14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Treasurer seen the press announcement that only £315,000 worth of the£1,000,000 issue of treasury-bills has been taken up by the public? What comment has the honorable gentleman to make concerning theresult of this experiment, and the policy of establishing an open bill market in Australia? Does he consider that the withdrawal from the public of the amount mentioned is sufficient to warrant the raising of deposit rates and a corresponding rise of interest rates throughout Australia?
– I have no comment to make. I think that the figures speak for themselves. I am afraid that the honorable member will have to make up his own mind in regard to the latter part of his question.
– Can the Treasurer inform honorable members as to whether he has received any report from the Commonwealth Bank Board on the matter, and whether the failure of the public to take up these treasury-bills is proof that the net result of the issue of the bills was an increase of the fixed deposit rate by private banks and a hardening of the interest rate charged to industry generally? In the circumstances, was not the tariff the best means by which imports might be restricted?
– All that I can add to the reply that I have made to the honorable member for Indi, is that I have been informed by the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board that the treasurybill issue of £1,000,000 had been taken up to an amount of £315,000. I cannot enlighten the honorable member further.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he was correctly reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 12th March, as saying that the Commonwealth Bank Board was worried about the adverse trade balance, and that that was the reason why it had offered for public subscription treasury-bills to the value of £1,000,000?
– Sufficient has already been said in the House on this subject, without reference to reports of remarks made elsewhere, to indicate clearly the attitude that the Government has adopted.
– As it has been admitted that the purpose of the recent unsuccessful treasury-bills issue was to reduce the cash holdings of the trading banks with a view to bringing about a diminution of imports, and as the failure of that issue has also been admitted, what action, if any, does the Government intend to take, and does it know what action the Commonwealth Bank intends to take?
– I can only refer the honorable gentleman to the very comprehensive debate on this subject which took place in this chamber a few days ago.
– When addressing the National Club, did the Prime Minister say that he, like many people and the Commonwealth Bank Board, had been worried about the drift of the Australian overseas trade balance? Further, did he say that this was the matter which gave rise to the action of the Commonwealth Bank Board in issuing the treasury-bills?
– If the honorable member had paid as much attention to the debate which recently took place in this chamber, as other honorable members, he would know exactly the extent to which the Government is concerned about the matter of trade balance.
– I should like to know whether the Prime Minister is responsible for the Statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald of 6th March; I am not concerned at the moment with what took place in the House.
– Practically the same question has been asked three times already. The Prime Minister will use his own discretion whether he answers it or not.
Question not answered.
– Has the attention of the Acting Minister for Commerce been directed to the statement in yesterday’s Brisbane Courier Mail, in which the Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Bulcock, complained that, although the Commonwealth Government had agreed to the bill which he had prepared, and had practically invited him to proceed with the enactment of this necessary legislation, and the Queensland Parliament had assented to it, no portion of the money for farmers’ rehabilitation had yet been received by Queensland from the Commonwealth? Will the honorable gentleman state what the position is so far as Queensland is concerned?
– My attention has been directed to the statement of the Queenslaud Minister for Agriculture which appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail. The difficulty so far as Queensland is concerned is that the legislation passed by the Queensland Parliament does not provide for the inclusion of debts owing to the Crown. The legislation forecast by the Commonwealth Government to amend the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Act will not relieve the Queensland Government of the necessity for amending its legislation so that Crown debts will be covered by the Queensland act.
– The Queensland legislation is in harmony with the existing act.
– It is not, foi- the simple reason that the Queensland act does not make provision to include debts owing by the farmers to the Crown.
– That section is not workable.
– It is workable in all the other States. The matter is provided for under the legislation of the Commonwealth.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to a cable which appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne Argus, stating that considerable resentment was being felt by the Japanese public and the business houses of Japan at the recent abrupt change in Australia’s trade policy? Will the honorable gentleman state whether there has been any abrupt change in that policy?
– The question should have been directed to me as it relates to the matter of trade treaties. All I can say is that I cannot at present throw any light upon this report from Japan. I can merely say that negotiations for a trade treaty are still proceeding actively with representatives of that country.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce state what dates have been fixed in connexion with the forthcoming poll for the election of producers’ representatives on the recently reconstructed Dairy Produce Board, for the enrolment of producers, the receipt of nominations, and the holding of the poll?
– Speaking from memory, the poll will be held on the 15th June next. The roll will be prepared about the first week of April, and will close about the middle of May. I shall supply the honorable member with the exact dates.
– Has the Acting Minister for Commerce received any requests from sections of the citrus fruitgrowing industry, for assistance in regard to export in the 1936 season, which will open during the coming winter? If so, is he yet in a position to make a pronouncement of theGovernment’s intentions, in view of the importance of the industry having a knowledge of the Government’s intentions before the fruit is actually exported, so that the necessary arrangements may be made by the growers to obtain the required shipping space?
– The Government has made no pronouncement of policy in connexion with shipments during ‘the pending export of citrus fruits. Prior to the passage of the latest legislation, which provided for the payment of a bounty of 2s. a bushel on all citrus fruits exported to the United Kingdom, however, the various citrus growers’ organizations, particularly the orange growers, were informed that it was essential that they should organize as other branches of industry have organized, so that something definite might be done by the industry itself, and consequently it would not be obliged to appeal to the Commonwealth year after year for the continuance of the bounty. So far, no assurance has been given by the various citrus growers’ organizations that they are able, or have attempted, to organize in the manner suggested by the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page). I am awaiting a definite assurance that they are prepared to do so in a manner that will enable the Commonwealth to do something tangible in connexion with export markets.
– Is the Acting Minister for Commerce aware that Japanese oranges are now being offered on the Auckland market at 30s. a case? As excellent Australian oranges could be sold on the same market for less than half that amount, will the honorable gentle man indicate what steps, if any, he has taken to make a further attempt to negotiate a trade treaty with New Zealand that will permit of the admission of certificated disease-free oranges from New South Wales into the sister dominion ?
– Only yesterday I received a deputation representing the orange interests in connexion with this very matter. The figures that were given to me then indicated that Japanese oranges were selling for 30s. a case and Californian oranges for 37s. 6d. a case on the New Zealand market. The representatives of the citrus-growers intimated that they were prepared to put oranges from New South Wales on the New Zealand market for 10s. or l1s. a case plus 2s. for freight. I have taken up with the horticultural experts in the various States the matter of the issue of certificates, and find that they are quite prepared to furnish the necessary certificates as to the cleanness and freedom from disease of citrus fruit intended for export, so that everything possible may be done to meet the requirements of the New Zealand trade in that regard to get the Dominion Government to lift the embargo against Australian fruit. My colleagues, the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, are working on this subject from the point of view of their departments, while I have been endeavouring to pave the way for the opening up of the trade by arranging the internal organization in Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he has seen a press report to the effect that Cabinet intends to discuss a proposal for the manufacture of aeroplanes in Australia? Can he inform me whether the report is correct? I should also like to know whether the proposed factory will be established at Sydney, and in the Reid division?
– I hope to be in a position to make a statement on this subject within a few days.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to a leading article which appeared in the Melbourne Sun following the recent broadcast by His Majesty King Edward VIII., which urged that regular Empire broadcasts should be made by leading Imperial statesmen? Will the right honorable gentleman investigate the possibility of initiating such broadcasts regularly, with the object of making a recommendation on the matter to the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
– All I can say at the moment is that the Government is prepared to give consideration to the matter.
– Can the Treasurer explain to me why the expenses of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), who recently left Australia on a visit to England, already amount to £1,867, while those of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), who left Australia practically simultaneously on a visit to Great Britain, amount to only £94?
– I have not seen the figures myself, but I can only conclude that the figures in respect of the Minister for Commerce include the fares of himself and his technical advisers, while those in respect of the Attorney-General do not in du do fares. I cannot explain the discrepancy in any other way.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to an announcement which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, on the 25th February last, that the Government was considering a proposal to secure the services of officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to make an investigation to ascertain the capacity of Australia to absorb additional population from overseas. I ask the Tight honorable gentleman whether that inquiry has been instituted, and, if so, when the report is likely to lie completed?
– It is true that the Government has decided to endeavour to ascertain the real capacity of Australia to absorb migrants and increase settlement generally. So many incorrect statements have been made on this subject - on the one hand, to the effect that Australia has an unlimited capacity to absorb migrants, and on the other, to the effect that it can absorb no additional population - that the need arose for authoritative information to be obtained on the subject. The Government, therefore, decided to enlist, if possible, the services of members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to deal with it. I have communicated with the chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but it will take some considerable time to reach finality and obtain the information that is desired.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he intends to refer to experts for investigation and report as to its practical value, the appliance exhibited in King’s Hall last week designed to overcome breakofgauge difficulties in Australia?
– I have written to Sir George Julius who, as honorable members know, is an eminent engineer seeking his opinion on the invention, and whether he thinks that further steps should be taken to investigate its merits.
– I ask the Minister for Defence to furnish me with the name of the officer in Tasmania whose duty it is to see that regulations relating to aviation are enforced in that State If there is no such officer, will the Minister appoint one who will be authorized to supervise, for the protection of the public, pageants and stunt flying by both private and government owned aeroplanes ?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Civil Aviation Department.
– In view of the wide publicity given to the report of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), which contained definite recommendations in regard to the extraction of oil from coal and also of the Prime Minister’s promise made at Cessnock two years ago, that the Government would do something in this matter when the results were known of the operations at Billingham-on-Tees for the extraction of oil from coal by the hydrogenation process, I ask the right honorable member whether he has seen reports in the press to the effect that the acting president of the northern coalfields miners’ organization and others desire the Prime Minister to revisit Cessnock and also to redeem his promise? Will the Prime Minister indicate to me when he can revisit Cessnock and meet a deputation on this subject?
– My visiting Cessnock would not to the extent of a single day expedite a decision regarding this matter. Already I have made this quite clear to this House, but I repeat that until we get conclusive information, not only as to the success but also regarding the actual cost of the process, no final decision can be made. I have already assured honorable members, and the honorable member knows it, that the desire of the Government is that we shall he able to produce our own oil in Australia. All that prevents us from taking action is the lack of adequate and conclusive information. A visit by me to Cessnock would not bring to conclusion the experiments which are now being carried out at Billingham-on-Tees.
– -Does the Prime Minister share the view of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) that, while Imperial Chemicals Limited hold the patent rights for the hydrogenation process of extracting oil from coal and shale, and while that company remains in its present close association with the Standard Oil Company, the prospect of anything practical being done to develop the oil industry in Australia is extremely remote?
– I do not share the view that any person or organization has any influence upon the Government in regard to this matter. The desire of the Government is to establish the oil industry in Australia, if for no other reason than for defence purposes. It is also desirous of providing additional employment. No person or group of persons will be allowed to postpone the development of this industry by the exercise of any influence on the Government. We are examining the position carefully at the present time, and when the Government feels justified in supporting a proposition, it will press on with the matter without allowing any outside interests to intervene. The Government will not allow any organization interested in the production of oil from coal to hamper the development of an industry designed to produce oil from shale if the latter is shown to be practicable, and vice versa.
– At no time have I intimated that, in my opinion, the extraction of oil from coal by the hydrogenation process is a remote possibility in Australia.
– Does the Government propose taking any legislative action to implement any phase of the report by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), which was tabled in this House last week, regarding the 40-hour week question?
– The paper was tabled and a motion moved for its printing, on which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) moved the adjournment of the debate. When the debate is resumed the Government will make known its intentions regarding the matter, and also any action taken.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement in the presidential address by the president of the Graziers Association, Mr. Abbott, in which he said, “ It is idle to assume that the growing production of artificial fibres holds out no serious threat to the wool industry”? Is the honorable gentleman ako aware that the Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) last week stated in reply to a question that the growth of production of those artificial fibres did not constitute a threat to the wool industry? I desire to know whether, on this matter, the Prime Minister and the Government share the views of Mr. Abbott or those of the Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties?
– Not only has the Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties spoken in connexion with the matter, but the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby), who paid a special visit to Germany for the purpose of looking into trade matters in the interests of the primary producers of Australia, has also made a statement in line with that made by his colleague. I have nothing whatever to add to their statements.
Moratorium for Planters
– In connexion with the moratorium granted by the Commonwealth Government to planters in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea who purchased plantations from the Expropriation Board, I desire to know whether that moratorium has been further extended from the date on which it was to expire, and, if not, what is the position in respect to those who were granted the moratorium?
– A plan is now in course of preparation for the resumption of paymentsby soldier settlers in New Guinea on an equitable basis which will be connected with the price of copra, but, from memory, I do not know whether it has yet been made public. The matter has been given considerable attention by the Government in the last few months, and if its decision has not yet been made public by the Minister for External Affairs, it will be announced in the near future.
– Is the Minister in charge of War Service Homes able to say whether proposed new legislation affecting the War Service Homes Act will he brought down this session?
– As far as I know, there is no intention to introduce legislation affecting the War Service Homes Act.
– Has the Treasurer been advised or consulted either as Treasurer or as chairman of the Loan Council regarding the proceedings at the monthly meeting of the Commonwealth Bank Board in Melbourne yesterday? Can he say whether any decision was reached as to interest rates? Further, has the board continued its “ liaison “ with him to the extent of making any reference to overseas funds?
– The Commonwealth Bank Board meeting referred to by the honorable member is still in progress in Melbourne, and I have no doubt that, amongst many other subjects, this question is. being discussed. With regard to liaison between myself and the bank board, I spent the whole of last Sunday in consultation with the chairman of the bank board.
– Has the Treasurer been consulted by the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Sir Claude Reading, regarding his intention to leave Australia for some lengthy term, and has he approved of the chairman of the bank board being absent from Australia for the time required? Has he been consulted in respect to steps to appoint a deputy chairman, and, if so, has he approved of the appointment of a deputy chairman ?
– The matter of the visit abroad of the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board was considered by the Government at his request a couple of months ago, and the Government approved of leave being given. Later, an order-in-council was duly passed. With regard to the appointment of an acting chairman in the absence of Sir Claude Reading, that is a. matter for the bank board to determine, and I imagine that it is being determined at this moment.
– Will another appointment be made to the board in the meantime ?
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs any information to give the House regarding the operation of sanctions against Italy, particularly respecting their failure to bring about the cessation of hostilities ?
– I have no further information on this matter to give to the honorable gentleman.
– Can the Minister for Defence state the .present whereabouts of H.M.A.S. Australia and H.M.A.S. Sydney, and when it is expected that they will return to Australia? As H.M.S. Sussex appears to have completed the exchange arrangement by which it came to Australia, and has left Australian waters, is the cost of maintaining the Sydney and the Australia while absent, from Australia, to be borne by the Commonwealth Government or by the British Government?
– I can only repeat what I have said on many occasions before, namely, that it is not in the public interest at this stage to disclose the whereabouts of warships. As regard the cost of maintaining H.M.A.S. Australia and H.M.A.S. Sydney, the necessary adjustments are invariably made between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United Kingdom.
– Is it the intention of the Government to bring down legislation providing for the payment of sustenance to children of returned soldiers who have married since 1931, and are now in receipt of full pensions?
– The matter will receive the consideration of the Government.
– An unofficial announcement was recently published in the press to the effect that the Singapore dock had been completed. Has the Minister for Defence received any official notification from the Government of the United Kingdom that he can, with safety, make public?
– All that I am at liberty to say is that the works have reached .the stage at which they have been taken over by the British War Office.
The following papers were presented : -
Post and Telegraph Ad - .Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1035, No. 121.
Transport Workers Act - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1030, No. 20.
Bill brought up by Mr. Thorby, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 12th March, 1936 (vide page 115), on motion by Mr. Thorby -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to appropriate for the benefit of the wheat-growers of Australia the sum of £1,800,000 as an assistance in connexion with the harvest which has just been garnered. The bill represents the first provision which Parliament has been asked to make to deal with this year’s harvest, and it is extraordinary that in the session before last Christmas the Government should have persisted with legislation for the benefit of the wheat-farmers when it must have known very well that it would be useless in respect of the 1935-36 season. As a matter of fact, although the Parliament was asked to make provision for the raising of the greater part of this £1,800,000 by continuing the flour tax, extraordinarily enough it was not asked to appropriate that money, with the result that the present plight of the farmers is one of extreme insecurity. They were led to believe early in the garnering of this year’s harvest that they would be paid a home-consumption price, and that that would represent a considerable addition to the amount they would otherwise realize for their crops.
– It is not the fault of the Commonwealth that they did not get it.
– I think it is, as I propose to demonstrate.
– The Premier of the State which the honorable member represents did not have the necessary legislation passed.
– The Premier of Western Australia is not responsible for the failure of the States to carry legislation which would have made a homeconsumption price workable. As a matter of fact, the statute which was passed by the New South Wales Parliament was aat applicable to the wheat grown and harvested in the 1935-36 season with which this bill has been introduced to deal. Let me point out what happened. An agricultural conference deliberated in Canberra between the 4th and 7th of October last year as to the form this legislation would take, yet a month elapsed before the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) brought down any measure arising from those deliberations.
– But the States had, meantime, been acting.
– Nevertheless, a month elapsed before this Parliament was given any intimation of what the Government proposed to do in regard to the matter. Extraordinarily enough, although the Minister for Commerce delivered his second-reading speech on the 1st November, and the bill, naturally, appeared on the notice-paper for the resumption of the debate, this House was not able to resume consideration of the second reading of that bill until the 4th December, two clays before the House adjourned for the Christmas recess. Furthermore, and of greater importance, the deliberations of this House were greatly prejudiced by the fact that the debate was guillotined, and the debate in another place, which Australia regards as being a “ house of review “, having regard to the time at which the Parliament was adjourned, was so restricted that it is simply begging the’ question to say that what that chamber carried out was a “ review “at all, having in view the purpose a.nd the meaning of the word. Thus the whole of the legislation dealing with this matter for which this Government is primarily responsible, and which appears on the statute-book, has no application, to the difficulties of the wheat-growers in respect of the 1935-36 harvest.
– The Commonwealth legislation could have no value until the States passed complementary legislation.
– No State is in a position to know what legislation it is expected to pass until the Commonwealth Parliament has done what ought to be the foundational part in connexion with the matter. “Where a Commonwealth policy is applied to an industry, and the Parliament of the Commonwealth has been invoked to pass legislation, complementary legislation which the States must pass in order to permit of co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth cannot really be properly considered until the States know precisely what legislation the Commonwealth has placed upon the statute book. If the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) insists that the States must first pass their legislation this Parliament would be placed in the position of having to swallow hook, line and sinker, every proposal which emanated from the Government. I contend that we should have passed the necessary bill in order that the States might know the position taken up by this Parliament before they were asked to formulate their own proposals. Indeed it must be clear, and this bill emphasizes it, that this Government is not game to take the responsibility for the enunciation of a policy in respect of the wheat industry of Australia.
While this bill provides for an appropriation of £1,800,000 of Commonwealth revenue for allocation among the States, it does not prescribe in any definite way under what conditions the individual wheat-grower shall receive the money appropriated.
Mr. Archie Cameron interjecting,
– The honorable member has no business to charge me with whathe considers to be the offences of the Government of Western Australia. I am not here to represent that Government any more than the honorable member is here to represent the Government of South Australia. Parenthetically, I point out that the Government of South Australia - for whose actions he is as much responsible as I am for those of the Government of Western Australia - refused to pass legislation providing for a home-consumption price for wheat. Thus if there is any minor offence, from the honorable gentleman’s own angle, in the viewpoint of the Government of Western Australia there is a major offence on the part of the Government of South Australia.
This bill consists basically of two clauses, one, allocating in various amounts the sum of £1,800,000 among the States, and the other, clause 6, dealing with the manner in which the money shall ultimately reach the wheat-grower. Clause 6 reads as follows: - (1.)Anyamount granted toa State in accordance with the provisions of section four of this Act shall be paid on condition that it is applied by the State in providing relief to wheat-growers in such manneras is approved by the Minister after recommendation by the prescribed authority of that State.
For a State to have a prescribed authority it must pass legislation. Thus we are in the position that the States have to pass legislation in order to enable this measure to have full effect. I do not know what is the significance of the term “ prescribed authority “ and under what statute a State may constitute such an authority. It may be that legislation already exists enabling the States to have a prescribed authority in that any authority they have under some other statute may be one which the Minister may regard as a satisfactory authority. Indeed, it may be that the Minister might say that a State Government itself would be regarded as the prescribed authority and that he would consider any recommendation which that government might make. But I have this to say: Where this Parliament makes grants to the States in pursuance of section 96 of the Constitution, those grants ought to be allocated by the States in the exercise of their sovereign jurisdiction ; but where this Parliament raises money in order to provide a bounty for a specific industry, then most certainly the obligation is on this Parliament to determine the conditions under which that industry shall be assisted - the extent to which it will be assisted, and the general conditions which the receiver of the money shall satisfy before he is assisted. That appears to be a reasonable and proper provision. We do not ask the States to administer bounty legislation passed in respect of other industries, such as the iron and steel industry, or other phases of policy which from time to time have been a feature of Commonwealth legislation. As a matter of fact, the States ha ve been given the whole of the dirty work to do in connexion with the ultimate distribution of this money and the anomalies that inevitably must occur.
– They make very good use of it when they get it.
– Most certainly this will swell the revenues of the wheatgrowing States, and ‘be a benefit to them. But the iron and steel bounty was a benefit to the States in which the iron and steel industry was established, and this Parliament did not ask the governments of those States to set up the necessary machinery to ensure the equitable distribution of the money which we considered should be distributed. We not only accepted the responsibility for the raising of the money, but also laid down the conditions under which it should be paid.
– As a bounty on production; this is not.
– There is nothing in the bill which says that it is not a bounty on production. It is true that the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby), in his second-reading speech, outlined the conditions under which the various States intend to distribute the amounts which they receive. But there are no limiting provisions in this bill.
– There are constitutional limitations.
– The Constitution has nothing whatever to do with the conditions under which the States shall distribute this money. It relates only to the powers of this Parliament, and has no relation to the legislative functions of the States in regard to this distribution.
– It has.
Mr.CURTIN.- It has not. It affects our right to raise the money and to distribute it. We can pass a law setting out the conditions under which the money shall be distributed. That is what the Constitution empowers this Parliament to do. I submit to the honorable gentleman, however, that the bill does not prescribe any conditions. What it does is to allocate the amount which each State shall have given to it; and then the only other limitation is that the States shall have some prescribed authority which shall make recommendations of which the Minister must approve before the money is provided. That is all that this Parliament intends to do if this bill is its final word in regard to the conditions under which the money shall be distributed among the wheatgrowers this year. There is nothing in the bill which says that the money shall be paid on an acreage basis or on a bushelage basis. There is nothing in it which says that the money shall be paid on the basis of affording relief to those who are in distress.. It is perfectly true, however, that in arriving at the amount which the Commonwealth will allocate to the States, the Government took into account what would be the equivalent of ls. a bushel on home consumption, having regard to the quantity that would be consumed in Australia, and what would be left for the purposes of drought relief out of the £1,800,000. The honorable member explained that in his speech. But the bill does not limit the States iu regard to the authority which they possess in connexion with the distribution of the money among their growers once it has been paid over to them.
– Each State can adopt its own proposals, subject to the approval of the Minister.
– That is what I am saying.
– I said that last week.
– That is the point which I am making. Although this Parliament raises the money for the benefit of a specific industry, it appears from the practice associated with bounties to industries that the States are being invited not only to shoulder the responsibility of passing legislation to enable the ultimate recipient to obtain the assistance, but also to set up the necessary machinery for its distribution and to bear the incidental administrative costs, in addition to withstanding the more or less inevitable criticism caused by the anomalies that are bound to arise, having regard to the character of the industry for which the assistance is intended. Apparently the Commonwealth Government is anxious to get all the political kudos it can by reason of its ability to find this money, and to leave to the wheat-growing States all the odium associated with the difficulties of equitable distribution, washing its hands of the responsibility for deciding whether the distribution shall be on an acreage or a bushelage basis, or whether other factors shall be taken into account.
I charge the Government with being recreant to its major responsibility in this matter. If it believes, as I think is proper, that the wheat industry should be given assistance, then it is the duty of this Parliament to decide the manner in which that assistance shall be given. The States should not have loaded on to them a responsibility which it appears to me is the responsibility of the Parliament that raises the money.
I have already drawn a clear distinction between the responsibility which rests upon this Parliament for determining the conditions under which bounties or other forms of relief shall be given to industries, and its responsibility with respect to sums that it raises and gives to the States for the discharge of their sovereign duties as States within the federation.
– A bushelage bounty would not suit the majority of the States.
– I know that. But we should take the responsibility associated with the setting up of the necessary machinery. The Department of Commerce should have the responsibility of determining who shall get this money, and how it shall be given to them. It should also bear the cost of distribution. Under this proposal, the Commonwealth makes itself a sort of fairy godfather in the eyes of the farmers of Australia, and at the same time compels the governments of the States to incur the expenditure involved in the maintenance of staffs so as to ensure that its political policy is given effect.
– They are very glad to have the opportunity to distribute the money.
– I have no doubt that there is not a State Minister who could face the wheat-growers of his community if he had the opportunity to obtain £400,000 or £500,000 from the Commonwealth and did not avail himself of it. We are all sufficiently informed in respect of human nature to know that the political repercussion would be so serious that any State government would simply have to put on the best face it could, and do the dirty work which the Commonwealth had left to it. I submit that that is unfair. That is not a delegation of administration, but is really a derogation of responsibility. Such a practice is not followed in regard to other bounties. In his speech, the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) said that in New South Wales portion of the money would be paid on an acreage basis, graduated to bushelage. The honorable gentleman admires the New South Wales scheme. He says that it is a scheme which appears very complicated - it is - but in practice is very simple. He must know that a vast amount of accountancy will be involved in the application of this very simple scheme. There is to be a sliding scale, taking as a basis the average crop returns over the last ten years. All who receive the average return or more will receive payment on an acreage basis. For every bushel for which they receive a return below the average, the farmers will receive an increased amount. Although the Government of New South Wales has apparently sponsored this scheme, a good deal of anomaly is inevitable under it. Men who are fanning adjacent properties must receive different returns under a plan which, if the speech of the Minister on the essence of this problem within the last three months is to be taken seriously, has for its major purpose the payment to farmers of an increased price over and above that which they would normally receive. I could understand payment either on an acreage basis or on a bushelage basis, or on a compound of those two elements.
– They would all produce anomalies.
– I grant that every one would produce anomalies. I submit, however, that the administrations of the States have experienced a good deal of undeserved criticism, because they have had to deal with anomalous situations solely because the Commonwealth Government, having vast reserves at its disposal, and the taxable capacity to obtain the money it needs, raises it and pos”* before the farmers as the saviour of their industry, whereas those who have chiefly to bear the heat and burden of the day are the governments of the States. Victoria has decided to distribute £50,000 among growers who have suffered loss through drought, hail storms, &c approximately £200,000 on an acreage basis, and the balance of the ‘grant on a production basis - how much in each instance we are not told. I put it to the
House that, before any one of these States can carry through these proposals, it must enact legislation. Is it to be presumed that the parliaments of the States are not entitled to vary these proposals which their governments have apparently intimated, in correspondence to the Commonwealth, that they favour? As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Government itself has repeatedly changed its position towards this matter during the last four months. I have a telegram from the Treasurer, dated the 18th. January last, setting out the intentions of the Government at that date. There is also the speech delivered by the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) in Perth, in which he said that, if the proposal for a home-consumption price had been agreed to, Western Australia would have received £900,000. Mr. Gregory. - He did not say that. Mr. CURTIN.- That is the amount which is stated.
– He said that the extra amount collected would have been divisible in Australia.
– Oh, no! There may be typographical errors, but if there are, they must have been in the typescript r> ‘ the right honorable gentleman’s speech, because every newspaper which published the speech printed the figure £900,000.
– All the newspapers frequently obtain their information from the one source.
– That may be the explanation. I have a copy of the West Australian, and of the organ of the Wheat-growers Union. Furthermore, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) knows that the figure £900,000 must have been used in an authoritative way, or in what appeared to be an authoritative way, because it became the subject of controversy between the president of the Wheat-growers Union and the Minister for Lands. Therefore, I am not to be blamed when I say that that figure was used. The changes which have marked the Government’s proposals appear to me to indicate that it has really no mind made up on the subject. I can see no earthly reason why this Parliament should not, itself, decide that of the £1,800,000 to be distributed so much shall be allocated on an acreage basis, so much on a bushelage basis, and so much in respect of adverse seasonal conditions. That would leave the State governments with only one difficulty of administration - the allocation of the money provided in respect of adverse seasonal conditions. It would, of course, increase the administrative cost of the Commerce Department, but surely this Parliament should provide for the cost of administering the legislation it passes.
The condition of the wheat industry, one has to acknowledge, is not quite so serious this year as it was last year, for the price of wheat has increased to such an extent that the Minister was able to tell us the other day that between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 more will be available to the wheat-growers from this season’s crop than was available to them from last season’s crop. But I am, I think, sufficiently clearly minded in regard to the cumulative difficulties of the wheat-farmers of Australia to realize that the present price will not, in itself, compensate them for the losses they have suffered during the last three seasons. I point out to Parliament, however, that the prevailing prices are at least reasonable enough to warrant a distinction being made between farmers who are no longer able to carry on their operations without loss, and those whose general activities, including wool production, will this year ensure them of a satisfactory return from their wheat production without the assistance of a bounty. That impels me to say that Parliament should consider making a reduction of the amount available for distribution on a bushelage basis, and an increase of the amount available to give relief from adverse seasonal conditions. It is an entirely reasonable proposition that Parliament should consider whether farmers whose general position is such as can be regarded as satisfactory even without the help of a bounty should be granted assistance at the expense of farmers whose conditions are such as to make them incapable of carrying on reasonably without the help of a bounty. We should not pay a bounty to farmers who do not need it, to the detriment of farmers who do need it. A good deal of consideration should be given to this aspect of the subject, seeing that this bill seeks to deal with the harvest which is almost concluded and during which prices have improved. It appears to my colleagues and myself, that in all the circumstances, the Commonwealth Parliament should accept the responsibility of deciding whether or not farmers in receipt of a taxable income of a given amount above that which they had last year and have had a yield of a certain number of bushels an acre from their holdings this year, should be given any assistance under the provisions of this bill. It would be reasonable for us to determine that a farmer who this year harvested from ten to fifteen bushels of wheat over the total acreage sown, should not receive a bounty, but that the money to be allocated on a bushelage basis should go entirely to those farmers who, having sown their crop in good faith, have encountered adverse seasonal conditions and had either a crop substantially below the average which they were accustomed to reap from their holding or no crop at all.
– There are districts where a yield of fifteen bushels an acre would nearly ruin a wheat-grower.
– If a yield of fifteen bushels an acre at the present price is an unprofitable transaction for a wheatgrower, this Parliament should consider how far it ought to go to keep the industry alive. The statement of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) carries implications of farreaching importance to the Australian wheat industry. If it can be soundly urged that a yield of fifteen bushels an acre is unprofitable-
– The honorable member for Barker was referring only to certain areas.
– If such a yield is unprofitable, we should consider the situation. The lowest price received for wheat this season, f.o.r. Williamstown, which can be taken as a reasonable criterion of the price throughout Australia, has been 3s. 3d. a bushel, and the highest 3s. lOd. a bushel. Last year the lowest price f.o.r. Williamstown was 2s. 4.d. a bushel, and the highest 2s. Hid. a bushel. The lowest price this year, therefore, has been 34d. a bushel more than the highest price last year. What the average of the season will turn out to be in individual cases throughout Australia I am not in a position to say, but the present price is 3s. 7d. a bushel. I put it to honorable members that the conditions and rate of bounty which applied when wheat was from 2s 2d. to 2s. 4d. a bushel should be reconsidered now that the realization of price is between 3s 3d. and 3s lOd. a bushel.
I criticize the Government on several grounds for the introduction of this bill in the form in which it appears. I criticize it first because the measure has become necessary by reason of the fact that Ministers did not deal with the subject adequately at the proper time, which was before the harvest was gathered. That was when many of the problems with which we are now dealing should have been faced. I contend, further, that this Parliament should have at least some say as to the method in which the money it provides is expended and should not delegate this responsibility to the State parliaments. It appears to me also to be unfair that the money proposed to be voted should, even in part, go to assist farmers who have had a reasonably good and satisfactory year during which an entirely remunerative price has been available for their product, to the detriment of farmers who have had no crop at all, or else a very small and unpayable crop. Practically the whole of the money now being provided could well have been allocated to the States for the assistance of farmers who, having experienced adverse seasonal conditions, therefore obtained a yield below the normal yield from their holdings. It may be said I know that to adopt that procedure would be to subsidize inefficiency; but I would avoid that unhappy result by taking some guidance from the scheme of the Government of New South “Wales and estimating the average yield over a period of years. Farmers whose yields this year fell below their average for a number of years could not necessarily be said to be inefficient. I urge that the money being provided should be distributed to a very much greater extent than is apparently proposed to relieve farmers who have met with adverse seasonal conditions.
The Opposition will support the bill, but I have no doubt that it will be subjected to further criticism in committee.
.- If any additional arguments were needed than those contained in the second-reading speech of ‘the Acting. Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) to indicate the wisdom of the Government in leaving to the State governments, acting on the advice of the experts in their departments of agriculture, the administration of this measure and the allocation of the amounts proposed to be granted, it is contained in the speech just delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The figures which he has used - which he has chosen at random, and would not for a moment, I suppose, claim to be authoritative - show that it would be quite beyond the capacity of this Parliament to draft equitable legislation to provide salvage for, and to discriminate between, individual farmers. It would also be beyond the power of a centrally situated department to administer such legislation. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that a yield of 15 bushels an aero might be taken as the limit, above which no assistance should be given to any grower. In some districts, however, a crop of 10 bushels to the acre is more profitable than a crop of 15 or even IS bushels in other districts. In certain districts where the land was cheap and cleared at practically no cost, and where the soil is light to work and does not need fertilizers, a crop of from 10 to 15 bushels an acre at a reasonable price is considerably more profitable than a very much heavier crop in other districts where the average yield to the acre for a number of years has been high but where the productivity of the soil, in consequence of constant cropping, has been so greatly reduced as to make heavy fertilization necessary. The subdivision of holdings has gone on in some districts to such an extent that farms are to-day so small that a crop of less than 20 bushels to the acre does not provide a living for a family.
– I suppose the honorable member would not deny that in many districts crops of 15 bushels to the acre would be very profitable?
– I do not deny that in a considerable number of cases a return of 15 bushels to the acre, with wheat at a reasonable price, would cover outofpocket expenses. I definitely support, however, the proposal that, within certain limits of supervision, the allocation of the money now being provided should be left to the State governments, which must be in a better position than the Commonwealth Government to determine how a certain sum of money may be most advantageously used to assist the wheatgrowers. In any permanent scheme to stabilize the wheat industry, the Commonwealth Government should follow the precedent that has been established in assisting certain other industries. Provision should be made for the industry itself to control the marketing of its product in such a way as to ensure that what might be called a “ White Australia return “ shall be available to those who work in it for the proportion of their product consumed in Australia. Even under those conditions it might still be necessary to provide supplementary grants at times to meet cases of special hardship. I have in mind growers who have slipped behind year after year over a period of extreme difficulty; but such assistance should be limited to cases of real hardship. Foi a number of years now the Commonwealth Parliament has voted considerable amounts of money to assist the wheat industry. This money has been substantially limited to cases which have not been assisted on an industrial basis. A large proportion of the grants has been distributed on a acreage basis, only a. small percentage having been directly used to meet cases of special hardship. For one year or possibly two years, the distribution of money in such a way is probably justified to enable growers to get what might be called a breathing space and to meet the worst of their difficulties or so that they may exist in some reasonable fashion on their holdings; but the granting of money this way can clearly provide no permanentsolution of the difficulties of the wheatgrowers. Once the main assistance to the industry is being granted on an industrial basis by the provision of machinery which will enable the growers to obtain a fair home price for their product, then any other assistance should be granted subject to the stipulation that it shall bc expended for rehabilitation purposes such as, for instance, in some marginal areas to enable growers to organize their holdings on a more economic basis. In extensive areas throughout Australia, the average yield from wheat has been so low for the last six or seven years that, even with assistance and a further increase of the price, it would not be possible for farmers to carry on at a profit, farming their land mainly for grain. In these cases, it is not fair to other sections of the people, and it is certainly of no benefit to the farmer and his family, to pay a grant which would merely enable them to drag on at the living standard of ‘blackfellows, which could result only in their eventual ruin and eviction from their property. The only possible way to rehabilitate this section of the industry permanently is to transfer certain farmers to better districts. This would enable the present farms to be enlarged so that the occupants would be less dependent o” wheat crops alone. But that is a matter for the future. I refer to it mainly to indicate how important it is that the rehabilitation of this industry should be carried out on a stable basis, and not on a dole basis.
For a one-year programme, as the Leader of the Opposition referred to it. the soundest and most practicable scheme would bo to arrive at a basis on which the money available would be divided among the States, leaving the State authorities to obtain the best possible value to the industry out of the distribution. The conditions vary enormously in the several States. In Victoria, for instance, during last year, serious failures occurred in relatively small areas; but, in Western Australia, the crops were drastically, below the average throughout enormous areas. This condition has been met, to a large extent, for it is provided in the bill before us that in proportion to the area and the yield of the Western Austraiian crop, the vote is to be rather larger than that given to the other States. Unquestionably, the State governments, backed by their agricultural department*, can decide very much better the proportions, and under what conditions, the grant should be distributed so as to derive the maximum amount of advantage from it. When that decision has been reached, the States also have the necessary administrative machinery to enable them to distribute the money in a way that will prevent wastage. Proper supervision and inquiry are assured, and in every way the grant can be administered very much more economically and satisfactorily by the State authorities. I definitely support the Government in the stand it has taken this year in handing the money to the States without any hindering conditions. The minimum of restriction should be imposed. The multiplication of unnecessary restrictions by this Parliament when attempting to cooperate with the States in the past has seriously affected the relations between the Federal and State authorities, and their removal will Jesuit in much smoother working of our democratic system. I hope that the bill will have a speedy passage.
.- Whilst the general principle of the support of primary producers has been accepted by all governments, the measure contains numerous proposals which should not be adopted. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) strongly contended that the States should be allowed to distribute the grant among the growers, but members of the Opposition object to its disbursement on terms other than those agreed to by this Parliament. We should see that only those actually in need of assistance receive it. Under the measure as it stands, it will be possible for many producers who made considerable profit out of farming last year to share in the £1,800,000 to be made available. I have perused the report of the royal commission that inquired into the position of the wheat industry, and notice that it states that 20 per cent, of the growers in Australia can produce wheat at a profit with the price at 2s. 9d. a bushel, 40 per cent, at 3s. 3d. a bushel, 50 per cent, at 3s. 6d. a bushel, and 57 per cent, at 3s. 8d. a bushel. Those figures include interest charges. I take it that the present ruling price is 3s. 8d. a bushel, and that, therefore, 57 per cent, of the growers should not share in any scheme for the payment of bounty. It is wrong in principle for the Government to pay bounty to such growers. In speaking on the second reading of .the bill, the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) said that protective duties had been imposed to enable industries to make certain profits, lt seems to me that this bounty should be paid on a similar basis, and that those farmers who have made a profit should get no bounty. Clause 6 provides- - ( 1 . ) Any amount granted to a State in accordance with the provisions of section four of this Act shall bc paid on condition that it is applied by the State in providing relief to wheat-growers in such manner as is approved by the Minister after recommendation by the prescribed authority of that State. (2.) In making any recommendation for the purposes of the last preceding sub-section the prescribed authority shall have regard to the financial circumstances of the wheatgrowers who have applied for assistance and to the harvest from the crops sown by them during the year 1935.
That provision should be made more clear. It should be definitely laid down that producers who are already growing wheat at a profit shall not receive the bounty. If men in difficulties were singled out they could be given greater help than if the bounty were shared by the 57 per cent, of the growers who are making a profit with wheat at 3s. Sd. a bushel. The fact has been stressed from time to time that this bounty should be paid to the needy and not to the greedy. The successful farmer, as the commission points out in its report, is the man whose property has probably been handed down to him by relatives, or who has held his land over long periods, and enjoyed relatively high prices. Such a man should not be entitled to the bounty, but it should be given to those who bought their land at high prices, cleared the virgin soil, and have become encumbered by reason of low returns for their wheat. The report further states that there are between 60,000 and 70.000 farmers in Australia. Therefore, about 40,000 are making, a profit with wheat at 3s. 8d. a bushel, and are not entitled to the bounty. This Parliament grants bounties annually in a slipshod manner, because the money is paid to all sections, and is not confined to those who really need it. The report also shows that some farmers have no liabilities, but have substantial deposits in the bank. Why should these men who are amply provided for receive bounties? Under this bill the large growers will receive more assistance than the small men. In New South Wales, I understand, the bounty will be paid on an acreage basis, and therefore many growers will receive considerable assistance to which they are not entitled. The report of the commission further states that the future wheat policy of the Commonwealth should embrace a general review of all items in the cost of production, including debt and interest, with a view to ascertaining the extent to which the industry might expect relief from such a source. The Government should go into this matter. The interest charges on wheat vary from 6d. to ls. 9d. a bushel, and necessitous growers should have some relief from this burden.
A further passage in the commission’s report states that, apart from labour costs, interest on borrowed capital is the largest single item in the wheat-farmer’s expenditure. The Government has failed to give sufficient consideration to this aspect. It has decided to make a haphazard distribution of money to all sections of the wheat industry, and looks to the rest of the community to provide in taxes funds for it. It is unfair to call upon many persons who are not in a position to pay heavy taxes to provide relief to those persons who to-day are growing wheat at a profit. In committee, I think, amendments will be moved limiting the assistance to farmers whose conditions justify it, and I hope that the Government will review the position. It should be a principle of government thai those who are receiving ample reward from industry should not receive doles or bounties. Attention has already been directed in this House to the fact that several honorable members who support this class of legislation receive benefit from it. As late as last year that principle was debated at great length, and it hardly remains for me to add that its continuance is one of the most objectionable features of the bill now before the House. The principle of doling out assistance to industry without regard t” the circumstances of the beneficiaries is being carried too far. I cannot contemplate a government taking steps to assist wealthy business interests along with small men who might be showing losses in their undertakings. A halt should be called and assistance given to the needy and not to the greedy.
– I intend to support the bill. The Acting Minister for Commerce’ (Mr. Thorby) has asked honorable members, under powers which the Commonwealth possesses, to grant financial assistance to the States with the intention that that assistance shall be applied by the States for the purpose of relief to wheat-growers. The Constitution gives the Commonwealth power to grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as Parliament thinks fit. The bill provides that the States, when they receive this money appropriated by the Commonwealth Parliament for their assistance, shall have power to apply it foi1 the relief of such wheat-growers as are intended by the Commonwealth Parliament to benefit. The purpose of the bill is to give the States the widest possible powers in the determination of what they consider should be the bases of relief. It was announced by the Acting Minister for Commerce that it was possible that some of the States, in applying the money intended to be appropriated under this legislation, would wish to apply it on a production basis. Accordingly, he announced that if it should be proposed by any State to follow that method of distribution, special resolutions empowering them to do so will be submitted to this Parliament. This action will be taken under section 91 of the Constitution which reads -
Nothing in this Constitution prohibits a State . . . from granting, with the consent of both Houses of the Parliament of the Commonwealth expressed by resolution, any aid to or bounty on the production or export of goods.
Therein lies the reason for the very wide terms of the hill DOW under consideration. The Acting Minister has already consulted with the States as to the methods by which they propose to distribute the money among the wheatgrowers, and the schemes mentioned in his second-reading speech indicate their views as to the best means. They show that the States do not favour the laying down of a uniform principle all over the Commonwealth for the allocation of this money. This lack of uniformity is due partly to differing seasonal and climatic conditions, and partly to geographical considerations. In leaving the precise methods of distribution to the determination of the States, the Commonwealth Government has acted wisely. Statements made in this House that the Commonwealth Government is giving carte blanche to the States are incorrect. In clause 6 of the bill, the Commonwealth Government has made use of its power to lay down conditions which will govern the distribution by stipulating in sub-clause 1 -
Any amount granted to a State in accordance with the provisions of section 4 of this act, shall be paid on condition that it is applied by the State in providing relief to wheatgrowers in such maimer as is approved by the Minister after recommendation by the prescribed authority in that State.
While I favour the first sub-clause of clause 6, -sub-clause 2 of the same clause does not meet with my approval. It states -
In making any recommendation for the purposes of the last preceding sub-section, the prescribed authority shall have regard to the financial circumstances of the wheatgrowers who have applied for assistance and to the harvest from the crops sown by them during the year One thousand nine hundred and thirty-five.
I think the Acting Minister is aware of the complaints made recently in Queensland of the delay which occurred in distribution of moneys. There is difficulty in some cases in getting persons to apply for aid, and the wording of the sub-clause suggests almost that the whole scheme of wheat assistance in a State might be held up pending the consideration of applications. The sub-clause, in my opinion, is unnecessary, as the whole object of this bill is to grant relief to wheat-growers. Apparently, too, the Commonwealth Government and the State governments are already aware of the amounts of the bounty which will be required for the assistance of growers who have suffered specially adverse conditions. In Queensland they will receive 25 per cent, of the grant of £42,835 to that State. In Western Australia a very large sum will be required for them - about £161,000. South Australia intends to devote £69,S96 to farmers who have suffered from adverse conditions, and New South Wales £31,784. To make compliance with sub-clause 2 of clause 6 a condition precedent to the distribution of the grant is a mistake and, within the bounds of essential Commonwealth control, it would be wiser to make the measure more elastic. All that it should be necessary for the Commonwealth tj do is to ensure that the money appropriated is used in accordance with the purposes of the appropriation. The State Governments should be the agencies for the distributions.
Honorable members opposite have suggested that the assistance should be confined to those farmers with a certain limitation as to assessed income. A similar provision was incorporated in previous legislation, but so great was the confusion which followed that it was not re-enacted. On that occasion, before assistance could be granted to individual farmers, taxation returns had to be examined and other great difficulties surmounted. Anomalies resulted and altogether the position was most confounded and confused.
The wheat conference was held last October, and the meeting of the Agricultural Council afterwards agreed that all the States should fall into line with the Commonwealth in order that the scheme for a homeconsumption price for wheat should apply to the present season, but. experience showed that it was not possible. The Commonwealth Government lost no time in having legislation passed, and the Government of New South Wales made haste to bring down its complementary legislation, and had taken it to a certain advanced stage when it was discovered that other States could not follow its example. It decided, therefore, not to apply the plan to wheat harvested last year. The position with the other States was briefly as follows: Victoria passed its legislation; Queensland acted very quickly and was one of the first States to comply with the Commonwealth plan; South Australia .took its legislation only as far as the first-reading stage, and Western Australia left the first reading of its bill to the eve of the recent State election.
Thus, no blame is attributable to the Commonwealth for the delay in setting the plan in motion. At the wheat conference it was realized that a contingency such as happened might arise, and it was agreed that, if the Commonwealth plan were not adopted by all the parties in time to apply it to the current season, the flour tax should be re-enacted in order to grant relief to wheat-growers to tide them over 1935-36. When it was evident that its plan for the stabilization of the wheat industry could not operate before next season the Commonwealth Government re-enacted the flour tax. This legislation was, in principle, some approach to the ideal of the home-consumption price. By introducing this legislation, the Commonwealth Government has stood to its promise to help the wheat-growers, and I propose to support it.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), I think, was right when he pointed out the varying conditions in the States as indicating .the difficulty of laying down a standard of costs of production throughout Australia. The report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry also brought out that point very strongly. I am perfectly sure that the conditions of planting and harvesting wheat in Western Australia are very different from those prevailing on the Darling Downs, where there is the black soil. Farmers on the Downs, however, get a good yield. The object of this scheme is to arrive at a system by which we can, as far as possible, do justice to the wheat-growers as a whole throughout the Commonwealth. I support the bill.
.- Last year the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) called a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, to which he invited representatives of the wheat industry all over Australia. After a session of several days, the conference resolved in favour of a home-consumption price for wheat. The delegates agreed that the Parliament of each wheat-producing State should be asked to enact uniform legislation to give effect to the resolutions of the conference. I venture to say that had all the States concerned passed the promised legislation, this Parliament would have had time to enact the comple mentary measure for the application of the scheme to the 1935 crop, and the difficulty now confronting us would have been obviated. I cannot but feel that the States, because of their failure to adhere to that undertaking, are to blame foi1 the fact that we are now dealing with legislation of a temporary nature, instead of having on the statute-book permanent legislation to provide an Australian home-consumption price for wheat.
– .What will be the home-consumption price a bushel in Australia ?
– That is a matter to be determined by the board to be set up for that purpose. Much has been said about discrimination in the distribution of this grant to the wheat-growers. In view of the fact that this legislation is of a temporary nature only, and because so much injury has befallen wheatgrowers in two or three States, I believe that differentiation can fairly be made under this measure. But I remind honorable members opposite that no suggestion was made in the Scullin Government’s legislation of the policy that is now espoused by them. That legislation simply provided for assistance to the industry. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) seemed to be extremely anxious that this assistance should go only to really necessitous farmers. It is remarkable that he has not displayed the same concern in that regard in respect of the sulphur bounty, much of which is paid in his own electorate. Is the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited penniless ? Is it without means of competing on the markets of the world for sulphur? Does not the whole community, particularly the farmers, bear the cost of the bounty on that commodity? When the iron bounty was under consideration in this House, did honorable members opposite inquire whether the proposed recipients were penniless or not, or whether they had large credits in the bank? Such quibbles were not suggested when those matters were under consideration. Do honorable members opposite contend that a manufacturer, who has sufficient capital to compete in the open market should receive no benefit under the tariff until his capital is exhausted?
In, this respect, honorable members opposite hare been quite inconsistent.
With myself, they advocate the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool. Representatives of wheat-growers’ unions and primary producers’ associations in the various States asked for such a pool, and the blame “for not establishing it does not rest upon the Commonwealth Government. As the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) has pointed out, a constitutional difficulty prevented the Commonwealth Government from passing such legislation. Furthermore, even when difficulties under section 91 of the Constitution did not arise, the States had to legislate to make federal legislation for a compulsory pool effective. The representative of my own State of Western Australia at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council could not give an assurance to the Minister for Commerce that the Western Australian Government would introduce legislation to provide for the establishment of a compulsory pool. This is a matter upon which it is essential that the States must be in agreement before any effective step can be taken. It is not the desire of the wheat-growers of Australia that there should be discrimination in the application of any assistance granted to an industry, and the wheatfarmer is definitely against any discrimination in respect of his own industry.
In regard to clause 6 of the bill, I agree that it is not possible, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) suggests, for the Commonwealth to administer this fund effectively within the States. It is infinitely better that the States themselves should administer this relief because, of necessity, the nature of relief varies in the respective States. However, I contend that the Commonwealth Government, should see to it that this relief is so administered that it will not become a political football. The State authorities would be the best to determine which farmers are most entitled to this relief, but as far as possible, the assistance must be distributed on a common basis as between the States. I submit that the Commonwealth Government could not set up an equitable formula for the distribution of this money right throughout Australia. The formula that would suit
Victoria, in which only a limited area would be affected, could not satisfactorily be applied under the conditions existing in South Australia or Western Australia. But, if the State authorities will submit a reasonable proposition to the Minister for Commerce, and he approves it, the administration of this assistance can be carried out satisfactorily. The farmers themselves and their organizations have been exceedingly reasonable and sympathetic in this matter towards those farmers who are situated in the most badly affected areas. All of the resolutions passed by their various organizations have favored greater assistance being given to those who need it more than others. That is a practical formula. Honorable members on both sides of the House acknowledge that permanent legislation is necessary to assist this industry, and if such legislation is enacted to fix a reasonable home-consumption price for wheat, the matters of which so much has been made in this debate will not arise. The farmers to-day are quite willing that those who have been hit hardest should get the greatest benefit from this fund.
.- I did not intend to say very much in connexion with this matter, but I have been impelled to address myself more closely to it after listening very attentively to the remarks made by representatives of the wheat-growers. The time has come when we should go thoroughly into this matter and fix a definite price for wheat which would enable the wheat-grower to live on a decent standard. From conversations which I have had with farmers in Victoria, I have learned that they would be satisfied with a fixed price of 3s. 6d. a bushel. That would be a reasonable price, which would enable the wheat-grower to live on a fair standard.
– The wheat-farmer now receives 3s. 8d. a bushel.
– Yet, although times are prosperous, we are now asked to grant him a further increase. If he were suffering’ to-day because of a low price for wheat, we should consider his position, and at least place him on the standard which he enjoyed last year. However, on the figures submitted to-day he will be placed, under this legislation, in a better position than he enjoyed last year, although, to-day, prices are higher.
– What was his position last year ?
– Are we going to compensate everybody for their losses over the last five years? If we are to do this, we shall have to apply legislation similar to this to every worker and business man who has suffered in the depression. I shall support any legislation which does not confer preferential benefits upon any section but is to be applied equally to the community as a whole. This Government is inconsistent in the manner in which it is granting assistance to certain sections of primary producers. To some it says, “ Because you receive a good price for your commodities, your assistance from the Commonwealth is to be reduced.” The Government has already followed this course in connexion with producers of certain commodities. Of course the farmers generally do not favour fixed prices for their commodities; they prefer to take the price that is offering in the open market. However, the sooner they are prepared to submit to a price which will enable them to live on a standard equal to that enjoyed under awards by other workers the better it will be for themselves and the country as a whole. Assistance otherwise granted to industry tends to build up a wealthy section at the expense of the great majority of the people. Some honorable members, who are wheat-growers themselves, will actually participate in this benefit to a greater extent than other farmers and thus will be enabled to restore their banking accounts and live in even greater luxury than they do at the present time. They will be enabled to buy more cars of the very latest models in which to ride to the races, various regattas and sporting gatherings throughout the Commonwealth at the expense of the general taxpayer. Such a system of granting assistance to industry is wrong. If an ordinary member of the community is on the dole and he is given an extra day’s relief work a week his dole is, in consequence, cut down. Furthermore, in fixing the amount of dole to which a man is entitled every State government takes into account, as family income, the old-age or invalid pension, paid to his father or mother. If it is right to apply this principle to the city worker, it is right to apply it also to the fanners, and to wealthy squatters who sit in this House. Those men are silent now; they do not even try to justify the paying of this grant, in the way in which it is proposed. When the Prime Minister was asked some time ago whether it was proposed to provide any assistance for potato-growers in Tasmania whose crops had been destroyed, he replied that it was not a Commonwealth responsibility to make grants to repair damage done by every wind that blew.
– The potatogrowers do not produce for export.
– I am prepared to go so far as to advocate the making of a grant towards the reduction of freights to wheat-farmers, but I will not agree to the using of public funds for increasing the home consumption price of wheat, so that those who are already well off, may be made still better off.
– How would the honorable member reduce freight?
– I am opposed to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and other honorable members in this House dipping their hands into the public treasury while the workers in my constituency are starving. It is estimated that when wheat is at 3s. 6d. a bushel, at least 50 per cent, of the wheat-growers throughout Australia are able to live in comfort. I am prepared to deal f airly with every section of the community, and those farmers who are battling against adverse climatic conditions, have my sympathy. As the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) pointed out, it is the wish of the Wheatgrowers Association that those farmers who have suffered the most should receive the most assistance. I agree with that, and that was the view put forward by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), although he received nothing but abuse for it. It is intended to reduce the amount of assistance to certain other primary producers, because they received a better price last year for their product than in the year before. I agree with that, and merely add that it should be applied to the wheat-farmers also. I object most strongly to airy one in receipt of an income of £S00 a year coming to the Government and asking for still more assistance. It is the same as if I were to apply to the State Government of Tasmania for the dole. Do honorable members know what is done in my State to those who make improper claims for the dole? They are charged with an attempt to defraud the Government, and, if convicted, are sentenced to imprisonment for a month. In my opinion, the wealthy wheat-farmers in. this House are in exactly the same position as the fraudulent applicant for the dole, and I hope the press of Australia will publish that statement. If I were a magistrate, and they were brought before me, I should have no hesitation in sentencing them to imprisonment for attempted fraud. Neither legally nor morally are they entitled to vote themselves public money in this way. I am prepared to assist any man doing useful work who is in need of assistance to provide reasonable comforts for his wife and children, but I cannot agree to the indiscriminate payment of public money to wheat-farmers, rich and poor alike. We know that upon the death of many wealthy wheat-growers, their estates pay probate duties on hundreds of thousands of pounds, but when the worker on the dole dies, he does not leave enough to bury him. I believe that if the Government has money to spare in this way, it should be voted to the relief of distressed farmers, whether they are wheat farmers or not.
.- Every honorable member will, I think, agree that during the last five years, it has been essential to give assistance of some kind to the wheat farmers, but I cannot agree with the manner in which that assistance has been rendered. In only one year out of the last five has the Government assistance been of a satisfactory kind, and that was when it was given only to those who were not in receipt of a taxable income. I know it is a hard matter for the State and Commonwealth authorities to decide on a workable scheme for the distribution of assistance, but it should be possible to avoid the waste of public funds by making grants to those who have no need for them. This bill provides for the making of grants on the basis of so much for necessitous cases, so much on an acreage basis, and so much on a bushel basis With that, I do not agree. Farmers who are in receipt of a taxable income should be excluded from the benefits of the grant. Many wheat farmers are in receipt of incomes from other sources than wheatgrowing, and they should not participate in this bounty. There are mixed farmers, for instance, and-
– Mixed politicians.
– Yes, and politicians, too. It is altogether unfair, and gives the electors a bad taste in their mouths, that men in receipt of the basic wage, and even less, should be called upon to contribute revenue for the making of grants to wealthy people. Only last season in Canberra, one wheat farmer said that he could congratulate the Government upon what it had done to assist the wheat farmers, because that assistance had raised his net income from £7,000 to £7,800. I do not think that any man in receipt of such a large income as that should participate in the distribution of public money.
As was pointed out by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) it is useless to devote public money to assisting some farmers. Some men in the dry areas of the Mallee could be assisted for a dozen years in succession, and they would still be in trouble. I do not know what could be done for them except to place them on larger holdings where they would be able to graze sheep. The position of many of these men is worse to-day than it was five years ago. We know that people in receipt of the dole become used to it, and hardened to it. There are good, bad and indifferent people to be found in all sections of the community, and that applies to farmers also. Some of them are on land which will not provide them with a decent living, and, as year follows year, they are going down in their own estimation and in ours, too. I have been informed by inspectors administering relief under the State schemes that when the inspector visits a district, the farmers telephone to each other giving the information that he has arrived, and. stock, and even household goods, are moved from one place to the other to deceive the inspector. They ure sent to a farmer who is not in receipt of relief. Last year, a contain amount of money was allocated by the Commonwealth Government for the benefit of apple-growers. Some of it went to South Australia, and one man who received probably one-twentieth of the total amount allocated to that State paid £10,000 in cash for an orchard for his son. I do not know what steps the Government can take to avoid anomalies of that kind, except to refuse assistance to those who are in receipt of a taxable income. During the last five years, Government assistance to wheat farmers averaged about 5d. a bushel. I consider that some other means could have been found by the Government to assist the wheat-growers. The freight payable on wheat transported in Australia amounts to approximately the same sum as that which the Government has paid in bounty during the past five years. I have discussed this subject with various bodies, including officials of State railway departments and with Ministers of this House, and from those discussions I conclude that a wiser and more reasonable method of assisting the growers would have been the payment by the Commonwealth Government of the freight charges on wheat. The commissioners of State railways could Save been asked to render their several accounts for freight to the Commonwealth. That procedure would have reduced the cost of administration practically to nil, as it would have entailed only an account being sent to the Commonwealth from the State railway departments concerned and cheques being sent to them.
– How would that have assisted the farmer in connexion with his liabilities of last year?
– I shall come to that. The average freight payable on wheat transported in Australia was approximately 5d. a bushel; the same amount will be distributed by the Commonwealth to wheat-growers by way of assistance. Very often a farmer living within 25 or 30 miles of a seaboard is required to pay 2d. a bushel for freight. Another farmer living 300 miles from the seaboard, pays 7d. a bushel, but irrespective of this difference, both producers will receive, as assistance from the Commonwealth, the same amount a bushel. Tinder my suggestion the whole position would be levelled out and every farmer would receive the seaboard price at his nearest railway siding. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will give this matter consideration; it is well worth investigation. In my opinion, an agreement such as I have mentioned between the Commonwealth and the State railway departments would smooth out the whole position and each producer, irrespective of the distance which his property lies from the seaboard would receive the same measure of assistance. Of course, I realize that difficulties would be involved. Possibly there are parts in which men are farming some distance from a siding, and in some places their wheat has to be lightered. But their exceptional charges could be debited t© the Commonwealth in the same manner as railway freight. I firmly believe that very soon we shall have to consider the cutting out of all bounties. If honorable members pause to think, they will realize that practically every primary industry in Australia to-day receive-: assistance from the Commonwealth Government. I know of only one - the wool-growing industry - that does not come within this category. The woolgrower has experienced hard times, but the Government has never been called upon to aid that industry in any way. Year by year as the fleeces are taken from the sheep, they are sold under the hammer and the clips are cleared. We should be proud of this producing section which has been able to stand upon its own feet. Honorable members will recall that about nine years ago, land values, like all ether values in Australia, were greatly inflated. Originally some farmers mayhave bought land at £5 an acre, which was its true value. Some of them sold out for probably £10 and subsequent changes in ownership may have increased The valuation of the land to as much as £25 an acre. It is impossible to farm profitably land carrying such high capital values. The mortgagee has often lent double the true value of the land and how the Commonwealth Government can deal with such cases in its scheme of debt adjustment, I do not know. It will be impossible for persons who purchased land at four times the true value of it, to farm it profitably in the next 25 years. There are ways in which this problem could have been overcome without Government assistance; but a certain amount of greed is present in human nature, and it is found in farmers as much as in any other section. For the sake of argument I will suppose that there are twenty wheat-growing countries in the world and that their carry-over of wheat in the past three or four years has been 10 per cent, or 15 per cent. If representatives from the producing countries met in conference and agreed to reduce the wheat acreage by 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, the whole difficulty would be overcome. Unfortunately, what happens is that when one sees that a neighbour is reducing production by 20 per cent, he immediately increases his production in corresponding proportion. I believe that the producers themselves, instead of approaching the Government year by year for assistance, could solve the problem in this manner. I desire it to he clearly understood that I am not opposed to the granting of assistance to the farmer; I know that he needs it, because he has passed through difficult times. But I am dissatisfied with the method by which this assistance is being given. I hope that in the near future, the Government, when rendering assistance to the farmer, will take cognizance of the suggestions which I have made in connexion with freight.
– Upon other occasions I have expressed my disapproval of the practice of granting assistance to wheat-growers from Consolidated Revenue. I do not oppose the grant on the ground that I consider that the wheatgrowers are not entitled to assistance, or because they do not require assistance, but for the reason that a disorganized industry will never get out of its difficulties until those engaged in it put their house in order. For some years this Parliament has annually voted to the wheat-growers some millions of pounds. After repeated representations by myself, the Government summoned the wheat-growers of Australia to a conference, which resolved in favour of a home-consumption price to be secured by organization, possibly without any extra tax on the consumer of bread. Opportunity was given, and legislation to this end was passed in this Parliament, but the complementary State legislation was not enacted in all States, primarily because the industry expected a higher return for wheat and secondly, because it was known that the flow of easy money from the Commonwealth would be continued. If the wheat.growers of Australia would organize on an Australian basis, and thereby be in a position to recognize the difficulties which other primary industries are facing, it would be possible for all of them to formulate a policy that would get them out of their troubles earlier than is to be expected while the present apathy continues. I do not agree with the remarks of honorable members who state that the demands of the Country party have enabled the primary producer to receive too much assistance. I consider that we should give greater attention to the devising of measures to deliver the unfortunate primary producer from his troubles. The stress which the primary industries are experiencing is due entirely to the closing of foreign markets for our exportable products.
– The Ottawa agreement.
– If the honorable member will refer to statistics he will find that he is not correct. The partial closing of the world’s markets against our wheat is responsible for the unfortunate plight of growers, who, owing to their lack of knowledge of economics, use their influence in opposition to measures that would assist all primary industries. Most of the producers of wheat in three States of the Commonwealth are, I regret to say, freetraders, and they will not do a tap to promote the secondary industries. They complain that too much of their commodity is a surplus, which must be exported, to enable them to derive the full value of a home-consumption price, and they will not realize that prosperous secondary industries would provide an expanding local market for primary products. They would be prepared to increase the price of wheat in Australia to 5s. a bushel. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) indicated that by interjection to-day. He would impose that price upon the local consumers, whose demand can be maintained and increased only through the fostering of their industries by means of a protective tariff. The sooner we recognize the possibility of increasing, not by thousands, but by tens of thousands, the number of workers engaged in Australia’s secondary industries, the sooner shall we get the wheatgrowers out of their trouble by assuring to them a reasonable home-consumption price. I arn not disposed to alter my previous opinions and the votes which I have cast upon such matters to oppose the granting of sums of money from the Treasury to the wheat-growers each year, while organized primary industry does not obtain assistance, and while the wheat-grower is not prepared to help himself. “When the wheat-grower helps himself he will realize the difficulty with which all Australian workers, whether on the land or in secondary industries have to contend. The honorable member for Denison said that this assistance would enable 50 per cent, of wheat-farmers who are now living in comfort, to buy more luxury cars in which to trip to race meetings and other sports carnivals. I do not believe that the amount of assistance proposed at present will bc very substantial, even bearing in mind the increased price of wheat. However. I do consider that if the primary producers of Australia as a body were to organize and view the economic conditions in their proper perspective, they could place themselves on a sound footing. The people or the country would not in any way be the losers by it. In my opinion the primary producer is not opposed to the creation of a fixed price; he desires the fixation of a minimum price. If any industry to-day is deserving of consideration from the Treasury, it i3 the dairying industry. Dairy farmers throughout the Commonwealth have got together and have fixed a price for butter in Australia, giving to the people a very cheap commodity. Despite their efforts at self-help, however, they are, with the fruit-growers, the greatest sufferers from low prices.
If there is a desire to assist one section of the community, and at the same time confer a benefit on the greatest section of the community, it can be done best by proclaiming a reasonable price for dairy products. It was suggested in New Zealand recently that the price of butter should be fixed at ls. 2d. to ls. 3d. per lb., but so far nothing has been done in that direction.
– Order ! The bill under discussion does not deal with the dairying industry.
– If money is to be appropriated from Consolidated Revenue in order to assist primary industries, it should be made available to producers who have organized themselves, and, like those engaged in dairying, produced a commodity which is offered to the Australian consumer at a low price, when the loss on export is considered. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), who is opposed to the granting of bounties, said that all industries are now assisted by such means. That is not so, for at no time has the dairying industry been so assisted.
– It has been given the equivalent of a bounty.
– That is not correct. The dairying industry receives a price based on Australian conditions. That has been made possible by organization.
– Order ! I again remind honorable members that this bill does not deal with the dairying industry.
– It deals with an appropriation of revenue to assist an industry which is not more deserving than are some other industries which receive no assistance. I see no good reason for departing from the attitude I have adopted in past years when I have opposed similar grants for reasons which I have stated in this House on many occasions, and, consequently, I shall not support this measure.
.- I join with the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) in his desire to see the wheat industry organized and a homeconsumption price paid for wheat con sumed in Australia. I regret, however, that the wheat-growers of this country have not the same prospects of success in regard to the establishment of a localconsumption price as have the dairy farmers or the growers of sugar, largely because only about one-fifth of the total wheat produced in Australia is consumed by Australians.
– If secondary industries were encouraged they would provide a market.
– If we have to wait until the secondary industries of this country develop to such an extent that they will consume the greater part of the Australian wheat production, then I say that the solution of this problem lies with our grandchildren rather than with us. I come from a State which is greatly concerned with the success or failure of the wheat industry, and, consequently, 1 feel gratified at the reception which has been given to this bill, particularly by the members of the Opposition. Recently, when this House had before it a proposal to assist certain rural producers by an expenditure of about £5,000, the proposal was stonewalled for a day. During the debate on that measure, some most violent expressions were used by several honorable members of the Labour party in condemnation of primary producers who, they said, were not entitled to receive any assistance from the public treasury. During the last two or three days a most pleasant change has taken place, and now a spirit of sweet reasonableness exists among the members of the Opposition. The person whom we have most to congratulate on this change of attitude is the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), who, early in his career as leader, seems to have made more amenable to reason some of the most difficult members of hia party. The result is that, whereas a few days ago a proposal to expend about £5,000 to assist certain primary producers met with almost vicious opposition, the present proposal involving an expenditure of £1,800,000 has met with almost unanimous support. I imagine that the Leader of the Opposition was not particularly happy in criticizing this bill, and that, in fact, he was grateful to the Commonwealth Government for the assistance it proposed to give to the wheatgrowers of Western Australia, particularly as the government of that State had failed to legislate for a homeconsumption price for wheat. Undoubtedly the two States most concerned with a home-consumption price for wheat arc Western Australia and South Australia; yet they were the only two States which either neglected or refused to pass the legislation necessary to complete an Australia-wide scheme for the establishment of a home-consumption price for wheat - in one case, through neglect, and in the other because of the obstinacy of certain individuals.
– Does not the honorable member know that the legislation passed by the Parliament of New South Wales was specifically framed not to apply to the present season ?
– The explanation has already been given by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom). The Government of New South Wales had ready the necessary machinery for the legislation to be put into operation last year, but when ir learned that two of the other States - Western Australia and South Australia - were hanging back and would not pass legislation in time for the current season’s harvest, it altered its measure.
The Leader of the Opposition contended that the Commonwealth Government should have laid down conditions as to the disbursement of the grant. If the principle were applied to all Government grants, there would be serious objection by the governments of the States, which already complain of dictation by the central government. In my opinion, the Commonwealth Government has done the correct thing in reserving to itself the right to scrutinize the proposals of the State governments and to approve generally of the methods to be adopted by them in the distribution of the money. Obviously one general method cannot be adopted throughout Australia, because of the varying needs of the industry in the different States. Conditions must be adapted to suit, the circumstances in each State, and, indeed, in each district. The States, with their agricultural departments and their rural and agricultural banks, containing trained men who have had many years of experience in handling similar problems, are better fitted to undertake this work than is the Commonwealth, which has no staff of its own to do tlie work. “Were the Commonwealth Government to attempt to appoint its own officers to acquire the necessary data for the disbursement of these moneys, it would immediately be accused of wastefulness and a desire to create unnecessary Government departments. The only practical thing to do is to hand the money to the State governments for distribution among the wheat-growers, reserving to the Commonwealth Government the right to approve of the methods by which the money is to be distributed.
A good deal has been said regarding the granting of money to all farmers irrespective of their circumstances, but if we study the statistical returns for the last six years we shall find that as a class, farmers are not wealthy. I have here the last report of the Commissioner of Taxation, in which he shows that although farmers are the most numerous of any class of taxpayers, they are among the poorest of those who pay taxes.
– They are probably the best tax dodgers.
– In Australia last year 9,400 farmers engaged in various forms of primary production paid taxes, representing 1.70 per cent, of the total amount paid in taxation for that year. During the same period 3,339 manufacturers paid 11.37 per cent, of the amount collected in taxes. The poorest section of those included under the heading “ farmers “ are the wheat-farmers. Some members of the Opposition have contended that a farmer who grows wheat at a profit should not receive a bounty from the community. There is a good deal to be said for that contention, notwithstanding that the same principle does not apply to bounties generally, or to the benefits of protection. No discrimination is made between industries which operate at a profit and those which are conducted at a loss when a customs tariff on a certain item is fixed. The benefit given to the sugar and butter industries is given to all engaged in those industries.
– There was that discrimination in regard to wheat in the legislation brought before Parliament the year before last.
– If the Opposition can suggest a formula which would be equitable I should be pleased to support it. I. realize, however, the difficulty of finding a formula which will operate fairly to ail and not cause anomalies. The proposal to fix a minimum of, say, 12 or 15 bushels to the acre is impracticable, for reasons which have already been made clear by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). Fifteen bushels to the acre may be an excellent crop in some districts, and a poor one in others, so that our estimate made on that basis would not be workable. If, however, honorable members opposite can evolve some reasonable formula it will receive the support of honorable members on this side of the House. The present position has been met by the provision of a special amount of £360,000 to be distributed amongst growers in necessitous circumstances. That is, I think, the ‘best proposal which has been submitted, though I think there is a good deal of difference of opinion as to whether that amount should not be increased. Speaking from my rather imperfect knowledge of the conditions of the farmers of Western Australia, I feel convinced that it would have been definitely fairer if a larger appropriation of money were made for the assistance of farmers with poor crops in that State. There are two definite sections of farmers in Western Australia, one comprising a large number receiving good normal yields, and the other also comprising a large number who have had, if not quite a total loss, what, for the purpose of practical farming, may nevertheless be termed a total loss. The value of their yield is a good deal below the cost of production.
– In some cases there has been a total loss.
– Quite so. As I have said, it would be fairer if a larger proportion of funds were appropriated for distribution amongst those in necessitous circumstances. I confess that I do not think any member of this House is in as good a position as are the governments of the respective States to say just what that proportion should be. This Government and the members of this Parliament have not the information in the possession of the State governments, and must, in any case, inquire from the Departments of Agriculture in the different States for the information on which to base a calculation as to the best apportionment of these moneys. While I think it would be better if a larger sum were to be appropriated to cover necessitous cases - and I recommend to the Minister that in exercising his discrimination in making special inquiries in that respect, particularly in Western Australia, to investigate very closely the demand which is growing in the State for a larger portion to bc given to necessitous people - I realize that, at bottom, the method of making the distribution is a matter that must ultimately rest with the State governments, rather than a Commonwealth Minister. On the whole, I think that the Commonwealth Government has dealt wisely with the wheat question, and is deserving of the congratulations of members of this House and the thanks of the wheat-growers generally for the provision which it has made.
.- Practically all the observations which 1 made with reference to primary industries during the discussion which took place only a few days ago on a bill to provide a bounty of 15s. a ton to primary producers, other than wheat-growers, for fertilizers used in the production of their crops, can be applied to those who will benefit from the passage of this legislation. What surprises mc is not so much the contents of the bill itself as the speeches made by honorable members in support of the Government’s proposal in view of the findings of commissions of inquiry established by their own governments, and upon which primary producers have had the maximum say. An examination of the figures submitted during those inquiries discloses that it is not -i case to-day of helping an industry in dire straits, one which is likely to go out of existence as was said when these benefits were first proposed, but, according to those appointed to inquire into the industry, it is one of appropriating Commonwealth’ revenues to assist many who are not in need of assistance. The year 1931 was, I think, the first year in which a grant of financial aid was made to the wheat-growers. It was then said that the growers were in a bad way because of the fall of overseas prices, the increase of home charges, and the impossibility of finding markets for their surplus production. These conditions, if they did exist in 1931 - and we have only the evidence submitted by members of Parliament interested in the industry to bear them out - do not prevail to-day. The royal commission which inquired into the wheat, flour and bread industries, in its second report, stated thai 40 per cent, of the wheat-growers, after taking into account interest charges, can produce profitably when wheat is sold at 3s. 3d. a bushel. But, to-day. many of the wheat-farmers are not worried about interest charges. because they are in more fortunate circumstances. Also included in that calculation is an amount estimated to cover payment for the farmer’s labour. It cannot be said that that price would only give him an opportunity to carry on. Not only i:there provision to cover the cost of the farmer’s labour, but there is also an amount estimated to cover the cost of freight to the ports. So that honorable members can see that 40 per cent, of the farmers can operate very successfully with wheat at 3s. 3d. a bushel.
– That calculation does not include interest on the capital invested.
– The royal commission certainly reported as follows : -
The basis of cost No. 1 is the actual cost of the operations on the farm, including a sum for the farmer’s own labour, but excluding all interest charges. It, therefore, indicates the average price which the farmer must obtain at the siding if he is to continue in production, assuming that he is free of all debt and lias credit or cash to finance Iris year’s operations.
But in regard to cost No. 2, with which I was dealing, the report continues-
The basis of cost No. 2 is cost No. 1 plus such interest charges as the farmer has to meet.
That proves conclusively that, as I have said, interest charges and an amount estimated to cover payment for the farmer’s labour were taken into account, showing that many farmers to-day are operating successfully when the price of wheat is over 3s. 3d. a bushel, and, as honorable members opposite have admitted, has at present a tendency to rise. Nobody knows to what heights it will eventually go.
A great deal of discussion has taken place in this Parliament in regard to the establishment of a homeconsumption price for wheat, but if we were to permit some of the parliamentary representatives of a section of the farmers to fix a fair home-consumption price for wheat, their estimate would be a remarkable one. Let us examine the assistance rendered to this industry. According to the Commonwealth Year-Book, including the appropriation provided for in this bill, the total amount of assistance granted to the wheat industry since 1931 is £14,348,000. I put it quite plainly that, if the Government can afford to provide that amount of money for what, according to the farmers themselves, is an inefficient industry, or at any rate is one which cannot pay under reasonable conditions - there have been many years in the past when the price of wheat was not greater than it is at the moment, and wheat-farmers received no bounty - it is surely time that it took over the whole of the wheat industry and managed it itself. A certain section of the farmers is so avaricious and so anxious to obtain as much as possible through the efforts of its representatives in this Parliament that it will force the hand of any government which has not a majority. The party which is in power to-day has not a majority, and has to rely on the cooperation, and goodwill of the so-called Country party, and because of that we find that legislation such as that now before the House is forced through this Parliament in an ill-considered manner, on many occasions by the utilization of the guillotine. The result is that honorable members have no opportunity to examine closely its provisions.
Some honorable members opposite have said that they approve of the proposal to provide that only those in necessitous circumstances should obtain assistance from the Government, although some of them qualified their remarks by saying that they would support such a proposal if it were practicable. I point out to them that previously in the legislation providing for the grafting of bounties to primary producers, a definite provision was inserted that only those not in receipt of a taxable income were entitled to receive assistance.Was that provision deleted from subsequent bills because of the fact that it was an impracticable measure, or because of the undue influence that a section of the members of this Parliament was able to exercise upon the Government? If it was on the score of impracticability, I put it to honorable members opposite that they will have ample opportunities in committee to vote for an amendment which cannot be ruled out on the argument submitted by honorable members that it is impossible to operate. The provision to which I refer was inserted by a United Australia party government, and read as follows : -
A wheat-grower shall not be entitled to receive assistance under this act unless -
During the year ended the 30th day of June, 1934, he derived no taxable income , - or
Having derived such income he produces evidence to the satisfaction of a State authority that there are circumstances by reason of which it is just that he should receive such assistance.
That was the original provision inserted in this legislation, not by members of the Labour party, although they approved of it very strongly but did not have the numbers to give effect to it, but by members of the United Australia party at a time when that party had an absolute majority in this Parliament and did not have to depend on assistance rendered by the members of the so-called Country party.
– Honorable members on this side, Mr. Speaker, are unable to hear the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) owing to the discussion which is taking place amongst honorable members opposite.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! I ask honorable members to subdue their conversation.
– The provision in previous legislation was removed only after a general election, when the United Australia party had to depend upon the assistance of the Country party.
– The honorable member is not discussing the bill.
– I am discussing an amendment which the Opposition proposes to move in committee to give honorable members opposite an opportunity to vote in accordance with the speeches they have delivered. If the bill is passed - in its present form honorable members opposite will be able to tell their constituents that they had no opportunity to vote for any restriction in the direction I suggest. The members of the Opposition propose to give them an opportunity to say whether they approve of Parliament voting considerable sums of public money to a wealthy section of the fanning community, particularly in view of the distress among other sections. I remind the members of the Country party that no honorable member claiming to represent country interests can justify before country constituents the granting of Commonwealth revenue to wealthy farmers. As a matter of fact, if an opinion were obtained from the farmers it would be found that the great bulk of small farmers - those most directly needing assistance - would say that by depriving the wealthy farmers of money to which they are not entitled, a larger amount would be available to assist other deserving sections of the community. The suggestion to re-insert a provision, limiting the payments would meet with the approval, rather than the disapproval, of a majority of the wheat-growers. “What authority had the Government to say that the wheat-growers desired, the deletion of the provision I have quoted? What farmers’ organizations protested against limiting the payment to those in necessitous circumstances? The only protest was that made by the members of this Parliament, who seized the opportunity to dip their hands into the Commonwealth Treasury. Although the conditions under which the grant is made are not definitely laid down, the bill at least provides that the State governments shall submit .to the Commonwealth Government for approval plans for the distribution of the money. That being so, honorable members will be in order in discussing the manner in which this grant is to be distributed. A change has come over the situation in country districts in New South Wales. When the price of wheat overseas was low, and the product could not be exported profitably, an anti-Labour government took steps to keep the wheat-growers on their holdings. It desired to do so simply because those who had liens upon the properties of wheat-growers were not anxious to foreclose. Owing to the price of wheat then prevailing, it would have been unprofitable for them to do so. The Government of New South Wales passed legislation supposed to provide a certain amount of protection to wheat-growers by preventing unscrupulous money lenders and others interested in the loaning of money from foreclosing. The same government is in office in New South Wales to-day, but because the price of wheat has risen and the money-lenders are anxious to get their greedy paws upon the properties of distressed farmers throughout the length and breadth of the State who are battling for an existence, stay orders are now being lifted, and many farmers in New South Wales are threatened with eviction. The wheat-growers’ organizations, instead of being satisfied with the activities of the State Government, are calling meetings of protest and preparing to use all sorts of measures against the Government to prevent evictions. Does such action disclose that they are satisfied with anti-Labour >State Governments? On the contrary, their action shows that there is extreme dissatisfaction. The members of the Country party who claim to represent the interests of the wheat-growers, could serve them to greater advantage by endeavouring to prevent small farmers from being evicted, instead of remaining here supporting a measure that will only give a large measure of assistance to wealthy wheat-growers. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) cited instances in South Australia of some farmers who had stay orders over their properties and were forced to adopt illegal tactics in order that they might obtain some return from their labour on their farms. The honorable member told us how some small farmers transported their productfrom their farms to the properties of other farmers for disposal to avoid the bailiff and to secure some return to enable them to maintain themselves and their families on a decent standard of comfort. The wheat-growers, who are operating under stay orders act in that way only when compelled to do so. I am referring more particu- larly to the struggling farmers in whom we should be interested. They act in the way mentioned, not because they are anxious to break the law, bur, because the anti-Labour governments are concerned only in granting public money to wealthy persons. They are compelled to take action in order to help themselves. The present anti-Labour Government and its like are not willing to assist the man who is struggling, whether he be a rural worker or a man earning a living in a city. This Government can be charged definitely with being a class government. It represents only wealthy interests and has no concern for the struggling man. To show that it is quite reasonable and logical to provide that undeserving persons snail not receive financial assistance in the form proposed, we have only to consider the way in which the unemployed in our cities, who have to go to government departments to receive the dole, are treated. These men have to submit to a close and humiliating examination in regard to not only their own incomes, but also those of every member of their families. They are examined by government inspectors, and all sorts of precautions are taken to ensure that they do not receive more than the law provides. In some instances unemployed persons have been able to evade the regulations, but there are not many such cases owing to the large army of inspectors who examine and persecute them. Whatever the regulations provide, they are justified in evading them. Indeed if an unemployed man received ten times the amount which the State governments at present allow, he could not be considered to be adequately provided for. Why should the unemployed, who have to submit to these restrictions and humiliating cross-examinations, be placed in a different category from that of farmers receiving government assistance? Why should not the wheatgrowers who receive the dole - because it is a dole - be examined as to their financial position? If it be right to exercise control over granting financial assistance to the unemployed in the cities, why is it not right to exercise some supervision over granting financial assistance to other sections of the community? I do not think that those engaged in the wheat-growing industry would object to some supervision. Their particular objection should be that some wheat-growers who do not deserve assistance are receiving financial aid and thereby depleting the fund from which necessitous farmers could be assisted from time to time. I want the Government to give honorable members, and particularly members of the Country party who claim to represent country interests, an opportunity to support the amendment to be moved, which will provide that no State government shall be granted an amount under this measure unless it is prepared to give an undertaking that only farmers in need of assistance shall benefit. Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The unemployed in the cities receive for their maintenance as little as os. 6d. a week. I put it to honorable members. Is any other section of the community in such dire need ? With this 5s. 6d. they have to provide not only food and clothing, but also shelter. No matter how poor any section of the farmers may feel themselves to be, I believe that not one of them can say that relatively his position is worse than that of the unemployed worker in the cities. Let us admit that some of the men on the land are in distressed circumstances and need assistance from the Government. There was a time when the United Australia party commanded a majority in this Parliament without the aid of the Country party, and was determined to see that aid similar to that provided under this measure was given only in necessitous cases. During the tea adjournment I have perused the 1933 volume of Hansard. From it I have learned that in that year members of the then government, and the Minister in charge of this bill, were opposed to any proposal to give government aid in other than necessitous cases. I shall make one or two quotations so that honorable members opposite may see whether all of those persons whom the bill is designed to aid are deserving cases. At page 5746 of vol. 143, Mr. Latham is reported to have said - lt would not be a proper distribution if the money were allowed to be received by persons who, although wheat-growers, do not need the assistance which this bill provides. The basis of the proposal of the Government is that it is proper to define the area of need and to contine the distribution of moneys, so far as it can fairly be done, to that area. Any money distributed outside that area to people who are not in need would diminish the money that could be received under the measure by the people within the area. There was a fear last year that in some quarters efforts would be made to evade the provisions of the federal legislation, and to distribute money upon a. bushel or quantity basis, which was not the intention o£ the Government.
It was not the intention of the then government, because it could carry on without the assistance of members of the Country party. But after the following general election the position was altered; the number of members of the United Australia party was reduced, and that party had to depend on the votes of members of the Country party. In order to ensure support from that quarter, the government amended the existing legislation, so that these hungry, avaricious people can dip into Commonwealth revenues.
Order! The honorable member is discussing, not the bill, but the motives of the Government in introducing the bill. His remarks are, therefore, irrelevant.
Mr.WARD. - If a quotation from the speech delivered by Mr. Latham is irrelevant, perhaps I may be permitted to quote from what was said at the same time by the Minister in charge of this bill. He is reported at page 5747 to have made the following remarks -
I merely emphasize the fact that this amendment will confine all the payments under the bill to those who can prove that they are in financial need. I have supported that principle from the outset.
The amendment which the Minister said he had supported from the outset was the amendment not of a Labour government, but of a United Australia party government, and was particularly designed to prevent a certain section of wealthy farmers, as well as their representatives in this chamber who combine political activities with their farming operations, from taking out of the revenues of the Commonwealth something to which they were not entitled. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) made some very nasty comments regarding those who aimed to defeat that measure. He gave a list of payments that had been received out of Commonwealth revenues by some of these “ deserving “ cases of whom wolmar from time to time. The list, which is to be found at page 5749, includes the following amounts: - £1,466 14s. l1d., £1,434 19s. 7d., £1,006 9s. 9d., £7S3, £516 5s. 6d., and £480 19s. 5d. There are many other large amounts in the list. The honorable member went on to say -
The amount of £1,434 which appears in the list was paid to a company which is not registered in Australia.
In the light of these figures, I ask honorable members whether this can be considered as a measure for the relief of distressed wheat-growers, or whether it is camouflaged in such a way as to attempt to delude members of this chamber, and the general public, into the belief that the Government’s only concern is to assist distressed wheat-growers when, as a. matter of fact, if the full history of these bounties were known, it would be found that many wealthy and undeserving persons had received payments? The time has come when the Labour party should take a definite stand against such proposals, which are forced upon the Government because it cannot maintain a majority unless it is prepared to come to terms with the Country party. I ask the House to compare the position of those who receive these enormous amounts out of the Commonwealth Treasury, with that of the unemployed worker who humps his “ bluey “ along the road in the search for employment, has to depend on a track ration, is not receiving even the bare necessaries of life, and is in many instances, forced to break the law in order that he may carry on. I put it to any honorable member opposite: If an unemployed worker had to depend wholly and solely upon the 5s. 6d. a week which he receives, we should very soon be relieved of the unemployment problem, because all would die of starvation. They have to depend on grants from relatives to supplement their meagre allowance. Many unfortunates have been forced to break the law to obtain food. No honorable member can contend that the revenues of the Commonwealth are being used in a fit and proper manner while one section is living under such conditions as those, and another section can use its influence in this Parlia- ment to secure for wealthy persons something to which they are not entitled. The honorable member for “Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has said that the wheat-growers are partly responsible for the position in which they find themselves, because they have not helped themselves. My complaint is that some primary producers and their parliamentary representatives help themselves too much at the expense of the general public. To an extent, I agree with the honorable member that the so-called representatives of primaryproducing interests in this Parliament have not always used their position and cast their votes in such a way as to assist the primary producers. I think it will be recognized that State and Federal governments have assisted these industries to a remarkable degree. As I pointed out earlier in my speech, just on £14,500,000 will have been voted to the wheat industry alone when this measure is passed, leaving out of account rebates of railway freights and other concessions which the wheat-growers have received from time to time from State governments. Yet honorable members opposite who to-day are concerned about the overseas position, and desire to preserve good markets and a profitable price for wheat-growers - I refer to members of the Country party - assisted the government of the day to sell the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, at a time when it was carrying wheat at a rate 30s. a ton cheaper than that charged by privately-owned shipping lines. Those honorable members used their position in this Parliament to sacrifice that line. On every occasion when they have had the opportunity to help the small farmer they have neglected to do so. An examination of the private position of every member of the Country party in this chamber, if we were able to make it, would make very interesting reading. I believe it would be found that the majority of them are comparatively wealthy men.
-Order! The private business of honorable members may not be discussed on this measure.
– I wish to show that the small struggling farmer receives no representation in this Parliament from members of the Country party. His representation comes from the ranks of the Labour party, because that party stands, not for the placing of city interests against country interests, but for the workers and toilers wherever they may be. It is opposed to those who would exploit the workers, whether they be in the cities or in the country districts. We believe in fair and just treatment for the straggler in the country, and are not prepared to render assistance to individuals who are not deserving of it, or in need of it. An attempt has been made to justify the assistance received from the Government on the plea that the wheat industry, being an export industry, and thus helping us to meet our overseas commitments, is so important to this country that it must be maintained at all costs. One honorable member opposite interjected while the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) was speaking, that potato-growing is not an industry which produces for export. It could be made an export industry if .it were bolstered up like the wheat industry has been. The same applies to many secondary industries which have to depend wholly and solely on the local market. The boot manufacturer could probably find overseas a ready sale for his boots if he could sell below the cost of production and expect the Government to subsidize him. The same applies to every industry one cares to examine. Consequently, honorable members are not justified in lending their support to measures of this nature on the single plea that these industries are of national importance and must be subsidized to enable us to meet our overseas commitments.
There is just one other point. Honorable members of the Country party, while complaining about the position of the primary industries, say nothing of the vast improvement in regard to price levels which has taken place since 1930. Wheat prices are to-day at least 50 per cent, in excess of those of 1930. Yet these honorable members complain that the overseas position is not satisfactory! They say that the foreign markets are now restricted. Why are they restricted ? Simply because those honorable members were so short-sighted as to vote for what is known as the Ottawa agreement, which restricted the then existing opportunities to place our surplus production overseas. Because of the attempt to make the British Empire a self-contained economic unit, foreign nations were compelled to retaliate, and they retaliated in the only possible way, by taking action against the importation of certain Australian primary products. Honorable members opposite cast their votes for the ratification of that agreement, which did more to restrict overseas markets than has been clone by any other measure brought before this chamber. If honorable members opposite desired to assist only the necessitous farmers the Labour party would be with them, but that is not the position. How many men engaged in wheatgrowing confine their activities wholly and solely to that avenue? We know that a great many of them engage in mixed farming. If a man makes a loss in one investment, is he entitled to ask the Government to make him a grant irrespective of the results from his other investments? We all know very well that many men engaged in wheat production also produce wool. The price of wool is rising. But do we find these particular individuals saying to the Government, “ Our position has remarkably improved compared with what it was previously, and we will not take this assistance you are offering us because we do not need it “. They are certainly not doing so. On the contrary they are putting out both hands to take everything the Government is offering them.
No member of the Labour party should support this proposal to provide assistance to wheat-growers who do not need it. No government that is worthy of the name should impose an added burden on the great majority of the people simply to pay a bounty to one section, which does not need it. As long as we have people living in the slums of our big cities on a starvation diet, with children going to school ill-clad and ill-fed, we should do nothing to increase the price of bread. To do anything that would have that effect would be a gross injustice that would fall heavily upon the poorestpeople in the community.
The Labour party will do its utmost to exclude from the provisions of this bill, first of all, members of Par- liament, who are not entitled to vote themselves sums of money from the public revenue; and, secondly, farmers who are comparatively wealthy, and have incomes upon which they pay .a substantial amount of tax. At the committee stage of the bill, the Labour party will give honorable members opposite an opportunity to limit this assistance to primary producers who are in real need of it. That end can be achieved, and the making of large grants to people who are not in need, will be rendered impossible by the adoption of amendments that will be moved by honorable members on this side of the chamber.
– I was of the opinion that when this Parliament last year adopted a measure to provide a home-consumption price for wheat every honorable member on this side of the chamber, including the members of the Ministry, and also the farming community as a whole, were satisfied. We were told by the Minister who introduced the bill to implement that plan that if a home-consumption price were provided for wheat no bounty would be asked for in the future. Yet, to-day, in spite of the fact that the price of wheat has risen very considerably, a proposal for a bounty is before us. The farmers do not want the home-consumption price to-day, and I do not think that any farmers’ organization has asked for the £1,S00,000 bounty, as provided for in this bill.
– The farmers have not said that they do not want a home-consumption price.
– I invite the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) to name any farmers’ organization which has requested that the provisions of this bill shall be enacted by this Parliament. The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), who is now abroad, assured us last year that if a home-consumption price for wheat were agreed to the farmers would be satisfied. It appears to me that certain Ministers who represent farming constituencies wish to hand surprise packets to the farmers, so that they may say to them during the next election campaign : “ Of course, you did not ask for this money, but we got it for you because we were sure you would not refuse it “. I do not think that the honorable member for Barker would find any honest farmers in his district who would say that they feel that they are entitled to this money. With wheat selling at 3s. Sd. a bushel it is entirely wrong for the Government to introduce a bill of this character. If the farmers who’ are not in need accept the money which the Government is now offering them I can only say that thu moral and ethical standard of the farmers of Australia has fallen to a very low plane.
– I could show the honorable member some telegrams that I have received this week on this subject.
– I should be surprised if the honorable member did not have some telegrams. Some farmers will grab everything they can with both hands. I know the farmers too well.
– If they were mean enough to take this money they would be too mean to send telegrams.
– I again invite the Minister to name any farmers’ organization which has asked for this grant of £l,S00,000. I would expect Mr. Field to accept this grant. He would ask for anything. One year he came here and asked for a grant on a bushel basis. The next year I happened to hear him say that he would like a grant on an acreage basis. He said “ If you look out from my verandah across my wheat field you will see disease running right through it. It would pay me to have a grant this year on an acreage basis instead of on a bushel basis “. I offer no objection to the making of grants to necessitous farmers. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said that there should be no discrimination in the payment of this bounty. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in reply, read a number of interesting quotations, but he did not remind us that when the bushel basis of distribution was adopted during the regime of the Scullin Government, 20 per cent, of the farmers received 80 per cent, of the grant and SO per cent, of them received only 20 per cent, of it. In other words 20 per cent, of the farmers received £1,500,000 by the distribution on the bushel basis, and 80 per cent, of them received £1,800,000. It was recognized by the Government at that time that the bushel basis of distribution was unfair and the next distribution was made on a bushel and acreage basis. Even that experiment was not successful, so the next bill introduced to deal with this subject provided that no farmer who had a taxable income should participate in the bounty. That provision always appealed to me. I considered it to be extremely equitable. Any honorable member who cared to visit the large country towns of New South Wales would find that thousands of farmers with the best land nearest the railways were making a fair return when wheat was as low as 2s. a bushel. I refer to wheat grown on unencumbered freehold.
– - What percentage of the farmers pay income tax ?
– The honorable member pays an income tax and he should be thankful. Although he represents a farming constituency, he must realize that it is unfair for “wealthy wheat-growers to put their hands into the public purse to benefit themselves, irrespective of their need. No honest farmer would support a measure of this kind. I say without hesitation that it would be dishonorable for wheat-growers not in necessitous circumstances to accept a bounty on their wheat when the price of wheat is 3s. 8d. a bushel - a better price, really, than the home-consumption price of 4s. 5d. a bushel which their leaders intimated would be satisfactory to them.
– Is the honorable member buying wheat at 3s. 8d. a bushel?
– The honorable member for Barker need only read the newspapers to know that the price is as I have said, and he is interjecting merely to divert attention from the fact that he is standing behind a bad case.
As a matter of fact, an effort is being made by the farmers’ representatives us this Parliament to get every penny they can out of the public purse for the farmers. This measure has been drawn in a very cunning and clever way. It says, first, that help shall he given to some necessitous farmers, and then that other help shall be given on a bushel basis and certain other help on an acreage basis. I do not think that any man who has been able to reap 18 bushels to the acre should participate in this bounty. Mr. John McElhone, senior compiler of the Bureau of Statistics of New South Wales, in giving evidence before the Wheat Commission said that the number of holdings in New South Wales growing wheat grain was 17,892. Of these 8,042 were growing under 15 bushels to the acre, and 10,383 under 18 bushels to the acre.
– Those are not the figures for the last harvest.
– They are figures that were presented to the Wheat Commission. They, at least, suggest that a line of demarcation could be drawn between necessitous farmers and those not in need of assistance. Some farmers reap between 30 and 40 bushels to the acre. Last year when I addressed myself to this subject in this House I directed attention to four districts in New South Wales in which an average of 30 bushels to tlie acre was reaped. It is unjust that persons operating under these favorable conditions should participate in this bounty. The honorable member for Barker seems to regard this contention with a certain amount of mirth. His conscience, like a certain conscience mentioned in the Scriptures, seems to have been seared as with a red hot iron. At any rate he can only giggle. Mr. McElhone also said in his evidence before the Wheat Commission : -
One of the outstanding results of the investigation appears to be the fact that jio fewer than 15,844,206 sheep, or 29.5 per cent, of the State’s total flock, are depastured on holdings on which wheat is grown.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) has pleaded that the squatters, in the good days, cut up certain lands on which a low rainfall was experienced, and sold the blocks to poor, silly farmers. These men have been a stalking horse for the members of this House who plead for a bounty to help those who have been placed on such land. I have heard them plead that when a farmer cannot produce more than ten bushels to the acre he should be taken off the land and given another occupation. Mr. McElhone further stated -
Nearly one-third of this total, however, is carried on holdings of 5,000 acres and upwards, indicating that they are more likely to be pastoral holdings growing a little wheat than wheat-farms running sheep.
Many farmers both grow wheat and run sheep on a profitable basis, and the increase of the price of wool has given a large extra cheque to many who will benefit by the wheat bounty.
– Nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member has only one man in mind - the wealthy farmer, who may help him at election times. The honorable member is not standing up for the poor farmer. The House is entitled to a candid statement as to the effect of the bounty. In moving the second reading of this bill the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) said that as the result of the increased price of wheat the farmers would receive from £5,000,000 to £6,000,000 more this year than last year. Let us put the extra amount down at £5,500,000. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) took that figure, and he was not contradicted. With the addition of the proposed bounty of about £1,880,000, therefore, the farmers will receive au extra payment for this year’s wheat of close upon £8,000,000.
To those who say that the farmers are entitled to the same assistance that is received through the tariff by secondary industries, the answer is that in days of depression some secondary industries have to go to the wall. It is of no use for a manufacturer to say to the Government, “I lost £5,000 last year, and now require a cheque to put my bank account right.” For many years the farmers received good prices for their wheat, and needed no help; yet, immediately they experienced difficulties as the result of the fall of world prices, over which we have no control, government assistance was granted to the tune of millions of pounds. This ha.3 been their experience annually since 1931. We know, of course, that the farmer feeds the worker, but the worker takes the produce of the farmer, and thus helps to support him. One cannot carry on without the assistance of the other. A country like Australia cannot be developed without a prosperous husbandry. A man in Sydney came to me recently and said that he received 25s. a week for his wife and himself, and an additional 5s. a week for each of his three children, so that his family had to live on £3 a week. A farmer and his family need never starve while they till the soil; but I have seen the mentality of men undermined by the stress and strain of being herded together in cities without the possibility of earning a decent living. Although many of the occupants of dwellings owned by government departments are in great financial difficulties, the Government has not reduced their rents.
I trust that the House will consider this bill as one of national importance, and will deal with it in the interests of the community generally. I could deal with the proposal to distribute the bounty through State channels. In my opinion, the work could be better done through the Commonwealth Bank than by handing the money over to state instrumentalities. We have seen the difficulty that has arisen in the attempt to fix a homeconsumption price. An enabling bill has been passed, and the scheme could have been put in hand immediately, but it is proposed to hand the money over to the States, and we are still waiting for them to develop the home-consumption scheme. In the meantime they have done nothing in the matter. Two States have refused to accept the Government’s proposal, and the whole of this legislation has been held up. If the farmerscould get 3s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat next year, the members of this House who belong to the Country party would not advocate a home-consumption price. The industry itself should establish an organization to control its own affairs. I should not mind if it were controlled on lines similar to those adopted in the dairying and sugar industries. A good deal of boasting is heard concerning the way in which the dried fruits industry is conducted. The money required to safeguard the interests of those industries is collected by an association appointed by the producers, and the control of their business is in their own hands; but the wheat farmers hang on to the tail of the Government year’ after year, and it is threatened with destruction if it does not listen to the voice of the majority of the members of the Country party in this Parliament. The money with which the bounty is to be provided has already been raised by a tax on the bread of the workers. It has been paid by the poorest people in the cities. Surely the wheat industry could be placed on a satisfactory basis without putting large sums into the pockets of wealthy farmers who need no assistance, and who will not be worthy of their positions in the community if they accept the bounty.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has clearly indicated the attitude of the Labour party to a homeconsumption price. I have listened to the debate with great interest, being anxious to know whether, in view of their opposition to the flour tax, honorable members opposite would stand up to the statement made last year, and the previous year, that the Labour party was in favour of a home-consumption price for wheat sold in Australia. The concluding remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney, however, show that the one thing to be kept clearly before the minds of the people is that the price of bread must not be raised. The farmers must be prepared to produce wheat at famine prices, no matter what restrictions may be placed on the industry. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) referred to high returns which the farmers had been receiving for wheat. Admittedly they enjoyed good prices between 1922 and 1929, but I draw attention to a report presented to this Parliament showing the cost of developing a 1,000-acre farm in 1913, when export values were higher than they have been in the last four or five years, compared with the cost in 1931. That document showed that, due to the restrictions which have been imposed on primary industries, in every direction, the cost in 1913 was £2,600 compared with £4,400 in 1931. Those honorable members who object to the bill must be aware that, but for the assistance that has been afforded to primary production in recent years, those engaged in it would have been in a much more desperate plight than they are to-day. There has never been the same objection to the granting of assistance in various forms to our secondary indus1 tries. The wealthy Broken Hill Company Proprietary Limited, for example, has received, since 1922, no less than £45,000 a year in bounties on the production of sulphuric acid. Every additional tariff burden or embargo that is imposed in the interests of the manufacturers of secondary production reacts against the primary industries which really create the purchasing power of the people and provide in Great Britain those credits that enable the Commonwealth to meet its overseas obligations and the manufacturer to buy his raw materials.
– What we say is that the wealthy farmers should not get a bounty that is intended for necessitous farmers.
– No farmer has made a profit from wheat farming during the past five years. No opposition was raised by Labour members when an embargo was placed upon the importation of glass.
– We are now dealing with the wheat industry.
– I am well aware of that. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) this afternoon gave us the benefit of his settled conviction as to the position of our primary producers, and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), displayed his ignorance of the real effect of the Ottawa agreement, because the difficulties from which Australian industry suffers existed long before that agreement was entered into.
I hope, that, as the result of Commonwealth and State legislation, the Australian wheat industry will soon be placed on a more satisfactory footing. Nothing could be more humiliating for those engaged in it than to be obliged to appeal to Parliament for assistance to enable them to carry on. Various proposals to stabilize the industry were discussed at the meeting of the Agricultural Council in Canberra, last year. One was the establishment of a compulsory pool, but it is now generally admitted by all honorable members that that is not within the competence of the Commonwealth Parliament. This could be over come if all the principal wheat producing States could come to an agreement and pass the necessary legislation. There is, however, common agreement that legislation similar to that under which the dried fruits industry is controlled, would meet the position. Unfortunately, there has been some delay in giving effect to the scheme, for which I can offer no excuse other than that I understand the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) desired the States to bring forward legislation to implement Commonwealth proposals to ensure to wheat-farmers a homeconsumption price in the neighbourhood of 4s. 9d. a bushel. Here, however, South Australia and Western Australia failed to respond, and up to the present I am unaware of the attitude of the Government of my State on this question.
The report of the Wheat Commission shows clearly that with a debt burden of from £150,000,000 to £170,000,000, the industry is in a most precarious position. One can come to no other conclusion from a perusal of the evidence given before tha!; body. Some honorable members opposite have told the House, that at the present time wheat-growers are receiving 3s. Sd. a bushel. The implication is that their position is not quite so bad as it might be. That merely shows their ignorance of the subject. The average price realized this year at sidings is about 3s. to 3s. 2d. It should be remembered that the prices quoted daily are f.o.b., so if a farmer gets 33. Sd. or 3s. 9d. there must be a deduction of approximately 5d. a bushel to meet transport and other charges from siding to seaboard. Any man who says that 3s. a bushel is a fair price for wheat is absolutely ignorant of the condition of the industry. Wheatgrowing at 3s. a bushel under Australian conditions is an impossible proposition. One wheat-farmer of my acquaintance in Western Australia, who cultivates yearly between 18,000 and 20,000 acres has lately been unable to carry on owing to high costs and low prices, and his affairs are now in the hands of the Official Receiver. The annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation stages that the assessable income of all Australian industries for the year 1931-32 was £122,000,000. Of that amount agricultural, pastoral and mining, our three great basic industries, had an assessable income of only £5,300,000 and die rest of Australia was £117,000,000. In the following year the assessable income of the three basic industries was £6,000,000, while that of the manufacturing industries was £10,000,000, the assessable income for the rest of Australia being £96,000,000.
Interesting figures relating to farmers’ incomes were quoted this afternoon by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). These showed that in 1933-34, primary producers paid 1.70 per cent, and manufacturers 11.37 per cent, of the total income tax received. Something must surely be wrong with a social system under which those who take all the risks attendant upon primary production have rewards which are infinitesimal in comparison with those of other sections of the community.
The delay in introducing this legislation is not, I think, due entirely to the Minister for Commerce, because, as I have explained, his desire was to ascertain if the various States would implement the Commonwealth proposals. Much of the delay is due to the failure of the governments of Western Australia and South Australia to do what was expected of them. Without a Commonwealth plan, a home-consumption price for wheat would be quite useless in my own State, because, fis honorable members are aware, Western Australia depends for its solvency upon the sale of its surplus primary products in the overseas market. Our per capita exports average £35, a3 against an average of £16 from the other States. Thus, we are at a disadvantage, depending as we do, almost entirely upon the buoyancy of the overseas market for primary products.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) spoke this afternoon of the States being expected to do all the dirty work for the Commonwealth, meaning by that, that the Commonwealth places upon the State Ministers the responsibility for the distribution of the money to be made available under this legislation. I hope that the Minister will deal firmly with the methods of distribution to be adopted so as to prevent unfair discrimination. I have received a com munication from the Wheat-growers Union in Western Australia strongly objecting to the discriminatory conditions attaching to these grants which make them, in effect, a dole. It is suggested that the bounty should be paid on an acreage basis, special assistance being given to drought-stricken areas in which producers have suffered by loss of crop, the payment being made on the average State yield and the actual result of the season’s crop. The capital amount, it is stated, should be distributed on a percentage basis, according to the difference between the average and actual return.
I have had long experience in country life and I doubt that conditions in any part of rural Australia are worse than those obtaining to-day in the northern portion of the wheat belt in Western Australia, owing to the severe drought conditions experienced last year. Not long ago the manager of a bank told me that 71 of his bank’s clients in that district this season had averaged only If bushels of wheat to the acre, and reports from other sources state that in many instances growers have not harvested sufficient wheat to enable them to sow their next crop. One siding, which last year received over 1,000,000 bushels, this season handled less than 200,000 bushels. The conditions in that portion of Western Australia are exceedingly bad.
I am glad that the Government is setting aside a certain portion of the grant for the assistance of necessitous farmers, and I understand that the amount to be available for distribution in Western Australia is £135,000. I hope, however, that the distribution will not be on the basis adopted last year, thus making the assistance virtually a dole. A substantial sum should be paid direct to wheat-farmers who have suffered loss through adverse seasons, thus giving them a reasonable chance to face the future. I understand that, on the acreage basis, necessitous farmers will receive about ls. lid. an acre. The balance of the amount should be distributed on a percentage basis, so that the farmer with the worst crop would receive a greater measure of assistance than a farmer whose loss has.not been so heavy, and . a grower with a decent yield would receive less. I hope that the Minister will give this aspect of the problem very careful consideration. I have already urged the Government, in view of the serious and unprecedented losses in this area, to increase the amountprovided. So far it has failed to do so, but I hope that if the State comes forward with a proposal to assist on the £1 for £1 basis, the Commonwealth Government may be in a position te give a little more to help our suffering wheat-growers. The proposal of the State to distribute this money on the dole basis does not meet with tho approval of the farmers. Moreover, I have no confidence in the methods of the State Government, for in the past it has used these moneys for State and metropolitan purposes.
Something must be done to place the wheat-growing industry on a sound footing. It should be treated in the same way as a manufacturing industry. The people of Australia, should not tolerate conditions under which primary producers have to pay exorbitant prices for all their requirements, due to our high tariff policy and other restrictions, while they are forced to accept world’s prices for their products. They should receive an Australian price plus credit for their exports. I feel sure that honorable members generally realize that our farmers are not getting a fair deal. If I had my way I should abolish all import quotas and all restrictions, and require our secondary industries to fight under the same conditions as our primary industries. If, within the next 20 or 30 years, we do not populate this country more effectively - this may be done by encouraging the development of our primary industries - we shall live to regret our failure to realize our responsibility. Lately there has been a great deal of talk about the resumption of immigration, and the opportunities presented for men to go on the land; but if there is to be any fulfilment of these ideals, there must be some prospect of primary pursuits being greeted with success and adequate reward. I hope that we shall get the assistance of the Government to that end.
– It is pleasing to note the comparative unanimity amongst honorable members on the reasonableness of this legislation. There are one or two exceptions, but, happily, the little adverse criticism has come from honorable members who obviously do not seem to know much about the wheat industry, and who have little appreciation of its value to the country. Their expression of opinion consequently is something like “ a voice crying in the wilderness “. This altered state of mind on the part of most honorable members can be regarded as one of the results of the report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry, which was a clear indication of the importance of the industry to the country and the disastrous consequences of a continuance of exceedingly low prices for grain. Perhaps, its importance will be better understood when it is realized that in the four or five years of the depression period the annual production of wheat was 200,000,000 bushels or some 60,000,000 bushels per annum more than the average for the previous five years. It was frankly stated by the royal commission that the wheat industry is the largest employment-creating factor in the Commonwealth. The importance of this will be appreciated by all honorable members especially when they consider what a contribution wheat production has made in the last few years towards the solution of the unemployment problem. Had it not been for that production the unemployment figures would have been exceedingly greater than they have been.
Criticism of the Government by honorable members on my right regarding, not only this legislation, but also the legislation passed by this Parliament last session, was not justified. Proper appreciation of the conditions prevailing at the time of the introduction of the legislation before Christmas must lead to the acceptance of this view. At the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, in October, the wheat industry was fully reviewed, and it was decided that legislation should be passed by the Commonwealth and the States to provide for a home-consumption price for wheat. True to that decision, the Commonwealth Parliament and three of the States, passed the necessary legislation; but, because some of the States, for reasons best known to themselves, did not do so, it became essential, in order that the wheat industry should receive some assistance this season, for this new bill to be brought down. Instead of being castigated for its action, the Commonwealth Government is entitled to be complimented for what it has done, for the legislation which was enacted prior to Christmas will enable the institution in Australia of a homeconsumption price for wheat.
It may also be advisable to remind honorable members that at the meeting of the Agricultural Council, an important question to receive consideration was the advisability of establishing a compulsory wheat pool in this country. Because some of the States would not agree to legislation in that direction, thi3 bill has become necessary, but because of the legislation passed by this Parliament before Christmas, providing as it does for a home-consumption price, any or all the States in the Commonwealth may, if they so desire, set up compulsory pools within their own borders. A compulsory pool, I believe, is favoured by the majority of the wheat-growers, and, as I see the position, a compulsory pool presents the only means by which the Commonwealth of Australia will obtain the maximum result from this great industry of wheatgrowing.
The measure of assistance provided in this bill is based on an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States for a home-consumption price plus some assistance to those States which produced thi3 year a quantity of wheat below the average. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), in his speech, declared that the dirty work was being left to the States, and that the Commonwealth Government, was getting all the kudos. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Government is receiving a lot of adverse criticism for the allocation of amounts to the States, and for its apportionment of the money to he allocated for adverse seasonal conditions. A large corner of Victoria has had a bad season, and growers in that area take the view that they have been treated somewhat unfairly. The Commonwealth Government, however, by not insisting on set conditions on which the amounts will be paid has safeguarded itself against such criticism being justified. The States which can reasonably be assumed to have better knowledge of the conditions of the growers have been empowered to allocate from the total amount made available to them under this bill any percentage they may consider desirable in respect of compensation for adverse seasonal conditions. In Victoria £50,000 has been provided for distribution to growers who have suffered such conditions, and I have no doubt that had the State Government decided to double or even treble that allocation there would have been no objection from the Commonwealth Government.
– Would not that have reduced the amount available for distribution in Victoria to wheat-growers who have not suffered from adverse seasonal conditions?
– Yes, that is so.
– Then that would have violated the very principle of the homeconsumption price which the honorable member is now supporting.
– The position is as I have stated. Power has been given to the States on this occasion to allocate whatever they consider desirable to growers who have suffered adverse seasonal conditions.
On the question of a home-consumption price the Minister, in his concluding remarks, said -
I hope that this is the last occasion on which an appeal will he made to honorable members to provide this form of financial assistance for the wheat industry.
– Hear, hear!
– That is a hope to which I feel sure we can all say, “Hear, hear,” but circumstances could arise when such provision as is contemplated in the institution of the homeconsumption price plan may not be sufficient for many growers in different parts of the Commonwealth, and I am not referring particularly to wheat-growers in areas which might be termed “marginal areas.” It must be obvious to all honorable members that had it not been for the measures of assistance granted to it in recent years, this great industry could not have carried on. The assistance given to a certain extent has offset the compulsion on those engaged in the production of wheat to purchase their requirements in the dearest possible market, and when they have raised their product to sell in the cheapest world market in competition with grain grown by black labour. The fact that the industry is still in spirited existence in Australia is a testimony to the efficiency and stout-heartedness of those engaged in it. Honorable members who have criticized this measure to-day and cited the royal commission’s report possibly conveniently forgot to mention that portion of the report in which it was said that the wheat industry had continually provided consumers of wheat in this country with grain used for local consumption at ls. a bushel below the cost of importation. That state of affairs has existed since wheat was first grown in this country. There is, apparently, still an odd member of this House who would be pleased if that condition of affairs were to continue.
To prevent a continuance of legislation of this description, it is essential that the wheat industry be by some means protected against the added burden of the tariff. The Wheat Commission tells us that the burden of the tariff means an annual addition to the cost of production of 3d. a bushel, and, accordingly, there can be no circumventing the fact th.at this question will have to be faced.
As the great majority of honorable members seem prepared to support this legislation, I do not intend to occupy the time of the House further, but it is my intention in committee to move an amendment to clause 2 to provide that the benefits of the bill will be confined to those engaged in the production of grain. The object of this measure is to give support to the wheat industry. There are, however, growers in different States who grow wheat, not for grain, but for hay, and it is not the intention of this Parliament or of the Government that they should benefit under this act as they are provided for in another measure.
.- This measure proposes financial assistance to the States for the provision of relief to wheat-growers. The questions which immediately arise for consideration are therefore, first, whether a condition of necessity exists amongst wheat-growers; secondly, if the necessity exists, what amounts should be apportioned for relief ; and, thirdly, how are these amounts to be apportioned? From no section of this House has there been any dispute that a condition of necessity does exist among wheat-growers, and the amounts proposed have not been seriously challenged. There has, however, been adverse criticism directed to the aspect as to how the amounts are to be allocated. Several honorable members have taken opportunity once again to ride strenuously their personal hobby-horses, belabouring those work-weary steeds with great expenditure of energy, but with small tax on their sense of logic or consistency. We have heard Opposition speakers talking about the inequity of making a general grant, which will fall like the gentle rain from heaven or the spirit of mercy upon the poor and rich alike, and will not confine its benefits to those whoare the most necessitous of the wheatfarmers. To hoar these objections from the Opposition benches, one would think that the principle was abhorrent to them,, and would never have entered the field of’ their political consciences. Where thehonorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was prepared to direct the attention of honorable members to the debate on a. similar measure in 1933, he was not prepared to invite their attention tothe debate which took place in 1931 on the Scullin Government’s proposal togrant a bounty of 41,d. a bushel. Some honorable members who were then present will recollect that debate more clearly than either myself or the honorable member for East Sydney, but it is undoubted that the Scullin Government made several attempts to find a more satisfactory method of giving assistance to the wheat-farmer. Quorum formed. J There is, I suggest, evidence of distinct, inconsistency between the criticism advanced by honorable members opposite on this occasion, and the attitude which representatives of their party adopted in 1931. Further evidence of inconsistency in the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite is apparent in an examination of their attitude towards the tariff, the protection given under the tariff to secondary industry being analagous to the assist- ance proposed to be given under this measure to the wheat-grower. We do not find that, in implementing its tariff policy, the Government says that a particular company or firm in industries which are to benefit by protection shall not so benefit along with less fortunate organizations. It says that certain industries, such as the textile industry, or boot manufacturing, require reasonable protection against foreign competition, and therefore protection must be applied throughout the whole of those industries. It may happen that a particular organization in the industry benefited could carry on efficiently and profitably without protection, but we recognize that any additional benefits which such organizations might derive under protection is purely their good fortune, and that they enjoy that additional benefit by reason of their greater efficiency, or because of one or more of a host of other factors, such as getting in first, thereby having an advantage over latecomers in the same industry. There is therefore nothing inconsistent in this Government’s policy in applying relief generally to wheat-growers. The only inconsistency is shown in the criticism of the Government voiced by honorable members opposite. Nevertheless, we find that the Government has made some attempt to ensure that the cases of greatest necessity shall be given th=) greatest measure of relief. For instance, some States are given greater relief under this measure than they would have received if the subsidy were distributed on an acreage or bushelage basis. We find that in Western Australia where the wheat-growers have experienced a most disastrous season, and are obviously more in need of assistance than are those in some of the other States, ‘they will under this bill be enabled to receive more than they would receive on an acreage or bushelage basis. Furthermore, under this measure, each State will be able to propose its own scheme of relief, the actual words of the relevant section reading-
The prescribed authority shall have regard to the financial circumstances of the wheatgrowers who have applied for assistance.
Thus, each State, will devise its own scheme for the distribution of this money and will be able to determine from the circumstances of its own farmers what are the most satisfactory and equitable methods of doing so. Having regard to the fact that Governments in the past have frequently grappled with the problem arising under this measure, and have failed to improve on the proposals contained in this bill, and the further fact that the Government has indicated that if it can arrange it through its influence on the States, and directly through its own action, we shall soon have a scientific basis for wheat marketing through the establishment of a homeconsumption price for wheat, honorable members, both on this and on the other side of the House, should ensure for this bill a speedy passage.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr, Gregory) claimed that the Labour party was against giving assistance to the farmers. The Labour party supports this measure, and the amount to be appropriated under it, namely, £l,S00,00O, but it objects and will move in this direction, in committee, to any of this money being given to farmers who are not in need of assistance. That is the Labour party’s policy, we do not, object in any way to assisting the needy farmer. The honorable member for Swan also claimed that the Labour party was against the proposal for a home-consumption price for wheat. On the contrary, it has always advocated such a policy and it was the first to advocate it. The farmers, however, because of dissatisfaction and disagreement among themselves, have always objected to the establishment of a homeconsumption price. I have known of conferences of farmers which would not accept such a proposal, and I have known of instances where farmers, when a ballot has been taken on the matter, have voted against it. The meal ticket of every country member in this House will go by the board when a homeconsumption price is brought about, because then they will have nothing to complain about. The honorable member for Swan also stated that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that the price of bread would be raised as the result of the establishment of a home-consumption price. I point out that the price of bread in Sydney is the same to-day as when wheat was selling at 7s. 6d. a bushel. Therefore, we do not object to a home-consumption price on such grounds. On the contrary, we believe in it, because we contend that farmers producing a product for the good of the community should be protected from any discrimination in these matters. In Queensland, farmers are receiving 3s. 9d. a bushel under a pool.
– All farmers in that State are receiving that price.
– But bread is cheaper in Queensland with wheat at that price than it is in New South Wales. Therefore, the price of bread is affected, not by the price of wheat, but by the activities of bread combines, and I suggest that the activities of those interests should be curtailed. We claim that 20 per cent, of the wheat-farmers who enjoy prosperity when wheat is selling at 3s. 3d. a bushel should not receive any portion of this £1,800,000, but that the portion which it is proposed to give to that 20 per cent, should be divided among the other SO per cent, of struggling farmers. I believe that the greatest enemy of the wheat-farmer has been himself ; he has been against organization and control and everything that meant his own salvation. Every step that has been taken in the interests of the progress of the wheat-grower has been opposed by the grower himself, and it has only been through constant propaganda among the farmers, aided by the difficulties which confronted them during the depression, that their necessity to organize has been brought forcibly home to them. Representatives of. the farmers in this House have hindered the farmers, as far as the development of their markets is concerned. They were loud in their praise of the Ottawa agreement. They said “We will sell all our products within the British Empire, and we will disregard foreign markets “. However, after the primary producers were placed in a very invidious position, as the result of this policy, these honorable members sent the Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) to Belgium and Germany to say to the trade representatives of those countries, “ In the past we slapped your face, now we beg your pardon “. To-day they complain because the markets of those countries are closed to our produce, but the very same gentlemen, who claim to represent country interests, are responsible for that position. They do not look a day ahead ; they prefer to think only of the moment. Because of their attitude, foreign markets have been closed to Australian produce and the Country party must accept the responsibility for that development.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), who apparently claims to be the only logician in this Parliament, as he has said that he has never heard any logic from honorable members on this side of the chamber, dealt with the Labour party’s attitude towards the tariff. In reply to his arguments, I suggest that honorable members read the statement made by the royal commission which inquired into the wheat industry, to the effect that tariff protection has not prevented the farmer from getting his machinery as cheaply as he would get it irrespective of protection.
– That is not true.
– The royal commission which inquired into the wheat industry made a statement to that effect.
– Nevertheless it is not true.
– The honorable member has freely referred to the royal commission’s report, but when that commission states that the farmer under protection has been able to secure his machinery as cheaply as if there had been no tariff at all, he protests strongly. However, he cannot have it both ways. The tariff has been the medium through which the Government collected £14,000,000 to help the farmers. I ask honorable members opposite where the Government would have secured that revenue, had it not been for the tariff. Would it have gone on to the loan markets of England and America and said that it wanted money in order to help necessitous farmers when those countries themselves were full of necessitous farmers?
– That is where the Labour Government sought loans and we are still paying them off.
– As the Treasurer in the Bruce-Page Government, the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) proved to be the most tragic Treasurer Australia has ever had. He borrowed £40,000,000 in London and we are still paying back that money.
– The honorable member just said that the Government should not go on to the loan market.
– I did not say that. I was asking what would happen if the Government went on to the loan market to secure money in order to assist necessitous farmers? I am afraid that no people in the world would lend us money for that purpose. Therefore, the tariff was the only medium through which the Government could secure the revenue it needed to help the farmers - not only the struggling farmers, but also those who enjoy a greater income than many engaged in secondary industry. The Labour party opposes the granting of any assistance to wealthy farmers. The Acting Minister himself agrees with that policy. Not long ago he was honest enough to say that only the struggling farmer should receive assistance, and that the man who was able to maintain himself without any assistance should not get it. Why this change of front? I submit it is due to the domination of the Country party in the Government. When that party says to the Government that such and such a thing must be done, and if it is not done, out the Government must go; the Government prefers office to the fulfilment of the policy its conscience dictates. It is thus forced to help greedy as well as necessitous, farmers. Within the last five years I have visited more country centres in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland than any other honorable member in this House, and I challenge any honorable member to meet me in his own electorate on the issue as to whether or not the policy we have put forward - that greedy farmers should not be assisted along with struggling farmers - is the correct policy. The improved prices for wool and wheats have greatly improved the position of a great many farmers, particularly those engaged in mixed farming; yet it is proposed that all alike shall share in the Government bounty. That is neither right nor honest.
An unemployed man receiving 6s. 4d. a week dole must give an undertaking that no other income is coming into his home. If he has one daughter working for, say, 15s. a week, the dole is stopped. Full inquiries are made into his financial position before the dole is granted to him, but the farmers resent any inquiries being made into their financial position. They demand this grant from the Government, and the Government must yield, because the farmers’ party holds the balance of power in this Parliament. If their demands are not granted, out the Government will go. The United Australia party members themselves are not unanimous in support of this proposal, but the whole party, and the Government, too, is influenced by the Country part representatives. I deny the statement of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that the Labour party is against the granting of any assistance to the farmers. As a matter of fact, the Labour party is much more ready to grant assistance to needy farmers than is the Country party. In New South Wales, just as things are beginning to look a little brighter for the farmers, the stay orders which have been sheltering thousands of them are being lifted, with the result that there will be an epidemic of evictions unless preventive action be taken. The farmers have held two conferences to consider the matter, and a deputation has waited upon the State Government. The farmers have threatened to take united action should any attempt be made to evict them from their holdings.
– I cannot allow the honorable member to discuss State administration.
– The bill provides that the States shall administer the distribution of this grant, and I am trying to show that some State governments cannot be trusted to do the job. There are thousands of wheat-farmers in New South Wales in such a precarious financial position that they will not receive any benefit whatever from this grant; yet they are the very people who should be helped. The farmers’ representatives in this House are evidently prepared to see this class of farmer wiped out altogether. Their attitude is that it is uneconomic that such men should continue on the land. Had that policy been followed years ago, very few of those who are now well-to-do farmers would have had a chance at ail. The idea now, however, seems to be to wipo out ‘the small man, and give everything to the big one. It is no wonder that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) has been taken to task by farmers’ organizations for not doing his job, and for not raising his voice against the proposal to allow the struggling farmers to go to the wall. The farmers are rebelling against their representatives in Parliament because those representatives have failed to voice the needs of the struggling farmers. The Labour party is prepared to help such farmers, as it is prepared to help any other section of the community which is in need of help.
– Is it not wonderful how the wheat industry developed in New South Wales under a freetrade government?
– I am aware that nothing will ever convince the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that freetrade is not the best policy. Imaintain, however, that if the Victorian policy of protection had operated throughout Australia from the beginning, the population of this country, instead of being under 7,000,000 to-day, would have been 15,000,000. The farmer, too, would be better off. because the home market is the best market for him.
The Labour party supports the appropriation of every penny provided for in this bill, but we propose to move an amendment directing among other things, that none of the money shall go to a member of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– That would be very unfair.
– It would not. Why should a member of Parliament, who is getting money openly in his right hand from the Commonwealth, dip his other hand into the Treasury for more public money? We also propose to stipulate that only those farmers who are in necessitous circumstances shall be entitled to share in the benefits of this distribution.
.- For several reasons I regret the necessity for this legislation. Largely because of the low prices for wheat which have prevailed during the last few years, the wheat-farmers as a body are now in such a bad financial state that they urgently need assistance. I also regret that the industry is not organized as it should be. I should like to see the wheat industry organized as are the butter and dried fruits industries, so that the wheatfarmers would not have to come to Parliament and beg for the assistance to which they are entitled, and have the things said about them which have been said by members of the Opposition. Listening to the debate to-day, one would think that the wheat-farmers were practically an unnecessary part of the community. Those who have been inveighing against the farmers seem to have forgotten that all through the depression the wheat industry has helped to keep them and others in Australia in fairly good circumstances, while the wheatfarmers themselves have been using up much of their own capital. We have heard to-day that, because the price of wheat has risen, it is not necessary that the farmers should receive any further assistance; but I remind those who have spoken in that strain, and particularly the honorable member on my left, that the wheat-farmers have lost so much money during the last few years that the small increase of price which has taken place this year is comparatively but a drop in the ocean. I regret that we have to resort to bounties of any kind, and I hope that a few years’ hence we shall not be paying bounties to any section of the community. I feel sure that with proper organization the need for such aid would disappear.
The Opposition has raised three main objections to the bill, the first being that they do not like to see assistance being given in the form, of a bounty to those whom they describe as wealthy wheatgrowers. I remind honorable members that those wealthy wheat-growers, even if they have this year been making something out of wheat, have been losing money very consistently on their production over the last few years. Nor can I agree with the proposal that all those who are obtaining a yield of 15 or 18 bushels should be debarred from participation in this grant. Farmers on high-priced land are probably losing money with a return of 15 or 18 bushels an acre. It is quite possible that a man working cheaper land, or land that can be worked more cheaply, will obtain a greater monetary return from land which gives a much lower yield. Although members of the Opposition object to wealthy wheat-farmers participating in this grant, they favour the payment of a home-consumption price for wheat. They must see that, under such a scheme, the wealthy growers would benefit equally with those not so well off.
Some honorable members have said that, if the wheat-farmers are to be helped, the assistance should be given in some way other than that now proposed. We have been told that last year there was an agreement between the States and the Commonwealth to enact legislation to provide for a home-consumption price for wheat. It is not the fault of the Commonwealth if the States afterwards refused to put that legislation into operation. The States probably did not have very much time in which to do so after the agreement was reached, but some of them showed no inclination whatever to enact the legislation. As a result the Commonwealth has been obliged to introduce the measure now before the House.
Another criticism levelled at this legislation is that the Commonwealth should define the basis upon which the wheat-growers shall be assisted, declaring whether the payment of the bounty shall be on the basis of acreage, production, or individual necessity. I do not agree with that contention. The States possess far better facilities and organization for collecting the requisite data, and, after all, they are the proper authorities to deal with this matter. Another consideration is that the States do not regard with equanimity - and perhaps quite rightly - any encroachment by the Commonwealth upon their fields of operation. While the States are administering other affairs in connexion with the wheat industry it is quite right they should devise the manner in which Commonwealth assistance to it shall be allocated. I support this legislation ; I consider that the bill in its pre sent form is absolutely necessary. I can see nothing wrong with it, except, probably the weakness in clause 2 indicated by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland). The definition of “ wheat-grower “ is “ any person who has sown wheat “. We know that quite a quantity of wheat sown is not stripped for grain. With that one exception, therefore, I have very much pleasure in supporting the measure.
– I am afraid, that after listening to the general trend of the debate, one might say that the Opposition viewpoint is in favour of the bill, against the bill, both, and neither, all at the same time. We have heard some interesting statements made in connexion with the wheat industry. For instance quite a lot of eloquence has been used to prove both that the industry is in a. flourishing condition, and that it includes a great number of poorly-placed farmers, whom the Opposition ardently desires to assist. From personal experience I am aware of the nature of the land on which many distressed wheat-growers are situated, and from the standpoint of a farmer it is wrong for the Government to continue to encourage those people by bounties or other means in their effort to grow wheat on country which the Lord never intended to be so used. In several State parliaments an anti-squatter complex has been at work, with the result that good sheep stations have been subdivided in order to make bad farms. While the price of wheat remained high these farmers succeeded; we also had a run of good seasons throughout the Commonwealth. But the trouble started in 1927 in South Australia when that State was hit by drought. The wheat-belt had been pushed out into districts below the10- inch rainfall, and since 1926 a low rainfall has been experienced. Members of the Labour party, who know nothing of the conditions with which I have been familiar since my boyhood, state that the Commonwealth Government should continue to assist those people who have endeavoured to make wheat farms on country suited only to sheep raising and in a belt of low rainfall. Members of the Opposition referred to the plight of the unemployed in Sydney. In my electorate of Barker and in the constituencies of Grey and Wakefield, settlers have undergone experiences far worse than those cited by metropolitan members.
– The honorable member has no knowledge of conditions in Sydney.
– Instances have come under my notice of children born and bred in the outback wheat areas of South Australia, who to-day are18 and 19 years of age, and have never visited the metropolitan area. The farmers have passed through nine years of this conflict with the forces of nature, including lack of rain; on top of these conditions came a succession of low prices which commenced in 1930. In spite of such conditions members of the Labour party declare that they are not prepared to grant money to these “ wealthy farmers “. What is the policy of the Labour party in regard to wheatfarming? The party advocates above all other things a compulsory pool. If legislation to establish a compulsory pool were passed, the very wealthy farmer, whom members of the Labour party are so desirous of excluding from this assistance, would derive most advantage because he is the biggest producer. That fact cannot be denied. Some honorable members of the Labour party have declared themselves in favour of a home-consumption price for wheat. The very same thing, however, will occur when a. price is fixed. Whether the price be 3s. 6d. or 6s. 6d., the farmer who produces the most wheat will get the most money from such a scheme.
– The farmers would have an organization to control the industry and the Government would not be bulldozed for bounties.
– If the honorable member would speak only of what he understands, he would be forever silent. The points I have mentioned should be carefully studied by the Opposition. It cannot get away with propaganda such as it has been engaged in to-night. Members of the Labour party may visit my electorate at any time and I will guarantee them a meeting. They talk about inviting members of the Country party to go on to the platform with them. Who in the name of con science are they to challenge any one of us to accompany them on to the platform ! I would take them into any part of the wheat areas in my electorate whenever they choose, election or no election, and if ever my seat were in jeopardy I would pray to the Lord for their presence, because stupid arguments such as they have employed to-day would assist me to win. In discussing this matter we should have regard to the success and welfare of the wheat industry. Last week honorable members listened to a serious debate on the subject of Australia’s trade-balance overseas, and I now ask members of the Opposition - which industries of the Commonwealth provide the great bulk of the money abroad to build up the favorable trade-balance of the Commonwealth? Australia owes this position to the primary industries, and the very men who have been successful under adverse conditions, and doing their part to establish credits overseas, are the ones who would be penalized by the proposed amendment. In support of my argument, I shall quote briefly from statistics collected by the Commissioner of Taxation. According to the last report, the number of farmer taxpayers totalled 9,404, and they paid 1.70 per cent, of the income tax. There we’re 103 brewers and maltsters who paid 1.88 per cent.; and 339 manufacturers who paid 11.37 per cent, of the total income tax. In the face of those figures, upon what foundation can the critics of this measure base their case? I remember that on a previous occasion the Parliament decided that no farmer with a taxable Federal income should participate in the proposed bounty. I learned from the Treasurer of South Australia that at the time only 50 farmers in that State had a taxable Federal income, and I doubt whether the number has been substantially increased to-day. Of those 50 farmers every one was engaged in some industry other than wheat-growing.
– The provision could not have acted harshly against the wheatgrower.
– It did. Do honorable members realize the inquisitorial methods adopted to secure information pertaining to the assets and liabilities of every farmer in South Australia, in order to catch those 50?
The cost to the community, not to the individual farmer, of procuring that information was greater than the amount that those few producers would have drawn from the distribution of the bounty.
– A delay of eight months also occurred in the payment of that bounty !
– That is so. Members of the Opposition referred to the increase of the price of wheat, and urged an amendment to limit this bounty to those who have not a taxable Federal income. Surely those honorable members realize that the tax on this year’s income will not be paid until the next financial year. The income tax with which the proposed amendment will deal will be determined on the prices of wheat paid to the 30th June of last year, and not to the 30th June of this year. Consequently, the whole of their argument on that point falls to the ground. “Why should ail this trouble in regard to ascertaining which farmers will be liable for Federal income tax be taken when it will save nothing? If there were anything to be gained to the community and to the Commonwealth taxpayer by the adoption of this amendment, I would give it my earnest consideration; but I know from personal experience the enormous amount of work involved both to the State and Commonwealth departments, and the inconvenience caused to the taxpayers by futile efforts to save a few pounds.
Some members of the Opposition are of the opinion that because an honorable member of this House combines farming with his public duties he must be simply railing in wealth. If Labour members have a little money to lose, I can recommend to them some favorable propositions in which they will quickly lose it. The Labour party has adopted a doginthemanger attitude on this matter. My experience is .that it is to the advantage of the community that a member of Parliament should have some stake in the country and some definite interest as a taxpayer in respect of more than his parliamentary allowance. Rather than discourage honorable members from taking part in farming, manufacturing, or other business, it would be to the advantage of the general community if every honorable member were compelled to have some business interest outside of politics. By so doing he would be better acquainted with the position of taxpayers than if he were divorced from all business activity, and were merely a professional politician. I trust that the Government will not be obliged to bring in another measure of this kind next year; but the Opposition should be reasonable and realize that the Commonwealth cannot browbeat six States into passing uniform legislation although in one or two cases uniform legislation has been enacted by the free action of the several parliaments. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), with whom I had a difference of opinion this afternoon with regard to the working of Commonwealth and State laws, that the legislation passed by this Parliament in connexion with the dried fruits industry is only an enabling act which gives Federal force and effect to the statutes passed by the State parliaments. The point to be remembered is that; if the State acts are passed in such a form as not to dovetail into the Federal legislation, this Parliament will have to amend its legislation.
– That will apply to this measure.
– No, because no State acts are necessary. This is a case in which the Commonwealth proposes to make available to the States a certain sum of money, and if the States satisfy the Commonwealth Government that the basis of distribution is satisfactory, it will be a matter entirely for them to say whether or not they will pass legislation. If honorable members compel the States to call their parliaments together to pass legislation, they will merely hold up the payment of this money to the farmers who need it.
– The necessary bill has already been prepared in readiness for submission to the Parliament of South Australia. That proves that legislation is contemplated.
– The South Australian Parliament will not meet before July, and I understand that the Parliament of Western Australia will not meet for some months.
– How will they get the prescribed authority?
– The prescribed authority has been in existence for years and has been administering legislation of a similar character. For instance, two measures dealing with wheat were passed by the Commonwealth Parliament last year, and no argument arose in connexion with them.
– The Commonwealth will prescribe the authority.
– Some one has suggested that the Commonwealth Bank might increase its staff to deal with these payments, but that would be a wicked waste of public money. The States have already in existence all the facilities necessary for the payment of this money.
– Without reference to their parliaments, do the State governments propose to decide how much shall be given on an acreage basis and how much on a bushelage basis?
– If the government of a State is not competent to deal with the matter it should notbe in office. If, with the facilities at its disposal, it cannot decide what is fair, how can the Commonwealth Government, from this centre, decide it? It was my duty and privilege, at the request of a number of organizations of wheatgrowers, to present the case for theSouth Australian farmers to the wheat commission. In order to prepare that case, the State had to be divided into six provinces because of the varying conditions under which wheat-growing was carried out in different districts. Not one case could have met the needs of the whole State. The necessity to divide South Australia in that way - and I add that the State is so divided for statistical purposes - indicates the complex nature of the wheatgrowing industry and the futility of asking the Department of Commerce to determine the basis for the distribution of this money among the wheat-growers of Australia. It was not my intention to participate in this debate, but some of the statements by Opposition members appeared to me to be so irreconcilable with the declared policy of the Labour party that I felt it incumbent on me to point out that the very people who will benefit under this bill would benefit more if a compulsory wheat pool were put into operation.
– m reply - I regret that some honorable members have approached the discussion of this bill with a biased mind and have made entirely incorrect statements. The Government’s object in introducing this legislation was to make money available to the wheat-growers of the several States, in accordance with their needs, having in mind the disabilities from which they have suffered in the past, and the drought conditions now prevailing in certain districts. As it would be impossible to submit to this House a scheme which would make provision for the varying conditions of the wheat-growers of Australia, I sought the advice of the State governments, first as to the losses suffered from droughts, and, secondly, as to the area sown with wheat and the number of growers. Having obtained information from the Ministers of Agriculture and Statisticians in the several States, the Commonwealth submitted proposals to this House designed to make available to the States as early as possible, sums of money which would enable them to assist the wheat-growers within their borders. In order to show how unfair certain honorable members have been in their remarks, I remind the House that already £50,000 has been handed to the States which had suffered most from drought - Western Australia and South Australia - as an advance payment to meet urgent cases of need, the money to be deducted later from whatever sum is made available to those States under this legislation. Yet honorable members have charged the Government with making money available to wealthy and greedy farmers. Such statements are entirely unjustified. So far from paying money to wealthy farmers, the Commonwealth Government went out of its way to try to make provision for those in need, and in its efforts to do so, sought the advice of the State governments. The honorable member . for Barton (Mr. Lane), in an inflammatory speech, accused the Government - particularly its Country party members and most of all myself, in my capacity as Acting Minister for Com- merce - paying away money to wheatgrowers who had not asked for it. I resent his statement, because it is untrue.
– What organizations asked for the money?
– There is no foundation whatever for the honorable member’s statement. I remind the House that this Parliament passed legislation to impose a sales tax on flour for the purpose of raising money to relieve the wheatgrowers. That tax was continued by legislation agreed to by Parliament.
– It was agreed to by the Government and its supporters, but the Opposition opposed the flour tax.
– It was agreed to before the price of wheat rose to 3s. 8d. or 3s. 9d. a bushel.
– In addition, the Government called a conference of representatives of every wheat-growers’ organization in Australia, and of those engaged in milling, shipping, selling and buying wheat, and representatives of every State government. That conference unanimously agreed that the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the State governments, should take the necessary legislative action to give to the wheatgrowers of Australia more than they were able to get in the ordinary market and to ensure to them an increased income from the sale of wheat. Another point is that this money is not being taken from the Commonwealth Treasury in the sense suggested by several speakers. The bulk of it, amounting to £1,200,000, is revenue which has been collected from the sales tax on flour for the specific purpose of assisting the wheat-growers.
– A tax imposed upon the workers’ food !
– A tax imposed on the bread consumed by all the people in Australia. I regret that the honorable member should approach this matter in a biased and vindictive manner.
– Vindictive is hardly the right word to use.
– The honorable member for East Sydney is vindictive when he suggests that this measure has been introduced to put money into the pockets of greedy farmers. All the proposals that have emanated from the Labour party would have had the effect of giving the greatest amount of money to the largest and wealthiest wheat-growers - the very thing which we are trying to avoid. To avoid that we are asking each State government to advise as to how the money should be distributed in order to give the maximum relief to the growers in the respective States. In the first bill brought down for the assistance of the wheat-growers it was proposed to pay a bounty of 41/2d. a bushel in hard cash from loan moneys. We are still paying interest on that loan. The proposal of the Government in the bill now before the House is to provide the greater part of the money from revenue, and thus impose no additional financial burden on the taxpayers. The money has already been raised. If the scheme outlined by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) for the establishment of a home-consumption price had been accepted, and I supported it at the time, it would have provided assistance to the wheat-growers in accordance with the amount of wheat, they produced - the very basis against which members of the Opposition are protesting to-night. With the fixation of a home-consumption price, or the establishment of a compulsory pool, the bigger the wheat-grower and the larger his crop, the greater the amount of money he would receive.
– The bounty would be automatically eliminated if wheat reached a certain price.
– If a compulsory pool were established to-morrow for the purpose of fixing a home-consumption price for wheat, it would mean definitely that the largest grower would derive the greatest amount of financial benefit, irrespective of how wealthy he might be. Yet that is a prominent plank in. the Labour party’s platform.
It has been suggested that the wheatgrowers have suffered through not being organized, and that if they were organized as are the producers of butter, sugar, dried fruits and rice, they would not have to ask Parliament to provide this relief. Let me remind honorable members in -the first place that in principle a bounty, which it is within the Commonwealth’s prerogative to grant, is granted irrespective of the income, wealth, or financial position of individuals - whether it be a wine bounty, a bounty to assist the wealthy steel industry, or a bounty paid to the sugar-growers by the establishment of a fixed price for sugar COD sumed in Australia. Consider the long list of bounties provided for various industries; all are paid irrespective of the financial position of the individual claimants. In this bill we are actually trying to avoid that anomaly.
– Did the Minister say that in 1933?
– I supported an alteration of the principle of paying bounties on production because a large number of growers had no production, and would receive no financial benefit. In this bill we are providing for payment to the needy farmer.
– The greedy farmer!
– I resent that suggestion. There is no justification for using that term, because, during the last four or five years, all wheat-growers have lost large sums of money. Every wheatgrower in the Commonwealth to-day is faced with heavy accumulated liabilities in respect of debts which have grown over the last four or five years, during which time, in his efforts to maintain our volume of exports irrespective of what the export, price was, he has suffered serious losses. The Government did not overlook the present price of wheat; if the price had remained as low as it was last year in all probability the flour tax would still have been in operation, and the public would have been contributing a larger sum than the £1,800,000 provided for in this bill, but in view of the fact that the price did rise the Government took the first opportunity to remove the tax and decided that instead of the £4,000,000 provided last year only £1,800,000 would be made available this year. It cannot be denied that last year it took all of that £4,000,000 to overcome partly some of the financial disabilities which the wheat-growers were suffering on account of the extremely low price they had received for their product. It is intended to make a large proportion of the money available to the State governments immediately the bill is passed, and the States will be able to use at once a considerable amount of the money for the relief of those in distress in exactly the same way as the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia have already distributed £50,000 amongst necessitous farmers from money provided by the Commonwealth Government as an advance payment in anticipation of the passing of this bill. Realizing the urgent need of the growers, I appeal to honorable members to assist me to place this legislation on the statute-book, and to release the sum of £1,S00,000 to the wheat-growers of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
In .this act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ wheat-grower “ moans any person who has sown wheat d uri ng the year One thousand nine hundred and thirtyAve
.- I move -
That after the word “ person,” the words “ , other than a member of -the Federal or of a State Parliament,” be inserted.
The purpose of my amendment is to exclude from the scope of this bill persons who are not entitled to assistance but who otherwise would benefit. I take this action deliberately, because no honorable member opposite Ban bring forward the argument that the exclusion from the provisions of this measure of either Federal or State members of Parliament will involve any additional administrative expense. Instead of grouping members of Parliament who are farmers with other wheat-growers, which would provide them with an opportunity to make excuses to their constituents, I have specifically excluded them, because they should not use their positions in Parliament to vote to themselves sums of money from the Commonwealth or State funds. The laws under which local-governing bodies in the various States operate prohibit members of such bodies who act only in an honorary capacity, from holding a position of profit under the Crown. I had to resign from the tramways service in .Sydney before I could serve in an honorary capacity on the Sydney City
Council. If it is essential to observe such strict supervision over members of localgoverning bodies, so that they shall not be influenced by outside interests in the work which they undertake, it is equally essential that members of Parliament should be precluded from legislating in their own interests. I submit this amendment to enable honorable members who have spoken in sympathy with the proposal to vote upon it.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. “Ward’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That after the word “wheat” (second occurring), the words “for the production of grain “ be inserted.
The amendment makes the definition more specific, and, if agreed to, will avoid any confusion in connexion with wheat sown for grain and that sown for hay. It is not intended that those who receive assistance under this measure shall also receive a subsidy on fertilizers used on grain sown for producing hay.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “and who produces evidence to the satisfaction of the prescribed authority that he has experienced adverse seasonal conditions and as the result is in necessitous circumstances “.
The principle of this amendment was contained in the 1933 legislation and is, therefore, in accordance with the practice that has marked the treatment of this industry by this parliament. The position in respect of this harvest must be taken according to the facts of the harvest. We have to be satisfied that it is prescribed that the bounty shall be paid under conditions that are definitely appropriate to this harvest. During the last few years the acreage cultivated for wheat has steadily declined. While I acknowledge that this does not eliminate completely all those factors of the industry referred to some little time ago by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), I submit that a substantial contraction has occurred in the area cultivated which could be considered as uneconomic; by and large, the area sown last year, totalling about 12,000,000 acres compared with 15,700,000 acres sown in 1932-33, has declined by more than 3,500,000 acres. This, surely, must have resulted in the exclusion of a considerable area of land which, broadly speaking, could not be considered to be altogether adapted for profitable wheat production. It has to be acknowledged also that the shrinkage of acreage would also include holdings abandoned by a considerable number of farmers, either because they themselves were incompetent or their land was entirely unsuitable for wheat cultivation.
So the total acreage sown for the present harvest can be regarded as being a reasonable acreage to cultivate, having regard to the circumstances. The price factor must be considered in determining how far the industry, as an industry, can be regarded at present as in a reasonable position. The basic wheat price realization for this harvest, according to the Minister’s own showing, will be from £5,000,000 to £6,000,000 more than that for the previous harvest, exclusive of any provision for bounty this year.
– That is assuming that the price holds.
– It is holding. It has moved only slightly above or below the present figure since the Agricultural Council mct at the beginning of last October. The price of wheat f.o.r., Williamstown, lias remained at about 3s. 8d. a bushel over the whole period. It was a little higher than that when the conference assembled in October, but it has not varied to any great degree since then. I submit to honorable members that a fair reading of the report of the Wheat Commission would suggest that a price above 3s. a bushel can be regarded at least as a foundational price upon which the solvency of the wheat industry of Australia can be maintained.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition say 3s. at ports?
– No, on the farm. The price of 3s. 8d. f.o.r. Williamstown conforms approximately to the conditions specified in the report of the Wheat Commission as a reasonable basis for farming operations. I agree that heavy losses have been incurred in the wheat industry during the last five seasons, but these should not be recouped as proposed in this bill, by penalizing other sections of the community who are suffering more grievously than are the normal producers of wheat this year. It is wrong in principle to pay a farmer who is capable of carrying on his business this year profitably, a subvention provided by other sections of the people, particularly if it must be paid at the expense of the man who has been incapable of carrying on his operations profitably this year through adverse seasonal conditions. The cumulative losses of the wheat industry and the debts incurred in respect of it during the last four or five years should be met, and I understand were being met, under the provisions of the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Act and should not, therefore, be brought into account in considering this measure. I do not believe that that legislation is adequate or even well drawn, but the Government pledged its faith in its proposals and persuaded parliament to agree to the measure. I am, therefore, prepared to accept its treatment of the debt structure of the wheat industry in the way that it desired to deal with it; having done so, I decline to take the debt structure into account again in dealing with this year’s harvest. The price at which wheat is now selling is satisfactory, having regard to the principles which the Wheat Commission put forward; and every farmer who has grown wheat for grain this year and had a normal crop without experiencing any adverse seasonal conditions should be assumed to be carrying on his operations successfully. Unfortunately, however, adverse conditions of a particularly acute character have been experienced in all the States - in some States more than iti others. It is my belief that the whole of the money raised by the flour tax imposed by this Parliament in the dying hours of its session last year, should be hypothecated to the relief of those farmers who, on this year’s showing, are actually in distress. Despite all the talk about the fairness of the proposal now before us the fact is that a large part of the money which Parliament is now appropriating has been contributed by persons who are in much worse circumstances than the majority of those who will receive it that is, if the bill is passed in the form in which it now appears before the committee. That is the foundation of my criticism of the measure at this juncture. The bounty of 4$d. a bushel provided four and a half years ago from loan funds for payment to the wheatgrowers did not impose any special tax on the unemployed, or in any way act oppressively on the taxpaying capacity of that year. It was because there was a general acknowledgment that the capacity of the country to withstand taxation had been weakened, that that measure was taken. Yet the Minister had the hardihood to tell honorable members to-day that the bill now before them would imposeno extra burden on the community.
– I did not use those words. I said that no additional financial burden will be placed on the community, because the bounty will be provided out of revenue.
– But chiefly as the result of a tax of a kind which is unfair in its incidence, and more oppressive of the poor than of the wealthy. My point is that the debt structure of the industry is not relevant to the consideration of this bill, and that the fact that the price now being received for wheat will yield between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 more for this year’s crop than was realized last year makes it unnecessary, on the general principles laid down in the report of the Wheat ‘Commission, to give the industry a subvention. Many farmers, however, because of low production, will derive no benefit because of the better prospects of the industry this year, and they will have to meet the whole of their production costs at rising interest rates. Those who were stricken by unfavorable conditions last season are particularly unfortunate this year, and it is doubly unfair that they should not receive the greater part of the assistance to be given. The bounty is proposed to be distributed among all the growers, whether they need it or not, and this will diminish the amount to be received by those who most require help. The shrinkage of the acreage under crop suggests to me that those who sow for wheat this year are those who should be maintained on the land as producers of wheat. I believe that adverse seasonal conditions are the chief factor which we should consider, but necessitous circumstances due to those conditions should not be considered by themselves if the wheat-grower has other income as the result of other occupations. When we deal with necessity, we should take into account the capacity to earn from any sources. Invalid and old-age pensioners have to submit to an inquisitorial examination similar to that which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) thinks should not be applied to wheat-growers.
Last year, when the price of wheat was low, I would not have resorted to an amendment such , as that now submitted. In 1933, although the Government of the day advocated this principle, I doubt whether I would have supported it, because the industry could not have carried on under the circumstances then obtaining; but I decline to hold that view this season. The present price can be regarded as one that should enable the industry to carry on, and I do not agree that areas in which yields of from fifteen to twenty bushels to the acre are unprofitable, should be accepted as representing average wheat lands. To a large extent, they represent unwise speculation in land values. Obviously, a farm that will not pay with a crop of from fifteen to eighteen bushels to the acre at the price offered for wheat this year must be highly capitalized and uneconomically worked. It is clear that over large areas - particularly in Western Australia and South Australia - good farmers will have no crop, or very small yields. The debts of these men must be increased owing to the high cost of production. Taking the long view, it would be wiser, economically, for the Parliament to give the poorer section of farmers the maximum amount of aid that can be provided at this juncture. In a period of financial stress, and in dealing with a great industry, in which the growers generally are not in need this year but certain sections of them are in difficulty, the just thing to do is to have more regard for the impoverished than for the well-to-do farmers. We can best serve the industry by enabling those who are suffering most this year to be helped, rather than waste a portion of the grant on the more fortunate men.
.- Whilst I admit that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) can make out a good case for his amendment, I appeal to honorable members not to accept it. We have had experience of administrative difficulties arising from the inclusion of the word “ necessitous “ in former legislation of this character. In the apple and pear bounty proposals, passed last year, the sum of £125,000 was made available for distribution to “ necessitous “ growers.
Much delay and considerable vexation were caused in Tasmania, particularly in deciding which growers were, in fact, “ necessitous “. As a result the State Minister for Agriculture made strong representations that in future legislation of a similar character the assistance should not be provided specifically for “ necessitous “ producers. The bulk of the amount to be set aside under i1118 bill will be distributed to the men who are in the greatest need. The desire of the Government is that the State governments should, through their Departments of Agriculture, undertake this responsibility because they are in a much better position to determine which farmers are in need of assistance. The various States have submitted proposals for the distribution of this money. In some States almost one-half will be earmarked for wheat-growers who are in the greatest need. For instance, in Western Australia, where the number of necessitous farmers is larger than elsewhere, £161,000 will be distributed to men who have suffered very grave losses owing to adverse seasons. The balance will be distributed on an acreage basis, so the same farmers will get further help. In this way nearly, two-thirds of the amount allocated to that State will be given to those producers who have suffered the greatest losses. Much the same principle is to be observed in Victoria. Approximately one-half of the allocation will be distributed to those who are actually in need, a large proportion of the balance will be disbursed on an acreage basis, and the remainder distributed as a bounty on production. We should not lightly interfere with proposals that have been submitted by .State governments because they are in a much better position than the Commonwealth to determine which farmers are in need. In this way the money will be distributed on a more equitable basis.
– If that is the intention of the Government, why did the Minister reject the previous amendment ?
– If we had accepted the principle contained in it, we should be almost bound to incorporate it in all similar legislation. The Tasmanian Government has appealed to the Commonwealth not to include in this class of legis lation the word “ necessitous “ because of the delay occasioned in defining a necessitous producer. I appeal in all sincerity to honorable members not to accept the amendment and thus impose unnecessary restrictions on State governments in the distribution of this money. A further objection to the amendment is that it will entail a tremendous amount of unnecessary work without conferring any benefit on the industry.
.- We have just listened to a most remarkable argument. The Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) appealed to the committee not to accept the amendment which seeks to ensure payment to necessitous wheat-growers, on the ground mainly that there will he delay in defining which farmers are necessitous. In the next breath he told honorable members that some State governments had submitted proposals for distributing the money to “ needy “ farmers. It seems to me that it would be just as difficult for a State to define a “ needy “ farmer as it would be for the Commonwealth to define a “necessitous” farmer. Therefore, we are justified in assuming that the Minister merely indulged in special pleading for the purpose of defeating the amendment. He admitted that some of the State governments have not definitely decided how they are going to distribute the money when they get it, and suggested that they will go through their list of wheat-growers with a fine toothcomb to ascertain which farmers are, in fact, needy. Having done this, they will then repeat the process to decide which farmers are entitled to further assistance on an acreage or production basis. He also told the committee of the delay in the distribution of the bounty to the growers of apples and pears, but I remind honorable members that there was definite information of the probable amount of export and payment was on the flat basis of 2s. a case. There would be no more delay in determining a “ necessitous “ farmer than there would be in defining a “needy” farmer. Notwithstanding what the Minister has said, the same principle is involved, but under the Government’s proposals those farmers who are really not in need will participate in the benefits to be provided for primary producers, whilst under the Opposition’s amendment only those in necessitous circumstances will benefit. When we were discussing similar legislation last year, we were told that many of the wheat-growers were at their last gasp, and that the measure should be passed without delay. Now we learn that some of the farmers have waited eight months for money to which they are entitled, but apparently they are still going strongly. All this talk about the absolute necessity for urgent payment, and about wheat-growers waiting on the doorstep at their last “ gasp “, is so much bunkum. I hope that the committee will accept the amendment, which is similar in terms to the provision inserted in legislation two years ago. On that occasion the Minister in charge of this bill supported the principle that only those in need of assistance should get it. The only difference then was that the department had to wait until a farmer got his taxation assessment before it could determine whether he was entitled to the bounty. The Minister had nothing to say then about delay and difficulty in determining what farmers were entitled to assistance. That matter was left to the Taxation Department, and I submit that we shall not now be inflicting hardship upon any section of the wheat-growers if we insert the amendment, thus ensuring that only necessitous farmers shall be entitled to assistance.
– I hope that the Minister (Mr. Thorby) will reconsider his opposition to the amendment, and also that he will withdraw his comments on my observations about wealthy farmers getting their “ cut “ out of this legislation. The Minister took me to task, suggesting that I was not quite honest in my criticism of the measure. Since he admits that approximately one-half of the amount to be provided under this bill will be distributed in two of the States to “ needy “ growers, there should be no necessity for investigations, and, as he suggests, delay in determining who are necessitous farmers.
– The money will be distributed according to crop failures. If we make the assistance payable only to necessitous farmers, we shall be up against the problem of defining who is a “ necessitous “ farmer.
– As the money is to be made available by the Commonwealth, there should be some supervision by this Government of its distribution, so as to ensure uniformity. The Minister surely will not persist in his assertion that, with wheat at its present price, farmers, who have reaped large harvests in a good season, should now receive the same measure of assistance as farmers whose crops have failed.
– I said it was dishonest for the honorable member to say that the Government was never asked to make assistance available to the wheat-growers, and I cited authorities in support of my assertion.
– What I said was that, since the day the Government decided to establish a home-consumption price, no organization had asked the Government for assistance from the money collected under the flour tax. The Minister has not answered that statement. I have tried to impress upon him that the two methods of distributing this money - on an acreage basis, and also on a bushelage basis - conflict. No honorable member will object to the needy farmers receiving the whole of this money, but I protest against the distribution of it on an acreage basis, and also on a bushelage basis, as under such a scheme farmers who are not in difficulties will receive assistance. However, on that point some honorable members have argued that the farmers who are better off, even if they are prospering to-day, have experienced very lean seasons in other years, and that this is the time to give them extra pickings. The Minister must admit that, if means can be devised whereby half of this money will go to the needy fanners, means can be devised to ensure that the whole of it wall go to them. I have asked the Minister to produce any evidence which he may possess - and apparently he does not possess it, because he has not produced it - to show that he has been asked by farmers’ organizations to use this money in the manner proposed in this measure.
– The Government has received a sheaf of telegrams from farmers’ organizations right up to the last few days, asking for more money than is to be distributed under this measure. Honorable members know that that is true, and it is futile for the honorable member for Barton to reiterate the argument he is using.
– I was not aware that farmers’ organizations had made such representations to the Government, and I am sorry if I have made a mistake. However, I can hardly conceive that honest men, when they are receiving 3s. 9d. a bushel for their wheat, could make the request indicated by the Minister. If some honorable members urge on their constituents in order to stampede the Minister, it is the duty of the Government to resist such tactics.
– But I have received telegrams making such requests from most of the Premiers of the States.
– I do not think that this Government should be guided by State Premiers in a matter of this kind ; it is this Government’s own responsibility. As the Minister himself has previously said, it is wrong that the wealthy farmer should receive this money, yet when an amendment is moved to ensure that only the needy farmer shall benefit, the Minister opposes it.
– It is impossible to define “ a needy farmer “.
– The Minister said that Victoria and “Western Australia propose that half of this money shall be distributed to the needy farmers. How have those . States been able to define “ needy farmers “ ?
– It is because I wish to give those States full liberty in distributing this money that I do not want to impose any limitation.
– We should not act like cowards in this matter, and decline to accept our responsibilities. If some States can define what constitutes a needy farmer, surely we can do the same.
– They can do it all right; but we cannot tie them up legally.
– If they can do it, we can do it also.
.- The amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), raises a very important principle of this legislation, namely, whether this Parliament is to vote assistance only to men who have suffered adverse seasonal conditions or whether such assistance is to be voted as general relief to an industry of national importance. Without hesitation I contend that the sentiment of the whole of the people of Australia endorses the attitude adopted by this Parliament on previous occasions, namely, that Commonwealth assistance should be given to the wheat industry as a whole because of its national importance, and that such assistance should not be given solely to those wheat-growers who have suffered through adverse circumstances. If, at this stage, this Parliament should reverse the principle by which it has been guided hitherto, and confine its assistance to those who have suffered adverse conditions, why stop at the wheat-growers? Why not apply the same principle to the wool-growers, and to other primary producers? Why, indeed, stop at the primary industries? If we, as a national Parliament, adopt the principle of voting money to citizens of Australia who have suffered misfortunes, then we certainly should not confine ourselves to the wheat-farmer. How- ever, this Parliament has, on previous occasions, laid down the basis upon which assistance is to be rendered to the wheat industry. It has been made clear that Parliament assists the wheat industry because of its national importance. A very expensive royal commission inquired exhaustively into the wheat industry, and has recommended, because of the national importance of that industry, that certain things should be done. Parliament has adopted the principle that, because of the importance of the industry, it is right for us to levy on all the people of Australia in order to stabilize and maintain it. There is really nothing new in that. We have merely adopted the principle advocated so wholeheartedly by the Opposition, particularly with regard to the manufacturing industries of Australia. Members of the Opposition would, I am sure, be the last to say that the manufacturing industries should be assisted only when they are in necessitous circumstances. However, when this Parliament chooses to apply to the wheat industry the principle which the Opposition has so forcefully advocated on behalf of the manufacturing industries, members of the Opposition completely reverse, their policy. They have said that they would be prepared to assist the wheat-farmers by arranging for a home-consumption price for wheat. They are prepared to support a system whereby every inhabitant of Australia is to be levied on by means of an artificial price for wheat, regardless of his financial position, the levy being collected from the man on the dole as well as tho wealthiest member of the community. But when we have legislation before us which proposes to assist industry, partly by revenue raised from wealthy taxpayers, and partly by revenue raised from the community as a whole, they oppose it. Their inconsistency must be apparent to any thinking person. Then, the astonishing proposition was put before us this evening by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that because the royal commission reported that ‘ in certain circumstances which he did not mention, half the growers in Australia can produce wheat at 3s. a bushel, and because that is approximately the price of wheat to-day, no assistance should be given to the industry as a whole, but, that, it should be limited to those farmers who have suffered as the result of adverse seasonal conditions. Let us, using the same authority as the Leader of the Opposition, the commission’s report, analyse that proposition. The commission has certainly reported that, in circumstances which it outlines, one-half of the farmers can produce at 3s. a bushel, but it goes on to say that, for the purpose of this calculation, it assumes that earnings of the farmers shall not be greater than £125 a year; (hat no allowance whatever shall be made for either food or wages for the members of his family who assist him in his work if they are under 21 years of age; and that, for those members of his family over that age, £1 a week shall be allowed for wages.
It is further stated that no consideration shall be allowed for the farmer’s capital which is involved in his business. In spite of this being the basis of the commission’s calculation, the Leader of the Opposition has said that “ the present price can be regarded as a price enabling the industry to carry on “. Here we have a Labour leader saying that the principle foodstuff of the people should be produced under conditions which allow the farmer only a little more than £2 a week, while the adult members of his family who assist him shall receive only £1 a week as wages, and those members of his family under 21 years of age shall receive nothing at all. If I were a Labour member I should feel ashamed to sit behind a leader who advocated such a proposal. I suggest that if the Leader of the Opposition, and those who support him, were to devote a little more study to the report of the Royal Commission on Wheat, and if they recalled their strenuous advocacy in the past of the payment of fair wages to all workers, they would not hesitate to withdraw the amendment now before us. Would the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) apply the same formula t’o the sugar industry when the Sugar Agreement is under consideration ? I ask those Labour members who represent rural electorates whether they would be prepared to support legislation to deal with other rural industries according to the principle which the Leader of the Opposition proposes shall be applied to the wheat industry. I am sure they would not.
.- If the committee accepted the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) another anomaly would be introduced. Those who listened to my speech this afternoon and to that of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) will remember that we said that in South Australia, and in other States also, there are hundreds of farmers without any income whatsoever. Some of them are practically useless on the land, and others are making no attempt whatever to farm their holdings. The acceptance of the amendment would mean the granting of assistance to people who either cannot, or will not, help themselves. I wish to make myself perfectly clear on this subject. In my second.reading speech I offered to the Government a number of recommendations which I hope will be heeded should it be proposed to assist this industry in the future. Had the amendment suggested that only those receiving a certain income should benefit under this legislation, I should have been more disposed to accept it. If I were a farmer with a good income, and this bill were passed in its present form, I do not think that I could accept from the Government money subscribed by men poorer than myself.
.- The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) asked whether I would advocate a wage of 15s. a week to a man engaged in farming. To that question I answer “No”.
– He did not say 15s.
– I am prepared to assist the honorable member for Echuca in ensuring a fair living wage to those engaged in rural production. The amendment, if carried, would place the farmers of this country in no worse position than that of the 250,000 workers of this country who are out of work. An unemployed worker with a family of four or five children cannot draw sustenance from the Government if he is in receipt of an income of 25s. or 30s. a week.
– Does the honorable member wish to bring the wheat-growers of this country down to that level?
– No; my understanding of a wheat-farmer who is in necessitous circumstances is one who does not pay any income tax. In Queensland a man with a wife and three children is exempt from the payment of State income tax if his income is less than £420 per annum. While so large a section of the community is on the dole, a person in receipt of £8 a week should’ not be entitled to receive assistance from the Government. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that an absentee company had, under previous legislation, been paid £1000 by way of’ bounty. This Parliament is responsible to the people of Australia for the revenues raised by the Commonwealth, and should not allow any person in receipt of a taxable income to participate in a bounty paid from the public treasury. I do not wish to see any person in receipt of the dole, but I am of the opinion that a man who- pays income tax is not in necessitous circumstances. A man who is not in a position to pay income tax is more likely to need assistance. In some of the States a wheat-grower with two sons assisting him might have an income of £600 a year and still be exempt from the payment of income tax. In Queensland each of the two sons would be granted an exemption up to £156 per annum, or £312 for the two, in addition to £400 for the father, making an exemption of over £700. There are other persons in the community just as badly off as are many of the wheat-growers who will benefit under this bill. The honorable member for Echuca said that if he were a member of the present Opposition he would bc ashamed to support the amendment moved by its leader. I ask him whether he is not ashamed to support some of the legislation dealing with the relief of unemployment. As a supporter of the Government was he not ashamed of its policy in connexion with that legislation, and is he not ashamed that a worthy sec- tion of the people of the Commonwealth are unable to obtain work? Some of them have not been in employment during the last five years. One of the difficulties confronting us is that the States, not the Commonwealth, control wages, although the Commonwealth controls the monetary system and is able to assist needy industries.
– Last week the honorable member said that the Commonwealth Government did not control the monetary system.
– I did not. The honorable member is gaining a reputation for making interjections; but if all of them are as unfounded as his last, it will not be long before no one will take any notice of him. I did not say anything about money, good, bad, or indifferent last week. The distribution of money, as proposed in this bill, affects industrial conditions and the wages of workers in industry.
– I am replying to a direct question asked of me by the honorable member for Echuca. ‘Eventually in the interests of consumers, the Government will be faced with the necessity to fix the price of wheat. During the whole period of depressed prices, wheat in
Queensland was bringing from 3s. 6d. to 3s. 9d. a bushel, bread, was as cheap as, if not cheaper than, it was in any other State of the Commonwealth, wages were higher, and rural industries were operated under an award. “When wheat-farmers are receiving bounties, it is only reasonable to expect that those engaged with them in the production of wheat, their employees, should get their share of the bounty by way of an increase of wages. The wheat industry would be of no value to this nation if it could not give to the producer at least the cost of production and a fair standard of living. The honorable member for Echuca and the wheat-growers inside and outside of this Parliament must recognize that the employees of the growers are as much entitled to a decent standard of living as are the wheatgrowers themselves. When the harvest is over, some provision should be made to tide the idle farm hands over the period during which they are out of employment. These men are now assisted by the payment of doles or by other aids, but, eventually, some provision, such as an unemployment insurance scheme, must be made by this Parliament to meet their needs. The Labour party has done more than has any other party for the primary producers of this country, it has. brought down legislation providing for the fixation of prices of sugar, butter and other commodities, and has always stood for the maintenance of decent conditions and a fair wage for the worker.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the amendment.
– Payment should not be made to certain classes of farmers. The definition of “ necessitous farmer “ suggested by the honorable member for Echuca is not acceptable to members of the party to which I belong. We believe that the true definition of “ necessitous farmer “ is “ one who lias not had a taxable income “. As the honorable member for Echuca concluded his speech by asking me a question, I now, in turn, conclude my speech by asking the honorable member if he thinks it is a fair thing for the people to be asked to contribute by way of bounty £1,000 to an absentee company in respect of wheat produced in this country, when there is no award governing the men employed in that industry?
– There are two points which the Opposition apparently has overlooked, though the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has attempted to deal with the question of the wages paid to agricultural workers. At the greatest depth of the depression in South Australia - and I think it would apply to almost any State - the position was that if it could have been improved agriculturally so as to permit each wheat-farmer to employ one additional man, there would have been no unemployment in that State. But the position of the unemployed in practically every State i? due almost directly to the inability of the farming community to provide work at any rate of wages. That is the great difficulty which confronts us.
– Is the honorable member in order in discussing rates of wages ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.So far the honorable member is in order, but I would remind him that the question is whether the bounty should be paid to certain classes of farmers.
– In developing my argument, I am entitled to show that the payment of this bounty will assist materially in the employment of further labour, or, alternatively, will assist in the employment of labour under better conditions than those which obtain on the farms to-day. Having had some experience of these matters, I say that the conditions of rural workers during tho last few years are not such as the farming community desires any more than the agricultural workers themselves. But there is that type of worker in Australia who, of his own choice, desires agricultural employment; he does not like city life, and rather than work in a metropolitan area or in the big towns, is quite prepared to work on a farm at lower rates of wages than are obtainable in the cities.
The other point is the question of the change-over in what are known as marginal and. sub-marginal lands from the production of wheat to other classes of primary production. If honorable members opposite will take a broad view of this matter, they will recognize that the distribution of this bounty by the method decided upon by each of the States will assist very materially in the change-over from purely wheat-growing to mixed farming which is urgently needed. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), who referred to the reduction of acreage, suggested, I believe, that the bulk of the reduction was in the marginal areas.
– No. I mentioned that part of it was due to a contraction in sub-marginal areas, and some to the evacuation of holdings.
– There has been a reduction of wheat-growing in the marginal areas ; but the surprising thing is that, although there has been a reduction in unprofitable areas, quite a large proportion of the reduction has been in those areas where, in ordinary circumstances, wheat-growing has been a payable proposition. This is due to the fact that the natural advantages of the country enable it to be used for other types of production. Moreover, the change-over is more readily effected in the good areas than in the poorer areas. As suggested by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) this measure should be studied from the viewpoint of the industry as a whole. It is not a matter of assisting individuals, because the decision which the Parliament has to make is whether the wheat industry is or is not worthy of support. If it is unworthy of support, it should be cast on to the scrap-heap, and in twelve months a special session of Parliament would need to be summoned to decide the future of Australia as a whole, ‘because if the industry were scrapped it would not be the only one affected.
The honorable member for Kennedy raised an important point in connexion with income taxation. The honorable member stated that a man in Queensland who has a wife and three children to support has an exemption of £420, but I remind him that in South Australia the exemption is only £200, and is on a diminishing scale. That shows that the Government is wise in allowing this money to be distributed largely on conditions determined by the States governments. The basis en which taxes are paid in the different States preclude this Parliament from laying down any hard-and-fast rule. If the Government attempted to define the words “ necessitous “ and “ needy “ it would find that the State authorities have entirely different interpretations. Whenever we attempt to define those words, we are immediately confronted with difficulties, because no State authorities have the same definition.
– The Minister said that the State governments would render assistance to needy cases.
– That was in connexion with another grant to be paid to those farmers who failed to reap three bushels an acre. I do not think that any member of the Opposition wishes to suggest that assistance shall be afforded only to those who have reaped less than that quantity. In connexion with the “ hardship grant “ as it was termed, it was decided that a farmer who reaped more than five bushels an acre should not receive any assistance, and that the grant was to be paid on a pro rata basis. A wheat-grower who reaped 5.1 bushels an acre did not receive any assistance, while one who reaped 4.99 bushels received 2s. 8d. an acre. Consequently, it is unwise for this Parliament to attempt to go too much into detail. It is better to leave such matters to State governments, which are in a better position to arrive at more satisfactory conclusions than are the Commonwealth authorities.
.- The Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) stated ‘that if the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) were adopted a good deal of delay would be caused in distributing the money to the wheat-growers. In all other instances when public money is paid in the form of grants, the recipients have to answer numerous questions and to submit to the closest examination. Why should money be distributed to the whea’t-growers without any investigation being conducted into their circumstances? Before R 11 applicant for a pension receives a pension, or before a man who is out of work receives the dole, a close examination is conducted. A good part of the time of this Parliament has been occupied in dealing with legislation framed with the object of assisting the wheat-growers. The Acting Minister stated to-night that he had received telegrams from various wheat-farmers’ organizations throughout Australia asking that the amount proposed to be appropriated should be increased. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has also received a telegram from a disgusted wheat-farmer protesting against certain greedy politicians in this House dipping their hands into the Commonwealth Treasury and taking money to which they are not entitled. The report of the Royal Commission on Wheat states that a wheat-grower who, after paying working expenses and interest, receives an income of £125 a year, should not be entitled to financial assistance from the Government. In some of the large towns in New South Wales, men have been deprived of the dole and told to seek work in the rural areas; but when they have done so, they have found that the wage offered by the farmers is only 10s. or 12s. 6d. a week. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) asks if we are prepared to support an amendment providing that sons of f armers shall receive an allowance of 20s. a week, but why should we do so when some rural workers and fathers of families are getting only 10s. a week? The people engaged in this industry, who have experienced bad seasons deserve consideration. Many farmers in the Lake Cargelligo district of New South Wales have had a lean time. If the amendment is agreed to, they will obtain a measure of assistance that will enable them to recover their position ; if it is not carried they will get very little help. Owing to the stay-order policy that has been adopted in New South Wales, many farmers have been treated harshly. I endorse the suggestion made during this debate, that the money voted under this measure should be distributed through the Commonwealth Bank, and not through State departments. I hope that the amendment will be carried for it is in the best interests of the most needy wheat-growers.
– Just as much could be said in favour of a proposal that tariff assistance should be limited to necessitous manufacturers as can be said for the proposal that this bounty should be limited to necessitous farmers. Indeed, the argument might be advanced that payments should be made from public funds to wheat-growers who have grown no wheat at all in recent years. Honorable members are doubtless aware that many farmers in the United States of America, who have not produced wheat for a considerable period, have received millions of dollars from the government of that country in consideration of that fact. It is no doubt because many wheat-growers have curtailed their area under crop, that the price of wheat is as favorable as it is to-day. [Quorum formed] . A good deal has been said in this debate about wealthy farmers. If there are any wealthy farmers in Australia, it is certain that their wealth has not been made through growing wheat. Surely the report of the wheat commission made this very clear. I urge honorable members to continue the policy of assisting the wheat industry on a national basis. It cannot be argued that this industry is in a good position in view of the fact that the royal commission reported that the debts of wheat-farmers in Australia approximated £150,000,000, and that the cost of putting all farm implements and machinery into an efficient state of repair would involve the outlay of a further £10,000,000. The wheat industry deserves well at the hands of this Parliament, and I urge honorable members not to put the farmers on what may be called a dole.
.- I have had a good deal of experience in the payment of bounties in one way or another. Three years ago an enactment of this Parliament provided that certain assistance to fruit-growers should be limited to those in necessitous circumstances. It was most difficult to define the word “ necessitous “. Throughout Tasmania, and I believe the other States of the Commonwealth, fruit-growers who were thrifty and maintained their properties without encumbrances were debarred from assistance, whereas those who had mortgaged their properties and bought motor cars and other luxuries were considered to be necessitous. People whose properties were clear of encumbrances were told that they could go to the banking institutions for relief, whereas those who had lived on an extravagant basis were granted relief from public funds. Persistence in a policy of that description would inevitably mean that primary producers as a class would soon cease to exercise thrift.
Members of the Opposition favour a home-consumption price for wheat, but a careful investigation should be made regarding the price of bread. In 193.1 a bountiful wheat yield was experienced, and the price of wheat dropped to ls. lOd. a bushel. At Albury I saw a large stack of wheat sold at that figure; yet the price of bread in that town, where there is a flour mill, was 9d. for a 4-lb. loaf. In my home town in Tasmania, where we do not grow wheat, but have to freight it across Bass Strait from the mainland, bread was 8d. for a 4-Jb. loaf. One of the bakers told me that he could sell it at even a lower price than that, but if he did so his supplies of flour would be stopped. It seems to me that the public of Australia has been exploited.
I hope that assistance will be given to those farmers whose crops have failed, and ,that they will not have to show that they are in necessitous circumstances. If a farmer has put 1,000 acres under wheat, and through floods or any other damage has met with a failure, he is entitled to a share of the bounty. He should not have to show that he is down and out, and has no other means of livelihood. I trust that the Government will see that those growers who have endeavoured to make provision for themselves receive assistance through this bounty. Subsidies have been granted to many other industries to enable them to carry on in competition with the outside world. In Great Britain, £3,000,000 a year is paid to wheat-growers, and the homeconsumption price there last year was 6s. 6d. a bushel. If Australia decided to grow only sufficient wheat to meet its own requirements, there would be danger of a shortage of foodstuffs. It is impossible accurately to estimate the acreage required to be planted to meet local requirements, because loss is always likely through causes over which we have no control. Farmers in the United States of America were told to plant only a certain area under wheat, and I was recently informed that a food shortage had occurred there.
Wednesday, IS March 1956
– The Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) and his colleagues will have great difficulty in justifying the action of the Government in this matter, in view of the source from which most of the bounty will be paid has been derived. The sum of £1,200,000 has been collected by means of the flour tax, and it would be difficult to express in words the resentment occasioned throughout the Commonwealth by this impost. When a tax of this nature was introduced on a former occasion, honorable members who now support the Government were loud in their denunciation of it. It is an iniquitous tax, because it falls more heavily on the poor than on those in better circumstances. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) proposes that the money so collected shall be paid only to those farmers who are in need of it. There should be no quibbling over the definition of “ necessitous circumstances “ when dealing with the claims of wheatfarmers, considering that full investigation is always made into the position of those members of the community who need the benefit of social services such as the. invalid and old-age pension. Lists of names of necessitous farmers and of their individual circumstances have been prepared in all States in connexion with the legislation passed regarding stay orders and debt adjustment, and further investigation should be quite unnecessary. The argument that a vexatious delay in the payment of the bounty would be occasioned by inquiries for the purpose of determining who are in necessitous circumstances would not stand close examination, but to safeguard the public revenue the Government should make any investigation that may be required. When honorable members of the Opposition sug- gest that certain social service payments should be made retrospective they are politely informed that the revenue must be protected, and therefore I contend that the utmost care should be exercised in the distribution of public money amongst the wheat-farmers or anybody else. Whatever may be said concerning tho national importance of the wheat industry, we should not lose sight of the fact that many other industries are equally important. Business men who have invested their money in industrial undertakings, or in other walks of life, and have met with reverses due to the depression, are now demanding government assistance in the same form as is being provided for the wheat-farmers. We have accepted the principle of assisting this industry as we have accepted the principle of assisting other industries, and I think that generally the people take the view that money should not be provided from the public revenues for persons who are not in need. That is the point which we have raised all through this debate. As to the definition of a “ necessitous “ farmer, I feel certain that the outside public will agree with me that a member of this parliament who is a wheat-grower cannot be regarded as being in necessitous circumstances. I should not hesitate to state this view on the public platform in any rural district in Australia, and I feel sure that I should have the wholehearted approval of the people of our action in endeavouring to prevent money raised per medium of the flour tax, which involved an increase of the price of bread., from going into the pockets of the people who are not in need of it.
The Minister has not answered the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition. He simply urged that difficulty would be experienced in defining what farmers are necessitous and that, as a result, there would be vexatious delay in administering the act. It is not, and never has been, difficult to define who is a necessitous farmer. The circumstances of all farmers who are in difficulties have been so tabulated over the last five years, particularly in New South Wales, that all information in detail could be obtained from the State agricultural departments within fourteen days. If that were not sufficient more exact information could be secured from the Taxation Department.
– The Government would not have access to the records of the Taxation Department.
– Where public funds are involved there should not be any difficulty in that regard. We all know that in the case of old-age pensioners the Pensions Department has access to the records of the Savings Bank and private banking institutions, in order to avoid payment of pensions to persons who are not entitled to this form of assistance. There should be no secrecy or privacy about the financial position of any persons having claims for assistance, bounties or payments from public funds. If information is made available concerning the financial position of applicants for pen.sions, it should equally be possible to obtain information from the Taxation Department in respect of persons claiming assistance under other forms of legislation, and it is the bounden duty of every member of this committee to ensure that public revenues are not improperly expended. From one end of Australia to the other there is complaint of excessive taxation being imposed upon all sections of the community. Since portion of the money to be provided under this bill, £1,200,000, will be raised by a flour tax, and £600,000 will be provided from the ordinary revenue, it is useless for the Minister to argue that it will not impose a heavy burden on the community. The sales tax which was regarded as an emergency measure yields about £8,000,000 a year, and it would appear to be a permanent feature of the Commonwealth’s taxation proposals. The statement that this bill will not impose extra burdens on the taxpayer will not be accepted by the general public as an argument substantiating the claims of the Government that payments should be made ad libitum to primary producers without regard to their need. All that we ask is an impartial review of the circumstances in which these payments are being made from the public revenues. The information disclosed by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), when he was Minister for Commerce, as to the direction in which some of the money was about to go. was sufficiently startling to cause honorable members to look at this subject from a different angle. We are not in a position to-night to lay bare information as to where this money will actually go. Some day that opportunity will be provided for someone to tell the people in what manner and to whom these payments have been made. I cannot understand the reason for the Minister’s objection to the amendment. A couple of years ago he accepted the principle embodied in it. Hansard indicates his concurrence with the ideal which I feel sure every honorable member approves, namely, that the money should be made available to those in need of it and that those not entitled to assistance should not receive one penny of it.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Curtin’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 - (1.) Any amount granted to a State in accordance with the provisions of section four of this act shall be paid on condition that it is applied by the State in providing relief to wheat-growers in such manner as is approved by the Minister after recommendation by the prescribed authority of that State. (2.) In making any recommendation for the purposes of the last preceding sub-section the prescribed authority shall have regard to the financial circumstances of the wheatgrowers who have applied for assistance and to the harvest from the crops sown by them during the year One thousand nine hundred and thirty-five.
– I move -
That sub-clause (2) be omitted.
I do not wish to repeat my reasons for moving for the deletion of this sub-clause as I stated these fully in the course of the second-reading debate. It seems that the retention of this sub-clause would unduly delay the making of these grants because of the time which would be involved in ascertaining the information it specifies.
– I point out that ‘throughout the debate on this measure, both on the second reading and in the early committee stages, it was revealed that the States would have to make investigations into the degree to which farmers, who had suffered adverse seasons,, should be recompensed for the losses they had sustained. This investigation is to be left entirely to the States. They are to formulate proposals, and, to my astonishment, are to carry them out to the approval of the Minister, even though their own parliaments have no cognizance of them. To what extent are the State governments going to be able to distinguish between a farmer who has partly lost his crop and the farmer who has entirely lost his crop unless the authorities concerned take into account the substance of this sub-clause, so as to be satisfied that the farmer who has partly lost his crop is really in need of assistance? It is implicit in the draft of the bill that when the Minister was considering the measure he had in mind the fact that there should be some assessment of the financial needs of those who had suffered adversity. I can understand the bill being drafted to provide assistance at so much a bushel grown, and at so much an acre sown, so as to conform with principles which have formed features of previous legislation of this nature.
– Sub-clause 2 applies to all the money voted.
– This provision would be rather a nuisance.
– It may prove a bit of a nuisance, but it is perfectly fair that the prescribed authority, when it is determining to what extent it shall give assistance to a farmer entirely because he has suffered seasonal adversity, should take into consideration the farmer’s financial position. Will the Minister explain why this sub-clause was put into the bill ? There must be some reason for it, even though now the Minister has reconsidered it, and is willing to omit it. If he gives the committee this explanation we may then he able to inform our minds as to whether or not that reason should still stand, despite his own review of the situation. It may be that the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) has convinced the Minister that this sub-clause should be deleted, but the committee has not yet been convinced on that point. It may be that after hearing the Minister’s explanation the committee shall decide to retain the clause.
– During the second-reading debate, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), in drawing attention to this sub-clause, pointed out certain difficulties that would arise in connexion with the administration of the act within the States. I took the matter up with the Government’s legal officer, and after carefully examining the sub-clause myself came to the same conclusion as the honorable member, that it would be advisable to omit it. I have been in touch with the State administration in New South Wales on this point, and I shall state the reasons why I am prepared to have this subclause deleted. It was inserted as the outcome of an arrangement by which the States were to take into consideration drought losses and the financial position generally of farmers, and submit proposals to the Commonwealth Government as to how they proposed to distribute the money. Now, however, after seeing the sub-clause in the bill., and having discussed it with the State authorities and the legal officers, it has become evident to me that the provision should be deleted. The subclause reads - (2.) In making any recommendation for the purposes of the last preceding sub-section the prescribed authority shall have regard to the financial circumstances of the wheat-growers who have applied for assistance and to the harvest from the crops sown by them during the year One thousand nine hundred and thirty-five.
If that is left in the bill its effect will be that State authorities can make no recommendation to me for approval until every application has been received and considered, and until every applicant has made a statutory declaration setting out his financial position, &c. I have discussed the matter with the legal officers to see if anything could be left of the sub-clause that would be of value, but the general belief is that its presence would merely create complications for the State authorities and place unnecessary restriction upon them. The State authorities have advised us what their returns are, and what the general financial position of the growers is, as well as what drought losses have been sustained in various parts of the State. If blame attaches to any one for the manner in which this sub-clause has been drafted, I am prepared to accept it, but I am convinced now that it should be deleted.
– The proposal to delete subclause 2 makes the whole bill even more objectionable than it was before.
We were told that if the financial position of each applicant was investigated, undue delay would be caused. Now we are told that if sub-clause 2 of clause 6 is allowed to remain in the bill, no action can be taken by the State authorities until the financial position of every farmer is investigated, and until all the applications have been received. The other day we dealt with a bill in which a sum of £275,000 was appropriated for a certain purpose; later another £50,000 was asked for, and, finally, we were told that a further £5,000 would finish the job. In connexion with the measure now before us I foresee similar repeated applications for appropriations. The bill provides for the appropriation of £1,S00,000 for distribution among the wheat-growers of the various States, and the exact amount to be distributed to each State, down to the last pound, has been estimated. If, however, the State authorities, before beginning the distribution of money, do not wait until all the applications are in and the financial position of applicants has been investigated, they cannot possibly know how much money will be needed. To the State of New South Wales done it is proposed to allocate £565,284. That is not a round figure; it indicates that a very carefully prepared estimate has been made of what is to be spent. The Minister has admitted that not two States are in agreement as to the basis upon which the money is to be distributed. Some States propose to consider necessitous cases; other are going to give special consideration to those whose crops have suffered from drought, while there is, of course, to be a general distribution to all wheat-growers. The State authorities in New South Wales cannot know how many applicants will fall into the one class or the other, nor just what demands will be made upon the Commonwealth grant; so that it is quite impossible to say at this stage whether the sum of £565,2S4 will be sufficient to satisfy all legitimate claims in New South Wales. I confidently predict that if the Government proceeds in this slipshod way - with a different basis of distribution in each State - and if the States deal haphazardly with applications, the day is not far distant when the same thing will happen to this legislation as happened to the legislation with which we dealt the other day. Sub-clause 2 of clause 6 provides that the prescribed authority shall have regard to the financial circumstances of the wheat-growers who have applied for assistance. That is a definite qualification, which should enable the Government to know the number of applicants and the basis on which it will deal with them. It, therefore, would be in a position to know the cost. Unless there is some safeguard of that nature, there is danger of further legislation being necessary to meet any deficiency. It may be that before long the Minister will discover that another £1,000,000 is needed, in which event he will approach Parliament with a case similar to that which he presented yesterday. He will contend that it would not be fair to penalize some farmers, just as deserving as those who have already shared in the bounty merely because the estimate was short of the amount required by £1,000,000. It would be difficult to resist voting the extra amount asked for, with the result that the total expenditure would be £2,800.000 which at this juncture honorable members may not be prepared to grant. I admit that difficulty might be experienced in determining who came within the category of necessitous farmers, but that difficulty would not exist in determining the financial circumstances of the applicant. The bank-book of the farmer would be of some value to the prescribed authority in this connexion. Some line should be drawn in order to ensure that the prescribed authority shall not make any grant to an applicant until his financial circumstances have been examined. If his circumstances are such as to justify his inclusion among those with an abundance of wealth, he should not participate in a bounty drawn from the most necessitous section of the community by means of a tax on flour.
– ^Honorable members should recollect that the committee has agreed to this grant on the basis of the allocation to the States - a decision arrived at without a division - so that the question before us now is as to how the money is to be spent in each State. The bill in clause 6, leaves the determination of the bases of distribution to the States. That matter has been the subject of consultation between the Commonwealth and the State governments. The latter have submitted proposals to which the Acting Minister (Mr. Thorby) has agreed.
– What are those proposals ?
– They were mentioned by the Acting Minister in his speech. An amount of £268,000 is to be provided for special assistance on account of adverse seasonal and climatic conditions which have occasioned distress. Sub-clause 1 of clause 6 provides -
Any amount granted to a State in accordance with the provisions of section 4 of this act shall be paid on condition that it is applied by the State in providing relief to wheat-growers in such manner as is approved by the Minister after recommendation by the prescribed authority of that State.
The sub-clause expressly provides for payment only “ after recommendation by the prescribed authority”. Sub-clause 2 reads -
In making any recommendation for the purposes of the last preceding sub-section, the prescribed authority shall have regard to the financial circumstances of the wheat-growers who have applied for assistance. . . .
If sub-clause 2 is allowed to stand as printed, the whole of the grants in a State might he held up until the Minister has received a recommendation from the prescribed authority, and that recommendation might not be considered until the financial circumstances of all the applicants have been considered. We all know from experience of similar legislation the long delay that takes place in connexion with the receiving and granting of applications. In Queensland, for example, there was a delay in the receipt of applications. Why should all the grants be held up for weeks because investigations have to be undertaken into the financial circumstances of some of the applicants?
– Does the honorable member propose that the payments should be authorized without application?
– No; applications would be required in all cases. Delay takes place particularly in connexion with hardship cases which have to be investigated. But why should all applications be held up for that reason? If the clause is permitted to stand as printed, undue delay might be caused in administration. The Minister has been in consultation with the States, which now appreciate that difficulty, and arc anxious to have it removed.
– It will be an “ open go.”
– There can be no “ open go “, because the amount of the appropriation is fixed by the bill. The acreage can be clearly defined, and the yield can be fairly well known; but. delay arises in connexion with the investigation of hardship cases.
– Will the prescribed authority grant money without investigation ?
– No. In all cases, application must be made. The delay that necessarily results in conducting investigations is the only point at issue.
– It is a fine point.
– If applications can be held up for months, I do not think the applicant would consider it a fine point. I approached the Minister asking him to look into this matter, and he has confirmed my opinion on that point.
– I protest against the undue and improper strain imposed on honorable members and particularly on the members of the Hansard staff by reason of the long continued sitting without a proper interval for refreshment. It is grossly unfair. We should have some regard for our servants, if not for ourselves.
– The Government wants to put the bill through.
– The Minister is not helping his bill by objecting to a reasonable interval for refreshments. We are willing to sit on and finish the bill. I remind the Chairman that he is the officer, not of the Government, but of the committee, and ask him to leave the chair for half an hour to enable honorable members to partake of refreshment.
– Is it the will of the committee that I leave the chair for half an hour?
Honorable members expressing approval by their voices,
Sitting suspended from12. 55 to 1.30 a.m. [Quorum formed.]
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Amendment (by Mr. Nairn) agreed to-
That the word “trustee” last occurring be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “trust estate.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 11 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate with requests.
House adjourned at 1.38 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The official report of the Government of Northern Ireland states -
It is clear from the veterinary officers’ report that the Spahlinger dead vaccine has conferred on the vaccinated animals a very high degree of immunity to a lethal dose of tubercle bacilli injected into the blood stream six months after vaccination and at least an equally high degree of immunity to intense natural infection during a continuing period of approximately two years.
The observations (by the Tuberculosis Committee appointed by the Agricultural Research Council of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom are more guarded. The conclusions to the report of that committee are -
A case has been made out for further investigation, and we are of opinion that a thorough test should be made in this country, if Mr. Spahlinger is found willing to supply vaccine in sufficient quantity for the inoculation of a suitable series of animals.
We would urge that until the vaccine has been shown by further and extended experiments to be effective against natural as well as experimental methods of infection, its practical application should be deferred, and we would deprecate most strongly its enforced general use until a thorough investigation has been made.
The question whether tests will be made in Australia is now being examined.
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
State Ministers of Labour, which met in Sydney recently, to consider employment problems, and in particular the problems of youth employment?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
When will the consolidation of Commonwealth Statutes be published?
– It is expected that the consolidation will be published in about six months’ time.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the result of the inquiry made in answer to a question, on notice, by the honorable member for Bourke concerning New Guinea administration (Hansard, page 2749)?
– In view of the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) in this House on the 6th December, 1935, during the course of the debate on the second reading of the New Guinea Bill 1935, it appeared that lie had obtained the information he desired concerning the relations of the Governor of a Crown colony and the Executive Council. No further action was, therefore, considered necessary in connexion with the question, upon notice, asked by the honorable member on the 5 th December, 1935.
n asked the Acting Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
When will the amendment of the Seamen’s Compensation Act, providing for increased rates of industrial compensation, referred to in the answer last year to a question by the honorable member for Bourke (Hansard, page 1782), be introduced?
– The Assistant Minister for Commerce, who is in charge of the measure, has informed me that the amendment of the Seamen’s Compensation Act referred to will be presented to Parliament during the current year.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. I have no information on the subject.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Attorney-General is appearing for the Commonwealth and the Government of Victoria in this case. I do not know what fees (if any) are being paid by the Government of Victoria in this matter.
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made with a view to ascertaining whether the information can be readily supplied.
German Nationals in Australia.
l. - On 13th March, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Minister for Defence have investigations made to ascertain whether German consuls in Australia are seeking recruits?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that as far as can be ascertained, no action is being taken by German consuls in Australia to seek recruits.
Employees at Maribyrnong Munition Works.
– On 13th March, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) stated that returned soldier applicants for employment in the Defence Department Munition Works at Maribyrnong were handicapped because, owing to their war experience, they are unable to pass the medical examination at 100 per cent, fit, and asked that steps be taken to ensure that returned soldier applicants are treated more sympathetically. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the policy of preference to returned soldiers is being fully and sympathetically given effect to, but it has been found necessary, owing to the in creasing claims for compensation for injury on duty, and for sick leave on such account, that the health of applicants for employment should be more carefully considered. It is in the interests of the persons concerned, as well as of the public expenditure, that such care should be taken.
Hobart Broadcasting Studio.
l. - On the 13th March, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) asked, without notice, a question pertaining to the installation of a new plant at broadcasting station 7ZL Hobart, to replace the existing equipment at that station. I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following reply U his inquiries: -
Although the existing equipment at station 7ZL is of early design, the apparatus has been greatly improved in performance, and is now capable of rendering a satisfactory service. It may be added, however, that the department’s plans for the extension and improvement of the national broadcasting system include the installation of new equipment at this station when circumstances permit.
New Guinea: Restrictions Upon Foreign Shipping.
y. - On the 13th- March, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr . E. J. Harrison) asked, without notice, whether the information which led to the introduction in the New Guinea Legislative Council of legislation imposing restrictions upon foreign shipping would be made available to the House. I informed the honorable member that I would refer the matter to the Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce). I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the Administrator of New Guinea was advised that the Commonwealth Government considered it desirable that legislation should he enacted to regulate coastwise shipping in the territory, and that overseas vessels of any nationality should be permitted to call only at certain ports to be proclaimed by the Administrator under the ordinance.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 March 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19360317_reps_14_149/>.