15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
- by leave- In order that I might be fully informed regarding the financial position of the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States, I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) if he would furnish to me a statement setting out the total amount of loan money requested by the State governments for public works for the years from 1932-33 to 1937-38 inclusive, and the amount allotted each year.
The Treasurer has informed me that, as the information is confidential to the Loan Council, he regretted that he was unable to furnish the desired particulars.
If that be the position in which the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives is placed, he has no alternative but to engage in a great deal of research in respect of the budget statements of the State governments, which may or may not include the information he seeks. The Treasurer of His Majesty’s Commonwealth Government is the chairman of the Loan Council. The Loan Council is a body which exists in pursuance of the operations of this Parliament, and a part of its activities relates now to the Constitution under which this Parliament functions.I direct public attention to the fact that information which is essential to enable representatives of the people to form opinions upon facts is not authoritatively available to myself and, therefore, I should say, to other members of this Parliament.
– by leave - The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has raised the matter of making public information that I have in my possession as chairman of the Loan Council. During the last five years I have represented the Commonwealth Government on the Loan Council, as chairman of that body. In that capacity I possess a good deal of information which I do not believe it would be in the public interest to disclose, at any rate without the consent of all the State Premiers. The figures required by the honorable gentleman are the concern of the six State governments. Before making public those facts, or any other facts in my possession, in regard to the business of the Loan Council, I should have to obtain the permission of the State Premiers. I am perfectly agreeable to seek that permission, if the honorable gentleman presses the matter.
– It is imperative that I should have facts in order that I may know what is the financial position of this nation ; otherwise I am reduced to the position of an ordinary member of the community.
– If the honorable gentleman wishes to complete his information in regard to the financial position of this country, he will need to spread his net over a very much wider field than that which covers the loan moneys sought by the State governments at the May meeting of the Loan Council in each year. Where would his inquiries stop?
– Is not that a matter for me to decide)
– I venture to think it is a matter for the State governments to decide. There are no figures concerning the Commonwealth Government which cannot and will not be made public to this House. Anything else it would be quite improper on my part to disclose. I shall be only too glad to supply whatever figures the honorable gentleman wishes to obtain, which I have in my possession as Commonwealth Treasurer.
– Of what is the honorable gentleman afraid?
– I am not afraid of anything. If the Leader of the Opposition wishes to press the matter, I shall seek the permission of the State Premiers to divulge either this information or any other information he seeks. I cannot give any further undertaking. If a State Premier says that information in relation to a particular item of business conducted at the Loan Council, with which his State is concerned, is not to he made public, then, so far as it has not already been published in the press, I cannot make it public.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Ordered to be printed.
Chairman, Industrial Board
– On the 20th October the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked me a question as to the nature and term of the appointment of Mr. L. L. Hill in the Australian Capital Territory, and the salary and allowances payable tohim. I then informed the honorable member that Mr. Hill holds an appointment as chairman of the Industrial Board, and that the other information he sought would be furnished at a later date.
I now inform the honorable member that Mr. Hill’s appointment is for a term of three years, commencing on the 1st July, 1938, or until the abolition of the Industrial Board, whichever first happens, at a salary of £500 per annum, with fares, and an allowance at the rate of £1 a day while travelling or while necessarily in Canberra in connexion with the business of the board. Mr. Hill’s original appointment as chairman of the board dated from the 1st July, 1936.
Mr. WHITE (Balaclava- Minister for
Trade and Customs). - by leave - Several questions have recently been asked me by the honorable members for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), Barton (Mr. Lane), Cook (Mr. Sheehan), Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and others as to the possibility of having the cut glassware factory in Sydney re-opened. I now inform the House that I have received advice from the managing director of the Crown Crystal Glass Company Ltd., of Sydney, that this company proposes to proceed with preparations for production. Work on a new furnace has already commenced, but the erection of this furnace will take gome time. The production of glass blanks should be commenced in January next, and the cutting of these blanks will commence approximately a month later. In the meantime, the company will continue to cut the balance of the old stock of blanks, and as much employment as possible will be given until such time as the new furnace is put into operation.
Hotel Licences - Land Resumptions
– Having regard to the need for the adequate development and expansion of Darwin, and in view of the fact that recently other members of the Public Works Committee and I personally found it almost impossible to obtain reasonable accommodation there, can the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) explain why he saw fit to refuse two applications for new hotel licenses’?
– Under the Licensing Ordinances of the Northern Territory, a Licensing Bench is constituted, consisting of three private citizens who act in an honorary capacity and are empowered not to grant licences but merely to make recommendations to the Minister in that respect. Recently, this Licensing Bench heard two applications for new licences for Darwin, and recommended to me that they be granted. The population of Darwin is something under 2,000, and at the present time the town has four licensed premises. It is not considered either by the Government or by myself that an additional number of licences is necessary, but we regard it as absolutely imperative that the occupiers of existing licensed premises should provide a very much better standard of accommodation and of service generally than is provided at the present time. A review of the existing licensing ordinances is being undertaken at the moment. A new ordinance will be promulgated in the near future, the effect of which will be to bring the licensing legislation of the Northern Territory into conformity with that of the States, and thus ensure insistence on the provision of appropriate hotel accommodation at Darwin by the holders of existing licences.
– Is the Minister for Defence able to inform me when the people of Darwin may expect to receive information concerning the area of land to be resumed at Darwin for naval purposes?
– The report submitted to the Department of Defence and the Department of the Interior, which deals with this subject, covers a very wide range of activities. No final decision has yet been made in regard to it.
– Will the Minister for Defence go into the matter of the resumption of land for naval or military purposes at Darwin as speedily as possible, and will he confer with his colleague, the Minister for the Interior, in connexion with this matter, because at the present time there is a feeling of uncertainty among the town people and others as to what is to happen to those who would like to build on certain areas?
– The Minister for the Interior and I have been in constant consultation in connexion with this question. The same applies to the officers of our departments. Only recently a paper was submitted to the Naval Board for further advice in connexion with certain naval requirements. I am not at liberty to disclose what the naval authorities have in mind, but I assure the honorable member and the House that no time is being lost in endeavouring to reach finality in connexion with all defence proposals, including those which affect the people of Darwin.
– Is it the intention of the Government, when making resumptions of land at Darwin for naval and military purposes, to appoint a qualified town planner at Darwin so that the town may be laid out on the zone system?
– When the necessary resumptions have been decided upon and completed it is proposed that there shall be a carefully planned arrangement for the development of Darwin.
Capital Site - Salamaua to Wau Road - Mandate
– Has the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) yet come to a definite decision in regard to a site for the capital of New Guinea? Further, has he decided on the route of the proposed road between Salamaua and Wau?
– As to the selection of a site for the capital of the Territory,
I am sure the honorable gentleman will have gleaned from the press that the attention of the Government has been diverted to other matters which may or may not have been of major importance. I recall the words of the honorable gentleman’s leader, concerning those Christians who were destined for the lions. All of these things have made it impossible for me to givethat attention which 1 should desire to give to the selection of this site.
A telegraphic summary of the report upon route “ A “ of the road from Salamaua to Wau has been received, and it is expected that the full report will be to hand on Monday next. It is the desire of the Government to settle the matter offhand, and I apprehend that no delay will occur. I am hopeful that it will be definitely settled, let us say. within the next two or three weeks.
– In view of the resolution carried unanimously by a largely attended public meeting at Rabaul this week, representing all the interests of New Guinea, which followed a similar meeting at Wau, to the effect that the Commonwealth Government should, in the opinion of the local people, continue to control New Guinea, and further, in view of the public importance to Australia of the Territory of New Guinea and the public interest aroused in the subject, will an opportunity be afforded to the House to discuss the New Guinea mandate?
– Whether time can be allotted for that purpose is a matter for the Prime Minister to decide. The question put by the honorable member is similar to a question put by the Leader of the Opposition on the 14th October last. The honorable gentleman asked -
Will he state whether the Government subscribes to the substance of the statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) which appeared in the press of the 10th October,1938, in reference to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea?
The reply given by the Prime Minister, through the Acting Leader of the House (Sir Earle Page) was as follows: -
The principle underlying the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs is in accord with the views and policy of the Government in connexion with the mandate held by Australia.
For the information of honorable gentlemen, I may add that, summarized, my statement of the 10th October was to the effect that Australia was given the mandate of New Guinea by the allied and associated powers to whom Germany, under Article 119 of the Versailles Peace Treaty, surrendered all its overseas possessions. The surrender was absolute. Our mandate is not limited in time but, subject to one condition, is held as an integral part of the Commonwealth. The condition is that we are to govern the territory not for the purpose of selfish exploitation, but in the interests of the native population. This condition we have religiously observed. The suggestion that we should relinquish the mandate cannot be seriously entertained. Apart from all else, strategic reasons make this impossible.
– Is the Minister for Defence yet able to inform the House when the report of the departmental committee into air routes and services will be made available?
– The inquiry is still proceeding, so I cannot say when the report will be made available, but I anticipate that it will not be very long in coming to hand.
– In view of various reports in the press to the effect that Japanese sampans are freely operating off the north coast of Queensland, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has received a report from Mr. Charles Hayles, of Hayles Bros., in regard to the matter, and whether any action is being taken to deal with the situation?
– No doubt the honorable member is aware that at present the customs vessel Vigilant is being exceedingly vigilant off the north Queensland coast. I cannot confirm any press reports on the subject, nor have I received a report from the person mentioned by the honorable member. If the honorable member can furnish me with a copy I shall be glad to read it.
– In view of the fact that Mr. L. L. Hill is chairman of the Industrial Board for the Australian Capital Territory, including Jervis Bay, I ask whether the Government will consider promulgating an ordinance providing that he shall be appointed chairman of a similar board in the Northern Territory, seeing that the workers there are very dissatisfied with existing conditions?
– The appointment of an industrial board for the Northern Territory is dealt with in the Payne-Fletcher report, which is at present receiving the consideration of the Government.
– In view of conflicting reports that have been published, for which I do not hold the Minister for Defence responsible, I wish to know whether the Government is proposing to transfer Air Vice-Marshal Williams to the British command, and to fill his position temporarily by a British officer ?
– No statements have been issued for publication on that subject by the Defence Department, and no information is available in regard to it.
– Is it the intention of the Government to make such a transfer?
– The Government has given no indication whatever of its intentions on that subject.
– Oan the Minister for Defence say definitely whether Cabinet has come to a decision to transfer AirViceMarshal Williams to England, and if so, in what circumstances?
– As I have said earlier, no such decision has been made, and no statements regarding it have been issued to the press. I have nothing further to add in regard to the matter.
– I ask the Prime Ministerwhether the requests submitted to the Minister for the Interior on the 29th August last, concerning the pearling industry at Broome, have yet been considered by the Government?
– Certain aspects of that subject are at present under consideration.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Recently the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked certain questions on notice concerning the expenses incurred by ministers on visits overseas. A condensed report of the reply was published in the press which unfortunately omitted certain material facts. I wish to explain that in connexion with the visit that I made to New Guinea, for which an amount of £384was set down, the actual travelling allowance outside Australia was £52, of which I returned £20 to the Treasury, I have returned to the Treasury travelling allowances amounting to £145 in connexion with my three trips abroad, which were to New Guinea, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs yet in a position to make an announcement respecting the recommendations of the Tariff Board in connexion with canary seed ? If not, may an announcement be expected at an early date so that the growers will know where they stand?
– The report of the board on this subject is under consideration.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, when he is considering the allocating of the portfolio of PostmasterGeneral, he will bear in mind the advisableness of selecting a member of the House of Representatives?
– That, of course, is a matter that I shall have to decide for my self. Perhaps I may ask the honorable member whether I am to consider his question as a nomination on his own behalf.
– In view of press reports to the effect that the Commonwealth Government will not consider any variation of the proposals agreed to at the recent Premiers Conference for the assistance of the wheat industry, will the Minister for Commerce consider allocating a sum of money to be disbursed, by way of acreage bounty, for the relief of wheat-growers throughout Australia who are suffering acutely as the result of the complete failure of their crop this year?
– The proposal approved by the Commonwealth Government and made with the unanimous support of the State Governments, relates to the provision of a home-consumption price for wheat. If the State Governments now wish to make some alteration of the scheme, it will have to carry their unanimous support before it will be considered by the Commonwealth Government.
– What has been the cause of the delay in the introduction of legislation for the fixation of the homeconsumption price for wheat? The harvest is in full swing in the north-west and farmers are anxious to know what prices they will receivefor their crops.
– The agreement arrived at between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments was to the effect that, when all the State governments had passed their legislation on a uniform basis, the Commonwealth Government would bringforward complementary legislation to deal with this matter. Up to the present the State governments have not yet completed their legislation.
– In the event of the State Governments failing to reach unanimity in connexion with the proposed home-consumption price for wheat, will the Commonwealth Government consider making available monetary assistance to those farmers whose crops have failed?
– As the result of conferences and consultations that have taken place between the Commonwealth and the States, the Government is hopeful that unanimity will be reached by the States, but until that has been done the Commonwealth Government cannot deal with the position any further.
– Seeing that a position of stalemate has been reached regarding the proposal to provide a homeconsumption price for wheat, will the Prime Minister take the initiative and approach the States in order to expedite arrangements ?
– The Government is doing everything possible in that direction.
– In view of the indictment against the Defence Department which appeared in an article in a Sydney morning journal last week, will the Minister take steps to allay the uneasiness which has been occasioned by the details contained in it?
– I am not aware as to what particular journal or article the honorable member refers to.
– I refer to an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday last.
– If the honorable member will furnish me with a copy of the article I shall have it examined and have a report prepared in connexion with it.
– Is the Minister in Charge of Development in a position to report what progress has been made by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research with regard to its investigations in reference to virus for the destruction of rabbits?
– About a fortnight ago I informed the honorable member of the state of the investigations at that time. I have not received further information, but I shall look into the matter and let the honorable member have the latest information at an early date.
– Is it correct that the’ virus used for the destruction of rabbits is also harmful to homing pigeons and butcher birds? Is there any danger of human infection from its use?
– I am advised by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that the disease resulting from inoculation with myxomatosis is not transferable to animals, birds or human beings, but I shall endeavour to ascertain whether the use of the virus is proving harmful to such birds as the honorable member has mentioned.
– In view of the answer recently supplied to a question I asked in regard to grants for the unemployed at Christmas, that £16,000,000 was being made available for defence, and that in nil probability a certain amount of work would be made available to the unemployed as the result of the expenditure of that money, and seeing that in many industrial areas, which contain the largest number of unemployed, no defence works will be undertaken, will the Prime Minister give consideration to the desirability of making available something in the shape of Christmas cheer for the unemployed at least in those localities in which no defence works will be undertaken?
– The honorable member’s question makes it quite clear that he assumes that the expenditure of money under the defence programme is aimed at finding employment, whereas primarily the object of the defence expenditure is to provide security for this country. Although, no doubt, it fortunately will provide considerable employment, which is, perhaps, the only satisfactory or pleasing aspect of the matter, it is not intended that the defence expenditure should be spread over every district in Australia. It will be confined to those parts where the greatest defence value can be secured. If the Government were to follow any other course it would be inconsistent with the attitude which it took up with the States recently. However, the honorable member may rest assured that the expenditure of the defence vote will definitely provide employment in a large number of districts in Australia.
– Does not the Prime Minister consider that the contentment of the people is just as important in the scheme of defence as the provision of guns and ammunition? If he does, will he consider the making of a substantial grant at Christmas time for the relief of those persons who have suffered from intermittent unemployment for the last nine or ten years?
– I agree that one of the vital necessities for defence is a contented population. The policy of this Government from the beginning has been to maintain the living standards of -which Australia is proud, and to increase employment in all parts of the country. Its policy has been to make possible the expansion of existing industries, and the establishment of new ones, and the fact that industry has expanded and employment has greatly improved, proves that the policy of the Government has been successful.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a. cable from Los Angeles- stating that the United States of America Trade Commissioner, Mr. “Wilson Flack, is encouraging the migration of United States of America citizens from the western dust bowl areas to Australia? Is that policy supported by the Government, and has it any connexion with the statement made by the right honorable the Minister for Commerce when in the United States of America that it was desirable that there should be migration of a considerable number of citizens of the United States of America to Australia? Can the Prime Minister make a. statement in connexion with this matter?
– I have no knowledge of the circumstances referred to by the honorable member. There is certainly no proposition before the Government at present for the transfer of people from the areas mentioned to Australia.
– In connexion with the extension of dental research decided upon, can the Assistant Minister for Health state what action has been taken by the department in the various States?
– I cannot supply an answer to the honorable member’s question offhand; but I undertake to make it available to him by nextTuesday.
– Is the Minister aware that, following upon the recent partial mobilization in the United Kingdom during the European crisis, a number of serious defects in the various branches of the defence organization were disclosed? That has been frankly admitted by the British Government and by the responsible Ministers. Were defects disclosed within Australia with respect to our defences, and if so, what steps are being taken to remedy them?
– I say definitely that no serious defects were discovered in the naval, military or air force organizations during the recent crisis. Minor disabilities cropped up, but where weaknesses of any description were discovered steps have already been taken to rectify them. There were no serious disabilities. I say that in definite contradiction of the alarmist reports which have recently appeared in certain sections of the press.
– Does the Minister for Defence recall that, on the eve of the Franco-Prussian war, Napoleon III. was informed that the French army was ready, down to the last button, and that after that came Sedan?
– I do not pretend to be an authority on military history, but if the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper, I shall have it replied to by a competent historian.
– In view of the action being taken by the Customs Department to deal with undesirable literature, what action is the Postmaster.General taking to ban plays broadcast by wireless broadcasting stations which are regarded as unsuitable for the child mind?
– That is a matter which rests with the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– I refer to programmes broadcast by B class stations.
– The B class stations are always under supervision. If any of the programmes broadcast by them are found to be indecent they are likely to lose their licences. Largely, the matter of programmes is left to the good taste of the persons controlling those stations, though, as I have said, supervision is exercised.
– In view of the fact that the Government has very rightly endorsed the report of the Censorship Board as to the harmful effects of murder literature on the child mind, and in view of the fact that there is apparently no proper censorship of murder plays broadcast from wireless stations, will the Prime Minister consider a proposal to set up one authority to deal with the censorship of both literature and broadcast matter?
– The Minister representing the Postmaster-General has already given an assurance that consideration will be given to this matter. My personal opinion is that the same principles of censorship should apply both to literature and to broadcast matter, but whether the one authority could exercise control over both is a. matter which will have to be considered.
– Has the Government taken into consideration the desirability of establishing cadet corps in schools and training the older school boys in the use of the rifle?
– The matter will receive the consideration of the Government.
– Has the Minister for Defence seen the building which is being erected on the Wagga aerodrome? Has he been advised that the position of the building is, according to the opinion of all qualified air pilots using that route, totally unsuitable?
– I visited the Wagga aerodrome by air, and made an inspection of the work, in company with officials. I have received no official report condemning the building or the site. I have been officially advised that the aerodrome complieswith all the requirements of civil aviation. I shall have further inquiries made in order to ascertain whether anything further has developed to justify the comment of the honorable member.
– Has the Government yet come to a decision regarding the form of assistance to be rendered to the industry for the manufacture of newsprint in Tasmania? If so, when will the House be advised of the decision?
– Honorable members were advised that a bill will be brought down dealing with the matter, but the censure motion and other matters prevented its consideration. It is hoped that the bill will be brought down next week.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the Tariff Board has been considering the duties on woollen textiles, and, if so, what is the present position regarding the inquiry?
– Yes, the Tariff Board has inquired into the matter. The report of the board has been received, but has not yet been considered by the Government.
– Having regard to the extensive building programmes at present under way in the metropolitan areas, and throughout Australia generally, will the Government hasten its decision to reduce the duties onoregon timber with a view to cheapening the cost of building.
– I remind the honorable member that the Government has not made any decision to reduce the duty on
Oregon. I made a full statement on this matter recently in reply to questions by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), and others. The margin of duty between Oregon logs andoregon junk is being investigated at the present time by the Tariff Board, and when its report comes to hand, the Government will take whatever action is necessary.
– Does the Treasurer propose to make a report to Parliament regarding the conference held recently between representatives of approved societies under national insurance, and the National Insurance Commission? Is it proposed to acquaint the House with the decisions that were reached ? Is there any justification for the report that medical benefits are to be further delayed beyond April? Is it proposed to introduce legislation in regard, to the wives and children of insured persons?
– No, it is not proposed to make a report to Parliament regarding the conference. It was an informal gathering, and I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by the making of a formal report. Regarding the other questions, I have already explained through the press that, owing to the unfortunate delay to the work of the Royal Commission on doctors’ remuneration, it is possible that there may be some delay in bringing medical benefit into operation. It is hoped that legislation will be introduced this session making provision under the insurance scheme for the wives and children of insured persons.
– In view of the possibility that medical benefit to insured persons will be further delayed, will the Treasurer consider deferring the collection of contributions?
– The matter of adjusting contributions to take into account the possible delay in the payment of medical benefit is now engaging the attention of the Government.
– I understand that the Treasurer recently informed representatives of trade unions, who attended the conference .between approved societies and the National Insurance Commission, that Government assistance to societies providing cover for the wives and children of insured persons will be confined to the already existing friendly societies. If that is so, will he reconsider the position with a view to making such assistance available to all approved societies, including those established by trade unions?
– When I met the gentlemen representing the trade unions I was not in a position to tell them what the bill would contain, but I gave them certain information regarding understandings which had been reached when the bill was going through the House. I do not think that I can, at this moment, say anything more that would be useful.
– In view of the fact that there is a well established rumour, if I might put it that way, that it is the intention of the Government to finance only certain of the approved societies, does the Treasurer not appreciate the fact that it is a very unfortunate handicap for the trade unions’ approved societies if it is generally known that they are not to receive that assistance? In view of the fact that all approved societies are now recruiting members is the Treasurer prepared to make a definite statement that any assistance given to approved societies in respect of wives and children will be given to all approved societies?
– The honorable gentleman will have a full opportunity to discuss that matter at a not very distant date when the bill will be brought before the House.
– Does the Treasurer subscribe to the view expressed by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) when discussing the Government’s longrange plan for development in connexion with defence matters? On that occasion the Minister for Commerce said that the money available to governments for such works must be found out of taxation, or by loan out of the savings of the people. It is obvious that there is a definite limit to the amount which can be raised from these sources. In the event of that limit being reached, does the statement of the Treasurer that money for defence will be found as fast as is necessary mean that, if the Commonwealth Bank stands in the way, funds will be raised by the extension of banking credit? If not, in what way is it proposed to find the money?
– It is clearly impossible, in reply to a question, to give a dissertation on public finance. All I can say is that the Minister for Commerce and I have nothing to retract in regard to statements that we have made.
– The Treasurer must have misunderstood my question. I did not ask him if he or the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) had anything to recant in regard to the financial policy of the Commonwealth. I asked if he could give a further elaboration of the policy that is likely to be applied in regard to expenditure on defence.
– I can only repeat that it is impossible to give a dissertation on bow defence will be financed in hypothetical circumstances in the future. There may be a more favorable opportunity to discuss that matter before the sitting ends, but the question of finance in the future is a hypothetical question in answer to which I think no formal statement could be given.
– Was the Treasurer correctly reported in the press as having stated that, if the Commonwealth Bank Board declined to make available to the Government the financial accommodation necessary to carry on its defence programme, it would be swept out of existence? If it is considered by the Government that it is within the capacity of the Commonwealth Bank to make unlimited funds available for defence expenditure, on what theory does the Government base its belief that unlimited funds cannot be made available for the development of this country?
– The statement that I made, from which the honorable gentleman quotes a few words, must be read as a whole, and I direct the attention of the honorable gentleman to the whole of that statement, not to a few words taken out of their context.
– Can the Treasurer state the nature of the discussion that took place, or the decisions reached, at the conference which he had with representatives of the associated banks on the subject of the report of the Royal Commission on Banking?
– At the time of the conference, or shortly afterwards, I told the House that the meeting with the trading bankers was for the purpose of informing my mind. I did not inform the representatives of the trading banks of the legislative intentions of the Government, and clearly the conference was not one at which any conclusions could be reached.
– In answer to a request by the Brisbane City Council for assistance in the work of improving aerodromes, the Minister for Defence said that all the available money was required for expenditure on aerodromes used by the Defence Department. Recently, when the fleet was exercising in Hervey Bay, the aerodrome in that vicinity was used by seven amphibians which cut up the ground considerably. Will the Minister reconsider his decision, and make money available for the repair of the ground?
– The policy that is being applied by the Defence Department in connexion with financial assistance tocivil aerodromes, is the policy which has been applied by the Commonwealth Government for some time, that is, to assist in the development, construction and improvement of aerodromes that are used for defence purposes.
– This aerodrome was damaged in the course of naval aeroplane manoeuvres.
– If the honorable gentleman will give me the details of the damage that he says was caused by defence operations, his case, he may rest assured, will receive sympathetic consideration.
– I have already done so.
– ‘Can the Prime Minister give some indication to the House as to the sitting days for the next three or four weeks so that honorable members will be able to make private arrangements.
– It is intended next week to sit on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but, in view of the slow progress which has been- made with the business of the session, it will be essentia], I think, to sit four days a week thereafter, that is, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
– Is it the intention of the Treasurer to introduce legislation this session for the establishment of a bank to deal with long-term mortgages?
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Casey) read a first time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 3rd November (vide page 1251).
Clause 4 - (1.) For the purposes of this act, there shall be an Australian Apple and Pear Board. (5.) Any member appointed to represent the growers in a State shall be selected from a panel submitted by the approved growers’ organizations in that State.
Upon which Mr. Fairbairn had moved by way of amendment -
That the words “ from a panel submitted by the approved growers’ organizations in that State,” sub-clause (5), lie omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “by a poll of apple and pear growers in that State.”
– Before we adjourned last night the method of appointment of the Apple and Pear Board was under consideration and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) suggested that the method proposed .by the Government in the bill as it is now drafted should prevail for three yeaTs, and that, thereafter, the method of appointment should take the form of some sort of a ballot of the growers. It is still my fixed conviction that the bill as drafted provides the best method. If, however, it is the desire of the committee to overrule what I have done and that some method of election be instituted, it has a perfect right to do so, but I ask that it be deferred for at least three years. With that in view, I have had the Parliamentary Draftsman prepare a draft amendment, which will provide that the method of election proposed in the bill should prevail for three years, and that, thereafter, there should be periodic elections of the board by a poll of the growers.
– On the principle of one man one vote?
– That again is a matter for the committee. I believe that the best way of arriving at the franchise should be devised by the proposed board, because I am perfectly certain that any determination made by this Parliament would be unsatisfactory to a large section of the growers in two or three States. It is, however, the responsibility of the committee to disregard the advice that I give it, if it so desires.
.- During the discussion last night the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) said that to take a poll of the growers would be difficult, and the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and some other honorable members said that such a poll would delay the act coming into operation. I remind the honorable gentlemen that it is not proposed that the act should come into operation until the 30th September, 1939, and that, therefore, there could be no delay, because there is nearly twelve months, at least a season, in which to make the arrangements. The board will not operate until the season after next. I point out also that it would not be so difficult to take a poll of the exporters as might be imagined ; because, in view of the fact that last apple and pear season a bounty was given to all exporters, there must be in the Commerce Department a list of the recipients from which a roll could be prepared. It would not be difficult to add the few names of growers who have since entered the export trade. I, therefore, cannot see that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), if agreed to, would delay the bill in any way. So far as the representatives of the exporters are concerned, I point out that there are only five exporting companies in Tasmania, and I should say that the position in the other States is somewhat similar. It should not be hard, therefore, for the exporters to elect their representatives.
– The principle of the election of the board by the growers is indispensable if the industry is to have confidence in the board which is to be set up. To some degree this board is being forced on the apple and pear growers by Parliament, and, if the representatives of the growers upon it were selected by the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), and the growers felt that they had no prospect, if they did not consider themselves to be properly represented, to alter the position, the bill would be entirely unacceptable to the growers. In the debate which has taken place on this bill, however, there has been a most welcome spirit of compromise. The debate has been lifted above the level of party politics. All honorable members, regardless of on which side they sit, have set out to present the point of view of the industry as they see it. I, therefore, do not want to depart from the spirit of compromise by being unduly obstinate. I have been informed by the Assistant Minister that he is prepared to move an amendment which will provide for a poll of the growers at the end of three years. That would give the growers some sense of security and a sense that they had the right to change the personnel of the board if it lost their confidence. He has also told me that he intends to introduce a further amendment which will provide for the taking of a plebiscite at the end of any period of three years if a petition to that effect is made by at least 500 growers. That furnishes to the growers an additional safeguard. In my electorate alone, if there were any objection to the continuance of the board, no difficulty would be experienced in obtaining the 500 signatures necessary to demand a poll of the growers. Therefore, the compromises offered by the Assistant Minister are considerable. In view of the fact that the honorable member for Ballarat, representing, I think, the biggest apple-growing area in Victoria is very strongly in favour of, at any rate, the first board being constituted according to the system suggested by the Assistant Minister, if other honorable members representing apple-growing districts are willing, I feel inclined to accept the honorable gentleman’s compromise. I do not think it would make very much difference, in Victoria, which system was adopted at the present time. “Within the last few days, the two organizations which clashed recently have become much more amicable in their relations. The panel they submitted would almost certainly contain personnel identical with that which would be elected by the growers. The security and confidence of those who are engaged in the industry will be preserved, and there will be no departure from principle if we accept the offer of the Assistant Minister. Holding these views I am prepared, with the permission of the committee, to withdraw my amendment, entirely on the undertaking of the honorable gentleman that he will move the two amendments he has suggested.
.- The suggestion of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron) for a poll at the end of three years, both in regard to the continuation or otherwise of the operations of the board, and with respect to the election of future boards, is comparatively satisfactory, and I feel inclined to support it. But before doing so I should like to have some indication as to the machinery that will be laid down for the taking of a poll. Will it be taken by the growers’ organizations themselves, the State electoral authorities, or the Department of Commerce? Will the Assistant Minister give the assurance that the franchise will be that of one grower, one vote, in respect of the crop produced for export?
’.- The poll, if and when taken, will be conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Department. The franchise mentioned by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) is acceptable to the Government ; it involves the principle of one vote, one value.
– The course now proposed by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron) is a kind of via media, and is quite acceptable to me; it is based on the suggestion advanced last night by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), and I think it meets very satisfactorily the views of both sides.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Amendments (Mr. Archie Cameron) agreed to -
That the following sub-clauses be inserted after sub-clause (10.) - “(10a.) After the expiration of the first period of three years from the date of the constitution of the board the members of the board other than the Government representative shall be elected by a poll of growers taken in the prescribed manner. (10b.) Members of the board elected in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section shall subject to this section hold office for three years and shall be eligible for re-election.”
That the words “ such a panel “, subclause (12.), be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “a panel submitted for the purpose in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section.”
.- In fairness to Queensland, will the Assistant Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron) e xplain the reason for the provision that, if the Government representative is a resident of the State of Queensland, no other member shall be appointed to represent that State?
– Queensland is the smallest of all the exporters and it was felt that if - a most unlikely event - the Government representative should be a Queenslander, that would he satisfactory representation for that State. On average, the annual export of Queensland has been as low as 64 cases, and it has seldom exceeded 19,000 or 20,000 cases out of a total export of from 4,500,000 to 6,000,000 cases a year. It would be unduly over-represented on the board if it were allowed to have two representatives.
Clause consequentially amended and, as amended,agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 - (1.) In the event of the illness or absence of a member of the board, the Governor General may appoint a person to be the deputy of that member, and the person so appointed shall, during the illness or absence of the member, exercise and perform all the powers and functions of a member of the board. (2.) Where the member who is ill or absent was appointed after selection from a panel submitted by the approved growers’ organizations in any State under section four of this act, the person appointed to be the deputy of that member shall be selected from that panel, or, if there is no such panel, the person appointed to be the deputy shall be nominated by the Minister.
Amendment (by Mr. Archie Cameron) agreed to -
That sub-clause (2) be omitted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.
Clause 9- (1.) There shall be an executive committee of the board consisting of the chairman of the board and not more than five other members of the board who shall, subject to sub-section (2.) of this section, be elected by the board in the month of July of each year, and shall hold office until the election of their successors:
Provided that the executive committee shall not be deemed to be constituted unless of the members of the board which constitute the committee there is a member representing growers or exporters in each of the States of Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. (6.) Any person appointed to act as proxy for any member on the executive committee shall haveall the powers and functions of the member of whom he is the proxy.
Amendments (by Mr. Archie Cameron) agreed to -
That the words of the members of the board which constitute the committee there is a member representing growers or exporters in each of”, sub-clause (1.), be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words ‘’ two members thereof are representatives of exporters of apples and pears and there is representation on the committee of the growers or exporters in”.
That after the word “ shall “, sub-clause (6.), the words “when so acting” be inserted.
That after the word “proxy second occurring, sub-clause (6.), the words “and shall be entitled to fees and expenses as if he were such member “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 - (1.) TheBoard may - (2.) Except as otherwise expressly provided, nothing in this act shall be deemed to empower the board to buy or sell apples or pears or to engage in trade.
.- It appears to me that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron) might favorably consider the deletion from sub-clause 2 of the words “ or to engage in trade “. I should like this board to have the power, where it thought fit, to buy on a wholesale scale necessary chemicals for spraying, packing materials, and all sorts of other materials needed in fairly large quantities by the apple-growers of the respective States. It is true that to-day many growers, through their cool-store organization, purchase their requirements on a fairly large scale. It appears to me, however, that it would be possible for a board of this character to purchase such commodities on a much larger scale, and thus reduce considerably the purchasing price. I know that many butter factories indulge in this practice, with a large consequential saving to the butter producers and dairymen. It would be a retrograde step to deprive this board of a power which, if wisely exercised - and the growers could see that it was - may be of great benefit to the industry. Particularly does that apply to the purchase on a wholesale scale of spraying materials. Some years ago, I had occasion to go through the wholesale price indexes of the various manufacturing industries of Australia, and I was astonished to find that, during the depression and immediately after it, the price reduction of the chemical manufacturing group was less than, that of any other group, due to the fact that this industry enjoys a monopoly in the hands of practically one large concern. It would be of advantage to the proposed board to have the right, should it so desire, to treat with this monopoly, not ou even terms, of course - that is almost impossible - but with a great deal more power than rests with individual growers or cool store organizations.
What I have said applies with equal force to other commodities which the fruit-growers of Australia need from time to time. I know that in many instances extortionate prices are asked for certain requirements. If the board has power to purchase goods in bulk it will have a powerful weapon in its hands to deal with certain interests which charge unfair rates for what they sell. The growers will be much more likely in these circumstances to be able to obtain their requirements at reasonable prices. Fruit-growers are exploited in regard to chemicals, machinery, manures and other things. If the amendment that, I desire were made in the bill it might he possible to eliminate unnecessary agents and middlemen from this industry. The board might also be able to standardize equipment to a very great extent. The amount of duplication at present in evidence in regard to appliances of one kind and another is extraordinary. I therefore hope that the Minister will accept my suggestion.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker- Assistant Minister for Commerce [12.2J. - Although I sympathize with many of the ideas that the honorable member has expressed, I regret that I would noc be able to agree to an amendment of the kind he has indicated. Many large co-operative organizations are active in the apple and pear industry, and engage largely in the very business which the honorable member has indicated. I am quite satisfied that if the clause were amended as suggested strong opposition would be caroused. The board will be able to deal with insurance, shipping arrangements, and other matters in regard to the export business, lt should be recognized, in fact, that its whole purpose is to deal with the export trade. For that reason I foresee considerable resentment at any enlargement of its functions.
– I do not think we have the power to enable it to engage in trading.
– Whether we have or not, opposition would bo aroused within the industry if any amendment of this kind were made. T cannot, of course, prevent the honorable member from moving an amendment; but I appeal to him not to do so. Moreover, if he does move it I shall have to oppose it.
.- 1 could not support such an amendment as the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has suggested. Many cooperative bodies in the apple and pear industry are already purchasing materials and equipment in bulk, so as to make them available to the growers at a cheaper rate than would otherwise be possible. Tins honorable gentleman’s proposal sounds all right in theory, but it would prove to be impossible in practice. The proposed board is to be established for one purpose, that is, to control the exporting of apples and pears. It will be required to arrange shipping space, to obtain insurance covers, and the like. Its chief purpose will be to secure the best possible conditions for the growers in respect of their export trade at the lowest possible rate. I believe that difficulty would be encountered in providing finance for the board to enable it to engage in trading operations. My principal objection to the. honorable member’s suggestion is that it would be unworkable.
.- I also am opposed to any suggestion that the Apple and Pear Board should be authorized to engage in trading operations. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) have both intimated that numerous cooperative organizations are operating in this industry, with the result that the expenses of agents and middlemen have been reduced to a minimum. I wish to ask the Assistant Minister, however, whether it would be practicable for the board to put individual fruit-growers or their organizations in Australia into direct contact with buyers overseas, and in that way make it unnecessary for all the business to go through the existing exporting organizations in this country. That could be done without incurring any financial obligations. Perhaps the Board could also put buyers from overseas in direct contact with growers or growers’ organizations in this country. Action in both those respects might be beneficial to the whole industry.
.- The Australian Dairy Produce Board, the Dried Fruits Control Board, the Canned Fruits Control Board, the Australian Wine Board, and the Australian Meat Board, which are all operating satisfactorily, do not engage in trading operations such as the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) apparently desires the Apple and Pear Board to engage in, and I can see no reason why business in connexion with apples and pears should not flow through the normal channels. The purpose of this board is to control the export side of the industry, to arrange shipping space, and to take collective action to obtain the. cheapest possible freights and the cheapest possible insurance rates. It will also be authorized to deal with such matters as overseas advertising and the like. I do not think it would be wise, even if it were constitutional, for us to authorize this board to engage in trading operations. Personally, I doubt whether the Parliament has the power to endow boards of this kind with authority to engage in trade, for our constitutional power in relation to trade and commerce is confined to export activities. I sympathize with some of the views expressed by the honorable member for Ballarat, but 1 could not support an amendment such as he has suggested.
.- I have listened carefully to the objections that have been raised to my proposal, but I do not think that they are sound.
– Such a provision would be unconstitutional.
– We have power over only export trade and commerce.
– Even if that be so, we could authorize the board to trade for export purposes. Such a provision would not infringe the Constitution in any way. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said that the purpose of this board is to deal solely with apples and pears for export. I point out that clause 13 provides: - ( 1 . ) The Board may -
on its own behalf, or in collaboration with any other board or authority, take or arrange for the taking of any action which, in the opinion of the board, is likely -
Surely, in such circumstances, the board could effectively discharge the functions that I have suggested. I have no desire to make it mandatory for the board to engage in trade, but I believe that if it had a residual power to do so, should the need arise, it would be a good thing. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has said that the trade should be allowed to flow through the usual channels, and should not be interfered with; but the usual trade channels are such as permit the undue exploitation of the primary producers. As the board will have power to arrange for the cheapest freight rates and the cheapest insurance rates, I can see no logical reason why it should not be also authorized to arrange for commodities to be supplied to the growers at the cheapest rates available. We know that various co-operative organizations are affected by local vested interests, and, in my opinion, it would be desirable to give this board, which will consist of members actually engaged in fruitgrowing, the power that I suggest. It would not be necessary for the board to use the power unless circumstances required it. Of course, my opinion is that present circumstances do require it; but I have no wish to make the provision mandatory. It would be a reflection upon the intelligence of the board members to refuse to give them this power. Consequently, I move -
That the words “ or to engage in trade “, sub-clause (2.) be omitted.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 - (1.) The board may -
.- I move -
That the words “ applied uniformly throughout the Commonwealth”, paragraph (b) subclause (1.) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ofimme- diateprevious three years average shipments to United Kingdom markets or continental markets or both “.
I consider that this is one of the most important clauses of the bill. The growers of apples and pears in other States have for many years endeavoured to challenge the Tasmanian growers, but without success. During the last 30 years, in spite of heavy plantings, they have not been able to offer any serious competition to the Tasmanian growers.
That is amply evidenced by the fact that in the past no other State has ever been able to fill its allotted quota every year, and that Tasmanian growers have been called upon every year to complete the quotas of the other States. Under the present voluntary system, the quota is based on the average exports for the preceding three years and, in practice, has worked out quite satisfactorily. To show the relative importance of the industry in the various States I cite the following figures covering exports from each State during the eight months period, January to August, 1938-
– Why is not the honorable member content to accept the amendment circulated by the Assistant Minister? It is practically the same as his own amendment.
– The amendment circulated by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron) is evasive. If it were accepted it would be possible for Tasmania’s quota to be cut right down. The Tasmanian growers would not object to quotas allotted on a basis of ten years, five years, or four years average exports. They thought, however, that a three years’ average would be acceptable to the industry generally. As I said during my second-reading speech, Tasmania shipped about 63 per cent. of the total exports of apples and pears from Australia during the last four years and a considerably higher percentage in earlier years. The only opposition to my proposal seems to come from Western Australia, where a number of young orchards are coming into bearing. The growers in that State fear that they will not be allotted a sufficient quota to cover their production when these orchards are in full bearing. In my opinion, as soon as the German market is opened it will be possible to dispense with the quota system. Difficulties will then be experienced, I have no doubt, in obtaining sufficient shipping space to ship our surplus fruit abroad.
If the German market were thrown open to-morrow it would absorb at least J ,500,000 bushels. We have not had so large a surplus of late years. Tasmania, which is the most important fruitgrowing State of the Commonwealth, should be allotted a suitable quota for a. period of years, otherwise the growers will not know where they stand, and, as they have no local market, they may, at any time, find themselves left with the bulk of their fruit on their hands. The industry is stabilized in Tasmania, and the growers in that State do not have to contend with the climatic conditions experienced in other States in which itis unusual to enjoy two good seasons running.
– The growers want to know what is ahead of them.
– That is so. I submit that my amendment is not unreasonable. I remember when, in 1934, our representatives went to New Zealand to endeavour to make reciprocal arrangements with that dominion in respect of quotas. Subsequently an agreement was arrived at under which the New Zealand quota was fixed at 1,100,000 cases. In the first year after the agreement was effected it was found that the New Zealand growers could ship only 700,000 cases. When the Tasmanian growers sought to make up the additional 400,000 cases, they were not permitted to do so. In effect, the New Zealand authorities said, “ If we cannot fill our quota, you will not be allowed to fill it”. Western Australia has now a fairly large acreage of young orchards coming into bearing, hut that has been the position for the last 30 years. I remember when I was planting out an orchard about 25 years ago, a. Western Australian came to my place and said. “You are in the wrong State; you ought to be in Western Australia. Possibilities for the successful exploitation of the fruit-growing industry are far greater in Western Australia than in Tasmania, and, in addition, the Western Australian growers are a fortnight nearer to the continental markets. The growers of that State will swamp you in a few years”. In. spite of that optimism, Western Australia failed to fill its quota last year by 141,221 cases.
– What was the reason?
– I know that last year severe damage was occasioned by hail-, storms; but in the preceding year Western Australia was unable to fill its quota. New South Wales, last year, shipped 30,980 cases less than its quota, which had to be. filled by South Australia and Tasmania.
– The honorable member is putting up an excellent argument against the fixing of the quotas on a basis of an average of three years’ exports.
– Not at all.
– If the honorable member’s amendment is accepted, it may adversely affect Tasmanian growers.
– On the contrary, if my amendment is not accepted, and a good season is experienced throughout Australia, Tasmanian growers will find the bulk of their apples left on their hands.
– If a bad season is experienced on the continent, exports could not be expanded.
– Last year, Tasmania had to fill the deficiencies in the quotas allotted to Victoria, and New South Wales. Even if my amendment is agreed to, arrangements could still be made to make up the deficiency in one State by excess provision in another State.
– According to the honorable member’s amendment, that should not be so.
– Not at all. All that the Tasmanian growers ask is that they should know exactly where they stand and ‘On what basis the quotas are to be. allotted.
– Does not the honorable member think that whatever market there is overseas, each State in Australia should be permitted to have its share of that market in proportion to its capacity to supply?
– Yes, if each State is prepared to do so every year. New South Wales grows about 1,500,000 bushels, but the growers of that State ask for the reservation of very little space, because a great deal of the crop is disposed of locally.
– We are dealing only with export surpluses, and not with total production.
– “Would riot the honorable member estimate the amount of fruit to go overseas on the quantity grown ?
– The bill provides that the board may determine, upon a basis applied uniformly throughout the Commonwealth, the quantity of apples and pears harvested in that State in that year which may bc exported from the Commonwealth.
– The Assistant Minister’s circulated amendment makes it clear that exports shall be taken into consideration.
– The Assistant Minister’s amendment is very much the same as mine; but, in my opinion, it is not clear and definite enough, and for that reason is not acceptable to the growers of Tasmania, who, after all, are the principal exporters. I could understand opposition to my amendment if it were designed to permit the Tasmanian growers to capture more than a fair share of the market.
– Tasmanian growers have experienced bad seasons in the past, and their exports have been down.
– Not during the last nine years.
– But a bad season may be experienced at any time.
– “With the improved methods of cultivation now in operation, it is extremely unlikely there will be any decline of production in that State.
– The honorable member’s rime has expired.
– This clause as it stands leaves it to the discretion of the board to determine the quantity of apples and pears to be exported in any one year, and the amendment proposed by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron) does not really alter that situation. It merely adds, presumably for the benefit of Tasmania, that the board shall take into consideration the shipments from the various States over a period of three years. The a mend ment proposed by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) would make it mandatory on the board to take into consideration the shipments of the previous three years, no attention being given to any other consideration. I am opposed to that proposition. If a. State suffered a series of bad seasons, it would, under the scheme proposed by the honorable member for Franklin, have its export quota reduced for years ahead. The proposal could even affect Tasmania adversely. It may be that seasons in Tasmania are more reliable than in the other States, but even there the crop is subject to considerable fluctuations. Moreover, in any one year, the board might find itself with its hands tied by a prescribed export formula, and would be unable to vary the quotas in order to meet the demand from overseas.
– If it were stated in the amendment that the board was to take these things into consideration in orde to fix a minimum quota only, the point raised by the honorable member could not be sustained.
– The amendment includes no such provision. As it now stands, it might have a harmful effect on the trade of any one State, and, indeed, on the Commonwealth as a whole. Therefore, I am opposed to it.
.- Tasmania desires that the quotas shall be fixed on a three years’ average, to the exclusion of all other considerations. At the present time this would suit Tasmania. It would give that State the opportunity to start off on an average of its three best years in terms of total apple production and of total exports. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) is well aware of that fact, and he is also aware that certain other States have suffered a series of bad seasons which would, under his averaging scheme, condemn them to a reduced export quota for years to come. For the last nine years, Tasmania has been fortunate in enjoying a higher yearly production, and a higher percentage of exports, than any of the other States, and it now seeks to take advantage of that fact to the detriment of the growers elsewhere in the Commonwealth. The growers in Tasmania should realize, however, that if they succeed in their present design, they may later be hoist up on their own petard.
– Then why is the honorable member objecting to my amendment?
Mr.PROWSE.- Because I wish to do the fairthing by all the States, Tasmania included.
– The proposal of the Government, if given effect, would cripple the industry in Tasmania.
– There is no reason why it should. Tasmanian apple production in 1937 was 4,611,000 bushels, from 21,609 bearing acres, and it exported 2,708,652 bushels. A lean year in 1929 produced only 2,500,000 bushels from 25,252 acres, and overseas exports, with no quota operating, reached only 912,145 bushels. Two years earlier, in 1927, Tasmania produced only 2,900,000 bushels of apples from 25,008 bearing acres, and ex- ported only 1,060,508 bushels, although in each of the preceding and following years the State produced over 4,000,000 bushels, and exported well over 2,000,000. It is thus demonstrated that a lean year or two, arising, perhaps, from severe black spot or other diseases or pests, can at any time reduce Tasmanian exports by 1,500,000 cases, and Tasmania’s quota would therefore be reduced, however large its crops might be subsequently, by 500,000 bushels per annum until the filling of occasional deficiencies by other States gradually enabled it again to obtain a stranglehold on the industry.
In Western Australia, many orchards were established in the post war period. Until 1927, it had never produced more than 750,000 bushels. In 1935 and 1936. it produced nearly 1,500,000 bushels, and for 1939 a crop of over 1,500,000 bushels is forecast. In the last five years alone over 1,500 acres of new vigorous trees - all planted before quotas were dreamt of - have come into bearing in Western Australia, and over 5,000 acres have yet to come into bearing, this being almost 40 per cent. of the area now in production. Is this Parliament to deny these growers the right to export?
I trust that the amendment of the Minister will be agreed to. It provides the only fair basis for fixing quotas.
Silting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost), because-
– Because the honorable member is a Tasmanian.
– No. I made clear on the second reading my intention to support the determining of the export quota of each State on the average for three years. Since then I have received a communication from the Speaker of the Tasmanian Parliament stating that honorable members of that assembly are unanimous in their belief that the threeyearaverage system is the most desirable in the interests of the industry.
– In Tasmania.
– No, in Australia. Consequently it is my duty to help to bring into being legislation which will stabilize one of the finest industries in Australia. I have a question to ask of the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), from whom I expect an answer, and it is : Is it a fact that Great Britain intends to curtail further the market for Australian apples?
– It is not.
– I understand that the right honorable Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) returned from England to Australia with information that henceforth the United States of America is to receive a greater share of the apple market in Great Britain than hitherto.
– The honorable member is thinking of pineapples.
– No, I mean apples. If that be so, the opportunities for Australia to dispose of its surplus apples and pears on the British market will be limited. If the market for Australian apples and pears is to be reduced, it behoves me carefully to analyse every part of this bill to ensure that no injustice will be done to any State of the Commonwealth. The only fair way in which there can be an adjustment between the various States of the Commonwealth of the quantities of apples and pears that are to be exported is provided by the quota system provided for by the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin. It has been worked out by men from a State which for a great many years has held the market in Great
Britain. For very many years, the Tasmanian growers have been the greatest exporters of apples and pears in Australia, and, until recently, they have maintained the market abroad without assistance from the Commonwealth Government. Tasmania exports about 63 per cent, of its apples to Great Britain. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has admitted that the position is very serious in Western Australia this year because of weather conditions, and because the general climatic conditions in that State make it impossible for it to make regular shipments.
– The honorable member misrepresents me. What I said was that a hailstorm had had serious effects on the crop.
– The fertility of the soil and climatic conditions of Tasmania enable it to produce regularly vast quantities of apples and pears year by year, whereas the Western Australian crop, because of climate and soil conditions, cannot be depended upon from one year to another. Legislation cannot be passed in this Parliament to control weather conditions. That that is so has been made abundantly clear, if there should be need for clarity, by the Prime Minister, who said that he would not at any time accept responsibility for any wind that blows or hail that falls. T fail to see how this Parliament could equitably penalize the State that has developed the apple and pear industry to such a degree that it provides employment throughout the year for a great number of Australian workmen. I refer, of course, to Tasmania. If the committee agrees to the amendment proposed by the Assistant Minister for Commerce, the Tasmanian quota will be limited and the State will be dragged down to the level of the States which are more backward in apple and pear growing. The Assistant Minister, in effect, says to the Tasmanian growers : “ You must accept the handicap of being put on a level with the growers in those States in which crops are affected ‘by droughts and other weather conditions.” That is a wrong principle. The Assistant Minister must realize that the system proposed in the bill must mean limitation of production of apples and pears ; because it is of no use to say to the growers in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, that they can enter further into the production of apples and pears as the market is limited. Western Australia will not, under this hill as it stands, be able to find a market for increased production. The apple and pear industry in that State will suffer the same troubles as are experienced by the Western Australian wheat-growers as the result of over-production; there will be no market for their surplus. The only fair and equitable thing to do is to base the quotas on the average production for the three years prior to the year for which the quotas are set.
– Three bumper years m Tasmania?
– No. Tasmania is able to grow the same quantity of apples year after year. If it should happen that Tasmania should ever have a bad year for the production of apples and pears, the growers will be prepared to take the consequence by having a reduced quota as the result of the reduced average, but it is certain that Tasmania could not have three bad years in succession. Where, s the honorable member for Forrest admitted that production in Western Australia had so fallen that its quota had been progressively reduced to 14 per cent., 11 per cent., and 10 per cent., the production in Tasmania has been rising, and we expect that the next season will give us a crop of between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 bushels. Tasmania, therefore, should not be penalized; because it has stabilized the industry and expended thousands of pounds on new methods of production and on bringing orchards to a high state of efficiency. I appeal to honorable members to deal with this matter on a broad national basis.
– That is a ease of selfish appeal.
– It is not. I look at this matter from a national viewpoint, but I refuse to allow the State that I represent to be penalized. I endorse everything that is intended in the amendment by the honorable member for Franklin. I speak on this matter with authority because I have studied all phases of apple and pear growing and marketing, including export marketing. I have worked on orchards and grown apples myself, and I know the game from A to Z.
The Tasmanian apples on the British market are of a very high standard as the result of the methods of production and marketing employed in that State. The Australian market is not sufficient to enable Tasmania to rid itself of the whole of its surplus crop. Enormous quantities of good marketable apples have had to be destroyed because there has been no market for them. Undoubtedly nature has endowed Tasmania to a greater degree than other States in respect of apple and pear growing, but Tasmania is not unwilling to compete with the cheaper and inferior apples from other States. I appeal to Western Australia and Victoria 1.0 accept the quota system which Tasmania favours. It has been worked out by the honorable member for Franklin who has had long years of experience in the apple and pear export trade. I do not stand fast to the selection of the last three years as the years on which th(: average should be determined ; I am willing to take next season into consideration, but, I point out, that that would be to the advantage of Tasmania, because we expect a bumper crop. I impress upon the Assistant Minister that if the quota system is not adopted he will be messing about with other States which are not able to gauge what they will be able to supply. Hobart is the first port of call for the vessels that take fruit to Great Britain and we want to be able to supply a full cargo. That is only fair. The Minister cannot deny that the United States of America is to be given a greater share of the United Kingdom market and, if there is any delay at this end in the supply of Australian apples to the United Kingdom, the United States of America will be able to reap the advantage. It is not fair to allow Western Australia’s new orchards to take from the wellestablished Tasmanian orchards the market which Tasmania has developed. Sugar is not allowed to be grown in other States.
– There is nothing to prevent any State from growing sugar if it is capable of doing so.
– The whole atmosphere of this is that Tasmania, because it is a small State, and has not sufficient members to have “pull” in this Parliament, is to be penalized.
– We are with the honorable member.
– I am pleased to hear that. I hope that it will be shown when it comes to a vote. I support the quota system advocated by an eminent agriculturist from Tasmania. [ appeal to the Assistant Minister to do justice to the people of Tasmania by agreeing to a three-year quota.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) have argued the case for Tasmania from entirely opposite premises. The honorable member for Franklin had a lot to say about the opening of the German market. If I could feel as sure of that as he does, I should regard our position as being very much easier. But the honorable member for Denison has taken exactly the opposite view; he has said that the British market is to be restricted. I fear that it may be. That is the reason why it is necessary to have some organization in the industry. The amendment of the honorable member for Franklin would produce the very set of circumstances he is trying to avoid. He wishes to reduce the quota to an. arithmetical basis. If we were to adopt the system he suggests, under which the export quota for one year would be based on the average of the three preceding years, whenever any State had a bad year its quota would automatically be reduced in the following year. There is nothing elastic in that proposal. It would place Tasmania, and all other States in Australia, in an export strait-jacket, out of which they would not be able to move. Whenever the yearly quota of a State was reduced, its exports would be continued at that figure, and the whole of the Commonwealth’s exports of apples and pears would he affected. That is the one thing which the Government wishes to avoid. In an amendment that I shall move after that of the honorable gentleman has been - I hope - defeated, some attention will be paid to the three-year average. But, at the same time, we say that the board must take into account every other relevant factor in connexion with that year’s production. It is unreasonable to suggest that we should adopt a hide-bound arrangement such as the amendment proposes. Tasmania is certainly the big apple exporter of Australia, but there are other States, and it is as well to remember that the reduction of the quota of one State would affect the whole of the apple and pear industry for all time. The Government wishes tins board to have full power to take cognizance of every factor in every season. Admittedly, there may be some disagreement, or it” may be impossible to secure agreement, among the members of the board. At the request of the growers, arrangements have been made in the bill foi1 the submission of the matter to arbitration if the members of the board cannot agree among themselves. Nothing could be more reasonable and fair. In my opinion, the committee would be illadvised to embody in the bill such a remarkable proposition as that submitted in the amendment, however much it may appeal to Tasmania. I admit frankly that I am unable to follow the reasoning of honorable members from that State. If their proposition were embodied in the bill, the matter would become one of arithmetic, and there would be no need for any board or organization ; because, for all time, the exports of every State would be limited to the average exports of the preceding three years, and if a State failed to fill the quota allotted to it, no subsequent increase of its crop would enable it to enlarge that quota. Therefore, I ask the committee to reject the amendment. I shall then move for the insertion of a new sub-clause which, I think, will reasonably overcome every objection that could be offered by Tasmania.
.- I do not know that I can agree with the reasoning of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron) in regard to the operation of the method suggested in the amendment of the honorable m eni her for Franklin (Mr. Frost). When this bill was drafted, it was given full consideration by those who are par ticularly interested in the export of fruit, and consequently will be affected by it. The House of Assembly of Tasmania carried unanimously a resolution which is embodied in the following telegraphic message -
At its sitting last evening, it was unanimously resolved that tlie House of Assembly requests all Tammin ian members of the Federal Parliament to oppose thu Apple and Pear Organization Bill now before the House of Representatives unless amended as requested in writing by the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture.
That was signed by the Speaker of the House. The amendment mentioned in the message relates to this particular clause. As a Tasmanian member, I have to take some cognizance of the unanimous support of the House of Assembly of the representations of the Minister for Agriculture in that State. The clause suggested by the Assistant Minister might help to modify the objection that is felt: but, judging by the arguments advanced by honorable members representing other States which are interested in the marketing of apples and pears, those States want to have the opportunity to increase the export of their products. It is generally agreed that the overseas market for apples and pears can absorb only a restricted quantity; and that restriction may become greater as the years go on. In those circumstances, if we accept the principle that the other States should be allowed to increase their exports, the increase can be made only at the expense of the State which has pioneered this industry. This savors of another injustice to Tasmania.
– The worst it has ever had.
– It is certainly a blow to an industry which has been in existence for many years. Apples and pears have been exported from Tasmania for 50 years. As the years have gone by, the State has developed scientifically the export of its product. It seems grossly unfair, therefore, that other States should now want to increase their exports at the expense of Tasmania. It is frankly admitted that young trees, planted in post-war years, are coming into bearing. The industry has developed because of the knowledge acquired as the result of experiments, which have been carried out, mainly in Tasmania - assisted, of course, by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is quite open and frank in regard to the intentions of Western Australia. I do not think for a moment that the statement he read was his own preparation. Indeed, he said that no matter who prepared it, it was the case for Western Australia. The basis of that case is an increase of the exports of Western Australia in years to come, when the young trees are producing crops. That increase can be effected only at the expense of Tasmania. The Assistant Minister has admitted that the market is restricted, and that it is likely to be further restricted in the future.
– Tasmania would like to have the whole of the market to itself.
– Nothing of the kind has been sought. Tasmania is asking only for the right to continue its exports on the basis on which it has been operating over a number of years. That seems quite fair. The honorable member for Forrest, however, with his State outlook, would like his producers to increase their exports. If the market were restricted, how could Western Australia or any other State increase its export trade without affecting another exporting State? There is only one that could be affected, and that is Tasmania.
A good deal has been said by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) about justice to the industry. Justice is all that we are asking for under this measure. The honorable member further said, by way of interjection, that competition should be on the basis of capacity to supply. Shorn of frill, that means that as the States of Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia increase their acreage, they will want to compete on the basis of their capacity to supply. Because of the restricted market, Tasmania would have to scrap some of its acreage and allow the board to increase the quota of those particular states.
– That is not what is meant.
– What else does it mean?
– Taking the broad national view I
– During the years I have been a member of this Parliament I have taken the broad national view much more frequently than has the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). If any honorable member talks about an increase of the acreage under beet for sugar, or under sugar cane in some other part of Australia than Queensland, the honorable member is very loud in his protests. So much for his broad national view!
– That is an irregular statement, and I shall reply to it later.
– I have described the honorable member’s attitude accurately. In considering this clause I am guided by the advice of those who are directly interested in the industry in Tasmania and have been growing fruit for many years. These particular persons know the industry intimately. I hope that an improvement such as the Minister has indicated will follow the passing of this bill, but I am concerned that evenhanded justice shall be accorded to Tasmania.
– I invite the committee to examine the Tasmanian proposal very closely, particularly in its probable effects on other States. Take the case of Queensland, which requires an outlet for about 50,000 bushels of apples each year. If the quota is fixed according to the Tasmanian proposal, the Queensland apple-growers may give up all prospect of ever extending their operations, for as their output is regular now, they will never be able to increase it.
– Queensland imports apples at times.
– That does not alter the effect of my statement. New South Wales is a. considerable producer of apples, but only a small exporter of them , yet in some years the State has a bumper crop. On the other hand seasonal fluctuations, such as that of 1932, seriously affect the position. South Australia also suffers from lean and fat years. A bumper crop may be followed by a very poor one. The following figures indicate the quantity of apples exported from South Australia in each of the last six years : -
If we adopt the Tasmanian proposal to take into account only the export for the last three years, South Australia’s quota would be 141,000 bushels. That, I submit, would be a very unfair quota for a State which in one year exported 651,000 bushels. Victoria is, to some degree, in the same position as South Australia. Its average production is 2,000,000 bushels, but in 1932, owing to thrips and other pests, its production was only 626,000 bushels. Four years later it produced 3,500,000 bushels and exported 1,500,000 bushels. In such circumstances it is obviously impossible under the Tasmanian proposal to fix a quota, having any regard whatever to the interests of equity. Western Australia has been increasing its production of apples over the last few years, but last year a hailstorm at a critical period caused the production to fall by 400,000 bushels. If the last three years were adopted as the standard for fixing the quota, the Western Australian growers would suffer a. permanent loss in consequence of the heavy seasonal loss of last year. That would be a most unfair position in which to place the growers of that State. Tasmania is fortunate, for in the last few years its production has been fairly regular; but I remember that about ten years ago the Tasmanian growers lost about half their crop through circumstances over which they had no control. But we cannot be expected to adopt the three-year basis as the standard for the export quota simply because Tasmania has had a good production in the last three or four years. Even Tasmania may suffer again from seasonal fluctuations.
– We are prepared to risk it.
– Why impose unnecesTasmania wants the quota fixed on this basis because it is favorable to the State.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Honorable gentlemen from that State wish toassure their growers of a sense of security formany years to come, but they cannot expect us to agree to quotas without having regard to the circumstances of the whole of Australia. All States are entitled to reasonable consideration in this matter. In my opinion, the Assistant Minister’s proposal is the most satisfactory, for it would enable the board to give consideration to the production for the last three year? and also to other relevant circumstances that should be borne in mind. I believe that the board should be unhampered in its work. I therefore hope that the committee will reject the proposal from Tasmania, and accept the view of the AssistantMinister.
– I can sympathize somewhat with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost; and his Tasmanian colleagues, who desire to hold a market which Tasmanian growers have supplied for a very long time; but consideration must surely be given to the position of apple and pear growers inthe, other States of the Commonwealth, where production is increasing year by year and where many acres were planted to apples and pears before any suggestion was made of export quotas. 1 have in mind, particularly, the Murray Valley area in which the best export pears sent from Australia are grown.
– The honorable member appears to be unaware that a quota is not suggested for pears; nor is it ever likely to be suggested.
– It may be true that no quota is being suggested at present, but with our increasing production, the time will inevitably come when we shall have to consider a quota for pears just as we are to-day considering a quota for apples. The production of export pears from the Shepparton to Cohuna district in the Murray Valley is approximately 150,000 bushels a year, but in the next three or four years it will have increased to about 500,000 bushels a year. I do not consider that the Tasmanian proposal would be fair to the rest of Australia, and in this Parliament we should take an Australia-wide view. Something has been said about efficiency in production. I consider thai the fruit-growers on the mainland are just as efficient as those of Tasmania. In fact I have been informed by fruit experts that one of the great ( roubles in Tasmania is that although the frees in many orchards are very old the growers will not re-plant. Consequently a good deal of second-rate fruit is being produced in Tasmania.
– Is the honorable member aware that Mr. W. H. Calvert, M.L.C., and his son, who are among our largest exporters, took the Orient prize, which is open to competition from the whole of Australia, with fruit picked from trees more than 100 years old ? Our trees, like Johnny Walker’s whisky, improve with age.
– Nevertheless fruit experts have assured me that inferior fruit is being produced and exported from Tasmania. It is well known that some of the mainland States suffer periodically from thrips and other pests. In Victoria the production fell from 2,000,000 bushels to 600,000 bushels in one year because of the ravages of thrips. We must fix an equitable basis for the quotas. The principle enunciated by the Assistant Minister is fair and reasonable, and I shall support it.
.- Clause 14 provides that the board shall determine, among other things, the quantity of fruit to be exported, but in my opinion that does not go far enough. E am in agreement with the main principles of the bill, and I hope that it will, when passed, improve the circumstances of the apple and pear-growers. But is there not a need to authorize the board to determine the quality of the fruit to bc exported ? It is essential that only good fruit shall be sent from Australia. Unfortunately a good deal of inferior fruit has been exported from time to time. The first shipment of apples from Australia is always rushed when it reaches the English market, but we know very well that much of that fruit is picked a fortnight too early. Consequently it arrives in England in a withered and wilted condition. The people who buy it are naturally disappointed with it, and this reacts unfavorably upon subsequent shipments from the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) referred to the shipment of apples to overseas markets of a variety not fit for export. In past years, these unsuitable apples have been sent away whenever a market was able to be found for them, and unfortunately for the Australian growers that practice has to some degree been continued, although in many instances unsuitable varieties have been uprooted, grafted or budded. It is essential that only fruit of the best quality, packed in the best cases, should be shipped from this country. Tasmania is the largest exporter of fruit in Australia. I was in that State prior to the last export season, and saw some thousands of cases and shooks on the wharf. I was informed that they were to be utilized by shippers for the export trade. A number of them were not suitable for the purposes required; some were badly sawn, others had been in the weather for a long time and were very much discoloured, and some had been put together while the timber was still green. Shrinkage of timber in fruit cases due to the use of green timber bruises the fruit and renders it unsaleable. I have no desire that honorable members should think that in these remarks I am directing an attack against the growers of Tasmania. Irrespective of where the fruit is grown, the board to be set up under this legislation should see that only the best quality is exported. Merchants, especially in South Australia, ship many thousands of cases of fruit, which they obtain direct from the growers on an f.o.b. basis, to their representatives abroad. Very often the greatest trouble experienced by growers is to get their fruit passed by the inspectors. In my opinion, if there is any doubt as to the fruit passing an inspection test, it should not be permitted to be exported. It has been said that everything possible should be done to increase the export of apples from Australia. I agree with that; but the best advertisement we could have would be fruit of a type suitable for the export market arriving at its destination in good order and condition. I. trust that the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) will be able to inform me that ample precautions will be taken by the board to ensure that this will be done.
.- I oppose the amendment. I regret that during the course of the discussion of this clause there has been so much talk about Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia. I believe that the discussion of this clause should have been confined solely to the question as to whether it is framed in such a way as to ensure that just quotas are allocated to the respective States. That, after all, is the fundamental point at issue. The board is to be composed of representatives of fruit growers from every State, but some States are to enjoy greater representation than others. For instance, Tasmania is to have four representatives, compared with two for Victoria, one for New South Wales, and one for Queensland. We must remember that all of the men appointed to the board will be conversant with the industry in all its ramifications in every State of the Commonwealth. They will be broadminded, reasonable men, prepared to give and take, and not influenced by State jealousies, State rights and the other side issues which have been drawn into this debate. In the circumstances, I feel that we reflect upon the intelligence of those who will be elected to the board when we suggest that a rigid rule as to how the quotas shall be allocated should be laid down. Considering all these factors, I believe that the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) should adhere to the clause as originally drafted. Paragraph b of subclause 1 provides that the board may determine, on a basis applied uniformly throughout the Commonwealth, the quantity of apples and pears harvested in any State in that, year which may be exported from the Commonwealth.
– I support that.
– It is a very simple and logical outline to the board as to what it shall do. When we examine the clause we find that there is a stressing of the word “uniform”, to see that there shall be no victimization of one’ State as opposed to another, and to ensure that the board shall make a fair allocation of the export market available after considering all the factors placed before it, factors with which we in this chamber cannot possibly be conversant. If the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) were accepted, the clause would then read -
The board may -
determine, upon a basis of immediate previous three years average shipments to United Kingdom markets or continental markets, or both, the quantity of apples and pears harvested in any State in that year which may be exported from the Commonweal th .
The board itself would then have no alternative but to base the allocation of its quotas on the three previous years’ exports of the respective States. When it came to a practical application of the clause, if it were amended as suggested, it would be found to be impossible.
– It has been done voluntarily on that basis in the past, and no difficulty has been experienced.
– If the amendment were agreed to, it might be found to operate to the detriment of the Tasmanian growers.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member for Franklin says that no difficulty has been experienced in the past. I have a very vivid recollection that when the Cattle Compensation Act was introduced into the Victorian Parliament, people representing a certain portion of the cattle-raisers in Victoria objected to it on the ground that if it were passedthey would have to pay stamp duty in respect of certain sales of their cattle. They had never lost any cattle, and, therefore, they questioned whether they should be brought in. Within twelve months, however, these very people experienced an outbreak of pleuro-pneumonia amongst their cattle, which practically eliminated the whole of the herds in their territory. It is wrong to attempt tolay down any hard and fast rule to deal with an industry, the vicissitudes of which are affected so greatly by pests, acts of God, climate and the demands of local markets. It may be that on a particular occasion Tasmania may produce a very large proportion of the home-consumption market, and it might become necessary for the board to take that factor into consideration when allocating export quotas for the ensuing years. In these circumstances, I oppose the amendment and urge upon the Assistant Minister for Commerce the desirability of adhering to the clause as originally drafted.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost). Although it may seem strange that one coming from 12 degrees south latitude should support an amendment moved by an honorable member coming from 45 degrees south, I claim to have some knowledge of the apple industry, having been engaged in apple growing in the Darling Ranges, particularly the Dunn’s Seedling, Northern Spy, Sturmer, Rokewood and Jonathan varieties. As a former grower I know what the red spider menace is to the apple industry. To avoid it apple growers always graft their apples on to Northern Spy stock. I hope that I may be able to graft some of my sentiments on to the Country party which will result in the members of that party supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin. Tasmania should be looked upon as one of the weaker States, and it is for the strong to support the weak, just as it is for the greater States in the south to support the far north. The positions of Tasmania and the Northern Territory are, in this respect, analogous. The further north one goes from the richly endowed areas around Yass and Young in New South Wales, the more one gets into areas of one-crop production. Let us go north from these richly-endowed areas. We find that when we arrive at the Queensland border, just over the Darling Downs, where the production of wheat cuts out, we immediately reach areas in which only one crop is produced. Northern Queensland produces mainly sugar. Production in the Northern Territory is even more limited. Let us go to the extreme south and it will be found that Tasmania and the Northern Territory have something in common; because the southern state, although it produces no wheat and raises few cattle, it is richly endowed for the growing of apples as its basic industry. Because it is practically a one-crop State I support up to the hilt any proposal which will enable it to develop the fruit-growing industry that it has pioneered to the greatest possible degree. I am very much surprised, in fact I am almost disgusted, to think that members of the ‘Country party, and even senior members of that party, see fit to oppose this amendment. 1 thought that the Country party stood for the sectionalizing of this continent into areas most suitable for the growing of a particular crop. Where particular areas are richly endowed for the production of a particular primary product, such as is Mildura for the production of currants, every effort should be made to develop them. I am most surprised that the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) and an ex-Minister of this Government - I refer to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) - should be so unmindful of their duty as country representatives as to oppose the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin. I draw an analogy between the far north and the far south. It is only proper that the weak should expect help from the strong, and those parts of the Commonwealth which possess unlimited resources have a right to expect assistance from the States more fortunately situated. I am surprised at the opposition which has developed to this amendment from members of the Country party. I feel sure that if the public were aware of the position, they would feel disposed to wipe the Country party off the political landscape.
.- I was surprised to hear my colleague from the far north, obviously .without having studied the subject, make the statement that he has made. I am sure that he is the last one who would willingly do an injustice to a distant State. He objects to anything which savours of injustice to Tasmania because it is in the far south. I ask him to study the facts, and see whether he is not proposing something which would undoubtedly inflict injustice upon a State in the far west. I do not represent that part of Western Australia in which apples and pears aTe grown, but I am not willing to see injus- tice done to them, and I cannot believe that the proposal of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) really originated with him.
– What is wrong with it?
– Everything is wrong with it. Tasmania to-day is in a very happy position in regard to its applegrowing and exporting industry. Its production has not varied greatly over recent years, and it has enjoyed a large and growing share of the export market. Tasmania’s share of the total exports for the last five years was as follows: -
– Those figures are wrong.
– Whatever disabilities Tasmania might have suffered in other directions, it has undoubtedly fared well in regard to the apple export industry. The danger is that honorable members may vote on this amendment without understanding its real import. Before honorable members from New South Wales allow themselves to be inveigled into voting for it, let them consider what would have been the position of their State had Victoria, at the time of federation, insisted on maintaining its proportion of manufacturing industries. At that time, 75 per cent, of the manufacturers of Australia were situated in Victoria, and had a quota system been introduced then, based on the production over the previous three years, the secondary industries in New South Wales would have been prevented for all time from expanding. The Tasmanian growers complain that we are threatening the existence of their industry, but let us compare the exports from Western Australia over the last five years with those from Tasmania, the figures for which I have just quoted. The corresponding figures for Western Australia are as follows : -
It is evident, therefore, that Western Australia constitutes no serious threat to the supremacy of Tasmania as an apple-growing and exporting State, and this, notwithstanding the fact that Western Australia is, in area, at any rate, the largest State of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, it is also an impoverished State, with few sources of wealth. It produces some wheat at unpayable prices, some apples and pears, and a bit of timber, and the one thing that has stood by it, gold. For every £1 worth of goods which Western Australia sends to the eastern States, it buys from those States goods to the value of £5. The policy of the Commonwealth has condemned Western Australia to be a primary -producing State, and now it is even proposed to limit the scope of its primary production. The smallest State of the Commonwealth is proposing to dictate to a State which represents onethird of the area of the Commonwealth. Tasmania has 61 per cent, of the export market, and we have only 11 per cent., and Tasmania would keep us in that position for all time. Tasmania has enjoyed good seasons for the last three years, and wishes to fix the quota on that basis. In most of the other States, the seasons have been bad during recent years, and so their quotas would be fixed on the basis of a succession of poor crops. That is the selfish proposal of people who hold a monopoly and are reluctant to lose it.
The Minister for Agriculture in the Labour Government of Western Australia, who is interesting himself in this matter, has sent me the following telegram : -
Regarding apple and pear bill learn that, proposed move delete words applied uniformly throughout Australia and substitute words on the basis average exports from various States last three years. Strongly protest this proposal as distinctly unfair this State without, fluctuating and increasing production exports last three years being: 1936, 619.129; 1937. 429,660: 1938, 337,785. Therefore if proposal accepted our quota would bc 462.191 cases. This year’s crops estimated 1,500,000. With quota’ suggested we would have a surplus after supplying local requirements of 402,809 cases. Rather than proposal agreed to would prefer bill thrown out. Have wired Cameron similarly.
Our fellow-orchardists in Tasmania, because we have had three lean years, are now demanding that we should dump our surplus of over 400,000 cases. If honorable members will search their hearts and look at this matter fairly, they will vote against the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin.
.- The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said that we should not look at this matter from a parochial point of view. I agree with him. I have always taken a broad, national view of the matters that come before this Parliament. Moreover, I have always supported proposals for the granting of assistance to Tasmania. As a member of the Public Accounts Committee some years ago, I did much to ensure the bringing in of reports that were helpful to that State. Year after year, I have supported the granting of assistance to Tasmania as a necessitous State, and I have enthusiastically supported the granting of hundreds of thousands of pounds in recent years to make up losses sustained on the export of apples and pears. Included in this amount were grants of £125,000 in one year, a grant of a similar amount in the following year, £S0,000 the next year, and a final grant of £60,000. My desire is to assist the industry, but I wish to assist it in all the States. If the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) were agreed to, the effect upon the industry in Queensland would be most harmful. Queensland is now producing an average of 250,000 bushels of apples per annum, and, although it is not a large exporter, it requires outlets overseas for 50,000 bushels each year. Had the Tasmanian proposal been applied to Queensland on the basis of its average exports for the three years 1927, 1928 and 1929, its quota would have been 64 bushels.
– That is 64 bushels too many.
– That is how broad a national outlook the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) is able to take. The amendment proposed by the Minister should satisfy ail the legitimate requirements of Tasmania. It provides that the board, when fixing State quotas, shall take into consideration production over the previous three years, but that if shall also consider other factors relating to the production of apples and pears in each State, together with the available market. I want to protect the Tasmanian growers against themselves. If the Tasmanian crop were to be a complete failure next year, its average over the next three years would be greatly reduced, and its quota would be correspondingly reduced. It is imperative, when dealing with proposals to assist an industry, that justice should be done to all parts of the Commonwealth. I ask honorable members to reject the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin. I am sure it is the desire of all honorable members to deal out evenhanded justice to all sections, but the proposal of the honorable member for Franklin would not ensure that result.
– I did not know that this bill was to precipitate into a State versus State quarrel, but 1 am convinced from the discussion that some honorable members are doing their best to crush the apple and pear industry in Tasmania. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) said that the trees in Tasmania are too old. If he knew anything about the subject he would know that in order to grow the best fruit one must have well-matured trees. The Honorable W. H. Calvert, of Huon, has trees which are 100 years old, and last year, as he has done for several years past, he won the Orient prize for apples. Western Australia has a certain acreage of land coming into fruit-bearing, but the fruit will not be fit for export for at least ten years. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) became very heated when he pointed out that the quota for Western Australia last year was only 11 per cent. That was because Western Australia did not have the fruit. There was plenty of shipping space available, hut the fruitgrowers fell down on their job. It reminds me of how the Western Australian Government fell down on its job when it undertook a scheme to develop its wheat industry in order to supply the whole of the British market. It brought to this country migrants and settled them on blocks in Western Australia which were entirely unsuited for the growing of wheat. The unfortunate migrants became half-starved, and were forced into the bankruptcy court. The State Government now proposes to embark on a similar procedure, but in this case fruit-growing is to be the industry into which the migrants are to be thrust. I venture the opinion that there will be the same end to this scheme as there was to the wheat scheme, but the results will be worse, because they will have the effect of ruining the market for Australian apples and pears in Great Britain. The result will be that Tasmania will be the worst sufferer, because it is the biggest producer. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) declared that Tasmania could not expand any further its apple and pear growing industry. At the present stage it does not wish to do so. 1 remind the honorable gentleman that in the last two years 2.S00 acres of orchards have been scrubbed out. We reduced our acreage because of over-production. I trust that when a vote is taken on this matter honorable gentlemen will vote for my amendment, which is intended to stabilize the apple and pear growing industry. Apple and pear growing is a Tasmanian industry. I concede that other States do grow a certain quantity of good fruit, but no reliance can be placed on their crops. We have not had a crop failure in Tasmania for many years.
– But Tasmania is getting close to one.
– I do not say that we cannot have a crop failure, but we are prepared to take the risk. The Tasmanian growers want to know what their quota will be. It is of no U.Se to keep them waiting right up to the time when the fruit is ready for picking. They must have their information six months ahead of the picking season. Already the f.o.b. buyers are in Tasmania making purchases, although the fruit has only just formed on the trees. How could we sell our fruit under that system if we did not know what our quota was to be. It would be possible for us to sell 2,500,000 bushels, and then find that our quota was only 1,000,000 bushels. I do not think that the eastern States are opposed to the amendment. It is Western Australia that is the difficulty. Honorable members from that State say that they will never be able to rise above their quota if the quota is fixed on the three year average, but how did South Australia rise above its quota last year? Its quota was 400,000 bushels, but it shipped 603,000 bushels. The excess was due to a crop failure in another State.
– But that is not possible under this bill.
– The Assistant Minister keeps on repeating that, hut it is not so.
– The law has to be observed.
– If one State cannot fill its quota another State will take its place.
– That is not m the bill, and it is not in the honorable member’s amendment.
– It is common law that if one State is not able to fill its quota another State will do so.
.- I cannot understand the attitude of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost), but I could understand him if he came straight out and said “I shall do my best to destroy this bill “. It would be monstrous to make fixed conditions for the benefit of the honorable member’s State to the disadvantage of other States. I believe that the honorable member framed his amendment with the object of destroying the bill.
– The honorable member is not entitled to assume that.
– I could understand the honorable gentlemen opposing the bill.
– Because I do not believe that they want it unless they can get the concession they are seeking. Are not honorable members from Tasmania prepared to trust the board? I do not believe in boards myself, but I remind honorable gentlemen from Tasmania that they have a large representation on the board.
– We have no majority.
– Honorable members from Tasmania should be satisfied with the board; to give Tasmania a majority on the board would be preposterous. The amendment of the honorable member for Franklin would destroy anything of a federal spirit in the bill ; and so great would the objections to it be, that within twelve months it would have to be removed from the statute-book.
.- I think that every honorable member is in sympathy with the object of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) and his colleagues from Tasmania. Their object is to protect the Tasmanian apple industry. They realize, I think, that this bill is being introduced because the export of apples and pears, particularly apples, is to be rationed. There will not he the same demand for Australian apples, and, consequently, the exporters will have to be content with making smaller exports. Honorable members from Tasmania contend that the apple and pear industry is the ewe lamb of which they should not be deprived by stronger States which have other staple industries. With that wish one must have a great deal of sympathy, but I think that neither the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Franklin nor that foreshadowed by the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) to deal with the matter is satisfactory. I think that there should be some considerable regard for the position of Tasmania and for the prerationing position of the several States. I think, however, that the formula proposed by the honorable member for Franklin is too rigid and inelastic and that it may work against his own State, but it is not so rigid and inelastic as what was proposed by the honorable, member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) or so stereotyped as what was suggested in the telegram from the Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia which was read by tlie honorable gentleman. The amendment foreshadowed by the Assistant Minister specifies the three-year period before the quota is fixed and not the three-year period before the bill becomes operative, but it is still inelastic and rigid. I doubt whether it could work at all, or whether it would be constitutional. I do believe, however, that one of the chief considerations which the board should take into account in fixing the quotas should be the average of the crops for the last three years. While I am not satisfied with the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Franklin, I am also not satisfied with the amendment proposed by the Government, because all that it does is say that the board should take into account everything that it thinks should bo taken into account, which means nothing. The amendment would be perfectly adequate if it stopped after the word “adopted”. That would leave to the board every consideration that it thought fit to take, but it would necessitate that the board give due weight to the average yearly exports for the last three years. I think that the board should be directed to give consideration to that factor. I do not think that it should be told that it should not depart from it. The board should not be superseded by mere rule-of-thumb. It should fix the quota, but it should be told that it must give consideration to the average yearly exports for the last three years preceding the year in which it fixes the quota, and, subject to that, it should be free, with the exception, of course, that it must fix a uniform principle. The Constitution will not allow discrimination between States or parts of States, as such, although it can discriminate between regions, but not on a State basis.
– That is challenged.
– No, it was decided in the Elliott case in the High Court where it was held that the transport workers regulations did not infringe the Constitution because they did not apply differently to parts of States, regarded as such, but to different parts - to different regions. There is nothing to prevent discrimination between regions so long as the discrimination is not on a State basis. That is the interpretation placed upon Section 99 of the Constitution. What I suggest to the Government is that the proposed sub-clause la of clause 14 be cut short at the word “ adopted “. That would leave the position that the board would be free to fix the quota as it thought fit, but would have to take into consideration the average yearly export overseas for the three years preceding the year in which it fixes the quota. I think that the board should be the judge of what the quota should be, but I think the committee should indicate that it thinks that fact is important and that the board should give it weight.
.- I favour the amendment proposed by the
Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) because it covers a wider field than the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost). I rose to speak mainly to reply to the outburst of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) who made a characteristic speech in which I think he threw reason to the winds. The honorable gentleman said that the strong should help the weak. That is a laudable sentiment with which we all agree, but does he realize, in respect of the apple and pear industry, that it is those States which are so often otherwise described as “ strong “ States that are the weak States? If the honorable gentleman wishes to apply his principle, insofar as the apple and pear industry is concerned, he should be willing to see that Tasmania, which is the strong State, assists, to some degree, the weaker States.
– Is the honorable member trying to weaken the position of Tasmania?
– I am not. Apparently the honorable member’s view is that, because Tasmania to-day exports something like 63 per cent, of the total quantity exported from Australia, step3 should he taken to ensure that it will always enjoy 63 per cent, of the market. It seems to me that the proposal of the honorable member is absolutely cast-iron in its rigidity. If, owing to climatic conditions, a drop occurred in the production of some other State, or even of Tasmania itself, the effects of the adoption of this proposal would be felt for at least a generation. I do not know whether the honorable member appreciates that point. Under the averaging system which was in vogue in respect of Commonwealth income tax, the effects of a violent drop or of a large increase in one year disappeared at the end of five years. That would not be so in this case; the effects would be felt for a hundred years. I suppose that, theoretically, they would continue to infinity. If, in a bad year, as the result of the averaging system, the volume of exports was reduced, the quantity exported in the following year would be affected, and that would go on ad infinitum. Greater elasti city is necessary than is provided by the proposal of the honorable member. The proposal of the Assistant Minister is elastic, because it takes into consideration all other factors in addition to the quantities exported in the preceding three years. Whatever market is available overseas in a particular season, and in whatever degree it is necessary for Australia, in the interests of the apple and pear industry, to reduce its export quota, that market and reduction should be fairly shared by every part of Australia. Legislation on those lines would be Australian legislation, while the legislation which the honorable member would have us adopt seems rather Tasmanian than Australian legislation. Undoubtedly the proposal of the Assistant Minister is much more Australian in outlook than is that of the honorable member for Franklin.
.- 1 am not at any time violently enamoured of legislation of this character, but seeing that it is up for review we ought to consider its possible effects nott only on the export of apples and pears to Great Britain and other markets, but also oh the general position of the industry. Two things are evident in the discussion up to date. One is that the overseas market for apples and pears is limited, and the second - if we are to take notice of the keen anxiety expressed by members from different States - is that there is a largely increased production. Judging by the enthusiasm with which members of all parties and from all States have been canvassing the industry, it would appear that not only is there a greatly increased production of apples throughout Australia, but also that every State is “ snavelling “ for the limited overseas market that is available. I believe that another factor which must be taken into consideration is that the apple-growers of Tasmania pioneered this industry in Australia. It is one of that State’s staple industries, and if it be smashed a_big step will have been taken towards the smashing of Tasmania. If in regard to quality the product of the other States was superior to that of Tasmania, the loss of the market by Tasmania would be unavoidable; such is not the case. I warn, honorable members that a bill of this character, which gives to growers of apples m other States the false impression that they may hope for a bigger percentage of the overseas markets, induces over-production. That has been the result in many other industries. The wheat-growers were urged to grow more wheat, and did so, but it was left a prey to mice and weevils. On another occasion the advice was given to grow more hops, and when a greater quantity was produced it was left with the growers. That is the danger which I apprehend in this case. I believe that if there is danger of over-production - and there are portents of it in the anxiety expressed by honorable members on both sides of the chamber concerning the increase that has taken place - the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) has provided the Government with the key to the situation, and if it accepts his proposal it will be enabled to restrict the degree to which other States come into 1 the market to the detriment of Tasmania, and at the same time stabilize the whole position. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron) has claimed that his proposal is not so rigid as is that of the honorable member for Franklin. T agree that it does not seem to he, but a careful reading of it will show that it could be equally as rigid. It. says that the board shall take into consideration the average yearly exports overseas of apples and pears from each State during the period of three years immediately preceding the year in which the basis is adopted. That is all right. But the Assistant Minister then proposes to insert the following - and such other factors relating to the production of apples and pears in each State, and the available markets therefor, as the board thinks fit.
By a simple mental operation the board, in pursuance of the power given in those last two lines, may neutralize any good contained in the preceding portion of the provision. I ask the Assistant Minister to consider that aspect carefully. The committee should adopt the idea of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and accept only the first portion of the provision.
– My idea is that the bill is all right as it is.
– Then why the Government’s amendment?
– To try to meet the wishes of the honorable member for Franklin.
– In one portion there is the attempt to meet the desire of the honorable member for Franklin, but the effect of that portion is entirely neutralized by the concluding provision. I believe that the honorable member for Gippsland will realize that, it he carefully considers the matter. The honorable member for Franklin has asked the committee to adopt a proposal under which the shipments of the previous three years will be taken into consideration in fixing the quota for each State. I believe that that would mean merely simple justice to the people of Tasmania, who have pioneered this industry. If there is to be any gate-crashing into the overseas market by other States, which are just now taking an increasing interest in the growing of apples for export, and a consequent limitation of the export percentage which the people of Tasmania have built up and enjoyed, then the blow on the Tasmanian grower could be lightened by imposing a three-year restriction. I hope that the committee will take these factors into consideration. The hill gives to apple growers throughout the various States of Australia the false hope of an unlimited market, which does not exist. Even though they are aware that it is not unlimited, they are given the hope of being able to gatecrash in the matter of quotas against the State which pioneered the industry. The danger with which we are confronted is that, in the near future, the apple industry, not only in Tasmania but also throughout Australia, will be ruined by reason of the over-production encouraged by this legislation.
Life Insurance Legislation - Resignation of Postmaster-Genera l - Ministers as Directors of Public Companies.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to raise a matter of some urgency, relating to life insurance. This year, a decision was given by the House of Lords, which laid down the law not only for Great Britain, but also for Australia, in the case Beresford v. the Royal Insurance Company. It was to the effect that, notwithstanding any express provision in a life insurance policy, the personal representatives of an insured person were precluded from recovering any amount due under the policy if the insured had committed suicide. As the House knows, insurancecompanies insert in their policies express provisions to the effect that if suicide takes place within a certain period - generally a year - nothing can be recovered under the policy. The House of Lords decided that, notwithstanding such an express provision, the policy moneys could not be recovered in any case in which the insured person had died by his own hand while sane. The principal insurance companies were perfectly prepared to pay on such policies notwithstanding the suicide, but I understand that they were advised that, even though they desired to pay the widow and children, they could not use in that way the funds of their members. Several insurance companies in New South Wales co-operated in asking the Government of that State to introduce legislation dealing with the subject, and it did so. That legislation is entitled the Life, Fire, and Marine Insurance Amendment Bill, and it provides that an insurance company may not take advantage of the decision of the House of Lords. This Commonwealth Parliament has power to deal with the subjectmatter of insurance, and it should do so. The Parliament of New South Wales has indicated quite clearly that in its opinion this Parliament should deal with the matter. At any rate, the Minister for Justice of New South Wales, speaking on the amending bill on the 21st October (New South Wales Hansard, No. 46, page 2190) said this -
If the Federal Parliament deals with the subject, this bill . will lapse as far as interstate companies are concerned, and I think all the companies are operating interstate.
It is very desirable that any legislation on this subject should have general Aus tralian application, and should not have effect in only one State. As a matter of fact, the subject has already been dealt with by this Parliament, because, in 1930, the Senate sent down a bill to this House dealing with life insurance, clause 80 of which provided that, if an assured person committed suicide after the expiration of thirteen months, the money should be recoverable. The Government has constitutional power to deal with insurance, and I urge that this particular point should be dealt with as soon as possible.
– I take it that the honorable member wants a uniform law.
– Yes. If the matter is dealt with only by the Parliament of New South Wales, an invidious position will arise. Companies which are more generous than other companies will probably make payments, but the less generous companies will do nothing. The matter is urgent. Many people are at present seriously affected by the House of Lords decision. Some companies are anxious to pay, but others have declared : “We are advised that we have no right to spend our members’ money in this way.” Some companies are proposing to make refunds of premiums. I urge the Attorney-General to give favorable consideration to the taking of prompt action in relation to this important subject.
.-I wish to refer to the statement made last night by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) concerning the resignation of the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A.J. McLachlan), and to the replies of the Prime Minister circulated to-day to certain questions on the notice-paper. I gather from the sources available to me that the contracts which the Postmaster-General’s Department have made with the Hume Pipe Company have been entered into from time to time. This suggests that a fairly considerable amount of money, and also a considerable length of time, are involved. I should like to know the number of contracts made, and the aggregate amount of money that the Postmaster-General’s Department has had to pay in respect of them. It would appear to me from the replies of the Prime Minister, that it was only when the attention of Senator A. J. McLachlan, as Postmaster-General, was drawn to the existence of these contracts that he felt that he ought to resign his portfolio, no doubt realizing that a somewhat invidious relationship had been revealed and that therefore his position had become untenable. I ask the Prime Minister to ascertain whether it is a fact that references to these contracts were made at the last annual meeting of the shareholders of the Hume Pipe Company of Australia Limited, and also whether the chairman of directors was present at the meeting at the time, and therefore knew of the contracts then. I am not in a position to say whether this is the case or not. It is important, I believe, that we should have knowledge of when tlie Postmaster-General first became aware of the existence of the contracts. If the contracts cover a considerable period of time and involve a considerable expenditure by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, it seems to me to be extraordinary that the Postmaster-General should not be aware of them. If he did not know of them, he must have been ignorant of a matter of some moment affecting his official administration. I can quite understand a Minister in charge of an important department not knowing the minutiae of the contracts, but I cannot understand a Minister being ignorant of important contracts involving substantial expenditure. From the reply which the Prime Minister made to the second question in the series to which I refer, it would appear that the contracts were for the supply of post office material, and had resulted from public tenders which, in each case, had been examined by the Tender Board, consisting of senior departmental officers, and that the expenditure had been recommended by the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs. That procedure seems to me to be proper. What astonishes me is that if that is the position, the Postmaster-General should have considered that he ought to relinquish his office prior to Parliament having had its attention drawn to the matter, that is, unless a wider principle is involved, which I believe to be the case. That wider principle, it appears to me, necessitates the Government intimating to Parliament the precise position in respect of companies in which
Ministers are involved. A very important principle is at stake, for this Parliament has to deal legislatively, and Ministers have to deal administratively, with many matters which definitely affect the profits and losses of companies. For example, insurance has been mentioned this afternoon by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). He has asked that legislation shall be introduced into this Parliament on a certain matter. Obviously, if Ministers are associated with the directorates of insurance companies, an invidious position must arise in connexion with them, similar to that which has arisen in connexion with the ex-Postmaster-General, and which has caused him to relinquish his portfolio. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government intends to allow the matter to rest’ where it is now, or what course it contemplates taking; because, obviously, the principle must apply independently of whether attention is directed in Parliament to particular cases? The PostmasterGeneral knew that he was PostmasterGeneral, and he also knew that he was chairman of directors of the Hume Pipe Company Limited. It would be extraordinary to me if, in that capacity, he did not know that the Hume Pipe Company Limited was tendering for Government contracts. I believe that a chairman of directors is expected to be something more than what is known colloquially as a “ guinea pig “. He must have some responsibility to the shareholders of his company, and must take a real part in determining its policy. If in this case the contracts were many and if they involved a large sum of money, it would also appear to me to be astonishing that the chairman of directors knew nothing about them. In such circumstances, 1 should think, perhaps impertinently, thai the chairman of directors deserved criticism. To me it is more extraordinary that the Postmaster-General should at no time have had brought under his notice these contracts, or that it should not have occurred to him that these contracts were being effected with a. company of which he was chairman of directors. The Prime Minister has said that in no case was the Postmaster-General aware of the tender - he uses the singular in this instance, whereas in other places the plural is used - or was in any way personally concerned with its acceptance. I quite agree that the Postmaster-General may not have been personally concerned with the acceptance of the contracts, but I submit that he may have been officially concerned. Obviously the principle is so important that I consider that there was adequate justification for the Postmaster-General relying upon the fact that he had no participation in the examination of these tenders or in the recommendation regarding their acceptance - that the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs accepted the tenders as set out in the answer to question No. 2. If that was regarded as adequate prior to the resignation of the PostmasterGeneral, it appears to me that only a condition bordering on panic would result in the resignation of that honorable gentleman unless, from the point of view of the Government, there is a much wider i interpretation of the matter.
– I can only say that if, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) suggests, reference to the contracts was made at a meeting of the shareholders of the company, I was not aware of it. When the questions were asked by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), they came directly under my notice, and I immediately made inquiries. The terms of my reply were based on information supplied to me by the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) himself, who offered to tender his resignation immediately I discussed the matter with him. Unfortunately, there is no precedent to guide the Government in circumstances such as these, which until now have not definitely arisen. If I may express a personal opinion, I have no hesitation in saying that if a director of a company is directly interested in trading with a government, lie should not be a member of that government. I stated yesterday that, in this connexion, I had no knowledge of the practice followed in Great Britain. I have since learned, although not officially, that it is usual for a man to resign his directorships upon entering the Ministry.
– That was laid down by M’r. Gladstone.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) knows the exact position. A similar position has not previously arisen in the Commonwealth. I assure the Leader of the Opposition that the matter is receiving the attention of the Government, and we hope that a definite precedent will be laid down. There is no constitutional objection to the position of Senator A. J. McLachlan in the present circumstances. It is just a question of propriety whether a man should continue to hold two positions such as those occupied by the honorable gentleman. This is the first time that I have brought the matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General, because it is the first time that it has come directly to me in this House. I believe a question was asked earlier, but it was not dealt with by me.
– I asked a question in 1935.
– I believe that is so, bin I have no recollection of it. When the honorable member for Brisbane definitely brought, the matter up a few days ago, I immediately made inquiries and discussed the situation with the PostmasterGeneral, who promptly decided to resign his portfolio. Cabinet is giving consideration to the setting up of a definite precedent for future guidance.
The Leader of the Opposition also asked what contracts were in operation and what was the value of those contracts. I agree that the House is entitled to thi3 information, and I shall have inquiries made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Science and Industry Research Act - Twelfth Annual Report of the Council for year 1937-38.
Ordered, to be printed.
Aircraft Personnel - Documents of Identity - Exchange of Notes between United Kingdom, Australia. New Zealand, and India, and Sweden (Stockholm, 30th Mav, 1938). international Labour Organization of the League of Nations - Twenty-first Session, Geneva, October, 1930 - Hours of Work and Manning (sea) Convention.
House adjourned fit 4.17 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: - (a), (b), (c), and (d). This information is not readily available. It is not considered that the time and expense entailed in obtaining it would be justified.
e asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the information given by the Minister to the honorable member for Capricornia on the 19th October, that “there is at the present time no definite proposal before the Government relating to the establishment of additional aircraft factories “, what comment has ho to make on the statement made on the 20th October, by the chairman of directors of Aircraft Development Proprietary Limited (Mr. Stuart F. Doyle) that “not only was a complete scheme for the manufacture of several types of British aircraft placed before the Minister, but a complete factory plan of organization was included. The plan has been before the Minister and the Air Board for some months hut no decision has yet been given “?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
I have made further inquiries and have now ascertained that certain proposals regarding the local manufacture of aircraft have been submitted by Mr. Stuart Doyle and these are at present under consideration, but generally the attitude of the Government is as stated in my reply to the honorable member on the 19th October.
e asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Defence, 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 : -
e asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Perth-Darwin route - Four stations.
Perth-Adelaide route - Three stations.
Adelaide-Darwin route - Three stations.
Brisbane-Rabaul route - Seven stations.
Flying boat route, Darwin-Sydney - Seven stations.
Landplane route, Darwin-Brisbane - Four stations.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Defence : Expenditure - Personnel Required for Naval and Air Units - Purchase of Vessels from United Kingdom.
e asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The following estimated expenditure in connexion with works and equipment at the Rockhampton aerodrome is under the 1938-39 programme: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
How many officers and men arc employed on (a) an up-to-date submarine, (b) an uptodate battleship, (c) an up-to-date bombing aeroplane, and (d) an up-to-date cruiser?
y. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Apart from the ships purchased, the following wore presented free of cost by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom : -
Anzac, flotilla leader; Stalwart, Success, Swordsman, Tasmania and Tattoo. destroyers; J1, J2, J3, J4, J5 and J7, submarines; Geranium, Mallow and Marguerite, sloops; Moresby, surveying vessel; Stuart, flotilla leader; Vampire, Vendetta. Voyager and Waterhen, destroyers.
e asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
. The agreement for the surrender and acceptance of the Northern Territory entered into between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia on the 7th December, 1907, which was ratified and approved by the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910. provides - “ The Commonwealth in consideration of the surrender of the Northern Territory and property of the State therein and the grant of the rights hereinafter mentioned to acquire and to construct railways in South Australia shall
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
k asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
. Australia has made trade agreements with the following countries: -
A temporary arrangement of an informal character exists with Japan (1938).
The intermediate tariff rates also apply to certain categories of piece-goods the produce of Japan.
The intermediate rates in the schedule to the Customs Tariff express the minimum duties which have been or may be conceded to countries not enjoying or not eligible to receive the British preferential tariff. It is customary for the Commonwealth when making definitive trade agreements with particular countries to grant concessions on the basis of undertakings to apply the Australian intermediate tariff to specified commodities and, in addition, to include in the agreement a general provision requiring the Commonwealth (usually on a basis of reciprocity) to concede on all goods originating in that country the lowest rates then or thereafter conceded to any other foreign country.
Various reasons underlie the application of intermediate tariff rates to countries other than those with which trade agreements have been negotiated by the Commonwealth itself.
In some cases treaties concluded by the United Kingdom before Australia acquired dominion status remain in force and bind the British Empire, including Australia, to accord most-favoured-nation treatment on a reciprocal basis to the respective countries with which the treaties remain in force. In such cases a formal obligation rests on the Commonwealth to extend to the countries concerned the lowest duties for the time being applicable to goods originating in any other foreign country.
Until the dominions commenced to negotiate treaties for themselves, it was customary for Great Britain when negotiating treaties with a foreign country to arrange the inclusion of a provision which bound the foreign country to accord most-favoured-nation treatment in respect of goods to any British dominion, so long as that dominion accorded mostfavourednation treatment to the goods of that foreign country. Many treaties containing that provision remain in force. The intermediate tariff rates conceded by Australia in compliance with the terms of definitive trade agreements have been applied to a number of countries falling within this category in order to maintain Australia’s rights to mostfavourednation treatment in the respective countries.
Insofar as the intermediate tariff applies to British countries, the following are the underlying considerations: -
Generally speaking, the intermediate tariff rates in force represent the tariff for the time being accorded by Australia to “mostfavoured “ countries and apply to all countries with which Australia has trade of appreciable dimensions, except those countries which do not concede most-favoured-nation treatment to Australian commodities or which, having regard to the state of trade with Australia, maintain excessive restrictions against the importation of the major export commodities of the Commonwealth.
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
I have a copy of the article referred to, but have not yet had an opportunity to peruse it. I will do so, and will give consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
I should add that the attention of my late colleague, the Postmaster-General, and of myself having been directed to the existence of contracts between Hume Pipe (Australia) Limited and the Postal Department, my colleague decided to resign forthwith from his office as Postmaster-General.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Information is being obtained and will be furnished at as early a dateas possible.
d asked the Ministerfor the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Is he yet in a position to supply the information asked fur by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie on the13th October with reference to grants for prospecting?
– Complete details are not yet available to enable an answer to be given to the honorable member. The matter is being expedited.
Expenditure on Social Services.
Mr.Francis asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the total expenditure on all branches of social services, giving details of each, for the years 1932-33 and 1938-39?
y. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The above statement does not include grants to the States for unemployment relief works, forestry, mining and the like, nor does it include the cost of social services in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory.
n. - On the 26th October, 1938, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 November 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381104_reps_15_157/>.