House of Representatives
30 November 1938

15th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 2362




– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the Government proposes to take advantage of the offers that havebeen made by many municipalities throughout the Commonwealth to assist in the recruiting campaign now being conducted ?

Minister for Defence · CORANGAMITE, VICTORIA · UAP

– Yes ; advantage has already been taken of such offers.

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– Is the AttorneyGeneral able to give me any information in reply to the representations I made to kim a fortnight ago concerning the provision of a picking-up place, and also certain necessary health accommodation, for waterside workers at Hobart?

Attorney-General · KOOYONG, VICTORIA · UAP

– It is proposed that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry shall visit Hobart during the coining recess, to investigate conditions there.

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– Recently the Minister for the Interior advised me that he would make a statement during the budget debate concerning the Payne-Fletcher report on the Northern Territory, and the Government’s’ policy in connexion therewith. I was later told that the statement would be made during the discussion of the Estimates. The budget debate has finished, and the Estimates have now been passed, but the promised statement has not been made. Is the Minister able to inform me when he proposes’ to make his statement?

Minister for the Interior · INDI, VICTORIA · CP

– I think I have already given the information the honorable member desires. The Government has decided tentatively upon certain alterations of policy concerning the Northern Territory, following upon the receipt of the Payne-Fletcher report and my own report upon my recent visit. The alterations of policy, which involve certain financial considerations, are now being considered by the Government in conjunction with the general financial position. I have given an undertaking, which I now repeat, that I shall make a statement on this whole subject before the House rises for the Christmas recess.

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– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to the fact that local handkerchief manufacturers are perturbed at the 74 per cent, reduction of duty on handkerchiefs in the tariff schedule under the new Swiss trade agreement? In view of the fact that one Sydney firm alone has expended over £4,000 in new plant for embroidered handkerchiefs, can the Minister give an assurance that this new trade agreement will not unduly affect this Australian industry?

Minister for Trade and Customs · EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES · UAP

– It is very doubtful, indeed, whether the preference given on Swiss handkerchiefs will adversely affect the Australian trade in any way. The Australian manufacturers market quite a different article from that of the Swiss manufacturers. The preference is on handkerchiefs of entirely Swiss origin.

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– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether in view of the serious shortage of accommodation for administrative offices in Canberra, the Government will give immediate consideration to the erection of permanent buildings in the area set aside for the administrative block? Further, in view of the statement made yesterday of the intention of the Government to transfer the officers of the Civil Aviation Branch; to Canberra, and to erect additional temporary wooden buildings to house thom, at a cost of approximately £15^000, does the Minister consider that such action would be a satisfactory solution of the existing shortage, and of the present unsatisfactory conditions? I should also like to know whether, in view of the announcement by the Minister almost a year ago, of the appointment of a committee to consider the erection of buildings, &c, in Canberra, and to see that the Griffin plan is adhered to, the honorable gentleman could say whether the committee has yet met or whether it has been consulted on any of these subjects?


– Certain aspects of the honorable member’s questions affect the Department of Works and others affect my department. t I understand that the Minister for Works is considering the accommodation in Canberra for administrative purposes. As to housing accommodation, the Government has provided for the construction of 220 cottages in Canberra which will be either completed or put under construction this financial year. In addition to that, £40,000 has been placed on the Estimates this year to provide loans for homebuilding purposes for private citizens of Canberra. An amount equivalent to 90 per cent. of the estimated cost of the completed building will be loaned to each approved applicant. It is expected that a number of homes will be erected under this scheme. The committee to which the honorable member referred has been appointed, but the ordinance setting out its particular functions has just been returned to my department from the Attorney-General’s Department.I expect that it will come into force within the next few days, and a meeting of the committee should be convened shortly.


– I ask the Minister for Works whether he will make a statement before the House adjourns for the Christmas recess on the whole subject of the housing position in Canberra? The Minister advised me a few clays ago that up to that time he had not been in a position to make a complete survey of the position. I ask now whether the survey has been completed and, if so, whether he will indicate to us the exact position respecting housing requirements ?

Minister for Civil Aviation · CALARE, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– I have not yet obtained complete returns on this subject, but I shall certainly make a statement in regard to it before the adjournment for the Christmas recess.

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– Is the Minister for Defence able to make any re-assuring statement concerning rumours that have been current since the Jervis Bay manoeuvres in September, regarding the condition of the five destroyers, which, prior to that time, had been held in reserve? It has been stated that these vessels were so badly cared for in reserve thatthree of them were unable to go to sea for a fortnight, and that when they did go to sea the fire’ control system on all of them failed. Moreover, it also has been stated that it was unsafe to fire the torpedoes. If the Minister has not yet received a report on this subject will he call for one, and make a statement in regard to it before the Christmas recess?


– Allegations of the kind referred to by the honorable member have not been brought under my notice. I am aware that certain of these destroyers date back from 1918. However, I shall call for a report on the subject and inform the honorable member of the nature of it.

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-Can the Minis ter for Commerce state whether it is a fact that the Australian Meat Board has to its credit funds amounting to approximately £40,000? If so, will he recommend to the board that the money be used to subsidize exports of old ewe and wether mutton in preserved canned form, as is done in South America, thus raising the Australian price for thisclass of meat, and helping to remove it from the Australian market?

Minister for Commerce · COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– I do not think that the statutory powers of theMeat Board would permit it to do what the honorable member suggests. However, the board does possess certain powers which could be used to assist in the direction indicated, and I shall bring the honorablemember’s suggestion under its notice.

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– Does the Government consider that the present rates for old-age, invalid and war pensions should remain fixed irrespective of the cost of living? If not, what action does the Government propose to take to increase pensions to enable the recipients to meet the increased price of commodities?

Prime Minister · WILMOT, TASMANIA · UAP

– It is not the intention of the Government to vary the existing pension rates.

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– Is it proposed in the plans now being prepared for a new General Post Office in Sydney to have a number of shop frontages on the street alignment? If so, is it proposed to let them to private business firms? Does this represent a new policy for the department?

Postmaster-General · BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · CP

– That proposal has been put forward, but no decision has yet been reached.

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– When will the Minister for Works be able to supply the information regarding the works programme for which I asked more than a week ago in a question on notice?


-I cannot say when the information will be available. As I explained before, every officer who can be used on this work is already working overtime, even members of the clerical staff. I am having a list prepared of proposed and approved works, and it will be published as soon as possible.


– Have any railway works in New South Wales been either approved or proposed for construction out of Commonwealth funds? Ifso, where is the work to be done, and is the money to be found out of the defence allocation ?


– No railway works are included in the list of defence works, or among works from the defence vote.

Mr White:

– Are any proposed ?


– No such works are proposed in any of the statements before the House.

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– Is the Minister for Customs yet in a position to make a statement regarding the shipbuilding industry in Australia on which his department reported some time ago?


– I cannot give any further information on the subject. The report has been received, and has had some consideration by Cabinet, but a final decision cannot be reached until more information is available.

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– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider having the new automatic telephone exchange for Mascot placed at the far end of Mascot so that the ground floor may be used as a new post office, something that is urgently needed.


– If the honorable member has any representations to make to me on this subject, I shall be pleased to receive them. At present I have no information on the matter.

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– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received the report of theTariff Board on the cotton growing industry, and if so, has a decision yet been reached in regard to it?


– The report is not yet available.

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– Has the Minister for Commerce made representations to the Government, as has been frequently reported, for the construction of a railway from the northern tablelands of New South Wales to the coast, in the vicinity of Lismore or Grafton? If so, what success has he met with?


– The construction of a railway between any two points in New South Wales is a matter entirely for the Government of New South Wales, and any representations which I might desire to make regarding it will be made to that government.

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– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received the report of the Tariff Board on braids, trimmings and tassels?


– The report has been received, but I cannot make an announcement regarding it at present.

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Second Reading

Monaro- Minister for Trade and Customs · Eden · UAP

– I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

I do not think it necessary to recapitulate in detail the considerations which led the Government to enter into negotiations for the conclusion of trade agreements with foreign countries. These considerations were stressed by the then Minister directing negotiations for Trade Treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) in his speech in this chamber on the 29th October, 1936, when introducingthe agreements with Czechoslovakia and Belgium. Honorable members will agree as to the desirability of expanding the overseas demand for Australian goods in every direction, and by every means possible.

I propose to refer briefly to the economic conditions and foreign commercial policy of Switzerland, and to give the House a brief outline of the trading position with that country. To enable it to purchase abroad supplies of raw materials and foodstuffs on which it is so largely dependent, Switzerland has developed highly specialized industries to a remarkable degree. Its industries are in their turn largely dependent upon foreign markets. Of its imports during 1937, foodstuffs represented 27 per cent. in value, raw materials 37 per cent., and manufactured products 36 per cent. Manufactured products represented86 per cent. of the value of all its exports for that year.

Switzerland normally has an adverse balance in its total merchandise trade. The excess of imports over exports is, however, usually offset by “ invisible exports “, principally tourist trade, and interest on foreign investments. The contraction of international trade in 1930 and 1931 resulted in the institution in Switzerland as from the beginning of 1932 of a quota system limiting imports of a large number of commodities. The avowed objects of the quotas are -

  1. to protect national production against foreign competition,and
  2. to adjust the visible trade balance and to prevent its becoming increasingly unfavorable.

Quotas are allotted to supplying countries on the basis of total imports from those countries duringa specific year, but this basis may be departed from when questions of commercial policy arise. For example, as the result of treaty negotiations, a much larger quota may be granted to any country.

Switzerland has a single-column tariff and tariff concessions obtained by any one country apply equally to all other countries. Its tariff is one of the lowest in the world. Switzerland accords mostfavourednation tariff treatment to all countries. There are no restrictions on foreign exchange operations in Switzerland.

Australia accords most-favoured-nation treatment to Switzerland, although there is no treaty obligation on either country to accord such treatment to the other.

Tables showing the trading position between Australia and Switzerland are annexed to the explanatory memorandum which has been made available to honorable members. It is the accepted practice in trade treaty negotiations to adopt the import figures of the negotiating countries as the measure of trade between them. Indirect purchases by Switzerland of Australian goods make the Australian export statistics unreliable for the purpose of arriving at a trade balance, but a comparison of the import statistics of both countries for the last three years seems to indicate that the balance has been in favour of Switzerland since 1936.

Switzerland’s main import from Australia is wool, of which Australia is its principal supplier. This has over the last seven years averaged over 8,000,000 lb. out of average total annual imports of 19,000,000 lb. In 1937, imports of Australian wool amounted to 5,700,000 lb., of a value of approximately £A564,000 out of a total of 13,000,000 lb. imported. Wool represented 89 per cent. of the value of all imports from Australia in 1937. The reduction of wool imports is attributable to the factthat thewool manufacturing industry in Switzerland has been in a depressed condition since the end of 1936. Imports in 1937 were the lowest for many years, but there are indications that the imports in 1938 will substantially exceed those in 1937. Under the agreement there will be a reduction of the Swiss duty on wool from 50 centimes (7¼d. in Australian currency) per metric quintal of 220½ lb. to 15 centimes (2¼d. Australian). The reduction will apply to wool from all supplying countries, but, as Australia is the chief supplier, the corresponding benefit to Australia will be greater than that enjoyed by other countries. There is no quota restriction on the import of wool into Switzerland, and the reduction should result in wool being placed in Switzerland in a more advantageous position as compared with other fibres.

The quota of Australian apples and pears for 1938 was fixed at 15,000 bushel cases. Under the agreement the annual quota of apples and pears has been increased to approximately 82,000 bushel cases, with provision, in letters annexed to the agreement, for favorable consideration of supplementary quotas if Australian exporters are able to sell a greater quantity. Such supplementary quotas have in the past been granted to other countries with which Switzerland has commercial treaty relations. The Swiss concessions on fresh apples and pears are only effective in respect of apples imported between the 1st April and the 15th July each year, and pears imported between the 1st February and the 15th J uly. Thus our apples enter Switzerland at a timewhen there is an absence of local fresh apples.

The principal items of Australian imports from Switzerland are set out in a table annexed to the explanatory memorandum. The increase of imports from Switzerland in 1937-38 by £A330,000 from £A751,500 in 1936-37 to £A1,092,000 in 1937-38 was principally due to imports of piece goods not competitive with Australian products, and of watches and watch movements, the movements being for fitting into cases made in Australia.

Briefly the agreement provides for the following : -

  1. Reciprocal most-favoured-nation treatment.
  2. The grant of an intermediate tariff rate and primage duty concessions in respect of a limited number of Swiss products.

These are set out in schedules A and B to the agreement.

  1. The reduction and consolidation of Swiss duties on certain Australian products.

These are set out in schedule C to the agreement. Reductions are on wool - from 50 centimes to 15 centimes per metric quintal - and on sandalwood oil - from 80 francs per metric quintal to 10 francs per metric quintal. Consolidations are on apples and pears, raisins and currants, canned fruits, lead, eucalyptus oil and starch.

  1. Minimum annual quotas of certain Australian products (barley, apples, pears and’ timber).

These are set out in scheduleD to the agreement. The quota on barley is the present annual quota, 84,000 centals. The only imports of Australian barley into Switzerland in the last four years occurred in 1936, when 8,000 centals was imported. The timber quota is increased from 560 metric quintals to 10,000 metric quintals.

  1. Mutual undertaking that quantitative restrictions on imports shall not be discriminatory.
  2. Mutual right to withdraw concessions if other countries obtain the major benefits.
  3. Liberty on the part of either party to take any action it thinks proper to re-establish the equilibrium of the agreement, should either party adopt any measures considered to nullify or impair the advantages of the agreement.

The agreement will not come into force until after approval by Parliament. The proposed customs duty changes are indicated in the explanatory memorandum, but it is not proposed to make them opera- tive until the agreement comes into force. I feel sure that honorable memberswill agree, after they have considered the terms of the agreement, that the concessions which Australia is granting will not in any way harm Australian secondary industries. The intermediate tariff rates will, of course, be extended to all those countries which are receiving mostfavourednation treatment. The total loss of revenue resulting from the agreement will not be appreciable, and will be more than compensated for by the undoubted advantages conferred on the Australian primary producer under the agreement.

It has been the policy of this Government to do everything possible to expand, or at least conserve, existing markets for Australian primary products. Every step in this direction is of undoubted benefit to Australia. This agreement represents another such step and I commend the bill for its approval to honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.

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Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 5)

In Committee of Ways and Means:

Mr.PERKINS (Eden-Monaro - Minister for Trade and Customs) [3.0].- I move - >That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1938 as proposed to be amended by Customs Tariff Proposals be furtheramended as hereinafter set out, andthat on and after a date to be fixed by Proclamation at nine o'clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Australian Capital Territory, Duties of Customs becollected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff 1933-1938 asso amended. > >That in this Resolution " Customs Tariff Proposals " means the Customs Tariff Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the following dates, namely : - 4th May, 1938 ; 21st September, 1938 ; and 17th November, 1938. Import Duties - *continued.* The tariff resolution is designed to give effect to the tariff changes in connexion with the trade agreement with Switzerland. The tariff proposals will operate on a dateto be fixed by proclamation. Deferment of the operation of the proposals until a date to be fixed by proclamation is adopted in order that Parliament may approve the trade agreement before the complementary tariff legislation is permitted to operate. This is in line with the practice instituted during 1936, when trade agreements with France, Belgium and Czechoslovakia were approved by this chamber. Honorable members will in the very near future have an opportunity to discuss these tariff proposals. Progress reported. {: .page-start } page 2362 {:#debate-17} ### WHEAT INDUSTRY ASSISTANCE BILL1938 {:#subdebate-17-0} #### Second Reading Debate resumed from the 24th November (vide page 2053) on motion by **Sir Earle** Page. That the bill be now read a second time. {: #subdebate-17-0-s0 .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN:
Fremantle .- This bill is designed, with other measures relevant to it, to provide assistance to the wheat industry in a number of ways, one by the provision of a bonus over the existing realizable price; and another by making some provision for seasonal adversities. Implicit in the proposals, as I understand them, is also the intention of permanently stabilizing wheat at the home-consumption price specified in the bill. The Minister for Commerce **(Sir** Earle Page) said that this price was based on an agreement arrived at between the States. As a matter of fact the first agreement made with the States was solely in respect of a home-consumption price. It was found, however, that adverse factors were prejudicing a certain section of the industry, regardless of the unprofitable price it was realizing. Another conference had to be convened at which it was recommended that so much as would be approximately £500,000 of the revenue yield as the result of this legislation, should be diverted to the relief of seasonal difficulties. I understand also that there is in contemplation Some use of the fund created from this tax for the transfer of certain growers from marginal and unsatisfactory areas. It is true that the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States suggests that the equalization levy on wheat or flour should be collected under the excise power of theCommonwealth. It is also a fact that on previous occasions this Government, or like governments - one can never be quite sure of being accurate in this matter, but it was a government led by the present Prime Minister - introduced an excise tax on flour and thus collected money for the payment of bounties to wheat-growers. The amounts collected, however, were always far less than the amounts distributed. In fact, during the years in which relief has been given to the wheat industry, approximately £14,500,000 has been paid to the growers, whereas the total yield from the flour tax has been only £3,200,000. In no one year did the yield from the flour tax approach the amount distributed by way of assistance to the wheat-growers in that year. The Labour party agrees that a reasonable price should be paid to Australian wheat-growers.We have always stood for that, but we insist that the fair price to the wheat-grower should be established on such a basis as will ensure a reasonable price to , the bread consumer. Over the course of years reductions of the price of wheat have not been reflected in any very substantial reduction of the price of bread. {: .speaker-KHL} ##### Mr HOLLOWAY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · FLP; ALP from 1936 -- It never works that way. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- As a matter of fact, this plan contemplated that the States would legislate to ensure that there would be a reasonable price fixed for bread. I am not satisfied, however, that the legislation passed by the States does in any definite way limit the price that should be charged for bread. Legislation has been passed by the States under which their governments may do certain things, but so' far as the Commonwealth Parliament is concerned, whilst we have power under this bill to refrain from paying the bounty to the States for distribution to the growers, once the tax is imposed it must be uniform. Therefore, the position could easily arise in which there would be a failure on the part of some States to protect adequately the consumers, and this Parliament would be left without any redress. We could only penalize the wheat-growers by withholding the subsidy from the State concerned, while, as a matter of fact, the real offenders would be either the millers or the bakers. {: .speaker-KHL} ##### Mr Holloway: -- Or both. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- That is so. Certainly not the growers. The problem which faces this Parliament is one which can best be dealt with from the point of view of this year's harvest and the difficulties associated with it. The difficulties this year are twofold. There is first of all the disastrously low price for wheat; and, secondly, there is the unfortunate widespread crop failure due to adverse seasonal conditions. I suggest to the House and to Parliament that we should deal with the problem of this year's legislation, and that problem only, leaving the general question of stabilizing the wheat industry to a legislative period early in the new year, when we would be able to apply ourselves constructively to the task of reviewing the problems of the wheat industry generally without being rushed. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- In other words, the Leader of the Opposition refuses to face the issue. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- I am facing the issue. Apparently, the Postmaster-General is facing the issue solely by asking breadconsumers to carry the whole burden of permanently rehabilitating the wheat industry, for that is what this bill means. The Opposition will not agree to the imposition of a tax on flour for the purpose of relieving drought-stricken areas. That would be a misuse of the proceeds of such a levy. Seasonal adversity is a problem unrelated to the low ; price of wheat, or to the fact that the return to growers is unremunerative. Seasonal adversity is a problemwhich should be met by giving assistance to those who suffer absolute loss of their crops, and no special obligation should be placed upon consumers. To deal with the problem of marginal areas by allocating for this purpose money raised from a flour tax would also be a gross misuse of sales tax legislation. I remind honorable members that in a time of grave financial emergency, this Parliament, for the first time, entered into the sphere of sales taxation and, even under the duress of that imperative necessity, the sales tax legislation exempted basic foods from its ambit. Basic foods have always been eliminated from general sales tax and, insofar as the wheat-grower is concerned, the sales tax has never been regarded by this Parliament as the exclusive source from which the money required to meet the problems of the industry would be drawn. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr Nock: -- It has exactly the same effect as a compulsory pool. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- The honorable member knows that the total proceeds of the flour tax during the whole time ofits imposition were approximately £4,000,000, and he knows also that since the institution of the system of bounties the total amount of bounty paid to the wheatgrowers has been approximately £14,000,000. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr Nock: -- The Labour party has advocated a compulsory pool. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- We would be iu favour of a compulsory pool* {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr Nock: -- This proposal has exactly the same effect. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- I put it to the honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock)** that this legislation is purely a taxing measure for the purpose of providing a subsidy to wheat-growers for low prices; it does not remove the exploitation of the wheat-growers which is carried on by the great financial interests in Australia, it makes no attack on the unnecessarily inflated costs of production due to inflated land values in the past, and it does not overcome current problems because of the accumulated debt structure of the industry. Further, it does not overcome the fact that, at the time when wheat is yielding the lowest price for many years, this Parliament contemplates asking the consumer of bread to pay the highest price he has paid for years. Bearing in mind the sales tax on flour as imposed by the related measures to this bill in order to relieve the wheat-growers it will mean that the sustenance worker with three children will pay more to meet this grave aspect of a national problem than will the bachelor in receipt of £1,000 a year. The absolute unfairness of this proposal must be at once apparent to every reasonably-minded man. But that is not the worst side of it. Apart from that fact, (here is the inherent injustice of asking that seasonal adversity for a section of the wheat-growers shall be met by requiring the man who spends more on bread than any one else does to pay more to overcome seasonal adversities and which should be met by insurance or by some form of contribution in which the nation would contribute, having regard to the individual capacity of the citizens of the nation to contribute! {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- This legislation does not affect consumers ; the States are looking after that aspect. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- The honorable member knows that this legislation, when passed by this Parliament, will affect the consumer directly, because we shall impose an excise charge on flour which will he reflected in the price of bread. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- It will not affect consumers in the slightest degree. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- I say to the honorable member that if this Parliament had absolute control over prices, and could fix the excise on flour, which it can, and the price of flour as sold to the baker, which it cannot, and if it could then fix the price of bread as sold by the baker to the public, which it cannot, then I should be prepared to accept his statement. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- The States are doing that. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- They are not. Hero are the prices which are being charged now for bread: - In Sydney, over the counter for cash, 5d. ; delivered booked, 6d. ; Perth, over the counter for cash, 5d. ; delivered for cash, 5½d.; delivered booked, 6d.; Adelaide, over the counter for cash, 4d.; delivered for cash, 4Jd.; delivered booked, 4id. ; Brisbane, over the counter for cash, 3d.; delivered for cash, 5d. : delivered booked, 5-Jd. I am told that cash and carry shops will sell a fourpound loaf for 7d. At Hobart the prices are - over the counter for cash, 4£d.: delivered for cash, 5d. ; delivered booked, 5d. ; Melbourne, over the counter for cash. 4d. ; delivered for cash, 4£d.; delivered booked, 5d. ; New Zealand, over the counter for cash, 5£d.; delivered booked, 6d. The price of flour in New Zealand is approximately £13 7s. a ton net, and the price of wheat is 5s. 8d. The Labour Government of New Zealand is paying a higher price to the wheat-growers than is being paid in any other part of the British Empire at the present time. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- Because New Zealand is an importing country. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Because it has a sound administration which believes in doing justice to producers while, at the same time, ensuring that the rights of the consumers shall not be mercilessly dealt with by those who would exploit both producers and consumers. This legislation does nothing to restrict the operations of the great army of speculators who have already bought wheat forward in Australia. It does nothing to protect the grower of the crop who has already sold it forward to the speculators of this country. Apart from the very inherent injustice of placing the whole burden for both the seasonal adversities and the low price of wheat on the consumers of bread - and that is what this legislation does because of the absence of constitutional power for this Parliament to safeguard the consumers and because the legislation passed by the States does not safeguard them, though the State legislation contains clauses providing that certain things may be done for which there is no guarantee that they will be done - there is the danger of the consumers of bread being exploited. We know the notorious hostility of the upper Houses of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, and, I say also now, of New South Wales,to any system of price-fixing. We can be assured that those upper Houses which have rejected appeals for price-fixing in the past will not protect the present consumers. I put it that with the present price of flour which results in the workers of Sydney now having to pay a price of 6d. booked for bread it stands to reason that the imposition of a levy on flour of approximately £5 a ton more would bring about a rise of the price of bread in Sydney. I am not saying that the present price of bread is a just price. {: .speaker-JLZ} ##### Mr Anthony: -- Is the honorable member afraid it is going to rise beyond 6d. ? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- I say that, in any event, if the wheat-grower is to get for his whole crop, as he will from this plan, approximately 2s.8d. - that is the return I understand he will receive, taking export and home consumption in conjunction - and if the workers are to have to pay1s. for a 4-lb. loaf in order to give the growers that return, it is a monstrous injustice and an absolute outrage upon all relativity. {: .speaker-L1L} ##### Mr Wilson: -- Whose fault will that be? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- It will be the fault of the system which makes both the primary producers and the consumers the victims of the vested interests which have supported every anti-Labour government in this country. {: .speaker-JLZ} ##### Mr Anthony: -- How would the honorable member raise the price to 4s. 8d.? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- I shall show the honorable member presently. I shall submit a constructive proposition to operate for a number of years for a flat price from next year for all wheat delivered to a pool. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- Why not put it forward this year? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- It could not be done in the time available. It would need a new agreement with the State governments. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- It would also need a compulsory pool. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Arrangements could bo made to deal with the situation that would arise when world pricesrose above the price fixed by the pool. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- That is the catch, is it? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- There is no catch in it. Surely, the Postmaster-General does not think it would be unfair for the Government to say to the wheat-growers : " We are prepared to give you now a price for wheat which will remain in force for a period of years, and which is much higher than could be obtained for wheat sold in the ordinary way, and adjust matters when world prices rise to a higher level than that now offered." {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- That is actually what this bill does, in effect. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Yes; but the money needed for the purpose is to be provided by a tax on the consumers of bread. The Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page),** in the course of his secondreading speech, said in reply to a question I asked him - >If the price of wheat remains at 2s.6d.a bushel, itsat present, the amount of tax that will have to be obtained will vary between £3,500,000 and £4,000,000. I favour the payment of 4s. 8d. a bushel for wheat at country sidings to enable a home-consumption price to be fixed for wheat for this season, which is what the Government's plan does in one part; but I am not prepared to provide that the money shall be obtained by the imposition of a sales tax on flour, which is, in fact, a bread tax, which is what the Government's scheme provides in another part. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- Where would the honorable member obtain the money to pay 4s.8d. a bushel at country sidings? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- "We are now budgeting on an expenditure of nearly £100,000,000. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- I put it to the PostmasterGeneral flatly that he nas seen our expenditure in respect of only one department increase by more than £4,000,000 this year. I understand that the Government is now proposing to introduce plans for additional expenditure by the same department of £3,000,000. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- Does the Leader of the Opposition think that that kind of thing can go on indefinitely? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- The PostmasterGeneral has to make a choice as to what he will do and what he will not do. In any event, I say to him that if it is possible to obtain £3,500,000 or £4,000,000 by means of an excise duty on flour, which will oblige the consumer of bread to pay more than he is now paying, then it is equally possible to obtain the money by means of a re-arrangement of the incidence of taxation. The proposed tax is. to be collected by this Government. The Labour party disagrees with the kind of tax to be imposed. It will not endorse the collection of .£3,500,000 or £4,000,000 by means of a bread tax. It regards that as an outrageous proposal. As a consumer of comparatively little bread during the week, because I am able to afford a wider menu, and bread is not the staff of life for me, any more than it is for. other honorable members of this Parliament or for any persons in the community whose incomes range from £500 to £1,000 a year, I shall have to pay less for each £1 of income under the Government's scheme than will the man who is earning the basic wage; or any amount not much in excess of it. Honorable gentlemen opposite know that this is so. Even sustenance workers, who have no income in the proper sense of the word, will have to contribute to this tax. and they will do so at a greater rate *per capita* .than even the Minister* for Commerce himself. I regard this method as most disproportionate, and as a. totally unsatisfactory means of providing for the needs ' of the wheat industry. In order that honorable mem bers opposite may consider our case clearly, I move - >That alt the words after " That " be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - " the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide grants for the States to enable a homeconsumption price for wheat of 4s. 3d. at country sidings, and to permit of adequate relief being given to wheat-growers suffering seasonal adversity, the financial provision to bc effected out of the Consolidated Fund of the Commonwealth." This amendment, if agreed to, will impose no injustice upon the wheatgrowers. It provides for the payment to them of the same amount as is provided for in the Government's scheme ; but our plan is. to be distinguished from that of the Government in that it negates the proposal for a sales tax on flour, which may also fairly be described as a bread tax, and substitutes for it the provision of the money from Consolidated Revenne The Consolidated Revenue Fund may be supplemented in a variety of ways. A sales tax on flour may be imposed for the purpose, as is suggested in this bill. The amount could also be provided by an increase of the percentage rate of sales tax, under existing legislation. It appears to be extraordinary that, while the price of flour is now approximately £8 a;ton, this commodity is to be taxed by approximately £5 a ton. Put in another way, this will mean that, whereas the sales tax on commodities generally is at the rate of 5 per cent., the sales tax on flour will bc at the rate of 66 per cent. This is a most extraordinary anomaly to suggest. I am not arguing that the imposition of a sales tax is the right way to obtain this money. In my opinion, the fairest -way would be to increase the rate of tax on incomes. However, I acknowledge that difficulties would be occasioned if this course were adopted, because of the inevitable delays that would occur in the collection of the tax. At the same time, I believe that the Government could make arrangements with the Commonwealth Bank for the issue of bills to" advance the amount until the tax could be collected. The money could also be provided by the imposition of a special income tax to be known as the Wheat Industry Relief Income Tax. By identifying the tax in this way we should make a clear acknowledgment that the money, is intended for a particular purpose. Moreover, all persons with a taxable income would be called upon to make some definite personal contribution towards the fund required to assist the wheat-growing industry. {: .speaker-JOM} ##### Mr Beasley: -- Where would the owners of city properties come in? This Government has reduced the rate of land tax by 50 per cent. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- That is true. The land tax method might also be adopted, because it is a form of direct taxation. It appears to be inherently unjust that this money, which is to be allocated under a complex system, partly on a bushelage basis, because of the low prices prevailing, and partly on acreage basis, because of seasonal adversity, and partly on an unspecified basis, to enable certain farmers to be transferred from uneconomic wheat-growing areas, should be drawn largely from a class of the community which can least afford to provide it. The Country party entirely misapprehends the incidence of an excise duty on flour if it assumes that the burden will not ultimately add to the load being carried by the export industries of Australia. I remind them of the analysis made some time ago by Professor Giblin of the incidence of the flour tax, in which he pointed out that ultimately, when the period of adjustment passed, the primary producers would pay 50 per cent. tax, the Government 30 per cent., and other parties concerned the remaining 20 per cent. {: .speaker-KIX} ##### Mr Hutchinson: -- Surely that is a reply to the argument that the Leader of the Opposition is himself advancing. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- It is not. The primary producing class referred to by Professor Giblin includes the woolgrowers, and also many exporters of other primary products who will receive no benefit whatever from the excise duty on flour. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr Nock: -- Professor Copland used to take that view at one time. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- If the honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock)** agrees with this proposal and accepts it because it is to his present advantage- {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr Lane: -- That is his main argument. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Then he will no longer be able to allege that the primary producers bear the main burden of our tariff policy. If the honorable gentleman supports this proposal, he will not be able to squeal in the future as he has so often done in the past about tariff increases adversely affecting the primary producers, for we shall be able to reply to him that this incidence of thecustomsas levy is, as to price levels, precisely as the incidence of the sales tax. {: .speaker-JLZ} ##### Mr Anthony: -- Does the Leader of the Opposition agree with Professor Giblin's view? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- I do, and I have always agreed with it on this point. The problems of this industry are not restricted to the price of wheat, and I put it to the Parliament that we should not, in the hurry-scurry of this emergency situation, involve the country in a permanent plan. The whole subject should be considered in a much more comprehensive, and a much more analytical way, than is possible in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. If the Parliament agrees to draw upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund this year for £4,000,000 for this purpose, which I think will probably be necessary to meet the circumstances of the case, we shall be able next year to review the whole scheme, and to make arrangements to guarantee 3s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b. for all wheat delivered over a period of years to a wheat pool. That would assure to the wheat-growers more than they will get if this scheme is agreed to forthis season. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- Had the Government proposed such a plan the Leader of the Opposition would have said that it was dealing with the matter on a hand-to-mouth basis. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- If some pooling arrangement were made,such as I have in mind, we should be able to eliminate a great deal of the spiral of costs which must mean that the price of bread will become unduly high. If the price of wheat were stabilized at 3s. 6d. a bushel it should be possible to obtain 4s. a bushel from millers, and that should permit bread to be sold throughout Australia at a reasonable price of 3½d. a loaf, or at the very most, 4d. a loaf. {: .speaker-JLZ} ##### Mr Anthony: -- Are the figures which the Leader of the Opposition has just given in accordance with those of the Gepp report? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Yes. I contemplate continuing that return on the basis I have proposed for a period of years so that the wheat-growers will know over a period what price they will receive. I say as one who knows something of the industry, that if wheat cannot be grown year after year at a price that will return 3s. 6d. a bushel for all wheat produced, then the problems of the wheat industry are insuperable. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- But the honorable member said a little while ago that he agreed to a price of5s. 2d. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Yes, that is what the price will be for the present season on the present plan for home-consumption wheat. Does not the honorable member know that the exploitation which takes place as between the grower, the miller and the baker before the bread reaches the consumer represents a pyramid of excessive costs? The millers throughout Australia at the present time are getting £2 a ton more for flour than they ought to get. The honorable member for Swan **(Mr. Gregory)** laughs. He will see the returns set out in a reply furnished to me by the Minister for Commerce in answer to a question I asked this week. The millers in "Western Australia charge the highest price of any in Australia. They do not charge on the cost of production, plus a fair profit; they base their price on the cost of flour at Adelaide, plus the cost of shipment from Adelaide to Fremantle. They are a close corporation, and because of that they have been able to do far better than the wheat-growers, the bakers or the consumers. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- That would sound well in theWestern Australian State Parliament. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- It is true. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- I know it is. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- The honorable member for Swan, whom I have known for many years as a man prepared to face the facts, will admit that what I have said is perfectly true, namely, that the millers ofWestern Australia are a close corporation, and that they use their position to exploit the public. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- Is it not the job of the State Parliament to alter that? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- It has been tried, but the conservative upper house stands in the way. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- Has the Labour party tried? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Yes. The Legislative Assembly passed a prices regulation bill, but it was rejected by the upper house. We agree that an amount of approximately £4,000,000 should be found this year to place the wheat industry in a sound position. With that proposal we are in complete and absolute agreement, and we are willing to vote for a variation of general taxation so that the Consolidated Revenue Fund will be able to meet that disbursement, but we are opposed to the sectional taxing process which this plan contemplates; that is, to place the whole burden on the consumers of bread. Our objections to singling out bread for this tax are - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. That bread will be taxed at a higher rate than any other commodity subject to sales tax; 1. That the tax, in its nature, will fall most unfairly on the family man with a small income ; 2. That it will exempt very substantially the well-to-do with small families and large incomes; and 3. That it represents a failure to place the burdens, incidental to the meeting of national obligations, upon the citizens in proportion to their capacity to bear them. If any one says that we are unwilling to give the wheat-growers a fair price, I give that statement an absolute denial. We are in favour of giving the producers this season the return contemplated in this measure. Our quarrel with the Government and the bill is that it is proposed to put a levy on bread; we believe that the money should be raised by a levy on the individual incomes of the citizens. {: #subdebate-17-0-s1 .speaker-KFQ} ##### Sir HENRY GULLETT:
HENTY, VICTORIA · LP -- In conformity with the attitude that I have adopted on this subject on a number of occasions I propose to support the amendment. The speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** was extraordinarily close in its argument to a speech I made in this House as far back as 1933. I then took the same stand as he has taken, and ns I take now. I favour a reasonable price to the growers. I am quite prepared .to vote for a home-consumption price of 4s. Sd. a bushel, but I differ completely from the Government as to the source from which the money should be raised to enable -this price to be paid. When I first took up this attitude five years ago I found myself practically alone in this chamber. I then said that the incidence of the flour tax operated in the wrong way. I said that it was a violation of every decent principle of taxation; that it operated against the workers and against the poor. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the poorer people are, the more bread they oat. Thus, the poorer they are the more heavily will they bc taxed, while the richer people a're the more lightly will they be taxed. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of persons with incomes up to £1,000 a year, but under this scheme a man with an income of £10,000 a year will pay less tax than one with an income of £2 oi' £3 a week. A child will pay more than a rich man in order to subsidize this great national industry. No matter how strongly honorable members may favour supporting the wheat industry - and no one could favour it *more* strongly than I do - they should realize that to raise the. money required in the way proposed is a violation of (.very canon of decency and .justice. Honorable members who represent country electorates will tell me, no doubt, that the price pf flour is not a factor in the price of bread. They will say that it is possible to place this tax, calculated to return nearly £4,000,000, upon flour without necessarily increasing the price of bread to the poor. Surely that argument is not put forward seriously. They might as well say that it would not matter what the price of wheat was; that it would not affect the price of bread if the price were £1 a. bushel, or £10 ,a bushel. Why are we exempting Tasmania from the operation of this tax if it will not put up the price of bread? Why should not the millers of Tasmania pay the tax? There can be no other reason for the exemption than that the t.ix will, in fact, increase the price of bread in Tasmania. It cannot be merely because of a sentimental objection of the Tasmanians to pay the tax. Alternatively, does any one suggest seriously that the flour millers are going to pay £4,000,000 tax, or that the bakers are going to pay it? Could anything be more preposterous than thesuggestion that there is enough in the,industry to enable £4,000,000 to be taken out of it in taxation without affecting the price of the commodity, or, even if there were, that the millers would be foolish enough to pay it? The fact is that it is impossible substantially to raise the price of wheat without bringing about a change in the price of bread, and all of us 'in our hearts know that. No one wants to tax the poor children of this country, or to tax the workers unduly. There is not a luncheon put up for a working man that is not made up in the main of bread and meat, and chiefly of bread ; yet the Government proposes to place the tax exclusively on this every-day commodity. The tax is to bo placed on the bread and jam of the children of the workers, and on their scraps of cake, in order to subsidize the wheatgrowing industry, but 1 favour subsidizing it by placing the burden equably on the taxpayers as a whole. The poor would still pay their quota, and quite a substantial one, but the wealthy would not escape, as they will almost entirely escape under the scheme as it now stands. When I spoke on this subject five years ago in much the same terms as I .am speaking now, I had very few supporters, and when I returned to my electorate *t* told my constituents what had happened. I was not in any government then, and I said that I was prepared to go a certain distance to assist the industry. I should go as far. as to support a proposal for raising' portion of this money by means of a tax on the quantity of wheat consumed in Australia, but not the whole distance of supporting a bounty upon all wheat sold, including the great quantity exported, the funds for which would be raised solely by means of a flour tax on the wheat sold in Australia for human consumption. There I have stood hitherto, and there I should stand to-day if, with the House constituted as it is, I did not see some chance of doing away with the need for a bread tax. To show what an outrage is being committed on the poorer people of Australia, I have only to turn to the way in which funds to provide assistance to the wheat-growers have been raised in recent years. Go back to 1933, when there was a subsidy of £2,000,000. All of it was raised from general revenue. Then I was perfectly happy. In 1934, however, we raised £1,253,957 from flour tax and £1,791,043 from general revenue. In 1935, we raised £79S,354 from flour tax and £3,242,242 from general revenue. In 1936, the year before last, we raised £1,150,724 from flour tax and £765,102 from general revenue. In other words, in four years, of the amount of about £11,000,000 that was paid to the wheatgrowers, we raised £3,250,000 from flour tax and £7,750,000 from general revenue. I have said that I shall vote for the amendment. If we fail on that, I shall move a further amendment to provide the assistance required in a ratio of three to four, that is to say, in the ratio of three parts from a flour tax and four parts from general revenue, which would be in keeping with the practice of recent years. I still say emphatically that a tax of this kind is so grossly wrong in principle that it falls upon the poor instead of upon the rich, as all taxation should. I should prefer that the amendment be carried, but we know that it is a particularly difficult year in which to raise money by ordinary means, and, failing the acceptance of the amendment moved by "the Leader of the Opposition, which would-take the whole of the wheat bounty from Consolidated Revenue, as an alternative to the Government's proposal to take it all from a flour tax, I shall fall back on a second amendment in an endeavour to retain the ratio between the flour tax and general revenue that we have had in recent years. I cannot understand why my proposal should not be acceptable to the whole House. The Leader of the Opposition and I make no objection to the payment of the money. We say nothing about the merits of the ease. All that we do say emphatically is that those who can afford to provide this assistance to the wheat-growers should be the ones who are called upon to provide it. .Those under this legislation, however, who are to be called upon to provide it are those who are manifestly incapable of providing it. Nothing could be more calculated to stir up a bitter class feeling between the wheat-growers and the workers of this country than this measure as it stands. Therefore, I trust that, even at this late hour, the Government, if it will not accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, will compromise and accept my alternative proposal. I cannot sit down without asking: Where do the Labour parties in the States stand in this matter? What are they doing? Why the inconsistency of the attitude of Labour in the State parliaments with Labour in the Commonwealth Parliament? What is Labour outside this Parliament doing that it tolerates this tax? The Queensland Labour Government has adopted it. The Victorian Labour party, which, we all know, rides theCountry party Government in Victoria, is, apparently, behind this bread tax right up to the hilt. So, apparently, is the Labour party in Tasmania. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- What about Western Australia ? {: #subdebate-17-0-s2 .speaker-KFS} ##### Sir HENRY GULLETT:
HENTY, VICTORIA -- I do not know where the Labour party stands in Western Australia. It may, or may not, have adopted it. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- It has. {: .speaker-KFS} ##### Sir HENRY GULLETT: -- I do not raise this aspect in order to embarrass the Opposition in this chamber. On the contrary, I congratulate at least one section of the Labour party that it has some knowledge of the fundamental principles of decent taxation. {: #subdebate-17-0-s3 .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr GREEN:
Kalgoorlie .- I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mir. Curtin) because it is entirely consistent with the attitude that was taken by every honorable member on this side of the House when the last flour tax was introduced in this Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition has stated the case fairly fully and has shown the necessity to raise the revenue with which to provide assis- tance for the wheat-growers by some other means than a tax on the bread of the poor. Honorable members who drafted this bill must have foreseen this attack, and I am surprised at the Country party agreeing to the revenue being raised by the method proposed. There is no doubt about the necessity for assisting the wheat-growing industry. It is long overdue. For the last six years, the Country party has been associated with the Nationalist party, or, as it is sometimes called, the United Australia party, and during that period, in three election campaigns, the Leader of the Country party **(Sir Earle Page)** and the Leader of the Nationalist party **(Mr. Lyons)** promised that steps would be taken to stabilize the wheat industry. Yet, nothing has been done until now, when this proposal to tax the 'bread of the poor is brought before the House. As the honorable member for Henty **(Sir Henry Gullett)** has said, the full effect of it is that, as far as the industrialists and wheat-growers of this country are concerned, because of the improper and unfair means adopted to raise this money, the Labour party is put in the dangerous position of having to fight one portion of the producers in order to see that another portion gets justice. I object to being put in that position. As a man w;ho knows a great deal about the wheat industry, I can say that it is impossible to go through the wheat-growing areas of Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria without seeing that they are nearly on the verge of collapse. For several years now, with the exception of a brief period in rho last two years, the wheat industry has been in a precarious position. In July last year the price for wheat was fair, but that state of affairs existed for a short period only. The fluctuations of price that occur show how necessary it is to stabilize the industry in a proper way. Early last season the wheat was, for. the most part, bought by speculators, and those growers who held on to their wheat in the hope of a rise of price wore finally compelled to sell at unfavorable prices. Wheat-growing is an important industry. I sometimes think that our friends from the cities do not realize how important it is to Aus tralia as a borrowing country that has to pay £27,000,000 per annum overseas in interest. With the exception of the woolgrowing industry, which employs, only a small number of people in comparison, the wheat industry is of more importance to Australia than any other industry. No matter how much we conserve the manufacturing industries of Australia - it is right to do so - they cannot send their goods abroad in order to make up the leeway of revenue necessary to keep Australia solvent abroad that results from reduced wheat prices. It is vital, therefore, that our exporting industries be kept in production. But, unless assistance is given to the wheat-growers, they cannot continue in production for much longer. Until recently, there were engaged in the wheat industry, 70,000 farmers. Most of the wheat-growers are supposed to own their own land, but, in reality, they do not, because they are heavily involved in debt to the financial institutions. I shall not deal with that aspect for the moment, except to say that to-day there are not more than 60,000 men engaged in the industry. After the partial collapse of the gold-mining in Western Australia and before its recent recovery, apart from the primary industry of timbergetting, the one industry that held the State together was the wheat-growing industry. With only one-fifteenth of the population of Australia, Western Australia produced one-fifth of its wheat, so that State has played an important part in providing funds with which to meet our overseas debts. Whereas formerly there were 12,000 persons engaged in the wheat industry in Western Australia, to-day, because of the low returns, there are only about 7,000. With the price of wheat at something less than 2s. a bushel on the farm - the wheat-growers in Western Australia receive ls. lid. a bushel at railway sidings - even 'with the bounty that is proposed, the wheat-grower to-day will receive 2-Jd. a bushel less than it costs him to grow his wheat. That is an answer to those who are opposed to the granting of governmental assistance to the wheat-growers. Even a discriminatory tax, if no other means wore available, would be justified to give them aid. I put the cost of production of wheat at 3s. 4d. a bushel. As every one knows - the matter has been gone into repeatedly - 3s. 4d. a bushel would be the cost of production in one yeal-, if a farmer had made a clear profit in the previous year; but that figure does not allow anything for interest or for the season when the growers receive nothing, as the result of drought. Wheat-growing is the most precarious industry in which it is possible for men to engage. If a mau, without knowledge, wished to put money into wheat-growing as an investment, I should advise him that it would be better for him to buy Australian bonds. I do not care what part of the country it be, wheat-growing is a liability on a man, even in parts where the rainfall is assured, such as the western district of Victoria and parts of South Australia. The prices that men have paid for land in the more favored parts of Australia make it impossible for them to grow wheat profitably. I guarantee to any man who grows wheat, and does not also grow sheep, that the return on his investment would be less than it would be if he had bought Australian bonds and spent the rest of his days in his armchair. That can be proved. Wheat-growing is essentially a small man's industry. I maintain that for many years past no farmer has been amassing wealth from the growing of wheat. In Western Australia hundreds of thousands of acres of marginal land have been prepared for wheat-growing over a period of fourteen or fifteen years, by men who started out in a small way under government assistance. Workers were induced by promises made by a former Premier of Western Australia to leave their employment in the mines and go into the outback areas in the hope of making a success of wheatgrowing. They wanted to secure some independence for their wives and families. Many of these men are now broken down in health because of the heartbreaking struggle to eke out an existence. After working from daylight to dark for many years under the- hardest of living conditions, they have finally come to the conclusion that there is no possible hope of ever owning their properties, and have walked out. There are scores of abandoned farms in the marginal wheat areas of Western Australia, which honorable members who do not believe my statement that no man can amass wealth from wheat-growing, can acquire for almost nothing. But if a man has sufficient money to purchase a wheat farm even in good rainfall areas he will find it far more profitable to invest his money in bonds, join a city club, and sit back and enjoy a comfortable life. The Premier of Western Australia, to whom I have referred, was very optimistic about the development of the wheat industry in that State, and he went out into the gold-mining areas and urged miners to forsake their employment underground and take up wheat-farming. At one stage I myself was induced to engage in the wheat industry. The proposition then sounded attractive and hundreds of men left the mines. They took up land with practically no capital. Money was advanced to them by a bank controlled by the Government. One man whom I knew in the early days, took up a holding in the scrub and when I visited him he and his family were living in a tent covered with brush to protect it from the sun. Their meat, the remains of a kangaroo, was hanging in the shade, anr! they were living on this together with bread and treacle. 1 told the man that, there was a job waiting for him with the Australia mine firm in Kalgoorlie on the filter presses at £7 a week. He replied that he would not take the job at £14 n week. That man eventually finished broken in .spirit and body, as hundreds of others have been. I could take honorable members to the mines and introduce them to men who several years ago gave up their futile attempts to make a living in the wheat industry, and returned to their former jobs. To-day they are working under the bad conditions always associated with gold-mining, 3,000 feet under the earth. With wheat at its present price it is impossible to make a reasonable living in wheat-growing. In the district of New South Wales represented by my colleague, the honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Scully),** the price is from ls. lOd. to ls. lid. a bushel. That is approximately ls. 5d. a bushel below the cost of producing it. Any scheme which has for its object the rehabilitation of the wheat industry of this country must deal with the question of interest charges and with other financial aspects. There is in existence in Western Australia an organization known as the Wheatgrowers Union, which is supposed to be more democratic than the Country party to which my friends, the honorable member for Swan **(Mr. Gregory)** and the honorable member for Forrest **(Mr. Prowse)** owe allegiance. Members of the Wheatgrowers Union are in somewhat the same position as the Country party rebels in Victoria. In the *Canberra Times* of November 28th, 1938, appears the following report: - Perth, Saturday. Claiming that action has been forced on growers by "the indifferent consideration given by the Federal Government" the president of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, **Mr. T.** H. Powell, has forwarded to organizations affiliated with the federation in all States, proposals for an intensive campaign in all States to unseat sitting members opposed to their plans for the rehabilitation of the wheat industry. . The demands include the fixing of wheat at a permanent price basis of 4s. at the siding; providing for reserves of wheat to be held in the Commonwealth for home requirements for twelve months to guard against adverse seasons, and protect the public from exploitation ; compulsory limitation of production, as practically all export wheat is exported at a loss . . . {: type="A" start="I"} 0. stress the fact that with the exception of the last two years during which no wheat has been produced in certain areas of Western Australia owing to drought, practically all export wheat has been exported at a loss. Four shillings a bushel is not such an extravagant price as it might appear to be, because it must be realized that it is in the dry areas of Australia that most of our wheat is produced. I do not refer to the unsuitable lands mentioned by the Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page),** when he introduced the bill. Most of Victoria's wheat is grown in the Wimmera, Northern Wimmera, and Mallee districts, and it is because of the failure of the crops in these areas that the usual annual production of 39,000,000 bushels from that State, one of the most fertile of the Commonwealth, is this year reduced to 13,000,000 bushels, one-third of that quantity. I reiterate that it is quite impossible for wheat-farmers to carry on under present conditions. The wheat industry means so much to the financial stability of Victoria, although it is the greatest manufacturing State of the Commonwealth, that the losses owing to drought this year have meant a reduction of £800,000 in railway revenue, and also a similar deficit in the finances of the State. There is no industry more important to the welfare of the community than the wheat industry. The railway systems of South Australia and Western Australia and, to a large degree, Victoria, depend almost entirely upon good wheat seasons for their revenue. By giving assistance to the wheat industry, therefore, it does not mean that only a smallportion of the community is being helped. For every £200 or £300 paid to the wheat-growers there is a corresponding railway turnover of thousands of pounds. Every man in the wheat-growing industry knows that. Wheat-growers usually depend upon the railways to bring their farm requirements 50, 150 or 200 miles, and the wheat which they produce is carried over similar distances. When there is a failure of the wheat crop in a State such as Victoria, the railway department cannot abandon a large portion of its service, and effect wholesale dismissals. It must continue to operate at a loss for another twelve months. The only way in which a balanced economy can be obtained is by' rehabilitating the position of the wheat industry. That task isa Commonwealth liability, and the whole burden cannot be placed upon the breadwinners of the community as is proposed by this bill. It is impossible under the proposed plan to fix the price of bread. In the United States of America and Canada it has been frankly admitted that the problem of rehabilitating rural industries is a federal one, and had it not been for action taken by the Roosevelt Administration and by the Canadian Government wheat-growers in those countries would have left the land. {: .speaker-JPT} ##### Mr Blain: -- What was done in those countries ? {: #subdebate-17-0-s4 .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr GREEN: -- That is a long story, and I suggest that the honorable member for the Northern Territory **(Mr. Blain)** should peruse the vast amount of literature available in the Library on this subject. I may mention, however, that the main basis of the rehabilitation of the wheat industry in the United States of America in the past was the processing tax, which involved the payment by the millers of higher prices for wheat. The great trouble to-day is that there is far too great a discrepancy between the price of wheat and the price of bread. Even under this scheme if the farmer get 2s. 4d. a bushel- for his wheat he gets only the equivalent of Id. for the wheat used in a 2-lb. loaf of bread, and if wheat rose to 4s. Sd. a bushel, which seems an enormous price to most people, he would only get 2d. for the wheat in a 2-lb. loaf. Under this scheme, of course, he will receive on the average a bounty of only from one-third to one-quarter of the homeconsumption price of 5s. 2d. a bushel. This is a very paltry return when we consider the services rendered to the country by the Australian wheat-growers. For instance, if the production of wheat in Australia were reduced, as has been threatened, to home-consumption needs alone, the community would have to pay much more than 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat and, in addition, the poultry industry and kindred industries, which depend oh the offal of wheat for their existence, would be wiped out. The Australian wheat-farmer to-day is being asked to make tremendous sacrifices in order that the price of bread may he kept at a reasonably low figure. It is difficult to reconcile this treatment of the wheatgrowers with the protectionist policy of this country, to which I have always subscribed, which enables secondary industries to secure reasonable profits, and enables the workers engaged in them to enJoy better conditions than are enjoyed by workmen in other lands. I cannot understand how the people who are aware of the position can be so selfish as to demand its continuance. No supporter of the Labour party can be consistent with the principles of his party and permit this state of affairs to continue. Let us take the price of wheat in Sydney, and see how the flour-millers profit by it. According to the *Sydney Morning Herald* of yesterday's date, the price of wheat in Sydney is 2s. 6d. a bushel. For that wheat the grower receives only 2s. or less. It takes 48 bushels of wheat to grist a ton of flour. The cost to the miller of 48 bushels is £6. Flour is sold at £7 10s. a ton so that the miller receives £1 103. for gristing. A fair estimate of the cost of gristing would be ls. a bushel. From that 48 bushels he receives, in addition to the flour, 14 bushels of offal, that is to say, bran and pollard, from the sale of which he makes as much as he secures for gristing. It will thus be seen that the miller, who buys his wheat- from the men who are the real pioneers of this country, receives an undue margin of profit. Everybody who touches the wheat gets a rake-off. For instance, the servants of the State railways which are utilized for the carriage of wheat to the centres of distribution are paid fair living wages established by the courts of this country, those engaged in the handling of wheat have their wages fixed by the courts and, as I have said, the millers receive a very handsome profit for processing the .wheat. The only ones robbed are the general consumers at one end, and the wheat producers at the other. Until the wheat industry is properly stabilized it cannot for a moment be suggested that this important question has been dealt with finally. Let me deal briefly with the position that existed during the years when the compulsory wheat pool was in operation. During the pool years 1918, 1917 and 1918 the price of wheat in Adelaide was fixed over the whole period at 4s. 9d. a bushel. During the same period the price of bread was 4d. a 2-lb. loaf. From 48 bushels of wheat the miller obtains 2,000 lb. of flour, 432 lb. of bran, and 432 lb. of pollard. During the years 1916, 1917 and 1918, when the wheat pool was in operation. th6 price of wheat was 4s. 9<L a bushel, which represented £11 8s. for 48 bushels. In 1916, the average return to the millers for flour, bran and pollard from 48 bushels was £12 16s. 7d. ; in 1917, the return was £12 Ids. 5d. ; and in 191S, it, was £12 15s. 3d. Thus, the return to the miller for gristing 48 bushels of wheat in those years was £1 8s.- 7d., £1 7s. 5d., and £1 5s. 3d. respectively. To-day, at the present price of wheat, flour should be sold at £6. because the sale of offal meets gristing costs and millers' profit. Yet the price of flour to-day in Sydney is £7 10s. a ton. In the pool year 1920, the price of wheat in Australia was 7s. 8d. a bushel. The cost of 48 bushels was therefore £18 8s. The miller received for his flour, bran and pollard £20* 10s. 10d., and the return to him was £2 2s. lOd. The average nominal wage at that time was £4 9s. lOd. a week, which is higher than the ruling wage to-day. To-day, millers are getting a margin of £4 a ton. The Labour party has always stood for a compulsory pool, and it had a great battle on this very question long before the constitutionality of a wheat pool was challenged. In the pool years we were told by the present Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page)** that pools were undesirable. At that time the right honorable gentleman had at the back of him big interests which were grasping to control the Federal Parliament. To-day, however, the story we are told is that a compulsory pool would be desirable, but that neither the Commonwealth nor the States could put such a pool into operation. If that be so, we should go out and say to the people, "We are in a jamb; we are controlled in this country, and will continue to bc controlled, by big interests unless we are clothed with the necessary power to deal adequately with this matter ". If we cannot secure the necessary power the sooner we hand the control of .this country over to a Fascist dictatorship, the better. The only way by which the difficulties of the wheat industry can be adequately met is by the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool. It is Labour's objective to eliminate the wheat speculator and to guarantee to the growers an average price each year, based on equity. We should seek the co-operation of :the States in the fixation of prices for flour and bread. We should do everything possible to avoid the necessity for makeshift measures of the kind now before us in order to place this important industry on a proper footing.' The price of wheat in New Zealand to-day is 5s. 9d. a bushel - that price has been fixed by the Dominion Government - and, although the price of flour is £13 7s.' 6d. a ton, the price of a 2-lb. loaf is 5½d. over the counter and 6d. delivered. Incidentally, bread is being sold at that price in the suburbs of Melbourne to-day, with wheat at 2s. free at sidings. I trust that the time is near when at long last the position of the wheat-growers of Australia will be stabilized and that the men who supply the nation's food will get a square deal. {: #subdebate-17-0-s5 .speaker-KYI} ##### Mr PROWSE:
Forrest .- The introduction of this bill is long overdue. *(Quorum formed.')* In very recent times this Parliament passed an act to stabilize the wheat industry for making provision for a home price for wheat. How this Parliament could have passed that act and not felt it would increase the. cost of bread, I am unable to sum up. Quite a number of leading members, particularly of the Opposition, led campaigns to vote " No " at the recent referendum that would have -kept that act on the statutebook of Australia. {: .speaker-KX7} ##### Mr Ward: -- The people voted "No" because they did not want the price of bread to be increased. {: .speaker-KYI} ##### Mr PROWSE: -- The same cry was raised then as is raised to-day, that that legislation imposed a. tax on the bread of the poor. That cry was repeated by the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** to-day. {: .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr Green: -- He supported what the honorable member says he did not support. {: .speaker-KYI} ##### Mr PROWSE: -- I. did not interrupt the honorable gentleman while he was making his speech, although he was capable of being interrupted on quite a number of occasions. The honorable member for Capricornia, on one occasion, in a mood of fairness, said that in a country where the secondary industries are protected by the tariff, and where the workman lias his wages fixed by the Arbitration Court, it is only fair that the primary producer should have legislation to regulate his industry and to give to him also a fair deal. The honorable member for Henty **(Sir Henry Gullett)** also rose very promptly to declare that this measure was indecent and unjust. He said that he could not be true to his principles and vote for it. The honorable gentleman has had a lot to do with tariffs in this country, and he has never complained when tariff increases have added to the price of the working man's shirt, or the child's boots, or the baby's perambulator. It mattered little to him that these essentials of life should be made more expensive by reason cf tariffs. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr Lane: -- The honorable member for Forrest **(Mr. Prowse)** would starve the little children. {: .speaker-KYI} ##### Mr PROWSE: -- I utterly deny that statement. In my opinion, this measure is most reasonable. It exempts from the sales tax weeties, porridge meals and other foodstuffs made from wheat which arc eaten by the poor. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- The honorable member for Henty was a member of the Government which introduced a previous wheat excise bill. {: .speaker-KYI} ##### Mr PROWSE: -- The honorable member for Henty has always shown inconsistency in his attitude towards legislation to assist the wheat industry, and so has the honorable member for Barton **(Mr. Lane).** Do honorable members recollect that the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry declared that for a long period the wheat-growers of Australia made wheat available to the consumers of this country at ls. a bushel less than the price at which wheat could have been obtained from, countries in which black or coloured labour was employed? In these circumstances it is surely reasonable to expect the consumers, in their turn, to assist this industry. The exporting industries of this country, 97 per cent, of which market primary products, arc of incalculable benefit to the whole community, in that they establish the credit of Australia abroad; but certain honorable members opposite did their utmost to secure a negative vote on the marketing referendum, although an affirmative decision would have enabled the Commonwealth Government to stabilize the wheat industry without recourse to the State govern- ments. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie **(Mr. Green)** tried to draw a red herring across the trail. {: .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr Green: -- I did not. That is a lie. **Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order!** The honorable member must withdraw that remark. {: .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr Green: -- If it is not right to say that a lie is a lie I withdraw the remark. {: #subdebate-17-0-s6 .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- It is not right to say that an honorable member lied. {: .speaker-KYI} ##### Mr PROWSE: -- The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has frequently explained to us that the arbitration court3 of this country provide the workers with *a* living wage irrespective of whether or not the various industries concerned can afford to pay the rates fixed. Surely he would not deny to the wheatgrowers a return sufficient to enable them to live on the same standard as the wageearners. Does the honorable gentleman realize that the parliaments of six States have already passed legislation to which the measure we are now considering is complementary? I repeat that he is endeavouring to draw a red herring across the trail. {: .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr Green: -- The interest paid to banking companies is not a red herring; but the honorable member for Forrest has never protested against it. {: .speaker-KYI} ##### Mr PROWSE: -- (Here is another red herring! I may inform! the honorable member that **Mr. Powell,** to whose remarks he referred in his speech of a few minutes ago, advises acceptance of this measure. If this bill is not passed the millers will benefit from the imposition of the State legislation and the farmers will get nothing. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie said only a few minutes ago that the wheat-growers receive very little in return for their labours. I ask him, and other honorable members, to consider for a moment the processes necessary to enable bread to be sold to the consumers. First of all, a prospective farmer has to buy his land and then clear it. Next he must, cultivate and fertilize it. Then he must sow his crop and pray for rain. When he is ready to garner his harvest, he must pay a high price for sacks in which to put his wheat. Then he must arrange for its transport to market over the State railways system. **Mr. Clapp,** the Railways Commissioner for Victoria, as the honorable mem,ber for Kalgoorlie himself said on one occasion, has observed that he could say what would be the result of the operations of the railways in any year if he were told the volume of the harvest. The farmer must run the whole gamut of fire, flood, hail, drought, weevil and grasshopper destruction, and in fact, every possible pest, before he can put his wheat on the market. After all that work he frequently receives only about 2s. a bushel for his product. The millers who buy a portion of the crop have the wheat in their possession for only a few hours. They take no risk in connexion with it for it is fully insured. They mill it, and market the flour and other by-products and invariably make more out of their operations than do the farmers. The men who work for the millers receive wages prescribed by wagefixing tribunals. They are sure of their returns, just as are the millers, for, in consequence of the combines which millers have formed, there is no danger of under-cutting the price of flour. The workmen receive wages on an hourly basis, and if the rate is not sufficiently high, they can appeal to the wage-fixing tribunals for an increase. Practically all the people who handle the wheat and its by-products are able to live according to the Australian standards, excepting the poor farmers who are subjected to seasonal and market conditions to a degree that other sections of the community do not appreciate. In spite of all these facts the honorable member for Henty has declared that it would be unjust and indecent to vote for this bill, the object of which is simply to ensure to the fanners a more reasonable return for their product. The cost of living should not be taken into account by honorable members only when it affects the price of foodstuffs; it should be considered also in respect of clothing, machinery, tools of trade, and all other commodities. The primary producers of this country are entitled to conditions which will enable them to live according to Australian standards. If honorable members opposite vote against this bill they will be guilty of the greatest inconsistency that nan bc imagined. Our primary-producing industries, which to-day are almost wholly unprotected, deserve some consideration from the members of this Parliament. Do honorable members forget that the five economists who volunteered, during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, to make an investigation to ascertain the extent to which our exporting industries were handicapped by the fiscal policy of this country, declared that under the Pratten tariff the handicap was 9 per cent.? Of course it has increased very greatly since those days; but a handicap of even 9 per cent, should be taken into consideration. It has been suggested that we should abandon this bill; but I shall resist to the utmost any proposal of that kind. I have been endeavouring for twenty years, as a member of this Parliament, to persuade various governments to adopt a plan of this kind, although I say frankly that this bill does not go nearly so far as I could wish. The primary producers should have been protected many years ago, in some such way as is now proposed. The honorable member for West Sydney **(Mr. Beasley)** did his utmost during the referendum campaign to persuade the people to vote Wo. He delivered numerous addresses in the great city of Sydney - we even heard his voice in distant Perth - to the effect that the marketing referendum should be rejected because it involved the conscription of food. Does the honorable gentleman expect certain Australian citizens to become virtual slaves in order to provide food at prices which can be compared to the prices at which it could be provided by blackfellows? Is that the standard of life which he would suggest for our farming community? The honorable member is now advocating the building of ships in Australia, though it has been shown, in the course of an investigation, that it would cost twice as much to build capital ships here as to buy them overseas. The building of ships here would, in effect, be a form of conscription, just as high tariffs and taxation of all kinds are a form of conscription. However, the honorable member could, in his suave way, persuade the people of Sydney to turn down the marketing proposals, although they had been agreed to by all the State parliaments, and by this Parliament. The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. On r tin)** is merely another attempt to draw a red herring across the trail. We know that, although the Labour governments of the various States, including the Collier Government in Western Australia, had accepted the Commonwealth Government's marketing scheme, **Mr. Collier,** the Labour Premier of Western Australia, advised the members of his Cabinet to support the " No " campaign during the referendum. The wheat industry, one of the greatest in Australia, is being crushed between the upper and nether millstones of party politics. It will be very interesting to see how honorable members will vote on this proposal. Not 1 per cent, of the wheat-growers of Australia pay income tax. If the honorable member for Henty were really in earnest he would join with some of us in this House in attacking the great sheltered industries, like the motor industry, which is making a profit of 83 per cent. He, however, is anxious to extend the operations of that industry in Australia. He also supports the glass-manufacturing industry in Australia, which makes huge profits. Show me the wheat-grower who is making profits anything like as high. Compare the intrinsic value of the wheat industry with that of the other industries I have mentioned. Are the industries which make these huge profits indispensable to the country? They are not, but the wheat industry and the wool industry are. If the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is carried it will wreck the bill, and will throw the growers back into the old condition of uncertainty. There is no bread and butter for many of the wheat-growers in the State where I come from. Already 6,000 of them have abandoned their farms, yet the industry is of such importance, not to them, but to Australia as a whole, that something must be done to put it on a better footing. The simplest way to help it is to pass the bill now before us. The States, which know their own business, have passed similar legislation, and it merely remains for us to ratify and make possible the scheme. What would members of the Labour party say if a bill to establish industrial arbitration were held up while the workers were being sweated? The wheatgrowers of Australia are being sweated at the present time by the people of Australia. If this Parliament does not pass the bill now before us, it will become a party to that sweating. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- I have allowed references to .the bills introduced by the Treasurer **(Mr. Casey)** dealing with the imposition of a flour tax. They are related to the bill now before the House, and 1 shall continue to allow references to be made to them. {: #subdebate-17-0-s7 .speaker-KQB} ##### Mr SCULLY:
Gwydir .- A measure of this kind is overdue, and in whatever form it is finally passed, I hope it will provide the relief that is so much needed by the wheat-growers. I do not look upon thi3 scheme as a permanent one. It is merely a temporary expedient to tide us over our immediate difficulties. I regard a pooling system as the *only* permanent solution of the difficulties of the growers. It is only by co-operative and orderly marketing that real success can be achieved. I listened with close attention to the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition, and I heartily agree with them. He was closely supported by the honorable member for Henty **(Sir Henry Gullett),** and I was particularly struck by the humane outlook of that honorable member, and by the force of his arguments. He demonstrated clearly that the cost of assisting the wheat industry should be borne by the whole community; that it should not be financed out of a sectional ta.x. The burden of assisting the primary industries should be spread as widely as possible. The fault with this scheme is that it will apply to only about one-third of the wheat produced in Australia. We should have an orderly marketing scheme so that the other two-thirds of our wheat products will also be marketed to the best advantage. At the present time, they fall into the hands of speculators and millers who buy for export. For that reason, I regard this as merely a temporary scheme which must fail to stabilize conditions in the industry. It has now become recognized in practically all wheat-producing countries in the world that some form of assistance to the wheat industry is necessary, but I do not know of any country other than Australia in which this assistance is being provided by means of a sectional tax. In the United States of America, the Government guarantees a price of 60 cents, or 2s. 6d. a bushel, at the country railway stations. It is also giving a subsidy of 30 cents a bushel on export. The Canadian Government is buying the entire output of wheat through the central pooling scheme,' and is paying for it, according to grade, up to 80 cents a bushel at Port William and Port Arthur, which represents 60 cents a bushel at country railway sidings in the prairie provinces. The Argentine Government, which is, perhaps, not so strong financially as is the Commonwealth Government of Australia, has guaranteed a price of 7 pesetos a quintal, which is equal to about 2s. 6d. a bushel. I have been engaged in the wheat industry all my life, and for years I have advocated the formation of a compulsory wheat pool to provide for orderly marketing. The vagaries of the market, and uncertain seasonal conditions, make it impossible to depend upon prices, or even upon output, so that some form of stabilization is absolutely necessary. We know that there are constitutional difficulties, but the scheme could be inaugurated by the States. The position is much the same here as in Canada where, in 1924, the Canadian Wheat Pool was inaugurated. This pool is described in the following terms in a publication called *Commodity Control in the Pacific A rea: -* >The Canadian Wheat Pool system, which caine into existence in 1924, was the outcome of four convergent movements or situations. These were: first, the progressive experience in co-operative grain marketing acquired by the prairie farmers' grain and elevator companies during the preceding decade and a half; secondly, the persistent desire of western wheat-growers for restoration of the system of compulsory pool marketing as conducted under the federally created Canadian Wheat Hoard in 191.0-20: thirdly, the disastrous decline in world wheat prices between 1020 and 1023: and fourthly, the post-war development in the United States of America of the contract pool method of marketing farm commodities. Following upon that, the three main dairy provinces adopted a wheat pooling system which remains in operation at the present time. During periods of overproduction and declining prices, this scheme has meant the salvation of the industry in Canada. The writer continues - >Whether or not the Canadian Wheat Pool becomes absorbed in a national or interprovincial wheat-marketing board, the graingrowers of western Canada have built up under prosperity, and retained under adversity, a producer-owned system of grainhandling facilities which will be of substantial advantage to it3 far-flung membership, whatever plan of marketing may prevail. The 1660 pool elevators that dot the Canadian prairies and the great pool terminals that rise over Thunder Bay and Burrard Inlet are physical symbols of a co-operative faith and Solidarity which the world depression has not extinguished, but only intensified, in the broader struggle for a co-operative commonwealth. The honorable member for Henty was curious to learn why the Labour parties in several States have acquiesced in this plan. After years of experience in the Parliament of New South Wales, I realize that it is impossible, owing to the existence of reactionary upper houses and the entanglements of the Financial Agreement and the Loan Council, for State Parliaments to make a direct contribution to alleviate distress in the wheat industry. That is the solution of the problem which presented itself to the honorable member for Henty. When I was a member of the State Parliament a plebiscite for a compulsory pool was referred to the wheat-growers in New South Wales, but, because of the adverse propaganda of the speculator interests represented by the buyers who have international ties, it was defeated. They expended enormous sums of money and sent speakers throughout the wheat-growing areas with false propaganda that the growers would be faced with calamity under compulsory pooling. Not even this legislation will take the wheat-growers away from the speculators, who have done so much damage to the wheat-growing industry all over the world. The only way to remove the wheat industry from the speculative field is to create a compulsory pool and an orderly marketing system. There are difficulties in the way, but nine-tenths of them are financial and only one-tenth constitutional. The constitutional difficulties could be overcome by collaboration between the Commonwealth and the States in the creation of an organization with a central marketing board similar to the Canadian wheat pool. The financial difficulties could be overcome by a system of advances through the Commonwealth Bank in the same way as they have been overcome in France. That is shown by the following extract from an article published in the May-June issue of *International Affairs,* entitled *The Place of Agriculture in the Economic Policy of the French Government,* by M. Georges Mo'nnet : - >I am specially glad that the Office du Bie has functioned in such a way that no part of agriculture has lacked ready money. The Agricultural Credit Banks have special funds at their disposal. They could be established in Australia. They arc mutual insurance companies, and have over a hundred million in trust. They have, therefore, themselves been able to discount a large number of the hills of exchange and to supply the co-operatives with the necessary money. Since September, the cooperatives as a whole have received 1,500,000 francs from the Agricultural Credit Banks. The Bank of France - which would be almost identical with the Commonwealth Rank - has always been at the service of the Agricultural Credit Banks each time the latter has needed its discounting services. So our financial system has worked well, and the official price of wheat has been properly observed. If a similar system were applied in Australia .the major difficulties which confront the wheat-growers would be overcome. I am convinced that this bill is merely a temporary solution of their difficulties, and that compulsory- pooling must follow. Australian sv heat-growers to-day are suffering not only reduced returns, which are lower than they have been almost for a. decade, but also adverse seasonal conditions, which have resulted in many of the growers losing the whole of their crops. In view of those facts, one would have expected that the ministerial delegation, which went overseas to discuss trade problems, would heed the needs of the wheat industry. The right honorable Leader of the Country party **(Sir Earle Page)** was a member of that delegation. Yet I read in the press to-day that the right honorable gentleman, in a speech at Armidale or some other country centre nearby, said that the action of the Commonwealth. Government in agreeing to the removal of the preference of 2s. a quarter that was given by the Government of the United Kingdom to dominion wheat would have negligible results on the Australian wheat industry. If that, be so, why is it that the United States of America was so anxious that thai preference should be removed? To show how wrong the right honorable gentleman is, I shall make two quotations. According to a press report, the general secretary of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, **Mr. Cambridge,** M.L.C., said - >It is reliably estimated that in four years up to March of this year the United Kingdom preferences have resulted in a direct monetary advantage of £2,2-31,000 to the Australian wheat-growers. That is the benefit that has been given to the Australian wheat-grower by the Imperial preference. Yet the right honorable gentleman says that it was of practically no consequence to the Australian wheat-grower. **Mr. Cambridge** continued - >The Federal Government lias, however, failed tn take the wheat-growers into its confidence. Instead, it has gone behind their backs, and dealt a severe blow at a time when they arc the least able to withstand it. The executive of the Farmers and Settlers Association carried the following resolution : - >That .we consider the surrender of the 2s. per quarter preference on Australian wheat (equivalent to 3d. to 4d. per bushel) the greatest injury the wheat industry has suffered in recent years- This injury was inflicted by the leader of the Country party, who supposedly represents the wheat-growers. The resolution continues - and is badly timed, and we strongly disapprove of the Australian trade delegation indifference, and utter disregard of the protests of leaders of the industry. The honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock)** took the Government to task about this the other day. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie **(Mr. Green),** who elaborated on what had already been said by the Leader of th- Opposition **(Mr. Curtin),** and the honorable member for Henty, gave from practical knowledge, an illustration of the position of the wheat-growers, and I can only confirm what he has said" about the vagaries of the wheat industry. I conrend, however, that my suggestions contain the solution of the difficulties. The Labour party recognizes that the labourer is worthy of his hire, and it has always been its policy to ensure that any one who produces a commodity shall, as far as humanly possible, be amply recompensed. For that reason, we on this side support the plan outlined by the Leader of the Opposition. As a 'representative of a wheat-growing district, however, I say definitely that I shall support any measure which will provide relief, even though it will be only temporary, to the industry. There are circumstances over which Ave have no control, and if we cannot get what we want, we must take the next best thing, i. must point out, however, that under the plan of the Government, only onethird of the wheat produced will benefit from the home-consumption price. Some way must bc devised in which to stabilize the whole of the industry. An orderly marketing system must be devised on the lines of systems adopted in other parts of the world, even in France, where the growers are guaranteed a payable return, and, of course, New Zealand, where there is a Labour administration, which gives to its growers a home-consumption price which is better than that given in any other part of the world. The New Zealand example shows what can be done by *a* central government that is determined to do its best for an industry. Constitutional difficulties in the way of the establishment of a nation-wide wheat-pool could be overcome by collaboration between the Commonwealth and the States, because there is not one State which would not give its wholehearted support to a scheme for the stabilization of the wheat industry. The financial difficulties could be overcome in the way in which I have stated. {: #subdebate-17-0-s8 .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr PATERSON:
Gippsland .- T. begin by congratulating the Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page)** and the Postmaster-General **(Mr. Archie Cameron),** who was, until recently, Assistant Minister for Commerce, on the parts which they have played in helping to bring about what must be regarded as a political miracle in Australia - unanimity of opinion among seven governments. I have listened with great interest this afternoon to the speeches of .the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin),** the honorable member for Henty **(Sir Henry Gullett),** the honorable member for Kalgoorlie **(Mr. Green),** the honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Scully)** and other honorable members. The Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Henty, and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and others who oppose or criticize this bill have one thing in common. They show to my mind a deliberate putting of the blind eye to the telescope in that they blindly refuse to see that the excise which it is proposed shall be paid by millers will operate entirely within the limits of the price-fixing legislation passed by the various States. I emphasize that point. Therefore, the price of flour having been fixed by the States, the action which this Parliament proposes to take in imposing this excise does not, and cannot, in the slightest degree affect the interests of the consumers. I say that advisedly, and without any reservation whatsoever. I defy any honorable member to contradict that statement. {: .speaker-JOM} ##### Mr Beasley: -- Then where does the money come from ? {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr PATERSON: -- I shall describe later where the money comes from. The whole purpose of our legislation in this Parliament - and the sole purpose - is merely to ensure that the homeconsumption price which the State governments - three of them Labour governments - in their wisdom have agreed upon, shall find its way equitably to the growers. This bill will not fix the price of flour or wheat, and will not affect the consumer. It will merely ensure that the price-fixing legislation adopted by the State governments, unanimously, shall be affected on-y in the respect that each grower shall be able to receive his fair share of the homeconsumption price, irrespective of whether or not his wheat happens to be sold in Australia, or is exported, or is partly sold in Australia and partly exported, in any ratio. It is to ensure that each grower will receive a fair share of the price which six State governments have determined to be a fair price. The Commonwealth Government, as honorable members are aware, has no power to fix the price of anything; that power rests with the State governments, which have now boldly used it in order to do justice to the wheat-growers. All that the Commonwealth Government does is merely' to provide the supplementary or complementary legislation necessary to ensure that each grower shall receive his fair share of the price which the States have decided should be paid. The six States have unanimously agreed that the grower shall receive a price equivalent to 2d. for the wheat contained in a 2-lb. loaf. Does any honorable member suggest that that remuneration is too high? I do not believe that any one could hold that belief, especially iu view of the fact that the New Zealand Labour Government has taken steps to ensure that wheat-growers in New Zealand shall receive not less than 5s. 8d. a bushel for locally-consumed wheat. The price which the State governments have agreed upon is at least 6d. a bushel lower than that figure, being 5s. 2d. at the port, or 4s. 8d. on the average at country stations, "if honorable members opposite acclaim the action of the Labour Government of New Zealand in fixing 5s. Sd. a bushel, then they cannot take exception to the Australian State governments' proposals for the fixing of a home-consumption price of 5s. 2d. as a fair price to be paid. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: -- The honorable gentleman knows that I have agreed unreservedly that that price should be paid. What the Opposition is concerned with mainly is the source from which the money is to be drawn. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr PATERSON: -- I am glad to hear the assurance by the Leader of the Opposition that he agrees with the price fixed. I should like now to deal with the remarks of the honorable member for Henty. I shall endeavour to show the absolute necessity for Commonwealth legislation such as this which we now have under consideration. Were the Commonwealth not to act in the matter, there. would be a chaotic state of affairs. If the States alone took action and fixed the price of flour as they are doing, and if the Commonwealth failed to impose this excise duty or adopted the alternative of raising the necessary money by imposing ordinary taxation - the method proposed by both the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Henty - the position would be that the millers would pocket an amount of something like £4,000^000. If honorable members will think the matter over, they will find that that is so. The States having agreed to fix the price of flour at, say, £12 10s. a ton, the miller would still be in a position to buy wheat at export rates, and if the difference between the price he actually paid for the wheat and the home-consumption price relative to the fixed price of flour were not extracted from the miller, by means of excise, for the benefit of the grower, millions of pounds would be left in the pockets of the miller, .while the Treasury - which means the general taxpayer - would be raided to find the money for the grower! Such a position would be absolutely ridiculous. I am amazed that a gentleman of the perspicacity of the Leader of the Opposition, for whose powers of analysis I have a great deal of respect, has failed to realize that point. I am also surprised that the honorable member for Henty has not appreciated it. lt may be easy to laugh at my argument, but it is not so easy to refute it. The huge gap between the price which the miller will obtain for his flour and the price paid for wheat to the growers must be bridged. This Government is merely bridging that gap by means of this excise strictly within the limits of the prices fixed by the States. Let us assume next that, instead of fixing the price of flour, the States had merely decided to fix' the price of wheat consumed within Australia, and the Commonwealth did nothing. The position would then be that some growers who were able to dispose of the whole of their production in this country, would receive that homo-consumption price for all the wheat they produced, whereas other growers, particularly those in Western Australia who have to export almost all their wheat, would receive little or uo benefit. The means which the Commonwealth Government is employing in -imposing the excise tax to extract from the millers the difference between the export parity price which they will continue to pay for the wheat and the home-consumption price for wheat agreed up'on by the States will give equal benefit to all growers in Australia, irrespective of the ratio of the quantity of their product consumed locally to the quantity sent overseas. That scheme will bo to the benefit of a State such as Western Australia. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: -- The honorable member knows that prices are fixed as the result of the proclamatory power of the State Governors in Council. If the Commonwealth does not impose this excise, the legislation of the States need not be proclaimed. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr PATERSON: -- That shows the necessity for the Commonwealth Government to take action to assist the wheatgrowers by passing legislation supplementary to that passed by the States. A difficulty always arises in connexion with the disposal in fair proportion of a home-consumption price to the grower of a commodity which is produced in such large quantities that there is an exportable surplus. Unless some kind of machinery, or system of accountancy, or method of organization, is applied to ensure that each grower will receive a fair share of that home-consumption price, we might just as well not introduce the scheme, because some growers 'will receive a lion's share while others receive none at all. I submit to honorable members that the means now being employed to impose an excise tax entirely within the price limits fixed by the States is the only practical course left to the Commonwealth now, since, by the decision of the Privy Council on section 92 of the Constitution, .it has been robbed of powers it was formerly supposed to have. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: -- The State legislation does not fix the price. It merely provides that the State Governors in Council may fix the price. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr PATERSON: -- That is mere casuistry. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: -- The honorable member is using a word to suit his argument. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- Order ! The honorable member for Gippsland must be allowed to pursue the debate in his own way without interruption. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr PATERSON: -- The honorable member for Gwydir said that he hoped that this measure would be only a temporary one, and expressed the view that a pool should be set up to handle, not only the one-third of wheat produced and sold in Australia, but also the twothirds exported. The honorable member knows that on some occasions the figures are four-fifths and one-fifth, respectively. Apparently the honorable gentleman believes that, were such a pool in existence, it would solve the whole problem of overproduction. I am sure that he cannot be unaware of the fa*ct that to-day there is an exportable surplus of about 1,000,000,000 bushels of wheat. Several European countries, owing to the fear of war, are producing wheat for themselves at a greater cost than it can be bought at in other parts of the world. Thus, the world demand for wheat from normal wheat-buying countries has shrunk from something like 800,000,000 or 900,000,000 bushels per annum to a little more than 500,000,000 bushels. That is to say, there is an overseas market for only 500,000,000 bushels of wheat per annum in the world to-day, whereas there is in sight a surplus for export of 1.000,000,000 bushels. While I agree that organization through a pool may cut down selling costs to the minimum and enable growers to obtain the maximum return for their product, I do not agree that that would be a permanent solution of the difficulties in which wheatgrowers find themselves to-day owing to over-production. I entirely disagree with those who advocate a guaranteed price for all wheat produced. I am not sure whether or not the honorable " member for » Gwydir advocated that, but I was under the impression, that he did. I believe that the provision of a guaranteed price for all wheat produced, as has been suggested by some honorable members, would be utterly uneconomic -and extremely dangerous. It would simply provide an incentive for the production of an enormous quantity of unwanted wheat for which the. world to-day cannot find a market. I have always advocated, and still advocate, that the producers of butter, wheat, or any commodity in Australia which is produced in large quantities for export, is absolutely entitled to a fair Australian price in accordance with Australian living standards for that part of his product used by Australians; but for that part of his produce which is sold outside Australia he must be prepared to accept whatever the world will give him for it. {: .speaker-KYC} ##### Mr Pollard: -- It is a matter of averages. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr PATERSON: -- Yes, but it is fundamentally unsound to talk about providing a guaranteed price for the whole of a commodity which can be produced if it is merely to be the means of providing an incentive to the productionof an enormous quantity of unwanted goods for which a market cannot be found. The better way is to confine ourselves to providing a fair Australian price for what is used by Australians, and to say that, for whatever we produce in excess of our requirements we must beprepared to take the risk of what the world will give. The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Henty made statements to the effect that, while they believe in a home-consumption price, it should be provided out of revenue, or that a substantial part of it should be provided out of revenue. I do not regard that as a home-consumption price at all. I simply regard that as what it is, a dole, nothing more nor less. The wheat- grower does not desire a dole; he wants a fair home-consumption price, to which he is entitled as a right, for that part of his production which is consumed in Australia. Every honorable member who says that the consumer should continue to buy his wheat, flour or bread on a basis which simply represents sweating to the wheat-grower, does not believe in a home-consumption price at all ; he simply believes in the perpetuation of the dole system. {: .speaker-JOM} ##### Mr Beasley: -The honorable member will agree that the worker is also entitled to his means of livelihood? {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr PATERSON: -- I do. And I believe that the worker who enjoys an award of the Australian Arbitration Court based upon the cost of living will not demand that he should receive his wheat, flour or bread at a price which would force the wheat-growers to produce under conditions of absolute sweating. Again, even in the event ofa slight increase of the cost of bread - and I think it will be very slight indeed - as the result of the price of flour which the State governments propose to fix, the wage-earner is protected by the fact that his wage is determined by the cost of living. It is all very well for honorable members to smile. Although there may be some lag at times between the increase of the cost of living and the increase of the basic wage, inevitably the two come together in the course of time. I am one of those who firmly believe that the wheat-grower is as much entitled as a right not to a dole, but to ahome-consumption price, as is the man who consumes his wheat in the form of bread entitled to have his wages adjusted to meet variations of the cost of living, per medium of the Arbitration Court. {: .speaker-KFS} ##### Sir Henry Gullett: -- Does the honorable member say that 4s.8d. is a fair price? {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr PATERSON: -- The price of 4s. 8d. at country railway stations compares very closely, I believe, with the average price for the ten years prior to the depression, and is lower than that ruling in New Zealand. With respect to the price of bread, I think we can without any qualms leave that matter to be dealt with by theState governments. They have the power, we have not; and I do not believe they will be afraid to use it, despite what some honorable members have said about the upper houses of the State parliaments. Legislation dealing with the fixation of the price of flour must be passed through the upper houses of the various State parliaments, and if the Houses pass that legislation surely they could not consistently refuse to take similar action if legislation was placed before them dealing with the price of bread. I believe that the State governments, having decided to fix the price of flour, will regard it as their responsibility to watch the price of bread in order to see that consumers are properly protected and if necessary to fix the price of bread. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN:
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1934; ALP from 1936 -- Why was not the price of bread included by the conference as a supplementary piece of price fixing? {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr PATERSON: -- I cannot answer that, but I say that I have very little fear that the States will not look after the interests of the consumer in that regard. The State parliaments represent just the same people as we in this Parliament do ; they are just as anxious to do the fair thing by the consumers as we are, and I believe, that if the price of bread rose to an unfair level, the States could be relied upon to take immediate action. I come now to the criticism of the Loader of the Opposition, which I think was also shared by the honorable member for Henty, with respect to the £500,000 which it is proposed should be taken from the home-consumption price fund in order to assist necessitous growers who have no crop at all. The argument of the Leader of the Opposition, as I understood it, was that it was unreasonable to take this money from the flour tax, and that it should be taken out of general revenue. Again I would point out that the taking of that £500,000 from this source does not, and will not, in any way, affect consumers, for the simple reason that that amount of money would have gone as an additional payment to the growers had it not been decided unanimously by the seven Australian governments that that part of the levy obtained from the excise should go to growers suffering distress. It is, therefore, the grower who is fortunate enough te have a crop this year, who is himself providing part of the money, which he would have received, in order to assist his less fortunate brother. I. do not think it is unreasonable that he should do so, because it will be realized that the grower who this year has a good crop - and I believe that the growers in the electorate represented by the honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Scully)** have particularly good crops this year - will be advantaged very substantially by the misfortunes of the growers who have none. "Why do I say that? 1 do not say that because I think the world price will be affected by any shortage in Australia - it obviously will not - but because the growers who have a crop and who will share this homeconsumption price will enjoy that homeconsumption price on a much bigger percentage of their total crop than they would if all the growers of Australia had normal crops. If those mcn who have nothing to-day, who have not even got their seed back, had secured 10, 12 or 14 bushels, this home-consumption price would have been spread over a far bigger area and growers who have had good crops would not have received so much out of the fund as they will get. Instead of getting .perhaps 5d. a bushel they will probably get 7d., solely because of the misfortunes of their fellows who have no crop at all. This £500,000 merely represents a part, and only a .part, of the additional advantage which the grower who has a crop this year will reap from the misfortunes of his fellows, who have *none. The* equivalent of about Id. a bushel will go to the grower who has no crop, which otherwise would have gone as an extra Id. to the grower who has a crop despite a bad year. There may be some points which I have missed, but I have endeavoured to deal with the main principles. I hope that honorable members will pass this measure. I trust that they will realize that it is tremendously difficult, in connexion with legislation of any kind, to get the unanimous consent of seven governments. We have secured that; yet some boggle over legislation which has been unanimously agreed upon - not merely by the Commonwealth Government, but also by the six State governments, three of which are Labour governments. I hope that the House will pass the bill and will make it possible for the growers to receive a homeconsumption price for their wheat instead of leaving them in the future, as they have been in the past, simply on a kind of dole which this Parliament has had to find from time to time. This legislation is not of the " double-headed penny " kind which would permit the growers to enjoy this fair home-consumption price when the world's price is low and to receive the world's price when that happens to be the higher. If the world's price does go above the level of the homeconsumption price - and I remind honorable members that less than eighteen months ago it was 6d. over that level - the Australian public will still get their wheat and flour on that fixed level. In other words, the grower will not have the. advantage of the fixed price when the world's price is low and the world's price when that is higher than the fixed price. One of the taxing bills brought down by the Treasurer **(Mr. Casey)** was for the purpose of ensuring that the grower in Australia will only receive the fixed price for wheat and flour in years when the world's price is higher than that price just as he will receive it in years when it is lower. I commend the bill to the House and I trust that it will have a speedy passage. {: #subdebate-17-0-s9 .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK:
Riverina .- We have before the House a bill that has been brought in by this Government at the request of the six State governments of Australia. The object of the bill, as outlined in the preamble, is by the cooperation of the Government of the Commonwealth and of the governments of the States to put into operation a scheme to ensure to the wheat-growers greater stability by the provision of an improved average, price on all wheat they produce. Before federation we had the position that, with cheap machinery, cheap labour, cheap transport and cheap living, it was possible for the farmers of Australia to compete with the world. They could produce their wheat and sell it profitably in the markets of the world in competition with any other country. Since the consummation of federation, the situation has entirely changed. A high tariff policy has been adopted, which is regarded as stable, and is not likely to be altered ; our Arbitration Court system has increased wages and added to costs in many directions; and social services are now involving the country in heavy increases of taxation. These factors, which have undoubtedly and considerably added to the cost of growing wheat, are admitted to be important aspects of our national policy. That they have also increased costs to other industries no one will deny; but in relation to secondary industries, such extra costs are included in overhead and are added to the sale price of products so that the burden is spread over the whole community. That policy, however, cannot l>e applied to our wheat, most of which must be sold on the world's market at world prices. Tariff protection has been effective in encouraging secondary production, but unfortunately it has had the reverse effect by adding to the burdens of primary production. For many years, the farmers of Australia have been seeking relief from this anomaly. The honorable member for Forrest **(Mr. Prowse)** pointed out that on frequent occasions the wheat-growers of Australia had provided wheat for home consumption at ls. a bushel less than it would have cost to bring wheat to this country from overseas. It is futile to suggest that tariff which has proved effective in assisting other industries, could be applied successfully to wheat. The one method which offers some prospects of success in this respect is the fixing of a home-consumption price. The honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Scully)** has referred, once again, in enthusiastic terms, to the possibility of establishing a compulsory wheat pool, but he, and every other honorable member of the House, must realize that this is impossible because of constitutional limitations. A vote was taken on this subject in New South Wales not so long ago and the farmers themselves rejected the proposal because they realized how ineffective it would be if applied in only one State, for wheat from across the Victorian border could be sent into New South Wales and sold in competition ' with wheat offered at a price which the pool might fix. No one has travelled greater distances in Australia, I believe, or addressed more meetings, than I have, in endeavouring to persuade the farmers to form a compulsory pool. But six years ago I had to admit that constitutional limitations made this impossible. We have had voluntary pools and can learn lessons from experiences in five States. Queensland succeeded because it consumes its total crop. The great difficulty in connexion with the establishment of a State compulsory pool is that producers across State borders could break the price and make the scheme futile. Admittedly, such a pool, even if voluntary, could receive wheat from the farmers, charter ships, trade on the overseas markets, and do all the things that wheat merchants, referred to by the Opposition as speculators, can do; but in consequence of inability to enforce a reasonable homeconsumption price its operations would have a trifling effect compared with the risks taken. A wheat pool operated in New South Wales for about four years, anc! handled the farmers' wheat just as the wheat merchants did; but ultimately it ceased to operate. A wheat pool has been operating in Victoria for a considerable time, but its business has dwindled so that to-day it is handling only about 2,000,000 bushels of wheat out of an average yield of about 40,000,000 bushels. Much the same position exists in connexion with the South Australian pool. Its affairs were conducted enthusiastically twenty years ago, but whereas one time it was receiving nearly 15,000,000 bushels of wheat a year, last year it was down to 1,000,000 bushels. I am sure that if a home-consumption price could be fixed which the wheat pools could enforce, they would prosper, but that procedure is not practicable. The pool in Western Australia has been more successful because in that State, the portion used for homeconsumption is so small. The great bulk of the wheat grown in Western Australia is exported. But, in other ways, the situation there is more satisfactory. The management of the pool has an amicable arrangement with the millers throughout the State and with its bulk handling and mass charters, it is able to conduct its affairs on a competitive basis. Still, what matters to the farmer is the price he receives for his wheat, and a comparison of the market reports published in the press of Western Australia with those in the press of the eastern States, shows that the farmers of Western Australia seldom receive within 2d. a bushel of the price paid for wheat in Victoria and New South Wales, and I am of the opinion that even if the pools were able to control the whole of the export trade, they would not be able to do very much for the farmers unless they could also secure a homeconsumption price for wheat. Some honorable members of the House prate about the Government being clothed with greater power to organize pools, but I am quite satisfied that, until the Constitution is amended and means devised to enforce a home-consumption price, the advantages from such schemes will be small. I point out that if a compulsory pool such as suggested were possible, the amount and source of the money - from the bread-eaters of Australia - would be exactly the same as if the money needed was raised by the means now proposed by the Government. The contention of the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** would be amusing if it were not so pathetic. The honorable gentleman says, in effect: " We have always advocated a homeconsumption price for wheat, but we suggest that the money for this purpose should be provided by an additional tax on income or by an additional land tax and called a home-consumption price for wheat. As the honorable member for Gippsland **(Mr. Paterson)** has said, a distribution to farmers on that 'basis would be neither more nor less than a dole, which the farmers do not want.- {: .speaker-L08} ##### Mr Rosevear: -- What else is this?. {: .speaker-KFS} ##### Sir Henry Gullett: -- I also would like to know what this is? , {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK: -- It is compensation from the community of Australia as a set-off against the effects of national policy which has added at least 6d. a bushel to the cost of the growing of wheat in' this country. Even the honorable member for Henty has admitted that 4s. 8d. a bushel is not an unreasonable price to pay for the wheat used in Australia. He said he would not object to a flour tax on the proportion of the crop consumed locally. This is exactly what the bill provides. No tax will be imposed on the wheat that is exported, but the money raised by means of the tax will be distributed to the farmers in relation to the whole of the wheat produced. That, I submit, is not an unreasonable procedure. We protect all our secondary industries, and it is high time for us to similarly protect our primary industries. That is the Commonwealth Government's obligation, not to make wheat-growing pay. We know that production varies with different farmers. Some wheatmen are more efficient than others ; some own their own land and have no need to borrow money; some are in better rainfall districts than others, and some farm better land. In view of_ these varying circumstances, I contend that the only effective way to distribute the proceeds from this tax is in accordance with the wheat grown. Surely, it must be realized that the Commonwealth Government cannot control rainfall or soil conditions; nor can it control the methods of the farmers, yet the responsibility to compensate for the ill-effects of our national policy on the wheat-growers rests upon the whole community. This scheme can correct the position. I appreciate the fact that the honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Scully)** did not oppose the imposition of a sales tax on flour. Not very long ago, a royal commission made a thorough investigation into the whole circumstancesof the wheat industry. I do not think that any honorable member would suggest that the commissioners shirked their job in any way. They travelled throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, and investigated every detail of the industry. In its report, it stated - 1.As protection is the confirmed policy of Australia, the wheat industry should not carry the burden of that policy, but share it. {: type="1" start="2"} 0. In view of the impossibility of the tariff providing such protection for an industry exporting so large a portion of its production, a home-consumption price was the way to put the industry on a similar basis to secondary industries. 1. If a compulsory wheat pool could not be established to secure such price, a flour tax should be imposed on a sliding scale, and the proceeds distributed to growers by way of bounty. Any one who takes the trouble to examine the provisions of this bill mustadmit that the whole scheme is soundly based on these recommendations of that commission. The House is asked, in effect, to endorse the commission's findings. Only in this way can we compensate the wheat industry for the disabilities from which it is suffering in consequence of national policy. It would be of no use to impose a tariff of 5s. a bushel on wheat, for that would not add one farthing to the banking accounts of farmers. In my opinion, this is the only practicable scheme that has been devised to compensate the farmers for the anomalous position which exists, and to adjust the balance between them and other sections of the community. I have never held the view that it is the duty of the Government to make wheat-growing pay, any more than it is its duty to make boot-making, or oatgrowing, or fruit-growing, pay. No government could accept such an obligation. What I have contended is that the wheat-growers should be compensated for the special burdens they have to carry in consequence of national policy. The wheat-growers' organization in Sydney, with which I am connected, also holds that view. {: .speaker-L08} ##### Mr Rosevear: -- What about the position of farmers who are able, because of their particular circumstances, to grow wheat at a profit at 3s. a bushel? {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK: -- Even those farmers are adversely affected by national policy, which has increased the price of their plant, their fencing materials, their galvanized iron, and, in fact, almost every commodity they use. There is no tariff discrimination between the efficient and the inefficient manufacturer. Surely honorable members must appreciate that the purpose of this bill is to provide a homeconsumption price for wheat, and not simply to assist necessitous farmers. 1 frankly admit that, under the scheme of this bill, some farmers will get nothing this year and others will get a good deal ; but, with the turn of the wheel of fortune, the farmers who get nothing this year will get something next year, and those who may get a good deal this year may get nothing next year. A pool distribution would have the same effect. I congratulate the Government upon having adopted this plan to stabilize the wheat industry. Of course, I shall vote against the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the bill; the farming community should no longer be regarded as the catspaw of politicians. {: .speaker-JOM} ##### Mr Beasley: -- But any legislation passed by this Parliament can be repealed. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK: -- That is possible, but this is a democratic country, and if a government tries to repeal legislation that is in harmony with the wishes of the people, that government will get what it deserves. I submit that practically all the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition for withdrawal were mere excuses against the passage of the bill, and were not directed against the merits of the Government's proposal. He even accepted the proposed price of 4s. Sd. a bushel at country sidings as reasonable, but he made complaints against the millers, the bakers and the speculators. As the honorable member for Gippsland pointed out, the wheat-grower will get 2d. for the wheat that he supplies to make a loaf of bread, and that is the home-consumption price which he would receive for about one-quarter of the crop this year. For the remainder he will have to accept the export parity price. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the price of wheat in New Zealand. If the price of wheat in that country of 5s. 8d. a bushel is relevant at all, 1 think it confirms our claim that the price proposed to be fixed in Australia is not excessive. I can tell him, however, for his information, that his statement that the price of wheat in New Zealand is the highest in any dominion was not correct. In South Africa it is 6s. 10-Jd. a bushel, as against 5s. 8d. or 5s. 9d. in New Zealand. The honorable member for Gwydir referred to the advances on wheat in Canada and in the United States of America. It is true that the governments of both Canada and the United States of America, as well as the government of Argentina, have taken action to stabilize conditions for the growers. Whether their costs are as heavy as ours, or as inflated as ours are by high tariffs, arbitration, workers' compensation, and, as they will be shortly, by national insurance, I do not know; but the governments of those countries have found it necessary to assist the industry. In the United States of America 60 cents is being advanced to the farmers at railway sidings, which is equal in Australia to 3s. 4d. a bushel. In Canada, the price advanced is about 80 cents at ports, . or about 3s. net to farmers at country sidings. Here the farmers will receive, when the export parity price is ls. lOd. or ls. lid., a return of 2s. 6d. or 2s. 7d. a bushel. No one will suggest that that is a payable price. I am advocating, not that the Government should guarantee a payable price on the whole crop, but merely that the grower should be guaranteed a stable return for that part of his crop which is consumed, in Aus-' tralia. The Government can go no further than that. Regarding the proposal of the Government to distribute £500,000 among the States this year for the relief of necessitous farmers, I agree with certain members of the Opposition that it is wrong in principle for the proceeds of the sales tax to be devoted to this purpose. However, it sometimes happens in politics that one must compromise in order to get the bigger thing, and in this instance the bigger thing is the permanent stabilization scheme. I hope that the Government will accept an amendment limiting this allocation for the relief and removal of stranded farmers to a period of not more than five years. Only a little while ago this Government agreed that £12,000,000 should be set aside for the rehabilitation of these same farmers, and for those engaged in rural industries generally, who were in a serious financial position. As half of that sum of money has still to bc expended, the Government should "agree to limit the application of the provision in this bil. to the period I suggest. The amount for 1938, £500,000, has been allotted to the States in reasonable proportion, but the period should be limited to five years. At the end of that time we shall have a real, home-consumption price scheme for which the farmers have been pleading with successive governments for the last fifteen years. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr Lane: -- The honorable member for Riverina has always advocated that farmers who are unable to pay their way should be put off their land. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK: -- The honorable member for Barton ( **Mr. Lane),** with his obsession, " ruralitis ", frequently puts words into other people's mouths that they have not spoken. Some other honorable members, I believe, have advocated that policy, but I certainly have not done so. The States have some obligations. The Leader of the Opposition said that contracts had been made by farmers for the sale of their wheat; that speculators had already bought part of the crop. Well, why should that prejudice the scheme? That fact makes no difference whatever. The excise duty will be collected through the millers as the flour is sold and goes into consumption. There is a provision that the excise must be paid in cash. When there was a sales tax on flour on the previous occasion some millers, in competition for trade, rather unwisely gave credit for the excise, and later found it very difficult to collect the amount. It is a wise thing to insert this provision in the act in order to protect the millers. There has been much talk about the price of bread. The honorable member for Henty even put in jam, and referred to the excessive cost of " bread and jam ", but what jam has to do with it I do not know. I happened to bo at the conference in Sydney, and I remember the representative of Western Australia, as well as others, saying that provided the scheme could be put into effect without raising the price of bread beyond 6d. a loaf, he would support it. The Gepp report points out that, with the price of wheat at the figure suggested in this scheme, namely, 4s. 8d. a bushel at country sidings, there should be no need for the price of bread to go beyond6d., even when delivered throughout the suburbs of the capital cities. {: .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr Green: -- They are charging too much for bread now,with wheat at only 2s. a bushel. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK: -- I agree. In country towns in New South Wales the price of bread has been kept at 6d. a loaf, which is too high; but the Leader of the Opposition went to the other extreme when he said that with wheat at 4s. a bushel, bread should be sold at 3½d. I asked him if he was relying on the Gepp report for that statement, land he replied that he was. I have the report here, and it shows that with wheat at 3s. 6d, a bushel a reasonable price for bread would be 4.8d. *Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.* {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK: -- I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that his assertion is in conflict with the conclusions reached by the Gepp Commission which investigated the bread industry and allied industries. It would be wise if honorable members checked the figures before accepting them as being free from error. **Sir Herbert** Gepp reported that, with wheat at 4s. 8d. a bushel, and flour ranging in price from £11 10s. to £13 10s. a ton - I think that most people know that the value of the offal affects the price of flour - a reasonable price for a loaf of bread would be *aid.* cash, over the baker's counter, and 6d. cash, delivered. With wheat at 4s. a bushel, or, to get the exact fraction, 4s.1d. a bushel, the value of wheat in a loaf of bread is1¾d. So at 3½d. a loaf, all that would be left for all of the other charges, except milling, which is covered by the value of the grist, would be l¾d., whereas **Sir Herbert** Gepp reported that 5½d. was a fair price for a loaf of bread containing 2d. worth of wheat, leaving 3½d. for such charges. The Leader of the Opposition also expressed apprehension as to the prices that would be charged for bread under the scheme. I remind the honorable gentleman that the Government of New South Wales has the power to proclaim a maximum price for bread. What he said about the exploitation of the people by the millers in Western Australia is the responsibility of the State Government and not of the farmers. Mr.Curtin. - Hear, hear! {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK: -- I have, however, been given to understand that the loading which the millers themselves have placed on the price of flour sold for homeconsumption is a subsidy to themselves to enable them to compete with export flour. It certainly has not been passed on to the farmer, because one can compare the price of wheat atFremantle with other Australian ports, and ascertain that almost invariably when flour was £1 10s. a ton higher in Perth than in other States, the farmers in Western Australia were receiving less for their wheat than were the farmers in the eastern States. Because of acts of exploitation, and anomalies and other things which the Leader of the Opposition has criticized in the milling industry, the Opposition suggests that the farmers should be robbed of this opportunity to receive justice. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr Lane: -- They should act for themselves. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK: -- We have heard the same thing year after year from the honorable member for Barton **(Mr. Lane),** who says to the farmers, " Take control of your own wheat; market it yourselves and charge your own prices ". If the honorable gentleman has any brains he must realize that the result of the recent marketing referendum definitely showed that the farmers have no power to form an organization of the kind under the Constitution. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: -- The honorable member for Riverina should do me justice and say that I do agree to find the amount required in order to give the grower the price which he has asked for in this legislation. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK: -- Yes, I am prepared to admit that, for this year. Indeed, I am pleased to find that every honorable member who has spoken has no quarrel whatever with the reasonableness of the suggested home-consumption priceof 4s. 8d. a bushel at country railway sidings. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: -- The only point at issue between us is as to how the money is to be derived. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK: -- That is the chief point of issue, but a home-consumption price is a price paid by the consumer. Another point at issue is the fact that the honorable gentleman advocates a scheme for one year only, which would mean that the wheat-growers would still be the catspaw of politics, and would still be harangued and promised some future scheme, whereas in this legislation we have a scheme approved by every one of the State governments, and collectively the State governments have asked the Commonwealth Government to co-operate with them and to introduce complementary legislation. In reply to his comment that Professor Giblin had stated that wheat-growers would be no better off with the home price of 4s.8d. I would say that if Professor Giblin is correct in his assertion thta the farmers will have to bear a huge proportion of the cost of this legislation the converse should be true. We know economists are but theorists. They have told us that the cost of a scheme, such as this, is paid by the farmers them selves. If that were a fact, it should cut both ways, and with wheat at1s.11d. a bushel we should be getting some reduction of costs; but these have not yet arrived. We know that the freight charges on wheat to-day are as high as they were when wheat was 7s. 6d. a bushel. Interest charges are fixed and are above the rates of 1936 when wheat was 5s. 10d. a bushel in Sydney. They still represent half the cost of production. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: -- Hear, hear ! {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK: -- More than half of the farmers' charges are fixed charges, and it is ridiculous to say that a huge portion of the cost of this legislation will be paid by the farmers themselves. A farmer with 400 acres producing an average crop of 12 bushels to the acre would have a crop of 4,800 bushels, and if the equalization bounty is 6d., as I think it will be, he would receive £120. Would any person say that his costs will be increased by half that amount, that is, £60, because the price of wheat for home consumption is fixed at 4s.8d., when we know that in nearly every country centre the price of bread is 6d., while the price of wheat is only1s.11d. It is not the farmers' fault that this is so, because there is not a pennyworth of wheat in a loaf of bread when wheat is at1s.11d. a bushel; and the farmer should not be crucified because someone else exploits the consumer. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: -- The reason whyI wanted a comprehensive review early next year was to take these exorbitant costs into consideration. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK: -- That is not the responsibility of the farmer. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: -- It is the responsibility of Parliament. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK: -- The royal commission made inquiries into every one of these costs and in no instance has the responsibility been placed on the farmer. It is high time that we had this scheme and there should be no further delay. It should not end in a year, as the Opposition demand, but should be permanent. With the cost of gristing at1s. a bushel when wheat is 4s.8d. at country sidings and 5s. 2d. a bushel at Williamstown, allowing 3s. 4d. extra for bags for the offal, the price of flour should be £1211s. a ton, with offal at £5 10s. a ton. At that price, the royal commission's report says very definitely that there is no necessity for bread to be any more than 5½d. a loaf cash over the baker's counter and 6d. a loaf cash delivered in the suburbs of the capital cities. Another point referred to by the Leader of the Opposition was the clause which provides for the cancellation of payments to a State if it does not carry out its obligations under the agreement. Naturally, the fanners would put pressure on the Government if that risk existed. It would be the farmers who would suffer from a cancellation of the payment to the State and they would bring such strong pressure to bear on the State government that there would be little risk of its attempting to depart from the agreement. The honorable member for Gwydir referred to the flour tax as being a sectional tax and said that he preferred to follow his leader and obtain the money necessary for the payment of the bounty to the wheat-growers to be raised either by more income tax or by more land tax. The tax on flour applies to every member of the community who eats bread, whereas the income tax is paid by a few and the land tax by fewer. The taxes suggested by the honorable member are sectional taxes, yet the honorable member says that he is not in favour of sectional taxes. This year £500,000 is to be allocated for distribution by the States to necessitous fanners, and in subsequent years - I hope in four only - there may be further allocations from the fund. It would be impossible to say what the amounts to be allocated in such subsequent years would be because there might be in any year no tax. Wheat might reach the price it reached eighteen months ago, and the farmers would then be making a rebate to recoup the millers in order to prevent a rise of the price of bread. ' That is a reasonable proposal, and it shows that the farmers are fair. I would further point out that this legislation will not merely benefit wheatgrowers; it will benefit the whole community, particularly in country towns. It is a more even distribution of the values of production than we have experienced hitherto. It will benefit country businesses and city businesses alike. The railway transport system will benefit, and work will be more plentiful, because without this scheme there would be less wheat produced and less rural cultivation of the farms. The Chief Commissioner of theRuralBank, **Mr. McKerihan,** has pointed out that this proposed assistance to the industry is not a privilege but is a protection which the farmers in practically every other country have enjoyed for several years. If, after the fifth year, the allocation for special purposes ceases to operate, this scheme will be a consummation of what we have been fighting for for fifteen years - a home-consumption price. I submit the following aspects of this matter for the consideration of the House : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Effect on the consumer: The consumer should have a stable price of bread year after year while the scheme lasts of 5½d. a loaf over the counter and 6d. delivered in city and suburbs. The price of broad is taken into account in the fixing of the basic wage. It is evident, therefore, that there can be no penalty on any workers under industrial awards. {: type="1" start="2"} 0. Effect on the bakers: The bakers are protected because the price of flour will be fixed within a certain range, leaving them a reasonable average profit for their work. 1. Effect on the miller: The miller will buy wheat in the open market and will be allowed by the arrangement to obtain a reasonable price for gristing and milling, regardless of fluctuations in the value of offal. He will not be interfered with in his export business, which will be carried on as in the past. If the price of wheat should rise, above the agreed basic rate of 4s.8d. c.s., he will be protected by being recouped from the special fund which will be created to maintain stability in regard to the price of flour. 2. Effect on the farmer : The farmer will, for the first time in his existence, have stability in regard to that portion of his crop, whether it be¼th,1/5th orrd, which is consumed in Australia and export parity for the balance. That will assure him, with economic production, a payable price over a reasonable term of years. I hope that the bill will be passed by a huge majority when the vote is taken. {: #subdebate-17-0-s10 .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr GREGORY:
Swan .- I think that the attitude of the Opposition is paradoxical. I should have thought that this bill would evoke compliments to the Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page)** and the PostmasterGeneral **(Mr. Archie Cameron)** on the marvellous work that they have done in bringing the whole of the States together in amicable understanding on a difficult problem. The States themselves recognize that they were taking a great responsibility in recommending legislation of this description. Of the six States which are parties to the agreement, three are under the control of Labour governments, while in a fourth, Victoria, the government holds office with the support of the Labour party. It is extraordinary, therefore, that the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** should take the step of moving an amendment, the effect of which would be to defer, if not entirely destroy, the bill. If there was anything like freedom of trade between the nations of the world, wheatgrowers of Australia could compete on the world's markets except in times of national emergency, without receiving any assistance from the Government. It was stated in the report of the Agricultural Committee of South Australia that both South Australia and Western Australia could compete with any country of the world, were it not for the greatly increased cost of producing wheat in Australia. That cost has almost doubled during the last fifteen years, and the result is that to-day a great majority of the farmers are bankrupt or are on the verge of bankruptcy. Recently I placed before the House a graph showing the approximate value of a bushel of wheat in other countries of the world including, Argentina, United States of America, and Canada, compared with Australia. The remarkable fact disclosed by the graph was that the purchasing power of a bushel of wheat in Australia was much lower than in any of the other countries. I had an accountant in Western Australia prepare a table showing the costs of production of wheat in Australia for all years from 1913 to 1931. Over that period the increase was nearly 100 per cent. It is that state of affairs that has done much to make conditions difficult for Australian wheat-farmers. The following is an extract from the report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat, Flour and Bread Industries : - >The (practice of selling wheat for consumption in Australia at approximately the world parity prices for export wheat has been of benefit to the Australian consumer to the extent of approximately1s. per bushel as compared with the prices which would have been paid for wheat imported duty free. The average price for wheat for the years 1916 to 1931 was over 5s. a bushel, yet the royal commission which thoroughly investigated the industry found that the people of Australia were benefiting to an amount of1s. a bushel on all wheat consumed in Australia. The report further stated - the industry probably provides more direct employment than any other single industry in Australia; the industry provides almost 20 per cent. of the freight earnings of, and approximately the same percentage of the total tonnage of goods carried by the railways of the four principal wheat-producing States; the industry contributes a substantial proportion of Australian credits overseas; If the wheat-farmers are to be allowed to be forced off their land, an enormous loss must inevitably accrue to Australia, not only through loss of home market for other producers, but also because of damage to credit overseas. I would prefer legislation to guarantee a price for all wheat consumed in Australia, similar to the scheme operating in Canada, because then the person exporting wheat would receive the same advantage as the man who produced for local consumption. The value of our export trade is an important factor. It must also be recognized that a greater population is necessary to this country in order that the agricultural industries may be developed. It is easy to imagine what a setback it is to this country to have wheat placed on its markets at 2s. 2d. or 2s. 3d. a bushel, which is the price obtaining in those States which are so vitally concerned in the industry, although I understand that the figure is a little higher in Victoria and New South Wales. Those engaged in the industry have also to bear the burden of high tariffs which not only increase the cost of production but also bring about a loss of markets, because of the restraint placed on international trade. Ships come to Australia in ballast instead of carrying cargoes for sale in this country. All of these things affect the industry and must be taken into consideration. The demand for a home-consumption price has been brought about by a persistence of adverse conditions under which farmers find it impossible to carry on. I well remember the agitation which was carried on for some time for the establishment of a compulsory pool. It was believed then "that the only practicable method of providing for such a price in Australia was by means of a voluntary pool. We all know the history of that voluntary pool. With the exception, possibly, of Western Australia, voluntary pools have been a failure. Then came the demand for a compulsory pool. We passed legislation to enable the creation of a compulsory marketing scheme, but owing to the decision of the Privy Council that Commonwealth legislation regulating interstate trade was unconstitutional An effort was then made to secure necessary power for the Commonwealth by means of a referendum, which would have enabled the Commonwealth Government to control the interstate marketing, of wheat. I do not wish to indulge in unnecessary criticism with regard to influences which were brought to bear during the referendum campaign, but there is not the slightest doubt that in a number of States there was the strongest opposition to the Commonwealth proposals, yet in very few instances did we find members of the Labour party urging that the powers of the Commonwealth should be enlarged. There are in the Common- wealth many supporters of complete unification, involving the granting' of greatly increased powers to the Commonwealth; yet when this question which so vitally affects the wheat industry was put to a vote, the referendum was defeated, and it is not within the power of this Parliament to legislate in the direction of establishing the compulsory poll advocated by so many who opposed that referendum. Recently a meeting of the Agricultural Council was held to seek a way out of the difficulty created by the failure to alter the Constitution, and then Ministers representing the various State governments held a conference. I appreciate the difficulties which confronted the Labour governments of the States when an amicable decision with regard to the fixing of a home-consumption price was being sought. These governments were called upon to undertake the introduction of legislation providing for the fixing of prices of wheat products within each State conditional upon the Commonwealth Government passing legislation, which is now before the House, to impose a tax on flour used for the manufacture of bread. For many years the Labour party has professed itself to be in favour of the establishment of a home-consumption price, and has stated that it would be prepared to introduce legislation for this purpose if it were in power. To-day the Leader of the Opposition drew special attention to the fact that the effect of the legislation now before the House would be to increase the cost of living, and he said that definite hardship would be placed upon men with large families. I point out that the effect upon the consumer of the establishment of a homeconsumption price by means of a compulsory pool, as advocated by the Labour party, would be exactly the same. Whether by a compulsory pool or by the means provided for in this legislation, the price of flour will be fixed at a certain amount, and the effect upon consumers of bread will be precisely the same by either method. It is not only the price of bread that affects the cost of living. One can hardly congratulate the Labour party in this regard because a policy of high tariffs means increased costs in many directions, including building materials, such as timber. As I have previously stated, not only have three Labour governments approved of this legislation, but the legislatures of the States concerned have also accepted full responsibility for it. In view of that it is difficult to understand the attitude of the Labour party in this Parliament. Criticism of this measure was expressed by the honorable member for Henty **(Sir Henry Gullett)** on the ground that it would increase the price of foodstuffs. It is therefore strange that while that honorable gentleman was a Minister, Cabinet introduced similar legislation to that now before the House. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr Lane: -- Has the honorable gentleman ever been in Cabinet? {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr GREGORY: -- I have been in Cabinet for longer than most other honorable members in the chamber. I was a member of Cabinet in "Western Australia for nine years. The honorable member for Henty criticized the principles of this legislation on the ground of what he termed decency and justice, but I submit that his criticism was far from justified, and anything but decent. Criticism has also been expressed by honorable members of the proposal to set aside £500,000 of the money raised under this legislation for the purpose of alleviating distress in drought-stricken areas. The opinion has been expressed that the industry itself should not be compelled to make some provision to meet such circumstances. I think that is wrong. I agree with the honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock)** that if less wheat is being produced in Australia 'competition for local consumption is not so keen, and those who benefit in that way could well be expected to aid their fellow producers not so fortunately circumstanced. This legislation will give to wheatgrowers greater stability. I think that the legislation should be kept in operation for five years or more so that the industry may be placed once more on a sound footing. I do not believe that over-production of wheat throughout the world will occur for long. The position to-day is due to the war scare and to the policy of economic nationalism .adopted by many countries. According to a statement by **Sir George** Reisch appearing in to-day* press, unless the nations of the world get together and rid themselves of economic barriers of trade in the next year a war will destroy civilization. That is the cause of nearly all the trouble. I venture to say that if, within a few years, the nations of the world can come together and agree to trade together freely, there will be little difficulty in supplying not merely the quantity of wheat the world is producing to-day, but very much more. It is dreadful to think that large masses of people in different countries of the world are starving for the staff of life at a time when there are huge stocks of wheat that nobody seems able to buy. One important feature of this bill which honorable members should not lose sight of, is that if the world price of wheat rises to 6s. the price to the Australian consumer will not exceed 5s. 2d. An excise duty will be imposed upon all wheat exported at a price above 5s. 2d. for the purpose of establishing a fund which is to be utilized to correct any increase of the price of wheat in Australia beyond the level set out in the bill. That phase of the bill should make it acceptable to the people as a whole. If this legislation were to have effect for only one year, as has been suggested, it would only result, as the honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock)** has said, in the necessity for having the disabilities and difficulties of the wheat industry brought up in this House year after year. That could only result in continuous trouble in regard to this important industry. I trust that nothing will be done to hinder the passage of this legislation, which will mean so much to the future of an industry which is of such great importance to Australia. Delegates to the Rome conference from nearly every country in the world declared that the prosperity of the farmer is absolutely essential to national prosperity. With the prosperity of the farming community is bound up the success of the secondary industries and those employed in them. I am hopeful that instead of a proposal that there should be a reduction of the production of wheat we shall find necessity for increasing it. Western Australia has a huge area, of wheat land which should be put into use. The greatest difficulties confronting the farmers to-day are brought about by low prices and high costs of production. If production costs could be lowered the people could enjoy rauch better conditions. I hope that as honorable members realize that all of the Australian Governments have expressed a desire that the bill should be placed upon the statute-book, it will meet with the approval of the House. {: #subdebate-17-0-s11 .speaker-L1L} ##### Mr WILSON:
Wimmera .- Whilst the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** has a great deal to commend it, I feel that it is not practicable as it is not acceptable to the Government. As the relief to be afforded to the wheat industryis urgently required, I intend to support the bill. I propose to confine my remarks to some simple facts, and as a practical wheat-grower who is actively engaged in the wheat industry at present, I hope that honorable members will pay some attention to my remarks. This bill is the culmination of efforts of many years by the wheat-growers of Australia to secure some recognition of the fact that they are entitled, to participate in some small degree in the protectionist policy of Australia. I put it to honorable members on both sides of the House that surely it is not a fair proposition to expect this large and important section of the community to produce a commodity, and to sell it to their fellow Australians at less than the cost of production. That is, in effect, what is happening now, what has been happening for many years, and what will continue to happen "unless this measure is passed. Honorable members on the Opposition side of the House have advanced arguments showing that this measure will result in imposing a tax upon the bread of the poor. Similar arguments have been advanced by the honorable member for Henty **(Sir Henry Gullett)** and, I have no doubt that when the honorable member for Barton **(Mr. Lane)** has something to say on the bill, he also will adopt that attitude. I think this entirely 'inconsistent, because honorable members on all sides of the House have supported the policy of protection and the maintenance of Australian standards for every section of the Australian community. In an indirect way, the effect of the tariff policy of Australia the been Honorable Queensland price the development of our industries, for the purpose of providing employment and a decent standard of living and wages for Australian workers, has had a very important adverse effect on the primary industries of Australia, particularly on the great and important wheat-growing industry. I point out to those who oppose the measure that they have, in the past, by the adoption of this policy contributed in some indirect way to the cost of living and to the cost of the loaf of bread about- which the honorable member for Henty almost shed crocodile tears. By this policy they have helped to reduce the purchasing power and the actual wages of the poorer people. I say in all fairness that those honorable members who oppose this bill cannot continue their present attitude towards this long-suffering section of the Australian community which has played a very important, part in the past, in conjunction with other primary industries, in maintaining the stability of our overseas finances and our trading position. Unless the plight of tie wheat industry is relieved at this juncure, I can see facing us great deterioration of the position in respect of our overseas finances, and also the ultimate elimination of many people from the land. Unless efforts are made to stabilize the wheat industry, it will be found that only sufficient wheat will be produced to supply the requirements of the home market. That is a position which we are not ready to accept at this stage of our development. From the Commonwealth point of view, I should say that it would be a wrong policy not to foster the wheat industry and to give it the necessary assistance for which it has been fighting so long. Honorable members representing Queensland, where a home-consumption price scheme has -been in operation for a number of years, cannot take exception to this measure. The attitude of all parties in that State is that the consummation of the home-consumption price scheme in Queensland has been of decided benefit to all sections of the community, including those poorer sections referred to during this debate. If we could apply the scheme universally to the whole of the industry throughout the Commonwealth nothing but benefit would accrue. In support of that I would say that when the price of wheat has been 5s. a bushel at country sidings, we have had a good measure of prosperity, not only in the wheat-producing districts, but also in our capital cities. Indeed,' it might be said truthfully, that the prosperity or otherwise of the wheatgrowers is a barometer measuring the prosperity or otherwise of the whole community. When the price of wheat was 5s. a bushel no objection was taken by the consumers or those who represent them in Australia to that price. They paid it willingly, simply because it was the world price. But where is there any other industry in Australia that will accept the dictum that if goods or commodities can be produced, for instance, in Japan, at a lower price, that price should be accepted for the product in Australia? It is sheer hypocrisy for honorable members to take up an attitude of that sort. If this scheme comes into operation it will not provide a big price for the farmers. It will not give to them the cost of production in industry this year added to the world price of round about 2s. to-day. Taking into consideration the low yields in many parts of Australia, it will just about provide the farmers with something on which to keep going while there will be debt accumulating that will have to be caught up with during the coming year. Practically every aspect of this bill has been dealt with by previous speakers and there is not left for me very much to say. I wish to draw particular attention, however, to one aspect of the bill which I think will commend itself to the community at large, that is, that when the price of wheat, under this scheme rises above a certain level set down in the bill, the wheat producers will themselves contribute their share to the fund established to subsidize the millers and the bakers to provide a stabilized price for bread throughout Australia. That is one of the greatest factors which will make the bill acceptable to the people as a whole. The bill provides against exploitation and in that sense it is very just and reasonable. It will give to those bakers who buy flour that stability so much needed in the industry to-day. I know people in the baking branch of the industry who are frequently getting into serious financial difficulties through having to take the risk of buying large quantities of flour only to see the market collapse with the result that they have to sell their bread manufactured from expensive flour in competition with others who have bought on a cheaper market.This stabilization scheme has been approved by every section of the community interested in the wheat trade, including the growers, the farm workers, the millers, and the bakers. The attitude of the consumers lias 'been mentioned in the course of this debate. It is pertinent for me to remind honorable members that the workers in the largest town in my electorate gave a solid affirmative vote on the recent marketing referendum. Why? In that town, thousands of men are employed in the dried-fruit industry under award conditions, which provide decent hours of labour and good wages. They wish to preserve those conditions. They realize that the industry would be precipitated into chaos if the stabilization principle were broken down in any way. I have no doubt that *they* will support this stabilizing legislation for the very self-same reason that led them to vote in the affirmative at the referendum. As the result of the protection that we have given to other industries, we have definitely increased the cost of living to the poorer classes of the community. Take housing and rent charges as an example. The cost of building materials has definitely increased because of the protection given to our iron and steel and timber industries. I could enumerate many cases of a similar nature to prove that we have adopted this policy in the interests of the Australian people generally. {: .speaker-JOM} ##### Mr Beasley: -- Costs have been increased as the result of monopolistic control. {: .speaker-L1L} ##### Mr WILSON: -- Because of its scattered nature, the wheat industry must have assistance, but not through methods of self-help, as suggested by an honorable member this afternoon. Centralized industries can apply the principle of selfhelp, and they have done so with great generosity towards themselves, but individualism plays a very important part in i,he wheat industry. For that reason, its representatives have been appealing to governments for many years to assist it by providing the stability through legislation that will place it on a satisfactory basis and make it of greater value to all sections of the community. There is nothing more degrading to the yeomen of Australia who are engaged in the wheat industry than to have to come, year by year, cap in hand to the Government and ask for a dole. It is the last thing that the wheatfanners want to do, but they have been placed in such a position that they have been unable to do otherwise. They have built up their organization and have fought for the acknowledgement of this stabilization principle for many years. At last the stage has been reached where that principle is about to be accorded to them. In view of that, I regret that there should have been opposition from honorable members even to the degree that it has been expressed to-night. {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr James: -- Other industries come cap in hand to the Government but cannot obtain assistance {: .speaker-L1L} ##### Mr WILSON: -- That may be so, but two wrongs have never yet made a right. So far as those other industries to which the honorable member has referred are concerned, I am quite prepared to assist him in any way to obtain justice for them. That is no idle promise and I shall prove that by my actions. This measure is an entirely equitable proposition and I trust that it will be passed without any great dissention. Some honorable members have suggested to-night that assistance of the character proposed should be provided only for those farmers who are in more or less needy circumstances, and that those who are in a better financial position should not participate in the benefits of the scheme. In answer to that, I point out that it is not. possible to discriminate in that way in the wheat industry. There still remains a method, however, by which justice can be done; that is through the income tax department. It will be found in a minority of cases that there are prosperous wheat-growers. Some are located in favorable districts where rainfall is good and the soil is rich. Because of these, and other reasons, it is possible in a minority of cases to produce wheat at a lower cost than the average price laid down by the royal commission which inquired into the industry. That aspect can be dealt with through taxation. The provisions of this measure follow substantially the recommendations of the royal commission, and I commend them to honorable members. Following implementation of the scheme embodied in this bill, it may be necessary to give even a little further aid to the industry and to adopt an agricultural policy that will provide still greater security for the industry and fortify it against drought conditions and other setbacks. I am reminded of a statement early this year made at a gathering of American wheat-growers by **Mr. Henry** A. Wallace, Secretary for Agriculture in the United States of America. After reviewing the recent history of wheat production and prices, and the world situation, **Mr. Wallace** declared that experience had conclusively demonstrated that . a low price did not necessarily mean an adequately increased consumption of wheat, but rather a piling up of surpluses. Consequently production in excess of requirements gravely hurt the producer and brought no benefit to the consumer. He suggested a programme for the wheatgrowers of the United States of America, to which I hope the Government will devote some attention, because of the important bearing it would have, nationally on defence in Australia, and because of its provision against the effects of recurrent drought periods. **Mr. Wallace** advocated, in the first place, planning for that share of the world wheat market which would bring wheat-farmers their maximum prosperity. Secondly, he proposed the setting of acreage goals in line with the needs of the soil and of the market of the United States of America and abroad. His third proposal was protection , against drought through an evernormal granary with reserve supplies of wheat stored on the farms or in elevators. That is the provision which I referred to as of particular national importance. This Parliament should see that we have an evernormal supply. The fourth point in **Mr. Wallace's** programme was crop insur- ancc By that I presume he meant drought insurance. His fifth suggestion was the retirement of sub-marginal lands. I am pleased to see that that is provided for in this scheme. His sixth proposal was price-adjustment payments financed from tariff equalizing taxes. By that is meant processing taxes, to offset the tariff privileges of manufacturers. That is exactly what is provided for in this measure. **Mr. Wallace** added that his programme was designed to give economic equality to agriculture which, with other measures for other classes of farm production, would prevent the farmer class from declining to the status of peons. Unless this protection is given and the whole agricultural situation is watched carefully in Australia, this magnificent class of our population will decline to the status of peons. Surely no honorable member of this Parliament would ever willingly permit that to take place if it could be prevented. I hope that we shall maintain the high standard of our agriculturist pioneers who have made a name for this country, and have laid the foundations of the great heritage that we now possess in this southern land. I hope, also, that no honorable member will present such a bar to progress, as to stand in the way of such just, fair and economic legislation as that now before the House. {: #subdebate-17-0-s12 .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE:
Barton .- I have been interested in many of the speeches made on this bill. For my own part, I wish to make it quite clear that I am not opposed to wheat-growers being granted relief when they really need it. In such cases they should receive it. My difficulty i3 that bounties have been paid in the past to many growers who did not need them. I say, definitely, to the Country party that many farmers, particularly in such districts as that surrounding the north-west plains in New South Wales, where crops of anything from 20 to 30 bushels to the acre are reaped regularly, do not require this assistance. Farmers who experience seasonal adversity or who settle on inferior land, and reap only about 10 bushels to the acre may deserve consideration. To my knowledge many men engaged in mixed farming, and running a number of sheep, show a good profit on their operations year after year. I do not know of any other section of the community which has such colossal impudence as to say to the Government, with such unfailing regularity: "We want a bounty on our production ". The most consistent of these people are certain hon.orable members of this Parliament. {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr James: -- Docs the honorable member say that members of this Parliament will participate in this 'bounty? {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- The honorable member for Hunter **(Mr. James)** said so himself last year. {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr James: -- Why has not the Honorable member for Barton the courage to say it now if he believes it? {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- I have all the courage I need to discuss this subject. The honorable member for Hunter is not the only courageous member of the House, nor is he the only honorable member who has the courage to discuss the wheat industry, or, for that matter, the coal-mining industry. I cannot understand the Government paying so much heed to the claims of the members of the Country party that primary producers engaged in wheat and wool production, the fat lamb industry, or other profitable primary pursuits, should be granted bounties simply because certain other people engaged in other and loss lucrative industries receive bounties. I object to the payment of bounties without having regard to the financial position of the recipients. Many farmers had cheques sent to them, and had been practically forced to take the money. Of course, there would have been no need to force it on the honorable member- for Darling Downs **(Mr. Fadden)** who, even if he had only a few acres of wheat, would have been one of the first to apply for the bounty, and he would have been over at the bank five minutes afterwards to lodge his cheque. All greedy men go after everything they can get. I do not think that we should be bound by the decision of the six State parliaments which have agreed on a scheme, and are now asking this Parliament to use its powers to impose a tax on flour. I heard some members of the Country party complaining because the marketing provisions, which were submitted to the people by referendum, had been lost, thereby depriving the farmers of something which would have been of great value to them. I ask those honorable members who it was who voted against the marketing scheme? We know that **Mr. Abbott,** or **Sir Norman** Kater, of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, wrote to the AttorneyGeneral **(Mr. Menzies)** asking him whether, if the marketing proposals were agreed to, would some other government be able to apply its provisions, not merely to the half-dozen industries for which they were intended, but also to all primary industries, thus enabling it to fix the price of wool, mutton, &c. The Attorney-General had to admit that the word "marketing" was wide enough to enable the scheme to be applied to all primary commodities. The graziers then made up their minds that, no matter what the wheat-growers might want, they did not want the prices of their commodities fixed by the Government. They were .prepared to sell their products on the market at current prices. I am not sure that the farmers are doing the right thing now in asking for the fixation of wheat prices. I hope the Government will limit the scheme to a period of not more than twelve months. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- This Government could not fix prices for 24 hours. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- No, but it is supported - by a powerful Country party in New South Wales, and another in Victoria. We have the engineer-in-chief sitting here at the table in the person of the Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page),** who is ably supported by his lieutenant, Bruxner, in New South Wales. Between them they are able to induce the State governments to pass legislation to enable the scheme to be put into operation. Because the 6ix State governments have accepted the scheme, this Parliament is asked io do its part, and impose this tax. Then we shall be told that, though we can fix the price of wheat, it is not possible to fix the price of bread. The honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock)** and the honorable member for Wimmera **(Mr. Wilson)** tried to make us believe, as if we were a lot of children, that what the Government was proposing to do would not affect the price of bread; that, at any rate, the Government would not be responsible for any increase of the price of bread. I say that if this Government imposes a tax on flour, and the price of bread is increased by one half-penny a loaf, then this Government is responsible for that increase. When a tax is imposed, on flour, the natural corollary is that the price of bread will rise. The honorable member for Darling Downs said that he had got into Parliament because of statements that I had made. I say that he wilfully misconstrued my statements. The honorable member said that in Queensland the price of wheat was fixed. Of course it is, and they fix the price of practically everything in Queensland. When I was in Bowen, representatives of the tomatogrowers waited on me and asked me. to do what I could to prevent the Queensland Government from stopping them from sending tomato pulp for sale in Sydney. They told me that the Minister in charge of marketing in Queensland was so arbitrary in his methods that the primary industries were suffering severely. I should not object to the fixation of prices if wages paid in the industry were also fixed. The award for rural workers in New South Wales is not operating at the present time, and for this the Country party in that State is responsible. If prices are to be fixed every man working in the industry is entitled to a fair wage. Arbitration courts are for the purpose of fixing wages in accordance with prices that are, in their turn, influenced by the tariff. The Australian Workers Union obtained an award for pastoral workers, but, through the action of the Country party, the rural award was suspended. {: .speaker-L1L} ##### Mr Wilson: -- Give us a fair price for our commodities, and we should be able to pay fair wages. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- If the farmers are not prepared to organize their own industry so as -to enable them to get a proper return it is their own fault. The governments of some other countries are to-day insisting that agriculture should be conducted on scientific lines. Only ten days ago, a. young fellow asked me for a reference to enable him to obtain a situation in Darwin. He is a fine specimen, 6 ft. 3 in. in height, and I asked him why he did not go on the land. He told me that he had passed the intermediate examination', and that he had been at an agricultural college. He was used to farming, and had never failed to keep his end up at any 'farm work. Nevertheless, all he was able to get as a farm hand was 25s. a week and his keep. No one would more warmly welcome a scheme for the fixation of prices than I, if it would have the effect of taking the young men out of the cities, and making agriculturists of them. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- This represents the first attempt at fixing prices. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- Already almost £15,000,000 has been paid out in bounties on primary products, and every time a new proposal of the kind is brought forward I have raised this issue. I have been told by Country party representatives that some farmers are so inefficient, that, they are unable to produce more than 9 or 10 bushels an acre off land from which other men would produce 30 bushels. "When I asked them whether they were in favour of assisting the inefficient farmer, they replied that such men should be put off the land; that they arc only a nuisance in the industry. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- We said that they should be put on to bigger farms. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- The Country party has got all the bonuses and bounties that it can get, and now it is advancing a new scheme. A few years ago, a proposal was agreed to for the expenditure of £12,000,000 to pay the debts of hopelessly involved farmers, and to rehabilitate them on new areas. The fact is, however, that of the £12,000,000, the State governments have not been able to find use for more than £6,000,000. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- They have not been able to get more than £6,000,000. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- They have not been able to produce the men who need and deserve help. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- Yes, we have. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- I have followed thi.? matter as closely as most men, and T know that that is not so. I know of two small - farmers who had to spend from twelve to eighteen months in writing letters before they could come under th, debt adjustment scheme. I warned tha Government when that scheme was introduced that it could not compound with creditors of the farmers in the way which was intended. The Government could not be persuaded into adopting normal business methods. In the city, when a man finds himself unable to meet his obligations, his creditors say to him, " Come and see us, and we shall talk things over." They say to him, "What can you pay? Can you pay 10s. or 12s. 6d. in the £1 ? ". If he says that he can pay only 10s. in the £1 they come to an arrangement. If he cannot produce sufficient to guarantee his continuance in business they wipe him off the slate. Under the debt adjustment scheme, the Government has differentiated between the creditors whom it has asked to liquidate the farmers' debts. {: .speaker-KOQ} ##### Mr McCall: -- Has the honorable gentleman seen the report of the AuditorGeneral for Victoria on debt adjustment in that State? {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- Order! The debt adjustment scheme should not be discussed on this bill. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- The point I am making, **Mr. Speaker,** is that assistance to wheat farmers should be given on a sound basis. I should be glad to give assistance, indeed, generous assistance, to men who need it, but I should never agree to wealthy farmers participating in it. In evidence before the wheat commission, **Mr. John** McElhone said - >One of the outstanding results of the investigation appears to be the fact that no fewer than 15,844,200 sheep, or 20.5 per cent, of the State's total flocks, are depastured on holdings on which wheat is grown. Nearly a third of this total, however, is carried on holdings of 5,000 acres and upwards, indicating that they arc more likely to be pastoral holdings growing a little wheat rather than wheat farms running sheep. What astounding evidence! Twenty-nine per cent, of the sheep flocks of New South Wales are pastured on wheat holdings. The evidence continues - >Another interesting feature is the extension of dairying among wheat farmers.. Practically one wheat-grower in eight was running a registered dairy, or 2,283 out of the total of 17,892 holdings on which wheat was grown for grain (excluding the coastal division). > >The greatest development in this direction has been on the western slopes, where there were J. 309 registered dairies on wheat farms, nearly half being on the south-western slope. {: .speaker-JLZ} ##### Mr Anthony: -- Does the honorable gentleman not realize that they do that because wheat was not paying? {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- If a business man in Sydney cannot make one department pay lit- is forced to open another. {: .speaker-K2A} ##### Mr Rankin: -- And squeals for tariff protection. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- No. The men I refer to have never done that. If they cannot make their business pay they go out of business. The fact remains that of 17,892 holdings of wheat land in New South Wales a large proportion of them are used for running sheep as well as for growing wheat. {: .speaker-KQ8} ##### Mr Scholfield: -- Does the honorable gentleman not realize that money is lost thereby? {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- The honorable member would see that he did not lose. If a bounty is to be distributed to the wheat farmers, it should be equably distributed. The honorable member for Wannon **(Mr. Scholfield),** and- the honorable member for Wimmera **(Mr. Wilson)** have said that the farmers dislike asking for the dole. They would not need to, if their industry were organized. 1 went to the Lake Cargelligo district before the railway to it was built, and I can honestly say that the rainfall there did not warrant the Government of New South Wales in making holdings available for the growing of wheat. Of course, when wheat rises to 5s. 6d. a bushel, the squatter says, "I have some land which receives a rainfall of six, eight or ten inches a year, anc! I should sell it at good prices now that I have the chance ", The men who buy it are victimized, because they can never get a fair return from their outlay. They are the men who should have the whole of this money. Not £500,000, not even £1,000,000, would be sufficient to meet their needs. Their holdings should be enlarged so that for the first time in history they may be enabled to make a living. Young fellows, who undergo intensive training at agricultural colleges, have no prospect of being anything other than farm labourers all their lives, unless their parents happen to have a few thousand pounds of capital which can be used to put them on the land. Some farmers treat- their employees well, but the majority do not. I know boys who have spent five or six years working for men who pay them 10s. or 15s. a week and provide them with quarters which are not fit for domestic animals. I do not speak from hearsay, because I have seen the quarters in which some of the lads are expected to live. Their employees are the men who come to this Parliament and ask for bounties. {: .speaker-JLZ} ##### Mr Anthony: -- Has the honorable member seen the quarters in which the farmers live? {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- Yes; some of them are pig-sties. If I were a farmer and had any respect f Or my wife and children, I would see that they lived under decent conditions. The honorable member for Richmond **(Mr. Anthony)** is not the only person who has lived amongst the cockies on the north coast of New South Wales. Other honorable gentlemen who represent country constituencies are not the only honorable gentlemen who have seen the Darling Downs and other rural areas, and observed the conditions under which employees are compelled to to work. {: .speaker-KYI} ##### Mr Prowse: -- Award conditions in Queensland ! {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- Some employers observe the award, but others do not. If fixed conditions are wanted for the wheat industry, there should be fixed wages and conditions for the employees. There should be some provision which would prevent young men of 21 and 22 years of age, who wish to take on the responsibilities of family life, from being exploited in the way in which they are exploited now. I know of no industry in which the difficulties of youths are so great as they are in the land industries. There is talk of bringing boy migrants to Australia to work iia the country districts. They will remain farm labourers all their lives. Possibly, that is what is wanted. Other countries have organized agricultural industries scientifically, and they have compelled the owners of land to erect decent residences, not only for themselves and their wives and families, but also for their employees. Organiza- tion of wheat industry in Australia has never been attempted, because those engaged in it are content year after year to come to this Parliament to ask for two, three or four million pounds. I have a cutting from a **Mr. Fitzhardinge,** and I daresay that every member of the Country party has received a similar document. It is an extract from the *Sydney Morning Herald* of the 5th August last, and it. states - " We hear many complaints of low prices and many requests to the Government for artificial prices, which, of course, the taxpayers would eventually have to pay," he proceeded. " If the growers think a price in the neighbourhood of 4s. a bushel in the country is very satisfactory and payable even for the small percentage used locally, why did they not sell their wheat earlier this year?" {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr Nock: -- They did. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- No, they did not. They stored 7,000,000 bushels in' silos in the hope of the price lifting. There were (5.000,000 bushels in the silos in South Australia. I do not doubt that the honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock)** got rid of his wheat at an advantageous price. The report continues - Heavy Fall in Values. **Mr. Fitzhardinge** supplied figures showing the heavy fall in values since the beginning of November last year. Prices for silo wheat, net to a grower, at Temora, a representative station, he said, were: - The honorable member for Riverina knows that some growers held their wheat back in the hope of even more enhanced prices and had it left on their hands when the slump came. If, through their own negligence, they have lost a profitable market, they have no justification in coming to this Government for assistance. {: .speaker-KQ8} ##### Mr Scholfield: -- "We are asking for our rights. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- The only right that the farmer has is that for which he works. He has no right to come to the Govern ment, cap in hand, asking for help if he has been negligent; but that is the attitude of the farmers all along. They say that, because certain industries have tariff protection, they have a right to expect bounties. When the honorable member for Parramatta **(Sir Frederick Stewart)** waa Minister for Commerce, he made out a wonderful tabulation. I notice that the present Minister for Commerce has not dared to publish a similar table. It shows that the total number of claims was 70,942 and that the bounty paid amounted to £3,342,325. Eighty per cent, of the farmers, numbering 57,019, received £1,494,S25 by way of bounty, whereas the remaining twenty per cent., numbering 13,000, received £1,847,000. These figures bear out my claim that the small percentage of Australian wheat-farmers holding large acreages, are the ones who benefit most. In my opinion, bounties and bonuses are usually paid to the people who deserve them least. {: .speaker-K2A} ##### Mr Rankin: -- What about the bounty of £6,000,000 which has been paid to Lysaght's Limited? {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- No bounty has been paid to that company. I point out to the honorable member that it is the workers engaged in Australia's secondary industries who provide the best market for primary products. I contend that no member of Parliament who stands to benefit under legislation such as this, should be permitted to exercise a vote upon it. I have no objection to assistance being given to men who are doing their best to develop an industry, but I do not think it is fair that the people of the Commonwealth should be exploited in order that money may be paid to farmers who, year after year, make no attempt to improve means of production, but come here, cap in hand, seeking grants. I should like to quote from the Auditor-General's report with regard to rural debt adjustment. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- The honorable member will not be in order in reading the report of the Auditor-General on farmers' debt adjustment legislation. That matter cannot be discussed under this bill. {: .speaker-KZF} ##### Mr LANE: -- As I previously stated, this Government arranged to provide £12,000,000 to the States for the adjustment of farmers' debts. The AuditorGeneral in his report, points out- {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -Order! I have ruled that that matter may not be discussed. The honorable member's time has expired. {: #subdebate-17-0-s13 .speaker-JPN} ##### Mr BLACKBURN:
Bourke .- The first quarrel I have with this measure is the method adopted in presenting it to this Parliament. In a scheme such as this the Commonwealth Parliament should play the principal part, but that will not be so if this legislature is to be treated in the present manner. The position is that a scheme was adopted by the Commonwealth Government in cooperation with the representatives of the States. The resolutions which were adopted at a conference of Commonwealth and State representatives should have been placed before this Parliament for discussion, and after the scheme had been approved, the necessary legislation could have been introduced into the State and Commonwealth Parliaments. That course, however,, was not followed. Measures have already been passed by the State parliaments and now, in the dying hours of this session, a bill has been introduced. Members are being forced, by the pressure of time, to dispose of the measure rapidly, and have no opportunity to discuss the proposals fully. In spite of the statement to the contrary by the honorable member for Gippsland **(Mr. Paterson),** it is within the power of this Parliament to control the price at which flour or bread is to be sold, because this legislation depends upon the willingness of the Commonwealth to give money to the States. The effect of this legislation will be that money will be granted by the Commonwealth to the States, either out of Consolidated Revenue, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin),** or out of funds raised by a tax imposed for that special purpose. It is perfectly clear that the Commonwealth, in granting that money to the States, can attach whatever conditions it thinks fit. It can inform the States that the money will not be granted unless prices are fixed to the satisfaction of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Warringah **(Mr.** Spender) drew attention to this fact in a recent speech dealing with constitutional reform. He said that the Commonwealth Parliament had indirect powers under which it could do things for which no direct authority existed. He referred to the use of the fiscal power, of the Commonwealth; that is, the power to raise and expend money in whatever manner it pleases. Section 96 of the Constitution gives power to grant money to the States, and to impose any conditions which it thinks fit in connexion with the expenditure of the money. This legislation is apparently an exercise of that power. The Commonwealth Parliament has power to annex to the grant proposed under this bill, any conditions which it desires should be imposed. The Administration of which the present Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page)** was joint leader was responsible for the Federal 'Aid Roads Act, upon which the High Court decision to this effect was given. The State of Victoria contested the right of the Commonwealth Parliament to grant money and attach conditions to the federal aid roads grant. The High Court held that the Commonwealth Parliament had power, under Section 96 of the Constitution, to pass the legislation and to impose conditions in relation to the expenditure by the States of the money raised by the Commonwealth and passed over to the States. It is, therefore, quite competent for this Parliament to say that it is prepared to grant money to the States for the purpose of rehabilitating the wheat industry and paying a home-consumption price for wheat, and to lay down, conditions under which the money is to be expended. Before this legislation was introduced, legislation had ' been passed through the State parliaments but no price for bread has been fixed. It is of no use to the ordinary consumer of bread merely to have the price of flour specified. The price of bread itself must be fixed. As a matter of fact, in Victoria, members of the State Parliament contend that the price of flour has been fixed at an extortionately high figure. I say that this House would be entitled to reject the measure upon the fact alone that this Parliament, which has complete power over this matter, has been relegated to a subordinate role in connexion with it. The States have done the work of determining what shall be the policy, and the Commonwealth comes in and says, " We shall vote the money ". The honorable member for Gippsland says that the States alone are responsible for the fixing of prices. I say that the Commonwealth Parliament is responsible for prices, because, before voting the money, it-Ban lay down the conditions upon which the States are to receive it. *h* could say to the States, "You must pass legislation with which the Commonwealth is satisfied before the money is handed over ", just as it said, in connexion with the federal aid roads grants: "You shall build the roads as the Commonwealth thinks fit, and you shall have the money under our conditions only." That is perfectly clear. The Government knew that under section 96 of the Constitution, it had power actually to occupy the whole of this field, and to say that it would grant the money to the States only on certain' conditions which it could there and then set out. lt could say to the States, "If the States will make provision for the fixing of the prices of wheat, flour and, especially, bread, the Commonwealth will grant the money; if not, it shall not ask this Parliament to take up that position. But it has not done so because it does not want the responsibility of controlling prices. I repeat that if the Government has power to grant or withhold the money it has power to state the conditions on which that money shall be paid. The Constitution expressly provides for that. Now I come to the policy of the legislation. I am perfectly prepared to see the policy of a home-consumption price in this emergency in the wheat industry tried as a temporary expedient, but before this country commits itself finally to that policy it should act upon the recommendation made by the Wheat Commission that the policy of a homeconsumption price in all its bearings should be considered by an expert committee. The Wheat Commission said that if every other industry is to get a homeconsumption price the wheat industry should get it - if butter gets it, and if fruit gets it, wheat should get it. What is a home-consumption price? One of the arguments- used in support of the home-'consumption price is that it is proposed to put the primary producers in the same position as the protected manufacturers and the workers of Australia. I say that it is proposed to do more than that, and its object is to put the primary producer in a much better position than the protected manufacturer or worker. Its object is to enable the primary producer to sell the whole of his product, and to fix an artificially high price for Australia so that what he cannot sell in Australia he can sell overseas at practically any price at all; in other words, he would be able to make up his loss overseas by his profits here. The protected manufacturer and the worker are not in that position. What would be the position if we had a home-consumption price for boots? {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- The boot manufacturer already has it. {: .speaker-JPN} ##### Mr BLACKBURN: -- That is not so; his price is fixed by intense competition inside Australia. If we gave him a home-consumption price for hoots he would start out by fixing the price for boots so high that he would be able to get rid of his surplus by dumping it at a much lower price on the overseas market. Let us confine our consideration to primary industries. If a home-consumption price were provided for coal we should find that the colliery owner would get such a price for his coal that he could recapture his lost market in Chile or in South Africa. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- I do not agree with the honorable member. {: .speaker-JPN} ##### Mr BLACKBURN: -- I am concerned not with what the honorable member for Gippsland says now, but rather with what he has said in the past. I have heard the home-consumption price advocated in the past on many occasions as a means of enabling the producer to sell the whole of his product. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- But never by me as a means of meeting the loss on export. {: .speaker-JPN} ##### Mr BLACKBURN: -- It is, of course, not put that way. When we have an industry whose activities .are largely export activities, as in the case with the wheat industry, and we are asked to fix an artificial price for Australia, we know that that is going to enable the general exporter to sell his wheat at an artificially low price in competition with other people in the markets of the world. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- It does not give him a payable price over all. {: .speaker-JPN} ##### Mr BLACKBURN: -- The bootmaker does not get a payable price for all of his goods; he gets for part of his possible product the Australian price which is fixed by keen internal competition, and not a regulated price. Let us take the worker. What is his position? The worker has to live by selling his commodity, the commodity which is in him, his labour-power. Does anything guarantee the worker the right to sell his labour-power? No worker is guaranteed the right to sell his labourpower. Only the employed person, the person who is for the time being in employment, can sell his labour-power. Only by getting a home market for every commodity can you ensure to the worker the right to sell his commodity. {: .speaker-JLZ} ##### Mr Anthony: -- Does that mean doing away with the arbitration awards? {: .speaker-JPN} ##### Mr BLACKBURN: -- The honorable member is misunderstanding me. No arbitration award will give John Brown or William Smith the right to sell his commodity; if he gets a job, he gets the wage appropriate to it. The Arbitration Court does not give him the right to dispose of his commodity by -which he must live. We are told that it is degrading that men should have to come to this Parliament and ask for a bounty. How much more degrading must it be for a man willing to sell *his* commodity, his labour-power, to be told that he cannot sell that at all but that he must take a dole? The honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock)** said that there was a time when the wheat-grower was in the fortunate position of enjoying cheap labour and cheap goods and of having to make no contributions for social services. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr Nock: -- And cheap machinery. {: .speaker-JPN} ##### Mr BLACKBURN: -- -That is so. If this country remained in that happy position, there would not be anybody here for the wheat producer to sell to. He would have no market but the overseas market for his product. What gives the wheat producer his market here? The policy which this country has adopted of diversifying industry by means of a protective tariff, of giving the wage-earner better wages by wage-fixing legislation, of encouraging trade unions and of giving people who have no spending money assistance from the votes for social services. We have created industries which employ persons who, but for our tariff, would be working in other countries. They are working here and they are making the demand for the goods produced by the primary producer. Then we are told about cheap markets. I hold in my hand a book called *The Case for Union,* which was prepared by a committee consisting of **Sir Robert** Garran, ex-Senator Keating, **Mr. Somerville** and **Mr. John** Gilbert. It was prepared in reply to the case for secession for Western Australia. It examines the evidence that the Western Australian farmer is suffering by the protectionist policy of Australia. I advise the honorable member for Riverina to read it; I am sure that the honorable members for Swan **(Mr. Gregory)** and Forrest **(Mr. Prowse)** know it already. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- Has the honorable member read the other side as well? {: .speaker-JPN} ##### Mr BLACKBURN: -- I have read both sides. I have also seen the figures cited in the book. The whole examination of the case may be summarized in one sentence printed in large black type on page 60, which reads - >Whatever may be the dispersed costs of the tariff which the primary industries bear, it cannot be said that the direct costs of the tariff on the wheat-grower's plant are appreciable. The committee shows that agricultural machinery and farm employment are cheaper in Australia than in New Zealand, where there is no duty, and in South Africa. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr Nock: -- They cost 100 per cent more than before the tariff was introduced. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- They cost 35 per cent, more in Australia than in Canada. {: .speaker-JPN} ##### Mr BLACKBURN: -- It is possible that the Australian price and the price of imported machinery may both be too high, but the choice is between the Australian price, which may or may not be fixed, and the fixed importer's price. In these countries like New Zealand and Argentina machinery is bought at prices fixed by the importer. At page 59 of the book the committee says - >More illuminating, however, is the comparison of prices charged in Australia, and the prices paid in other countries for machinery of the same or similar description. In New Zealand, where duties are not charged on the articles listed, the price for a 6-ft. reaper and binder with transport and sheaf carrier is £3ti 15s., compared with £08 os. in Australia. Horse-mowers and horse-rakes arc also cheaper in Australia. In South Africa fifteen comparable implements are priced at figures in every instance much higher than in Australia. In Argentina, the most direct competitor of Australia in wheat production, prices in all instances are higher. In Canada comparable prices for some implements are a little higher, and for others a little lower, but on the whole, the difference is triflng The committee goes into the question of wire netting also, and shows that there is no special burden borne by the primary producers; there is, at any rate, no burden that handicaps him in competition with other countries because the wheat commission has reported that the wheat exporter is handicapped by the home-consumption price for butter; that the export industries pay the butter home-consumption price and are hampered in competition with other countries by that price. I want to say something now about section 92, which has been mentioned during this debate. I opposed any alteration of section 92 of" the Constitution, and I would oppose it again irrespective of what anybody thinks about it. I regard section 92 as a guarantee of Australianism, as something that says that every Australian can move himself and his goods all over Australia without being held up by State boundaries. I would object to these State boundaries being raised by State or Commonwealth legislation. We have heard quite a lot of talk in this Parliament about national sentiment. There is very little national sentiment in this place. We come together as a conference of people representing the different States and the different interests identified with those States. A number of honorable members in this House would be quite willing to cut Australia into any number of States if it suited the interests they repre sent. Section 92 and its corresponding sections are sections which, while preserving -the States, as governmental agencies, say that the members of the Australian nation may move freely about Australia, may take their goods freely about Australia, and shall not be discriminated against in any one State. For instance, Western Australia may not pass a law against a man simply because he is a Victorian. I opposed the marketing proposals of the Government, because I felt that more effective arrangements could be made than those suggested, as, for example, something in the nature of what is being done now. I feel that I was perfectly right in pointing out, during the campaign on the marketing referendum, that the policy df the Government was designed to set up self-governing bodies of primary producers which would have the exclusive power to determine the prices for which their products should be sold. The present Minister for Works **(Mr. Thorby)** admitted that the policy enunciated by the honorable member for Wide Bay **(Mr. Bernard Corser)** when he moved a motion in favour of such bodies, embodied the policy of the Government. But apart altogether from the Government's marketing policy, I opposed - any alteration of section 92 of the Constitution, because I felt that it would break up the unity of Australia. The Privy Council said, in effect, that the words " absolutely free", which are used in the Constitution, meant " absolutely free ", or nothing else. It was detached from Australian " political discussion " and from the policies of rival economic interests and political parties in Australia, but it held that section 92 forbade any Australian parliament, Commonwealth or State, to interfere with the liberty of our people to move about Australia as freely as they desired, or to move their goods about the country without any hindrance. I wish that that provision had relation to transport. Australia is a unity, but for certain purposes of administration, State governments have been permitted to continue. The paramount consideration of our people, however, is not that they live in New South Wales or Victoria, or in any other State, but that they live in Australia. They are Australian citizens, and they are entitled to move themselves and their goods about Australia as freely as they like, without being subject to any discriminatory action in respect of State boundaries. Section 92 of the Constitution is a guarantee which we cannot afford to forgo. I am prepared to give the proposal for a home-consumption price for wheat a trial as a temporary expedient, but I am not prepared to permit it to be the integrated policy of this country. It is true that the Wheat Commission recommended that a home-consumption price should be fixed for wheat, but, subsequently, it reviewed the matter and said in effect: - " We are now doubtful about the wisdom of our recommendation that a homeconsumption price should be fixed for wheat. We consider that the whole matter should be re-examined by an expert committee before it is finally adopted. But we think that as a home-consumption price is fixed for other products it should also be fixed for wheat." I have always said that I do not think that tariff protection should be granted unless prices, as well as wages, are regulated. One of the first statements made by the present Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** after he was appointed to that position was that it should be understood that the policy of the Labour party in respect of protection was that not only wages and conditions, but also prices, should be fixed. One of the reasons for the partial failure of our efforts to stabilize some of our industries is that an effective means has not been applied to the fixation of prices. We are, at least to some degree, in the position of the people who live on a certain island in the Pacific Ocean, in that every body lives upon every body else by the simple means of taking in one another's washing. {: #subdebate-17-0-s14 .speaker-KQ8} ##### Mr SCHOLFIELD:
Wannon -- I have listened with great interest to the speeches that have been delivered on this bill. Generally speaking, honorable members of the Opposition have indicated that they favour the adoption of a homeconsumption price for wheat, although the honorable member for Bourke **(Mr. Blackburn)** added a condition that this should not be a permanent policy. However, I noticed that the applause for the proposal for the fixing of a home-con sumption price for wheat has not been as hearty as it might have been. I fear that too little sincerity has been behind some of the words that have been spoken. I support the bill, and shall, of course, vote against the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin).** If I did not wish to give my own reasons for this action, I should be quite content to refer honorable members to the speech delivered by the honorable member for Barton **(Mr. Lane),** which I regard as, in almost every respect, favorable to the passage of the bill. The honorable gentleman said that certain wheatgrowers obtained an income from the running of sheep on their land. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr Nock: -- The sheep are only scavengers. {: .speaker-KQ8} ##### Mr SCHOLFIELD: -- That is so; and the honorable member for Barton would have realized it had he known anything at all about the wheat industry. -It is well known that it is not profitable, in the proper sense of the word, to run sheep exclusively on wheat land. The honorable member for Barton also said that many country lads went to the city because they could not obtain work in country districts. If I understand the meaning of English, that must surely be interpreted as an admission that wheat-growing is not profitable. The wheat-growing industry provides more employment than any other single industry in this country. It is also, with one exception, the most valuable exporting industry that we have. In these circumstances, it surely deserves sympathetic consideration by this Parliament. The stabilization scheme that we are now considering is the result of many conferences, and of many years of discussion. Measures to bring it into operation have already been passed by the various State parliaments. The scheme aims at achieving a good deal in addition to the payment of a homeconsumption price for wheat. The stabilization of the price of flour, as is proposed, and the consequent stabilization of the price of bread, must be beneficial to the consumers in general. The scheme will also have a steadying effect on the incomes of the wheatgrowers, although seasonal fluctuations will still have to be faced. I believe, also, that the scheme will beneficially affect the operation of the State railways. This year, owing to the extremely adverse conditions experienced in many parts of Australia, the State budgets will be seriously affected. In Victoria alone it is estimated that, in consequence of the bad season, the freight revenue of the -State Railway Department will fall by £800,000. The scheme that we are now considering seeks to provide, first, for the stabilization of the industry by a means approved by all parties in this Parliament; secondly, for the setting aside of £500,000 for the relief of farmers who are suffering from severe seasonal conditions; and, thirdly, for the removal of certain farmers from marginal lands on which wheat-growing is always likely to be a dubious occupation. I entirely agree with the action of the Government in assisting the State governments to fix a home-consumption price for wheat. I believe, however, that the provision of assistance for necessitous farmers, and of means by which farmers may be removed from marginal lands unsuitable for wheat-growing, should be made," not by the Commonwealth Government, but by the State governments. It is true that, in the past, the Commonwealth Government has made grants to the State governments to provide relief to farmers who have suffered from adverse seasonal conditions. No less <a sum than £14,000,000 has been made available for this purpose in recent years. Nevertheless, I contend that the State governments should be responsible for activities of this kind. In Victoria, many wheat-growers are settled on land which is not suitable for the purpose for which it is being used. As the State Government settled these people on such areas it should remove them and settle them in industries which offer the prospect of a more satisfactory living. It is all the more necessary that the State governments should accept this responsibility at present, because the Commonwealth Government is being required to provide such large amounts for defence purposes. One complaint made against this scheme is that it will result in an increase of the price of bread. It should be remembered that the whole scheme was arranged at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, at which the State governments agreed to fix the price of flour at £12 10s. a ton and the Commonwealth Government agreed to collect, by means of an excise duty, the difference in the price of flour made from wheat at world parity price and wheat at a price equivalent to 4s. 8d. a bushel. There is probably some justification for the contention that the price of bread will be increased when this scheme comes into operation, but the State governments will be responsible for whatever happens in that connexion. However, £12 10s. a ton is a fair price for flour when wheat fetches a normal price. Honorable members of all parties have agreed that 4s. 8d. a bushel is also a fair price for wheat. Another factor that should be remembered is that, if the price of wheat on the world market increases beyond 4s. 8d. a bushel, the millers will still be selling flour in Australia for £12 10s. a ton, and the farmers will virtually have to pay a levy to meet the difference in price. I believe that the majority of the representatives of the people of Australia in this Parliament will agree that this measure should be passed to ensure to the farmers a fair price for their wheat. In the long run, this scheme will be fair to consumers and wheat-growers alike. Although part of the proceeds of this tax is to be used to remove farmers from marginal lands unsuitable for wheatgrowing, I repeat that the State governments should accept responsibility in this connexion. It must be obvious to every honorable member who gives careful consideration to the position of the wheat industry that, unless there is associated with this scheme some provision for a limitation of the production of wheat in Australia, similar to the limitation imposed upon the production of sugar, the whole plan may fail. If people find that arrangements have been made to ensure a fair price for all wheat grown, the farmers will undoubtedly grow more wheat unless steps are taken to limit production to a reasonable quantity. I contend that a measure for the limitation of production should be taken in conjunction with that now before us.' {: #subdebate-17-0-s15 .speaker-JUQ} ##### Mr CLARK:
Darling .- I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin),** which makes it clear that the Labour party is in favour of a home-consumption price for wheat, and that we approve of the principle of paying a bounty to those who have suffered loss from the drought, but that we are at variance with the Government regarding the method by which the scheme should be financed. We disagree with the proposal of the Government that the bread of the people should be taxed in order to stabilize the wheat industry. Even if this mistake has been made in the past, there is no reason why it should be perpetuated. There are other methods by which the scheme could be financed. The burden should be borne by those sections of the community best able to hear it. The poorer people are the largest consumers of bread, and it is not right that they should be called upon to pay most of the tax. The royal commission which inquired into the wheat industry a few years ago reported that, without making allowance for interest payments, 20 per cent, of the growers could produce wheat at a profit at prices between 2s. 2d. to 2s. 7d. a bushel; another 20 per cent, could produce at a profit at prices between 2s. 7d. and 2s. 9d., while a further 20 per cent, could do so at prices up to 3s. a bushel. The commission estimated that interest payments represented a charge on wheat of between 7d. and lOd. a bushel. Interest is an important factor in the cost of production, and, in order to reduce that cost, mortgages should be reduced, and tha farmers financed at lower interest rates. A few years ago, legislation was passed through this Parliament authorizing an advance of £12,000,000 to be used by the State governments for the adjustment of farmers' debts. However, because of the negligence of the State governments, less than ha if of the money has been requisitioned up to date. If the interest burden were reduced, the farmers would benefit to a greater degree than they will under this scheme, which depends upon taxing the bread of the people. Some years ago, four bushels of wheat were worth £1 ; now ten bushels of wheat are worth only the same amount. Then a man had to produce only 24 bushels of wheat to pay interest on £100; now he must produce 45 to 50 bushels to pay the same amount. Thus, a far greater proportion of his production must be set aside to meet interest charges. This fact was noted by the royal commission which, at page 27 of its first report, stated - >The fall in wheat prices, notwithstanding tlie reductions in interest and other costa, has occasioned an enormous increase in the burden of the debt expressed in term's of wheat. For instance - a debt of £1,000 represented 4,499 bushels of wheat when the price was 4s. Od. per bushel on the farm. When the price had fallen to 2s. per bushel the same debt represented 10,000 bushels. If 7 per cent, be taken as the rate of interest before the depression, 310 bushels at 4s. 0d. paid the interest bill of £70. With a ruling rate of interest of 5 per cent, and wheat at 2s. the number of bushels required to pay the interest bill of £50 is SOO, an increase of GO per cent. If however, the excess of the selling price over working expenses (No. 1 costs) is considered, the increase in the interest burden is larger still. For example, if No. 1 costs were 3s. when wheat was 4s. Od. the margin was ls. Od. per bushel - 930 bushels would provide sufficient surplus to pay the interest bill of £70. With wheat at 2s. 6d., however, and No. 1 costs reduced to 2s., the margin is only 6<L per bushel, and to pay the interest bill of £50, 2,000 bushels are required, an increase of more than 100 per cent. No. 1 costs are the actual costs of production, including the cost of operating the farm, and an allowance for the farmer's labour, but no allowance for interest. No. 2 costs are the same as the others, plus interest. Any scheme for the stabilization of the wheat industry should take interest charges into account. The farmers should be financed at reduced rates of interest bv the Commonwealth Bank, thus enabling them to obtain greater returns from what they produce. No provision is made in this bill to ensure that farm workers are paid adequate wages. In every case when bounties are paid, the Government should insist that those employed in the industry are paid award rates. This, we shall be told, is a matter for the Arbitration Court, but in Victoria and New South Wales rural workers are not covered by Arbitration Court awards, with the result that men with families have to work for a miserable pittance of 10s. or £1 a week and keep; and pretty miserable keep it is. If the same scale of wages operated in all industries, the living standard of the people would be very low, their purchasing power would be correspondingly low, and there would be a very poor local market for primary products. If the primary producers wish to expand the local market they should insist upon the workers receiving adequate wages, and they should begin with their own employees. It is altogether unfair that farm workers should be receiving only £1 a week, when the basic wage in other industries is £4 a week. Under this scheme the workers generally are called upon to contribute through the tax on flour, but the workers in the rural industries are not assured of decent wages. If an assurance were obtained from the State governments that the price of bread would be fixed at a reasonable figure, the scheme would be more acceptable to the consumers. It is not acceptable in its present form, and I support, therefore, the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. {: #subdebate-17-0-s16 .speaker-F4T} ##### Mr FADDEN:
Darling Downs -- The merits and demerits of this measure have been fully discussed, so that it is not necessary for me to add very much. This proposal is consistent with the accepted fiscal policy of the country. Having regard to the fact that the people have accepted the policy of arbitration for the workers - and rightly so - and tariff protection for secondary industries, it is only natural that some such measure as this should be introduced in order to confer a measure of protection on primary industries. The merits of the wheat industry are so well known as to need no emphasis from me. Honorable members who have preceded me have already emphasized what an important part the industry plays in the economic life of Australia. Every honorable member of this House - indeed, every legislator in Australia - knows that it is in a perilous condition. In certain States,' the anxieties which some wheat-farmers have had about reduced prices have been added to by greater anxiety induced by the fact that, as the result of drought, they will have no income this year at all. It was for those reasons that the State governments combined in an approach to the Commonwealth Government for its co-operation in stabilizing the industry in the interests not only of the indus try itself, but also of the States and of the Commonwealth as a whole. The importance of this measure is overshadowed only by its urgency. In order to display to honorable mem'bers of the Opposition the need for this bill, I have only to direct their attention to what has been achieved in Queensland since 1920, when a compulsory wheat pool was established with head-quarters at Toowoomba. Honorable members from Queensland will bear me out in my contention that its establishment has resulted in benefit, not only to the wheat-growers in Queensland, but also to every other citizen of that State. This measure is nothing more than an enlargement of the principle of the Queensland scheme. It was introduced at the instigation, not of the Commonwealth Government, but of the States. The project originated at a conference of State Ministers in Sydney, and it was developed at a subsequent series of conferences held at Canberra with the representatives of the Commonwealth Government. In Sydney, the States decided unanimously to ask the Commonwealth Government to use its powers of excise and bounty to supplement what they would do in the direction of fixing the price of bread. The honorable member for Bourke **(Mr. Blackburn)** expressed doubt as to the constitutionality of this scheme. My only answer to him is that the State governments will fix the price of bread. The Commonwealth Government will have nothing to do with that. When the complementary legislation was introduced in the Queensland Parliament it was passed unanimously regardless of party considerations. I submit that what is good enough for the Labour Government of Queensland, which has had eighteen years of experience of the effects of similar legislation, should be good enough for the Opposition in this chamber. The Queensland Labour Government surely has just as much regard for the consumers of Queensland as the Labour Opposition in the Commonwealth Parliament has for the Australian consumers generally; and in view of the fact that a similar system has been applied in Queensland for eighteen years with benefit to every one, the Opposition here should lend this proposal its support. 1 say advisably that the Queensland legislation has operated to the benefit of all, because the cost of living in that State is lower than it is in any other State. It will be denied by no person that, in the interests of Australia, the wheat industry needs a stabilized price based on White Australia conditions, which will enable it to carry on. The Australian fiscal policy and the White Australia policy mean that the wheatgrowers have to bear costs of production which are greater than they otherwise would be. I instance the protective tariffs and the arbitration court awards, both of which increase costs of production for the farmer. The protection which is given to other sections of the community should equally be given to the wheatfarmers. I join with other honorable members who have suggested that when an industry is given protection it should be required to maintain Australian standards of wages, hours, and conditions. Some honorable gentlemen have been concerned with the financial aspects of this measure. I point out that no burden was placed on the consumers of wheat by the Queensland legislation of 1920. As the honorable member for Gippsland **(Mr. Paterson)** has said, the consumers will be safeguarded by the fact that the price of bread and the price of flour will be fixed by the States. Most honorable members listened with interest and probably in disgust to what was said by the honorable member for Barton **(Mr. Lane). His** speech reminded me of the words of Mark Twain to the effect that being ignorant of the subject made one more competent to talk about it. If any honorable members had any doubts as to the justification for this measure before they heard the honorable member speak, their doubts must have been set at rest by the ridiculous arguments that he advanced. The honorable gentleman apparently thought that he was speaking in opposition to the scheme, but most of the arguments that he used must have convinced honorable members generally of the need for it. For instance, the honorable gentleman said that farmers had turned wheat lands into sheep pastures. If a man were making a success of wheat-growing, he would not be likely to convert land, which had been fallowed and otherwise prepared for wheat crops, into sheep pastures. He also said that the wheatgrowers of New South Wales, whom he claimed to know well, did not observe decent standards of wages. That is another reason why this industry should * be stabilized. If the hononrable member for Barton is ever found with a kind thought and a good word for the man on the land he could, I submit, be arrested for having something in his possession reasonably suspected of having been stolen. {: .speaker-KX7} ##### Mr Ward: -- Why not have a clause in the bill setting that out? {: .speaker-F4T} ##### Mr FADDEN: -- It is for the State governments to do that. The government in Queensland has made the observation of award conditions precedent to farmers having the benefit of its legislation. The honorable member for Barton also said that the farmers lived in pig-sties- -a further reason why this industry should be stabilized. When the method of raising the flour tax is considered, I should like the Government to give consideration to the fact that many mills are carrying huge stocks of wheat and flour. If the tax is to be collected, as from the 1st December, there may be duplication of the collections, and this should be carefully safeguarded against. The Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** objected to the flour tax and suggested that the fund from which the wheat bounty will be paid should be raised by other means of taxation. I point out to the honorable gentleman that, in the last, year for which we have statistics available, of the £63,000,000 odd of revenue that was raised from direct and indirect taxes, £43,000,000 was raised by way of customs duties and £8,000,000 from the' sales tax. An aggregate of £51,000,000 out of £63,000,000 of tax collections Avas raised indirectly. I submit that any alternative to the flour tax would not give relief to the taxpayers. It must be appreciated that £500,000 from the fund of the industry will be lent to necessitous growers. That will not involve any extra load on the consumer. It will merely result in a reduction of what will be paid on a bushelage basis to the wheat-growers. This year Queensland is enjoying a record harvest, and expects to produce 7,000,000 bushels of wheat. If Queenslanders were to take a selfish view of this matter they would not care whether or not this measure was passed. In fact they would be a little bit better off if it were not passed. *[Quorum formed.']* Queensland may be subject to certain geographical disadvantages under this scheme, but the people of that State are taking a national view of the matter, because they recognize that they are part and parcel of the Commonwealth. In the Queensland Parliament recently the Premier said - The first point Unit arises in my mind is that wo affirm the economic proposition that all men engaged in useful services are entitled to a. reasonable standard of living, whether they are wheat-growers, sewerworkers, sugar-farmers, dairymen, or any other workers. The farmer is just as much entitled to a living wage as anybody else in the community. I do not think that will bc combated. Those are the very reasons that encourage this Government and members on this side of the House to support this very important and I might say imperative measure in the interests of Australian economy generally. I strongly support the bill which will give to this great national industry, much-needed stabilization. {: #subdebate-17-0-s17 .speaker-KX7} ##### Mr WARD:
East Sydney .- 1 think there should be general agreement that whenever a section of the community is in dire need of assistance, then some action should be taken to provide assistance. I believe, however, that we must give serious consideration to the methods by which the Government proposes to give assistance to the wheat-growers. Some of these farmers are no doubt in necessitous circumstances, but there are others, as has been pointed out, who are not. We must recognize the fact that whether we have a home-consumption price, or a tax on flour, in the final analysis this legislation will be, in effect, a bread tax, and the tax will be paid by that section of the community which is least able to make the contribution. That opinion is not only held by members of the Labour party. The latest report of the Bank of New South Wales contains the following statement with regard to the wheat industry : - >In Australia a scheme fur a homeconsumption price has been adopted, which should be operating in time to assist wheat-growers for the 1938-39 harvest. It i.s questionable whether a direct bounty would nol have been preferable to this scheme which will place an inequitable burden on lower-income groups, and will require a rather cumbersome form of administration. Professor Copland has been quoted very extensively during the discussion on this bill, and I draw attention to a statement by that gentleman reported in the *Sydney Morning Herald* of the 22nd September, 1938. The report states - >Unfortunately, most protective measures and home-price systems ure methods of painless extraction from an unsuspecting public. I think that that sums up the position. Government, supporters and particularly members of the Country party who are sponsoring this legislation have told us that the consumer is to be protected, but I point out that the State governments have not yet taken the necessary action to fix the price that will be charged to consumers of bread. We have been told that the State governments possess the power to fix the of bread if it becomes necessary to do so in the interests of the public; but I know from experience how little regard we can have for the promises made hy anti-Labour governments in- this connexion. Some years ago I was interested in the manufacture of bread, and I know from bitter experience just how far anti-Labour governments will go to protect consumers. The bakehouse with which I was associated was not' an up-to-date establishment ; the plant was obsolete, and we had very little capital. Because we were prepared to give to the people in industrial centres of Sydney bread at a price cheaper than that, fixed by the Master Bakers Association, and still make a fair profit we found that, obstacles were immediately placed in our way. The master bakers in conjunction with the millers have a black list. The majority of bakehouses in Sydney are tied up to the master millers, and immediately our activities became known" pressure was applied to have our bakehouse placed on the black list. Although the wheat industry was then in a parlous condition, and farmers were finding it difficult to dispose of their crops, we found it impossible to secure supplies of flour from millers in New South Wales, even though we were prepared to pay cash for it. We adopted all kinds of devices in order to secure supplies and eventually obtained them from the Echuca district, in Victoria. We brought the matter under the notice of the Government, and the present Minister for Works in this Government **(Mr. Thorby)** was then Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales. That honorable gentleman gave a promise that, if a specific case of boycotting was brought under his notice, and it could be proved that millers would not supply flour, even though cash payments were offered, the Government would take the necessary action. We offered to take the Minister for Agriculture around the flour suppliers in order to prove to him the impossibility of obtaining supplies in New South Wales if one happened to be on the black list. The Minister apparently had full cognizance of what was going on, because he refused to accept our invitation. The Government of New South Wales was then anti-Labour, and it was obvious, despite the Minister's assurance, that it was not prepared to do anything whatever to protect the consumers of bread. It would not do it in the case to which I have referred, and it is very unlikely that it will be prepared to do so now. The price of bread is determined by master millers and others directly interested in the manufacture of bread. It was stated the other day by **Mr. A.** Jelfs, secretary of the New South Wales Millers Association, that a homeconsumption price of 4s. 8d. for wheat would mean about £13 5s. a ton for flour. Following upon this, **Mr. J.** Israel, secretary of the Master Bakers Association, said that £13 5s. a ton for flour would mean that the price of bread would have to be increased by1d. a loaf. The Opposition would like to know why this Government, which, as the honorable member for Bourke **(Mr. Blackburn)** has pointed out, possesses all the necessary power, has not taken steps to include in this legislation conditions which will make it imperative for the State governments to protect consumers of bread. I should like to quote from the bulletin which is issued by the Country party regularly - >Figures worked out by the Farmers and Settlers Association show that the quantity of flour used in a 2-lb. loaf would cost only 2d. under a scheme for a guaranteed price f 4s. 8d. a bushel for wheat. That may be very interesting, but of what use is it to the consumers if this Government does not take the necessary steps to see that the consumers are not exploited to the degree they will be if the price of flour is forced up? In fixing a fair and reasonable home-consumption price for the wheat-grower, we must take into consideration the fact that, because of variations of production costs, and because of differences brought about by other circumstances, what is a fair price to one grower may be excessive for another. According to the royal commission which investigated the wheat industry, a home-consumption price of 3s. 4d. a bushel for f.a.q. wheat would give economic security to the average farmer. The report also states that wheat farmers are indebted to an amount of £140,000,000, of which £97,000,000 is owed to the private banking institutions. Naturally, this must be a big factor, and the interest charge must be bearing heavily upon wheat producers. What has this Government done towards alleviating that position? A royal commission made extensive inquiries into our monetary and banking system, and in its report recommended' that the functions of the Commonwealth Bank should be extended to provide for the granting of financial accommodation to small business men and farmers at low rates of interest and to take over existing mortgages. Legislation for this purpose has been introduced into Parliament, but it seems very unlikely that it will be pursued with this session. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- Order ! The honorable gentleman is out of order in discussing the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Reform. {: .speaker-KX7} ##### Mr WARD: -- I wish merely to say that the Commonwealth Government should have taken action long ago to see that farmers are supplied with the necessary mortgage accommodation at very much lower interest rates than those which have been charged by the private banks. Now the Government comes forward and says that the wheat industry is in a parlous condition, and that money for its relief must be raised by means of a tax upon the poor. What does that mean to the people of this country? It means that, despite the assurances of anti-Labour representatives, no definite action has been taken to fix the maximum price at which bread may be sold, and that the consumers will be at the mercy of the Mill Owners Association, allied with the Master Bakers Association, in regard to whatever price they might fix. We all know what that means to the general community. There are also other sections of the community which must be considered when a scheme of this sort is brought into operation. In this country are many deserving people who have occasion to collect the invalid or old-age pension, and the Prime Minister has indicated that the Government has no intention, irrespective of any fluctuation of living costs, of increasing the rate of pension. These pensioners have very small fixed incomes, and every increase of the cost of living is an important factor in their lives. We have also to consider this matter from the point of view of the interests of the basic-wage earners, and of those who have to depend on the dole handed out to them as unemployed workers by the State governments. Any increase of living costs today is a very serious matter to all of those sections of the community, and therefore, this measure calls for very careful consideration by every honorable member of the House before he records his vote upon it. This legislation will result in an increase, not only of the price of bread, but also of the prices of other commodities affected by wheat prices. We know, for instance, that an increase of the price of wheat has a great effect on the poultry industry by bringing about an increase of the price of wheat offals, which in turn will have the effect of forcing up the price of eggs. An increase of the price of wheat brings about an increase of the price of bran and pollard which, in turn, is automatically reflected in the price of bacon, pork and milk. I remind members of the Country party that every time legislation has been introduced into this Parliament to assist the wheat-growers, I, and the members of the party to which I belong, have always recorded our votes in favour of assisting necessitous growers, just as we have voted for assistance to other necessitous sections of the community; but we have very serious objection- to recording our votes in favour of taking money away from one section of the community by way of a bread tax only to provide greater profits to people in another section. *[Quorum formed.]* Legislation dealing with assistance to the wheat industry brought down by the Lyons Government before the composite Ministry was formed, contained a provision restricting assistance to farmers not in receipt of a taxable income. Subsequently, when the United Australia party had to seek the assistance of the Country party in order to form a government, this provision was struck out of the legislation, and the Country party demanded as the price of its support that a similar provision should not be inserted in any future legislation providing for assistance for the wheat industry. When the provision was first inserted in the legislation brought down by the first Lyons Government, the Labour party supported it because it believed that it was desirable in order to prevent greedy farmers who did not need assistance from Commonwealth funds from being able to secure it. The Labour party believed that assistance should- only be granted to needy farmers. In 1931, when under the regime of the Scullin Labour Government assistance was first provided for this industry. we were told that there was to be introduced a long-range policy so that we would not be interminably discussing the necessity for assisting the wheat-growers. Although, when the Scullin Government went out of office, the promise was renewed by the new government, unfortunately it was never fulfilled, and since then no attempt has been made to formulate a long-range policy for the assistance of the wheat industry. I put it to the members of the Country party in particular that the wheat-grower to-day is engaged in an -industry valuable to the country, and, because of that, he is entitled to the same consideration as is given to every other section of the community, but not to any special privileges. He should not ask for them nor should his representatives in this Parliament ask for them. What is the position of a man who has invested his money in wheat-growing and, because of certain circumstances, finds his investment unprofitable? Has he any special case to place 'before the Government for monetary assistance above that of the man who invests his money in some other industry? When a man invests his money in a small business and finds that he is unable to operate at a profit, nobody would suggest that he is entitled to financial assistance from the Government by imposing a tax on other members of the community, ninny of whom would probably be in worse circumstances than himself. It would be said that that is one of the risks he takes as an investor. We want to know why, if the Government is prepared to take the necessary steps to guarantee the security of one particular section, it should not be prepared to do so with respect to every other section? Some honorable members attempt to make the country believe that the Commonwealth Government has not been generous in its assistance to the wheat industry; but we have to keep in mind that, since 1931, £14,500,000 has been voted by this Parliament for the assistance of the industry, and on top of that, it has enjoyed the benefits of the pegging of the exchange rate in respect of that part of its production exported, the extra cost of which has to be borne by the general community. *As* the result of the pegging of the exchange rate at the present figure, this country has had to meet additional charges with respect to its overseas commitments which have had to be borne by the general community. Further, we have to pay regard to the fact that certain of the larger wheat-growers gamble with their crops. They are not satisfied with a fair price. The smaller farmers are compelled to sell their wheat at the earliest possible moment in order to carry on their production; but the speculators and the larger wheat-growers are in a much more fortunate position in that they can withhold their wheat from sale until such time as they are assured of the prospect of a more favorable market. Many wheat-growers who now urge the necessity for the fixation of a homeconsumption price for wheat could have sold their crops earlier this year, when there was a considerable demand for Australian wheat, at 5s. a bushel; but they held on to their wheat in the hope that the price would rise. When the market crashed, they set up an agitation that the Government should steps to grant them assistance. {: .speaker-L1L} ##### Mr Wilson: -- They did not ask for assistance for last year's crop. {: .speaker-KX7} ##### Mr WARD: -- There was no need for them to do so; they were then receiving a price for their wheat which they knew would make it impossible for them to justify any claim for financial assistance from the Government. Early this year, however, there was a considerable quantity of wheat still remaining in the silos of this country - many of the growers held on to their wheat hoping that the price would rise still further. Here is another danger that confronts the people with respect to the home-consumption price for wheat. In my opinion if the price of any commodity is fixed at such a figure as to guarantee a profit to every one engaged in the industry, the investment of further money is encouraged and the industry is unnaturally expanded. If that takes place it will only accentuate the difficulties of those engaged in the industry, and then in all probability these will follow a demand for the restriction of production. That is a logical consequence of what the Government proposes to do now. If this industry is given a guaranteed profit everybody with money to invest will naturally invest it in an industry the profits of which are guaranteed. That of course can only lead to its unwarranted expansion. We have to bear in mind that only about one-quarter of the Australian production of wheat is consumed locally. If this industry is unduly expanded, we shall find that the surplus available for export will be vastly increased. This will lead to a demand for a higher home-consumption price as compensation for the loss entailed in the sale of the export portion of the production. 'We want to know where this is to stop. Further, we find that when wheat prices are high, the financial institutions are prepared to extend financial accommodation to anybody who desires to engage in its production. In some cases land purchased at prices in lue vicinity of £10 an acre is capable of yielding only about 12 bushels to the acre. When wheat prices are high, this is all right, because those engaged in the industry are able to meet their commitments to the financial institutions, but when bad times come it is impossible for them to do so, and they are forced to seek assistance from the Government, and the money they receive is handed over to the wealthy financial institutions. In my opinion, the money necessary for the assistance of the wheat-growers should be made available out of Consolidated Revenue as is provided in the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, and only necessitous wheat-growers should receive assistance. Nobody wants to see any man who has put his lifetime savings into a property fail, but at the same time we must take into consideration the fact that many men engage in wheat-growing only as an adjunct to other farming, operations. Some wheat-farmers also engage in the raising of sheep and fat lambs; probably the greater part of their activities is concentrated in that direction and possibly at a considerable profit; but because they have a small acreage under wheat we are asked to disregard whatever income they may derive from their other activities and to compensate them for any loss that might be entailed in respect of their wheat production. Any wheat-grower who requests financial assistance from the Government should have to prove that he is in necessitous circumstances. I know that there are some honorable members who disagree with that view, but I contend that if such a provision is incorporated in the bill more money will be available for the people who really need it. Our purpose should be to assist men in need. The Labour party must be very careful in dealing with matters of this kind. The Parliament should not vote public money to individuals who are not in need. Undoubtedly this is a class tax. By no stretch of the imagination can it be described otherwise. I believe that it is entirely wrong for the Government to relieve the poverty of one section of the community by increasing the poverty of another section of it. The only just way in which to provide this money is from Consolidated Revenue. The amount should be raised by a direct tax on people who have the capacity to pay. I disagree entirely with the proposal to call upon the most needy section of the community to contribute to this fund. According to the Government's proposal, the workers who, it cannot be denied, consume the most bread, will have to pay the largest amount in tax; and the men with the largest families will be hardest hit. This is an entirely iniquitous proposition. Certain honorable members opposite, including some members of the Ministry, have vigorously advocated what they have been pleased to call " a fitness campaign." How can it be expected that the health standards of the people will be preserved when they are heavily taxed in respect of providing such a necessary of life as bread ? I hope that this Parliament will never agree to the imposition of a tax on the bread which the people eat. Such an impost must 'be an unbearably heavy burden to the workers. For that reason I hope that the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition will be carried. {: #subdebate-17-0-s18 .speaker-KK7} ##### Mr JENNINGS:
Watson .- The honorable member for Bourke **(Mr. Blackburn),** in an interesting speech, made reference to the constitutional position in relation to this hill. In the course of his remarks he said that no provision was made in the measure for the fixation of the price of bread. With this I am in agreement. I point out that the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to fix prices. However, the agreement of the various State governments to pass legislation to fix the price of flour is mentioned in the preamble to this bill. I suggest to the Government that it should make specific provision in the bill to provide that all payments shall bc dependent upon the carrying out by the State governments of their undertakings in this connexion. The question of relief to wheat-growers seems to come up like a hardy annual, and no matter what proposal is brought forward it is subject to some form of protest. There should be as much co-operation aspossible between city and country people in endeavouring to adjust the problems of this national industry. It is extremely difficult to ascertain who really make profits in the wheat industry. In other industries it is usually possible to discover where excessive profits are made, but in the ramifications of the wheat industry, from the time the grain is sold until it is manufactured into bread and the bread is sold to the consumer, it seems like a crossword puzzle to trace matters of this kind. It is absolutely necessary that the consumer of bread, as well as the grower of wheat, should be protected, but I am not satisfied that adequate protection in this respect has been assured. The honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock),** who must be regarded as an expert in the wheat industry, has told us that the value of the wheat in a loaf of bread is not more than1d. We are aware that when wheat was twice its present price the price of bread was practically the same as it is now. While there should be a reasonable price for the grower, there should also be a reasonable price for the consumer. The scheme which the Government is seeking to implement has been accepted by State governments of every political complexion, and that the necessary State legislation has been passed in all cases, and in most instances almost unanimously. This is the first time that the States have all come into agreement on a wheat scheme. The States have agreed to legislate for the fixation of the price of flour. I am informed that the Government of New South Wales has already decided to bring down legislation to fix the price of foodstuffs. In this connexion I direct attention to clause 10 of this bill which reads as follows : - >Where the Governor-Generalis satisfied that the legislation of a State providing for the fixing of the prices at which flour or other wheat products may be sold has beenso amended, or that such action has been taken thereunder, as to affect prejudicially the position of wheat-growers in that State in respect of wheat sold for home consumption in Australia, the Governor-General may, by notice in the *Gazette,* suspend, during or in respect of such period as,in his opinion, the position of those wheat-growers is so prejudicially affected, payments to that State under this act and thereupon, that State shall not be entitled to receive payments under this act during or in respect of that period. Certain penalties are provided for noncompliance with the provision of this clause. In my opinion the clause does not go far enough. What I propose to ask the Minister is that necessary action should be taken to ensure that the States will also provide for the fixation of the price of bread. This is the point upon which most of the debate has turned. I ask the Government to substitute for it a clause in the following terms: - >Where the Governor-General is satisfied that- > >the legislation of a State providing for the fixing of the prices at which Hour or other wheat products may he sold has been so amended, or that such action has been taken thereunder, as to affect prejudicially the position of wheat-growers in the State in respect of wheat sold for home consumption in Australia; or > >a State has not taken steps adequately to protect consumers of flour and other wheat products against excessive prices in respect of those commodities, the Governor-General may, by notice in the *Gazette,* suspend payments to that State under this act during or in respect of such period as, in his opinion -. > >the position of those wheat-growers is so prejudicially affected; or > >those consumers are not protected against such excessive prices as the case may be, and, thereupon, that State shall not be entitled to receive payments under this act during or in respect of that period. If that is done, effective action can be taken in respect of States which may not carry out the terms of their agreement. It makes the operation of the act contingent on the fixation of the price of bread and protects the consumers in the same way as it does the wheat-growers. The provision for the fixation of the price of flour should be associated with a similar provision for the fixation of the price of bread. {: #subdebate-17-0-s19 .speaker-K2A} ##### Mr RANKIN:
Bendigo .- The proposals of the Government, as set out in this bill, offer the only sound means available to assist the wheat industry. The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** would, if carried, merely delay the granting of the necessary assistance. The bill has been opposed by certain members of the United Australia party, of whom the honorable member for Barton **(Mr. Lane)** is typical, and by the honorable member for East Sydney **(Mr. Ward)** on the Labour side of the House. {: .speaker-KX7} ##### Mr Ward: -- I did not oppose the granting of assistance to those who need it. {: .speaker-K2A} ##### Mr RANKIN: -- The honorable member for East Sydney may not be directly opposed to the granting of such assistance, but he certainly indicated that he is opposed to this bill. The honorable member for Barton said that the wheat-growers in the Moree and the more favoured districts of New South Wales were not in need of assistance, but I have known occasions when they have been in dire need. The honorable member must surely be aware that severe drought conditions are being experienced in many parts of Australia at present, with the result that, in order to ensure the continuity of the wheat industry, we must provide some .assistance for the growers. The honorable gentleman observed that during the last few years £14,000,000 had been granted in bounties to assist wheatgrowers; but he said nothing about the very large sums that have been paid in bounties in respect of other industries. Lysaghts Limited alone for instance, have been paid £6,000,000. Many of our secondary industries are sheltered behind a stout tariff wall, but the wheat-growing industry is not in that favoured position. The honorable member for Barton never hesitates to vote in favour of tariff duties for the assistance of such concerns as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company ' Limited, General Motors Limited, and other big organizations which, at times, pay almost 100 per cent, in dividends on the actual capital invested in them. As for the honorable member for East Sydney, all I can say is that he, too, is never backward in supporting proposals for customs duties to protect monopolistic interests in this country. The honorable gentleman stated that wheat could be profitably grown in Australia if 3s. 4d. a bushel could be obtained for it. Probably if 3s. 4d. a bushel were guaranteed over a long period it would be possible for growers to make a reasonable living; but it must be remembered that only about one-fifth of our total crop is consumed in this country. The remainder has to be exported at a price which definitely is not payable. The honorable member for East Sydney also said that the farmers could have sold their wheat earlier this year for 5s. a bushel. I do not think that is correct. The highest price available in Victoria to my knowledge was 4s. Id. a bushel at country stations. But when the price was offering most of the wheat was still in the ear on Victorian farms. I believe considerable area3 in New South Wales had, however, been harvested at that time. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- If all the wheat could have been sold when that price was being offered, the market would undoubtedly have collapsed. {: .speaker-K2A} ##### Mr RANKIN: -- That is so. The honorable member for East Sydney said that he was favorable to the granting of assistance only to farmers in necessitous circumstances; but has he ever declared that our protectionist policy should be confined to secondary industries in necessitous circumstances? Actually our customs duties provide protection for some of the biggest monopolies in Australia. Will the honorable member agree that those engaged in secondary industries should have to produce evidence that they are not able to make the industry pay without increased protection? In the past, the honorable member for East Sydney and most other honorable members of the Opposition, have not insisted on that condition. So long as they were able to get something out of it for those whom they represent, they have been prepared to support monopolies that increase the cost of production against the producers by increasing the cost of the farmers' tools of trade. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: -- That is hardly fair. {: .speaker-K2A} ##### Mr RANKIN: -- It is the truth. There is no other industry in Australia that supports so many people as does the wheat industry. It supports those who work in the factories producing farm implements. It supports the railway workers, the waterside workers, and the storekeepers. Practically every section of the community benefits when the growers have had a good year. Though the wheat-growers have received assistance by way of bounties in recent years, we must not forget that, at the beginning of the depression, when it seemed certain that Australia must default on its overseas obligations, an appeal was made to the farmers to grow more wheat. They raised a bumper crop, and at the prices offering, exported a ' large part of the equity in their land in order to keep Australia solvent, and to keep the workers in their jobs. Tet they did not squeal. {: .speaker-KLC} ##### Mr Mahoney: -- What is the good of growing wheat if it cannot be sold? {: .speaker-K2A} ##### Mr RANKIN: -- I agree that much of the marginal land should go out of wheat production, and revert to pasture. The wheat-growers stood by the country in its time of need, and we should stand by them now. {: #subdebate-17-0-s20 .speaker-L07} ##### Mr LAZZARINI:
Werriwa -- I support the amendment, because I believe that the only equitable way to assist the growers is to take the money out of Consolidated Revenue. The Government proposes to place the burden on those least able to bear it. The great bulk of the community, for whom bread is a staple food, cannot switch over to some other article of diet, and so they must pay -this tax. The honorable member for Gippsland **(Mr. Paterson)** said that there was a world surplus of wheat of 1,000,000,000 bushels. I do not know whether that figure is correct. It may be more, but whatever it is, the surplus is due, not to the fact that we are producing too much, but to the fact that, because of the low purchasing power of the people, we are consuming too little. It is an economic waste to place this burden on the people merely to enable us to go on producing something that is not wanted. We are taxing the people to pay for a surplus that nobody wants. There must be some kind of economic management of production to avoid situations of this kind. In the final analysis, bounties and similar forms of 'assistance merely provide enough to enable the farmer to go on paying interest to the banks, and the farmer has his nose to the grindstone all the time. Very often the money goes to people other than farmers. The honorable member for Gippsland said that the income of the worker was governed by the index figures relating to the cost of living. We all know that, in fact, wages determinations habitually lag a long way behind prices. However, even if wages were adjusted immediately in conformity with price variations, what about the hundreds of thousands of persons who do not receive award wages? What about the thousands, even in my own electorate, who are on relief work, or who are employed in rural industries for which there is no award in operation? At the present time, rural workers in New South Wales and Victoria are not protected by any award. After all, it is only in a comparatively few industries that wages and conditions are regulated, and only a few of those who eat bread, and who- will pay the tax, are protected by arbitration courts. When this scheme was first mooted, the people were told by the press that, as an essential condition, the price of bread would be fixed. If I remember rightly, it was even stated by members of the Government in this House, in answer to questions, that one of the contingent features of the scheme was the fixation of the price of bread. Now we find that not one State government has announced its willingness to fix the price of bread. The honorable member for Watson **(Mr. Jennings)** said that the Government of NewSouth Wales was talking about fixing commodity prices. It is talking about having an inquiry into prices to see if it is necessary to bring in price-fixing legislation, but the actual fixation of prices is something that may take place in the sweet bye-and-bye, or it may never take place at all. In my opinion, it will never be done, because the profiteers are friends of the Government, and contribute to the party funds. This proposal of the Government, in the absence of the fixation of bread prices, is iniquitous. The scheme provides for the payment of 4s. 8d. a bushel f.o.r., or 5s. 2d. f.o.b. at ports. At the conference of representatives of the farmers on the 25th August, it was decided to ask for a guarantee of only 4s. a bushel, but they are now being offered an additional 8d. It takes 48 bushels of wheat to produce a ton of flour, and they also produce 880 lb. of bran and pollard. The offal from the wheat returns enough to pay the miller for the cost of gristing, plus his profit. The value of the offal from 48 bushels of wheat, at present prices, is £2 10s. The miller gets a rake-off from the poor poultry-farmer and the dairyman, who must pay the highest prices for bran and pollard.Under the wheat pool schemes of Labour governments, the millers received only £1 7s. for the offal which they are now selling at £2 10s., and they did well at that price. It is generally recognized that the price of wheat should be in ratio to the price of flour, which is at present at £12 8s. a ton,the cost of gristing and the miller's profit being obtained, as I have said, from the returns from the offal. A ton of flour will make 1,333 loaves of bread which, at 6d. a loaf, is equal to a return of £33 16s. 6d. for a ton of flour, Thus, the worker pays £33 16s. 6d. for the flour when he eats it in the form of bread, although the price of the flour itself is only £12 8s. The workers should get their bread at 4d. a loaf, at which every one concerned would be able to secure a reasonable profit. At present there is a difference of £21 8s. 6d., which the profiteers cut up among themselves. On the 32,000,000 bushels of wheat converted into flour, this tax, amounting to about 2s. 7½d. a bushel at present prices, is estimated to yield approximately £4,200,000. *Sitting suspended from 11.45 p.m. until 12.15 a.m.(Thursday).* *Thursday, 1 December 1938* {: #subdebate-17-0-s21 .speaker-L07} ##### Mr LAZZARINI: -- The propaganda that preceded the introduction of this legislation included statements that the price of bread would be fixed, but, although the price of flour may remain at the one level, there is no guarantee that the price of bread will do the same. On previous occasions, when there have been reductions of the price of flour, the price of bread has remained at the same level or has risen. The basis of this legislation is the raising, by means of a tax on the food of the poorer sections of the community, of money for the creation of a fund from which money will be distributed to the wheat-growers. I am not satisfied that this legislation will apply only to this season's wheat, because there is a large quantity of wheat carried over from last season in the silos. Nor am I satisfied that the money will be paid direct to the farmers. Harvesting operations are now in progress, and I believe that speculators have bought wheat from the farmers so that they, and not the producers, will derive the benefit of the home-consumption price. If they be allowed to do so it will be immoral. From the amount of the fund, £500,000 is to be set aside for the relief of the distressed farmers whose crops have been ruined. In my opinion any assistance given by this Parliament to the wheat industry should be confined to those farmers who are in distressed circumstances. Men who are comfortably situated should not receive further comfort at the expense of the poorer sections of the community, because it is on those sections that the weight of thistax will fall. Men who are comfortably situated should have no more right to come to this Parliament for assistance because they have suffered a loss which does not lessen the comfort of themselves or their families than have city businessmen who have suffered a setback. I should welcome a proposal for a tax on the commodities that they produce in order to provide assistance for the army of unemployed and rationed workers. Whenever we on this side of the House ask for money to assist the unemployed we get the rejoinder that all available moneys are required for defence. Yet the Government is able to come to Parliament with a proposal to tax the bread-eaters for the benefit of some people engaged in the wheat industry who could not be financially affected by a series of adverse seasons. The economic position of the unemployed is vastly inferior to that of the average farmer; accordingly it is unjust to tax them for the farmers' benefit. I have sympathy with the men who are struggling in primary industries, as I have first-hand knowledge of the conditions in which they exist - I was born and reared on a farm and I represent an electorate which contains a large rural area - but I know that to a large degree their distress is due, not so much to drought, as to exploitation. The inquiries of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry disclosed that the farmers are struggling under a huge burden of debt, which is due to a variety of causes. When I was a boy a wheat farm was self-contained. The farmer had Lis own horses and grew his own fodder, but, to-day, he is the victim of the exploitation of overseas oil and machinery interests. The farmer has to pay big prices for tractors and to expend large sums annually on fuel to run them, whereas in my youth, horses, which were fed on the products of the farm, did the work. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament there have been plans for assisting the wheat industry, but never a plan for its efficient organization. This stop-gap way of dealing with the wheat industry must end. I suspect that it is more a vote-catching effort than a plan for the welfare of the industry. One of the first requirements of the efficient organization of the wheat industry is proper control. I point out that other countries are burning and dumping wheat, whereas this country is assisting the wheat-grower to grow more wheat. Year by year the farmers sink deeper into the mire of debt, the basic trouble which besets them which, I hope the national Parliament will take an early opportunity to remove. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, which would ensure that the money necessary for the assistance to be given to the industry will be raised in a more proper way than is proposed in this bill; that is to say, from general revenue. An income tax falls on the shoulders of those who are best able to bear the burden, but a flour tax violates every canon of taxation, in that it falls heaviest on the poor. This measure is only a palliative, and I hope that in the future steps will be taken to administer a cure. {: #subdebate-17-0-s22 .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr JAMES:
Hunter .Ever since the Country party has been represented in the Government we have had measures placed before us from time to time for the assistance of the wheat industry, but, when the Lyons Government was independent of Country party support, it took a stand in conformity with the stand taken to-day by the Opposition, and it would not allow any wheat-grower, whose circumstances took him within the taxable range, to derive benefit from moneys voted by this Parliament for the assistance of the industry. It was interesting one year to hear the then Minister for Commerce (SirFrederick Stewart) reply to an attack which was launched by the Country party members, including some honorable gentlemen who are now Ministers, against the. principle of excluding from benefit those whose incomes came within the taxable field. One of them was the honorable member for Calare **(Mr. Thorby),** who is now Minister for Civil Aviation. The PostmasterGeneral **(Mr. ArchieCameron)** was another. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- No; I was not a member of Parliament then. {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr JAMES: -- Well, the honorable gentleman was here in 1935. The honorable member for Parramatta made it quite clear that it was the policy of the Government to give relief to farmers who were in necessitous circumstances. In reply to representations made by Country party members, the then Minister for Trade and Customs **(Mr. White)** said that the legislation was to give " relief to the needy and not to the greedy." The bill was supported by the Labour party, the only opposition being offered by the Country party. The voting was 50 to 13 in favour of the legislation. I say, without heat, and without any desire to be hard on members of the Country party, that members of Parliament should not be permitted to vote on measures from which they will derive financial benefit. Such a practice is not, in my opinion, in conformity with the Constitution, which lays it down that no member of Parliament shall profiteer at the expense of the Crown. In a recent speech, the honorable member for the Northern Territory **(Mr. Blain)** explained that he was precluded by reason of his membership of this Parliament from undertaking Government survey work. Similarly, wheat-farmers who are members of this Parliament should be precluded from participating in distributions of money by the Commonwealth for the relief of distressed primary producers. When similar legislation to this was introduced on the occasion to which I have referred, the names of several honorable members who were likely to benefit were mentioned. They included the honorable member for Swan **(Mr.** Gregory), the honorable member for Forrest **(Mr. Prowse),** the honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock)** and the then honorable member for Grey **(Mr. MoBride),** and several others. Of these, the honorable member for Swan was the only one who denied that he would participate in the benefits under that legislation. A list of amounts, varying from £1,466 14s. lid. to £760 paid in previous years by way of bounty was given by the then Minister for Commerce. That list included an amount of £1,434 which had been paid to a company not even registered in Australia, clearly showing that it was not only needy farmers that benefited -by that legislation. The Minister for Commerce added - >Several honorable members have claimed that, under the Government's proposal, some of the growers who are really in need will receive no assistance. As a matter of fact, for the year 1931-32, the number of farmers who paid federal income tax was 8,500, and it is estimated that half of them were wheatfarmers. Therefore, out of a total of 65,000 growers, only 4,000 will be excluded from the benefits of the Government's scheme, but among those excluded, we may be very sure, will be those who, two years ago, were paid the amounts I have mentioned. The official statistics for that period reveal that of taxation remissions made by the Commonwealth Government, 95 per cent, were in respect of those in receipt of an income of £8 a week or more. At that time, there were 7,000 persons in the Commonwealth who were in receipt of an income of £2,000 a year or more, and some of them had incomes of more than £5,000 a year. These 7,000 people received taxation remissions amounting to approximately £1,500,000. On the other hand, there were in New South Wales 1,305,158 persons with no income at all. Being the greatest consumers of bread, it was these people and workers in receipt of the basic wage who -had to ben'' the greatest burden of the previous flour tax legislation. It will be these same people who will be most heavily penalized by this legislation. To workers with large families, the imposition of this tax on flour will mean an average additional expenditure of 4d. or 5d. a week. People on higher incomes will not be so heavily penalized because they are in a position to purchase foods of a in ore expensive class. The Commonwealth is at present paying a considerable sum of money per annum to invalid and old-age pensioners. These pensioners are also going to be hard hit by the imposition of this tax. That is grossly unfair. I am sure that all honorable members are honest in their endeavour to provide assistance to needy farmers, but we must take into consideration the fact that the majority of wheatgrowers do not rely solely upon wheat for their income. They have other rural pursuits. Some farmers spread their activities over wheat, wool and dairy produce, while others raise cattle and sheep. If they lose on one item they are in a position to make up that loss in some other direction. I have urged on many occasions that some assistance should be given to another of Australia's great industries, the coal industry, in which I have spent a considerable period of my life. In Britain this industry has been assisted by the Imperial Government and has been rehabilitated to a great degree. Why should not the coal-miners ask for a home-consumption price for coal in Australia? No doubt if that were done a hue and cry would be raised, and it would be claimed that as coal is a power-raising unit for secondary industries, all commodities produced by those industries would go up in price. Unfortunately coal-miners are not in a position to threaten the existence of the Government, as supporters of the Country party are, and so no consideration is given to them. I have pleaded, until I am sick and tired, for assistance and fair play for the coal industry. The Government is supposed to legislate impartially and in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth as a whole, but in my opinion unfair discrimination has been shown. {: #subdebate-17-0-s23 .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill. {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr JAMES: -- The burden of this tax is going to be borne by that section of the community which is least able to make the contribution. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, if carried, would give right-thinking people an opportunity to devise some other means of spreading the burden more equably over the whole community. The Country party, with fifteen members in this chamber, hold's eight official paid positions in the Ministry, more than the number held by the United Australia party, which has a far larger number of members, and it definitely dictates the policy of the Government. The policy of the Labour party is to confine assistance to those industries which provide decent wages and conditions for their employees. I was informed to-day, in reply to an interjection, that the wheat industry cannot afford to pay the wages. I accused it of paying, namely, from 10s. to 25s. a week. Before the composite government was formed in New South Wales there was in existence a rural award providing wages and conditions for workers engaged in rural occupations, but when the Country party joined with the United Australia party in the formation of a government it insisted that the operation of the rural award be suspended. If an industry asks for assistance from the Government, whether by way of bounty or tariff protection the Government at least should specify that before any assistance is granted the industry should give an undertaking to comply with arbitration awards. It is very interesting to compare the opinions expressed now by the United Australia party Ministers with those expressed by them before the composite Ministry was formed. I have already referred to what the honorable member for Balaclava **(Mr. White)** said when he was Minister for Trade and Customs. Let us now7 see what the present Minister for Trade and Customs **(Mr. Perkins)** had to say but a few years ago. On the 11th December, 1934, he said - >A member of this House told me recently that last year he had bought out two of his neighbours, and paid a fairly high price for the land. That gentleman is now expecting to benefit by the passage of this legislation. Some other honorable gentlemen of the Parliament are in a similar position. I in common with other honorable members on this side of the House, and with most members of the general community, certainly take exception to members of this Parliament voting themselves bounties out of taxation imposed upon the poorer sections of the community. The poorer sections of the community will be called upon to make the greatest contribution to the fund to be set up by this legislation by reason of the fact that they eat the- most bread. Professor Giblin, writing on the subject of taxation, said - >A tax on any necessity is bad, because it exacts a much higher rate of taxation from the poor than from the rich. It is particularly bad when the commodity is used by children as much, or even more than, by adults, as with sugar, butter and broad. In such a case the tax becomes regressive to an apalling degree. A bachelor with an income of £1,000 per annum would pay an additional 15s. per annum through the home price of butter. He would contribute less than onefifth of a penny in the £1 of his income, to relieve the depressed industry. A basic wageearner, with wife and three children, would contribute over £3, or about 5d. in the £1 of his income. That is perfectly true so far as bread is concerned. I know that great exception is taken to taxation of this sort by the dole recipients, because no variation of the dole provided by the various State governments is made to cover increases of the cost of living. The staple commodity in the diet of the dole worker is bread, and it is absolutely necessary that he should be able to obtain sufficient bread. In view of Professor Giblin's statement with regard to the unfairness of taxation it seems that the Government by this legislation proposes to make the little children of Australia suffer by reason of the fact that they will not be able to get the quantity of bread to which they have been accustomed. I strongly urge the Government to give serious consideration to the necessity for the devising of some better method of taxing the people to provide the funds necessary for the assistance of wheat-growers who are in necessitous circumstances. Surely no honorable member of this House can justify the payment of the bounty to people in receipt of taxable incomes. Some members of this House, as you know, **Mr. Speaker,** and as everybody else knows, propose to vote themselves a bounty on top of what they already receive by way of parliamentary allowances and emoluments. I have no desire to accuse the honorable member for Forrest **(Mr. Prowse)** wrongly- {: .speaker-KYI} ##### Mr Prowse: -- The honorable member may do so if he can. {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr JAMES: -- Is the honorable member a wheat-grower, and will he participate in this bounty? He does not answer, therefore I must take it that he is and that he will participate in the bounty. Let us consider his income apart from what he gets as a wheat-grower. As Chairman of Committees he gets about £1,750 a year- {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- Order! Personal remarks are quite out of order. {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr JAMES: -- Then again let us take the honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock).** Is he a wheat-grower? {: .speaker-KWC} ##### Mr Thorby: -- No, but his son is. {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr JAMES: -- There is always a way of getting out of these things. One may hand assets over to a son or a wife. At any rate, it cannot be denied that the honorable member for Riverina is interested in wheat-growing. As joint Government Whip he receives extra emoluments. What will the people of Australia think about a government which attempts to justify the payment of a bounty to members of Parliament already in receipt of extra parliamentary allowances? I sympathize with the honorable member for the Northern Territory who is a surveyor, but who, because he is a member of Parliament, is unable to undertake surveys for the Government in the Northern Territory. Some criticism has been levelled against the AttorneyGeneral **(Mr. Menzies)** for having accepted a fee from the Victorian Government in respect of the appeal to the Privy Council in the *James* case. {: .speaker-KWC} ##### Mr Thorby: -- Does the honorable member's argument apply to any primary producer who may participate directly or indirectly in any bounty paid, whether it be in respect of apples, oranges, fruit or anything else? {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr JAMES: -- Yes. Whether he be a producer of apples or anything else, no member of this Parliament should be entitled to vote himself a bounty. I am quite candid about the matter. If a member of Parliament who happens to be a lawyer or a surveyor accepts a fee from the Government for undertaking some governmental work he is immediately condemned for doing so. How much more should a member of this Parliament be condemned for voting himself a bounty? {: .speaker-KWC} ##### Mr Thorby: -- Would that apply to honorable members interested in a tariff schedule or in an industrial award? {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr JAMES: -- It would apply to everybody. {: .speaker-KWC} ##### Mr Thorby: -- Would the honorable member's remarks apply to industrial awards? {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr JAMES: -- Yes. I say definitely that if I were a wheat-grower I would not record a vote on any legislation designed to provide a bounty for wheatgrowers. {: .speaker-KWC} ##### Mr Thorby: -- What about parliamentary allowances? {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr JAMES: -- The Constitution provides that members of Parliament should have control over their allowance. The honorable member for Riverina, whom I have already criticized, because of his interests in a farm, which, it is said, is conducted by his son, was one of those who voted against1 the increase of the parliamentary allowance, yet when the bill was passed he gladly accepted the in erc fi s6. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- The honorable member is out of order. {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr JAMES: -- Now he is asking for more. I do not like to mention these things, but I have been forced to do so. The honorable member for Riverina voted against the first proposal to restore parliamentary allowances, but the bill was passed, and he accepted the increased payments. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- Order ! The honorable member is discussing a matter which has nothing whatever to do with this bill. {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr JAMES: -- The Labour party takes the strongest possible exception to this measure on the ground that the proposed tax will fall most heavily upon the poorest section of the community. {: #subdebate-17-0-s24 .speaker-KHL} ##### Mr HOLLOWAY:
Melbourne Ports -- I do not wish to give a silent vote on this bill, nor do I wish to speak at length on it. There is no need for me to reiterate the statement that honorable members on this side of the chamber have always voted in favour of reasonable proposals to assist the wheat-growing industry. An examination of the division lists of the last six years will prove the truth of that declaration. We have always been anxious to help the farmers, and the various schemes, that have been submitted to honorable members with that object have usually been carried by an almost unanimous vote. I wish that we -could vote separately on the different subjects involved in this bill. I believe that every honorable member would agree to the immediate allocation of £500,000 for the relief of farmers in drought-stricken areas. They would also favour the repatriation of farmers now living on areas unsuitable for wheat production, or too small to make profitable operations practicable. However, I cannot close my eyes to the fact that the fundamental principle of this bill is the imposition of a sales tax on flour. In other words, we are asked to favour the principle of a bread tax. When the first sales proposals were submitted to this Parliament some years ago, they were given such a hostile reception that I thought that no government would re-introduce them. In the opinion of many honorable members' the sales tax is not only a class tax, but is also inhumane in its incidence, in that it places an intolerable burden on the poorest class of our people. Since that time, however, this Government has consistently followed the course of remitting taxes on the wealthier classes of the community, and placing heavier imposts on the working people. That attitude deserves the severest condemnation. Under the provisions of this bill, it is proposed to extract payments amounting to millions of pounds from people whose purchasing power is already extremely limited. This is iniquitous in the .highest degree. I cannot understand the attitude of the Country party towards this bill. We have had frequent statements in this House by Country party members concerning what they describe a3 the enormous profits of various Australian manufacturing industries, and it has been asserted that profits have continuously increased since the country began to emerge from the last depression. The honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock)** has made some remarkable investigations into the operations of certain big companies, and has astounded us by his statements concerning the dividends paid by companies interested in the motor car industry, and in other big enterprises. He has told us that dividends up to 80 per cent, per annum have been paid on the capital actually invested in some of these companies. Particular reference has been made to the circumstances of a group of 80 companies which have made extraordinary progress since this Government has been in office. Seeing that the Country party has criticized, in such a damaging way, the profit-making proclivities of these companies, it seems extraordinary that it should now fail to request that the companies concerned shall be taxed to provide the money needed to assist the wheat-growers' As a matter of actual fact, the burden of this tax will fall almost wholly upon the widows and orphans, the pensioners and casual workers, and the unemployed people of this country, who are our chief bread-eaters. Every political party represented in this Parliament has declared itself te be in favour of a home-consumption price for wheat, but the Labour party protests bitterly against the method by which the Government is proposing to make this possible. Thu is the old sales tax baby, nicely dressed and wearing a new bonnet designed by the honorable member for Riverina. {: .speaker-KYI} ##### Mr Prowse: -- Honorable members opposite frequently dress up tariff propositions in an attractive garb. {: .speaker-KHL} ##### Mr HOLLOWAY: -- That may be so; but it cannot be denied that the bread tax will fall most heavily upon our wageearners. Thi3 was shown by the honorable member for Hunter **(Mr. James),** who cited certain authoritative opinions expressed on the subject by Professor Giblin. It has been stated at some conferences which have considered the circumstances of the wheat-growing industry, that not less than ls. a bushel of the money received by the wheatgrowers for the wheat they sell is paid in interest to money-lenders; yet the Country party does not seem to be at all interested in devising ways and means te require these interests to contribute towards the fund for the assistance of the wheat-growers. Not only are the money-lenders excluded from the duty to contribute to this tax, but so also are many of the wealthiest companies of Australia. The. Labour party contends that the money needed to implement thi.' scheme should be provided by direct taxation. We are all well aware that, since the country began to emerge from the last depression, this Government ha3 remitted taxes amounting to £5,250,000 to its wealthy supporters. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill. {: .speaker-KHL} ##### Mr HOLLOWAY: -- Perhaps I may be allowed to say that in 1933-34 certain taxes were remitted so hurriedly that the Government found itself without the necessary funds to provide £2,000,000 which was found necessary, at that time, to assist the wheat-growing industry, and so it had to impose the flour tax to provide the money. Surely it could have adopted some other method on this occasion, seeing that it had already remitted land taxes to an amount of £2,500,000, and property tax to an amount of more than £1,800,000, to the wealthy landowners who support it. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill. {: .speaker-KHL} ##### Mr HOLLOWAY: -- The first sales tax on flour was imposed to provide £2,000,000 to assist the wheat-growers; but that was regarded as an emergency measure. It now seems that the Government is looking to regular revenue from this source to assist the wheatgrowing industry. Every penny taken from the lower-paid workers of this country reduces the spending power of the whole community, and I protest in the strongest possible way to the proposal to further embarrass these unfortunate citizens. I cannot imagine how the Government can expect to secure recruits from the working class when it introduces proposals of this description. {: #subdebate-17-0-s25 .speaker-JSC} ##### Mr BRENNAN:
Batman -- The group of taxing measures under consideration afford an excellent modern illustration of the old practice of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The real object of the scheme which the Government is now seeking to implement is said to be to provide assistance for necessitous farmers who are passing through an unprecedented drought, and who are also embarrassed in consequence of the tremendous surplus of unused wheat held in various parts of the world. My first criticism of thu unnatural proposal of the Government is that, according to the terms of the bill, the money proposed to be raised will not be used for the purpose of assisting necessitous farmers, but will merely fill the coffers of those who are not necessitous at all - who are, in fact, very well provided with the world's goods. I speak, not as a representative of the farmers, but as a legislator, and one who has had the responsibility of being a member of a government. I speak as one who has the deepest sympathy for the producers, including the wheat-growers. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports **(Mr. Holloway)** and others have pointed out very eloquently that the burden of the tax will be borne by those members of society who are least fortunately placed, the poorest members of the community, and that the bounty will, in part, at least, be enjoyed by those who are really well off, not only by reason of the accumulated profits from wheat-growing in the past, but also by reason of the fact that they have made profits on an extensive scale out of other interests. It follows, therefore, that I, who represent in this Parliament a very large number of persons with no incomes, and with no prospect of any income, people who are not on the bread line, but below it - it follows, I say, that I receive the proposals with very mixed feelings. The right honorable gentleman who introduced the measure **(Sir Earle Page)** said that, in round figures, there was a world surplus of 1.000,000,000 bushels of wheat waiting to be sold and that, despite the fact that Australian production has been substantially reduced by drought, a fact that does not materially affect the world's supplies, prices in Australia are coming down, until .they are now below what is conceived to bo a payable level. In such circumstances, it is increasingly important that the minds of the Australian people should be directed towards increasing the home market for wheat. It may be asked how it is to be increased. ' I have heard with amazement that, in some years, our home consumption has been as low as one-fifth of our production, leaving fourfifths to be exported, and that at best it amounts to only one-third of our total production. The quantity of wheat products consumed in this country should be doubled, 'and to enable this to be done the purchasing power of the people must be increased. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- That would not increase the consumption of wheat products, because it has been proved that, when the purchasing power of the people is raised, the tendency is for their consumption of bread to decline. {: .speaker-JSC} ##### Mr BRENNAN: -- That may apply to the plainer classes of breadstuffs, and naturally so, but bread is not the only material into which flour can be converted. Is the Minister opposed to the raising of the standard of living? Does he reprehend increasing the purchasing power of the people? Does he not think that it would be a good thing if the consumption of wheat products in Australia were doubled? I do. It seems to me, in the light of the figures presented by the Minister for Commerce, that we are likely to produce too much wheat, even allowing for a substantially increased local consumption. Honorable members on the Government side do not seem to have taken any intelligent interest in that aspect of the matter. It is idle to go on telling us that our national solvency depends on wheat and wool if, in fact, our production of wheat is likely in the future to be far in excess of the needs of the people and we cannot control external prices. The remedy seems to be either a vastly increased population, ov a decreased acreage under wheat, and the intelligent production of commodities other than wheat. We have been told that we must make colossal sacrifices in order to keep our trade routes open for the export of wheat. Well, according to the dismal tales told us by the Minister and his supporters, it does not seem to me that the export trade in wheat is worth those colossal sacrifices. If only we could induce members of the Government to concentrate on their responsibilities to the people, if only they could be got to realize the importance of so far releasing credits as to enable the necessary work of the country, to be done, and to enable the people to buy commodities in the quantities required, they would be going a long way towards solving the problems with which this catch-as-catch-can legislation is supposed to deal. One sees in this legislation the influence on the Government of the Country party. In my opinion, it is a very curious party to be charged with the representation of working fanners. I support the amendment, and I give; reluctant support to the general terms of the scheme. I support the bill, not as a permanent solution of the wheat-growers' difficulties, but purely as a temporary device to tide the farmers over a trying time. I join with the honorable member for Hunter **(Mr. James),** who has a special knowledge, which I share with him, of the conditions of the workers and the workless, in regarding as reprobate those who, not being needy farmers - and I do not speak of members of this Parliament, or any one else in particular - reach out their hands, and take from the Treasury the proceeds of a tax which is paid by the workers and the work loss more than by anybody else. It seems a pitiful condition of mind which induces men to support a policy of that kind. It has been said that the workers enjoy the protection of the Arbitration Court, and of other tribunals. Well, that certainly does not apply to the workers in the primary industries. In Victoria and in New South Wales there are no tribunals for the workers in the primary industries, and I remind honorable gentlemen who submit that class of argument that if we came into this chamber with a suggestion, and had constitutional authority to do it, to fix a minimum wage for workers in the primary industries, we should not be able to hear our own voices in the din of protest that would arise from those very gentlemen who are not too proud to participate in this money which is to be taken from the very poor. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition will have my support upon a vote. I view the legislation with disfavour as being clearly inequable. It manifests a want of knowledge on the part of the Government of the economic conditions with which the wheat-farmers are faced, largely in consequence of the policy of the Government. For the reasons so admirably stated by the Leader of the Opposition, whilst I shall support the amendment, I shall give my very reluctant temporary support to the principles of the bill. Question put - >That the words proposed to be omitted **(Mr. Curtin'S amendment)** stand part of the question. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.) AYES: 31 NOES: 21 Majority . . 10 Amendment negatived. Original question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time. *In committee:* Clause 1 agreed to. AYES NOES Clause 2 - >This Act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. {: #debate-17-s0 .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE:
Minister for Commerce · Cowper · CP -- I move - >That the words " date to be fixed by proclamation " be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " the day on which it receives the Royal assent." It is important that this legislation should come into operation immediately it is passed. If we had to await proclamation, there would be a waste of a couple of days. Amendment agreed to. {: #debate-17-s1 .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN:
Fremantle -- I move - >That the clause as amended be further amended by adding after the word " assent " the words " and shall cease to operate on the thirtieth day of September, 1939". The purpose of my amendment is to give effect to the view expressed by myself in the second-reading debate that we do not regard this measure as containing in itself the requirements essentialfor the proper stabilization of the wheat industry. All that this bill does is to levy an excise in order to deal with prices. A portion of the fund so created, £500,000, by consent of the Premiers, is to be allocated for seasonal adversity. I said earlier that a much more comprehensive treatment of this industry was required; indeed, that an examination of the question of how far the seasonal problem should be met by levies upon consumers was a matter which required further investigation. I direct attention to the fact that, at the conference of Premiers, resolutions were carried which call for action of the type that I have in mind, but which I venture to say will not be taken unless a date is fixed for the termination of this particular bill. If the committee will look at resolutions as agreed to by the Premiers, it will find the following: - {: type="1" start="5"} 0. That conference is unanimously of opinion that it is impossible to devise any practicable plan based on voluntary cooperation of growers, millers and merchants. That is to say, the Premiers negated the practicability of voluntary co-operation. They carried this resolution - {: type="1" start="6"} 0. This conference has received several proposals from farmers' organizations for the institution of a permanent price-equalization fundbuilt up by contributions fromthe Commonwealth and the wheat-growers. The conference is of opinion that they are worthy of detailed examination, and, as they involve federal finance, this conference submits them to the Federal Government for consideration. We were told all day that the Premiers had agreed upon this particular plan, and I acknowledge that Resolution No. 2 would suggest that they did agree on the method of providing a bounty, but subsequently, they also asked that the excise fund be drawn upon in order to make provision for seasonal adversity. It must be patent that seasonal adversity cannot be regarded as a permanent aspect of the problem of the wheat industry, and I hope that it will never again be so widespread in its effect upon the industry as appears to be the case this year. I direct attention particularly to Resolution No. 6, which calls upon the Commonwealth Government to examine the question of a permanent priceequalization fund created by contributions from the Commonwealth Government and from the wheat-growers. The conference said, of course, that this was a matter which involved Commonwealth finances. There was no reference to it in the speech of the Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page),** and there was little reference to the comprehensive recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry. The Government is willing to regard this legislation as a complete and at the same time final treatment of the problems of the wheat industry. I reject that, and I ask the committee to reject it. There should be a full review by this Parliament of the conditions of the wheat industry. Without wishing to reflect personally on the conference which formulated these resolutions, I point out that that conference assembled in Canberra and took little more than one day to arrive at its decisions. I venture to say that the State Premiers came to Canberra hurriedly because of the very low price of wheat, and also because of their knowledge of the financial difficulties which would be reflected in the budgets of the various States if something were not done for wheat producers in the present season. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- Three conferences were held. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- I know that. The third conference was held almost immediately after the second, and it effected a very considerable variation of the original proposals. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- There is nothing very new in that. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Does it not suggest that there were after-thoughts in connexion with what was done at the second conference ? {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- That would still .be nothing new. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Is it not palpable to . everybody that the pressure brought to bear by the wheat-growers upon the State governments, and by members of the Country party on the Commonwealth Government resulted in the whole matter being disposed of by the third conference in one day? I submit that, although other parliaments have already taken action in this matter, the Commonwealth Parliament is the one which alone has the responsibility of taxing the consumers of bread. A periodic review of taxation is most certainly an obligation resting upon this Parliament. Once this measure is placed upon the statute-book it is unlikely that Parliament will again be consulted in regard to it for a period of years if this Government remains in power, because the Country party will not allow the scheme to be brought up for review. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- Would the honorable members like tariff matters to be brought up for review periodically? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Tariff matters can be brought up for review. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- By whom? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- By any one who desires to bring them up. This matter can be brought up by the Government only. Once this legislation is placed upon the statute-book almost any period of time may elapse before it is again considered by Parliament. There should be an obligation upon the Government to consult Parliament again a year from now so that this legislation may be examined in the light of experience. We should then know whether or not the statements made by honorable members on this side of the House with regard to the effect of this legislation on the price of bread were correct. We should also be able to see whether or not the legislation passed by the States to prevent exploitation of bread consumers was effective. {: .speaker-KWC} ##### Mr Thorby: -- The Commonwealth cannot alter State legislation. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- If my amendment were carried, the Commonwealth could affect State legislation in this case by refusing to pass another excise measure a year from now. {: .speaker-KWC} ##### Mr Thorby: -- That would destroy the scheme altogether. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Of course it would. I am in favour of the principles embodied in this measure, except with regard to the imposition of an excise duty. The Opposition could not defeat that proposal, but consumers will be safeguarded if the scheme i3 to be brought up for review within a specified period. The bakers may be able to reap extortionate profits under this legislation by charging unreasonable prices. The only check which this Parliament can put on that is to insist that the measure be brought up for consideration within a specified period. Income tax has to come up for a periodic review. {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- Only in respect of rates. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- That is what matters. The rates constitute the tax. We should be given an opportunity to review this excise tax in the light of the requirements of the wheat industry. Is that not a fair thing? {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- The honorable member would do nothing of the sort. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Why not? {: .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron: -- The honorable member is not doing it now and has never done it. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- That is absurd. Before the honorable gentleman came into this Parliament the party which I now lead provided millions of pounds for the relief of wheat-growers, and we did not do it by imposing an excise tax, the burden of which had to be borne by consumers of bread. The honorable gentleman is a sheer political opportunist and is endeavouring to make miserable points, with a total disregard for the fundamental elements of the problem. Instead of endeavouring to justify the legislation he is muck-raking the Opposition. I remind him that abuse is no argument. As one who for several years has held the office of Chairman of Committees, you, **Mr. Chairman,** know, as do other honorable members, that large sums of money were voted for the relief of wheatgrowers, when honorable gentlemen now sitting behind me were on the treasury bench. These moneys were not raised by the imposition of an excise tax on flour. The Minister for Works **(Mr. Thorby)** who was formerly Minister for Agriculture in the New South Wales Parliament, should know that, and if he does not it is conclusive proof that he is misinformed with regard to the history of the industry which the Government is now seeking to assist. {: .speaker-KWC} ##### Mr Thorby: -- To what year does the honorable gentleman refer? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- 1 refer to the years 1931-32. {: .speaker-KWC} ##### Mr Thorby: -- The Scullin Administration was defeated in 1931. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- That is so, but Labour was in office for more than six months of that year. {: .speaker-KWC} ##### Mr Thorby: -- The Scullin Government did. not pay a farthing to the wheatgrowers. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- That is not so. Amounts totalling £3,296,000 were paid. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Sir Charles Marr: -- The' payments were made out of loan moneys. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- I said that the payments were not made out of revenue received by the imposition of an excise tax on flour. The honorable gentleman knows very well the circumstances of the country at that time, and I point out that to-day it is proposed to pay for the defence of the country from the loan fund as well as from other sources. If carried, my amendment would safeguard the operation of the scheme for the present year, and also provide that, before the current year had elapsed, the Government would be obliged to give consideration to the other resolutions passed by the State Premiers, and justify to this Parliament the continuance of the scheme during the ensuing year. It is the aim of the Opposition to do justice, not only to the wheatgrowers, but also to the taxpayers who, in this instance, are the working classes of the community. {: #debate-17-s2 .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE:
Minister for Commerce · Cowper · CP -- Both of the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** to-night haT» been based on a misconception of the facts relating to this proposal. This plan has not been adopted hurriedly. It has been under consideration by the Commonwealth and State governments for almost the last two years. Ever since the defeat of the marketing referendum eighteen months ago the governments of the States and of the Commonwealth have been examining the whole problem in an endeavour to find a solution of the constitutional difficulties. Finally, after two conferences and a meeting of the Agricultural Council had been held at which the Attorneys-General of the various States were set to work, the present proposals were brought down in August last. The resolutions adopted by the State Premiers in August of this year were the result of long deliberation and were aimed at securing a permanent solution of the problem. The solution is not a temporary one, as has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. This legislation is to be put on the statutebook for an indefinite period so that it may be implemented continuously by State and Commonwealth Governments. The resolutions adopted by the conference in August of this year were the subject of discussion at a subsequent conference on the 28th September. {: .speaker-L07} ##### Mr Lazzarini: -- How can it be said that this is a permanent solution of the problem ? {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE: -- It is a permanent solution in so far as it provides a home-consumption price by constitutional methods. {: .speaker-L07} ##### Mr Lazzarini: -- What about the other problems associated with the wheat industry ? {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE: -- This legislation also deals with them. These matters were discussed again on the 29 th September and the whole basis of the legislation te be passed by the State and Commonwealth Parliaments was laid down. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: -- Why are all those amendments which have been circulated necessary ? {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE: -- These amendments do not affect the general principles of the proposals. They are merely machinery amendments necessary to secure the best working of the scheme. In September last, representatives of the States met and prepared this proposal. but because of the urgency of the posi tion of distressed farmers in certain parts of the Commonwealth the State Premiers returned to Canberra a fortnight ago and asked for an alteration of the scheme to provide a sum for the relief of droughtstricken areas. That was unanimously agreed to, but there has never been any suggestion at any of those conferences that the operation of the legislation to be brought down should be restricted to one year. The whole essence of every discussion was that the proposals to be brought down were to be of a permanent character. I point out that the tax on flour would disappear altogether if the price, of wheat rose to 5s. 2d. at Williamstown. There is also provision that the farmers themselves will pay tax in respect of wheat used for Australian consumption to enable the same price to be maintained for flour in Australia. The very basis of this scheme is permanency; it is to operate, not for one year, but for many years. I beg the committee not to destroy not only the whole of the work done, by the two or three conferences that have been held, but also the efforts over a period of years by all the interests concerned, to arrive at a workable home-consumption price plan. It has been suggested that there is something different about this plan from what is done in connexion with the provision of assistance to other industries. What other case is there in connexion with Commonwealth legislation in respect of which the same means are not adopted ? Does the beer excise come up for investigation and examination by this Parliament every year? Does the excise on spirits have to be reviewed year by year ? Certainly not. The excise levied on these items comes up for amendment or repeal when thought necessary by the Government. That is exactly what is to be done in this instance. I urge the committee te reject the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. {: #debate-17-s3 .speaker-JUQ} ##### Mr CLARK:
Darling -- I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin).** I think Ave cannot do more than repeat what has been said at an earlier stage of this debate. As a matter of fact, other bounties have been paid, and are at present being paid, by this Parliament; but' the money to provide them 13 not being raised by way of special excise duties. I do not think that the proposal put forward by the Government now provides any permanent cure for the evils that exist in the wheat industry. The wheat commission, which made an extensive investigation of this matter a few years ago, reported that one of the greatest difficulties faced by the industry was its debt structure. It suggested that that disability should be dealt with by this Parliament in a proper way. I do not think that the bill now before us represents an attempt to deal with that problem. The interest burden is one of the greatest problems which has to be faced by the farmer himself. As has been pointed out, the debts of the farming community amount to about £140,000,000 and over £97,000,000 of that amount is owing to the financial institutions. {: #debate-17-s4 .speaker-KYI} ##### The CHAIRMAN (Mr Prowse:
FORREST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA Order ! In what way does the honorable member, consider he is connecting his remarks with the amendment under discussion? {: .speaker-JUQ} ##### Mr CLARK: -- I am stating my reasons why the legislation should operate for only one year. In my opinion, a more satisfactory method should be devised to deal with this important problem. If the wheat industry is to be stabilized it must be placed on a sound basis by the imposi"tion of a tax upon those sections of the community properly able to bear it. As I pointed out earlier, the cost of production in the wheat industry is a matter which should be seriously considered by the Parliament, because every penny or every sixpence that can be saved in the costs of the farmer is an added amount given to him. All of the facts should be fully considered, and in order that that may be done the Government should give full consideration and support to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition as providing the only opportunity for further consideration. {: #debate-17-s5 .speaker-KFS} ##### Sir HENRY GULLETT:
Henty -- I beg of the committee, if this outrage on the poor must be perpetrated, to take the opportunity afforded by the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** to limit it to the term of one year. I wish to make it quite clear that, though I say it should be limited to one year, I am entirely in favour of the payment of a bounty to wheat-growers. I shall vote for the provision of the £4,000,000 for the ensuing year. My only quarrel is with the source from which the money is proposed to be drawn. Because I believe it to be an utterly wrong source, I support the proposal to limit the operation of the plan till September next. . I find it difficult to express the warmth of my feeling over this imposition, "We are told that, because of the heavy expenditure on defence, the cost of national insurance, and the falling revenue, money from -the Consolidated Revenue "Fund cannot be found this year for the payment of this bounty to the wheatgrowers of this country. The Government declares that, and then conies down and imposes a new tax of £4,000,000 on the poorer section of this community. It is a most extraordinary contradiction. At one moment, there is no money in the Consolidated Revenue Fund or in the taxing field that the Government can lay its hands on, and, at the next moment, it proposes to take £4,000,000 from the workers of Australia in the main. If the Government must do this hideous thing, this despicable thing, let it not be done for more than one year. This is a sales tax. For years the Treasurer has brought down budget after budget which has reduced sales tax and narrowed the field of its incidence. His great aim has been to take away the sales tax from all sections of goods, the cost of which presses heavily on the lower incomes of this country. Yet here we are asked to put 50 per cent, on the sales tax by this scheme, and to put it on to the bread of the people of Australia. It is incredible. I do not wonder this bill is being sneaked through in the night. The State Premiers are to control and fix the price of bread. This £4,000,000, as I said earlier in the day, is in some mysterious way to be taken from the millers and is not to go on to the price of bread. **Mr. Stevens** may have some mysterious way of dealing with the fixation of the price of bread, but only last week he confessed, in the New South "Wales House of Assembly, that he doubted whether he had power to limit the price of bricks. If he has not power to limit the price of bricks, where is his power to limit the price of bread? The position in respect of the limitation of prices is entirely uncertain. 'We know what the history of the fixation of prices in this country has been. It has been a history of almost total failure. Yet members of the United Australia party, which represents all sections of the community, and no particular class, find that when the Government brings down a proposal to raise £4,000,000 extra taxation it can think of nothing but bread. What relation is there between bread and the export of wheat? None whatever. If this £4,000,000 is wanted as a bounty on all export wheat let everybody pay for the sending overseas of this wheat, let us meet this liability in a national way. It is not for one moment a bread-eaters' affair, and never has been. It is an infamous proposal. I shall give another illustration. Under the Income Tax Assessment Act a deduction of £50 is allowed for children up to a certain age, yet the Treasurer who stands for that - it shows his social sympathy and the Government's social sympathy - proposes under this infamous tax of £4,000,000 that the more children you have, the more you have to pay. Gould anything more hopeless emanate from the two great parties supporting the Government ? {: #debate-17-s6 .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- Order ! The honorable member is entering into a general debate on the bill. He must confine his remarks .to the clause under discussion. , {: .speaker-KFS} ##### Sir HENRY GULLETT: -- Something has been said about the burden of the secondary industries upon the primary industries, but those of us who stand for secondary industries have never come down with a proposal to tax the wheatgrowers or the primary producers of this country to bring about the export of great quantities of secondary production. We could pay our debt overseas with boots just as with wheat, if a bounty were paid on boots. With flour, beer, whisky, or anything else, for that matter, the same could be done, but we have never done anything like that. What is so odious about the Government's -proposal is that the bread-eaters are to be taxed for the benefit of the export side of the wheat industry. It is entirely despicable and indefensible. I beg the committee, if it feels that it must pass the bill, to get over a present difficulty, to urge the Government to take this opportunity to limit its operation to one year only in order that in twelve months stock may be taken of the position. **Mr. WILSON** (Wimmera) [2.13 a.m. - I oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** for various reasons. I think that many of the assertions of the honorable gentleman are based on a misunderstanding of facts, particularly his references to certain conferences which were held, at which decisions were arrived at in connexion with the legislation now before us. I happened to be at a pre-sessional conference in Sydney the day before the Premiers met there and arrived at their decision regarding the assistance to the wheat industry. Also at the meeting was, I think, the honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock),** who can bear out what I say. It was a meeting of the Australian Wheat-growers' Federation, which represents all of the wheat-growers' organizations in Australia. At that conference I moved a motion calling upon the Federal Government to take the initiative and to introduce legislation that would provide a bounty for a number of years to establish a homeconsumption price of 4s. 8d. a bushel. The motion was carried unanimously. But that was not the beginning of the negotiations. The wheat-growers' organizations have been striving for many years to obtain such a scheme as that embodied in this bill. The assumption of the Leader of the Opposition that the wheatgrowers do not desire this scheme is not correct. I resent the remarks of the honorable member for Henty **(Sir Henry Gullett),** who referred to this bill as an atrocity. If he did not use that word, he used another to the same effect. Yet the honorable gentleman was mainly responsible for a trade-diversion policy which involved the wool and wheatgrowers of Australia in a loss of £10,000,000. Prior to the introduction of that policy, Australia was developing a valuable wheat market in the East. That has now been lost and I doubt if it will ever be recovered. The honorable member made no apology to the wool and wheat-growers for his muddling of his so-called trade-diversion policy, and he, left the Government to retire as best it could from a most embarrassing situation. The method proposed in this bill to finance this scheme is orthodox and reasonable. I can see no other way to obtain the money required to provide the proposed home-consumption price for wheat. I hope the amendment will be rejected. {: #debate-17-s7 .speaker-KV7} ##### Sir FREDERICK STEWART:
The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Cur tin · Parramatta [2.18 a.m.]. has much to commend it. It has been said that one reason why we should not contemplate limiting the operations of this bill to one year is that State legislation is also involved; but if the Commonwealth legislation were to be discontinued, the State legislation would automatically become inoperative. So we need not concern ourselves unduly with that aspect of the subject. The Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page)** said that the Government was seeking a permanent solution of the problems of the wheat industry, but surely he does not suggest that the proposals now before us can be regarded as likely to provide a permanent solution of the difficulties which face the wheat-growers. It may be found during the next twelve months that the machinery and technique upon which this scheme is based needs altering. It may also be found that the necessary money can be obtained from other sources. I am aware that another amendment has been foreshadowed to provide that the scheme shall terminate in the event of certain contingencies arising. Personally, I prefer an automatic review of the whole matter during the year. Unless the Government can furnish some better reasons than those given for rejecting the amendment, I shall vote for it. {: #debate-17-s8 .speaker-KQB} ##### Mr SCULLY:
Gwydir .I support the amendment. I regard the scheme of this bill as an expediency. It would be absurd to suggest that it provides a permanent solution of the problems of this industry. No other wheat-growing country of the world has adopted proposals of this kind to meet the difficulties that have to be faced. Like the honorable member for Parramatta **(Sir Frederick Stewart),** I wish the whole matter to be reviewed within the next year. Our financial position may alter completely in that time, and the price of wheat may fluctuate greatly. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- That is provided for in thebill. {: .speaker-KQB} ##### Mr SCULLY: -- It was the extremely low price offered for wheat this year that galvanized the wheat-growers' organization into action. We know very well that, although the price of wheat has been at an extremely low level in one year, it has risen to almost a record in the following year. The very fact that the wheat-growing industry is to-day in a parlous condition suggests to me the wisdom of reviewing the whole business within the next twelve months. {: #debate-17-s9 .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK:
River ina .It would be a great mistake to regard the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** too seriously. The honorable gentleman is under a misapprehension concerning the attitude of the wheat-growers at their conference which preceded the recent Premiers Conference in Sydney. As the honorable member for Wimmera **(Mr. Wilson)** has stated, I attended that conference with him, and I know exactly what happened. The motion to which the Leader of the Opposisition referred did not receive the recommendation of the conference. As a matter of fact it might have been totally rejected, but for certain reasons the conference decided to forward it, without endorsement, to the Premiers Conference. The wheat-growers have been fighting for many years for a long-range plan to stabilize this industry. They have a deeprooted objection to , the review of proposals of this kind annually. Such a policy leaves them in an undesirable state of suspense. I, therefore, hope that the amendment that the measure be for one year only will be rejected. {: #debate-17-s10 .speaker-KYC} ##### Mr POLLARD:
Ballarat -- I support the amendment. I am well aware that in consequence of the low price at present being offered for wheat, the wheat-growers are facing disaster in many districts. I am anxious that all possible steps shall be taken to acknowledge the valuable service that these people render to the whole community, but any expense involved in the making of a grant to the wheat-growers should be borne equably by all sections of the community. I sympathize with the position in which the representatives of the wheat-growers find themselves, *but* I cannot understand the attitude of the Government in accepting, without complete investigation, the proposals submitted to it by the wheat-growers' organizations. These bodies obviously look at the subject from their own limited point of view, whereas the Government is under obligation to look at it from the point of view of the whole community. The Government should be in a position to estimate the full effects of any legislation it introduces, whereas the wheat-growers' organizations, because of their narrow outlook, cannot do so. It is highly desirable that the incidence of any taxation necessary to provide a fund for the relief of the wheat-growers should fall equably on the general public, and not solely upon the poorer section of it. What the Government is now proposing to do is to tax the poor to assist the poor. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- The honorable member is not entitled to make a secondreading speech at this stage. {: .speaker-KYC} ##### Mr POLLARD: -- I consider that the amendment should be adopted to give the Government a breathing space to consider more effective methods to meet the needs of this industry in future years. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr.Paterson), who is interjecting, is, unfortunately for us in this instance, not in close contact with the poorer sections of the community. Generally speaking, his constituents are adequately provided for, whereas many of our constituents live below the breadline. We have 298,000 invalid and old-age pensioners in Australia whose staple article of diet is bread. They may take a little water with it, but they can afford only minute quantities of meat, and no beer. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- The honorable member is now going beyond the provisions of the clause and the amendment. {: .speaker-KYC} ##### Mr POLLARD: -- At least 12 per cent. of our people, numbering about 160,000, are still unemployed. For these also bread is the main food. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- If the honorable member will not heed the Chair, I shall be obliged to ask him to resume his seat. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: -- I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Ballarat is entitled to stress the burdensome nature of this tax as a reason why its duration should be restricted to twelve months. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- The Chair is conscious of the point made by the honorable member for Ballarat, but he is not in order in making a second-reading speech on this clause. {: .speaker-KYC} ##### Mr POLLARD: -- The amendment, if agreed to, will ensure that these people whom I have mentioned, including 160,000 unemployed, and 198,000 pensioners, will not have to bear this burden in future years. I am prepared to assist the wheat-growers, provided that the burden of taxation is distributed evenly. I could not justify my support of this proposal, however, when there are 2,600 old-age pensioners in Ballarat, and 900 men on sustenance. Therefore, I support the amendment, and trust that it will be carried. {: #debate-17-s11 .speaker-KOQ} ##### Mr McCALL:
Martin .I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin).** I can see no objection to having this legislation reviewed in twelve months' time. The important factor is that the price of wheat fluctuates greatly. It has been said that the wheat industry should be placed on the same footing as other industries in which a home-consumption price has been fixed, for instance, for butter and for sugar, but there is not the same violent fluctuation of price for those commodities. A duty devolves upon the States to ensure that the price of bread is not increased, and if we agree to this amendment, it will provide means by which the Commonwealth Parliament may exercise a measure of control over the States in this respect. " The most objectionable feature of the Government's proposal is that it will probably increase the price of bread. The various State governments have said that they will take steps to ensure that that does not occur, but the assurances have not been given in unequivocal terms. The Premier of New South Wales, **Mr. Stevens,** at the conference held in Canberra on the 29th August, said - >Some of us may go so far as to fix the price of bread also; but such action would be ancillary, and might follow as a matter of individual State policy. Thus there is no definite assurance from the Premier of New South Wales that the price of bread will, in fact, be fixed. The Premier of South Australia, **Mr. Butler,** stated at the conference: - >If there is any odium attached to this action, the States and not the Commonwealth will have to bear it. The second important feature of this scheme is that it aims to do something of a permanent' nature to ensure th at the price of wheat shall be stabilized, for when wheat prices rise above a certain level the consumers will not be asked to pay an increased price for bread. The effect of fixing the price of wheat at 4s. 8d. at country sidings would be to increase the price of bread by½d. a loaf in South Australia. That would not be placing an undue burden on the consumers. I understand that, at a later stage, he said that action would be taken to prevent an increase of the price of bread, but we are entitled to ask for something definite. This is a matter of great importance to those on low incomes, and on sustenance. There is an obligation on this Parliament to safeguard their interests, and this can be done by accepting the amendment. It will simply mean that the matter will be reviewed in twelve months' time. If circumstances warrant it, the tax can be renewed; if not, it will be abolished. There is nothing unfair in that. {: #debate-17-s12 .speaker-JOM} ##### Mr BEASLEY:
West Sydney -- It seems to me that the amendments puts the whole scheme on its merits. The supporters of the Government say that the scheme will assist the industry, without inflicting hardship on the consumers. Those who support the amendment believe that there is a danger that the scheme, in its present form, will bear with undue severity upon the poorer sections of the community. The amendment provides an opportunity for testing those points of view. I should think that the Government ought to be willing to accept the amendment, instead of trying to force its proposals through by weight of numbers. As the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** pointed out, we are all anxious to help the wheat-growers. We appreciate the value of the wheatindustry to the country, but we also realize our responsibilities to the large body of consumers, not only in the metropolitan areas, but throughout the country also. The purpose of the amendment is to provide an opportunity to study the general reaction to this legislation. That cannot be determined until the scheme has been actually in operation. There is a wide divergence of opinion regarding the powers of the States, and certainly regarding their desire, to fix prices. This Parliament is the pivot of the whole scheme. It is the taxing authority, and it has the power to force the States into line, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Bourke **(Mr. Blackburn).** The honorable member for Watson **(Mr. Jennings)** represents an electorate with a large consuming public, and he is not unmindful of their interests. The same ought to apply to the honorable member for Fawkner **(Mr. Holt)-** {: .speaker-009MC} ##### Mr Holt: -- I want to see justice done to the primary producers. {: .speaker-JOM} ##### Mr BEASLEY: -- So do we all, but that should not blind us to the necessity for doing justice to the workers. I am sure that the honorable member for Fawkner desires that even-handed justice should be meted out both to the consumers and to the producers. We are prepared to give the producers what is proposed, and all we ask is that the scheme be limited to a period of twelve months in order to ensure that the workers are not exploited. {: .speaker-009MC} ##### Mr Holt: -- Parliament may amend the legislation at any time. {: .speaker-JOM} ##### Mr BEASLEY: -- Then what is the objection to the amendment? The future in regard to this industry is very uncertain, which makes it all the more desirable that Parliament should keep the matter under its control. The suggestion of the honorable member forRiverina **(Mr. Nock)** that the limiting of the scheme to a period of twelve months might cause hesitancy and uncertainty in the minds' of the growers is not borne out by experience. The question of assistance to the wheat-growers has been discussed every year for the last ten years. This amendment does not ask a great deal even of honorable members who are enthusiastic about the bill in its present shape. It merely asks for time to test the arguments that have been forcibly expressed on both sides of the committee. One side says that the measure will place upon the people a burden which should not be placed on them, whereas the other side denies it. A review of the *legisla-.* tion would show which side "was right. Representatives of electorates which contain those on whom the bread tax will fall most heavily should accept with enthusiasm the proposal made by the Leader of the Opposition. {: #debate-17-s13 .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr PATERSON:
Gippsland -- If this amendment were carried, it would mean the virtual destruction of the great effort that has been made by the seven Australian governments to find a permanent solution of the provision of a home-consumption price for wheat. Some remarkable arguments have been advanced by honorable gentlemen opposite in support of the amendment. The honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Scully),** for example, put forward as his plea the fact that there are fluctuations of the price of wheat from one season to another, as if they were not already provided for in the bill. The excise will vary in accordance with variations of the price of wheat. Indeed, if wheat should rise beyond a certain level, the legislation will begin to operate in the opposite direction to the benefit of the consumer, and the- price of bread will fall. {: .speaker-L08} ##### Mr Rosevear: -- Why is that not contained in the bill? That is the point at issue. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr PATERSON: -- It cannot be put in the bill. It is a matter for the States, and they have taken the responsibility to fix the price of flour. They cannot take that responsibility without also assuming the responsibility to protect the consumer with reference to the price of bread. The assistance which will be given to the wheat industry under this legislation has been referred to repeatedly as a bounty, but it is nothing of the kind; it is the provision of a home-consumption price. The only part of this measure which deals with a bounty is that which refers to the £500,000, which will be paid to men who are in a difficult position owing to the absence of a c'rop. That part applies only for one year. The per manent part of the bill deals with the home-consumption price, not with a bounty. Now, sir, we have a homeconsumption price for sugar that is the subject of an agreement for five years. The price does not vary from year to year. We" have also duties imposed in order to give stability and protection to the secondary industries. These duties are not imposed for a year; they last for many years. There is a degree of .permanence about them in the same way as there is a degree of permanence about the homeconsumption price of sugar. There would be no stability, no continuity, nothing of real value to the wheat industry, if this measure were limited to one year. If. as the years go on, circumstances should prove that there i3 something wrong with the plan the Parliament will have opportunity to amend it. I appeal to honorable members not to endanger the plan at its very birth by limiting its life to one year. {: #debate-17-s14 .speaker-L08} ##### Mr ROSEVEAR:
Dalley -- As I understand the amendment, its purpose is not to destroy the bill, but to provide for a review of it in the light of experience that we shall gain in the twelve months in which it operates. The honorable member for Gippsland **(Mr. Paterson)** said that this was not a bounty. The honorable member may call it what he likes, but I submit that the difference between the price that the wheat-growers now receive for their wheat, and that which they will receive when this legislation is passed constitutes a bounty. It does not matter by what name it is known, it is none the less a bounty. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- In that case every tariff imposed for the protection of a secondary industry is a bounty to it. {: .speaker-L08} ##### Mr ROSEVEAR: -- We are discussing not that point, but whether or not the assistance which is to be given to the wheat industry is a bounty. I submit that it is. The honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Scully)** has pointed out the violent price fluctuations that occur in the wheat market. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- There is provision to meet those fluctuations. {: .speaker-L08} ##### Mr ROSEVEAR: -- That is just the point. The honorable member for Gwydir pointed out that the price went to bedrock in some years and rose violently in others. The honorable member for Gippsland says that the bill contains provision to meet those violent fluctuations, but the. danger against which we want safeguards is contained in the fact that inevitably, as the result of the imposition of the flour tax, there will be a rise of the price of flour and of bread. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- That will be as the result of action by the State governments. Mr.ROSEVEAR. - Or inaction. The tax on flour will inevitably be passed on to bread, and, accordingly, bread will be the real source from which this bounty will be paid. The honorable member for Gippsland said that, if the price of wheat rose, the excise would fall and that, accordingly, there would be a fall of bread prices, but he cannot guarantee that that will be so, because this bill does not propose to deal with that aspect. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- It cannot. Mr.ROSEVEAR.- Of course it cannot. That is why we wish to have the opportunity to review this legislation at the expiry of twelve months. According to the reasoning of the honorable member for Gippsland, it is the intention of the bill that, if the price of wheat rises, the amount of the excise taxation extracted from the people shall be reduced. If, after twelve months, we could show that the price of bread, which had originally risen as the result of the imposition of this tux, had not fallen, although the price of wheat had risen, I think that the honorable member would admit that, from the point of view of those who will actually pay this bounty through the bread tax, this bill had been a failure. If we could show that the price of wheat had risen and the effect of the reduction of the tax on the price of bread had not resulted in reduced prices, we should then have to find other means to raise the tax necessary to provide relief for the wheat-growers. The honorable gentleman says that the whole basis of this bill is to provide stability for the wheat industry. He says that it can be changed at any time, but once it was placed on the statute-book it would ruin the stability of the Government itself, if that section of the Government, represented by the United Australia party, tried to obtain the support of the honorable gentleman's party to have the law altered. If, at the end of twelve months, it can be shown either that as the result of inactivity or unwillingness of the State governments to control the price of bread, or that, in spite of the fact that the price of wheat had risen, the price of bread had not fallen correspondingly, better means of raising the money for the purposes of this legislation will have to be devised. It is of no use to say that we can control the price of bread. We know that we cannot, and it is doubtful whether the States can or are willing to do so. We are moving in a hopeless direction when we chase prices instead of dealing with the fundamental troubles which beset the farmers. As long as we chase prices we can get no nearer a solution of the problem- {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- Order! The Chair is unable to see in what way the honorable member is dealing with the subject before the Chair. {: .speaker-L08} ##### Mr ROSEVEAR: -- I was intending to point out to the Chair the relationship between what I am saying and the amendment. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- The honorable gentleman must do it briefly. {: .speaker-L08} ##### Mr ROSEVEAR: -- I was pointing out that 1 believe that we can show within twelve months the failure of this bill. I believe that within that space of time we can show the utter hopelessness of legislating in the direction of chasing prices. We have no control over the prices of that portion of the wheat which we export. Its sale and prices depend on international demand and competition. The price that can be demanded for commodities in Australia depends on the purchasing power of the people. That is a thing which this legislation cannot control. Since we can control by legislation neither the demand for wheat, the price of wheat in Australia or the price overseas, any legislation directed towards a permanent solution of the problems of the primary producers will fail, probably within less than twelve months, unless Parliament gets down to the fundamental difficulty of the farmers' costs, the enormously high cost of land and the enormous interest charges. In the present circumstances there must be a failure. I do not want that failure to be long and costly, because I realize that the workers who eat the bread will have to pay for the mistake. If, as the honorable member for Henty **(Sir Henry Gullett)** has said, this odious legislation is to be inflicted on the people, let it be inflicted for as short a space of time as possible. In the light of experience we shall be able to realize the impossibility of dealing with the farmers' problems by chasing prices, and we shall have to devise some other means or abandon the project altogether. {: #debate-17-s15 .speaker-JLZ} ##### Mr ANTHONY:
Richmond -- The intention of this legislation is to give some relief and security for the future to the wheat-growers. It will be recognized that until the last few months the consumer of bread has paid for it at the price which he will be expected to pay when this legislation is placed in effect. That is to say, for several years past consumers have been buying bread at from 5d. to 6d. a loaf. It is only 'because circumstances have been unfortunate for the wheat-growers and fortunate for the consumers that the price of bread is at present at a low level. Even in country districts, although the price of flour has fallen tremendously, the price of bread has remained the same and the increased profits have gone to the millers'. This legislation aims to give some degree of permanency to the price which will be paid to the farmer for his product, and to the price which the consumer will be charged for bread. It has been stated that this legislation is, in effect, a tax on bread. I do not think it can be looked upon in that way. If it is contended that consumers should be able to purchase all commodities at the lowest possible price at which these goods can be obtained, then no restrictions should be placed upon the importation from other countries of articles which are manufactured in Australia at a higher cost. This legislation envisages the provision of a profitable price for wheat consumed in Australia, not only to-day, but also for some years ahead. While this scheme may operate slightly to the detriment of consumers to-day, twelve months from now it may be operating to the benefit of the consumers. If the price of wheat should go above 5s. 2d. a bushel at Williamstown, this bill provides that the wheat-grower shall pay back to the miller, the difference between the Australian price and the overseas price. If we limit the operation of this measure to twelve months, we might as well eliminate that section of the bill altogether. This legislation will stabilize the price of bread and prevent it from becoming unduly high or unduly low. I am surprised at the attitude of the honorable member for Henty **(Sir Henry Gullett),** who is one of the strongest advocates of the provision of assistance for the manufacture of motor cars in Australia. The honorable gentleman knows quite well that if manufacturers of motor cars are entitled to the security of tariff protection which they regard as necessary to enable them to embark upon the profitable production of complete motor vehicles in Australia, the wheat-growers may in all justice expect security for their industry for a period of more than twelve months. I find it difficult to understand the attitude of the honorable gentleman towards this great industry which for many years has been a great factor in maintaining financial stability in this country. {: .speaker-KFS} ##### Sir Henry Gullett: -- I did not ask for a bounty on the export of motor cars. {: .speaker-JLZ} ##### Mr ANTHONY: -- The honorable gentleman asked for all he could get for that section of the community in which he was interested. The Government of New South Wales has demonstrated that it has the power to control the price of bread. In 1920 the Parliament of that State passed legislation fixing the price of bread at 6£d. a loaf. At that time the price of wheat was in the vicinity of 7s. 6d. a bushel. Surely that meets the argument advanced by honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House, who have claimed that State governments would not take any action to fix the price of bread. {: #debate-17-s16 .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr GREGORY:
Swan .The principle objective of the bill is to give stability to the wheat industry. Were, a scheme such as this not introduced, the present low price of wheat and high costs of production would mean that the Government would be obliged sooner or later to give assistance to the industry in some other form. This legislation will ensure that wheat-growers will not have to carry on under the impossible conditions obtaining this year. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** and other honorable members on the other side of the chamber can be proud of their efforts to destroy a measure which has been brought forward at the request of three Labour governments that recognize the difficulties confronting the wheat-growers. I am satisfied that all sections of the community are in agreement that immediate steps should be taken to alleviate the position of wheat farmers, and I am surprised at the attitude of the honorable member for Henty **(Sir Henry Gullett).** Has that honorable gentleman considered the effect of his trade diversion policy upon a wheat-farmer who wishes to " buy, for instance, a motor truck and has to pay an additional £100 or £200 for it? {: .speaker-L08} ##### Mr Rosevear: -- The party to which the honorable member belongs supported that policy. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr GREGORY: -- Rubbish. The honorable member for Henty was a member of the cabinet which introduced an excise tax on flour on a previous occasion, but now he describes such legislation as infamous. I would not be supporting this bill if it were not in the best interests of the community generally. It has become impossible for wheat-farmers to continue production, and it is only fair that they should he given the same treatment as that which the honorable member for Henty has advocated for manufacturers. Wheat-farmers not only provide bread for the community but they also create the credits necessary for other industries to carry on. {: #debate-17-s17 .speaker-L07} ##### Mr LAZZARINI:
Werriwa -- The more I hear of the debate on the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin),** the more I regret my vote for the second reading of the bill. The honorable member for Gippsland **(Mr. Paterson),** the honorable member for Swan **(Mr. Gregory),** and others have stated that the object of this legislation is to give stability to the wheat industry. It is obvious, however, that the scheme envisaged by this measure will not be merely a temporary one, and the 'breadwinners of the community are to be taxed to an amount of £4,000,000 per annum. Honorable gentlemen opposite have claimed that the price of bread will be controlled, but we want this legislation to come up for review at the end of twelve months so that we can see whether or not the consumers have been called on to pay more for their bread. Furthermore, if the price of bread has not been controlled, the Commonwealth Government can bring the State governments to heel by refusing to make a further grant. Anybody who has a sincere desire to find a lasting solution of the problems associated with the wheat industry will support the amendment. It is a reasonable request, and if it is not granted the Commonwealth will be committed to a policy which will operate harshly against a large section of the community and will not afford any permanent measure of relief. The people of Australia will not stand for a permanent tax which operates unfairly against the poorer sections of the community. It is a poor industry indeed which has to rely for its existence on a tax imposed at the expense of the children of the poor of this country. If this legislation has to be continued for twelve months that is bad enough, but to attempt to make it permanent is a disgrace to the Government which fathered it. {: #debate-17-s18 .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN:
Fremantle -- I rise just to say one or two things. First, the accusation has been made that the amendment I have moved will wreck the bill. That is not the intention of the amendment, and I am quite confident it cannot possibly be. unless the Government allows it to be so. If the amendment is carried, there will be provided for this year's harvest the same amount of money that will be provided if the amendment is not carried. The industry will get no more and no less for its difficulties, in the present year by either the passage or rejection of the amendment. The next point ie this: The argument is advanced that the farmers need stability in respect of price. I point out that stability in regard to an industry, the greater part of whose product has to be sold in the export market, is something which even this plan, or any other plan, cannot guarantee. Let us presume that after this bill has been in operation, say, for three years, the world parity price rises to 4s. What is the position then? We have still to pay 4s. 8d. for the "wheat which is consumed within Australia. I submit to the Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page)** that if, when world parity price is 4s., an additional 8d. has to be paid by the Australian consumer then, obviously, the Australian consumer is being taxed, not only to provide a fair price for wheat, but also to provide an unduly excessive price for wheat. That must be incontestable. Part of this impost, namely £500,000, is not to provide a home-consumption price at all but is to provide for seasonal adversity. If in the year following a year in which there is no seasonal adversity, having regard to the present low price of wheat in the world's market, the price of wheat should jump by another shilling a bushel it would appear to me to be monstrous to continue to collect from the Australian people the same excise levied upon the consumers of wheat' in Australia. Obviously, this legislation is of a kind that should be tested in the light of experience. If, next year, it is argued that the farmers will not sell because they do not know the price they will receive, then I venture the opinion that by June, or certainly by the end of May, when the harvest has been completely garnered, and preparations are made for the following season's cultivation, we shall have learned sufficient of the operation of this legislation to be able to prove a number of things, one of which we think to be important, namely, whether the State governments have carried out faithfully their undertaking to protect the consumers against an unduly excessive price for bread. I say on behalf of the wheat-growers who get no profit out of an unduly high price for bread, that their representatives iu this Parliament should assist us to ensure that there is a guarantee, to the people of Australia against an extortionate price for bread. They will bo in no position to protect the consumer against that .unless this legislation comes up for review. The argument has been advanced that every tariff duty imposed provides in effect a bounty for the manu- facturer. It does, but it is a bounty only on goods consumed in Australia, and not on goods exported to other countries. We are to have the amazing spectacle in this legislation that, because of the national importance of the industry, we are to tax only a section of the people in order to provide the people of other countries with a product at a much cheaper rate than we can provide it for our own people. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- - Is not that done in connexion with other things? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- No, we do not provide the people of other countries with boots at a cheaper price than we provide them for ourselves; nor do we provide them with steel or in fact many other primary commodities at a price cheaper than that obtained for them in Australia.. {: .speaker-KQ8} ##### Mr Scholfield: -- What about sugar and dried fruits? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Sugar and dried fruits are primary products. Honorable members have argued that the tariff imposed for the protection of our manufactures provides bounties for the manufacturers of secondary products. {: .speaker-KV7} ##### Sir Frederick Stewart: -- We had an experimental period with regard to sugar; that is all we ask for to-day. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- That is so. A period was put to the duration of the sugar agreement. I merely ask that a period be put to the duration of this measure. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- We shall agree if the honorable member makes the period five years, which was the period of the first sugar agreement. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- The honorable member knows that the first sugar agreement was not for five years; it was- subject to review just as is bounty legislation passed by this Parliament. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- The legislation providing for bounties operates for ten years. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- That is not so. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- The legislation providing for bounties on iron, steel and sulphur operates for ten years. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- The honorable member overlooks the fundamental distinction that all those bounties are paid out of Consolidated Revenue and not out of the proceeds of levies upon consumers. That is the whole essence of our argument. We are in favour of paying this bounty of £4,000,000 out of Consolidated Revenue. The right honorable gentleman quotes as evidence against me the very principle which he rejected only two hours ago in this House. In regard to manufactured goods there is internal competition as between manufacturers, but by this legislation the Government proposes to establish a fixed price below which nobody can go. As the honorable member for East Sydney **(Mr. Ward)** has shown, the Government proposes with the assistance of the States to fix the price of flour. There is no undertaking to fix the price of bread. Certainly no proposal that is capable of enforcement has been announced. I put this matter to the committee as fairly and impartially as I can. I am not unmindful of the tremendous economic value of the wheat industry to Australia, nor am I unmindful of its paramount importance to the State from which I come. The Opposition is prepared to vote the £4,000,000 required to assist the wheat industry this year, and if £4,000,000 is required next year to again vote that amount of money; but it believes that the vote should come from sources that are better capable of making the contribution and that it should not be levied exclusively upon the larger families, and more particularly, upon the poorer families of Australia. The methods which the Opposition suggests should be employed to subsidize an export industry are the more fair and equable methods formulated by the Labour Government of New Zealand. The burden of subsidizing exports because they provide the funds which enable the country to maintain its solvency should fall upon the nation as a whole and not upon any particular section. We lay that down as a principle. I resent the argument that we are not prepared to provide stability for this industry insofar as constructive statesmanship can provide it. My amendment is motivated by the one purpose of finding out the merits of this legislation. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- What is the difference between this proposal and a compulsory pool insofar as its effect upon the price of bread is concerned? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- There is a big difference. With a pool, the difference between what the growers will get and what the consumers will pay will be reduced, because the parisitical elements associated with the marketing of wheat at present would be cut out of service by a compulsory pool. The honorable member must know that the operations of the voluntary pool in Western Australia proved that pooling is less costly to the grower. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- I remind the honorable member that it was a voluntary and not a government pool. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- I need not go beyond the fact that the voluntary pool in Western Australia has been supported by the growers themselves without any legal aid whatever. They have done so because .'they discovered that 'over the whole of the operations of the pool they got economic conditions that they did not get by the ordinary system of capitalistic competition. The wheatgrowers in Western Australia are more disposed to support co-operative pools than are perhaps other sections of the industry, only because of the demonstrated advantages which have accrued to them by the voluntary pool which they have sustained and developed into a very successful and efficient organization. I am surprised that the argument should be advanced that we ought to allow all the elements which are so unsatisfactory to the industry to-day to continue, the brigandage which is a part of it, the forward selling which has marked it, the heavy interest burdens of its debt structure which have been reported against but still continue, and at the same time to put forward as a remedy for the complicated problems of this industry one single proposition which ultimately means, whether we like it or not, an inevitable increase of the price of bread. Because the increasing of the price of bread is not the fairest and soundest method to enable this industry to be put on its feet this year, I propose to limit the application of the bill until the 30th September next with the direction to the Government that early in the new year it should go very comprehensively into the problems of this industry, that it should call the States together in terms of the suggestion made by the honorable member for Bourke **(Mr. Blackburn)** and that it should lay down what it believes to be a comprehensive plan which should be taken into account. The Commonwealth Government has a major interest in this matter in that it is responsible for our overseas trade, and the maintenance of our solvency overseas. This means that it must do everything possible to maintain exports. {: #debate-17-s19 .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE:
Minister for Commerce · Cowper · CP -- It is hard to understand upon what argument the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** expects support for his amendment. He has told us that the Government of New Zealand does certain things in connexion with primary production. That Government has fixed the price of wheat for a number of years. The guaranteed price of 5s. 8d. a bushel was in operation before the present Government assumed office. The stabilization scheme of that dominion is based upon a long-range programme, and the legislation is not subject to alteration year by year. If the committee accepts the amendment the Commonwealth Government will 'be guilty of a breach of faith with the State governments. The various State governments have consented to make a grant of £200,000 to the Government of Victoria out of the amount of £500,000 to be made available for the relief of necessitous farmers; but do honorable members imagine that that course would have been takenif this had not been regarded as a long-range plan? Victoria is one of the soundest wheatgrowing States of Australia, but it happens that this year it has struck a very bad season. The other wheat-growing States have come to its assistance, knowing that, in accordance with the permanent scheme that has been arranged, their turn will come later. The proposition of the Leader of the Opposition cuts right across the agreement that the Commonwealth Government has made with the State governments. The honorable member for Hunter **(Mr. James)** suggests, by interjection, that this proposal amounts to a parasitical attack upon the whole community. {: .speaker-KJQ} ##### Mr James: -- At any rate it provides for a definite tax upon the poor. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE: -- Does the honorable member realize that all the State governments, Labour or otherwise, have endorsed the scheme? It has been suggested that there may be a " rake-off" for some one in the adjustment of the relative prices of wheat, flour and bread. My reply is that such a rake-off is only likely to be prevented if a plan of a permanent character is adopted. Under such a plan it should he easy to determine the relative prices of wheat, flour and bread so as to prevent profiteering, and that relationship will persist. The price of flour in relation to the price of bread will be carefully considered, and it may be taken for granted that it will be fixed at a figure which can be thoroughly justified. Only by the adoption of a permanent plan can a definite alignment of prices be secured. Actual experience will soon enable the authorities to form an accurate judgment on this subject. If the problem is attacked in any other way profiteering is almost bound to occur. I therefore appeal to the committee to vote against the amendment. {: #debate-17-s20 .speaker-KX7} ##### Mr WARD:
East Sydney -- The Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page)** has carefully avoided making any statement in reply to our assertions that the price of bread will be increased when this scheme comes into operation. Numerous speeches have been made on this subject but no effective reply has been made to our contention that antiLabour governments will neglect to take adequate steps to protect the working class community in respect of the price of bread. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- Does the honorable gentleman realize that three Labour governments are involved in the scheme? {: .speaker-KX7} ##### Mr WARD: -- I suggest that the Minister for Commerce should make a direct reply to our criticism, and tell us exactly what the State governments intend to do to protect the poorer sections of the community from undue exploitation. We have had some experience in matters of this kind. When the present Minister for Works **(Mr. Thorby)** was Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales he declined to lift one finger to protect the consumers of that State when we brought under his notice the fact that certain bakers, who were selling bread at a reasonable price, had been placed on the " black list " and refused supplies of flour by the millers. I predict that if this plan comes into operation the workers will be exploited to a greater degree than ever. The Minister for Commerce has not said explicitly that he approves of the imposition of a permanent bread tax, but we fear that he does approve of it. All that the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** asks in his amendment is that the scheme shall be reviewed after twelve months experience of it, so that we may ascertain exactly what effect its operation has on the interests of the working people. The Minister for Works has himself said on many occasions that the adoption of this scheme will not result in an increased price for 'bread. My reply to him is that his record as Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales does not justify us putting much reliance upon his statement. I was engaged in the baking industry in the days when the honorable gentleman asked to be furnished with definite instances in which flour supplies had been refused to bakers who were prepared to pay cash for it. Supplies were refused, as he very well knows. On three occasions the honorable gentleman failed to keep an appointment with us because he knew very well that we had specific information to submit to him on which he would be obliged to take action. In these circumstances it is not likely that we shall place too much reliance upon his assurance that the consumers will not be exploited under this scheme. We desire that effective action shall be taken at once to protect the interests of the working people, and that no risk shall be incurred that they will be obliged to pay more for bread than they have hitherto paid for it. Question put - >That the words proposed to be added **(Mr.** > >Curtin's amendment) be so added. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.) AYES: 22 NOES: 27 Majority . . . . 5 AYES NOES Question so resolved in the negative. Amendment negatived. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 3 agreed to. Clause 4 - >1 ) For the purposes of this act and of any act relating to the imposition of a tax upon flour or wheat, there shall be a committee to be known as the Wheat Stabilization Advisory Committee. . > >The Committee shall consist of three members who shall be appointed by the Governor-General and shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. > >The Governor-General shall appoint one of the members of the committee to be the chairman of the committee. {: #debate-17-s21 .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE:
Minister for Commerce · Cowper · CP -- I move - >That the word "three" sub-clause (2.) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word " five ". The purpose of the amendment is to strengthen the Wheat Stabilization Advisory Committee. This committee will have to do a great deal of statistical work, and for this reason it has been thought desirable to increase the number of permanent officials from one to three. The committee would then consist of the secretary to the Department of Commerce, the Commonwealth Statistician, one of the chief taxation officers handling the sales tax on flour, and two men possessing commercial knowledge associated with the wheat industry. Mr.Curtin. - Where will they be drawn from? {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE: -- From among men engaged in the actual selling of wheat. It is necessary to obtain exact information regarding the f.o.b. price of wheat at Williamstown, because on that price will depend the rate of tax to be levied. {: #debate-17-s22 .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN:
Fremantle -- The work which the Minister for Commerce says that this committee will have to do does not appear to bear any relation to stabilization. He proposes to increase the membership of the Advisory Committee from three to five, and he says that the function of the committee is to ascertain the price of wheat, f.o.b. Williamstown. In that case, this body should be called the Wheat Price Ascertainment Committee, rather than the Wheat Stabilization Advisory Committee. It seems to me that it will do more than ascertain the price. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- It will declare the amount of the tax. That arises from the price of wheat. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Therefore, the price of wheat, f.o.b. Williamstown, becomes, in fact, the determining factor in fixing the rate of tax. That is very important, and it is desirable that there should be absolute accuracy. I have no doubt that the departmental officers will do their work well, andI have the utmost confidence in their probity, but I think that there ought to be among the five one representative of the consumers - one representative of those who will have to pay the tax. That would be a guarantee to the consumers that their interests were being watched to some infinitesimal degree, at any rate. I am prepared to accept the substitution of "five" for " three ", if the Minister will add after the word " five " the words, " one of whom shall be a representative of the consumers ". {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- How would such a representative be chosen? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- That is for the Governor-General in Council to do. It is not stipulated in the clause that departmental officers or commercial men shall be appointed to the committee; it is merely proposed to stipulate that five persons shall be appointed. The idea, of course, is that the five most suitable men will be appointed. This is one of those extraordinary measures in which it is proposed to impose an unspecified amount of tax, which will vary, not as the result of the decisions of this Parliament, but as the result of the decision of the tribunal which it is proposed to set up. {: .speaker-JLZ} ##### Mr Anthony: -- But the price of bread will not vary. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- We have argued that before, but the honorable member will agree that the immediate effect of an increase of the tax will be an increase of the price of bread. {: .speaker-KXT} ##### Mr Paterson: -- The price of flour, and therefore of bread, will remain constant. It is only the rate of tax that will vary, and that variation will be in accordance with any variation of the export price of wheat. {: #debate-17-s23 .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN:
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1934; ALP from 1936 -- The lower the export price of wheat, the higher will be the tax on flour, in order to maintain the homeconsumption price. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- The price of flour will be fixed by the State tribunals, but the rate of tax will be fixed by the Wheat Stabilization Advisory Committee. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- But the rate of tax is not fixed in this measure. The point that I am stressing is that the rate of tax is not fixed. It will vary. The rate of tax, when all is said and done, will ultimately be related to the price of bread. The immediate effect of the result of the tax will be an increase of the price of 'bread. Once it has been increased, the State tribunals will determine whether or not the price to which it has been increased represents an unfair price and advise the State governments accordingly. It is obvious that the millers will not keep flour at itspresent price after the tax has been imposed. {: .speaker-JLZ} ##### Mr Anthony: -- The price of bread would be fixed. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- The honorable gentleman knows that as things stand at present the wheat-growers will not get £4,000,000 unless this legislation passes. When it passes there is to be an excise tax which is to yield £4,000,000. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr Nock: -- Not necessarily. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- On the present hypothesis of the Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page),** if prices remain as they are, the figure will be between £3,500,000 and £4,000,000. {: .speaker-JLZ} ##### Mr Anthony: -- But that excise is fixed on a maximum price of £13 a ton for flour. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- I know that. The present price of flour is £8 a ton. It is obvious that the price will be increased to the baker by £5 a ton when the tax on flour is increased by £5 a ton. Is it not a certainty then that the baker will say that he was selling at the present price when he was buying flour at £8 a ton and that he must increase the price to pay for flour at £13 a ton? {: .speaker-KFS} ##### Sir Henry Gullett: -- Hear, hear! {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Any honorable member who says that this legislation does not involve as its first necessity an increase of the price of bread is humbugging himself. {: #debate-17-s24 .speaker-JVR} ##### The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Nairn:
PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA -- Order! The honorable member must relate his remarks to the matter before the Chair. {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Yes, **Mr. Nairn.** The f.o.b. price of wheat will affect the rate of the excise which is to be charged on each ton of flour that is consumed within Australia, and that will relate to the price of bread. I suggest that as the Governor-General in Council will, under the amendment moved by the Minister for Commerce, appoint five persons to this committee, instead of three, because the Minister wants five to deal with the great amount of work that the committee will have to undertake, he should agree that one of the extra men should represent the consumers. {: .speaker-N76} ##### Mr Menzies: -- The consumers of what? Of bread? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- Yes. The AttorneyGeneral is a man of legal acumen, but he is also a man of common sense, andhe knows thatthe Governor-General in Council will be able to select a man who will represent the consumers of bread generally just as easily as he will be able to select a man to represent the commercial community. I realize that we all represent the consumers of bread. What I suggest is that a man could be selected to represent the people generally. I do not restrict the Governor-General in Council in his choice by saying that he should appoint a representative from a panel submitted by the housewives' associations, or some other bodies. I leave it to the discretion of the Government to justify the person it selects to represent the people generally. He should not be a miller, a wheat-grower, a baker or a departmental official, but an impartial person who could truthfully claim to represent the people. If the Government could not find one person who could do that there would be something radically wrong with its general competence. If the Minister for Commerce will not accept my suggestion, I shall move it as a subsequent amendment. In the meantime, I agree to the increase of the number of the persons on the committee from 3 to 5. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE: -- I shall agree to the honorable member's further amendment. Amendment agreed to. Amendment (by **Mr. Curtin)** agreed to - >That after the word " members ", sub-clause 2, the words " one of whom shall be a representative of the consumers " be inserted. {: #debate-17-s25 .speaker-L1L} ##### Mr WILSON:
Wimmera -- I move - >That the following new sub-clause be inserted: - (2a.) One member of the committee shall be a person appointed on the nomination of the body known as the Council of the Australian Wheat-growers' Federation." The wheat-growers should have a direct representative on this important committee. There is no body which is more competent to nominate that person than the Council of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, with which the wheat-growers' organizations in all of the States are affiliated. It would be appreciated if the Government would accept the amendment. The organization has played an important part in bringing this the home-consumption price plan to fruition. The wheat-growers claim that they as well as the consumers should be represented. The usefulness and utility of the committee would be served, if the amendment were agreed to. {: #debate-17-s26 .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE:
Minister for Commerce · Cowper · CP -- I regret that I cannot accept the amendment, because, as I have previously said, it is to be an expert committee to deal with the statistics of the industry. It should not have on it representatives of any persons who may benefit from its decisions. The farmers will have a financial interest in the committee's work and so will the millers. I accepted the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Curtin)** for the addition of a consumer's representativebecause it may be possible to select a man who will be truly representative of the people and at the same time of considerable statistical ability. {: .speaker-JPN} ##### Mr Blackburn: -- How could he be truly representative? {: .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: -- The appointment will have to be justified by the Government. {: #debate-17-s27 .speaker-KQB} ##### Mr SCULLY:
Gwydir .I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wimmera **(Mr. Wilson).** I do not think that the Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page)** fully appreciates the fact that a representative of the Council of , the Australian Wheat-growers Federation would be of valuable assistance in the deliberations of the committee. The Victorian law provides for the appointment of a wheat products price committee of which the chairman must be a person who has no business of growing, selling, or milling wheat, or baking or selling bread. Of the other members one will be a representative of the flour-millers, one of the wheat-growers, and one of the consumers of bread and other foodstuffs manufactured from flour, and one a masterbaker. I do not see why there should be any difference between the constitution of the Victorian committee and the constitution of the Commonwealth committee. The amendment is a wise move and I trust that the Minister will accept it. Question put - >That the proposed sub-clause **(Mr. Wilson's amendment)** be inserted. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.) AYES: 17 NOES: 24 Majority . . 7 AYES NOES Question so resolved in the negative. Amendment negatived. Amendment (by **Sir Earle** Page) agreed to - That the following sub-clauses be added: - "(4.) At any meeting of the committee three members shall form a quorum. "(5.) The Governor-General may appoint persons to be deputies of the members of the committee. "(6.) A person appointed to be the deputy of a member of the committee shall, during the illness or absence of that member, have all the powers and exercise all the functions of that member.". Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 5 agreed to. Clause 6 - (3.) There shall be kept in the fund an account to be known as the Wheat Industry Special Account to which shall be credited out of the receipts of the fund - {: #debate-17-s28 .speaker-KQB} ##### Mr SCULLY:
Gwydir .I move - That paragraph (b) clause3be omitted. In my opinion this sum of £500,000 which is to be set aside for the express purpose of alleviating distress caused by adverse seasonal conditions should be allocated only in respect of the present year. General dissatisfaction with the proposal to make this money available every year has been expressed by wheat-growers' organizations throughout the Commonwealth. It is held that the fund is to be created for the express purpose of establishing a home-consumption price for wheat, and that assistance for farmers in drought-stricken areas should be provided out of revenue by the State governments, or by the Commonwealth Government. The permanent allocation of a sum for the relief of distress occasioned by adverse seasonal conditions is not regarded as in keeping with the general principles of this legislation. SirEARLE PAGE (Cowper- Minister for Commerce) [4.22 a.m.]. - I am sorry that 1 am unable to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Scully).** As I stated previously, an undertaking was given by the various States that if the special position of Victoria was met this year, similar assistance would be given to any other State which, during the next five or six years found herself in the same position. The bill also provides for the transfer of farmers from marginal areas. It was felt that the total amount to be used for this purpose should be determined by the various States in conjunction with the Commonwealth year by year, at the annual meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. I urge that the honorable member should withdraw his amendment because it really involves a contravention of the arrangement arrived at whereby every State made this year some contribution to the relief of farmers in Victoria who are suffering owing to extreme drought conditions. It would not be fair to the States which have contributed sums to wheat-growers of Victoria to make this amount available only in respect of this year. It might be needed for other States in subsequent years. There is justification for this course, because the decline in yield owing to disastrous climatic conditions in certain States and parts of States gives a larger return a bushel this year to those who have crops. Also, the removal of marginal farmers with their proportionate production will have a similar beneficial effect on the return for each bushel of those who remain in production. For instance, it is estimated that the home-consumption price will be paid in respect of 32,000,000 bushels. This year, for instance, the difference between the home-consumption price of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. Williamstown and 2s. 7d. or 2s. 8d., the actual export price, represents an increase of 2s. 6d. a bushel over the existing price for those 32,000,000 bushels. The amount available, therefore, will be £4,000,000. The average harvest in Australia is roughly 160,000,000 bushels and on that quantity the £4,000,000 would be spread and represents 6d. a bushel bounty. This year, the harvest is roughly, say, 120,000,000 bushels, for which the £4,000,000 would provide almost 8d. a bushel. The payment of this £500,000 to relieve distressed farmers will roughly absorb a penny a bushel of the additional 2d. a bushel that comesto the farmers who have had crops as the result of the distress of their neighbours. Similarly, it is estimated that there is something between 10,000,000 and 20,000,000 bushels of wheat produced in different years on the marginal lands. If this amount is subtracted from the total production as the result of this policy of removing marginal farmers to other vocations or different situations, the amount for each bushel paid out of the £4,000,000 or whatever the home-consumption price figure is for that year, will be so much greater a bushel for those who are left, so that the use of up to £500,000 for removing farmers from marginal lands has some j ustification. Mr.curtin. - There can be no compulsory liquidation. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE: -- It is the intention of the various State governments to induce men on marginal lands to enlarge their areas and to stock sheep. In some cases the farmers will be transferred from the unprofitable areas and given an opportunity to engage in other pastoral or agricultural pursuits. Their absence may easily mean a difference of, say,1d. a bushel in the return, because if there is so much less wheat to participate it will mean 7d. for the harvest of 140,000,000 instead of 6d. for the ordinary harvest of 160,000,000 bushels. In the circumstances, it is felt that no personal contribution is really made by any individual. {: #debate-17-s29 .speaker-KQ8} ##### Mr SCHOLFIELD:
Wannon -- I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Scully)** in this matter. When speaking on the second reading of this hill I mentioned the fact that I did not agree with the proposed allocation of this money. As has been mentioned, it is to be raised in a certain way and applied for a certain purpose, but in spite of what the Minister for Commerce **(Sir Earle Page)** has said I cannot see that the allocation of £500,000 a year for something distinct from a home-consumption price can make no difference to the amount that will be given to the growers. The right honorable gentleman has said that a great many farmers in the marginal areas will go out of production, and also that he would be willing to consider the deletion of this provision in five years' time. I suggest to him that in about that time many of those engaged in marginal areas will have already gone off their holdings. I do not see how that can have any bearing on this matter, and therefore I must support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gwydir. The Minister for Commerce, however, mentioned something which might have some influence with me; but it will not unless he can state more definitely that the States would be very seriously inconvenienced by the deletion of this clause. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- The various States, especially South Australia, Western Australia, and even Queensland, have made contributions to Victoria because of its drought condition. {: .speaker-KQ8} ##### Mr SCHOLFIELD: -- This year I am not prepared to touch the £500,000, but I should like to see this provision limited to, say, five years, unless some definite assurance is given that it will upset the whole basis of the scheme. {: .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr Nock: -- Why not make the period this year and the next four years? {: .speaker-KQ8} ##### Mr SCHOLFIELD: -- I adhere to my suggestion that it be limited to five years, although it seems to me that during each of those five years £500,000 less will be paid to the wheat-growers under the home-consumption price plan. {: #debate-17-s30 .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK:
Riverina -- I think the honorable member for Wannon **(Mr. Scholfield)** is under some misapprehension in regard to this matter. Subclause 3 provides that there shall be kept a special account to which shall be credited out of the receipts of the fund an amount " not exceeding £500,000 ". It does not provide that the amount shall be £500,000. There may be a year during which nothing is contributed, and in other years perhaps £200,000or £300,000 may be contributed. I agree with what has been said that it is wrong in principle to take portion of the money from the home-consumption price excise to transfer necessitous farmers engaged in uneconomic areas to other areas more suitable for production; but seeing that the Premiers of all the States have agreed to this as a condition of co-operation, it is up to us to accept the terms of that agreement. Amendment negatived. {: #debate-17-s31 .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK:
Riverina .- I move - >That the words " subsequent year " paragraph (b) sub-clause 3 be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words "year of the period of four years next succeeding that firstyear ". The purpose of the amendment is to provide that five years will be the maximum period during which allocation might be made to the special fund. From what the Minister for Commerce has said he is quite prepared to accept the amendment. Amendment agreed to. {: #debate-17-s32 .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE:
Minister for Commerce · Cowper · CP -- I move - >Thatthe words "harvested by each wheatgrower and sold or delivered for sale during the year in respect of which the payment is made to the State", sub-clause 7, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words "sold or delivered for sale by each wheat-grower during the year inrespect of which the payment is made to the State: > >Provided that, in calculating the amount to be paid to any wheat-grower, account shall only be taken of wheat which was harvested by him on or after the first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight.". The idea behind this amendment is to provide for a man who holds a certain quantity of wheat this year and sells it next year. Amendment agreed to. {: #debate-17-s33 .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN:
Fremantle -- I move - >That after sub-clause (7) the following subclause be inserted: - " (8.) Any amount which a wheat-grower is entitled to be paid under the last preceding sub-section shallbe paid to that wheat-grower notwithstanding any provision in any contract or agreement made prior to the commencement of this Act whereby he has assigned or transferred his right to that amount or has transferred his property or interest in the wheat in respect of which the amount is payable.". I do so solely in order to make the position clear. There is no doubt that my amendment will adequately safeguard the interests of the grower who has sold forward, by ensuring that the bounty is paid to the grower rather than to the man who has acquired the wheat. I am assured that my amendment will achieve the object it sets out to achieve, and I understand that the Minister is willing to accept it. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- The honorable member's amendment puts the matter beyond doubt. Amendment agreed to. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 7 - (2.) Out of the amount which is credited to the Special Account in any of the years subsequent to that first year, there shall be paid to each State, by way of financial assistance, such amount (if any) as the Minister, after advice from the State Minister, determines. (5.) Any amount paid to a State under sub-section (2.) of this section shall be paid upon condition that it is applied towards meeting the cost of transferring wheat-farmers, in accordance with plans approved by the Minister after advice from the State Minister, from lands unsuitable for the production of wheat, or of arranging for such lands to be used for other purposes. Amendment (by **Mr. Nock)** agreed to - >That the words, " of the years subsequent to" sub-clause (2) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, "year of the period of four years next succeeding ". {: #debate-17-s34 .speaker-KQB} ##### Mr SCULLY:
Gwydir .I move - >That sub-clause (5) be omitted. I feel very strongly in regard to this clause, which is very different from that relating to distressed farmers. The subclause provides for meeting the cost of transferring wheat-farmers from lands unsuitable for the production of wheat. In other words it provides for the repatriation of those men to other holdings. That, in my opinion, is definitely an obligation which devolves upon the respective State governments. In order to ensure that the States do not shirk their responsibilities in this connexion I ask that the sub-clause, which has absolutely no bearing on the fixation of a homeconsumption price for wheat, be deleted. Some time ago this Parliament passed a bill providing £12,000,000 for the rehabilitation of necessitous farmers. It is now up to the State governments to deal with the problem of marginal areas. I do not think it can be denied that the insertion of this clause is a distinct violation of the principles of the bill itself. As the honorable member for Wannon **(Mr. Scholfield)** supported me in my previous amendment I think he must unhesitatingly give me his strongest support in regard to this one. If anybody can be blamed for farmers engaging in the production of wheat in unsuitable areas, that blame can be laid at the door of the lands departments of the various States which have, in most cases, advised intending settlers as to where they should take up land. If they have proffered wrong advice the obligation rests on the State governments concerned to repatriate these farmers to more suitable areas. Some of those engaged in wheat production in the marginal areas engage also in raising sheep and fat lambs, and it cannot be claimed by them that their difficulties can be attributable to their wheat operations alone. As the subjectmatter of this sub-clause falls within the sphere of the Department of Lands of the respective States, I think the subclause should be deleted. {: #debate-17-s35 .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr ARCHIE CAMERON:
BarkerPostmasterGeneral · CP -- The Government is not prepared to delete this sub-clause, which I regard as of great value. The honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Scully)** has spoken from a wide knowledge of affairs in New South "Wales, which is a wealthy State, and is able to deal with the relatively small percentage of farmers on marginal lands; but obviously he is not acquainted with the conditions in "Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria, the State governments of which could not possibly cope with the problem. Probably 50 per cent, of the wheat land of South Australia might be regarded as marginal. That also applies to "Western Australia. As this sub-clause is strictly in accordance with the agreement made between the Commonwealth and State Governments, it should be retained in the bill. {: #debate-17-s36 .speaker-KQ8} ##### Mr SCHOLFIELD:
Wannon -- The honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Scully)** has suggested that as I supported his previous amendment I ought also to support this one; but the committee having decided that the fund of £500,000 shall be ear-marked for a certain purpose, I am quite prepared to agree to the money being allocated in the way proposed by the Government. {: #debate-17-s37 .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK:
Riverina .I disagree with the view expressed by the Postmaster-General **(Mr. Archie Cameron)** respecting the principle involved, but as an agreement has been made on the subject between the Commonwealth and State Governments, it should be observed. The arrangement is to continue in force for five years. No doubt it will then be reviewed. {: #debate-17-s38 .speaker-L1L} ##### Mr WILSON:
Wimmera -- I agree with the honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Scully)** that land settlement is a matter for State action, but I would not deny that the Commonwealth Government has some responsibility in the matter. I think money for the purpose proposed should be found from some other source. I register my protest against the ear-marking of this amount from the proceeds of a tax intended to provide a home-consumption price for wheat ; but I shall not go further at this stage. The whole subject may be reviewed at the expiry of the five-year term; as the honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock)** has suggested. Amendment negatived. Amendment (by **Mr. Nook)** agreed to - >That after the word " the " fourth occurring, sub-clause 5, the word " economic " be inserted. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to. Clause 10- >Where the Governor-General is satisfied that the legislation of a State providing for the fixing of the prices at which flour or other wheat products may be sold has been so amended, or that such action has been taken thereunder, as to affect prejudicially the position of wheat-growers in that State in respect of wheat sold for home consumption in Australia, the Governor-General may, by notice in the *Gazette,* suspend, during or in respect of such period as, in his opinion, the position of those wheat-growers is so .prejudicially affected, payments to that State under this act and, thereupon, that State shall not be entitled to receive payments under this act during or in respect of that period. {: #debate-17-s39 .speaker-KK7} ##### Mr JENNINGS:
Watson -- I move - >That the clause be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - " 10. Where the Governor-Genera] is satisfied that- > >the legislation of a State providing for the fixing of the prices a"t which flour or other wheat products may be sold has been so amended, or that such action has been taken thereunder, as to affect prejudicially the position of wheat-growers in that State in respect of wheat sold for home consumption in Australia; or > >a State has not taken steps adequately to protect consumers of flour and other wheat products against excessive prices in respect of those commodities, the Governor-General may, by notice in the *Gazette,* suspend payments to that State under this act during or in respect of such period as, in his opinion - > >the position of those wheat-growers is so prejudicially affected; or > >those consumers are not protected against such excessive prices us the case may be, and thereupon, that State shall not be entitled to receive payments under this Act during or in respect of that period." The position is that the Commonwealth has no power to legislate for the fixation of prices, but all the States have agreed in co-operation with this scheme to pass legislation for the fixation of the price of flour. Clause 10 of the bill provides that if the States take any action prejudicially affecting the position of wheat-growers, the Governor-General may by gazettal suspend payments to the States concerned. This amendment provides that similar legislation will be provided should any State fail to take action to protect the consumers against excessive profits in respect of flour and other wheat products which include bread. This will deal in an effective way with the question of bread prices raised so frequently during the debate. Shortly, the purpose is that consumers will be protected in the same way as wheat-growers. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page: -- The Government is prepared to accept the amendment. {: #debate-17-s40 .speaker-K4X} ##### Mr NOCK:
Riverina .The words " or in respect of " which appear at the end of the proposed new clause should be omitted, otherwise the wheat-growers might be adversely affected. Payments will not be made at regular intervals, and it would be unjust to the wheat-growers to deny them any recompense in respect of such periods. {: #debate-17-s41 .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN:
Fremantle -- The interests of the consumers are just as likely to be prejudicially affected as are those of the growers, and I can see no reason why action such as the honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Nock)** proposes in respect of the wheat-growers should not also be taken in respect of the consumers, though I appreciate that there might be difficulties in the way. It seems to me that the words referred to by the honorable member should be left in to provide an added incentive to the members of the Country party to assert their influence in the State legislatures just as they have exerted it in this Parliament to ensure that full effect shall be given to this scheme. The presence of those words in the clause provides some guarantee that this will be done. I- object to the omission of the words from the amendment of the honorable member for Watson **(Mr. Jennings).** {: #debate-17-s42 .speaker-JPN} ##### Mr BLACKBURN:
Bourke -- The acceptance of the amendment of the honorable member for Watson **(Mr. Jennings)** is an admission by the Government of the validity of my contention that, although the Commonwealth cannot directly control prices, it can indirectly affect State action in this regard, in that it can oblige the State authorities to comply with certain prescribed conditions. I compliment the honorable member for Watson upon having induced the Government to accept this amendment which will, in a measure, protect both the wheat-growers and the consumers of bread in respect of any prejudicial action by the State authorities. Now the honorable member for Watson proposes that that protection, which, was only given to the wheat-producers, shall also be given to the consumers. That is to say, if the Commonwealth Government is satisfied that the State is not fulfilling its obligations to the wheat-growers, or is not protecting the consumers of wheat products, payment may be suspended during, or in respect of, the period in which the default takes place. I hope the amendment will be accepted. It will force the States to pass legislation providing for the fixing, not only of the price of flour, but also of the products manufactured from flour. Amendment agreed to. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clauses 11 to 13 agreed to. Clause 14 - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. In addition to any amount granted by way of financial assistance to the State of Tasmania in pursuance of section six or section seven of this act, there shall, subject to this section, be granted out of the fund to that State, in each year by way of financial assistance, such amount as the Minister determines : Provided that the amount paid to that State in any year shall not be greater than the sum (if any) by which the amount collected in that State in that year under the Flour Tax (Wheat Industry Assistance) Assessment Act 1938 (other than moneys collected as tax upon wheat exported from Australia or upon wheat produced and sold in Australia) exceeds the total amount paid to that State in respect of that year under section six and section seven of this act: {: #debate-17-s43 .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir EARLE PAGE:
Minister for Commerce · Cowper · CP -- I move - >That the words ' State in that year under the Flour Tax (Wheat Industry Assistance) Assessment Act 1938 (other than moneys collected as tax upon wheat exported from Australia or upon wheat produced and sold in Australia) ", sub-clause (1), be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, " year under the Flour Tax (Wheat Industry Assistance) Assessment Act 1938 in respect of flour consumed in that State (whether as flour or as goods manufactured from flour) ". The Government of Tasmania has pointed out that the tax to be collected in Tasmania is not equivalent of the tax to be collected on all flour consumed in Tasmania. In fact, the collections in Tasmania will be much less than, the collections on flour consumed in Tasmania, the reason being that a very considerable portion of the flour consumed in that State is imported from the mainland. The intention is that the whole of the payments to Tasmania in any year under clauses 6, 7, and 14 should equal the burden of the tax in that year on Tasmanian consumers of flour; or, in other words, that they should equal the tax payable in that year on ali flour for consumption in Tasmania. The payments under clauses 6 and 7 will be for distribution to, or the assistance of Tasmanian wheat-growers. The payments under clause 14 are intended for distribution, by way of refund, to persons who will bear the burden of the tax on flour consumed in that State, whether that tax is collected in Tasmania or on the mainland, and the amount intended to be so distributed is the excess of the tax collected in any year on all flour for consumption in Tasmania over the amount granted to that State in the same year for the assistance of Tasmanian wheat-growers. If the proviso is not amended, the payment to Tasmania under - clause 14 will be less than the amount intended to be available for distribution to the extent of the tax on flour imported into Tasmania from the mainland. This would necessarily mean: that the Tasmanian Government would only provide for refunds to the persons who pay or bear the tax which is actually collected in Tasmania. As the result, mainland millers would probably lose the whole of their flour market in Tasmania. The proposed amendment will avoid this consequence, and will give effect to the intention of the bill. {: #debate-17-s44 .speaker-KV7} ##### Sir FREDERICK STEWART:
Parramatta -- It is a great pity, in my opinion, that this exclusion of Tasmania should be perpetuated. It was only a week or two ago that Parliament passed legislation regarding the apple and pear export trade. New South Wales was refused representation on the export control committee because it was claimed that there was a negligible trade in the export of apples from that State. New South Wales producers, however, were not excluded "from the levy. I should *he* prepared to vote for an amendment to bring Tasmania into this scheme. Amendment agreed to. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 15 agreed to. Preamble. {: #debate-17-s45 .speaker-JPN} ##### Mr BLACKBURN:
Bourke -- I said that the object of the homeconsumption price was to enable the producer to dispose of the whole of his product at a price which, levelling everything up, would be as high as possible. The honorable member for Gippsland **(Mr. Paterson)** took me up, and said that it was not the purpose of the scheme that the grower should be able to dispose of the whole of his products. I point out that the preamble contains these words : - >And whereas the Premiers on behalf of their respective States undertook that, if the Commonwealth agreed to co-operate in the said scheme, legislation would be passed by the said States providing for the fixing of such prices for flour sold for home consumption in Australia as would provide for wheat-growers a payable average price on all the wheat produced by them. That was the meaning assigned to it by the Premier of New South Wales, **Mr. Stevens,** at the conference in Canberra. Preamble agreed to. Title agreed to. Bill reported with amendments; report adopted. Bill read a third time. {: .page-start } page 2455 {:#debate-18} ### FLOUR TAX (WHEAT INDUSTRY ASSISTANCE) ASSESSMENT BILL 1938 {:#subdebate-18-0} #### Second Reading {: #subdebate-18-0-s0 .speaker-JWE} ##### Mr CASEY:
Treasurer · Corio · UAP -- I move - >That the bill be now read a second time. For an explanation of this bill, I refer honorable members to my speech on the resolutions dealing with the rates of the tax, which preceded the introduction of the flour taxing bills with which this bill is to be incorporated. In my speech on the resolutions, I did not draw pointed attention to the proposed commencing date of the tax, so far as it applies to flour and imported goods manufactured from flour. The commencing date proposed is Monday next, the 5th December, 1938. The selection of that date was due, in the first place, to the desire of the Go- vernment to bring the legislation into operation upon the earliest date possible, having regard to the time reasonably required for the passage of the legislation, and, in the second place, to the desirability of commencing the tax upon the date most suitable for the important task of checking and collecting tax on stocks of flour held by bakers, storekeepers and like persons at the commencement of the tax. In carrying out this task on previous occasions, the Commissioner of Taxation found it essential to arrange with the Postmaster-General's Department to enlist the services of official postmasters in country districts. Owing to the anticipated rush of Christmas mail, those services would not be available to the Commissioner if the commencing date were later than the 5th December, 1938. It is not expected that the initial rate of the tax will be declared before Saturday, because the rate will depend upon the recommendation of the Wheat Stabilization Advisory Committee which cannot be constituted until the Wheat Industry Assistance Bill has been passed and assented to. The Commissioner of Taxation has made publicity arrangements which will ensure that the rate of tax will either be notified to, or ascertainable by all persons concerned by or before Monday next. {: #subdebate-18-0-s1 .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr CURTIN:
Fremantle -- You were, good enough, **Mr. Speaker,** to allow the whole of this question to be debated during the consideration of what I regard as the central bill. The Opposition has stated its views on the subject very fully, and I wish now merely to say that we are as anxious as anybody else that the wheat industry should receive the assistance which we feel it needs. We have disagreed with the Government regarding certain methods to be used to render that assistance, but the House and the committee have determined the points in dispute between us. We, therefore, regard this, and certain other bills, as deriving from the bill already passed, and we have nothing further to say in regard to them. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time. *In committee:* Clauses 1 to18 agreed to. Clause 19 verbally amended and, as amended, agreed to. Clauses 20to 36 agreed to. Clause 37- >Where before the fifth day of December, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight, an agreement for the sale of flour or of goods in the manufacture of which flour is used, has been made and tax is payable in respect of that flour or of the flour so used, unless the agreement contains express written provision that the price at which the flour or goods shall be sold shall not be altered on account of any tax which might be imposed by or under any law of the Commonwealth upon or in respect of the flour or it is clear from the terms of the agreement that the tax has been taken into account in the agreed price of the flour or goods, the vendor may add to the agreed price an amount equivalent to the tax in respect of the flour and the agreement shall be deemed to be altered accordingly: > >Provided that nothing in this section shall apply to any flour or goods where the minimum price in respect of the sale of that flour or those goods is fixed by or under the Wheat Products Prices Act of any State. {: #subdebate-18-0-s2 .speaker-JWE} ##### Mr CASEY:
Treasurer · Corio · UAP -- I move - >That the proviso be omitted. The proviso was inserted so that contracts entered into before the operation of this measure which did not contain a specific clause fixing the price of flour might be varied by the contractors in accordance with the amount of tax proposed. It has been pointed out by some States that they have no Wheat Products Prices Act, and, accordingly, we have been asked to omit the proviso. It may have been prejudicial to those States. Amendment agreed to. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Bill reported with amendments; report adopted. Bill - *by leave* - read a third time. {: .page-start } page 2456 {:#debate-19} ### FLOUR TAX BILL 1938 {:#subdebate-19-0} #### Second Reading Debate resumed from the 24th November *(vide* page 2057) on motion by **Mr. Casey** - >That the bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time. *In committee:* Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to. Clause 5 - (1.) The rate of tax, not in any case exceeding Seven pounds ten shillings per ton of flour, shall be such rate per ton of flour as the Minister, from time to time, and in accordance with a recommendation by the committee, declares, by notice published in the *Gazette,* to be the amount by which the price per ton of flour based upon the price of wheat per bushel free on rails at Williamstown, in the State of Victoria, at the time of the recommendation by the committee, is less than what, in the opinion of the committee, the price of flour would be if the price of wheat per bushel free on rails at Williamstown were Five shillings and twopence. {: #subdebate-19-0-s0 .speaker-JWE} ##### Mr CASEY:
Treasurer · Corio · UAP -- I move - >That at the end of sub-clause ( 1 ) the following words be added: - " and ' price ' when used in relation to wheat, means value for export.". This amendment is needed to clarify the position. At present the sub-clause refers to the price of wheat a bushel f.o.r. at Williamstown. Naturally, it is meant to apply to wheat for export, but it is possible, I understand, for there to be wheat for home consumption f.o.r. Williamstown. The same amendment will be necessary in the other three relevant bills. Amendment agreed to. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted. Bill read a third time. {: .page-start } page 2456 {:#debate-20} ### FLOUR TAX (STOCKS BILL) 1938 Debate resumed from the 24th November *(vide* page 2057) on motion by **Mr. Casey** - >That the bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate. {: .page-start } page 2456 {:#debate-21} ### FLOUR TAX (IMPORTS AND EXPORTS BILL) 1938 Debate resumed from the 24th November *(vide* page 2057) on motion by **Mr. Casey** - >That the bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in -the affirmative. Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate. {: .page-start } page 2456 {:#debate-22} ### WHEAT TAX BILL 1938 Debate resumed from the 24th November *(vida* page 2058) on motion by **Mr. Casey** - >That the bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time and reported from committee with a consequential amendment; report adopted. Bill read a third time. {: .page-start } page 2456 {:#debate-23} ### HOUR OF MEETING Motion (by **Mr. Menzies)** agreed to- >That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 4.30 p.m. this day. House adjourned at 5.24 a.m. {: .page-start } page 2457 {:#debate-24} ### ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS *The following answers to questions were circulated: -* {:#subdebate-24-0} #### Export ofiron Ore, Pig Iron, and Scrap Metal {: #subdebate-24-0-s0 .speaker-JVR} ##### Mr Nairn:
PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA n asked the Prime Minister, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Does the decision of the Government to permit the export of pig iron extend to scrap iron, also 1. If the Government should take action to discipline the lumpers at ports in the eastern States, will it take action to ensure uniformity at Fremantle, where lumpers have refused to load scrap iron for Japan? 2. If necessary, -will it proclaim Fremantle as a port to which the Transport Workers Act shall apply? {: #subdebate-24-0-s1 .speaker-F4O} ##### Mr Lyons:
UAP -- The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Yes. 2 and 3. There is no present reason why the course suggested by the honorable member for Perth should be considered so far as the waterside workers at Fremantle are concerned. {: #subdebate-24-0-s2 .speaker-KXY} ##### Mr Perkins:
UAP s. - On the 13th November, the honorable member for East Sydney **(Mr. Ward)** asked the following questions, *upon notice: -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. What quantity of iron ore has been shipped from this country since the Government imposed its ban on the export of this commodity ? 1. What quantity of pig iron and scrap metal was exported in the same period? 2. Who were the principal exporters? I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Quantity of iron ore exported from the 1st July, 1938, to date is62,667 tons. 1. Pig iron exports, July, 1938, to October, 1938, inclusive - 1,604 tons. Scrap iron and steel export, July, 1938, to October, 1938, inclusive - 11,114 tons. 2. Exporters of iron ore are Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and Brown and Dureau Proprietary Limited. Exporters of pig iron - Broken Hill Proprietary Limited and Australian Iron and Steel Proprietary Limited. Principal exporters of scrap iron and steel are Brown and Dureau Proprietary Limited, Holden's Motor Body Works Proprietary Limited, and Kanematsu (Australia) Proprietary Limited. {: #subdebate-24-0-s3 .speaker-F4O} ##### Mr Lyons:
UAP -- On the18th November, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie **(Mr. Green)** asked me a question, *without notice,* as to the quantity of pig iron which had been exported since the prohibition was placed on the export of iron ore from Australia. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the quantity of pig iron which has been exported from Australia during the period the 1st July (the date on which the prohibition on the exportation of iron ore from Australia became operative) until the 31st October, was 1,604 tons for the following destinations: - New Zealand, 1,428 tons; Netherlands East Indies, 55 tons; British Malaya, 70 tons; New Caledonia, 30 tons ; Hong Kong, 20 tons ; and Society Island, 1 ton. The Government has decided . that the present volume of exports of pig iron is not such as to justify any restrictive measures, but the position will be kept constantly under review, and, if it appears at any time that the exportation of this commodity is likely to increase to such an extent as detrimentally to affect Australian industry and development, the question of restriction of exports will receive immediate consideration. Recruiting Campaign : Appointment of **Mr. McCahon.** {: #subdebate-24-0-s4 .speaker-JVJ} ##### Mr MULCAHY:
LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES · LANG LAB; ALP from 1936; ALP (N-C) from 1940; ALP from 1941 t asked the Minister for External Affairs, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Is the Minister correctly reported in a statement attributed to him in the Melbourne *Argus* of the 22nd November, 1938, that the appointment of **Mr. J.** McCahon as advisory consultant to the recruiting committee is honorary ? 1. What is the nature of the expert qualifications of **Mr. McCahon** to fit him fbr the appointment? 2. What are the particulars of **Mr. McCahon's** service in the militia? 3. Will all, or any, of the paid publicity work and the placing of advertising for the recruiting campaign be handled by the firm of advertising agents of which **Mr. McCahon** is managing director? 4. If so, will this firm he remunerated on the scale approved by the Advertising Service Agents' Association and accepted by the Australian Newspapers' Conference andthe Federation of Broadcasting Stations, namely, 10 per cent. commission on newspaper advertising accounts, 12½ per cent. commission on accounts for commercial broadcasts, agency fee of 5 per cent.? 5. If these are not the terms, what are the terms to be paid? 6. Will **Mr. McCahon** be recouped for travelling, out-of-pocket expenses, and time lost; if so, at what rates? 7. Was **Mr. McCahon's** appointment approved by the Government's advisers in the Defence Department? **Mr. Hughes** (through. **Mr. Street).** - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Yes. 1. **Mr. McCahon** is an expert in advertising and publicity work. 2. **Mr. McCahon** has not served in the militia forces. He, however, performed the training required under the universal training provisions of the Defence Act, and held a commission in the senior cadets, from which he resigned. He completed his service in the Citizen Forces. 3. No. 5 and 6. See reply to No. 4. 4. No undertaking has been given; but, if he is required to travel, reasonable travelling expenses will be paid. 5. The appointment was made by the Government. {:#subdebate-24-1} #### Australian Broadcasting Commission {: #subdebate-24-1-s0 .speaker-KOQ} ##### Mr McCall: l asked the PostmasterGeneral, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Are positions with the Australian Broadcasting Commission's musical staff and other vacancies, excepting clerical, advertised in the press? If not, why not? 1. What is the estimated cost of entertainment of visiting artists at cocktail parties at Menzies' Hotel, during the, next two years? 2. Do the guests usually invited represent any particular society? If so, which? 3. What is the seat value of "free list" tickets distributed for the Australian Broadcasting Commission's entertainments during the past three years? 4. What is the principle of distribution for those tickets? {: #subdebate-24-1-s1 .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron:
CP -- The following information has been furnished by the Australian Broadcasting Commission: - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. The commission's policy is this: In the event of a vacancy for, say, a conductor or chorusmaster, the commission considers that, as a calling of this kind is carried on in the open, the relative qualifications of the likely candidates in Australia are known to the commission or its executive officers. It is therefore unnecessary, and only conducive to a great deal of inconvenience and annoyance, to advertise. 1. No arrangements have been made for any such parties during the next two years. 2. This is answered by the reply to question 2. 3. It is not possible to give this information. 4. Apart from distribution to commissioners, senior executive officers of the commission, senior executive officers of the PostmasterGeneral's Department and the press, tickets are sometimes issued to selected groups, at the last moment, when it is judged from bookings that patronage will be very poor. Such groups would be members of the commission's staff, and nurses from various hospitals. {:#subdebate-24-2} #### Wheat, Flour and Bread Prices {: #subdebate-24-2-s0 .speaker-009FQ} ##### Mr Curtin: n asked the Minister for Commerce, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. What was the price of wheat per bushel in each State in January of each year since 1928? 1. What was the price of flour in each State in January of each year since 1928? 2. What was the price of bread in each capital city at the same dates? {: #subdebate-24-2-s1 .speaker-C7E} ##### Sir Earle Page:
CP -- The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Export prices at Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, in January of each year, 1928 to 1938 inclusive, and at Fremantle in January, 1937 and 1938 were- {: type="1" start="2"} 0. The average price of flour in January of each year 1928 to 1936 is not available for cities other than Melbourne. Melbourne average January prices per ton of 2,000 lb. were - Average prices of flour, per ton of 2,000 lb. in other capitals in January, 1937, and January, 1938, were - {: type="1" start="3"} 0. The following are the average of several quotations per 2-lb loaf of bread, cash delivered, in each of the capital cities during January in each year 1928 to 1938 inclusive. {:#subdebate-24-3} #### Appointment to Governor-General's Office {: #subdebate-24-3-s0 .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr Green: n asked the Prime Minister, *upon notice -* >What is the explanation for the appointment of a clerk in the Governor-General's Office at an additional cost of £500, as shown in Division No. 12 of the Estimates? {: #subdebate-24-3-s1 .speaker-F4O} ##### Mr Lyons:
UAP -- It was found that the work of the Governor-General's Office had increased considerably, and that the organization did not provide for any relief for the Military and Official Secretary in the event of his absence. After investigation of the matter by the Public Service Board it was decided to make provision for the services of a clerk to assist the Military and Official Secretary, and relieve him during his absence. {:#subdebate-24-4} #### New Guinea: Salamaua-Wau Road {: #subdebate-24-4-s0 .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr Green: n asked the Minister for External Affairs, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. As the appropriation for the construction of a road from Salamaua to Wau was passed some time ago, has the route yet been selected ? 1. When is the work likely to be proceeded with by the Government? {: #subdebate-24-4-s1 .speaker-KNX} ##### Mr Harrison:
Minister without portfolio, administering External Territories · WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES · UAP -- In the absence of the Minister for External Affairs **(Mr. Hughes),** I furnish the following information in reply to the honorable member : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. An appropriation has not been made to meet the cost of construction of a road from Salamaua to Wau. The necessary funds are to be obtained by a loan to be raised by the Administrator of New Guinea. In July last, this Parliament passed the New Guinea Loan Guarantee Act 1938, whereby the Commonwealth guarantees the repayment of and the payment of interest upon such a loan not exceeding £150,000. A decision has not yet been reached as to the route for a road. 1. For some months survey parties have been investigating possible routes for the road, and engineers of the New Guinea Administration are now engaged upon a fuller examination of the locations made by the surveyors. As soon as a satisfactory route is selected, and the necessary preliminary arrangements are completed, the work of construction will proceed without delay. {:#subdebate-24-5} #### Pacific Islands Shipping and Mail Services {: #subdebate-24-5-s0 .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr Green: n asked the Prime Minister, *upon notice -* >What is the reason for an increase this year of £12,654 in the expenditure for shipping and mail services to the Pacific Islands? {: #subdebate-24-5-s1 .speaker-F4O} ##### Mr Lyons:
UAP -- An agreement between the Commonwealth Government and Burns Philp and Company Limited for the maintenance of shipping services to the Pacific Islands which expired on the 31st March, 1937, provided for a subsidy payment at the rate of £44,000 per annum, to which the British Solomon Islands Protectorate contributed £3,000 per annum. The expenditure during 1937-38 was £40,346. A further agreement was made with the company providing for the maintenance of the services for a period of six years and nine months from the 1st April, 1937. That agreement requires a subsidy payment at the rate of £44,000 until the 31st December, 1938, or until a new vessel is employed in the Papua-New Guinea service, and thereafter the subsidy is to be at the rate of £52,500 per annum. The agreement also provides for a variation of subsidy in the event of variations in the rates of wages of the company's employees engaged in the maintenance of the services. Under that provision, additional payments were made in respect of the period ended the 30th June, 1938, and an additional subsidy at the rate of £3,250 per annum is being paid from the 1st July, 1938. The payment of such additional subsidy is to be reviewed in the event of further variations in the rates of wages. Censorship of News-reel Pictures. {: #subdebate-24-5-s2 .speaker-JUQ} ##### Mr Clark: k asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Has an edition of the motion picture, "The March of Time", dealing with the Munich pact, been censored or suppressed In Australia? 1. If so, what was the reason? 2. Was similar action taken by the British Government? 3. Is it a fact that the British Government requested the Government of the United States of America to suppress a Paramount news-reel which included contributions by an ex-editor of the London *Times,* **Mr. Wickham** Steed, and by the political correspondent of the London *News-Chronicle,* **Mr. A.** J. Cummings? 4. If so, can he state the reason for that action having been taken ? {: #subdebate-24-5-s3 .speaker-KXY} ##### Mr Perkins:
UAP -- Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished at an early date. Detention of Japanese Luggers : Settlement of Claims. Mr.Blain asked the Minister for the Interior, *upon notice -* >What were the terms of the settlement in thecase of the third arrested Japanese lugger in Darwin waters, in which judgment has been reserved? {: #subdebate-24-5-s4 .speaker-009MB} ##### Mr McEwen:
CP n. - Before judgment was delivered in the action relating to the *Dai Nippon Maru No. 5,* negotiations were opened between the Commonwealth and the representatives of the Japanese plaintiffs in the actions then outstanding which, including the action relating to the *Dai Nippon Maru No. 5,* numbered three, and, as a result, the lump sum of £3,592 was agreed upon in full settlement of all claims for damages in respect of those three actions and of costs in those actions of two other actions in which judgments had already been given. In addition, the pearl shell onthe *Dai Nippon Maru No. 6* was returned to the plaintiffs of the vessel. The settlement arrived at was a lump-sum settlement, and no specific amount was allocated in respect of the action relating to the *Dai Nippon Maru No. 5.* Cosmetic and Perfume Manufacturing Industry. Mr.Forde asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, *upon notice -* >What is the estimated number of persons employed in secondary industries in Australia manufacturing cosmetics and perfumery? > >What duties and prohibitions, if any, were imposed on these lines in the years 1930 and 1931, and what is the existing rate of duty? > >Is it a fact that since the effective protection has been removed from this industry large retail organizations have despatched their buyers overseas with the intention of purchasing and bringing into this country large quantities of this merchandise, to be sold in opposition to the Australian manufactures ? > >Is it a fact that the Australian manufacturers have already been advised by big retail houses that they are unable to purchase Australian and British lines because of the large purchases made in the United States of America ? > >Will he give early consideration to the question of effective tariff protection for the industries affected, so as to ensure the maximum employment in the Australian factories? {: #subdebate-24-5-s5 .speaker-KXY} ##### Mr Perkins:
UAP s. - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Owing to the fact that cosmetics and perfumery are manufactured in conjunction with many other lines, information as to the number of persons employed in their manufacture in Australia is not available. 3, 4 and 5. The existing duties on cosmetics and perfumery are those which have been recommended by the Tariff Board as adequate for the protection of the local industry. The dates of the Tariff Board's reports wherein these duties are recommended are as follows: - Toilet preparations and perfumery n.e.i - 12th May, 1933. Perfumed spirits - 12th April, 1935. On the 17th December, 1936, the question of duties on toilet preparations and perfumery n.e.i. was again referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report. The relative inquiry was held in July, 1937, and the board's report and recommendations are at present under consideration. I have no knowledge of the happenings referred to in questions Nos. 3 and 4. The reply to question No. 2 clearly shows that the rates of duty at present in force are exceedingly high. League of Nations : Expenses. Mr.Francis asked the Acting Minis ter for External Affairs, *upon notice -* >What is the total amount received each year by the League of Nations for its maintenance, organization, upkeep, &c. ? > >What portion of this amount is paid in salaries for the officers and staff of the League? > >What sum is paid to each of the six highest officials? {: #subdebate-24-5-s6 .speaker-N76} ##### Mr Menzies:
UAP s. - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. The amount received each year varies, but the budget for 1939 shows a total income of 35,073,503 Swiss francs (approximately £1,750,000 sterling). The honorable member might note, however, that the League budget covers in addition to the Secretariat, the International Labour Organization, Permanent Court of International Justice, Central Opium Board and various ancillary organizations. 1. The salaries and allowances of the League Secretariat are 9,667,822 Swiss francs (approximately £480,000 sterling) and of the International Labour Organization Secretariat, 6,916,035 Swiss francs (approximately £345,000 sterling). 2. Secretary-General, 90,000 Swiss francs; two Deputy Secretaries-General, each60,000 Swiss francs; two under Secretaries-General, each 60,000 Swiss francs; Legal Adviser, 60,000 Swiss franca. The salary of the Director of the International Labour Organization is 80,000 Swiss francs. Expenditure on New Works and Repairs. {: #subdebate-24-5-s7 .speaker-KYH} ##### Mr Price:
BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA asked the Minister for Works, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. What is the total amount of money to be spent this financial year on new works and repairs? 1. How much of this money is it proposed to spend in the State of South Australia? 2. What are the works and repairs to be carried out in that State? {: #subdebate-24-5-s8 .speaker-KWC} ##### Mr Thorby:
CP y. - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. The total amount provided on the Estimates for expenditure this financial year is: - £15,899,210, comprising: New works, £15,346,000; repairs and maintenance, £553,210. 1. £374,285. 2. -- CivilAviation Department: Accommodation in Canberra. {: #subdebate-24-5-s9 .speaker-JNX} ##### Mr Barnard: asked the Minister for Works, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Is it a fact that a temporary wooden structure, to cost £15,000, is to be built to house the Civil Aviation Department in Canberra ? 1. Is this structure to be a wing of the present Department of the Interior buildings? 2. In view of the fact that the contemplated expenditure would substantially defray the cost of a permanent secretariat worthy of the National Capital, will he stop the construction of the temporary structure for the Civil Aviation Department and proceed with the original Canberra building plan? 3. Has it been decided to postpone indefinitely the construction of No. 3 secretariat building, the foundations for which cost £48,000? {: #subdebate-24-5-s10 .speaker-KWC} ##### Mr Thorby:
CP y. - The matter is under consideration. {:#subdebate-24-6} #### Commonwealth Works Department : Annual Leave for Employees {: #subdebate-24-6-s0 .speaker-KHL} ##### Mr HOLLOWAY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · FLP; ALP from 1936 y asked the Minister for Works, *upon notice -* >In view of the world-wide practice of public and semi-public bodies to grant annual leave with pay to employees who have had at least twelve months' unbroken service, will he inquire why employees of the Commonwealth Works Department have been and still are denied this benefit which is "now granted by all other Commonwealth and State Departments ? {: #subdebate-24-6-s1 .speaker-KWC} ##### Mr Thorby:
CP -- All employees of the Commonwealth who are employed under the Public Service Act are granted annual leave on completion of twelve months' service. Casual employees of the Department of Works are paid strictly in accordance with the awards relative to their particular occupation. In many of these awards, provision is made for increased remuneration to cover the holiday question. In other awards provision is made for holiday pay according to the period of service. In no case is a departure made from the conditions of the various awards in respect of holiday provisions. {:#subdebate-24-7} #### Patents Law {: #subdebate-24-7-s0 .speaker-KYH} ##### Mr Price: e asked the Attorney-General, *upon notice -* >In order to facilitate the study of the Patents Bill by honorable members, manufacturers, inventors, merchants, and others affected by monopolies, will he supply the following: - > >a comprehensive tabular statement containing (i) in column 1, in successive lines, the numbers of the sections of the Patents Bill, (ii) in column 2, the number of the corresponding or partly corresponding sections (if any) of the present Patents Act, and (iii) in column 3, the number of the corresponding, or partially corresponding sections of the British Patents Act, with asterisks in columns 2 and 3 to indicate that the sections are substantially the same as in the Patents Bill; and > >additional lists showing: - (i) sections of the Patents Act having no similar section in the bill, and (ii) sections of the British Patents Act having no similar sections in the bill? {: #subdebate-24-7-s1 .speaker-N76} ##### Mr Menzies:
UAP -- When the secondreading of the Patents Bill is moved, I propose to circulate among the honorable members a paper containing the reports of the committee appointed to consider what alterations in the Patents Law are desirable. I also propose to circulate a memorandum setting out the provision of the bill and opposite thereto the relevant provisions of the existing Patents Act. References will be included therein to the sections of the British Act corresponding to the clauses of the bill. In view of the comprehensive nature of the explanatory matter contained in the two documents which it is proposed to circulate, I do not consider that the time and expense that would be necessarily incurred in preparing the tabular statement and additions lists asked for by the honorable member would be justified. Farmers' Debt Adjustment. {: #subdebate-24-7-s2 .speaker-JWE} ##### Mr Casey:
UAP y. - On the 9th November, the honorable member for Denison **(Mr. Mahoney)** asked the following question, *without notice: -* >Can the Treasurer state the amount that has been paid, or will be paid up to the end of this year, by the Commonwealth Government for farmers' debt adjustment, and the number of farmers who have been placed upon a. solvent basis as a result of the provision of that money? I am now in a position to furnish the following information in addition to the reply given to the honorable member yesterday : - >The amount that will have been paid to the States under the Loan (Farmers' Debt Adjustment) Act 1935-36, to the end of the current financial year is: - Adelaide-Perth Telephone Service. {: #subdebate-24-7-s3 .speaker-JTY} ##### Mr Archie Cameron:
CP n. - On the 29th November, the honorable member for Perth **(Mr. Nairn)** asked a question relating to the telephone service between Adelaide and Perth. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the treatment of the telephone traffic over the PerthAdelaide trunk circuit is under continuous observation and, bearing in mind the great length of the circuit (1,603 miles) and its exceptionally high cost, there is no justification for its duplication in present circumstances. There has been no variation in the traffic offering during the last two years, and the business to be disposed of is well within the capacity of any single channel, It is recognized that there must be delays due to the incidence of the calls, and the disabilities in this connexion are emphasized because of the difference in time between Western Australia and the eastern States. This disability is particularly noticeable as the result of the fact that the lunch and dinner hours do not coincide. Furthermore, 30 per cent. of the calls made daily are lodged after 8 p.m. to take advantage of the reduced rates and, on this account, it is inevitable that there must be a banking up of the traffic which imposes a certain amount of delay. The honorable member may be assured that the department is doing all in its power to maintain a high quality of service, and will not hesitate to embark upon a duplication of the line as. soon as the volume of business offering warrants the additional very heavy expenditure which would be entailed.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 November 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.