14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (HonG.J.Bell) took the chair at2.30p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. CURTIN.Is the Minister direct ing negotiations fortrade treaties now in a position to make to the House a statement which will give to the country some specific information in relation to. the trade negotiations that are proceeding with representatives of Japan?
– I am not yet in a position to make such a statement.
Mr.Beasley. -When will the honorable gentleman he in a position to make it?
– I am not able to mention a date.
-With regard to the protracted trade dispute with Japan, resulting in substantial losses to Australia–
– Will the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties say whether the Federal Cabinet has yet come to a decision on the latest communication received by him from the Japanese Government, or whether he is awaiting a reply from Japan?
– At the present time a proposal from the Japanese Government is under the consideration of this Government.
Embabgo onentry into New Zealand.
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to disclose the nature of the proposals which he will place before the Government of New Zealand with respect to the embargo imposed by that Government upon the importation of fruit and vegetables from Australia ?
– I have not yet obtained any details as to the nature of proposals that the Commonwealth is prepared to submit, but I shall procure- them before I leave Australia. I shall be very glad to discuss this matter with the New’ Zealand Minister concerned, with a view to clarifying the position as far as that is possible by means of conversations.
– As the Minister for Defence intends to leave Australia for New Zealand on Saturday to discuss with representatives of the Government of New Zealand, matters relative to the proposed overseas air-mail contract, and the embargo on the importation of fruit and vegetables from Australia to New Zealand, will the Minister for Commerce give an assurance that the potato embargo will not be removed without this Parliament being given an opportunity to express its mind on the subject? I remind the right honorable gentleman that the potato industry means a great deal to Tasmania.
– The conclusions that the Minister for Defence reaches with the representatives of the Government of New. Zealand will be considered by the Commonwealth Cabinet on the Minister’s return.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table report and recommendation of the Tariff Board on the followingsubject: -
Titanium Oxide, Titanium White, alsocom- pounds and mixtures of Antimony and Titanium Oxides .
The following papers were presented : -
Orange Bounty Act (1935) - Report on the working of the Act, together with return showing amount of bounty paid.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Balance-sheets oi Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank and Statement of the Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department, as at 30th June, 1930; together with Auditor-General’s Reports thereon.
Public Service Act - Appointment of J. E. Morrow, Department of the Interior.
– A press report which was published subsequent to thelast Premiers Conference indicated that the States had come to an agreement for the appointment by the Commonwealth of a Bingie appellate tribunal to deal with State and Federal income tax appeals. If that report is correct, will the Treasurer advise the House of the intentions of the Government with respect to the existing Board of Review ?
– The matter is almost entirely a legal one, and is being handled by my colleague, the Attorney-General. I understand that the press report is substantially correct. Details hare not yet been furnished by a number of the States. As soon as the matter reaches the definitive stage, I shall be glad to advise the House on the position.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to the statement that the British shipping line which is at present trading from Australia to San Francisco is to be withdrawn from this service towards the end of next month, owing to the competition of subsidized shipping of the UnitedStates of America? If so, what steps is the Government taking for the transport of British goods in British vessels ?
– The withdrawal of this line from the service between San Francisco and New Zealand and Australia was decided upon by the CanadianAustralasian line some time ago. Even if the project suggested some twelve months ago, to employ new ships in the Pacific trade, were pursued, there would be no resuscitation of that particular line. In the plans which were laid before the conference of representatives of the governments concerned in trade in the Pacific, provision was made for such a deviation of the route of the Vancouver to Sydney service as would permit of British goods being transported in British bottoms.
– What is Canada doing in the matter?
– Representatives of the various governments met in London, discussed the whole matter, agreed on the general principles underlying the complete project, and submitted certain facts for elucidation by the Imperial Shipping Committee. I understand that the report of that committee will be finalized in London during this week. We hope to have it veryshortly. The different governments may then consider what action they will take in regard to it.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether a competitive examination has ever been held for the filling of any position on the parliamentary staffs? If so, what were the occasions? If not, will you give reasons for the failure to adopt such a course in the filling of several vacancies that have occurred? Further, will you supply the names of the persons who have been appointed, and state the nature of the positions to which appointments have been made, since the 1st January, 1931?
– I shall have inquiries made, and supply the honorable member with the information as carty as possible.
-Concerning the investigations of the Minister for Commerce into the possibilities of improving the conditions relating to the marketing of our surplus sugar in the United Kingdom, can the right honorable gentleman inform the House as to what arrangements were made of advantage to this industry ?
– by leave- In order to understand the sugar position and the dangers to the Australian sugar industry which the Oommonwealth mission went abroad to endeavour to avert, a brief survey of the world sugar position is necessary. World production of sugar has been in excess of requirements. World consumption approximates between 25,000,000 and 26,000,000 tons of sugar per annum, and substantial stocks had accumulated. Prices had therefore fallen to a calamitous level. The position was further complicated by the fact that the annual requirements of the world’s free markets had fallen within a few years from about 6,000,000 tons to approximately 2,500,000 tons, so that the excess stocks had a most distressing effect upon the reduced free markets, which effect projected itself into all other markets and was the prime cause of a multitude of special measures, such as high duties, import embargoes and the like, which various sugar-producing countries adopted to keep their own industry in existence.
In an endeavour to improve the world position the Chadbourne plan was invented in 1931. The plan was adopted on the 9th May, 1931, by the following countries: - Cuba, Java, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Belgium. Peru joined a little later. Mr. Thomas L. Chadbourne, an American largely interested in sugar production in Cuba, was the author of the plan and it was named after him.
Under this plan the signatory nations agreed that for a period of five years they would reduce their exports of sugar to European countries by specified quantities subject to various conditions. They also agreed to segregate substantial portions of their then tremendous surplus stocks and to release them during the five-year period only gradually from time to time if and when world free market prices should rise to specified levels
As an illustration of the sacrifices made by the Chadbourne countries Java reduced its sugar production to about 500,000 tons per annum as against its previous production of 3,000,000 tons and Cuba reduced its production from 5,150,000 tons to approximately 2,500,000 tons. Despite these great reductions the free market price of sugar touched new record low levels on a number of occasions since the inauguration of the plan. This was due to -
The Chadbourne agreement ended in 1935 with the world’s free market price of raw sugar at £4 5s. a ton, or less than half the cost of efficient native labour production, and sufficient excess stocks still held to “ bear “ the free markets. It was to prevent further falls in the price of sugar in the world’s free markets and to endeavour to provide for a proper adjustment of supplies to world’s requirements that the International sugar conference was proposed.
The Government of the United Kingdom proposed that all sugar-producing parts of the British Empire should adopt a common policy at the world conference which would provide for -
The Commonwealth Government, whilst opposed on principle to restriction of production, particularly on account of the necessity to populate and develop Australia, agreed to discuss the proposal for a reduction of 7 per cent. in its exports subject to full international agreement at the world conference, provided that any increase of consumption in the United Kingdom was allocated to dominion and colonial producers.
Subsequent to my arrival in London, the position was discussed with representatives of South Africa and the British colonies, and it was felt that an international conference was neither desirable nor necessary until the Empire position had been stabilised on a satisfactory basis. Consequently, the International sugar conference was not held and the 7 per cent. reduction which it was contemplated would have been imposed upon the exports of Australian sugar to the United Kingdom market was not pressed. No restriction has been placed upon imports of sugar into the United Kingdom for the current year and an assurance was obtained from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the existing preference of approximately £3 15s. a ton ou Dominion sugar would not be altered without eighteen months’ notice. One of the factors which influenced the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this regard was the efficient manner in which the Australian sugar industry is managed.
Tha export of sugar from Australia for the past three years has exceeded 300,000 tons. The estimated export for the current year is likely to exceed 350,000 tons. Had restrictions been imposed upon the Australian exports of sugar Australia’s quota for this year would have been in the vicinity of 286,000 tons. On existing prices a saving of approximately £500,000 has thus accrued to the sugar industry. In other words a market has been retained for Australian sugar to the value of £500,000 which would not have existed had the quota proposal been put in operation-
All our negotiations were carried on in conjunction with the Government of South Africa, whose High Commissioner, Mr. Te Water, rendered the utmost assistance. Mr. Forgan Smith, the Premier of Queensland, was in constant touch with me, and accompanied the South African High Commissioner and myself to such interviews with the Chancellor of the Exchequer as occurred while he was in London. I also owe a debt of gratitude to the Commonwealth Sugar Adviser, Mr. A. It. Townsend, the AgentGeneral for Queensland, Mr. L. Pike, and Sir Philip Goldfinch, whose assistance was of the utmost value.
– Will the Prime Minister obtain the following information for the House : - What is the weekly standard of hours of labour of those employed in the respective services of the Commonwealth ? What is the number of employees engaged on the standard hours of duty? What are the numbers of those employed on weekly hours of duty which vary from the standard? What are the grades of employment to which the standard hours do not apply, and -
– I shall look into the matter to ascertain whether the information can be obtained for the honorable member.
– I have received a telegram from the Secretary of the Municipal and District Councils Association of South Australia which reads -
Disappointed no relief sales tax local government bodies; is this final?
Will the Treasurer explain the position?
– We have all received telegrams like that.
– I suggest that the honorable member will have a better opportunity to state his views on this subject in the course of the debate on the Sales Tax Exemptions Bill.
– I ask the Treasurer whether there is any foundation for press reports that owing to actuarial’ difficulties the British experts, Sir Walter Kinnear and Mr.. Inch, who are making an investigation into the subject of national insurance in Australia, will be unable to submit their report to the Government this year?
– There is no foundation for such reports. The work that has been undertaken by the two gentlemen referred to is of arduous and complex nature, and it will necessarily the some time before their report can be presented to the Government. There is no hold-up in the investigation, which is proceeding well.
^ Mr. CURTIN. - Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the Censorship Board examines each book which the department bans from entering Australia? How many books have been banned in the last three years, and how many of the banned books have been dealt with bv the Censorship Board?
– -The board does not deal with books of a seditious character; these are examined by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, whose recommendation is taken.
– Irrespective of the Censorship Board?
– The board examines ordinary literature under section 52(c) of the Customs Act, with a view to determining whether it is obscene, indecent or blasphemous; and its recommendations are taken.
– How many books have been banned in the last three years?
– I shall supply the honorable member with that information.
– Can the Minister inform the House if the book Liberty, by John Stuart Mill, has been banned by the Censorship Board, and, if so, will he give the grounds for thu action?
– As far as, I know, there is no book of that name written by John Stuart MilL Hia Essay on Liberty is not on the banned list.
– ‘Will the Minister for Trade and Customs assure the House that none of the books, seised by the Customs Department at the Perth Literary Institute is prohibited from publication or circulation in the United Kingdom?
– I can assure the honorable member that one of them is prohibited from circulation in the United Kingdom. I can also assure him that several of the books were banned during the regime of the Scullin Government.
– by leave - In connexion with the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Act, the question has been frequently raised by honorable members in this House as to what is meant by the request that an amendment of the section in the Queensland act, to the effect that the act shall not bind the Crown, be made. I have, therefore, had an authoritative explanation of the position prepared indicating the conditions with which the State must comply in order to obtain some of the money for farmers’ debt adjustment. In preparing the original basis for farmers’ debt adjustment, and the legislation to give effect to it, the policy of the Commonwealth Government was clearly expressed to be that the money should be used for purposes of debt adjustment only, that it should be applied only in cases where the farmer had a reasonable prospect of carrying on bis operations successfully after his debts were adjusted, and that the funds should not be used as an aid to State revenues.
The original federal act also provided that no grant should be made to any State unless there was in force in that State legislation constituting an authority empowered to take action having the effect of suspending either wholly or in part the rights of any secured or unsecured creditor of a fanner against that farmer. This provision extended to’ all debts of the farmer, including debts which might be due by him to the Crown. Subsequently the act was amended te provide that there must be in force, within the State, legislation which is declared by proclamation to be legislation which affords farmers reasonable facilities for relief in respect of debts owing by them.
In making this amendment, it was clearly indicated to Parliament that the Commonwealth would still require the States to have the power of suspending a farmer’s debts pending adjustment of his debts. The modified condition made it possible, however, for State legislation to be on less rigid lines than under the original condition. Thus the Commonwealth has now been able to accept the Victorian scheme under which farmers have the right, in certain cases, to disclaim the benefits of the State act relating to the suspension of debts.
In all States, excepting Queensland, the power of suspension is exercisable in relation to debts owing by a farmer te the Grown, as well as in relation to those so owing to private persons. In Queensland the power of suspension is provided, but the act expressly states that the act shall not bind the Crown. This means, in effect, that debts due to the State are not affected by any suspension pending negotiations for the adjustment of the farmer’s debts, and such negotiations might, therefore, be prejudiced. An amendment of tie Queensland act is, therefore, necessary to provide for a stay of proceedings on the part of the States while the question of adjustment is being considered.
How the State bodies are to differentiate between secured and unsecured creditors in effecting adjustments of farmers’ debts is purely a matter for the State authorities, with a view to their making the best possible bargain with the secured as well as the unsecured creditors of the farmer. Each case would be dealt with according to the special circumstances of the case, and no hard and fast rule can be laid down. It is definite, however, that, in the case of these debts, as in the case of all other debts of the farmer, the State authority should have the power to suspend the rights of the creditors in relation to them, pending discussion and adjustment of the farmer’s financial position.
The Queensland Government has submitted proposed amendments to the Queensland act, in order to bring it into line with the provisions of the Commonwealth act The Commonwealth comments on these amendments were forwarded to the Premier of Queensland on the 23rd July, 1936, and an intimation as to whether or not the Queensland Government proposes to make the necessary amendments to its act is awaited. If such is the Government’s intention, a further request has been made for an intimation of the estimated requirements in the way of funds for debt adjustment up to the end of June next.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs been drawn to a statement published in the press to the effect that Norway must seriously discuss with Australia a message from Canberra stating that Australia intends to expand its territories in Antarctica to include Orenson Land, King Leopold Land, Queen Astrid Land, lngrid Christen’s Land and half of Queen Maud Land, all of which Norwegian expeditions have discovered? If the attention of the Minister has been directed to this matter, can he give an assurance that Australia will not be embroiled in any international differences in connexion with its newly acquired possessions in Antarctica?
– I have seen the press statement to which the honorable member has referred, but the Government has received no formal or other communication from the Government of Norway protesting against the assumption of Australian sovereignty in Antarctica. I can only assume that the newspaper paragraph to which attention has been directed conveys merely the opinion of a private Norwegian individual.
Cost of Was Memorial in FRANCE.
– -Will the Prime Minister state whether any increase hp.s occurred in the cost of erecting a war memorial in France, owing to an act of internal policy on the part of the French Government? If so, what is the nature of the French innovation which has caused the increase of cost?
– Already, I think, publicity has been given to the fact that the expenditure in connexion with the memorial in question has increased from £30,000 to £36,000 owing to the adoption by France of the 40-hour week.
– As the Minister for Commerce, when abroad recently, was reported to have said that, in his opinion, certain sections of Australian secondary industries should be rationalized, have his suggestions been presented to the Government, and have they been accepted? Is it a fact that the electrical industries of this country have been approached for the purpose of obtaining information to ascertain if it would be possible to rationalize them?
– The general proposals made by me have been scrutinized by the Government. Since I have been hack in Australia I have placed the proposals before the chambers of manufactures, and the electrical industry has appointed a sub-committee to examine them.
– In view of the disclosures made in this House regarding the “doctoring” of evidence to he submitted to the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Reform, I ask the Prime Minister if the Government will take immediate steps te prevent the expenditure of any further public money upon a continuance of this useless inquiry!
– The Government has no intention of terminating this inquiry. I gave an undertaking to ask the Government to Bet up the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Reform only if a definite demand existed in Australia for such .an inquiry, and that demand was expressed through a substantial majority of honorable members of this House. The commission was set up as the result of that demand and it will be allowed to complete its inquiry and make its report.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether his attention has been directed to the experiments which are being conducted under the Brice Henry Scheme for the fattening of cattle from the inland on the coast of Northern Queensland? In view of the important bearing which the success of these experiments would have in helping to populate the sparsely settled portions of northern Australia, and also upon such matters as defence and the expansion of the meat industry, will the Minister institute a thorough investigation with a view to determining to what extent this Government can co-operate or assist in this scheme ?
– I assure the honorable member that the Government will investigate the scheme with a view to seeing whether it can render any assistance.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether, as the result of the recent inquiry into the milk industry in Canberra, if it is the intention of the Government to establish a milk depot in Canberra, under the control of either the Department of the Interior or the Department of Health?
– This is really a matter for the Minister for Health, and any decision on it will have to be made by him.
– I ask the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties whether any progress, or finality, has been reached with regard to a .trade treaty with Belgium, and whether the House will have an opportunity to discuss such a proposal at .a later date ?
– The negotiations for a trade treaty with Belgium are not yet complete. They are, however, in what I may describe as the final stage. The treaty, when concluded, will come before the Parliament for endorsement before it can be put into effect.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether the Government has yet come to a decision in regard to a question which I asked yesterday, namely, whether the Government will give instructions to its representative at the League of Nations to support the admission of Abyssinia to the League? This matter, I contend, is one of urgency.
– We all know that Haile Selassie is still knocking at the door. -
– Order ! It is not in order to make a comment when asking a question.
– I regret that I am unable to give the honorable member the information he seeks.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message ) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purposes of financial assistance to the States of the Commonwealth.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr.Paterson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for invalid and old-age pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr.Paterson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
Message recommending appropriation reported’.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue fund the sum of £2,000,000 for naval construction, for other defence purposes, and for the development of civil aviation.
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle) [3.11].- Normally, I would offer no comment in regard to a motion of this kind, but this motion has for its purpose the initiation of legislation which will authorize the expenditure of approximately £2,000,000 from last year’s surplus for the purpose of carrying out the Government’s defence policy.I again suggest that it would be appropriate to defer the carrying out of this part of the Government’s policy until Parliament has had an opportunity to consider the budget itself. Parliament, in its wisdom, may find some other use for this sum of £2,000,000. It might authorize an increase of old-age and invalid pensions and maternity allowances; it might direct the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to incur some new form of expenditure on social services; or it might decide to devote the money to assisting the States to carry out public works for the absorption of unemployed persons. The procedure which the Treasurer is now following, and which he has said is the general practice, will mean that, before we can consider the budget as a whole, we shall have already dealt with every specific item in the budget statement. I am prepared to consent to this measure being carried to the secondreading stage, but the Government ought not to proceed beyond that stage until the budget as a whole has been dealt with. The money which it is proposed to spend is part of last year’s surplus. It will not disappear if this bill is not passed immediately,and Parliament will enjoy greater freedom in discussing the budget if it has not already bound itself by the passing of legislation based upon the budget. One cannot discuss this bill in relation to the general financial position of the Commonwealth, and yet we ought to have that in mind when considering a proposal to spend £2,000,000 on. defence. I know that the Government, having command of this House, will ultimately get its way, but it ought to be content to do so after Parliament has fully considered the budget. It should not anticipate Parliament’s acceptance of the budget by introducing legislation of this kind now.
.- The object of the Government in bringing these measures to the firstreading stage is to get them on to the business-paper, and to have the bills in the hands of honorable members, so that they may acquaint themselves with their contents against the time when they will be more fully debated in this chamber. So far as I know, it has been the general practice, since the inauguration of federation, immediately after the budgetspeech to introduce bills designed to implement the Government’s proposals, and those bills have usually been passed before the conclusion of the budget debate. Therefore, I am introducing no innovation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) had an opportunity to express his opinion when replying to the budget-speech, and I do not remember any real criticism of the proposals of the Government in respect of the disposal of the surplus revenue from last financial year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. ‘Paterson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Cabby, and read a first time.
PORT fob BARKLY tableland lessees.
– I move -
That this House declares that closer Battlement of tha good lands of the Northern Territory is of urgent national importance, and requests the Government to open a port in the Gulf of Carpenteria, which would be available for all classes of snipping.
It will be no disadvantage if the House pauses a while in its deliberations on major matters of finance and the like to consider the conditions prevailing in the Northern Territory in which the Commonwealth is supreme and its activities are not restricted by judicial interpretation of the constitution. In my opinion the position that has arisen during the last two years in connexion with the export of cattle from Australia makes the settlement of the Northern Territory a more pressing problem than heretofore. Unquestionably that vast area has, in the pastoral industry, a future quite apart from mining. I remind honorable members that the area of the Northern Territory is 520,000 square miles and that in its confines could be placed Austria, Bul garia, Roumania. Switzerland and Greece. The combined population of those countries totals 86,000,000 but at the present time the white population of the Northern Territory is only 5,000. When the control of the Northern Territory waa taken over by the Commonwealth Government in 1911, the value of its direct overseas trade was £29,000, which, by 1934, had diminished to £6,000. This lack of development and of population might easily raise the cry, which is often uttered by what are known as the “ Have nots “ against the “ Haves.” The Italo-Abyssinian war was a direct instance of this dissatisfaction, one nation showing its determination at all costs to acquire more territory at the expense of another with poorly developed areas. For that reason the Northern Territory is no longer a matter of purely Australian significance, but becomes one of world importance. Honorable members might remember the comments of the wellknown British writer, Sir Philip Gibbs, in regard to the attitude, as he described it, of Australia holding this vast area and not populating it. The article created considerable attention at the time, and failure by Australia to develop its own interior might easily be made a lever for the return of its mandates. The urgency for settling the Northern Territory is therefore intense. After 45 years South Australia was obliged to confess its failure to develop that vast area, although the State made a great effort to do something for it. . In view of those circumstances the Commonwealth cannot be blamed for not having succeeded in 26 years when South Australia failed in a much longer period. Like some other honorable members I have visited the Northern Territory and from my observations, I conclude that the land can be classified sb good, medium and bad. The best land is to be found on the Barkly Tableland, the next best in the Wave Hill district and in the region of Katherine and southwards. Unquestionably the Barkly Tableland is by far the richest portion of the area. It is undulating, well grassed country and has the advantage of a good supply of sub-artesian water. In this connexion I propose to cite the opinion of Mr. W. W. Killen, a former member of the House of Representatives for Riverina, but before doing so 1 desire to emphasize that although in his private capacity, Mr. Killen is a large owner of land similar to the Barkly Tableland, none of his property is situated in its vicinity or, for that matter, in the Northern Territory itself. Giving ‘ evidence before the New South Wales Parliamentary Works Committee in 1928 in connexion with the suggested building of a railway from Bourke through Queensland to the Northern Territory, Mr. Killen stated : -
I knew there was a jot of fine country on the Barkly Tableland, but had not previously seen it. I was surprised to find it was so good, and waa astonished that the Federal Government waa proposing to build the north-south railway through very inferior country, whilst leaving the fine country on the Barkly Tableland undeveloped. The money that is being spent on the first section of the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, which line will be of very little use, could have been used for developing the Barkly Tableland … I think the Federal Government is realizing and will soon see it will be absolutely necessary to develop the Barkly Tableland. There is a fine tract of country there, about three-fourths the size of Victoria, which is nearly all good grazing country, quite equal to the Western Queensland Downs, which will carry a sheep to three or four acres. There in plenty of underground water at reasonable depths. That country would support a considerable population and carry 8,000,000 to 10,000,0000 sheep. The Federal Government will realize the necessity within a very few years for developing that portion of the Northern Territory, which is the best portion of it.
Mr. Killen’s views on the sheep carrying capacity of the Northern Territory are borne out, although not to such a high degree ‘by Mr. Wynne Williams, a wellknown writer on tropical subjects and the Northern Territory. In the Geographical Journal, vol. 71, page 63, ho expresses the opinion that the tableland will carry at least 3,000,000 sheep.
The northern fall of the Barkly Tableland is to the Gulf of Carpenteria, and the great problem with which the lessees are faced at the present time is that of distance which makes the cost of transport and marketing very high indeed. The central portion of the Barkly Tableland, Anthony’s Lagoon, is approximately 600 miles from Darwin, 880 miles from Townsville, 1,300 miles from Rockhampton, and 1,700 miles from Adelaide. The sea, which offers the cheapest mode of transport, is only a little more than 200 miles from this central point. At the present time, 50,000 cattle on an average, leave the Northern Territory annually, although last year the number was 70,000. Seasonal conditions play an important part in the movement of cattle and last year they were most suitable for the droving of large mobs. Some of the cattle are driven to Queensland, others to South Australia and New South Wales, and eventually, I assume, they reach the markets of those States.
– Some are driven to Wyndham.
– Yes. The cattle move by road. Some are driven via Cloncurry to Townsville, some via Urandangie, and others to Wyndham. But the difficulties of the pastoralists are considerably increased by tho high costs of this form of transport. That is not the fault of the Federal Government, although I consider that it is the responsibility of the Government to provide cheaper means of transport in order to assist the pastoralists. In studying this matter, I was interested to see that in 1875, according to Professor Roberts in The Story of Australian Land Settlement, Sir James Penn Boucaut, who was twice Premier of South Australia exclaimed : -
That the Government of South Australia ought now to take some more active steps for the Northern Territory, ot else give it up altogether.
After a visit to the territory the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins), remarked last year that the time has come for the Federal Government either to develop the Northern Territory upon sound lines or else to give it up altogether. There is a remarkable similarity between those two statements. A dispassionate view of the problems of the territory impels the conclusion that, broadly speaking, the Commonwealth is no more to blame for solving the problems of the region than its South Australian predecessor. Nature has called the tune and cracks the whip, because the country itself presents very great difficulties. In my opinion the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has been most sympathetic in his administration of the Northern Territory, and he knows only too well the enormous difficulties that are to be overcome.
The coastline of northern Australia which is 1,500 miles long, extends from Cape York to the Victoria River, and there are only two natural ports - Port Musgrave on the Cape York Peninsula, and Darwin itself, which has had a very chequered career.
I am quite sure that the Commonwealth, upon assuming control of the Northern Territory, believed that, if Darwin were developed and the gateway to the north were opened, the development of the whole of the Northern Territory would follow. It was responsible for a great burst of developmental activity and the expenditure of a large sum of money at that time. The position has been summed up very concisely, if rather brutally, by Dr. Grenfell Price, of Adelaide, in his work, History and Problems of the Northern Territory. This contains a series of lectures which he gave some time ago, and I commend it to honorable members who are interested in that portion of the continent. Referring to the Commonwealth’s administration from 1910 to 1920, Dr. Price said -
Tet in the ten years, 1911 to 1920, the federal attempts in the coastal lowlands proved acomplete fiasco. Extremists in Darwin deported or secured the recall of the chief officials, agriculture failed, the railways became a losing proposition. Vesteys closed, capital rightly and rigorously avoided the Territory, and white labour in Darwin justly acquired a shocking name. Once more down the years comes the echo of the ‘sixties. It seemed that nature had designed the Northern Territory to be “a monstrous Harlequinade.”
That was the position in 1920, and, indeed, at a later date. It was the knowledge of all these happenings which impelled lessees on the Barkly Tableland, who are in possession of good country, and who looked ahead, to realize that they must have a nearer outlet than was then available. In 1534, they approached the Commonwealth Government for support in the formation of a co-operative company, the main objective of which was to open a port in the Gulf of Carpentaria. It is very difficult, indeed, to find a suitable or natural port in the gulf itself. There are two ports, if they may be so described - Burketown and Normanton - but both of them are some distance up tidal rivers, have exceedingly shallow bars at the mouth, and are very difficult from a navigation view-point. In addition, they are remote from the Barkly Tableland. It was thought best to fix on Vanderlin Island, in the Sir Edward Pellew group, north of the mouth of the MoArthur River. This group consists of five islands - Vanderlin Island, North Island, Centre Island, Observation Island, and South-West Island. Vanderlin Island, which is the largest, has an area of about 5,000 acres. A most interesting feature on it is Lake Eames, the capacity of which is 5,000,000,000 gallons of pure water. I commend to honorable members who are interested, a parliamentary report, containing photographs and diagrams, made by the late SurgeonCommander Paradise, who was up there with the survey ship Moresby, on the Sir Edward Pellew group. It was printed in 1924. Another factor is that in the Gulf of Carpentaria the tide fall is comparatively small, being only about 3 feet, compared with a 19-ft. fall at Darwin. The Commonwealth Government listened very sympathetically to the representations of the lessees, and sent a party of experts to investigate the proposition. This party comprised the Chief Engineer of the Commonwealth Railways, an agrostologist from New South Wales, and Commander Bennett, who had been engaged in survey work in the Royal Australian Navy. The point which they had chiefly to consider was the possibility of making a metal road to a point on the McArthur River. The ideawas that cattle should be transported by motor lorry from a central depot on the Barkly Tableland to a point on the McArthur River, then by lighter out to Vanderlin Island. The subject of the erection of meat works on Vanderlin Island had also to be investigated.
– How far would the cattle have to be lightered?
– About 40 miles.
– Commander Bennett reported very favorably indeed on the facilities for a harbour on Vanderlin Island. The shallow anchorages throughout the north of Australia are the principal trouble in that region. On Vanderlin Island itself a site was located at which steamers drawing 30 feet of water could be tied up ; and the site of the meat works, being only 180 yards from that of the wharf, but on a higher level, the loading of the steamers would be by gravitation more than by any other means. The estimated cost of all these works was £1,000,000. In considering the erection of meat works, a most important factor was whether they could be assured of a steady supply of cattle. In this regard a report was called for from Mr. J. B. Cramsie, who is very well known in the meat world. A portion of that report may well be quoted in full. Mr. Cramsie said -
Compared with any other area of Australia there is none on which cattle can be so economically produced as the subject area, particularly the Barkly Tableland portion of it, and from estimates I have prepared as a result of my investigations in other countries, I am of the opinion that the cost of production would be less than one half the cost in such countries as Argentine, Uruguay, Canada, and the United States of America, once the area is properly developed, fully improved, and stocked to its maximum carrying ‘capacity.
He also thought that, with reasonable improvements to the country, the number of cattle on the Barkly Tableland should rise from 276,000 to 759,950 head. His estimate of the supply of three-year-old cattle for chilling was that the number would rise in the first five-year period from 14,000 to 18,000, in the second fiveyear period to 27,844, and in the third five-year period to 42,912. He added that, if anything, cattle on the Barkly Tableland were inclined to get too fat. His conclusion was that, thoroughly improved, the Barkly Tableland would carry ten cattle to the square mile, and possibly up to twenty. This bears out the opinion of its carrying capacity given by Mr. W. W. Killen, which I quoted earlier in my speech.
The points made by the experts may be summarized under eight headings in the following way: - An all-weather road could be established from Anthony’s Lagoon to Borroloola; satisfactory water transit could be maintained between Borroloola and Vanderlin Island; there is ample water on Vanderlin Island to supply a meat works; there is an excellent site for a meat works only 180 yards from deep water; ships drawing 30 feet could come up to the wharf at all times; the quality of the holding grounds for cattle at Anthony’s Lagoon, Borroloola and elsewhere is satisfactory; the Barkly Tableland could furnish a yearly number of three-year-old bullocks suitable for chilling, rising from 14,000 in the first year to 42,912 at the end of the fifteenth year; and the transit of chilled beef from Australia to London would be shortened by fourteen days, bringing the time of the journey down from 42 to 28 days, a tremendous factor in the chilled meat trade. The Government decided that it could not agree to the scheme put forward by the Barkly Tableland lessees, for an advance of £1,000,000 for all construction work on the river and the wharf, and the erection and running of the meat works; and having given the matter a good deal of consideration, I have come to the conclusion that its attitude was the correct one. I do not think that any government could accept the responsibility of advancing such a large sum to a set of private individuals, who have no material assets to offer as security. It would establish an exceedingly awkward precedent. But the Government might agree to the provision of national assets on the Barkly Tableland, in addition to an approach to the river, the erection of a wharf, and the making of a port on Vanderlin Island. If it were prepared to give favorable consideration to such a proposition, the condition should be imposed that private enterprise also should accept some responsibility by the erection and maintenance of meat works on Vanderlin Island in addition to the transport of stock from a central depot on the Barkly Tableland. That is a fair proposition, to which the Government might give favorable consideration.
In connexion with the raising and maintaining of good cattle on the Barkly Tableland, I wish to quote from a statement made by Mr. James White, of Brunette Downs. This gentleman is well known to some of us. He is very sound in his statements, is a first-class cattleman, and is interested in one of the best properties on the Barkly Tableland. In a public statement which he made in December, 1935, he said that his company had walked its cattle 2,000 miles from Brunette Downs to “ Edinglassie “, on the
Hunter River, where, after being refattened, they were treated at the Aberdeen Freezing Works a few miles away. Out of 5,380 quarters, 95 per cent, were passed as g.a.q., and 4-J per cent, as f.a.q., while £ per cent., or fifteen quarters in all wore rejected. Thi3 proves that they were of very high quality indeed. The cost of treating these cattle at Aberdeen was £10 5a. 4d. a head, made up of droving and railage from Brunette Downs to Aberdeen, £3 12s. 6d., treatment at works £1 17s. fid, shipping, freight and selling charges £4 15s. 4d. This gave to the owner a net return of 10s. a head. If the cattle had been treated at works on Vanderlin Island, barely 300 miles from where they were bred, the costs would have been - transport £1 10s. 9d., treatment £1 17s. Cd., shipping freight and selling charges £3 17s. 3d., a total of £7 4s. 9d., or a saving of £3 0s, 7d. a head. In addition, from Vanderlin Island the chilled carcasses would have been in the ship only 28 days, compared with 42 days from Sydney. These facts prove, that this country is capable of raising first-class cattle under more favorable conditions. The difficulty, I understand, is that cattle on the Barkly Tableland become too fat. The whole of their condition is walked off them before they reach their destination in one of the States, and a fresh lot of beef has to be grown on them before they are fit for market.
This raises the question of closer settlement. With all duo deference, I consider that profitable cattle production up there would mean the influx of capital. At the present time all the States, and particularly my own State of New South Wales, are greatly concerned in regard to th© matter of closer settlement. It seems to me that if a proper plan for profitable investment were formulated, many companies at present holding largo areas of land would be prepared to dispose of some of it in order to get further capital. It has always been the function of large companies to develop the country, and closer settlement has invariably followed such development. The Barkly Tableland and the contiguous areas cover about 110,000 square miles, of which about 63,000 square miles has already been taken up. If it could be shown that, in consequence of reduced transport charges, more adequate profits would accrue to cattle-raisers, I am sure that the remaining 43,000 square miles in that district would soon be applied for and put into production. Unfortunately, not one meat works is operating at present throughout the Northern Territory. There is a meat works at Wyndham, and there was one at Darwin. There is also a meat works at Townsville. The Wyndham meat works has played a very large part in the development of the north-west, and the Government of Western Australia is to bo highly commended for having maintained it in the face of a heavy annual loss. This plant has been invaluable to the lessees in the northwestern part of the Northern Territory. To my mind, it is very difficult to maintain a meat works at Darwin. There is only a narrow-gauge railway line available, and the nearest holding ground is 200 miles away from port facilities. The experience of Vesteys Limited showed definitely that Darwin was an exceedingly difficult place in which to operate a plant successfully. The Townsville meat works serves only the extreme edge of the Barkly Tableland, and is practically of no use to the centre of that area. The Government should give serious consideration to the opening up of a port near Vanderlin Island. I p.m sure that if it did so private enterprise would build p. meat works there.
It is a national responsibility to do everything possible to increase the population of the Northern Territory. There is always danger in having lonely, unpopulated coastal areas, and that is particularly so in Australia. A retired naval officer informed me not long ago that when he was engaged in survey work on the north-west coast of Australia end along the Gulf of Carpentaria he had on two occasions found traces of military survey camps along the foreshores. He declared that there was no mistaking the purpose of these camps, with their circle of stones for a false horizon, and cairns denoting true east and west. I asked him for what purpose such surveys could have been made, and he replied “Unquestionably they were surveys for seaplane bases”. I believe th.it that is perfectly true. The lack of population in the Northern Territory presents a problem to Australia that one day may become terribly acute. I therefore commend the motion to honorable members, and appeal to the Government to give serious thought to the whole subject. This Government has greatly increased the vote for the development of the Northern Territory, but I ask the Minister for the Interior to consider seriously whether it is not possible to establish a port on the Gulf of Carpentaria which will serve the best areas of the territory, and lead to developments which will bring a much greater population to the country than it has at present.
Mr.E. J. HARRISON (Went worth) [3.50]. - There are two parts to the motion so ably moved by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott), who is to be commended for the reasonableness of his address. The firstpartof it relates to closer settlement, and the second to the opening of a port on the Gulf of Carpentaria; but both subjects are properly associated in the one motion, for both are necessary to the development of the Northern Territory. The closer settlement proposal presupposes what seems to be rather a contradiction, but an open port on the Gulf of Carpentaria is absolutely essential to the development of the country and to its closer settlement under proper conditions. Large sections of this country,which in the main are in an undeveloped state, are held on lease and range in area up to 14,000 square miles.With proper management and administration subdivision into smaller holdings would encourage closer settlement. If an incentive were given to people to settle in this country, a great deal would have been done to solve the whole problem. In support of the view that I am presenting, I direct attention to the following statement made by a member accompanying theCommonwealth Committee of Investigation already referred to by the honorable member for Gwydir. It reads -
Whilst Irealize the difficulty of arriving at an economic working unit owing tothe different types of country, and the difficulty in obtaining timber for fencing posts,&c., on portions of the area, I suggest that consideration might be given to the adoption of a policy providing for holdings of notless than 1,000 square miles, nor more than 6,000 square miles, with an average of 3,000 square miles, having regard always to the situation and rainfall in each case, and the necessity for guarding against overstocking and the consequent eating out of the natural grasses; and that in future negotiations with the Government, some offer might be made for resumptions to take place at stated intervals to enable this policy to be put into effect.
The solution of these two problems would undoubtedly encourage people to settle in the Northern Territory, and if sufficient incentive is given it is not difficult to visualize a considerable influx of population.
The trend ofevents in the East indicates clearly that we have very little time available to develop the Northern Territory. The spread of the immense population of Japan into Manchukuo and the emancipation of China remind us that very limited areas are available for exploitation by the people of these densely populated countries, and itis not difficult to foresee the penetration by them of the southern Pacific. The problem of developing the Northern Territory is not capable of solution by politicians nor - and I say it with due deference - by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) and his staff. It is peculiarly a problem that must be faced by engineers, research chemists, agrostologists and the like. Such experts, working in co-operation and with generous assistance from the Government could do effective service in developing the territory. It mustbe realized that the country in this part of Australia presents great difficulties to settlers, for much of it is forbidding in almost every respect. Those who have crossed the territory will realize that, with the exception of certain areas on the tablelands, big problems must be solved before effective settlement can be achieved. This view of the situation finds substantial support when we remember that the various waves of migration which have come down from Asia from time to time have invariably stopped short of the shores of North Australia. Java, We know, is a densely settled area, but although a comparatively short distance from North Australia it consists of entirely different country from that which we are considering-, and is capable of sustaining a population of teeming millions. Seeing that for so many years North Australia has been left practically unpopulated, we can only come to the conclusion that the arid nature of the country repelled settlement conditions by these migratory hordes. We must face the fact squarely that the country offers tremendous problems and does not lend itself kindly to developmental work; but at the same time I believe that it can be developed by modern methods and sound administration. Those who have visited the Northern Territory and have met the type of territorian at present in occupation of the land know that a definite claim is made that North Australia, in even its most tropical regions, is capable of development by white people i but proper conditions must be laid down, which, in my opinion, must approximate to the conditions of early colonial times. Unfortunately, at present the people up there have to face conditions very similar to those which apply in the southern States. Legislative enactments which may be properly applied in the south cannot be justified in the north, therefore, I feel that we must exempt North Australia from certain legislative enactments relating to tariffs, industrial conditions, and taxation, before we can. hope for much progress. If conditions there are brought into juxtaposition with the conditions of early colonial times, we shall see developments like those for which the pioneers of the south were responsible. Certain conditions were laid down by the Government some time ago when it endeavoured to attract chartered companies to commence operations in the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member apparently wants the slave traffic back again.
– Nothing of the kind, as I shall prove. The complaint of the settlers in the Northern Territory is that, while the Government was prepared to grant certain favorable conditions to chartered companies, which would bring in foreign capital for developmental projects, it is not prepared to extend similar conditions to the pioneers already settled in the territory. T suggest that the Minister for the In terior should either refute that charge or indicate that the conditions proposed for the chartered companies will be extended to the local settlers. Repeated appeals have been made by the companies already operating in the Northern Territory for the provision of railway facilities and the construction of all-weather roads. The honorable member for Gwydir referred to the need for an all-weather road from Anthony’s Lagoon, through Borroloola, to the proposed port at the mouth of the Ttc Arthur River. Representations have also been made by the people in the Kimberly district for the construction of railways or all-weather roads. While the Minister for the Interior was in the Northern Territory some time ago a deputation which waited upon him stressed the necessity for the Commonwealth Government co-operating with the Government of Western Australia in the construction of a railway to serve the Wave Hill district, and the country down the Ord River valley. Honorable members who have visited this part of the Commonwealth know the fertility of it. I am not concerned whether developmental lines of the kind I have in mind will show a profit or not. In fact, I think we must face the loss that must inevitably be incurred in the early days of developmental railways in this area, but such lines, and also all-weather roads, are absolutely essential to proper development. The Government should be prepared to reduce freight charges to a minimum and to write off the losses that have been incurred in the construction of railways and developmental works in the territory. Until this is done very little incentive will be offered to the settlers and to other people to develop the Northern Territory.
– What the honorable member is now saying does not square very well with his statement in regard to the necessity for conditions approximating to those of early colonial days.
– Oh, yes it does. The pioneers had first to secure proper means of transport and the construction of roads ultimately lead to the building of railways, as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) ought to know. The necessary developmental work includes the construction of roads and the provision of railway transport. There must also be preliminary survey of the possibilities with regard to water conservation and hydro-electric schemes, and all the information gathered should be tabulated for future use. We have been told, in many reports, that the Northern Territory has a wonderful sub-artesian basin, and that water may be obtained at varying depths. But the conservation of water, as we understand it in the southern portions of Australia, has not been attempted. If the Government proposes to spend a sum of money in tabulating the resources of the territory in this regard, it should have on record all the information that would ultimately be of advantage to companies or individuals whose assistance may be sought in the development of this vast area.
Some time ago I was in touch with Mr. James Morris, who had put a scheme before the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) for the development of the territory. He submitted that portions of the country were suitable for agricultural as well as pastoral production. He said that large areas could be planted with tropical and sub-tropical crops, which would not compete with the crops grown in the temperate zone. I suggest that the East affords a potential market for all such crops as could be produced in the territory. If a company were given the right to develop the good land, I believe that it could submit a proposition which would appeal to the Government. The suggestion made by Mr. Morris was that, in the initial stages, areas of from 20,000 to 50,000 acres should be developed, and, as the land came into production, the land that had been cultivated should be subdivided, and either leased or sold to settlers, who would be able to take over country already under production and capable of yielding returns. Of course, this scheme presupposes preliminary work. It seems to me that we have a suitable labour market available in the many young Australians who would be prepared to become settlers in the territory. We should have to look for men of the right type; they would have to be of the colonial kind. We have had bitter experience of unsuitable British settlers who have been placed on the land in various parts of Australia. In the United States of America, living in a latitude similar to that of Australia, are 13,000,000 to 15,000,000 unemployed, and, by proper selective methods, we could cull from that huge army, the cream of the young colonials of AngloSaxon origin who might be willing to take up land in the Northern Territory, if the Government would incur the necessary initial developmental expenditure.
Among the crops which I visualize as capable of production in the territory are tung oil, which is valuable as a basis for paints and colours, and balsa wood, which is used extensively in modern refrigerating processes and naval construction work as an insulating material. I believe that there is an expanding market for this wood, which is now produced in latitudes similar to those of the Northern Territory. Another commodity which is used extensively, and for which there is a ready market, is rami fibre, which could be grown to great advantage in the territory. Reports should be obtained regarding the possibility of producing these materials.
The honorable member for Gwydir has submitted a case which should appeal to all honorable members. He has directed attention to the advisability of providing a port closer to our natural markets than are the present ports of the territory which would be useful to the chilled beef industry. The suggestions made by the co-operative company in this regard have been added to by the honorable member.
Arising out of his recent visit to the territory the Minister for the Interior has granted certain concessions to the present settlers. Although this assistance has been gratefully accepted by the lessees, it will not help in further developing the territory. Even the waiving of pending resumptions will not materially promote -the necessary development. It seems to me that the reduction of rents, the establishment of ports, and insistence on further developmental work on holdings are not likely to bring about to a marked degree closer settlement, or to solve the great problem with which the territory is faced at the present time. The only thing that will help in the direction of proper development is to give the necessary incentive to the present lessees and bring about closer settlement on the most desirable lines - such as the establishment of tropical agriculture on a plantation basis, and the encouragement of settlement in mining centres, which cause a demand for agricultural and other products. Proper consideration should be given to those whoare prepared to do the hard work waiting to be done. The Minister should give further attention to the scheme propounded by the co-operative society and to the proposal for widening the concessions. T his action should be backed up by the provision of decent transport facilities and a proper survey of the natural resources of the territory.
Mr.PATERSON (Gippeland- Minister for the Interior) [4.10] . - The House is indebted to the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) for the interesting fashion in which he has dealt with the subject of the further development of the Northern Territory.His motion refers to the “closer settlement” of the good lands of the territory. He knows that country sufficiently well not to be under any misapprehension as to the meaning of the words he has used, but I remind honorable members who have not visited this part of Australia that the term “ closer settlement “ has not the same application to the territory as it would have to a State like Victoria. For years to come, we must regard the north of Australia as an area that must be dealt with in hundreds, and even thousands, of square miles, rather than in acres, because its carrying capacity is much less than that of land in the southern portions of the continent. The honorable member referred to the Barkly Tableland as probably the best country in the territory and I agree with him in that regard. The two great natural drawbacks of this tableland are its long distance from the markets, and the great scarcity of surface water, which makes settlement much more costly than elsewhere. On the Barkly Tableland water can be got at depths of from 200 to 300 feet, but, by the time a bore has been put down and cased, asteel tower erected with a 24 foot or27footmill, whichis the size used in the area, a 250,000 gallon dam has been prepared to hold a sufficient reserve of water, and 50 yards or so of steel troughing has been provided for cattle, thereis little change out of £1,400 or £1,500. This cost is partly due to the high cost of transport of materials to these remote areas. When bores have to be put down every few miles in the cattle country, a great deal of capital is swallowed up in the provision of water for stock.
– According to the Minister’s own figures, a large amount of capital would not be required.
– A settler who needed, say, six bores, would have to spend £9,000 in the provision of water alone. I am not referring to this work as a government proposition. I have in mind the difficulties of closer settlement in the ordinary sense, owing to the comparative absence of surface water.
Mr.Scullin. - What area would an expenditure of £9,000 serve?
– In cattle country it is considered that if cattle are within ten miles of a bore they can carry on; but, of course, it is better for them to be closer than that to the water. All the land within a radius of ten miles of water constitutes a very large area.
Mr.Scullin. - Did not the Minister suggest putting down nine or ten bores?
– One must realize that these leases range in area from 2,000 to 3,000 square miles; and the general opinion in the territory to-day is that an area of less than 2,000 square miles is too small. I believe that the time will come when this idea will be revised; nevertheless, it is the opinion prevailing to-day.
There are three outlets from the Northern Territory to external markets, all of which have been mentioned in this debate. Cattlemen on the western side, particularly to the north-west, of the territory take most of their fat stock to Wyndham; about 55 per cent. of the cattle killed at Wyndham come from the Northern Territory. In some instances, the cattle-owners in the southern part of the territory drove their stock hundreds of miles to Alice Springs, where they are trucked for a distance of about 1,000 miles to Adelaide. Trucking suck a long distance, apart from the droving, is comparatively expensive, but the cattle-owners are able to bear this cost, because cattle sold in Adelaide usually bring homeconsumption prices, whereas cattle sold in Wyndham bring export parity rates, and, very often, there is a big difference between the two rates.
Cattlemen in the Barkly Tableland area, whian is situated in the northeastern portion of the territory, have no outlet of this kind, although quite recently cattle have been sent, with fairly satisfactory results, to the nearest railhead at Mount Isa, in Queensland, and trucked thence to Townsville. In poor seasons, however, the nature of the country between Mount Isa and the tableland is such that cattle cannot be driven over this area without serious loss of condition. The great difficulty in the Northern Territory is, that while cattle can be fattened there, they are more like trained athletes by the time they reach Wyndham, or fattening areas in New South Wales or Queensland, so great is their loss of condition. It is not solely a matter of a beast losing, say, 100 lb. of beef, but the remaining beef is of a quality much inferior to that on the beast, when it left the tableland.
The honorable member for Gwydir referred to the necessity for a deepwater port .to serve the Barkly Tableland, and he mentioned the scheme put forward some time ago by Barkly Tableland lessees for the establishment of meatworks and berthing facilities at Vanderlin Island, in the Pellew Group in the southern part of the Gulf of Carpentaria. It is most unfortunate that the inshore waters of that gulf are so shallow. I do not know of any deep water on the southern shore of the gulf. Vanderlin Island seems to offer the best prospects in this regard, because it has sufficient depth to accommodate overseas vessels. The scheme which was mentioned by the honorable members for Gwydir and Wentworth has been given a great deal of consideration by the Government. It proposed that cattle should be driven from the Barkly Tableland to Walhallow Gate, a distance of 160 miles south-west of the point where the McArthur River runs into the gulf, and that an all-weather road should be provided to traverse this 160 miles. It was to be not an expensive road, but une which would enable the transport of cattle in large vehicles. It was also proposed that the mouth of the McArthur River should be dredged to a sufficient depth to enable lighters to convey the cattle from that point for a further distance of about 40 miles to Vanderlin Island, where meatworks and wharf facilities would be constructed. A depot at Walhallow Gate and loading facilities at the mouth of the McArthur River were also proposed.
Two serious difficulties confronted the Government in considering this scheme. When it was originally propounded, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to the future of meat marketing. Those fears have recently been allayed as the result of the visit of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) overseas, and to-day we believe we are about to enter upon a better period than was apparent in the past; it is hoped that an agreement will be made which will be very profitable for Australia, and will ensure that all the beef, chilled or frozen, we can produce will be taken by Great Britain free of duty, whilst - so we are given to understand- a duty will be imposed by Britain on its foreign supplies. It seems likely that the first obstacle will be removed.
The other obstacle confronting the Government was one of finance. As the honorable member for Gwydir has admitted, the proposition put up by the Barkly Tableland lessees was one which no government could reasonably be expected to entertain. It was proposed that the Government should either loan a company £1,000,000 or guarantee a loan to the company of that amount. For a government to guarantee a loan is much the same thing as lending an amount equivalent to that which is guaranteed. With this money the lessees proposed to build the meat works and the road to which I have referred, and to provide the lighters and wharfage and water facilities. It was expected that this work would absorb £650,000. It was also proposed to spend £277,000 in assisting the lessees to improve their properties, and the balance of the loan was to be used by the company as working capital. The company, which was to be composedof lessees on the Barkly Tableland did not propose to provide any capital itself; the whole of the money was to be borrowed by them and guaranteed by the Government, or alternatively it was to be borrowed by the Government on their behalf, which honorable members will admit was a very lopsided proposition. Another condition was that the Barkly Tableland area occupied by the lessees was to be handed over to the company for sixty years, free of rental, rates, taxes, and other governmental charges. The company was to have the right to issue new leases on terms not less favorable than those of the existing leases, and to retain the rentals. Furthermore, only lessees in the area were to be eligible to hold shares in the company, shares to be issued to the agreed-upon value of the physical improvements. The only security which the lessees could offer was the value of their improvements on the leaseholds which they occupied. While (ot various reasons the Government could not entertain a proposition of that kind it is hopeful that some alternative scheme will prove to be practicable.
I shall now summarize some of the objections of the Government to financing such a scheme -
The proposed method of financing such a company was open to grave objection on the grounds of principle.
The Commonwealth Government waa asked to guarantee a loan to a private company.
The control of the expenditure of a large sum of Government money was to be given to a company not controlled by the Commonwealth.
This money was to be lent to a company which had no substantial share capital itself.
The proposal for repayment of the money over a long period by means of sinking funds was not satisfactory.
– Was a conference arranged with the object of smoothing out the difficulties?
– Several conferences were held. The position to-day is that, as there is a better outlook in the meat market, theGovernment is communicating with the High Commissioner in London to ascertain whether there is any prospect of interesting British capital in this proposal. If British capital could be interested to the extent, say, of financing the establishment of meat works, it would, no doubt be a proper thing for the Commonwealth Government to consider the matter of providing a road and a wharf, and to dredge the mouth of the McArthur River, as proposed by the company. In doing this, it would only be doing all that a State Government might be expected to do, and it has to be remembered that the Commonwealth Government must act in the capacity ofa State Government in connexion with the Northern Territory.
With regard to conditions of land tenure in the territory, considerable doubt exists as to whether our present ordinance is the best that can be devised, and some time ago the Commonwealth approached the Government of Queensland with a view to procuring the services, if that Government were willing to make them available, of Mr. Payne, the chairman of the Queensland Lands Board, to investigate this matter and to make recommendations as to what might be done by the Commonwealth to improve land tenure conditions in the territory. The Queensland Government has agreed to make the services of Mr. Payne available, and that gentleman has indicated his willingness to undertake this investigation. It is proposed that he will commence his investigations after the next rainy season, probably about March or April. In order to assist lessees in the Northern Territory through a difficult time brought about by the fact that the price of frozen meat dropped considerably below the price level prevailing before chilled beef captured the market, the Government agreed some time ago to reduce the rentals of much of this area by 25 per cent. This action is helpful to the lessees. The proposal made by the honorable member for Wentworth, who spoke of the possibility of agricultural production in the area north of Darwin, is being considered by the Commonwealth agricultural adviser.
I do not think that I can add very much to what I have already said on this matter. The honorable member for Gwydir is to be commended for bringing this matter under the notice of the House.
– Can the Minister make any reference to cheaper shipping rates as a means of relief to lessees in the territory?
– That is a matter which has not been raised by the honorable member for Gwydir, and at the moment I am endeavouring simply to deal with matters which have already been touched upon by honorable members. The Governmentis anxious to do everything possible to develop the Northern Territory on sound lines, hut the proposal put forward by the Barkly Tableland lessees could not be entertained in its original form for the reasons I have stated.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Thompson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 26th March, 1936 (vide page 599, vol. 149) on motion by Mr. Blackburn -
That, having regard to the fact that by reason of the non-enactment of appropriate Commonwealth legislation, the Divorce Court of each State must deny relief to a petitioner who, though domiciled in Australia, is not domiciled in that State, this House is of opinion that legislation should be forthwith introduced to provide for a Commonwealth matrimonial domicil.
Question put - The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).If there has been a misunderstanding I can, with the consent of the House, put the question again.
– As a division has been called for, the debate can now be adjourned only by leave of the House. Is leave granted?
Honorable Members. - No !
– As there is an objection, the division must proceed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 21st November, 1935(vide page 1884, Vol. 148) on motion by Dr. Maloney -
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Q. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment. -
Loan Appropriation Bill 1936.
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, 1936-37.
Organization of Producers - Constitution Alterations
Debate resumed from the 21st November, 1935 (vide page 1875, vol. 148) on motion by Mr. Bernardcorser -
That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that constitutional! alterations be provided to permit of the organization of primary producers on an Australian basis, with complete sectional control of internal and external marketing of each primary product, such control to be exercised exclusively by the organized producers of such commodity enabling them to speak with one voice and authority in regard to any arrangement which may be deemed by them to be necessary to conserve their interests.
– Prior to the adjournment of this debate, several speakers had stressed the necessity for having some form of organization to control the marketing of various branches of primary production on a Commonwealth basis. This necessity was recognized many years ago when legislation was first introduced to deal with the dried-fruits industry, and subsequently to control the marketing of dairy produce. More recently legislation was passed by the Commonwealth and several of the States to control the marketing of wheat, but it did not become operative because certain States stood out and the time had not elapsed for the legislation passed by such States as New South Wales and Victoria to be proclaimed. Following that situation, the decision which was recently given by the Privy Council in the James case practically rendered inoperative the federal legislation relating to the control of the marketing of the products of the various industries which I have mentioned and the organization of the producers engaged in them. Those circumstances, therefore, make it more than ever essential that a motion, not in the exact words of that now before the House, but on the same principle, should be carried by this
House, and that the constitution alterations, referred to in the motion, should be placed before the people of Australia to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to pass legislation making it possible for the Commonwealth, in co-operation with the States, to control the marketing of primary products as dried fruits and dairy products are now controlled successfully under Federal and State legislation. Ever since the inception of primary production the Australian growers have been selling a large proportion of the fruits of their labour on the markets of the world at world parity. They have been accepting the price that their goods bring in London, less the cost of transport, and they have been selling their produce in competition with similar wares grown by very cheap labour, some of it black. At the same time they have been endeavouring to meet Australian costs which, in most cases, are undoubtedly much higher than those borne by their competitors in foreign countries. For that reason it is most essential that we should have some form of control throughout the Commonwealth to enable the producers of any given product, whether it be dried fruits, fresh fruits, butter or wheat, to organize on an Australia-wide basis where they deem it necessary and are agreeable to do so, in order that their exportable surplus may be adequately handled. The objective of this plan is that the proportion of the production used for home consumption may be sold to the Australian consumer at a reasonable price which will give to the producer a fair return for his labour.
Mr.Ward. - The Minister desires to corner foodstuffs in order to force up their price.
-Apparently the honorable member is so biased in his outlook that he cannot take a reasonable view of the position. No more is being asked for the primary producer than what he has conceded to every other section of the community throughout the Commonwealth.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct. The primary producers of Australia have conceded to every other section of the community the right to receive Australian rates and conditions and to live on a much higher plane than applies to corresponding classes of secondary producers and employees in other parts of the world. It is, therefore, unreasonable for any honorable member, or any section of the general public, to suggest that the growers of primary products should be asked to sell the fruits of their labour at rates that are dictated by foreign countries, in which the standard of living is much lower than it is within the Commonwealth. I fail to see how any person who professes to uphold the principles of the Labour party, which contends that a man is entitled to receive a reasonable return for his labour, should dare to oppose for one moment a suggestion that the primary producers of Australia should receive a reasonable return for the sale of their products which are consumed in Australia by the people who are engaged in various “ protected “ industries and who are not called upon to meet the foreign competition such as that which confronts primary producers.
– The honorable member was a member of a State government which loosed police with batons on to the workers.
– If I were to tell the House what I know, the honorable member might not be so glib in referring to the -
– I am not ashamed of my past record; it can stand investigation, and I venture to say-
– Order !
– I venture to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the honorable member for East Sydney is not prepared to place his record in a position where it will stand the light of day.
– The Assistant Minister “pimped” on the employees of the Botanical Gardens.
– Order ! I warn the honorable member for East Sydney that he must cease his interjections.
– All that the honorable member for East Sydney is referring to-
The Assistant Minister must deal with the question before the Chair and refrain from personal references.
– But I wish to say something in reply to the interjection of the honorable member for East Sydney.
– Order ! The interjection, being disorderly, does not call for any reply.
– I take exception to the interjection of the honorable member for East Sydney that I “ pimped “ on the employees of the Botanical Gardens. What I did was to dismiss certain men for common theft. Apparently, the honorable member for East Sydney is prepared to defend their action.
I stress the necessity for an alteration of the Constitution to enable the primary producers of Australia to organize the marketing of their produce in order to secure a reasonable price for their labour. In most instances they must accept world’s parity for their exportable surplus, but in order to enable them to get a fair and reasonable price for that portion of their products which is consumed within Australia, it is necessary to set up legislative machinery, the object of which is to spread the returns from overseas and in the home market equitably, over all the producers of that particular product. In other words, legislation on the lines of that which has satisfactorily controlled the dried fruits industry for many years must be reintroduced. In emphasizing that point, I draw attention to the fact that this legislation is non-party in character. If honorable members will cast their minds back over a period of ten or twelve years they must admit that every government which has been in office in Australia during that time has supported legislation of this type. State governments, whether Liberal, National, Labour or Country party, have all subscribed to the principle embodied, in the legislation which gave to the dried fruitgrowers of Australia statutory control to govern the marketing of their product in an orderly manner and to equalize the returns of the home market and the overseas market. In doing so, they not only firmly established their industry, but also secured a reasonable return for the growers. As the result of this legislation, they have not been obliged to request the Government to provide them with further subsidy or any other form of financial relief.
– Is it suggested to introduce a form of co-operative marketing?
– It is not suggested that the Commonwealth should do the marketing. It is only suggested that the Commonwealth should pass the necessary co-ordinating legislation. Having amended the Constitution to make legal and effective that coordinating legislation, it gives to those who are interested in the production of any primary commodity the necessary power to organize, establish their own institution for the marketing of their surplus production overseas, and equalize the returns among all the growers. The legislation which was introduced to govern the marketing of the dairy products of the Commonwealth, in conjunction with State legislation similarly designed, provided a very good illustration of how economically an organization of this description can foe worked, and of how effective this class of legislation can be when applied throughout the Commonwealth and supported by the necessary statutory power which, once adopted, amounts to compulsion. By this means, the butter consumers of Australia were provided with an excellent product at a very reasonable and regular price. Once the butter equalization scheme became operative, previous extreme fluctuations of price were avoided. Honorable members will remember that at one time butter was sold during some periods of the year for a few pence a pound, and, that at other periods a retail price of over 2s 6d. a pound in metropolitan areas was quite common. It must be admitted that once the equalization scheme came into operation, the butter consumers of Australia received a better, more even quality product, at a much more regular price, and that at no time were they asked to pay an exorbitant price. Another point which has to ‘be remembered is that quite recently the consumers of butter within Australia were able to purchase their requirements retail at a lower price than world parity. In other words, the equalization committee of the Butter Export Control Board did not take advantage of the opportunity to increase the price to a figure which they could have justified in view of the rise which had occurred overseas, but were quite content to carry on at the price which had been fixed when the return overseas was probably lower than waa being received in Australia. In that way, they were able to obtain a reasonable return for the butter producers, and avoid the necessity for an approach to the Government for assistance. I say without hesitation that it is much sounder for those who are engaged in a primary industry to be given the necessary statutory power to organize it in such a way that they can secure an equalized price irrespective of the proportion sold either inside or outside Australia, a price which will enable them to make a decent living, pay their way, expand the industry, place their surplus on the world market, and avoid the accumulation of a large quantity of an unsold product, a feature we have to guard against, because it would have a very serious reaction. It is not suggested that, in this system of organized marketing of primary products, a large quantity should be withheld from the world market; that huge stocks should be accumulated in an endeavour artificially to inflate the home-consumption price. The idea is that it should be placed as the market is able to absorb it, and that every producer shall supply a fair proportion of the requirements of the export market if the return is at a lower rate than the homeconsumption price, and thus gradually develop the industry in such a way that those who are engaged in it will be able to carry on satisfactorily without having to depend upon government subsidies. Honorable members must realize how, during last year, those who were engaged in different branches of primary production were forced to come to this Government over and over again for financial assistance by way of ‘bounty. I could refer to many branches of primary production which have been forced to 6eek financial assistance from this Government for no other reason than that their products had to be sold on the world market at a price below the cost of production. In other cases, the producers have been forced to sell their goods on the Australian market at world parity, when it was below the cost of production. [Quorum formed.]
– Will the Minister say whether or not the Government has decided to seek an addition to the powers of the Commonwealth to enable full effect to “be given to this motion if it is passed by this House?
– At the beginning of my speech, I pointed out that the wording of this motion doe3 not correctly interpret the intentions of the Government in the direction of an amendment of the Constitution.
– Then if we carry this motion we shall merely sell the primary producers what is generally called a “ pup “ ?
– No. We are not dealing with the sale of pups. I am endeavouring to explain to honorable members that the difference between the alteration of the Constitution suggested by the Government, and this motion, is that the Government will probably seek an alteration which will give to the Commonwealth the power to co-operate with the States when they are prepared to pass the necessary legislation to organize any branch of primary production which is carried on in more than one State. When the producers are able to organize and export their surplus overseas they will be able to equalize prices in much the same way as the butter producers have done for years.
I was proceeding to say that a very good illustration of what can happen to a primary industry when properly organized, as compared with its position when disorganized, is provided by the rice industry in New South Wales. A few years ago, that industry was utterly disorganized. The growers were endeavouring to struggle on as best they could, selling their product in competition with imported rice at any price which the rice-millers cared to give to them. The Government of New South
Wales took a ballot of the growers, constituted a rice marketing board, and established a rice marketing pool. The board was not only able to secure for the ricegrowers a much higher price for paddy rice than they had ever previously received, but it also succeeded in excluding foreign rice from the Commonwealth, and in capturing the whole of the Australian market. A further result was the development of the industry, and an increase of the production four or five fold. The whole of the Australian requirements were met, and an exportable surplus of 10,000 or 12,000 tons was produced and sold overseas in competition with foreigngrown rice.
– The Australian market was sufficient to place the local industry on its feet?
– Only when it was organized. Disorganized, it could not meet the demand in Australia, whatever it might be. Only by organizing were the rice-growers of Australia placed in a position to produce sufficient to meet the local requirements of 30,000 tons, and provide an exportable surplus which was sold on the world market in competition with cheaply-grown rice produced by coloured labour. The local industry has produced not only a sufficient quantity to meet Australian requirements, but also rice of a better quality than was marketed when foreign-grown rice was consumed. In addition, the price has been maintained at a lower level than was the case when a large proportion of the consumption was imported. I venture to assert that, the more one investigates the development of the rice industry in Australia, the more credit must one give to those who were responsible for its organization, and for having placed it in such a position that it was able to overcome all the difficulties with which it was confronted and expand to such a degree as not only to meet local requirements, but also to provide an exportable surplus, despite the fact that the overseas price was at a remarkably low figure.
– Will the Minister not adrait that the duty of ls. per lb. which I, as Minister for Trade and Customs, imposed, helped the Australian industry substantially to capture the local market ?
– That is decidedly incorrect. A duty of ls. per lb. has never been placed on the importation of rice.
– It may have ‘been ls. per cwt. In any case, it was sufficient to ensure to local growers the whole of the Australian market. It was what the industry asked for. We considered that the request which they made to us was a reasonable one, and we acceded to it.
– I happen to be the individual who asked for that protection.
– I visited the irrigation area, met the growers, and gave them all that thev wanted.
– The honorable member is not quite accurate in his relation of that part of the history of the rice industry. The request was made to me by the rice-growers.
Mj. Forde. - It was made to me as Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I was the State Minister for Agriculture who controlled the rice industry at the time. I came to Canberra, and made representations through the member for the district, Mr. W. Killen. But long before that, the organization to which I am referring was effected. I am quite prepared to give full credit to the Government which imposed that duty. I wish to be absolutely candid and fair with tho honorable member. I am not attempting to rob either him or his Government of any credit for what was done. But I wish to emphasize the point that the duty would not have accomplished anything for the ricegrowers had they not been organized and able to handle the whole situation as one force. I visited Melbourne on their behalf. I there met the rice-millers, and pointed out to them that, as an organized body, the rice-growers were not to be dictated to in regard to the price at which they would sell their product; and intended to have some voice in the fixing of a reasonable price for their paddy rice.
– Will the Minister say whether that organization would have had any effect if foreign rice had not been kept out of Australia ?
– I do say so. The production at the time of which I speak was approximately 7,000 tons, which represented about 25 per cent of what Australia required. The rice-millers said to me, “ We will agree to take the whole of the rice which is produced on the irrigation area, and guarantee not to import more than is necessary to make up the deficiency so as to meet the requirements of tho Australian consumer.” That definite undertaking was given by all the principal rice-millers of Victoria. The point that I emphasize is, that after the rice-growers had organized, it was impossible for the rice-millers to purchase from any individual grower. As I was able to speak on behalf of all the ricegrowers, Iwas in a position to tell the millers that they could purchase no local rice unless they were prepared to pay a reasonable price for it and agree to take all the first quality production. We did not ask them to take inferior rice.
Indeed, so that inferior rice should not be marketed, as State Minister I went so far as to take it all from the growers, put it into the wheatsilos, and sold it to stock-owners during the following drought. That action was taken deliberately, to put the growers in a position to talk business with the millers. The subsequent action of the Commonwealth Government of the day in imposing a duty of1d. per lb. on foreign rico stabilized the position and backed up the rice-growers’ organization. I will go so far as to say that it assisted the growers to insist on their demands on the millers.
– The rice-growers said that adequate protection was absolutely essential to the industry, and I received letters from them thanking me for what the Government had done.
– So did I.
– Although the protection might not havebeen absolutely necessary, I cannot deny that it was of assistance to the industry.
I do not wish to dwell at greater length on the rice industry.The object of this motion is to indicate to the Government that the House is of the opinion that constitution alterations are desirable to enable the primary producers throughout Australia to take effective action to market, not only that part of their production which will be sold on a home market, but also that part of it which will be exported, on a basis which will make possible the equalization of their returns proportionately to the sales made locally or abroad. [Quorum formed.] Unless method can be evolved to oblige every producer to accept hisshare of the export market, the requirements of equity will not be met, for invariably in our primary producing industries the time arrives when the requirements of the home market are exceeded and a proportion of the output must be sold at world’s parity overseas. Invariably such sales return less to the grower than is obtained from sales on a home market. It is therefore necessary that some equalization method shall be devised, and organization is indispensable to the accomplishment of this end. The purpose of the motion is to indicate to the Government that those supporting it wish tho Commonwealth Government to co-operate with the State Governments in making possible the organization of schemes, either on a quota basis, such as is provided in our dried fruits legislation, or on an equalisation basis, such as is provided in our dairy produce legislation. It is highly desirable that the interests of equity shall bo served by bringing about a fair division of both the home and export markets in respect of all producers of particular export commodities. For this reason, I am anxious that the subject should be considered without regard to party politics. All honorable members must realize the necessity to give proper statutory authority to any marketing plans devised to ensure the proper disposal of our primary products. In consequence of the recent decision of the Privy Council on section 92 of the Constitution, the efficacy of our existing legislation has been destroyed, and primary producers have been thrown back on State enactments which experience has proved to ‘be quite unsatisfactory. Unless there is some control of interstate trade, and to a certain extent of export trade in respect of those industries which have an export surplus, the outlook for our primary producers is uninviting. A method must be evolved to distribute home and export sales equitablv between the producers. Because of that this Parliament should recognize its responsibilities and approve of the submission to the people of proposals for the effective amendment of the Constitution.
– What we wish to know is the extent to which the Government desires the amendment of the Constitution.
– ‘That will be fully explained when the legislation is brought up on the subject. I am not at present at liberty to discuss the details of the subject and must confine myself to the general principle.
– When will . the referendum bill be introduced?
– I regret that I cannot give the honorable member specific information on that subject, but it is the intention of the Government to introduce at an early date, proposals which will do, roughly speaking, what the honorable member desires to be done.
– In using the words “ roughly speaking, “ does the Assistant Minister suggest that the Government’s proposals are likely to hurt anybody?
– Not at all. I mean that proposals will be made to alter the Constitution in such a way as to make possible the equal distribution of proceeds from the sales of our primary produce on both the home and overseas markets. The creation, of the machinery for this purpose will be largely a matter for the State governments.
– But the motion makes no reference to the State governments.
– But it does not exclude them.
– The motion does not clearly set out the intentions of the Government, but it embodies the principle that an alteration of the Constitution is necessary to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to pass legislation complementary to legislation passed by State parliaments to enable primary producers to organize their industries so as to equalize between themselves the proceeds from the sale of their products on both the home and overseas markets.
– And that is the Government’s policy?
– Undoubtedly it is.
– The Assistant Minister has exhausted his time..
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) negatived -
That the debate be now adjourned.
.- I gather from what the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) has said that the motion expresses the end which the Government proposes to reach by means of the Constitution alteration which it wishes to submit to the electors with the sanction of this Parliament. It may be said, therefore, that, roughly speaking, the motion is in conformity with the opinions of the Government. I point out, however, that what is being asked for is much more than has hitherto been conceded to any other class of the community, because it is proposed to give the primary producers exclusive control of the prices at which their commodities may be sold within Australia. No other section of the community has the exclusive control of the price of th? commodity which it produces, or the service it renders. It has been suggested, again and again, that the organized’ workers of Australia are in a position which approximates to that which the primary producers wish to reach, but the organized workers of Australia have not the exclusive power to fix the price a.t which their commodity, that is, their labour, shall be sold. That price is actually determined by authorities set up by the community. The motion invites us to express the opinion that -
It is desirable that constitutional alterations be provided to permit of the organization of primary producers on an Australian basis, with complete sectional control of internal and external marketing of each primary product, such control to be exercised exclusively by the organized producers of such commodity enabling them to speak with one voice and authority in regard, to any arrangement which may be deemed by them to be necessary to conserve their interests.
Such exclusive control would enable the organized primary producers to fix, without check or revision by any other authority, the price at which their products shall be sold within the Commonwealth. I do not believe that such a provision would be just, or acceptable to the people of Australia, any more than would a proposal that the organized workers should be allowed to say, without check or review by anybody, at what price their labour should be sold. The law does not give the workers the right to say at what price their labour shall be sold, and I do not think this com- munity would accept that position, any more than they would accept the position that the primary producers should have the exclusive right to fix the price at which their commodities should be sold. I have always held the view that the primary producers should be encouraged to organize their various industries, so that they may have better control of prices, but that is very different from saying that they should have the exclusive right to fix the price of their commodities within Australia without check or revision by anybody.
Before the war, we were familiar with tha idea of Syndicalism, which was that the workers engaged in any industry should have the Fight to determine the conditions upon which that industry should be carried on, and the price at which their services or product should be sold. The idea was generally rejected by the Labour movement, because it held that the workers in privileged industries had no right to exploit those less fortunately placed, and that the conditions upon which men worked and were remunerated should be determined on a basis fair and equitable to society. The same principle should be applied in the marketing of primary products. The various marketing schemes adopted in Australia have provided no means of preventing the abuse of monopoly-power which would be conferred under the proposal before the chamber. In my opinion, the people of this country will never vote for any alteration of the Constitution which they believe will give the primary producers the exclusive right to say at what price their commodities shall be sold in Australia, or for anything which they consider could possibly be used in that way. It is an easy thing in a chamber like this to balance parties, and arrange a bargain between two sections, so as to give effect to a scheme, but it is quite another thing to induce a majority of the people to sanction this action at a referendum. In my opinion, the mover of this motion, and the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) have done a great dis-service to the proposal shortly to be submitted to the country for an alteration of the Constitution. Nothing is more likely to defeat the scheme for orderly marketing than the idea that the powers to be sought by Parliament will
De used to enable the primary producers to fix their own prices without let or hindrance.
– Cornering the foodstuffs of the people!
-Yes. It is not long since the Parliament of Victoria removed from the statute-book all measures directed against engrossing, forestalling, and regrating. They were taken off because they were supposed to be obsolete, but the sentiment behind those laws is still alive.
The opinion of this country is as much against giving the primary producers the right to fix their Australian prices as it would be against giving the organized workers the absolute right to fix their own wages. I can see no difference in principle between the two. The organized workers have not legal power to fix their own wages. This country would not stand for that. Judgment upon their claims is passed by arbitration tribunals, under Federal and State laws. Similarly, the power of the primary producers to fix the prices of the goods which they sell in Australia should be subject to some check or revision. A great deal is said about the way in which protection and industrial laws have benefited city workers at the expense of the rural producers, but we have to remember that if we leave out wheat, wool, and base metals, the great bulk of the primary products of Australia is consumed by the people of our own country. If it were not for the markets which have been created by the policy adopted, there would not be so great a demand as there is in Australia for primary products, except wool, wheat, and base metals. The local markets, for most of our primary products have been created by a policy which the primary producers themselves have largely denounced. If it were not for the large cities and the large industrial populations, there would not be so good a market as there is for those products. The industrial population is largely the result, as I have said, of the Australian policy of protection and of industrial legislation.
.- I have always been a supporter of control by the producers and of orderly marketing of primary products as is in existence to-day. I regard this motion as a rather awkardly framed one which, in the main, supports those principles which have been operating for a considerable period in the dried fruits industry, and operated also in the dairying industry. I was associated with the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) when he was Minister for Commerce, and with Senator Sir Walter Massy-Greene, in helping to draft the necessary legislation to provide for nn equalization scheme in the dairying industry. This legislation, which has already meant over £4,000,000 to the dairy producers of Australia, helped the industry substantially to make up the leeway that was threatened through the failure of the voluntary “ Paterson “ scheme. I conaider, however, that the present proposal would be ineffective unless an affirmative vote were secured at the forthcoming referendum for an alteration of the Constitution restoring to this Parliament powers which it was always considered to have enjoyed prior to the decision in the James case. Therefore, I see no reason why the motion should not be supported to the extent only that it provides for the orderly marketing of primary products as is in existence to-day. I rose mainly to express the view that the earliest opportunity should be taken to appeal to the country for power to alter the Constitution, so that this Parliament may re-enact the legislation necessary to ensure to producers the advantages of the dried fruits, dairy produce and wheat legislation.
.- I am fully convinced, after listening to the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby), that the Country party is out to defeat the proposal to be submitted to the people by referendum for increased constitutional powers for this Parliament. If it were broadcast throughout the Commonwealth that the farmers want power to fix the Australian prices of their own products, and power to corner the foodstuffs of the people, no elector would bc prepared to give an affirmative vote. The statement made to-day by the Minister reveals that the present Go vernment is prepared to give full control over foodstuffs to the farmers and other primary producers, to enable them te regulate prices as they think fit. I believe in a regulated price for the sale of primary products in Australia, but I shall also fight in the interests of the industrial workers.
– Will the honorable member vote for the motion?
– No. If, for instance, the miners were given full power to fix their own prices for their labour, what sort of a protest there would be.
– It would be communism.
– Yes ; and thia is communism. The Country party is now advocating fully-fledged communism in regard to the supply of foodstuffs. The Labour party does not advocate that the prices of the primary products consumed in Australia should be fixed on the basis of world parity, but, if the farming community is accorded the rights sought under this motion, other sections will expect to be treated similarly. If the principle of price fixation by the industry is good for the farmer, it is surely good for those engaged in every other industry. The object of the motion is to have all power in regard to the disposal of farm produce handed over to the primary producers. There would be a tremendous outcry if any organized body entered the markets and bought up all the primary produce, with a view to selling it at such prices as it might determine’.
– There would be a revolution.
– Yes. It would be said that the people’s food should not be cornered.
– By whom should the price be fixed?
– By agreement beween representatives of the farmers, the consumers and the Government. Under the terms of the motion, however, complete control is sought for the primary producers. The Assistant Minister for Commerce has done a great dis-service, as far as the referendum issue is concerned, in indicating an intention to corner the foodstuffs of the people. The workers of this country favour stabilization of the home-consumption prices of the fanners’ products, but the disunity among the farmers themselves is the stumbling block. The various farmers’ organizations, which have been fighting against one another in the past, now recognize that they must consolidate their forces, and act in unison. The Labour party, whose policy has been enunciated by our leader, advocates stabilization; of prices of primary products and assistance to primary producers in every reasonable way; but no government, or party, should advocate a policy which would, for instance, hand over complete control of the mines to the miners, or complete control of the building trade and the metal trades to those interested in those spheres. Such a system would enable those so placed in control of industry to demand whatever price they wished for their output, and it would constitute the greatest burglary that could be perpetrated in. this country. I am surprised to hear the Minister, who spoke on behalf of this Government, say that he believed in such a policy as he ^enunciated to-day, that is, that primary producers should be given complete control of their industries, and thus be enabled to regulate their own prices as they desire. 1 repeat that the Labour party stands for the fullest encouragement of primary production. I am opposed to the motion.
– I regret very much indeed that this motion has been brought before the House, because I believe that it reveals a state of affairs intolerable in a democratic community. As a representative of a large body of consumers in a metropolitan and industrial area, I say, without hesitation, that the giving of even the limited degree of power which has already been conferred on the primary producers to fix the prices of their commodities has not been wise. If this power is extended, this section of the community will become like trusts and monopolies, and will raise prices to such a level as to make it impossible for consumers to secure” reasonable treatment. I cannot understand why the Government has allowed this motion to be brought before the House.
– The Government cannot stop it.
– The Minister has supported the motion.
– The Minister indicated that the Government supports the principle, but not the details, of the motion.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that on previous occasions he supported the details of similar proposals in respect of wheat and practically every other class of primary product the prices of which are fixed to-day. I feel sure that the primary producer is unaware that he is heading for a position in which he has no desire to find himself. This development is being brought about by a few men who seek to secure political power by riding on the backs of the farming community, telling the primary producers that they have merely to put them in power, because they can squeeze the Government, and get what they like. They have done this in the past, but I prophesy that the primary producers as a whole will find that they have been fooled by such men who seek election to this Parliament with the express purpose of representing one class only. I do not believe that honorable members realize fully what the adoption of this motion will mean. Queensland has had a glorious time as the result of the fixation of the price of sugar; this was done regardless of the claims of consumers of sugar.
– It was the wish of Parliament that the price of sugar should be fixed.
– The fixation solely of the prices of primary products is wrong in principle. As the result of the fixing of the price of sugar, workers in the sugar-fields receive remuneration out of all proportion to that paid to employees in other primary industries.
– The wages of sugarcane workers are fixed by an arbitration tribunal.
– If this motion is agreed to, and put into effect, then a similar system can be adopted in respect of every section of primary industry. I contend that this proposal seeks to give primary producers the power of a huge capitalistic band, in order to enable them to exploit the consumers. The consumers would not object to the fixation of prices of commodities so long as it was stipulated at the same time that workers in rural districts should be paid a basic wage. Farmers who enjoy a fixed price for their commodities should be compelled to pay their employees a decent wage. When a man secures employment on a farm he is asked to-day to work for as little as 10s. or £1 a week with keep; he is not protected by an industrial award. I agree that the price of wheat, for instance, should be fixed at 4s. 6d. a bushel, but not in order to help the farmer solely; it should be stipulated that the farmer who receives such a concession must pay his employees a reasonable wage. This is the view of consumers generally.
– Wages and conditions in the sugar industry are fixed by an arbitration tribunal.
– I am aware of that fact. The experience of honorable members in this House with regard to sugar was that the Country party combined with certain honorable members opposite representing Queensland electorates in a successful move to secure what I consider is an unfair price for sugar. That fact, I believe, will be generally admitted. That move succeeded because an organization in this House, known as the Country party, allied itself with a few honorable members from Queensland.
– The greatest opponents to the renewal of the sugar agreement were the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who are members of the Country party.
– I notice that honorable members who are directly associated with the meat and wool industries refuse to entertain any proposal for the fixation of the prices of meat or wool. They have told us in this House that so long as a certain price can be obtained for these commodities in the home market, they will not require the prices of these commodities to be fixed. I notice that these particular honorable members are silent ; they do not deny my statement. So long as some honorable members can, in behalf of the interests they represent, put their hands into the public purse and secure government aid - a practice which they have acquired to perfection - they will be content to continue doing so. I point out that when legislation to afford relief to wheat-farmers was before this House, these honorable members would have nothing to do with a proposal that farmers with a taxable income should be disqualified from receiving the bounty. A leading pastoralist who recently visited the wheat areas, told me that he had been informed by various wheatfarmers that, because the Government had granted it, they had accepted the bonus given to the industry, although they were making a profit out of their farms. Honorable members would be surprised if I were to name this gentleman. He is a. prominent figure in primary industry. He gave me a definite instance in which a young man who was making a profit out of his farm took the bonus, although he declared that he did not need it. His excuse for doing so was that a generous government had forced this bonus upon him and he had felt obliged to take it. We have no better example of such instances than the ease of an honorable member who laughs so loudly at my statement. He can live comfortably on his parliamentary salary, and on profits from his big pastoral, property, but he still says that all wheatfarmers must have a bonus in order that they may receive a living wage.
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks are irrelevant.
– I admit it, Mr. Speaker. I repeat that the motion should provide not only for the regulation of prices of commodities, but also for the regulation of profits resulting from such prices. This, I suggest, is a necessary corollary to a policy of fixing prices. I was hopeful that wiser counsels would prevail in this debate. The primary producers should not be empowered to regulate their own prices irrespective of the claims of consumers. Under such a system consumers will find it necessary, sooner or later, to insist that not only prices, but also profits accruing from those prices shall likewise be fixed. They will be forced to make it clear to wealthy primary producers that they cannot be allowed to exploit the community at will. I point out that in countries where dictators have taken control the clarion cry has gone forth not only for the fixation of prices, but also for the fixation of profits. If representatives in this House of any particular section of the com- munity desire to provide for the fixation of prices of any commodities I suggest that we should agree to such a proposal only on theunderstanding that profits also in the industries concerned must be fixed.
– We should fix the seasons, too.
– The honorable member suggests that we might fix the seasons. If he had attended Sunday school, he would have learned that when Joseph was in Egypt, he introduced a law that during the seven good years wheat should be stored against a shortage that would prevail during seven lean years. As an honorable member suggests, that was the first compulsory wheat pool. Generally speaking, until a certain body of men came into politics, the farmers were self-reliant enough to fight their own battles, without asking for prices to be fixed for them and without seeking to place undue burdens upon the back of other sections of the community. If the farmers would follow the example of Joseph in Egypt, and make provision during good years for a period of low prices or bad seasons they would not have to come crying to the Government for assistance. For my part, I shouldnot object to the farmers getting a fixed price for their products, sufficient to ensure them a reasonable return for their labour, but this motion contains no reasonable guarantee that the profits would be reasonable. Our experience has been that whenever the farmers, through their parliamentary representatives, have been able to do it, they have not hesitated to place unduly heavy burdens on the workers for their own profit.
– The honorable member has no faith in his fellows.
– I have no faith in members of the Country party in this Parliament or in any other, although I am prepared to admit that no man is worth his salt unless he has faith in himself, faith in his God and faith in thecommunity generally.
The honorable member seeks to hand over to the producers the power to control prices as they please. ‘No doubt the Assistant Minister for Commerce will say that for years past the price of butter has been regulated, and that this scheme has been equitable and fair. That isa moot point. As far as I know, only the butter producers regard the scheme as fair. The Minister must be aware that a bill was passed by the Parliament of New South Wales to prevent the manufacture or sale of margarine in that State, because it would be in competition with butter. Margarine is the poor man’s butter. I have no doubt that the motion would have been carried had the pastoralists not intervened because their interests were threatened by it. Even in this Parliament a motion was introduced providing that margarine should be of a certain colour. The history of the Country party in this Parliament and in others indicates that it is quite prepared to disregard totally the claims of men and women on the bottom rung of the ladder.
As for the referendum on marketing legislation which it is proposed to introduce, I can inform the Minister now that the Government might as well save the money which the referendum will cost, because itwill not be carried. I warn honorable members that the ultimateeffect of the regulation of prices will be the regulation of wages, and then the regulation of profits.
– What about the regulation of losses?
– We know that there are sometimes losses, and we would not object to the fixation of prices if it were done according to decent business principles. First a price should be fixed that would return the farmers a reasonable profit.
– That is all we ask.
– That is not what the resolution asks for, and the honorable member knows it. The motion asks that the primary producers shall be empowered to fix prices without reference to Parliament, or to any tribunal or board. Members of the Country party are being led astray by the fascinating prospect of making money at the expense of the community at large. As I have said, if there is to be regulation of prices there must follow regulation of wages, and the logical conclusion is that farmers shall be required to employ a specified number of workers in proportion to their turnover and profit. Such arc the advanced economics emanating from the Brain Trust. No section of the community, whether farmers or not, is entitled to a greater share of the wealth of the country than it justly earns. I did not hear the Minister’s speech, but from what I have been able to learn of its tenor, I am convinced that he has made a great mistake in supporting this motion, which contains these words : -
That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that constitutional alterations be provided to permit of the organization of primary producers on an Australian basis, with com- plete sectional control of internal and external marketing of each primary product, such control to be exercised exclusively by the organized producers of such commodity enabling them to speak with one voice and authority in regard to any arrangement which may be deemed by them to be necessary to conserve their interests.
There is nothing, in the motion which seeks to protect the interests of any other section of the community than the primary producers. The interests of one of the largest sections of the community are ignored altogether. The Minister has been successful in most of his fights on behalf of the Country party, but he has made- an error of judgment in supporting thisrequest just on the eve of a referendum seeking increased marketing powers for the Commonwealth. I am surprised that he did not warn his supporters that this was an inopportune time to bring forward a motion of this kind. The people are fearful lest the primary producers, if given the power they seek, will do as they did before, when they were able to take public moneys by way of bonuses on wheat and other primary products. I should not deny the farmers 4s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat if it were laid down as a condition that they should pay the basic wage to all rural workers. I believe that, ifthe same rate of wages were paid in secondary and primary industries, it would go far towards restoring the prosperity of the country. The fact that the Minister has seen fit to support this motion has shaken my faith in the Government.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
– The motion does not represent the opinion of the United Australia party. That party has always been conspicuous for its ability to serve the. interests of all sections of the community. It is the friend of the workingclass, but endeavours to legislate for all interests. For the 30 years I have been associated with it, the United Australia party has invariably meted out even-handed justice, first to the worker, secondly to the masters of industry, and thirdly to the primary producer. When the United Australia party Government took office, chaos and confusion existed throughout Australia.
– Are the honorable member’s remarks still relevant to the motion?
– Yes. I am pointing out that industry throughout Australia was in a state of chaos when the United Australia party Government took office. That Government has always endeavoured to extend to primary and industrial interests every possible consideration in order to bring together all the elements which go to make a prosperous community. In this motion there is evidence of the presence of a new party which is “ cutting across “ the best interests of not only the industrial and employing classes but also the primary producers themselves. The omission of all the words after “ basis “ would make it more acceptable. The motion would then read -
That in the opinion of this House itis desirable that constitutional alterations be provided to permit of the organization of primary producers on an Australian basis-
The remaining words of the motion are objectionable to me and I fail to understand how a member of the Ministry could give his wholehearted support to the following words - with complete sectional control of internal and external marketing of each primary product, such control to be exercised exclusively by the organized producers of such commodity, enabling them to speak with one voice and authority in regard to “ any arrangement which may be deemed by them to be necessary to conserve their interests.
Thatis quite contrary to the best instincts of humanity. It is stated that the producers shall speak with one voice in any arrangement which may be deemed by them to be necessary to conserve their interests. Those members of the United Australia party who represent country constituents have never subscribed to such a policy.
-The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I commend the member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) for having brought this matter before the House and for his foresight in recognizing that the necessity would arise for an alteration of the constitution to deal with a position which has always been likely to be created during recent years, and which, owing to the recent decision of the Privy Council in the James case, has been precipitated upon us. I propose to move an amendment to the motion with a view to omit those words to which objection has been taken, in my opinion, without any good grounds. If my proposal be accepted, it will reduce the issue before the House to a simple matter of principle. Accordingly, I will move -
That, all the words after the word “ basis “ be omitted.
The affirmation by this House of such a principle simply means that we believe that it should be possible to treat an important section of the com- .munity the primary producers, in a manner similar to that in which this Parliament has seen fit to treat others. The Commonwealth is vested with, and exercises the power, to establish an Australian level of prices for the products of secondary industries through the medium of protective tariffs. The Commonwealth is also vested with, and is exercising, the power to compensate workers, through the medium of the Arbitration Court, for the additional costs that are placed upon them by the adoption of that protectionist policy. The amendment that I have moved suggests that Parliament should be vested with, and should exercise an equivalent power to establish an Australian level of prices for the consumption of that part of the product of primary industries which is consumed within the Commonwealth.
– Hear, hear !
– I am glad to hear that expression of approval from an honorable member of the Opposition. When the issue is reduced to that simple affirmation of principle, we should be able to secure unanimity. The position which prevails to-day is that no Parliament, either Commonwealth or State, and no combination of Parliaments, can exercise the power to establish the organized marketing of primary products. The producers engaged in those export industries are thus left in a most deplorable condition. They are compelled to endeavour to sell in the world’s markets goods produced in economic circumstances, established rightly or wrongly, which have created in Australia a level of costs higher than those which prevail in most countries of the world. Our products are therefore at a disadvantage in competing with the products of those countries. As regards home consumption they are ac an even greater disadvantage, for not only are the primary producers of Australia called upon to sell to Australian consumers at the world level of prices, established by competition, they have also to produce at costs ruling in other industries, and the return which they receive is actually lower than the price which obtains in the cheap-labour countries. In the absence of any organization among the primary industries, the growers are forced to sell their product in Australia at world parity, less all costs that are incurred in realizing the world price. The products of the export industries are sold abroad to-day in competition with the goods of cheap-labour countries, and in Australia at a level of prices which we can get in competition with those cheap-labour countries, less the cost unavoidably incurred in transport and realization overseas. That system produces some most unexpected and disconcerting results. When I was engaged in the. dairying industry some ten years ago we were selling our product in Australia at London parity less all the cost of realization in London. Of course, such a position was most unsatisfactory. On one occasion which I have in mind a strike of the London dock workers occurred, and Australian butter, which had been shipped to London could not be marketed. As the result of that strike the demand for Australian butter slackened and the price fell ; and not only were the dairymen confronted with difficulty in disposing of their butter abroad, but also every consumer in Australia, for a considerable time, obtained his butter at a penny less than the price previously prevailing. No honorable member considers that an occurrence of that character abroad should be a factor influencing the price at -which primary products should be sold to Australian consumers.
The motion now before the House proposes that an alteration of the Constitution should be made in order to enable a repetition of that state of affairs to bo avoided. The object of my amendment is really twofold. First, it proposes to confer legislative authority to enable the establishment of an Australian level of prices for the consumption of that portion of our primary products which are consumed in Australia. Secondly, it proposes to establish legislative authority to enable organized marketing of those products to be undertaken. In regard to the necessity for establishing an Australian level of prices, a counter proposal has been advanced, and an alternative method in recent years was applied to the wheat industry by the imposition of a sales tax upon flour. I do not propose to digress in order to discuss the merits of that tax. Apart from other considerations of establishing an Australian level of prices for flour, such a tax gives rise to a serious political objection, because it is not desirable that such an important industry as the wheat industry should depend on the periodical passing by this Parliament of excise duties. We have seen the principle of an Australian level of prices applied to secondary industries through the medium of protective tariffs. I believe that, almost without exception, honorable members are pre- pared to accept that principle. Thateing the case, it is no more than logical to apply the same principle to the primary industries. During this debate, certain honorable members have suggested that if those who are engaged in primary industries were placed in a position to control the sale of their own product, they would establish a corner in foodstuffs or raw materials and bleed the public of Australia. That is a most unwarranted assertion and is quite unsupported by the experiences of the past. I would remind the honorable members for Cook (Mr. Garden) and Barton (Mr. Lane), that there has existed in Australia within recent years, under an authority which thi3 Parliament was assumed to possess, a method of producercontrol of the products of the dairying industry, and it has not led to the exploitation of the consumers by those who are engaged in that industry. An equivalent power has been in the possession of certain other limited sections of primay producers, and they have not exploited the consumers in the slightest degree.
The advantages of organized selling are manifold. There is no doubt that, in industries which are widely conducted over the whole of a continent the size of Australia, it is impracticable, having regard to the frailties of human nature, for effective organization to be established on a purely voluntary basis. The whole of an organization can -be broken down by a very limited percentage of those who are engaged in an industry dissenting from any voluntary agreement. Consequently, I think that we cannot be regarded as unreasonable if we ask that this Parliament shall possess the legislative authority to enable -producers to combine and to overcome the opposition of very small minorities to the organized marketing of their own products.
– The honorable member would coerce them.
– I would certainly coerce a small minority of primary producers, as the honorable member would coerce a small minority of trade unionists.
– Does the honorable member support that principle of unionism?
– I support the principle of majority control, which is a fundamental principle of democracy. I do not think that there is any one in this chamber who does not apply that principle. The merits of organized selling are, I think, obvious. It would enable producers to supply a market regularly, without the forced competitive selling which is engaged in by all these industries immediately after the harvesting of their products. To a very great extent, if not entirely, it would permit of the elimination of middlemen, who, I think we can all agree, frequently exploit both the farmers and the consumers. It would enable the regular feeding of overseas markets with the products of those industries. It has many minor advantages, one of which is that it enables the imposition of small levies for the scientific and technical investigation of the problems of an industry and the advertising of its products. Without an amendment of the Constitution, it is not possible to legislate to assist non-exporting primary industries through organized marketing. Although, according to a certain point of view, it is possible to establish an Australian price level through the imposition of excise duties, in connexion with those industries which export, it is not possible to give any degree of assistance to nonexporting primary industries. Summarized, the proposal is to do nothing more than placing primary export industries, and primary industries generally, upon a business-like basis. If we place those industries upon a normal, business-like basis which will enable them to expect with a reasonable degree of certainty legislative assistance for the conduct of their operations in such a manner that they will return a fair profit upon the capital invested and the work done in them, advantages will flow to other sections of the community. One of the first things that occurs to my mind is that if, by organization and a certain degree of price fixation and control of sales, wo were able to place primary industries upon a business-like and profitable basis, the next logical step would be to give to the rural workers engaged inthem the benefits of industrial awards. I believe that, without exception, those who are engaged in primary industries would wish for nothing less than to see the workers also protected. The canned fruits industry - a controlled industry - which has been placed upon a businesslike basis, operates over a fairly wide area in my electorate. I am pleased to be able to say that its operations are profitable, the workers engaged in it are covered by an award, and the producers are well organized, probably to the extent of 100 per cent. in the northern part of Victoria.
Mr.Mahoney.. - The “ cockies “ deserve no credit for the protection of the workers by an award.
– I am proud to say that during the last harvest completed those producers decided to pay their workers somewhat above theaward rate of wage, and that they have done so.
– For the first time in history.
– It is not the first time in history. If one traverses the whole of the primary industries which are conducted upon a reasonable, businesslike, and profitable basis, one will find that they are alreadysubject to rural awards. The wool-growing industry conducts its shearing and other operations in accordance with the conditions of industrial awards. We have seen the degree of recovery which that industry has enjoyed during this year, followed by an increase of the award rate for shearing without objection being offered by the employers.
Mr.Martens. - Tons of objection.
– I am able to speak with first-hand knowledge of a large part of my State. There has been nothing but widespread satisfaction among the woolgrowers at the fact that the recovery of the industry has enabled them to pay a higher rate for shearing this year. I have not the slightest doubt that if, by means of the contemplated constitutional alterations, we are able to place the remainder of the primary industries upon the same business-like, profitable basis, we shall see rural awards operating in them and the producers happy to pay the rates fixed. There are no means by which we can satisfy the legitimate aspirations of many of those who advocate advanced social legislation, other than by first placing the foundational industries upon a businesslike basis. The exporting industries are unquestionably the foundation industries of Australia. If they are placed upon a business-like and profitable basis, awards may be made, and an element of the compulsion referred to a few minutes ago may be applied in the operation of them. Recently, honorable members debated the subject of a shorter working week. I then said that I was not prepared to associate myself with a shorter working week in secondary industries until the primary industries had first been placed upon a reasonable, businesslike, profitable basis. With all industries occupying an equivalent position, a sound foundation would exist upon which might be based the legitimate aspirations of those, who desire advanced social legislation, and we could march abreast towards those better conditions which we all wish to see. The foundation upon which must be rested advanced legislation is, first, the establishment with full legislative power of an Australian level of prices for the products of the export industries and, secondly, a measure of organized selling of both the Australian consumption proportion and the export proportion of the products of those industries. If the House accepts my amendment, to omit all the words after “ basis “, I ask it to insert in their stead the words - to control internal and external marketing of primary produce.”
I trust and believe that the House will be able to accept this proposal unanimously.
– I rise to support tho amendment of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen). I believe that it can be said that what is now proposed has already been approved both by the people of Australia and by this Parliament in its legislation. At the last elections, the distinct issue was raised that, so far as our constitutional power permitted, federal legislation should be on the basis of organized marketing. Legislative effect was given to that principle, but unfortunately that legislation has been declared invalid and this Parliament has been left in the position of being unable to enact legislation to give effect to the policy to which the people have given their sanction, It therefore becomes necessary for this House to reaffirm the principle, as this amendment seeks to do, and to resolve that in order to give effect to the policy an alteration of the Constitution must be made. It has been .suggested that we could exercise sufficient power under the excise powers of the Commonwealth, but that would .leave out of account the important subject of organized marketing, which is the real issue which faces us. This House has, on. several occasions, distinctly declared that a home-consumption price should be provided for certain primary products. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber have endorsed that policy on the ground that primary producers are entitled to a fair return for their labour. To give effect to the principle, on an Australian basis it will be necessary to secure an alteration of the Constitution. The honorable member for Wide Bay moved his motion in the widest terms, and it is only fair to him to point out that he placed his proposal on the business paper long before the Privy Council had declared the Commonwealth legislation to be invalid. Several sessions ago he contended that more effective means must be found to achieve orderly marketing than those then in force. What the honorable member for Wide Bay desires to ensure, is that federal power to control should be provided and that it should be exercised by legislation which would prevent any political interference. No difficulty is experienced in controlling marketing within a State. Difficulty arises only when we come to interstate transactions, and overseas marketing. What is desired is to give the primary producers power to market their products entirely free from political interference. The use of the word “exclusive” in the honorable member’s motion was not intended to have any connexion whatever with the fixation of prices. Certainly it was never intended to clothe the primary producers with power to extort money from the public in any way whatsoever. The honorable gentleman felt, as, indeed, many of us do, that the producers of particular commodities know more about their business than other people, and should be given power to control the marketing of them. No one has any desire to do anything detrimental to the general public.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know whether the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) was entitled to move two amendments as he did in this connexion, one at the commencement of his speech, and the other at the close. / …. moved to exclude from the motion all the words after “ basis “ and then he altered his amendment by adding the words “ for the internal and external control of marketing.”
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member for Echuca has taken the usual course in that he has moved to omit certain words with a view to insert in lieu thereof certain other words. The question is “ That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question”.
– The issue that we have to face has relation to the internal and external control of marketing.
– I rise to order again. I wish to ask the honorable member himself-
-The honorable member is not in order.
– I ask whether the honorable member was in order in altering the amendment.
– The honorable member has not altered the amendment. The usual practice has been followed by the Chair in stating the question in the form that I have indicated.
– To illustrate the difficulty which exists, ‘ I direct the attention of honorable members to the experience of those engaged in the dairying industry of Queensland. Years ago that industry was carried on by individual farmers in an unscientific way, but gradually the dairy farmers organized themselves, improved their methods and established co-operative factories. Their procedure commended itself to other primary producers in Queensland who organized along similar lines. Many of the primary producers of Queensland are able to market their products in an orderly way. The intra-state marketing of primary products has been done efficiently, effectively, and satisfactorily, and the primary producers have not used their power to the detriment of the public in any way whatsoever. They have used it fairly and well.
– What about the sugar industry?
– The basis of the organization of the sugar industry has been constantly approved in this House. I thought the honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) was favorable to co-operative marketing, but apparently I have made a mistake. Because power to control interstate marketing had not been effectively vested in any authority, the primary producers of dairy products of Queensland in the past suffered heavy losses through unsupervised importation of products from
New South Wales and Victoria, particularly Victoria, interfering seriously with local marketing arrangements. To overcome the difficulties of that situation, legislation was passed by this Parliament and supplemented by legislation passed by various State parliaments to control interstate marketing of dairy products. For some time thereafter these primary products were marketed interstate as well as intra-state in a satisfactory and an efficient way, and it was also possible effectively to organize overseas marketing. It is gratifying to know that Australian dairy produce, for example, gained a preeminent place on the London market. Unhappily, however, the very foundation of this marketing legislation has been undermined by the recent decision of the Privy Council, which, in effect, decided that there was no power vested in the Commonwealth to control the interstate trade as had been done by federal legislation. As a matter of fact, the present position is that no effective constitutional power is vested in any authority within Australia properly to control interstate trade in the manner desired. As the constitutional position precludes the Parliament of the United Kingdom from legislating on the subject, we are perfectly justified in requesting that the people of Australia be asked to authorize an amendment of the Constitution to equip this Parliament with the power that as it was generally thought it possessed, so that the marketing of our products may be efficiently and effectively controlled. All that honorable members are asked to do at present is to affirm the principle of organized marketing on an Australian basis, and to intimate that it can only be effected by an alteration of the Constitution.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) put -
That the question he now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. McEwen’s amendment) stand part of the motion - put and negatived.
Further question - That the words proposed^ to be inserted be so inserted - proposed.
.- The Country party does not seem to be unanimous-
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– Surely the Government does not stand for the gag!
– The Country party seems to be opposed to a debate on this important matter, but I hope that the Government will give the Opposition an opportunity to express its views. There seems to be consternation among supporters of the Government. Some were distinctly opposed to the motion in its original form. Also we found that another member of the Country party was put up to submit an amendment to the proposal of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) indicating that that party does not know its own mind on this important issue. The Labour party has always favoured orderly marketing schemes. It has always stood for a home-consumption price for primary, produce, just as it believes in standard wages and good conditions of employment for those engaged in secondary industries.
The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) failed to indicate the precise nature of the Constitution alteration which the Government would propose to the people at the referendum. Perhaps the power sought would be found to be totally inadequate to carry out the purpose expressed in the motion, the amendment to which has made it innocuous. The Bruce-Page Government. sought to amend the Constitution with respect to trade and commerce, but the powers which it sought were so limited that the Labour Opposition of the day urged that Government to ask for unlimited powers with regard to trade and commerce. The Opposition does not subscribe to the views expressed by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), who castigated the primary producers. These people are amongst the hardest working and the most niggardly paid people of the community, and the Opposition considers them as deserving of a fair deal as any other section, lu Queensland the primary producers are organized on a cooperative basis, as the result of legislation introduced by Labour governments, to a greater extent than in any other State. Primary produce to the value of £18,000,000 per annum is being sold by the Primary Producers’ Control Board, on which the producers have a majority of the representation. Labour has been in office in Queensland for eighteen out of the last 21 years. Mr. Harry Walker, when Minister for Agriculture in the United Australia party Government in that State, referred to Labour’s marketing legislation there in these terms -
I am now going to say something which 1 think should be said, and I am going to be quite brief about it. The legislation placed on the statute-book by the Labour Government in Queensland, through Mr. Forgan Smith, has conferred an enormous boon on the farmers of this State.
A resume of the work of the Labour Government in Queensland with regard to the marketing of the f armors’ produce was sent to the officer in charge of agricultural matters at the office of the League of Nations, and his reply was that he knew of no country that had dealt with agriculture in such an organized way as had the State of Queensland.
The platform of the Federal Labour party is very definite on the subject of organized marketing. Labour’s country policy states, inter alia -
The promotion and extension of the agricultural and rural industries by the establishment of a federal bureau of agriculture to co-operate with similar State bodies, with a view to organizing all those engaged in primary production into a unified body, so that they may be able to more effectively place their views before governments, and to generally, co-operate and assist in giving effect to the following policy: -
The encouragement of a co-operation among primary producers in order to bring consumers and producers into direct communication.
The provision of more up-to-date methods of marketing products, both locally and overseas.
The provision of a system of research work for the betterment ofrural production.
Representations of primary producers upon all boards affecting the handling and marketing of their products.
The Labour party in New Zealand, when it last went to the country, submitted the following policy in regard to internal marketing: - Promotion of agreements between the various control boards, other associations of primary producers and distributors’ and consumers’ organizations to ensure orderly marketing at guaranteed prices of the primary products required for consumption in the dominion.
Labour does not aim at dragooning or abolishing producers’ organizations. Labour aims at strengthening co-operative societies, farmers’ organizations, at making the farmer a directing portion of the new social mechanism.
The foregoing quotations set forth the attitude of the Labour party towards the primary producers, while it is well-known that the Nationalists are the friends of the middleman and the speculator who “ farm the farmer “.
The Assistant Minister for Commerce spoke of the effect of orderly marketing in securing improved prices for ricegrowers,, but he was not quite fair when he dealt with the part played by the Scullin Government in enabling better prices to be obtained. Strong representations were made to the Scullin Government
Motion (by Mr. R. Green) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– I rise to. a point of order. Is it competent for the Assistant Minister for Commerce to tell memberson the cross benches to move the gag?
– There is no point of order.
– Does the Governmentstand for the moving of the gag?
Honorable Members. - No!
– I am pleased that the. Acting Leader of the House (Dr. Earle Page), realizing that the numbers were against his party, has declared a division off. The rice-growers made representations to the Scullin Government for an increase of the duty on rice from 3s. 4d. per cental to1d. per lb. The increase made was from 3s. 4d. per cental to8s. 4d. per cental on uncleaned rice, and from 3s. 4d. to 9s.10d. per cental on rice, n.e.i., including rice meal and rice flour. The Assistant Minister for Commerce said that the action of the Scullin. Government was not. of much benefit to the industry, but I question his statement, because the following report by the Tariff Board clearly shows the important part which the increased protection played : -
In the tariff proposals tabled in Parlia.ment on 21st November, 1929, the duty on rice has been increased to1d. per lb. This is equivalent to 8s. 4d. per cental - an increase of 5s. per cental on the rates provided in the Customs Tariff 1921-1928, for Loonzain rice, and 2s.10d. per cental more than is necessary at present to protect the Australian growers against importations from Burma. Provided that satisfactory assurances are obtained from the Rice Marketing Board that advantage will not be taken of the increased duty to raise the price ofpaddy rice above a figure which will return £11 a ton to the growers, the Tariff Board is in favour of the confirmation of this duty. The Australian market will not be assured to the Australian rice-growers unlessa protective duty is imposed on imported dressed rice.
– The time allowed for this debate under the Standing Orders has expired.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
WAYS AND MEANS (Formal).
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair - proposed.
– I direct the attention of the Government to a state of affairs on the waterfront of
Port Adelaide which, if not attended to immediately, because of the injustice that is being done to members of the Federated Seamen’s Union, may be fraught with serious consequences. As the aftermath of the last waterfront dispute a system of licensing of seamen was instituted, under which certain first preference and second preference quotas were determined. 1 understand that for some time past there has been’ a shortage of men in the first preference division, and that despite many attempts by representatives of the Federated Seamen’s Union to have the first preference quota brought to its full strength representatives of the ship-owners and organizations of volunteers have sought to defer the taking of audi action. Consequently men entitled to transfer from the second preference to the first preference quota have no idea when the transfers will be made. I understand also that the licensing committee which controls this matter has held three or four meetings to consider this adjustment; that at the first meeting consideration of this matter was postponed for a certain period, that when the committee met a second time a majority decided to defer the matter still further, and that when a third meeting of the committee was held to consider the endorsement of the licences of second preference seamen with a first preference, the united efforts of the ship-owners and representatives of the volunteers organizations succeeded in having the matter again deferred.
– Why does not the honorable member tell 113 about Keenan, who caused all the trouble?
– Whatever trouble may have occurred no one can be justified in seeking to visit upon these men an injustice of the nature which I have indicated. If we are to have a licensing system to govern employment on the waterfront, then such a system must be operated justly. In the circumstances I have indicated, it is clear that the ship-owners and representatives of volunteer organizations are seeking to deprive numbers of second preference seamen of their rights, and I have no doubt it is because if the first preference quota were brought to its full strength consideration would have to be given to the claims of bona fide members of the Seamen’s
Union. It is time that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) should indicate to members of the licensing committee in Port Adelaide that they must deal promptly with this matter. I emphasize the fact that men are obliged to follow this calling on the waterfront in order to gain a livelihood, and they should not be denied any of their rights by being refused a first preference endorsement on their licences when vacancies exist in the first preference quota. I feel sure that if the existing state of affairs in Port Adelaide reacted to the detriment of members of the volunteer organizations no delay would be experienced in having an adjustment made. I hope that the Attorney-General, who is visiting Adelaide at present, will avail himself of the opportunity now presented to him to investigate the position personally, with a view to seeing that the men affected will be given fair treatment as soon as possible in conformity with the licensing law. Although no member of the Seamen’s Union desires to see a recurrence of industrial trouble, if this grievance is not remedied there is a danger of further unrest on the waterfront in Port Adelaide. The men themselves are anxious that peace should prevail. In these circumstances I feel obliged to make this protest against the attitude of the Port Adelaide licensing committee in refusing to deal fairly with this matter.
.- All honorable members are aware of the procedure confronting applicants for invalid pensions, of the innumerable questions put to them and of the department’s inquisition into their private history. I have received letters from two doctors supporting a claim which I shall now place before the House. First of all, I shall read the letter received by the applicant in question from the department, which is as follows: -
With reference to your personal representations concerning the above-named, I have to advise that one qualification for an invalid pension is total and permanent incapacity for all work. Partial incapacity, even though of a permanent nature, is not sufficient.
All the medical evidence in this case has been carefully considered, including the certificates of Dr. North (dated 19th February, 1938), and Dr. Muston now forwarded by you.
A recent medical examination showed that tlie claimant is Buffering from mental deficiency. His condition, however, is not such us to render him totally und permanently incapacitated for all work, and it is considered that the condition will probably improve us he grows older. In tlie circumstances, it is regretted that the rejection of his claim must stand.
After this letter was brought to ray notice, I visited the applicant in company with a third doctor. I found him to be mentally deficient and practically an imbecile, and the doctor, who is one of the best medical practitioners in Sydney, was of a similar opinion; but when bis certificate to that effect was forwarded to the department, the applicant received a second letter from the department which read as follows: -
With reference to your further representations concerning the above-named, I have perused thu certificate of Dr. K. Hyndes now submitted. There is nothing therein, however, to show that Mr.- is totally and permanently incapacitated for nil work within the mean in jr of the net, mid, as a variation of the previous decision is not justified, I am sorry that the rejection of the claim must stand.
The doctor expressed the opinion that this yoting nian would never he normal; lie has never been normal since birth. Both his hands are affected by his complaint, and lie has no control of facial expression ; he is a total imbecile. Notwithstanding the fact that three doctors have certified that he is entitled to a pension as prescribed by the act, the department claims that this young man is not entitled to a pension. Tn a previous debate in this House it was suggested that the department should change its medical referees. I ask that this young man’s case should be submitted to another medical referee. The departmental doctor expressed the opinion that a visit to the country would do this young man good, but, apparently, no notice is to be taken of the fact that his father is unemployed and cannot afford to follow out this suggestion.
– The department’s doctors in Sydney should be changed.
– That is so. Certain doctors, whether they are paid by the Government or not, refuse, if they ‘ can possibly do so, to certify that an applicant is entitled to a pension, and it is strange that in every case which has been submitted to one particular doctor, the application for a pension has been rejected. An investigation should be made regarding the treatment by medical officers of applicants for invalid pensions. After this matter was ventilated in the House on the last occasion, the medical officers paid some attention to the complaints, but they have since dropped back into their old habits. It is a standing disgrace to the Government that sick people should be treated in the way in which some of these doctors treat them. The man whose case I have mentioned was examined at my request by a Macquarie-street specialist, who stated without any hesitation that the applicant was not fit for work, and should not be asked to do so. I trust that the Minister will have an investigation made, and will give instructions to medical officers to treat cases of this kind more sympathetically.
.- I support the statement made by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden), because I, too, have had similar experiences with medical officers. I have in mind the case of a youth who was mentally afflicted as the result of infantile paralysis. He is quite unfit to earn his own living, but the medical officer declared that he was capable of light work, and his application for a pension was refused. I am able to produce a certificate from a local doctor stating, without any reservation, that the lad is totally and permanently incapacitated. The medical officer who examined this lad should no longer be employed by the department. It is evident that he was too careless to give the applicant a proper medical overhaul. Applicants for pensions have assured m« that the medical officer has merely tapped them here and there, told them that they were good fellows, and said that they were fit for work. I am sure that if the Minister were to call for a report from the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, he would find that the complaints of honorable members are justified. I have previously complained of one doctor who is in the habit of making a very careless examination of applicants, and who nearly always declares that they are fit to do light work. I venture to say that Doctor Graham, of Rockdale, is as well qualified to pass an opinion on such cases as is any government medical officer, and he has certified as totally and permanently incapacitated applicants whom the medical officer has turned down. I am assured that on many occasions, when an applicant, in accordance with requirements, furnishes a history of his case from the local doctor, it is not even examined by the medical officer.
Mr.Gregory. - Everything would be all right if the member of parliament were madethe judge in these cases.
– I have no doubt that, in some instances, the judgment of the member of parliament would be a great deal better than that of the medical officer. For the last 35 years I have interested myself in the cases treated at an institution dealing with sufferers from rheumatism, paralysis, &c, and I have acquired a good deal of experience. 1 am quite sure that If the lad I have mentioned were the son of the medical officer who examined him he would not allow him to do any work at all. I have no wish to usurp the duties of doctors, but, when we see glaring injustices perpetrated, it is our duty to speak.
.- It has been brought under my notice that the post office at Launceston is to be renovated. I suggest that when the estimate for this work is being prepared, the doors leading into the post office should be examined with a view to having them replaced by more suitable doors. On several occasions I have brought this matter under the notice of officials in Launceston in response to complaints received by me from members of the public. The doors are of an old type, and are very difficult to operate. Persons in normal healthcan, no doubt, manage them fairly well, but they present great difficulty to sick or feeble persons. An attempt was made to remedy the difficulty by loosening the springs, but it has not proved satisfactory. If the doors are made too slack they will not close properly, and then there are complaints from the staff because of the draught blowing into the building. It has been suggested that double doors might be placed further out in the vestibule of the building. Complaints have also been made that the heating of the building is unsatisfactory, and this matter might also receive attention. The post office building in Launceston is very old. From time to time it has been altered and enlarged to cope with increasing business, and it has now reached a stage when it should be replaced. When the Estimates were being discussed last year, I suggested that a central administrative block of buildings should be erected in the city of Launceston to house both the post office and the Customs office. I realize that this cannot be done during the present year, but the matter should be kept in view. The Customs House at present is in a remote part, the city having grown away from it.
.-I desire to bring under the notice of the House a grievance which, I think, all honorable members will agree should be rectified. For several years past exmembers of the Imperial Forces residing in Australia have claimed that they should be allowed to participate in the benefits of the Australian Repatriation Act. After all, these men fought in the same war as did our own soldiers, and in defence of the same Empire. Many of these British ex-soldiers had their pension rights commuted, and were paid a lump sum when they left England. They were encouraged to come to Australia, the inducement being held out to them that the climate would help to restore their health. In many instances, however, it was found that, after a few years, they developed tuberculosis as the result of their war experiences, and they are now on the invalid pension list in Australia.. This is unfair, seeing that their incapacity is wholly attributable to their war service. I understand that the Imperial Act provides that if an Imperial ex-soldier makes no claim for a war pension within seven years from the date of his discharge from active service, it is considered that his incapacity is not due to war service, unless there are extraordinary circumstances. An appeal for a pension must be despatched to England, and the subject can only be dealt with by correspondence through the Australian Repatriation Department. The element of personal contact between the applicant and the Appeal Board is entirely lacking. Imperial ex-soldiers in the position which I have mentioned have a genuine grievance, and it is time that those of them who have contracted tuberculosis should receive treatment similar to that given to Australian ex-soldiers who are sufferers from the disease. A tribunal, should be set up in the Commonwealth, comprising representatives of the Imperial Government and of the Imperial ex-soldiers resident in this country to hear and determine their appeals. The Imperial Government, not the Commonwealth Government, should be responsible for the maintenance of these men. I am not opposed to the granting of an invalid pension to an Imperial ex-soldier, but I desire to impress upon the Imperial Government that it is responsible for maintaining men who enlisted in Great Britain to fight in the last war. Surely they should receive the justice that is their due.
Another complaint which 1 desire to make is that the British Legion of Exservice “Men has no right to participate in the funds collected from public appeals, such as Poppy Day. In this connexion, I have received a. letter from Mr. Parkinson, secretary of the British Legion of Ex-service Men, at “Weston. When tho Truth and Sportsman conducted an appeal in connexion with the Kodak fund, this gentleman wrote to the management of tho newspaper with si request that the organization which he represented should he granted a share of the proceeds; and he received a reply that the organizers were doubtful whether they had any jurisdiction to allocate any of the money collected to the legion for the relief of those of its members who were in distressed circumstances.’ The letter further advised Mr. Parkinson to communicate with the secretary of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, Sydney, and he was informed, in reply, that individual appeals would have to be made by members of the legion, through the various branches of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. Mr. Parkinson complained that it was grossly unfair that Imperial ex-service men should have to appeal to the members of another organization for consideration, because the British Legion of
Ex-service Men is a bona fide organization, duly registered, and has many branches throughout Australia. When the public subscribe to the Poppy Day appeal they believe that they are contributing to a fund in which all returned soldiers will participate; but actually that distribution is in the hands of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. If members of the legion desire to share in the proceeds, they must go, cap in hand, to that organization. Such a practice, in my opinion, must sabotage the legion, because its members will naturally wonder what advantages they can derive from their association with it, if they have to appeal to a similar organization for relief.
Mr. Parkinson was further advised that the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia is responsible for the distribution of surplus military clothing. Honorable members are familiar with this subject, because prior to the advent to office of the first Lyons Government, they were permitted to distribute these garments to their needy constituents. Under the present system, the Commonwealth Government makes an allocation of the surplus clothing to the States, which distribute it among various charitable organizations, including the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. If members of the British Legion of Ex-service Men desire to obtain any of this clothing, they must make application through the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. This matter should engage the attention of the Federal Parliament, because many of these unfortunate eximperial soldiers who migrated to Australia are now unemployed. In the electorate of Hunter, I know that a considerable number of them are out- of work, because a clause in the industrial agreement prescribes that where retrenchment takes place in the coal-mining industry the last men to be engaged shall be the first to be dismissed. Being migrants, many of the Imperial ex-soldiers were naturally the last to enter the industry, and to-day they are without work. They desire to obtain portion of the surplus military clothing, but unless they appeal to the Returned Sailors and Soldiers
Imperial League of Australia, they are unable to do so.
– Of what use is it for a member to bring a grievance before the House unless he can get a reply from the Minister ?
– Yes, I notice that the Minister is apparently engaged in writing to some of his constituents, and does not appear to be paying heed to what is being said. I desire to know whether thereis any statutory power to enable the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia to control the distribution of funds collected through the medium of various appeals such as Poppy Day, which are made from time to time for the benefit of returned soldiers generally. This question should be answered by a responsible Minister. I have waited all this week for the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) to take his place in this House in order to bring it under his notice, and finallyI was obliged to submit it to the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill). Englishmen who have’ migrated to Australia are contributing pound for pound with Australian taxpayers to the revenue of the country, and it is therefore only right that, where necessary. Imperial Exservice men should be eligible for the benefits under the Australian Repatriation Act. They participate in other social benefits. After fulfilling a residential qualification of twenty years, they are eligible to receive the old-age pension; and if, after five years’ residence, they can prove that their incapacity has been incurred during their residence in Australia, or that they have earned their own living for a considerable portion of that period, they may be granted the invalid pension. If it is good enough for them to participate in those benefits, it should be good enough for them to participate in the benefits under the Australian Repatriation Act. When the Imperial ex-service men considered that they we’re not receiving a fair deal as members of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, it was only reasonable that they should form their own organization, the British Legion of Ex-service Men, and that body should be recognized and its members be permitted to participate in all the benefits that the governments of Australia and the publicprovide for the returned soldiers in this country. [Quorum formed.]
.- Under section 45 of the Invalid and Old- age Pensions Act, a pensioner who becomes an inmate of a hospital finds that his pension is suspended during the time when he is in the institution, and he is permitted to receive a sum which was 5s. and is now 5s. 6d. a week. The principle upon which that section is based is that the department makes a contribution to the hospital for the maintenance of the pensioner while he is there. That is the reason which has been given over and over again in justification of that particular section. A hospital is defined by the act as a place which is supported by either a State or the Commonwealth Government, and is proclaimed under the act. The obvious intention of the provision is, I think, that when a pensioner becomes an inmate of and remains in a hospital he shall receive part only of his pension, the remainder of it being paid to the institution. That is what most honorable members assume. I have always assumed that that is what happened. But a rather curious case has been brought to my notice. It is that of an elderly lady, who, while visiting Victoria, contracted diphtheria - a disease which, I believe, is very rare in old people. She entered the Infectious Diseases Hospital atFairfield, Victoria, and remained in it for fifteen weeks. During that period, her pension was suspended and she received 5s. a week. Her Victorian friends, being anxious to do the best that they could for her, went to the Pensions Department and asked why her pension had been suspended. The reply of the department was, that they had to contribute towards the cost of her maintenance while she was an inmate of the Infectious Diseases Hospital. Being very greatly in need of money, she placed her position before the hospital authorities and asked that they should not be the means of her pension being either suspended or reduced. Their answer was, that no charge was made for her maintenance while she was an inmate of their institution, and that no claim would be made on her account against the Pensions Department. Obviously, therefore, the hospital is receiving nothing from the department. This raises a very important question in relation to the administration of the act. I can see no justification for the suspension of the pension if the Government is making no contribution to the hospital. In such circumstances, why should her pension bo suspended? If the Government were contributing the deducted amount for the partial maintenance of the pensioner, one could understand its action. It would appear that it is treating very meanly either the pensioner or the hospital, or both. By withholding a substantial amount of the pension, it is causing this old. pensioner considerable worry, while at the same time it is giving no assistance to the hospital. I commend this matter to the consideration of tho Government. It seems to me that tho position is an anomalous one. I assume that no contribution is made out of pensions to any hospitals, because treatment would not be accorded to other institutions which is denied to the Infectious Diseases Hospital.
– Recently I visited Chile, in South America. As honorable members generally know, one of the principal industries of that republic has been the production of nitrate of soda. Some years ago, a considerable quantity of this product was shipped to Australia. Primary producers are aware that it has a special value which is not found in ordinary superphosphates. Before the outbreak of the last war, tho production was considerably larger than the present production of 450,000 tons per annum. The difficulty of obtaining supplies during the war led to synthetic nitrates being produced from the air in Germany, and since then they have been produced, by other mechanical means, in consequence of which this principal industry of Chile is in a bad way. The chief centre in which these nitrates are produced is the Atacama. desert, and the industry is largely under the control of British capital. It was represented to me by a British officer of the companies there, that the Government of Chile, which draws considerable sums by way of royalty from the industry, and is therefore keenly interested in its advancement, might consider the resumption of imports of Australian coal, if in return Australia would purchase Chile nitrates. I suggest that the possibilities in this direction might be explored by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), with a view to benefiting the Australian coal industry. A fair quantity of coal is produced in the southern part of Chile, but it is of inferior quality. Manufacturers have told rae that the Newcastle coal is known to bc superior to any coal produced on the western coast of South America.
.- I wish to voice certain complaints in regard to the considerable delays that occur in the Repatriation Department in connexion with applications for service pensions and medical aid. Recently an application for medical treatment was made by a man named Dunstan, who lives in my electorate. During the war he suffered an injury to his ankle, on account of which he has been receiving a small pension. The Repatriation Department supplied him with special footwear to assist him to get about. Owing to his disability, he met with an accident, which caused his ankle to bc broken where he had been previously wounded. The department refused to allow him to be treated at the Repatriation Hospital, on the ground that it was not satisfied that the injury was due to war service. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) handled the case before it was ‘given to mc. For nearly six months this returned soldier could not obtain any satisfaction from the department. Quite a lot of correspondence has passed between the department and myself in connexion with the case. After some months had elapsed, it decided to employ two leading Sydney specialists to determine whether the injury was traceable to gunshot wounds in the ankle. The cost of procuring the opinion of those two specialists would be 20 or 30 guineas. I do not know whether the case has yet been dealt with. I trust that consideration of this man’s claim will be expedited.
There is also the case of a man named Mannix, a talented musician, whom I knew very well prior to his enlistment in 1916. Towards the end of his period ot active service he was treated for a nervous complaint in England, and received further treatment upon his return to Australia. Eventually, he developed Parkinson’s disease, a complaint which was not very prevalent before the Australian soldiers returned from overseas. To-day, he is receiving an allowance of only 7s. 6d. a week. He has appealed to the. department to increase that amount. He is a complete invalid, and is eligible for a burnt-out soldier’s pension, but that would not guarantee to him medical aid, for the reason that, at the moment, the department does not recognize Parkinson’s disease as one which is caused by the effects of war service. Many returned soldiers find it difficult when sickness overtakes them, seventeen or eighteen years after the war, to sustain a claim that their illness is due to war service. The Government is at present doing its best to persuade the young men in the community to enlist. If it gave more sympathetic treatment to the returned soldiers who are still suffering from the effects of the last war, the recruiting campaign might be more successful. So long as the human wrecks of the war are to be seen walking the streets in need of food, shelter and medical attention it is not likely that enlistments will be numerous. I do not need to remind honorable members of the many glowing promises that were made to men during the war to encourage them to offer their services to their country. I realize that all honorable members have representations made to them from time to time by returned men or their dependants with the object of securing more sympathetic treatment from the Repatriation Department. The case to which I have just directed attention is one of the most pitiful that has come under my notice since I have been a member of this House. The man’s condition was so deplorable and his nerves were so shattered that he could scarcely hold the stick he was using to help him along the street, and he appealed to me to write to the department on his behalf because he could not hold a pen in his hand to do so. It is five months since that man was examined by the departmental doctors .but he has not yet been informed of the result of the examination.
A man named Bliss has also made representations to me with the object of securing a pension. He has been attended regularly by one of the most able medical men in my electorate, who is well known to some honorable members opposite. I refer to Dr. Greeves. He has declared that the condition of Mr. Bliss is entirely due to war service.
I appeal to the Government to give more sympathetic treatment to these unfortunate people.
A few days ago I was astounded to hear the Minister now administering the War Service Homes Department say, in reply to a question by an honorable member,’ that no injustice had been done to any occupant of a war service home. 1 immediately thought of a man who, soon after the war, invested his life’s savings and also his gratuity bonds in a home at Earlwood, which had been built by the War Service Homes Department. A few years ago he, like thousands of other men, lost his employment through no fault of his own and was eventually evicted. Some time ago he obtained temporary employment from the Canterbury Council. When he drew his first week’s pay he was astonished to find that the War Service Homes Department had obtained a garnishee order against him with the result that he got only £2 2s. 6d. of the £4 2s. 6d. that he had earned. No private landlord in Sydney or anywhere else would have dreamed of taking out a garnishee order against a man who had been living in dire circumstances on the dole and was trying to rear a family of three or four little children.
– Shylock would have been ashamed to do a thing like that.
– That is so. The man’s wife came to me because he could not spare time from his relief work to do so, and asked me to appeal to the department to withdraw the order. I cannot describe to honorable members how keenly I felt the appeal of this poor little woman who had two tiny children hanging to her dress. I am glad to say that on my representations the chief clerk of the department requested the Crown Law Department to suspend the collection of the £2. I do not know whether that was an isolated case, but I know that many returned soldiers who were dis- possessed of their war service homes have been the victims of garnishee orders almost immediately after they secured employment. I think, at the moment, of a man in Belmore, who occupied a war service home for a number of years, but could not keep up his payments on account of illness of his family. At the timewhen he obtained government employment he owed the department £40 or £50, and a garnishee order was obtained against him, with the result that he lost 5s. or 10s. each pay day. It takes men who have been out of work for years quite a long while after they obtainemployment to get back to decent living conditions. In many cases the traders stand by such men and, naturally, when the men secure employment, they wish to square their traders’ accounts without delay, but very often the War Service Homes Department steps in first, and makes this impossible. While the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) was in charge of the War Service Homes Department, I brought many cases of hardship under his notice. Some of these received sympathetic consideration, but very little relief was granted in other instances. I urge the honorable gentleman to submit the cases to which I am now referring to. his colleague, Mr. Hunter, who is now in charge of the department.
In my opinion it is a disgrace to the Commonwealth Government that charitable institutions and public bodies should find it necessary to support their appeals for public assistance by referring to returned soldiers and their families in very poor circumstances. Recently the Millions Club of Sydney emphasized its appeal for blankets for needy people by the publication of the following letter : -
My husband, who is a returned soldier, is ill and without a pension, and gets only two weeks’ relief work in seven. We have to live on 17s. 2d. a week. By the time we pay our rent very little is left for food, let alone blankets. We live in a basement room, which is very cold and damp this weather, but we must continue to do so as we cannot afford anything bettor.
It is deplorable that such appeals should be necessary.
When I heard the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) the other evening criticizing the Government’s proposal to erect a statue in memory of his late Majesty King George V., and appeal for the building of a hospital or some memorial institution that would help to relieve distress and suffering, I could not help thinking that money should not be wasted in the Commonwealth on useless memorials while so many people are still in need of food, clothing and shelter.
– The late King would himself have wished for a useful memorial.
Mr.MULCAHY.- I believe that is so. To-night I visited the Canberra Hospital, and was once more astonished that in what is one of the most carefully planned cities of the world we have a hospital which would be a disgrace to any bush township. As an ordinary man I dread to think what would happen if a fire should occur in that hospital. I believe that every medical practitioner in Australia would condemn the Canberra Hospital buildings as entirely unsuitable for the purpose for which they are used. If a fire broke out there probably one-half of the inmates would perish. The building is of wooden construction, and I do not think that any medical man in Australia would regard it as suitable for its purpose.
Another appeal on behalf of ex-soldiers was published in the Sydney Sun of the 26th August last as follows: -
Of all the many strong argments against the tragic folly of war perhaps the strongest and the saddest escapes the public eye, because it is hidden behind the walls of mental hospitals.
Think of it - in Callan Park Mental Hospital alone, there are 480 digger patients. Of these, no fewer than 180 are without military pensions, and their cases are sad beyond expression.
To bring a little comfort and light into these minds clouded by the tragedy of war, theReturned Soldiers League recently inaugurated a fund through its hospital entertainment welfare committee. The proceeds of this fund are mainly devoted to the supply of comforts, such as cigarettes,&c, to diggers in nine State mental institutions.
These men are the victims of one of the greatest afflictions which a human being could suffer. They receive no military pension, and the Commonwealth Government might well supply them with small comforts during their few remaining years. I trust that the matters to which J have directed attention will receive sympathetic consideration.
The administration of the Repatriation Department, I suggest, requires a complete overhaul. Applicants for medical assistance do not receive the consideration to which they are entitled. I do not know whether my information is correct, and I have no means of verifying it, but I have heard that when applications for pensions are being submitted members of the board sit back and read books, taking little notice of the evidence being placed before them. I am convinced that 90 per cent, of the applications are genuine, but, possibly, not more than 5 per cent, of them arc granted. When there is a doubt an ex-soldier should receive the benefit of it.
.- I have had numerous complaints from individuals in my electorate about delay experienced in obtaining the fertilizers subsidy. In certain cases it is said that applications have not been received, and the complaint is made that no attention is given to correspondence. If only an isolated complaint of thi3 nature had come under my notice I should be inclined to say that the applicant had failed to send in his return. As the complaints fire numerous, however, it seems to me that an investigation should be made regarding the work of the section of the department which controls the distribution of the subsidy. I have a. recollection of one claim that was sent to the department, and, after some months had elapsed, the applicant wrote to mc about it, whereupon I ascertained from the department that no claim could be found there. Owing to the extension of time granted last year this person was allowed to make a fresh application. After a certain period had elapsed he again wrote to me and said that no payment had been made. I again approached the department, and at first the application could not be found. Later it was found and payment was made. I have another case before mo which concerns a gentleman from Cudgewa, who said that he had made an application but his claim had not been paid. He then wrote to discover the reason for this, but no reply was received. A second and a third time he com municated with the department, and still no answer was forthcoming. He then approached me. The time for the closing of applications for that year has now passed, and this individual is debarred from obtaining his share of the subsidy. The amount that would have been paid to him was only small, but a large sum might have been involved.
I have previously approached the department for an explanation of such delays, and have been told that the applications are so numerous that some delay is unavoidable. The circumstances in cases that have come under my notice suggest not only that the trouble is due to delay in answering communications, but also that, in many instances, letters are not answered at all. The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) should, I think, ascertain the reason for this position, and, if the office is under-staffed, the matter should be rectified. This section of the Department of Commerce should be conducted more efficiently. Among country people, the granting of this subsidy was one of the most popular acts of this Government; for this reason, as well as the fact that advantages would be gained from more efficient administration, this matter should be attended to.
.- I take this opportunity to protest against the lack of information supplied by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) in answer to questions asked by honorable members with regard to discontent which exists in the Australian Navy. In reply to a question which I asked him, on last Thursday, the Minister for Defence informed me that welfare committees are not now functioning aboard naval vessels because they are not desired, and, further, that naval ratings have every opportunity -through other channels to bring before the authorities any complaints they may wish to make. On Friday last, I invited the Minister to indicate by whom the welfare committees were no longer desired, and to give details as to the other channels which, he said, are available to ratings for the making of complaints, and to these questions the Minister later supplied the following answer: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the regulations provide that any petty officer or man who wishes to make any representation affecting his welfare, or who has any suggestion to make connected with the service may bring the subject to the notice of his divisional officer through his divisional petty officer. They also provide that, if anyofficer, petty officer, or man thinks that he has suffered any personal oppression, injustice or other ill-treatment, or that he has been treated unjustly in any way, he may make an oral request to see the captain to whom he may then make his complaint orally. If the complainant is not satisfied with the decision of the captain, he may complain to higher authority. In plane of the system of welfare committees, which was abolished by the Admiralty in 1932, and the Naval Board in 1983, arrangements have been made for a periodical review of service conditions to be carried out by the Naval Board in accordance with admiralty procedure. Representatives of each division in a ship bring forward any requests to their divisional officer, which are considered by a ship committee. These are sent to the Hag officer commanding the squadron, who establishes a fleet committee to consider and co-ordinate requests from all ships. He then makes his recommendations to the Naval Board. A review of service conditions took place in the latter part of 1935, and the decisions of the Naval Board on the various matters raised have been communicated to all concerned.
The impression conveyed by these replies is that there is no ground for complaint by ratings, and that no real discontent exists in the Wavy. Frequently, I receive correspondence from men on naval vessels in which they complain not only of tyrannical oppression by their officers, but also of the fact that they are denied an opportunity to bring their grievances under the notice of their member of parliament or any authority competent to air such complaints, or to rectify them. In order to show that genuine cause for complaint exists among naval ratings, and that there is real discontent in the Wavy, I shall read a copy of one of many letters which I have received from naval ratings aboard one particular ship. It is as follows: -
Would you kindly allow me, as a voter in your electorate, to draw your attention to the conditions existing on H.M.A.S. Canberra.
During the last year ratings have been forced to work on make and mend days which actually means half holidays, and their dog watches, besides having as a rule, rather than exception, from one-quarter to one-half hour taken off their meal hours. The work they had to do such as wash ships’ side and funnels is normally done on other ships during ordinary working hours, on here seldom is any attempt made to start this work on any day but Wednesday or Saturday afternoons, which are the make and mend days in capital cities.
On arrival of the new Admiral, who was, I believe, in command of a sea-going ship in 1923, and has had shore jobs eversince, overall suits to do dirty work in, such as chipping paintwork and washing ships’ sides, &c were prohibited.
The men are compelled to do the workin cither serge or duck suits, according to the weather, which suits are inspected after the day’s work, and the ratings punished by extra work and kit musters if the suit does not meet with the approval of the officer of the divisions. Lads of seventeen are put in charge of men with as much as seventeen years’ ser vice. These midshipmen have able seamen to lash their hammocks up. One rating got five days cells for asking a midshipman, who took his bedding out of the’ hammock, to sleep on the floor, to “ put it back in the morning “.
This ship had the biggest crime sheet during the last half year of any ship during the last ten years. Such crimes as a steward omitting to place abackstud in Lieutenant-Commander Curry’s shirt awarded seven days. Another one who served Commander Gettings at dinner from the wrong side, ten days. Another crime is to have a cap on that is not worn in the mannerthe different officers want them - the bow of the ribbon over the left ear and the reverse, and, according to which officer sees the rating, the A, N or B to be over the nose. Any rating found lifting hishat, because of sweat or for any other reason is punished if seen. Last week, 97 ratings requested to Bee the captain, complaining about extra work. A request must be made to Bee the captain through the commander, and it is endorsed by the officers of the division. As the commander runs the routine of the ship and directly supervizes the officers of the divisions, only three ratings were allowed to sec the captain. He threatened these ratings that he would have them watched, and if he found them causing discontent he would have them in gaol. He then toldthe ship’s company if therewas any concerted move such as more than one rating complaining about the state of the ship, disciplinary action would be taken.
They all know that if one rating on behalf of the ship’s company complains, he will be put on the beach as a Communist. So would you please inquire what steps naval ratings arc to take if they feel as a whole they have a grievance to ventilate? There are absolutely none,as far as naval regulations go? I
It is not my line to write letters of this description, but I hope you will not takethe action of sending it to the Navy Board to have a hand-writing test taken, as this is also an offenee, and would you treat this as confidential. I have no objection to its being copied. “When this sailor asks me to treat this letter confidentially, he means that he does not want his name disclosed, because he knows that if his name were disclosed members of the Government would immediately take steps against him for having the audacity to complain about these intolerable conditions existing on Australian naval vessels. If the Government considers that things are all serene in the Navy at the present time, I ask why it is that, on this particular ship alone, more men were placed under arrest, in one week than were arrested on any other vessel within the last ten years.
– That is according to the naval rating who wrote that letter.
– But this Government is not prepared to give any information to this House concerning conditions in the Navy. Chi. every occasion on winch the press has given instances of discontent in the Navy, or has given publicity to such instances as the throwing overboard of gunlocks, in search of which divers have been set to work, the Government has said that discontent did not exist. Where there is smoko there is fire, and no naval rating would go to the trouble of writing a letter of the kind which I have just read if no cause for complaint existed. I recall that on a previous occasion trouble arose on a vessel at Darwin, when one rating had the audacity to hit an officer on that ship, because with other officers, he was a party to one of many drunken revels which take place from time to time, and keep the ratings awake at night. When this matter was brought before the House, the Government replied that if the ratings had complaints to make they could bring them before their welfare committee. The welfare committees which did exist were not wholly satisfactory to the ratings, but they were preferable to the system now operating. I have had brought under my notice cases in which ratings, as disclosed in this letter, are afraid to communicate their names to their member of Parliament, because they are afraid that if the correspondence were to gc astray and fall into the hands of the authorities, a writing test would be made to discover the writer - of such correspondence. The qualification of recruits to the Navy to-day is not merely one of physical fitness. Inquiries are made as to their parentage, in order that the authorities may find out the polities of ‘ their parents, thus ensuring that sons of only one particular class of the community shall enter the Navy. The obvious reason for this is that in the event of any civil disorder occurring in this country the naval ratings would be useful to an anti-Labour Government, in quelling it. As a matter of fact, the Government’s system in that respect is not operating to the perfection that it would desire. There are among the naval ratings many men who when they joined the service .probably held views similar to those held by this Government, but, because of the oppression caused by the officer class on board the vessels, they are beginning to think differently. There exists a good deal of discontent which the Government and the officers have been trying by disciplinary methods to stamp out. It is of no use for the Government to try to cloud the issue by denying that there is any cause for complaint or any reason for grievance. The officers on some of the naval vessels have tyrannized the men to such an extent that they are afraid to lodge complaints. Nevertheless, a great deal of discontent exists and it behoves the Government to grant a decent inquiry into the conditions of the navy. It should be an inquiry at which men who have the courage to come forward to tell their grievances could do so without fear of victimization. The Government should re-establish the welfare committees which formerly existed, but not on the old basis on which the meetings were attended by officers. Welfare committee meetings should be held by the men themselves and at these meetings the men should be allowed freely to discuss complaints and requests.
Another point on which I desire to address honorable members is the legislation which this Government had passed which places on applicants for war pensions the onus of proof that their disabilities are due to war service. I hold no brief for any particular section of the community. If a person is in ill health, whether he be a returned soldier or a civilian, it is the duty of the country to provide for him. Whilst the party of which I am a member does not believe in war, it does believe that when a government makes promises to men in order to induce them to go overseas to fight, and when those men return smashed and with their health broken, those promises should be carried out. Every one of the men who enlisted in the early days of the war was in perfect physical condition; otherwise he would not have been accepted for service. After years of service in which their health had been broken these men returned to Australia prepared to sign any statement that they were in good health in order to get out of the uniform. Years afterwards when their health fails and they apply for a pension they have under legislation which this Government keeps in the statutebook to bear the onus of proof that the cause of their breakdown was- war service. Instead of that the onus should be on the Government to prove that illhealth is not due to war service.” Conditions are such that it is almost impossible for an application for a pension to be successful. I challenge any honorable member to deny that scarcely more than one-half of 1 per cent, of applications which they have forwarded have been successful. The test should be whether or not an applicant is able to earn his living; if he is not, he should receive a pension.
Another objection is that when persons apply for war pensions, their application is not dealt with solely on the ground of their disability. The applicant’s general war history is also taken into account, and consideration is given to whether he has been convicted of any military offences of the kind which many soldiers committed, and which are usual when large bodies of men are congregated together. Those who have committed such offences have already been punished for them, and it is not right that they should be punished again by being deprived of pensions to which they would otherwise be entitled. I have raised this matter upon previous occasions, and I know that the reply of the Government will be that this phase of an applicant’s war history is not taken into consideration; that it is necessary to examine his file in order to trace the history of his incapacity. The returned soldiers have asked that these crime-sheets, as they are called, should be removed from the files, so that when an applicant comes before the tribunal he will have to prove only that his disability is due to war service. ‘ I urge the Minister to give favorable consideration to this request.
Some time ago I raised in this Parliament the question of the manner in which applicants for invalid and old-age pensions are examined by medical officers. There is no doubt a good deal of dissatisfaction does exist regarding the manner in which applicants are directed to be examined by a particular doctor. Some doctors have earned a reputation for rejecting a very large percentage of applications. To-night, the name of Dr. Ludowici has been mentioned in this House as one who has earned a reputation for harsh treatment of applicants, but his reputation is being seriously challenged by another doctor, whose name I do not know, but who examines applicants in the Customs House in Sydney. I do not know whether or not it is as a result of government instructions, but the fact remains that, during the last two or three months, the proportion of applications rejected has greatly increased. One is driven to wonder whether, in view of the fact that the Government has increased the pension rate to 19s. a week, it has issued instructions for a general tightening up in regard to applications so that the total pensions expenditure may not be greater than formerly. I am of opinion that the Government has issued instructions to this effect, and that Dr. Ludowici, and this other doctor whose name I do not know, are carrying out those instructions most faithfully. If there is no ground for my complaint, what objection can the Government have to adopting my proposal that pensioners should be allowed to choose from a panel of doctors approved by the department the one by whom, they shall be examined? The Government would not thereby be involved in any greater expense, because doctors are paid according to the number of persons examined. I have here a letter from the Treasurer, dated the 10th June, 1936, in which he stated -
With reference to representations made by you during the debate in the House of Representatives on Supply Bill No. 1 of 1930-37 to the effect that invalid pension claimants be permitted to make a choice of doctors from a panel, I have to advise you that similar proposals have previously been considered by the Government but it has been decided that action in the direction desired cannot be taken.
I cannot see why the action suggested should not be taken. The letter continues -
With regard to your remarks concerning fees paid to Dr. Ludowici for examination:* made on behalf of the department, 1 have to fay that thu suggestion that this doctor receives more in fees from the department than any other medical practitioner in New South Wales is not borne out by the departmental records.
But the Treasurer failed to give any information regarding the amounts paid to the various medical officers, and the mere denial of the Treasurer does not convince me that Dr. Ludowici has not, in fact, been examining more of these cases than has any other medical officer, apart from the one at the Customs House.
There is also room for complaint regarding the manner in which applicants for invalid and old-age pensions are examined. When I voiced this complaint on a previous occasion, I made it clear that the charge was not made against all examining officers, but only against some” of them. The Treasurer has denied that there is any ground for complaint, and has said that the method of examination is covered by regulation. Honorable members will agree with me, however, that it would bet/impossible to specify by regulation every question to be directed to an applicant. A good deal of discretion must be allowed to the examining magistrate. The examining officers who adopt these -tactics, and thus intimidate many applicants from continuing with their claims, are not fit to occupy their positions. I am sure that what I have said will persuade every fair-minded member of this House that there is good ground for complaint about the treatment that is being meted out to so many applicants for pensions.
Another matter to which I direct attention has to do with administration, and I wish to make it clear that I am not complaining about treatment by the department in Sydney. My grievance is that the Government is continuing a system under which many people are unable to obtain pensions in their declining years. It is laid down that a husband is not entitled to a pension if he has, for twelve months or upwards, preceding the date of application, deserted his wife without just cause, or has failed to provide her with adequate means of support. I have no fault to find with that provision, but in some cases, it operates harshly, and I consider that the department should examine the circumstances of each case separately before arriving at a decision.
One case which I have brought under the notice of the department on several occasions, is that of a man over SO years of age who separated from his wife over 40 years ago. During the whole of that period there was no communication between them. Some time ago, when this old man made application for a pension the department claimed that he had deserted hia wife, and was therefore -ineligible. I took the matter up with the department, and asked that a more lenient view be taken. The department intimated that if he could produce two independent witnesses that he was not responsible for the conditions that were responsible for their separation, his application would be reconsidered. Obviously, after 40 years, it is almost impossible to find any one with whom he was acquainted so long ago, so he has not been able to substantiate his claim, and will be compelled to live in poverty for the remainder of his life. His case might very well be reviewed. Even if a pension were granted to him, it is probable, in view of his years, that he would not live long to enjoy it.
I have also received a number of complaints with regard to the recent re-examination of invalid pensioners, many of whom have had their pensions cancelled. It would make interesting reading if the Treasurer would supply the House with detailed information as to the number of cases that have been reviewed during the last three months, and also give the number of invalid pensions that ‘have been cancelled, as the result of such reexamination. I am reliably informed that in many cases the reexamination by departmental doctors is carried out in a very perfunctory way. This, perhaps, is understandable, because all of the doctors are in private practice, and naturally give more attention to private patients than to the examination of applicants for pensions.
One woman whose pension has been cancelled had been suffering for several years from sugar diabetes. Because she had received insulin treatment at one of the Sydney hospitals, and was in improved health, the disease having been arrested, she was ordered to present herself for re-examination. The examining doctor reported that her condition had so much improved that she- was in a position to earn her livelihood. Accordingly, her pension was cancelled. I am informed that the doctor who examined her did not take a blood test, which is the only way in which the condition of a person suffering from that complaint can he ascertained. All he did was to look at her and feel her pulse. When I took ibis matter up with the department, 1 was told that she would have to do without tlie pension until her condition became again so bacl as to require hospital treatment. Thus, this woman, who is suffering from an incurable disease, is compelled again to endanger her health simply because the department has decreed that, because the complaint from which she is suffering has been arrested, she is now ineligible for the pension.
Other cases that have come under my notice relate to women who are between 58 and 59 years of age and who, in the course of a year or eighteen months would qualify for the old-age pension. The majority of these women have been in domestic service for a number of years, and are now only able to do light housework. Some depend upon their daughters for assistance. Although very few. of them have done any work in industry for 20 or 30 years, they are expected to be able to take positions.
I have also received information of a girl, paralysed in both legs, whose claim for an invalid pension has been rejected because the examining doctor reported that she was able to do work of a sedentary nature. All the complaints that have been brought to my notice indicate unfair discrimination on the part of the examining doctors. For this the Government must be held responsible.
Very shortly, Government supporters will be appearing before the electors, and I have no doubt that they will tell the invalid and old-age pensioners that this Government has given to them an addi tional ls. a week. We may be quite sure that they will not also tell the peoplethat this Government has deprived a large number of eligible persons of their invalid or old-age pensions. Nor will they toll the electors that this Government is always complaining about the cost of social services. They will not tell the people this because they know that they would lose support in their electorates.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- It would appear from, the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), that he is very disappointed because there has not been a mutiny in the Royal Australian Navy. The honorable member thinks that the conditions under which the men are serving are unsatisfactory, but I understand that they are well treated, and are a contented body of nien. The honorable member also said that the ratings are drawn from only one class.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member does not know what he did say. He should join with other honorable members in saying, “ Thank God that we have a navy.” I could not remain silent while such disparaging remarks were made concerning men who are rendering a valuable service to Australia.
.- I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Government the disabilities suffered by British subjects resident in Australia in consequence of being denied the old-age pension. In my electorate there are three aged men, two of whoa; are British subjects, and one who was born in French Caledonia. They have resided in Australia for about 50 years, principally in Northern Queensland, and for many years have ‘worked on alluvial gold-fields, and later on mineral fields, west of Cairns and Townsville. Later, when the mines were closed down, they came down the coast and followed various callings. To-day they are too old to work, and receive only 5s. a week from the Queensland Government to sustain them.
– Why do they not become naturalized ?
– They are naturalized British subjects. I have before me a rejection of claim form signed by the Deputy Commissioner, stating that Mr. James. Sard is not entitled to a pension because he is an Asiatic. The following letter was forwarded by the Mayor of Townsville to the Pensions Department : -
A man named James Sard, who I have known for over 40 years, is anxious to secure the old-age pension, but is refused owing to his having been born in Singapore, although another man born in Ceylonhas been granted it some years ago upon my representation. Sard sent the authorities £5 to cover his naturalization expenses, but this was returned with the advice that, as he was a British subject, no such naturalization was necessary, and yet he has been told that he is not eligible for the pension. I first knew him in. Thursday Island. He has also resided in Tully and Innisfail, and has been a very respectable and hard-working man. I hope that you will be able to assist him in securing the pension. I am enclosing a quantity of correspondence dealing with the matter, and which I would ask you to kindly return to me after perusal. As both Ceylon and Singapore are British possessions in Asia I cannot understand one being approved and the other refused.
In reply to that communication the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions sent the following letter: -
With reference to your personal representations on behalf of Mr. James Sard, whose claim for pension was recently rejected in view of his Asiatic birth and your reference to the grant to de Silva born in Ceylon, I have to draw your attention to the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act which provides that Asiatics are disqualified from receiving a pension except those born in Australia and Indians born in British India. I regret that the pension is not payable to Mr. Sard.
Mr. R. F. B.Wake, an inspector of the Commonwealth investigation branch, wrote to Mr. Sard on the 20th April as follows : -
Information has been received in this office from Canberra that you were notified by letter from the Department of the Interior on the 15th inst., of the rejection of your application for naturalization as a British subject owing to the fact that you arealready a natural born British subject. Pleasefind attached Form No. 17 for refund of the fee £5 paid by you for naturalization. This form should be signed by you where marked with an X and returned to this office as soon as possible when a cheque will be forwarded to you from the Department of the Interior for the amount of the fee.
That letter discloses that in the opinion of the Department of the Interior Sard is a British subject yet he is unable to get a pension. Sard, who has lived in
Australia for very many years, has always proved himself to be a good citizen, and I sincerely trust that some means will be found to enable him to receive a pension. Another case is that of Tony Abdlar, who has been denied a pension because he is an Asiatic. Abdlar, who has lived in the Innisfail district for many years, is worthy of better treatment than he has received. The third case is that of Tony Abdullah, of Innisfail, who was born in French Caledonia, and who has held miner’s rights. He is a good citizen, and should be paid a pension. If these men cannot be granted a pension under the existing lawthe act should be amended as soon as practicable. They are naturalized Aus tralians and should enjoy rights equal to those of other Australian citizens. If an alteration of the act is necessary, the Government would be justified in making it. These men are entitled to a pension by virtue of the developmental work that they have done.. They are no longer able to undertake manual labour and by reason of lack of educational qualifications cannot perform other work in which the physical strain would not be great. I sincerely trust that the Government will give favorable consideration to their claims.
– The various matters which honorable members have raised will be placed before the different Ministers concerned. Where insufficient information has been given to enable the identity of the individual on whose behalf representations have been made to be established, I shall be obliged if honorable members will supply all necessaryparticulars so that the cases may be examined
Question resolved in the negative.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to intimate to honorable members that the House will meet next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and. in the following week, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The average fortnightly rate of war pension to all ex-soldiers and their dependants as at the 30th June,1936, has slightly increased as the following figures will show : -
Average fortnightly rate for all pensioners (soldiers, wives, children, and other dependents), as at the 30th June, 1935, £11s. 4.97d.; at the 30th June, 1936, £1 2s. 0.1 8d.
Average fortnightly increase for all pensioners, as at 30th June, 1930, 7.21d.
s asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Mr.Hughes.-The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. Until the applications for service pensions have been determined, it is not possible to dissect the numbers under their respective headings of old-age, permanently unemployable or suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis as many applicants apply on at least two, and some on all three, grounds.
Repatriation: Casesof Spondylitis.
Mr.Mulcahy asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
What were the number of cases -
of spondylitis diagnosed by the Repatriation Department for the year ended the 30th June, 1936;
of spondylitis recognized as due to war service?
s. - The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to. the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
SirIsaacsaacs: Visit to Great Britain.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice - ‘
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - >
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
DARWIN WATER Supply.
l asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Population Capacity op Australia.
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research made investigations to ascertain the capacity of Australia to absorb further population? If so, when will the report be issued?
– Certain preliminary inquiries were carried out by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in connexion with the capacity of Australia to absorb population, but these investigations disclosed that any estimate in this regard, because of the many unknown and undetermined factors such as world markets, soil reproductivity, standards of living, &c, would be so hypothetical that it would be misleading and of little value.
en asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable member is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
Mr.Barnard asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the amount of capital which went abroad last year, including payment of dividends to oversea shareholders in Australian companies?
Does he agree with the views expressed by the Commonwealth Bank Board that London credits, although sufficient for immediate requirements, are not strong enough to bear’ the strain of an emergency?
Is it a fact, as reported, that London funds, including the note reserve, have fallen from £65,000,000 to £38,000,000 during the last two years?
y. - Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
d asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.Yes. It is understood, however, that the apples which were used for these testa were picked before they wereproperly ripened, and the results cannot, therefore, be accepted a* a reliable indication of the value ofTasmanian apples for this purpose. Consideration will be given to the question as to whether further work in this regard should be carried out by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
Proposed Revision of Ottawa Agreement.
Mr.Curtin asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Prior to any Minister going to Great Britain to discuss the revision of the Ottawa agreement, will the Prime Minister allow honorable members an opportunity to insist that Parliament shall be supreme in the determination of our fiscal policy, and shall not be made subservient to provisions in the agreement that tariff policy shall be governed by the recommendations of the Tariff Board?
s. - The question raised by the Leader of the Opposition will be considered. At the same time, I would remind him that the existing agreement was approved by Parliament.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19360924_reps_14_151/>.