I have explained, were defeated by his friends, associated either with the banks or with the legislature, or with both. When, owing to the opposition of Country party senators, we failed to secure the passage of the original measure through the Senate, and when we had failed to make effective our second proposal, largely because of the activities of financial institutions, wo introduced a bill to provide for the payment of a bounty of 41/2d. a bushel to wheat-growers during the ensuing harvest. That was the first definite constructive proposal which we were able to pass through the Parliament for the benefit of the wheat-farmers.
– And that money was provided out of loan.
– It is true that we had to borrow the money to pay the bounty, and I note that the honorable member forWimmera makes that charge against the Labour Government. If the Scullin Government could have given effect to its financial policy, it would not have been necessary to pay that wheat bounty out of loan money. That is my answer to the honorable member’s charge. Speaking now in the light of our experience regarding the people with whom we were dealing, in this Parliament I feel disposed sometimes to ask whether it would not have been wiser to allow the farmers to stew sufficiently in their juice until they had a clearer understanding as to who were their friends and who were not in this country.
The bill represents a pitiful example of our legislative impotency.
– That is a good word !
– If the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), whose vocabulary, it would seem, is limited to words of not more than two syllables is in doubt about the meaning of the word upon which he fixes his attention, I suggest that he consult a good standard dictionary. I am not here as a teacher in a kindergarten, to impart knowledge on such subjects. I repeat that the bill is a pitiful example of the legislative impotency of this Government, and I question whether the Commonwealth has the constitutional authority to do what is proposed in the bill, even after consultation with the various State Governments and in co-operation with them. One honorable member - I think it was the honorable member for Swan (Mr.
Gregory) - suggested that before passing the bill we should await the decision of the Privy Council, in order to be quite sure of our legislative powers.
– I did not say that.
– I accept the honorable member’s assurance, but I repeat that one honorable member supporting the Government did urge that we should delay the passage of the bill until the Privy Council had decided what are the legislative powers of this Parliament in regard to subjects of major importance to be dealt with in Australia for Australians.
– I made that suggestion; what is wrong with it?
– There is nothing particularly wrong with it in the present circumstances. I am merely endeavouring to show that Labour’s mind has been directed to a radical removal of the constitutional difficulties to which attention has been directed in this debate, so that it would not be necessary to await the decision of the Privy Council as to the legislative authority of the national Parliament.
Criticism has also been directed against the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) who, if he really intended to oppose the bill, might very well have directed his supporters to vote against it on the ground that a better proposal could be evolved such as is embodied in the amendment of the Leader. But the Leader of the Opposition takes a practical view. He submitted an amendment which was rejected, we think, to the detriment of the farming community; then, in committee, he engaged in a little intelligent criticism concerning the details of the bill. Because he does that he is accused of obstruction and a mere desire to oppose without any desire to construct, although he has submitted constructive proposals followed by what I have rightly called intelligent criticism. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) rose in his place after the very constructive speech delivered by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in the interests of his constituents and, in his opening sentences, he was grossly offensive to the honorable member and then worked himself up into a state of heated indignation because he received a little of his own back from the honorable member whom he was attacking.
The basis of this bill is legislation which may or may not be passed by the States, but we are told that some of the States have passed the legislation.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– It was very interesting to hear the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) speak, and the Government is willing to accept the apology which he has offered for early opposition to this bill. Half of his speech was devoted to pointing out that the Country party had supported various measures brought down by the Scullin Labour Government for the assistance of the wheat industry. The Country party has always been prepared to support any measure that will benefit the great industries of Australia. I deny the right of any honorable member opposite to say that there is any way in which there has been any deviation on the part of the Country party from that policy. In quoting from my speeches honorable members of the Opposition have always made the point of stopping short at the point at which I said that I was prepared to accept what was offered because it was the best available, and that I would Support any measure to bring to the great primary industries of this country improved conditions. That has always been my attitude and it is my attitude now. We have now brought down a measure which in its far-reaching benevolencies is in line with the legislation for the butter and dried fruits industries. The honorable member for Batman agrees that there is no way in which we can proceed to secure a national marketing scheme in Australia other than that provided for in the bill. Other methods adopted by his Government and passed by this Parliament were ineffectual because there was no co-operation among the States. This Government has brought down a measure which has been accepted unanimously by the State Governments in conference, and an undertaking has been given by the States that they will implement their part of the bargain within the next two or three months. The point I wish to make is that here is an opportunity for us to get unanimity and, even if it should bring only half of the results that are expected from it, we should accept that degree of co-operation at the earliest possible moment. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), in committee, took exception to the fact that the final clause of the bill made it possible for certain regulations to be prescribed, and said that this was an unheard of thing, and that if there were any other cases which could be taken as a precedent, the measures providing for them must have been passed when the guillotine process was in operation. This clause is simply a facsimile of the clauses which appear in other measures of a like nature. The dried fruits legislation passed in 1928 was not guillotined through Parliament. The bills dealing with dairy produce which were brought down in 1933 and again in 1934 received the freest discussion in this Parliament. In short, the methods of regulation as provided for in the final clause of this bill are the only methods which can be adopted in legislation and administration. The honorable member’s criticism falls to the ground when he cannot bring into exhibition any measure which provides for any other course than that which is being pursued by the Government to-day, whereas the Government can produce several other measures of a like nature where the procedure has been carried out in a manner set down in this bill.
The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) thought that it might lessen the responsibilities of the Minister for Commerce if clause 5 of the bill were altered and the courts were left to decide whether wheat were or were not sold for seed or for stock or poultry foods. In discussing this matter with those who have had to operate other acts of a similar character, I have been told that the provision to which the honorable member has objected is an essential safeguard and that the Minister should be the person to decide whether wheat has been sold in accordance with the act. Consequently the Government cannot see its way to make the proposed alteration.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) have mentioned the position which Queensland will occupy in the implementing of the home-consumption price scheme. I frankly give praise to the Minister for Agriculture in Queensland, Mr. Bulcock, who immediately upon returning from the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council had the Queensland Parliament pass legislation giving effect to the scheme agreed upon. When the home-consumption price scheme was being discussed at the council it was realized that it would militate to some degree against the interests of the Queensland wheat-growers. Mr. Bulcock, however, said that as Queensland had accepted the principle in regard to butter and sugar it was quite prepared to accept it in regard to wheat. Not only did he give that assurance ; he also carried it out. Queensland does not produce sufficient wheat for its own consumption and has to import supplies from the other States. The Agricultural Council realized that it would be possible to permit Queensland farmers the geographical freightage benefit compared with the price of wheat in Sydney. It is hoped in the case of Tasmania and Queensland that the position will be so adjusted as to overcome any disadvantages which might otherwise accrue to what are virtually non-wheat producing States, just as under the sugar scheme the disadvantages which might accrue to non-producing States are outweighed by the fixation of a standard price for sugar in the capital cities. I express my appreciation of the fact that all sections of the committee are now prepared to support the measure before the committee.
.- When I entered the chamber a few moments ago the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) was engaged in a severe attack upon the Labour party, for what he said was its opposition to the primary producers. But I challenge the honorable member to produce any evidence in support of his claim. As a matter of fact in Queensland a good many years ago the Labour party was instrumental in setting up local pools in connexion with many primary industries, and those pools did wonderfully good work. I am not at all surprised that Mr. Bulcock should have returned from the last meeting of the Agricultural Council and induced the Queensland Government to pass a bill to carry out the agreement he had made with Commonwealth Ministers to introduce complementary legislation to that which is now under consideration in this chamber. There is, however, considerable doubt as to the constitutional power for even the States to embark upon a compulsory pool. Quite recently the validity of the peanut pool in Queensland was questioned, and Mr. Nielson, the go-getter who launched the attack, was one who belongs to the class whose interests are represented by ministerial supporters in this House. As a matter of fact, had it not been for the opposition of representatives of the Country party in the Senate some years ago opportunity would have been afforded to test the validity of Commonwealth legislation. In Queensland the Labour Government not only endeavoured to persuade the primary producers to embark upon a system of pools but also bore the expenses of individuals who moved among the primary producers in an endeavour to organize them. The movement which was then inaugurated was set on foot against the opposition of the Country party - National organization of Queensland. It is remarkable the change which has come over honorable gentlemen opposite within the last few years. Take the sugar agreement for instance. It displays the beautiful somersaulting capacity of the Minister in charge of that bill to-day.
– That is absolutely untrue; why do you not quote Hansard?
– When the honorable member was in opposition we saw him in his true colours. He read a speech which was written for him, and it was also published in pamphlet form. Were the Minister back in Opposition I have no doubt but that he would again oppose the sugar agreement.
– The honorable member is misrepresenting me. I demand a withdrawal, or I shall make a personal explanation.
– The Minister will have ample opportunity later. For the moment I ask the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) . to keep his remarks relevant to the bill now under discussion.
– We are told by the honorable member for Wimmera and others of the same political creed, that they have been struggling for years for a compulsory pool. Yet, five years ago two Country party senators from Western Australia prevented the passage of the Scullin Government’s legislation for the establishment of a wheat pool. Had that bill been passed, ample opportunity would have been afforded to the opponents of the pool to test the validity .of a Commonwealth compulsory pool.
– That legislation would not have given a pool.
– It would have given protection to the wheat-growers of this country and also an opportunity to the honorable member and his friends to prove whether or not a pool was valid. But his friends were npt prepared to grasp that opportunity.
– The honorable member is craw-fishing.
– It was a definite attempt to assist the wheat-growers of this country.
– It was a huge bluff such as the honorable member is now attempting.
– The Labor party at all times has been willing to give legitimate assistance to the primary industries of this country, because it recognizes their value; but the alleged friends of the primary producers have not done so. I say definitely that the Scullin Government made an honest attempt to assist the wheat-growing industry, but the Country party prevented it from doing so, because by their votes two members of that party in the Senate helped to defeat its legislation.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker)
I’ll. 47]. - The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) has referred to the hill which the Scullin Government brought before Parliament and was defeated in the Senate. Surely the honorable gentleman will concede that the cost of the price fixed in that bill for wheat was to be borne partly by the States. I know enough of the internal affairs of South Australia at that time to know that the Hill Labour Government of South Australia could not have contributed its quota of 50 per cent, of the cost of that scheme, even if it had been brought into operation. I think the same could be said of Western Australia. I know too much of the conditions then existing in South Australia to be ‘bluffed. At that time the South Australian Government did not know where to turn to find money with which to pay its public servants, let alone pay the amount which the bill introduced by the Scullin Government would require of it. The States with small populations and little wealth, such as South Australia and Western Australia which are exporting up to 90 per cent, of the total wheat grown within their borders, have not the taxation resources that are at the disposal of the Governments of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
In committee the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) waxed eloquent and indignant because, he said, there was no definition in this bill of the prescribed authority which would be authorized to do certain things. He went on to say that he did not know of a precedent for such a provision. He ought to have known that the legislate “«i passed bv this Parliament contains many such precedents, as for instance the Dried Fruits Act of 192S. There is no definition of the prescribed authority’ established under that act. So far as his complaint in regard to clause 5 is concerned and his complaint that all the clause does is to prescribe what the wheat-growers must not do, I point out that it provides that a wheat-grower must not do these things unless he enters into an agreement in the form prescribed in the act, by which the authority is constituted, and that is the prescribed authority. The honorable member’s argument breaks down on those two points, first that there is no precedent for setting up a prescribed authority such as that proposed under this hill, and secondly that clause 5 does not say that the farmer must not do certain things, but says that he must not do them unless he enters into an agreement which will he drawn up by that authority. If the grower complies with that requirement he is entitled to certain benefits in the way of a home-consumption price for a certain percentage of the wheat grown in Australia, but not otherwise. The farmer is free in this matter. If he does not want a home-consumption price he is not obliged to sign any agreement. There is no compulsion about it. He is entitled to export the whole of his crop overseas and no one may put any obstacle in his way, but unless he complies with the law and signs the agreement he cannot participate in the home-consumption price.
Much has been said about pooling. Under this scheme any State could run a compulsory pool. If the six States of Australia care to pass legislation to establish “ compulsory pools within their own borders a Commonwealth pool can be established, but not otherwise. I am a member of the Country party, which the honorable member for Herbert criticized severely, but I have never yet advocated a compulsory pool.
– But a majority of the party advocates it.
– The Country party in South Australia has never advocated a compulsory pool. If a referendum of the farmers of that State were taken the proposal to establish a compulsory pool would be rejected by a heavy majority.
– What would be the result of a referendum of the farmers of Australia?
– In my opinion they would vote against a compulsory pool.
– What about the Wheatgrowers Association ?
– I know all about that organization. The great bulk of the farmers of South Australia have never belonged to it. Indeed, many of them would not belong to it, even if their subscription fees were paid for them. They have other means of ex pressing their views. The farmers of South Australia may be more conservative than are those in some of the other States in regard to marketing. If a ballot of the farmers of South Australia were taken an” overwhelming majority of them would vote against a compulsory marketing scheme, and I do not think that there would be a big majority in any State in favour of a compulsory pool. I have no objection to the Commonwealth Government or to the governments of the States taking a ballot of wheatgrowers to ascertain their views on this subject. It is interesting to note that where the advocacy of a compulsory pool is greatest in the farming areas a compulsory pool is only supported as a means to an end, the objective being the obtaining of a certain price for the proportion of the crop which is consumed in Australia. We are forced into this position by reason of the national policy of protection and arbitration awards which do not give any benefits to the agricultural industry. As the result of the depression, the farmers have had to adopt a different outlook in regard to marketing. They have found that, whereas they have contributed thousands of pounds during the last five or six years to the assistance of other industries, they have received little themselves. For that reason scores of schemes have been proposed during the last five or six years with the object of doing something for the farmers. These schemes have, differed in detail but they have all the same objective, namely, the securing of a better price for the grower for the proportion of the wheat crop consumed in Australia. The farmers of this country are not keen on a compulsory pool, but they are keen to get that which a compulsory pool would give to them. Unless those in control of a compulsory pool are given power to do what thi3 legislation will give the prescribed authority power to do, a compulsory pool will not be worth two pence to the farmers, and would be rejected by them with scorn. Their only objective in advocating a compulsory pool is to force the wage-earners of Australia to pay more for their bread. If that is not their intention, their advocacy of a compulsory pool is not worth the breath with which they advocate it.
– Would not marketing costs be reduced by the establishment of a compulsory pool?
– If a compulsory pool were established, a lot of men would be thrown out of work. There would be fewer agents at the country sidings and fewer clerks in the offices of the wheat merchants. There would be less overlapping in the various ports from which wheat is shipped, with the result that fewer men would be wanted there. The bulk handling system would be installed, and hundreds of men who to-day lump wheat at Port Adelaide, Geelong, Williamstown and elsewhere would be thrown out of employment, because machines would take their place.
– That will be done in any case.
– There are two sides to this question.
– Does the honorable member suggest that bulk handling will not be introducedunless there is organized marketing of wheat?
– I do not suggest that, but I do say that the establishment of a compulsory pool would make bulk handling a certainty. No authority controlling a compulsory pool would be foolish enough to continue the overlapping which exists under the present marketing system. The inevitable effect of the policy of the Opposition would be to throw out of employment hundreds of men who are now engaged in the handling of wheat in the different States.
A lot has been said about the conference of wheat-growers that was recently held at Canberra. I do not know how any misunderstanding should have arisen in this connexion. The conference consisted of not only representatives of governments, but also representatives of growers’ organizations, millers, ship-owners and others. The honorable members for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland), Wakefield (Mr.. Hawker) and I were delegates. Naturally, the conference did not agree on all points, but it came to- a number of decisions. The Agricultural Council, which consists of representatives of the several Governments of Australia, sat in Canberra at the same time. The responsibility for making a decision was on its shoulders. I was present during the whole of the debate and heard the various views that were expressed, and I “was interested to note the vital difference between the policies advocated -
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The time allotted for the consideration of this clause and the remainder of the bill has expired.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment -
War Service Homes Bill 1935.
Wheat Growers’ Relief Bill (No. 2) 1935.
Meat Export Charges Bill 1935.
Canned Fruits Export Charges Bill 1935.
Financial Relief Bill (No. 2) 1935.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
After section fifty-seven of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “ 57a. The Commission may require any person, whom it believes to be in a position to do so, to furnish to the Commission a. confidential report as to the circumstances or the financial transactions of any pensioner or applicant for a pension, or for assistance and benefits, under this act, or of any relatives of any such pensioner or applicant; “…
Senate’s amendment -
Leave out the words “or of any relatives of any such pensioner or applicant”, proposed new section 57a.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
House adjourned at 12.6 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount is paid, in respect of the investigation of a. claim for an invalid or oldage pension, to each of the following State officers : -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the allegations of the AuditorGeneral in regard to the character and integrity of invalid and old-age pensioners, will the Prime Minister agree to the institution of an inquiry at which opportunity will be given to Mr. Cerutty to justify the allegations he has made ?
– The Government has already expressed its disapproval and disagreement with those passages of the Auditor-General’s report which reflect on the character and integrity of invalid and old-age pensioners, and in the circumstances does not consider it necessary to hold an inquiry as suggested by the honorable member.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the great truth littered by the late Andrew Carnegie that “ the most imperative duty of the State is the universal education of the masses. No money which can be usefully spent for this indispensable end should be denied. Public sentiment should, on the contrary, approve the doctrine that the more that can be judiciously spent, the better for the country. There is no insurance of . nations so cheap as the enlightenment of the people,” will he, during the recess, consider some plan which will prevent the continual and unending increase in the cost of education in Australia?
– As the honorable member is doubtless aware, education is a matter which comes within the administrative control of. the governments of the States. I will have pleasure in bringing his suggestion to the notice of the State Premiers.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
t asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice - 1.Isit a fact that the retiring ages for officers of the Australian Staff Corps are - Major, 55 years;lieutenant-colonel, colonel and brigadier,60 years; major-general,62 years; lieutenant-general, 65 years? 2.Is it a fact that approximately100 officers of the Australian Staff Corps are aged within eight years of each other?
– The information will be obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
t asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
How many officers of the Australian Staff Corps are carrying out duties that are higher than is commensurate either with their rank or pay?
– There are 52 officers of the Australian Staff Corps who are carrying out duties higher than is commensurate with their rank. Rates of pay are dependent on substantive rank held.
e. - On the 29th November, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 December 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19351204_reps_14_148/>.