15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
Mr.MAKIN. - Has the Government considered the resolution recently passed by the House of Assembly of South Australia, dealing with the use of the nation’s credit for the purpose of financing government services, particularly certain war expenditure, which was conveyed to it by the Government of South Australia through the Governor-General? If so, what are its intentions ?
– All thatI can say is that the credit of the nation is in fact being used for the purpose of financing our present undertakings, and I have no doubt that we shall continue to use it.
– Will the
Minister representing the Minister for the Interior inform me before Parliament rises of the outcome of the consideration which he said he would give to the matters raised in a question that I addressed to him on the 14th September last in connexion with Canberra hotels ?
– I shall endeavor to obtain the information before the House rises.
– Have any representations been made to the Minister for Trade and Customs by a co-operative consumer society, which represents approximately 100,000 shareholders in Australia, for representation on the Price Fixing Commission? If not, will the honorable gentleman give consideration to the representation of large consumer societies which do not trade for profit?
– To date I have had no representations from the organization named by the honorable member, but I shall be glad to take his suggestion into consideration when appointments are being made to the advisory committees.
– Does the pricefixing machinery established by the Government contain provisions for dealing with those who hoard supplies, and if so, what measure of control is proposed? I have received complaints from some people that their usual supplies from certain firms have been refused since the commodities concerned have been included in the fixed price list. They conclude that the firms do not desire to do business on the basis of the fixed prices. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say what can be done to ensure that supplies are made available, and what action will be taken by the Government if specific cases are brought under the notice of the department?
– The Government has taken power, where cases of hoarding or cornering goods are established, compulsorily to acquire the commodities and distribute them to consumers. The Government will not hesitate to exercise that power should necessity arise.
Sixth report brought up by Mr. Stacey, read by the Clerk and agreed to.
– Does the Prime Minister consider that the ‘ criticism levelled at the Commonwealth Government by the ex-Premier of New South Wales, the honorable member for Croydon, on the ground of failure to proceed with road works for defence purposes, which he claimed had been agreed upon, can bc sustained? I ask this question particularly in the interest of unskilled workers, a large number of whom are unemployed.
– I very much regret to say that I have not read the criticism and therefore cannot say anything about it.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House how far it is proposed to proceed with the business that awaits the consideration of the House, before the pending adjournment?
Does the Government feel that its objective will have been achieved if approval is given to the Supply Bill, or is there any other particular business that the House will have to discuss?
– I shall make a statement on the matter at a later hour; I cannot answer it offhand.
– On Wednesday evening last, in reply to remarks that I made with respect to certain aspects of the activities of mutual assurance societies, the Treasurer gave the assurance that an inquiry
Would be instituted into the matter immediately. Will the right honorable gentleman now give details as to the character of the inquiries and state whether persons who have information which they believe would be of value in deciding the matters in question, will be permitted to submit their statements to the inquiry?
– I regret that I cannot answer the question, but I shall ascertain what the position is from my colleague the Assistant Treasurer.
– by leave - Yesterday I promised to make a statement in the matter of the price of cornsacks and woolpacks. Price control was applied to these goods on the 9th September, 1939, and the price fixed was that ruling on the 31st, August.
Until the regulations establishing the organization to control prices are gazetted, the Minister is the authority to make price determinations with respect to those commodities already gazetted. Acting on the recommendation of Professor Copland, I have made the following determinations : -
I wish to point out at this stage that the effect of the foregoing determinations will be to render unprofitable intermerchant or multiple sales.
In this statement, the definition of “ importers, distributors, merchants, country traders, wheat agent, country agent, country trader and retailer “ is to be, persons who, in the opinion of the Prices Commissioner, were carrying on business as such prior to the 31st August. In the case of sales of cornsacks or woolpacks made after the 9th September at prices in excess of these determinations, refunds of the excess price charged are to be made to the purchasers.
Under the determination made on cornsacks, prices will vary according to the landed cost. The Government expects that importers and distributors will make the low-priced stocks available to their customers in proportion to customers’ purchases in some previous representative period.
Doubt appears to exist concerning the adequacy of supplies of cornsacks for the forthcoming harvest. The Government is fully informed on the shipments proposed to be made from India to Australia, and I am satisfied that the shipping arrangements that have been made should enable farmers to secure normal supplies. The shipping company concerned with the transport of these sacks from India is making adequate provision. Steps are now being taken to obtain information as to stocks available in the hands of merchants, and the prices at which they have been purchased.
I have already had discussions with some members of the trade, and shall be glad to confer with representatives of the trade as a whole, if they so desire, in order to discuss difficulties which may arise in carrying on the trade in cornsacks and woolpacks under the conditions now permitted. I would emphasize the desirability of traders continuing to supply these goods to customers as required. The supply of cornsacks and woolpacks is of such vital national importance that it is imperative that traders engaged in their supply should make stocks available to users. Should it appear to the Government that stocks are being withheld from sale, the Government will not hesitate to use all of its powers to acquire and distribute them.
– Though the profits for cash sales allowable to cornsack merchants under the regulations are reasonable, ranging from2½ to 4 per cent. does the Minister for Trade and Customs recognize that a 5 per cent. interest margin for credit sales would make it quite impossible for many farmers to get supplies? Willthe Government; provide some method by which such farmers will be able to secure supplies of cornsacks for their coming harvest even if action has to be taken to collect payment through the Australian Wheat Board?
– The rates of profit were fixed, having in mind adequate protection for the. farmers. Ifexperience shows the necessityto vary these rates, or the terms of sale generally, the Government will gladly reconsider the whole matter. It will also’ take into account any representations made to it on thissubject.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the House will have an opportunity to discuss further the alterations of duties on woollen piece goods before the approaching adjournment ?
– I am unable to answer that question at the moment, but I shall inform the honorable member as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that, as the result of the Government’s proposals for a decrease of the duties on manufactured woollen goods, a falling off of employment in this industry is probable ? In the circumstances, will he provide facilities for the discussion of these new duties before Parliament adjourns?
– My information is that employment in the woollen industry is not likely to be affected adversely by the new duties. I assure the honorable member that I am as anxious as he is to have this subject discussed by Parliament as early as possible.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that many honorable members are receiving telegrams protesting against the action of the Government in reducing the duty on woollen goods? I have here an urgent telegram stating that 15 per cent. of Members of the Textile Union are at present out of employment. Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that the House will be given an opportunity to vote on this item before going into recess?
– The honorable gentleman was good enough to show me the telegram he has received. Prior to that, the only telegram I had seen was one protesting against this item beingrushed through Parliament. Consequently, my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, has decided that it will not be rushed through.
– In view of the fact that the recommendations of the Tariff Board have not been followed in fixing the duty on woollen piece goods, does the Minister for Trade and Customs realize the urgent necessity for allowing the. House to discuss this matter before the House adjourns?
– The honorable member’s request will be given full consideration.
– Is it a fact that the tariff schedule recently introduced provides for the reduction of duties on manufactured woollen goods ? If so, will honorable members be given an opportunity to vote on the item, in view of the danger that increased unemployment will follow any reduction of duty?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question is “ Yes “. As to the second part of the question, there is no indication whatever that unemployment will result from the reduction of duties. Very large additional orders are being given to various textile manufacturers by the Defence Department. Manufacturers have protested strongly against the speed with which it was originally proposed to deal with this item. However, I can assure the honorable member that I am anxious that the matter shall be dealt with as soon as possible, and I shall do what I can to bring that about.
– This is a most important matter upon which every member of the House holds strong opinions. The House should be given an opportunity to discuss at least this item before Parliament goes into recess.
– Order ! The honorable member is not asking a question.
– Will the Prime Minister, in response to the wishes of the majority of the members of this House, provide an opportunity before Parliament rises to-day or to-morrow or next week, to discuss this item?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion that Parliament should meet next week to discuss this matter.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider the advisableness of reverting to the previous practice that reductions of duties should not apply until approved by Parliament?
– Will the Minister forSupply and Development state whether some use can be made of the motor body building works in Adelaide and Melbourne, so as to enable employees who are being dismissed on account of interference with the trade of that particular industry to continue in employment in the manufacture of munitions ?
– In Adelaide, in due course, there will be a considerable accretion of work in the motor body building industry, by reason of sub-contracting for the manufacture of Beaufort aircraft, but that will not occur immediately. I shall investigate the point made by the honorable member, and advise him as early as possible.
– Reference has been made by the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce to negotiations that are taking place between the Government of Great Britain and the Australian Wheat Board for the sale of the surplus of last season’s Australian wheat at a price of from 2s. lOd. to 3s. a bushel free on board. As in practically all of the wheat-growing countries of the world the ruling’ price of wheat has increased by from 50 per cent, to 100 per cent., will the honorable gentleman recommend to the Minister of Commerce the reconstitution of the Australian Wheat Board so as to give more direct representation to Australian wheat-growers, in order that their interests may be definitely safeguarded ?
– All that I can undertake is to bring the honorable member’s representations to the notice of the Minister for Commerce.
– Having regard to the recent promise of the Prime Minister to make a statement concerning arrangements for handling the coming Australian wheat crop, and also to statements that have been published respecting the first advance to be made to wheat-growers, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will make his promised statement before the House rises, so that the position may be clarified?
– If any further information becomes available before the House rises, I shall make a statement in regard to it. To the extent to which negotiations are incomplete no statement can be made. I assure honorable members that any details in regard, to the general arrangements in relation to major Australian primary products that may be made whilst Parliament is temporarily in recess will be communicated to them individually direct.
– Since the Government has taken power to deal with shipping, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce whether- steps will be taken to ensure that the shipping service around the Australian coast will be interfered with as little as possible? I have received correspondence on this subject which prompts me to ask the question.
– The honorable member’s representations will be brought under the notice of the Minister for Commerce, but it can be taken for granted that as little dislocation as possible will be permitted in connexion with our ordinary transport arrangements.
Mr. JOHN LAWSON laid upon the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Bounty on sulphur.
Leather, rubber, canvas- and composition belting; also cotton and other textile belting suitable for use in elevator, conveyor and like systems, and for power transmission purposes.
Ordered to be printed.
– In view of a published report to the effect that the committee which has been considering the selection of a new site for the capital of New Guinea has recommended Lae, and that this will involve the- making of a very costly road on which it is estimated that £250,000 will be expended, I ask the Prime Minister, owing to the public urgency of the question, whether he will take steps to have a road constructed from Salamaua to Wau, a work that will cost only about £50,000?
– I shall give early consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me what stage has been reached in negotiations -with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company relative to the establishment of the tinned plate industry in Australia? I am glad that the Tariff Board report on this subject has been tabled.
– I am not at present in a position to indicate the exact stage of the negotiations, bnt they are proceeding satisfactorily.
– I have received a telegram to the effect that the aircraft factory in Melbourne is using considerable quantities of magnesium. T therefore ask the Minister for Supply and Development whether he will make contact with this organization to ascertain if it is prepared to obtain supplies of magnesium from Tasmanian sources?
– I shall be glad to do so.
– As the Government has decided to raise certain sums by way of loan for war purposes, I ask the Treasurer whether it is intended to raise the money in Australia or overseas?
– I cannot answer that question offhand, but I think it probable that the loans will be raised entirely in Australia.
– I direct attention to the following telegram which I have received this morning from a member of the Tasmanian Legislative Council : -
Requested to strongly protest through you that ten minutes Daventry British Broadcasting news service totally inadequate and should be extended to embrace all news items of thissservice.
I ask the Minister for Information whether steps can be taken to extend the time allotted for the broadcasting of British broadcasting news?
– The existing arrangement was made on Monday of this week, and was regarded as satisfactory by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. As the period of the agreement was not specified, I shall be glad at any time to make representations from honorable members to the Australian Broadcasting Commission on this subject.
– As it has been stated that certain defensive measures have been taken in respect of New Guinea, and that volunteers have been invited for the partial defence of that Territory, I ask the Minister for Defence what steps have been taken to defend Papua, Nauru, Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island and 600 other islands in the Pacific, for the defence of which Australia is responsible?
– I am sure that the honorable member must realize that a detailed answer to his question is most undesirable. I content myself by saying that proper steps have been taken.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, during the coming recess, the Government will consider the advisableness of appointing a competent railway engineer to make a complete investigation and report upon the efficiency of the Commonwealth railway systems adequately to meet military requirements in a time of emergency?
– That suggestion will be given consideration.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce give me an assurance that in any contracts that are made for the manufacture and supply of Australian flour, the South Australian flour mills, which are at present operating on short time, will be considered ?
– I shall communicate the representation of the honorable member to the Minister for Commerce.
– Seeing that the Prime Minister was impressed, during his visit to the northern coal-fields of New South Wales, with the urgent necessity to do something to provide for the unemployed youth in that locality, I wish to know whether he has done anything in the matter? If he has not, does he propose to do anything? Will the Government consider making provision for the employment of some of these young men in the munitions annexes on the provision of which a considerable expenditure of public money is being made?
– I have had a number of discussions on this subject with the appropriate members of the Cabinet, but I arn unable, at present, to make a specific statement in relation to it. I shall discuss the honorable member’s suggestion with the Minister for Supply and Development.
– In order to ensure that a number of seasoned troops shall accompany any Australian expeditionary force, and also to supplement the number of instructors in Australian military camps, which must become more and more numerous, I ask the Minister for Defence to investigate the advisableness of instituting refresher courses for fit ex-officers and non-commissioned officers, and also to reconsider the age limits at present in force.
– The first matter referred to by the honorable member is already receiving some attention. At present there is no intention to vary the age limits to which he has referred.
– In view of the many offers of assistance by women’s committees throughout Australia during this time of emergency, will the Government give some attention to the organization of their efforts so as to secure their effective co-operation ?
– Red Cross Committees exist by statute, and Voluntary Aid Detachments are part of the defence organization. Generally speaking, however, the organizing of women’s efforts’ is under the control of the Lord Mayors in the various cities, and it is not thought desirable to disturb a situation, which is regarded as highly satisfactory.
– As there is a large number of country towns, some of them of considerable importance, without military establishments, and consequently without representatives of the Defence Department, will the Minister for Defence state what provision is being made for enlistment in those centres of men desiring to join- the special force of 20,000 which is being raised?
– Arrangements are now being made to enable everybody who desires to offer himself for this force to place his name before the authorities.
– Has the Government considered amending the Repatriation Act in order to make full provision for those who may render service during this war, and so as to cover also those civilians who may become subject to war disabilities, as has been done recently in the United Kingdom?
– Those matters are at present being considered by the Repatriation Commission under direction from me, and when its report is received, a decision will be made by the Government.
– Can the Minister for Defence state whether members of the air expeditionary force will, while abroad, be paid their wages in Australian or English currency?
– In reply to a similar question recently I said that the situation in regard to pay of forces serving overseas would bc met as it arose. I cannot give any further information at this stage.
Payne Report - Assistance to Settlers
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior state what new lands it is proposed to open for settlement in the Northern Territory in accordance with the recommendations of the Payne report? What has been done to enable the newly-appointed lands officer at Alice Springs to grant financial assistance to settlers?
– I shall try to obtain the information for the honorable member.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral take the necessary measures to inform relatives of passengers when vessels upon which they are travelling arrive safely at their destinations ?
– On a previous occasion I informed the honorable member that this is mainly a matter for the censor. I shall confer with the Minister responsible, and furnish the honorable member with a reply.
– Will the Minister for Defence take the necessary steps to raise the censorship which prevents vessels from announcing by radio their arrival at their destination so that this information may be broadcast from national radio stations?
– I am at present discussing this matter with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but no decision has yet been reached.
– Will the Postmaster General do something to improve the present unsatisfactory trunk line service from Parliament House?
– In answer to a similar question recently I pointed out that, because of the extraordinary circumstances existing at the present time, there was some congestion locally, especi- . ally in regard to numbers starting with five. There was also congestion on some trunkline services, but early action will be taken to overcome the trouble.
– It is not a matter of congestion, but of the difficulty of hearing ?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s representation.
– Has the Prime Minister received any fresh information regarding the international situation beyond what was published in this morning’s newspapers ?
– I have not.
Debate resumed from the 21st September (vide page 975) on motion by Mr. Spender -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- We do not intend to oppose Supply for the brief period of two months, but I do want an indication as to what proportion of the proposed £20,000,000 loan will be raised in Australia and overseas.
– It is practically certain that the whole of the money will be raised in Australia.
– Good. Now I want to know whether the rate of interest will be higher than that which now prevails, because members of the Opposition have a definite objection to high rates of interest.
– And, I assure the honorable gentleman, so has the Treasury.
– If this money were borrowed from the Commonwealth Bank, I believe that the rate of interest would be lower than it would be on money borrowed from money lenders and private financial institutions. At a time when all will be making sacrifices in increased taxes and, in the case of many businesses, reduced turnover, all action necessary to keep the rate of interest down should be taken. That is why I advocate that the Commonwealth Bank should be the agent for making the money available at the lowest possible rate of interest. Not only that, half the profits of the Commonwealth Bank go towards the liquidation of the public debt, and, after all, that bank is the people’s bank.
We know from the debate that took place last night that a very considerable portion of this money will be expended on defence works. We know also that there is a very serious lag in defence expenditure in comparison with the programme for this year. It was proposed to expend £12,000,000 in 1939 at the rate of £1,000,000 a month, but up to the end of August only a little more than £6,000,000 had been expended. During the month of August only £600,000 was expended on defence works. If the lag is due to lack of administrative ability on the part of the Works and Defence departments, it is time that there was an overhaul. About 150,000 of the 200,000 unemployed in Australia could take employment of the kind which would be afforded by the defence works of the Commonwealth Government and the reproductive works of the State governments. We cannot go into recess with the feeling that all is well while unemployment statistics continue to grow from month to month. Recently in the Parliament of New South Wales the former Premier (Mr. Stevens) criticized the lag in defence expenditure. He said -
I do not agree that State money should be spent on works of a defence nature, and for this reason 1 accept these schedules- that is, schedules to the Unemployed Relief Tax Bill and the Social Services Tax Bill- purely as provisional schedules. The 50,000 men unemployed in this State are a challenge to our citizenship and a challenge to the institutions which have a stake in the country.
Mr. Stevens went on to criticize seriously the lag of defence expenditure by thu Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government at the Premiers Conference said that th: States must expect a curtailment of loan money because of defence expenditure, but the smaller States cannot hope, in view of experience, to share in defence expenditure to the degree that they would share in expenditure on reproductive or road works. There has been a tendency to concentrate defence expenditure within a radius of 100 miles of the two principal cities of Australia. The Lord Mayor of Brisbane recently announced that the Brisbane City Council was faced with the problem of having to dispense with the services of 3.000 men who were engaged on loan works. That sort of thing is a. repercussion of a policy which demands curtailment of reproductive expenditure in order to allow of expenditure on defence works. The Commonwealth has justified the policy by the statement that the unemployed will be absorbed on defence works, but in view of the limited area in which defence money will be expended, it knows that that cannot be so. Reproductive works such as water conservation, irrigation, water and sewerage works and certain kinds of road building give employment over a much wider range. In defence expenditure there is a strong tendency to overlook the smaller States. Military experts have said that there is good reason to concentrate defence expenditure in the thicklypopulated States. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth will have to reconsider the attitude expressed in what it said in effect to the States recently -
We shall have to expend more money on defence this year, and, therefore, you will have to expend a good deal less on works. But the money that we expend on defence will contribute to the provision of employment in the States. Defence work will be as good an employment maker as would be the works programme that you would normally carry out.
– Where is the honorable gentleman quoting from?
-. - .The Commonwealth’s statements at the Premiers Conference.
– But that was held in camera.
– Probably it was, but we are not children. We know that definite proposals were put up by the Commonwealth Government and we know that the State Premiers did not submit meekly to the attempt to curtail loan expenditure for ordinary services. The States are faced with the responsibility to keep in employment a large army of men on loan works. It is with some knowledge of the privation and distress that will be experienced by a large number of these unfortunate people that I appeal to the Government to allow as far as is humanly possible the State governments to carry out ordinary loan works and to reconsider the defence expenditure with a view to spreading it over a wider field. I also appeal for consideration to be given to the smaller States, particularly that State on the north-eastern seaboard. “ If the Minister will have these points taken into consideration, the Opposition will not hold up Supply.
.- I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of various Ministers some matters which require attention. I appreciate that our first duty is to prosecute the war which is raging with full enthusiasm and application. I also appreciate the fact that, as the result of the war, the expedition of certain public works in Australia may possibly have to take second place to war requirements. I do not think, however, that those who are charged with the responsibility for examining public works requirements should not cease to function. Because men are highly efficient permanent members of the. Public Service and they have to continue their occupations it is the duty of the Government to ensure that plans for all urgent work which cannot be dealt with at the present time are placed in such an advanced stage of preparation that they may be proceeded with immediately the opportunity occurs. Plans and specifications should he prepared now, so that when hostilities cease a large public works programme could be put in hand immediately. There is another aspect of this matter to which I should like to draw attention. This war has necessitated the raising in Australia of large military forces and whether these forces are employed at home in the defence of Australia itself or overseas in the defence of the Empire, the men will have to be demobilized and re-absorbed into civil occupations immediately hostilities cease. The change over from military to civil life of such large numbers of men must necessarily involve considerable disorganization, unless the Government has a public works programme well in hand, and has all the necessary plans and specifications prepared to embark upon that programme immediately. In such -a list of public works I urge that careful consideration be given to the inclusion of plans and specifications for new post offices which are urgently required in various parts of the Commonwealth. For instance, there is an insistent demand for a new post office at Surfers Paradise, which is one of the finest seaside resorts in the south of Queensland. The Surfers
Paradise district has developed remarkably during the last few years. Ten years ago it was almost entirely scrub; to-day it is a thriving seaside resort. In 1939-30 the revenue of the Surfers Paradise post office amounted only to £47; last year it was almost £2,000. An examination of the following figures will show how the development of this area has been reflected in post office receipts: -
The revenue for 1938-39 will probably exceed £2,000. The remuneration paid at this office to the non-official postal employees has jumped from £66 in 1934 to nearly £600 this year. Recently a telephone exchange was added and the revenue from that alone amounts to more than £300 a year. In addition, almost all other facilities, including a Commonwealth Bank agency, are provided. Some years ago, noticing this development, 1 prevailed upon the Postal Department to select a site for a new ‘post office, and a site was selected in a very suitable location. I ask the Government to ensure that plans and specifications for a new post office at Surfers Paradise are prepared immediately as part of a big public works scheme to be put in operation as soon as demobilization commences. I also urge that consideration be given t.o this work in connexion with the works programme to be undertaken by the Postal Department out of the £2,000,000 voted by this House last night out of loan money. There are many other urgent post and telegraph works which I should like to see carried out in my electorate, but I appreciate that the nation is at war and that the Avar must be prosecuted with the fullest possible energy. For that reason many undertakings which otherwise would bc treated as urgent have to remain in abeyance. There is, however, one other locality in my electorate which is in dire need of a new post office. I refer to Boonah. The post office at Boonah is an extraordinarily old building, and it has rendered remarkable service. It has been added to so often that it is a. mass of patchwork, and the original building can scarcely be recognized. When the late
Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) visited Queensland some time ago lie made an inspection- of the post office, at the request of the Boonah Town Council, the Boonah Progress Association, and other public bodies, and I had the pleasure of showing him over the building. I understand that he subsequently made strong representations to the then PostmasterGeneral to take some action. I gratefully acknowledge the improvements that were effected to the postmaster’s residence at Boonah, which to-day, is at least habitable, but the post office is far too small, and will not permit of further extension. The district is developing rapidly and to-day it is one of the most prosperous dairying and agricultural districts in southern Queensland. On Fridays and Saturdays when the country people are in town, it is difficult to get beyond the steps of the post office, and it is only with the greatest effort that business can be transacted at the small counter. Banking business cannot be transacted with any degree of privacy, not because officers of the department do not do their best, but because of the congestion and the anxiety of the residents to transact their business and get back to work. It is a dairying district, and long hours of work make it impossible for people to spend indefinite periods in the town. If one is fortunate enough to get into the post office, it is only with the greatest difficulty that one can get out again. It is regrettable that postal facilities in many districts throughout the Commonwealth have not kept pace with the development of the districts. I hope that a new post office at Boonah will be regarded as an urgent necessity, and that plans and specifications for that building will be prepared immediately. In the electorate which I am privileged to represent there are many other urgently required improvements to public buildings, but I appreciate that in existing circumstances very little can be done. I urge, however, that full consideration be given to the representations which I have made in connexion with Surfers Paradise and Boonah, and that if it be at all possible, the work at these centres be carried out with the utmost despatch, or else be listed among the first to be undertaken when conditions improve.
Mr. LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [11.42J. - I would not have taken part in the discussion on this Supply Bill but for some unjust criticism of the policy of the Labour party with regard to finance, and I should like to make it quite clear what the attitude of that party is. I want it to be distinctly understood that the directions in which we would like to see the credit of the nation fully utilized are not merely related to the war. Labour’s policy is definite on that point. We do not believe that huge debts should be incurred and left for posterity to pay, but rather that the vast resources of wealth accumulated in times of peace, particularly by wealthy institutions and companies which make huge profits out of the preparation for war and the engines of destruction, should be utilized. Preparations for the adequate defence of Australia and of the British Commonwealth of Nations are really a form of insurance for these people. In time of emergency the morale of the community should be kept at the highest possible pitch, and that cannot be done by allowing 60,000 youths to languish out of employment, knowing that the only place for them is in the trenches. Only by the production of consumption goods can the national development of this country proceed along steady lines. I am. not foolish enough to believe that we can go on piling up figures in a book, manufacturing goods for destructive purposes and not for consumption. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) threw out many challenges to honorable members on this side of the House-and asked us to state specifically ‘what we stand for. Amongst other things, he has accused us, as other honorable members opposite have done so often before, of wanting to inflate the currency of this country. We are told at times that the sky is the limit of our inflationary proposals. I remind the Assistant Treasurer that neither he nor anybody else can draw the line of demarcation, and say, “ Here is where safety ends and inflation begins.” No economist has ever been able to do that. I agree that prices form an indication of inflation, but they are Only an indication, and by no means an infallible guide. I am not speaking now about pyramidical prices. We all know that when prices rose rapidly during the last war it was said that that was brought about because the currency of the country was inflated.
– Prices are rising rapidly now.
– That is so, largely because of monopolistic control, and not in conformity with the old law that prices are regulated by supply and demand. That law has been dynamited long ago by monopolistic control. For too many years now the prices of many goods have been fixed, and traders dare not sell below the fixed price for fear of having further supplies cut off. This practice, which was borrowed from America and is spreading all over the world, has grown rapidly during, recent years. It is nonsense to say that prices are an infallible guide as to whether or not there is a shortage of purchasing power. Owing to the exigencies of war the Treasurer has now had placed in his hands an instrument which will enable him to impose a check on rising prices. By the exercise of the powers conferred upon him under the National Security Act, he may impose such a check as long as the war lasts. It will be interesting to see how he uses that power. The Assistant Treasurer specially singled me out as one who wishes to see the currency of this country inflated to the limit.
– I am not conscious of having said that.
– The honorable gentleman said that, with me, the sky was the limit.
– That was merely a rhetorical statement.
– For over 30 years I have advocated a reform of the monetary and banking system of this country. I challenge any honorable member to point out in Hansard one word which would justify the charge levelled against me by the Assistant Treasurer. The honorable gentleman talks about national inflation by the Government. He strains at the gnat of a safe issue of credit by the Commonwealth Bank for national purposes, but opens wide his mouth to swallow the huge inflation of private banking institutions of this country without fluttering an eyelid. So that the honorable gentleman may be in no doubt as to what I mean I propose to give him some indication of what the private banking institutions do to-day in the way of inflation. I quote from the Commonwealth Year-Booh No. 31 of 1938, pages 830 to 836. According to the YearBooh, the total legal currency held by the associated banks in this country is £31,500,000. On that legal currency the private banks issued spurious faked currency, which permeated right throughout the channels of our economic life, to the value of £2,584,730,000. Yet the Government proposes to make no effort to check this wholesale inflation by the private banking interests. It has no control over them. The Assistant Treasurer talks of the £1 note. Why, the merest neophyte knows to-day that the £1 note and the legal currency of this country do not represent 1 per cent, of the used purchasing power of this country. This is a phase of the monetary system about which the honorable gentleman and his supporters are silent, because they know that when the nation realizes the way the private banking institutions are faking the currency of the. country, it will force upon the Government a reform of the whole banking and monetary system. Sir Herbert Holden, one of the most eminent bank authorities in Great Britain, in a lecture to students at Oxford, said-
What brought about the depression ? Everybody knows that the depression was caused by bankers the world over in following up their time old policy of calling up overdrafts and refusing advances.
That is the statement of one of the most eminent bankers in the world. It is not mine. On a legal currency of £31,500,000 the private banking institutions in Australia to-day pyramid credit by way of overdrafts and advances to the value of £308,041,359. They have only £31,500,000 to meet the current accounts of depositors available at call amounting to £122,538,549, and fixed deposits amounting to £205,242,072. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), a former “ tragic treasurer “ admitted in his budget speech in 1925 that the bankers loaned out 17s. for every £1 held in current accounts, and received interest for it. The total illegal private currency which is in existence to-day is disclosed by the following figures taken from the Commonwealth YearBook : -
This shows the pyramidal inflationary process carried on by the associated banks on a legal holding of currency amounting to only £31,500,000. I cite these figures because they precede some proposals 1 wish to put to the Government with regard to what can be safely done to rectify the present unsatisfactory state of affairs. The soundness of Labour’s proposals to rectify the faults of our monetary system cannot be challenged. All we say is that we should utilize our national institution, the Commonwealth Bank, to prevent the exploitation of the people and the imposition upon them of this burden of debt to the private banking institutions. To-day, the national debt stands at £1,300,000,000, and it is steadily growing. Intereston this huge debt has to be paid annually to the money lenders, and every twenty years the interest payments equal the full amount of the debt. We have to face this problem and devise means of overcoming it. When honorable members opposite speak about bank credit, I wonder whether they realize what they are saying. The banks have no credit; they operate on the people’s credit. Only the other day pointed attention was drawn to the deplorable plight of the wheat-farmers because of their staggering debt structure amounting to £160,000,000. The wheat industry today is bankrupt, not because of high wages and low prices, but because of the huge levy exacted from it by the banking institutions. When a farmer who owns freehold property of an unimproved value of, say, £5,000, goes to bis bank to obtain credit because of a bad season or because a fire has consumed his crop, or, perhaps, to buy new machinery, what happens under the present system? He asks for an overdraft, and the bank accepts as security property valued at £5,000 for an overdraft of £1,500. Yet some stupid individuals will say that the banker gave him credit when, in effect, the bank really charges him 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. for the use of his own money. Let us suppose that at this time we proposed to make a heavy minting of gold currency. Supposing I had £500 worth of gold in my safe, but no credit in the bank. All I need to do is to open my safe and take the gold to a government institution, which would give me £500 with which to pay my debts. But what about the man whose wealth is tied up in primary production, which is more valuable than gold ? He cannot sell his crop, and if he goes along to a. banker to raise money on it he is compelled to pay an exorbitant rate of interest for the accommodation. Farmers and all others who are engaged in production should be able to go to a national institution like the Commonwealth Bank and obtain a safe advance without interest against a portion of their assets, the only charge made to them being 1 per cent. to assist towards the cost of running the. institution and to make provision for a reserve in order to secure its stability. No economist or banker in the world can successfully challenge the soundness of that statement. That is the approach which I make to this matter.
There is one other matter that should be cleared up. When a nation borrows money, what security is there behind it? Some persons who think only in a shallow fashion would say, “ The whole of the wealth of Australia”. That, too, is a statement which will not bear a moment’s analysis. If any one were to tell the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the shipping companies, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the coal barons, and the Hordern-Baillieu group, that their wealth is behind the national debt, they would send for the “ black maria “ and put him in a padded cell in a lunatic asylum. The only thing behind any loan is the annual wealth production of Australia, which can be so taxed as to draw off a certain amount to pay the annual interest accruing on the debt. Nothing else stands behind the national debt. The Labour party says thatthe security behind figures written in the book is as good as the same security behind figures written on a piece of paper called a bond. If the Assistant Treasurer accepts, even tentatively, that part of what I have said, I invite him to challenge in this House, or on the platform in any electorate, my specific, definite statement that for constructive wealth production the Commonwealth Bank could safely advance to the Commonwealth, on behalf of Australia unlimited, an overdraft of £50,000,000.
– The honorable member admits that that cannot be done for war purposes.
– I admit it frankly, and have always done so. It is the obligation of the Government to keep this country at a high pitch of development, as well as to train soldiers. Where did Germany find itself during thelast war, when its internal economy crashed to pieces? The honorable gentleman knows that that was one of the most efficient and immediate causes which brought about the termination of the war.
– The collapse of Germany had nothing to do with finance; a shortage of foodstuffs was the cause.
– Shortage of foodstuffs implies the collapse of the internal economy. Admittedly, the British blockade had something to do with it. Does the honorable gentleman’s answer to my question imply that we could have wholesale unemployment and that, so long as the war continued, we should merely have to train soldiers?. Does the honorable gentleman consider it to be his obligation as a Minister to keep his country at a high pitch of development during the war? The honorable gentleman has side-tracked that question.
– When the honorable member asked me that question, I said “ Yes “.
– I say that the Commonwealth Bank can safely carry Australia unlimited with an overdraft of £50,000,000. That £50,000,000 could be used for the standardization of our railway gauges, sewerage systems, water conservation and irrigation, slum clearance, and the provision of proper housing for the people, and any other works that are essential and needful for Australia to-day. The process is a simple one. As the works were initiated, cheques could be drawn on the Commonwealth Bank, and that institution would carry the obligation against Australia as a purely busi ness proposition. The usual practice is to float a loan and pay an interest rate of anything from 2½ per cent., to 6 per cent. This development would provide employment for our youths, and keep money circulating. The national wealth would be enhanced. Instead of paying an interest rate of5 per cent., either to the bank or to money lenders, which in twenty years would be equal to the amount of the principal and still leave the principal unpaid, that £50,000,000 would be liquidated in twenty years, and if it were necessary to undertake other works which would improve the national economy, a further £50,000,000 could be issued. Thus the process of issue and redemption would go on all the time. The Commonwealth Bank would automatically issue and destroy £50,000,000 worth of paper money every year after the first twenty years had been negotiated. That, to my mind, is the proper function of currency in a Christian country.
– If the Commonwealth Bank were to be, as the honorable member says, merely an agent of the Commonwealth Government, why pay the money back at all? Why should it not be a gift from the bank to the Government ?
– The honorable gentleman is voicing the principles of Douglas credit.
– I was merely asking a question.
– No one could issue purchasing power without redeeming and destroying it out of the wealth produced. This £50,000,000 would be issued in advance on the wealth that would be produced from it in the future, just as an individual raises a loan to produce wealth. If £50,000,000 were made available time and time again without being redeemed, huge instruments of purchasing power would be tied up and would become redundant, or fall into the hands of a few persons, as is the case to-day. The proper function of money in a Christian dispensation is to issue and destroy. I believe that if, when man started to use an instrument for economic exchange, some practice along these lines had been followed, there would never have been a millionaire or a pauper in this world. That is the point to which the Labour party says we ought to move ; that is its financial policy. There is disagreement as to procedure here and there, but on fundamental principles Labour adheres definitely to that objective. I say to the honorable gentleman, that if there were an issue of credit for future wealth production, and that, credit was destroyed by taking a fractional proportion of the yearly wealth produced, the Commonwealth Bank could no more make a profit out of the nation than man could sell goods to himself, out of his own shop, at a profit.
– - Any profit made- would belong to the people.
– That is quite all right. The honorable gentleman is prepared to see private enterprise continue to inflate the currency of the country and carry on just as it is doing now, piling up in the process a burden of debt on primary and secondary production. Labour says that the Commonwealth Bank should issue all loans on lines similar to those that I have laid down. The honorable gentleman describes that as inflation. We say that there can never be inflation so long as credit is used for wealth production and wealth consumption - credit issued in advance is destroyed by issuing a portion of the wealth that it is responsible for creating. The man who says that what I am advocating is inflation does not know what the term means. I would describe it as. the expression, in a Christian dispensation, of what money should be. The present monetary system is the old pagan system. The honorable gentleman may, if he chooses, have his pagan gods of Mars and Mammon. I am content to be a follower of the lowly Nazarene.
. -This Supply Bill is the second instalment on account of the budget for the current year. I realize that in the present circumstances it is necessary to grant supply in this way. I hope, however, that this will not in any way curtail the right of honorable members to scrutinize the Estimates closely. I understand that the bill is based on the Estimates presented to the House some time ago. I desire to be furnished with information concerning certain marked increases of depart mental expenses. These votes are quite apart from defence. I do not suggest that the increases are not necessary, but I feel that it is .the duty of the House to satisfy itself that they are fully justified.
The other day the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) said that the cost of government increased with the increase of population. That is quite true. I point out, however, that during the last five years the population of Australia increased by under 5 per cent., whilst the departmental expenditure, representing the administrative costs of the Government, excluding defence, social services, and business undertakings, increased by over 40 per cent. Further, the Estimates in respect of departmental and administrative expenditure for this year show an increase of 10 per cent. Foi- some years to come, this country will be called upon to bear a very heavy burden of taxation; therefore, the taxpayer is at least entitled to the assurance of his parliamentary representatives that the money is being well and wisely spent. How many honorable members could give a satisfactory explanation of the reason for the increases to which I have referred ? 1 raise this matter now, because in all British parliamentary institutions it has always been understood that the control of the public purse is the supreme function of Parliament. It would be a sorry day if we were to depart from that sound principle. A careful analysis of the Estimates is essential in the best interests of sound government. The more complete is the scrutiny by Parliament, the greater and more healthy is the check upon extravagance in the expenditure of public funds.
I trust that the new method of obtaining Supply by instalments will not have the result of curtailing the rights or privileges of honorable members in respect of the control of the public purse.
, - As a parliament, we must appreciate the significance of the fact that for the second time in 25 years we are required to make provision for the con.duel of a war. To this end, a complete survey of all our resources, and of all the factors in our national economy, is essential. Our resources must be considered from the point of view of the aggregate resources of the Commonwealth and the States. Whilst we must bear in mind that the Government is budgeting for an expenditure in excess of £100,000,000, we must also remember that the citizens of the Commonwealth are required to provide vast sums for expenditure by State governments and semigovernment and local government authorities. The Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) observed when submitting the budget that his first essay of this nature was a record for the Commonwealth. It took the Chancellor of the British Exchequer many years to reach the record expenditure figure of £1,000,000,000 represented in the budget which he submitted to the House of Commons last March. That is an enormous disbursement. When we throw the searchlight of inquiry upon the aggregate expenditure of the Commonwealth and the States budgets for the current financial year, we find that it represents for us the colossal sum of £240,000,000. This vast amount has to be provided by oneseventh of the population which finds the £1,000,000,000 to be expended by the Government of the United Kingdom. The financial responsibilities of the people of the Commonwealth are, therefore, enormous. I know that any comparison of that description must ‘be made with reservations, but the figures at least ‘ suggest the very definite need for the exercise of the unpopular virtue of economy. Quite apart from the indispensable provision required for defence purposes, we must face the fact that the expenditure of governments and semi-government and local government authorities in the Commonwealth’ is mounting year by year. There must be a national stocktaking in order to ensure that the requirements of strict economy are observed. Every factor must be brought under review so that we may be certain that no waste of resources is being permitted. Whilst no obstacles must be permitted to hinder the Government making every possible provision for our participation in this unfortunate war, at the same time we must husband our resources most carefully.
This budget provides for increases of taxation which the public must necessarily suffer in order to provide for our huge defence expenditure, but I urge that all other expenditure shall be reduced to the least possible compass consistent with our vital needs.
Undoubtedly a great deal of unnecessary expenditure is. being incurred. In this connexion, I contrast Commonwealth and State policies in respect of capital outlay. The Commonwealth Government is providing this year for 50 per cent, of the capital expenditure of the Postmaster-‘General’s Department to be provided out of loan funds and 50 per cent, out of revenue. Hitherto, for some years past, the buoyant revenues of the Postmaster-‘General’s Department have made it possible for 100 per cent, of its capital expenditure to be provided from revenue. This has meant that the Commonwealth Government, to this degree, at any rate, has been able to avoid any participation in the allocation of loan moneys. The State authorities, however, have constructed practically all of their capital works out of loan funds. In this regard it seems to me that the policy of the Commonwealth Government has had an unwise effect. Many of the State works on which loan funds have been expended can scarcely be regarded as of a truly capital nature. Therefore, I submit that -a most careful survey should be made of the whole situation. The buoyancy of the revenue of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has enabled it to expend approximately £25,000,000 on capital works from revenue. This also contributed to the heavy State expenditure from loans, some of which, in my opinion, was of an unwise character. Capital expenditure from revenue, which really constitutes a secret reserve, should be carefully considered in order to avoid placing any undue strain upon the general public. It. cannot be denied that our people are feeling the burden of both direct and indirect taxation. We should be using the surplus revenue to relieve taxation.
I hope, on a subsequent occasion, to have something to say about our sinking fund provision in comparison with
It is regrettable that in spite of its huge expenditure from revenue on works of a capital nature, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department should have failed to supply some very necessary services in country districts. I make a. strong protest against the untimely expenditure, in my opinion, of £1,250,000 on additions to the General Post Office, Sydney. While we are considering ways and means of reducing the danger of the bombing of the Sydney General Post Office, it seems extraordinary that we should be proposing to spend this vast, sum upon additions to the building, particularly at a time when heavy extra taxation is being imposed upon the people for war purposes. Honorable members will recognize the justice of my antagonism to this project when I point out that when representations were made to the PostmasterGeneral for the provision of an adequate post office building in the prosperous town of Rosewood, in my electorate, to replace the present structure, which has served this prosperous community since pre-federation days, the only proposition that was suggested was the removal to Rosewood of a post office building which has recently been erected at Marburg, some miles distant. Action of that kind does not suggest economy, for the building proposed to be removed could very efficiently be adapted for the purposes of a rural automatic telephone exchange, to which the people in the neighbourhood of Marburg are justly entitled. The present Rosewood post office, which is practically a cottage building, is in a very dilapidated state and it should be replaced by a building adequate for the service that the taxpayers in that locality are entitled to receive. ‘
In view of the need for us to use our resources to the utmost in the prosecution of the war, I wish to direct attention to some figures which make a comparison of our circumstances now with those of 1914 when the last war occurred. The population of Australia in 1914 was 4,900,000; to-day it is nearly 7,000,000, the increase being 43 per cent. Our overseas commerce, inward and outward, was valued at £125,000,000 in round figures in 1914; to-day its value is more than double that vast sum. The area we had under crop in 1914 was 14,700,000 acres; the area under crop to-day is 22,000,000 acres. Our agricultural production has increased by two and a half times in the 25 years. We are now producing double the quantity of wheat and treble the quantity of sugar that we grew in 1914. The number of our cattle has increased in the 25 years from 11,000,000 to 14,000,000 and the number of sheep from 82,500,000 to 110,000,000. Our wool clip in 1914 totalled 734,000,000 lb: last year it totalled 1,000,000,000 lb. All classes of manufactured products show substantially increased figures now compared with those for 1914. For example, the value added to raw materials through processing in our factories has advanced from £59,000,000 to £188,000,000. That figure is for the financial year 1937-38, and is- the latest available. All classes of industrial production show substantial increases, the aggregate having advanced from £213,552,000 in 1914 to £486,914,000 in 1939. The improvement is thus, £273,362,000, or 130 per cent. The gain per head of the population is £27. Our savings bank deposits have increased from £90,000,000 in 1914 to £245,000,000 in 1939, the amount per head of the population having advanced from £18 10s. to £35. It must be admitted, unfortunately, that effective or real wages have not improved to anything like the same degree. Statistics show that, during the last war from 1914-18, wages did not advance in conformity with other factors. That brings me to the need for taking action to ensure that we do not fall into the mistakes made during the last war. I am wholly in favour of dealing drastically with profiteers. Every precaution should be taken to check their activities in order to ensure that the cost of living to the family man who, in the final analysis, must pay largely for war, does not become unduly high. Everything should- be done to preserve the standard of living of the people. There is more involved in this war than the defence of the actual territory of
Australia. We have to defend also our ideals of justice, our liberties and our democracy.
Consideration of the mistakes of the last war prompts me to make an appeal for justice on behalf of the German-Australian citizens in my electorate. The Darling Downs were opened up and developed by men and women who came from other lands, particularly from Germany and Denmark. They came here with broad axes and big hearts, and by their unremitting industry carved out homes for themselves. They have assisted in the development of Australia, and the progress to which I have referred has been made possible largely by the industry and good citizenship of people like them. I ask that we shall not repeat the mistake of changing the names of towns because those names were of German origin. The names of little towns should not be changed unless there is evidence of disloyalty among the inhabitants. I would not, of course, condone anything of that sort, but that is a matter that can be dealt with under the law. During the last war, the names of several settlements of German-Australians were changed. For instance Minden was changed to Frenchton, Marburg to Townsend and Kirckheim to Haigslea. After the war the German names were restored with the exception of Kirckheim. There the German-Australians stated they did not wish the old name to be restored, because they desired to honour that great leader, General Haig, after whom the place had been renamed.
In view of what has transpired in the international sphere, we must regard ourselves as very fortunate, indeed, that national insurance was not inflicted on the people. Those of us who strenuously opposed the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, and were to some extent responsible for the subsequent abandonment of the scheme, have done the country a good service, lt would be a very serious matter if it were necessary now for the Treasury to raise another £2,000,000 additional taxation for national insurance.
There are four methods by which the Government may finance the .war - taxation, borrowing, utilization of the profits of governmental undertakings such as the post office, and the extension of credit. I maintain that, before the war has been in progress very long, all these methods will, in some determined proportion, be in use. I do not propose to discuss the general principle of credit extension, but the Government should, with the assistance of qualified persons, make a proper survey of the position in order to see to what extent this method of finance may be employed. To the extent that it is used increased taxation may be avoided, for high taxation must necessarily bring about dislocation of industry. It is an unavoidable overhead expense that is reflected in the industrial life of the community. We should be very careful before agreeing to the imposition of high taxes, especially if there is a prospect that our exports may decline in quantity and. value.
I hope that the Government will be jealous of the interests of Australian producers whose interests should be safeguarded in negotiations with the Government of Great Britain regarding the disposal of our products. No attempt, of course, should be made to obtain unfair profits, but we should recognize that we owe a duty to Australia first. The first consideration is to keep our industries .in operation.
I trust that a spirit of tolerance and fair play will be manifested in the administration of the National Security Act. Above all, I -hope that humiliation will not be inflicted on loyal citizens of this country who happen to be of German descent. They are in no way responsible for the war, and are just as opposed as we are to those responsible for it. They are in all respects desirable citizens, who were prepared to go into the country districts, thus assisting in the decentralization of population, and in the production of real wealth. The figures which I have cited covering the development of Australia during the last 25 years give a picture of national progress relatively greater than that achieved by any other country. They show that we have a great deal worth fighting for, that we must develop an Austraiian outlook, that we must place Australia first, and that we are justified in regarding Australia as a bulwark of democracy, and the gem of the southern seas. We should shrink at no sacrifice necessary for its defence.
. - In part 3 of the schedule there is a sub-division d under the heading of Territories of the Commonwealth, which refers to developmental services, and I should like to know from the Minister what it is proposed to do in this way. For the last five years I have been trying to induce the Government to embark upon an active policy of development for the Northern Territory, and I thought that at last I had succeeded. Now, however, I am amazed to see that only £13,900 has been provided for developmental services. This Government, and the previous Government, went to a great deal of expense to have an economic survey made of the territory and the money expended in that way will have been more or less wasted unless the survey is followed up by developmental work. This proposed vote is a gratuitous insult to Messrs. Payne and Fletcher, who prepared the report, and to the previous Minister for the Interior, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who formulated a policy for the active development of the territory, and was about to apply it when he vacated office. I shall have an opportunity to explain in my own electorate why that programme has not been gone on with, but the honorable member for Indi will have no such opportunity. In accordance with the recommendation of the Payne report, a lands officer, a very capable man, was appointed to Alice Springs. When I was ‘there in March last, this officer was champing at the bit because no money had been placed at his disposal with which to assist settlement.. I had been assured by the present Minister for the Interior (Senator; Foll) that some tens of thousands of pounds would be made available with which to establish dumps of wire and posts for the subdivision of cattle country into areas suitable for the running of sheep.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.
– I was referring to the manner in which the honorable member for Indi appears to have been let down by this Government in not allowing his developmental policy to . operate in the Northern Territory. I do not know just what was embodied in his report - I perhaps shall never know - but I presume that his recommendations have been emasculated. The people take notice of deeds more than words, and no doubt their criticism of this Government will be caustic, in view of the fact that the former Minister for the Interior, who promised them so much, was allowed to do so little, and in view of the meagre amount that has been placed on the Estimates for developmental services in the territory. * What does the amount of £13,900 for developmental works mean? The small settlers in Central Australia were looking forward to a new era. They had reason to do so when after four years’ representation by me a very highlyqualified man was appointed as lands officer. But that officer feels that he has been let down. He was intrigued to accept the position and to do so left a high post in New South Wales. Naturally, as he is an official, I have not been in communication with him, but I feel that he must be squirming under the injustices from which I am told he is suffering. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) to review this and to see if a worthwhile amount of money cannot be spent on a developmental policy in the north, so that we may retain this officer. Good officers cannot be retained for long if they have not the money with which to express themselves in a real developmental policy.
– The Minister for the Interior should live up there for a good part of the year.
– Of course he should. . It is a misnomer to call him the “ Minister for the Interior “, and the department “ the Department for the Interior “. Ho should be called the “Minister for this and that “, and the department should be similarly named. Obviously, when the blue pencil was being put through the budget after the outbreak of hostilities, the vote for the Northern Territory was one of the first items that was attacked. None the less, I believe that the developmental programme outlined in the Payne-Fletcher report should have been inaugurated long before the outbreak of war.
Going further north, I come to Tennant Creek. Wondering how Tennant Creek would fare under this budget, a few days ago, I wired the warden, Mr.
Kelly, for information as to the way in which the Tennant Creek miners are being overcharged at the government battery. His reply disclosed an amazing state of affairs. I shall read it -
Yours to-day original charge ore assaying 18 dwts. was 90 percentage of total ore crushed plus twelve and six per ton plus deduction of three cwts. per ton. Present charges on 18 dwt. ore is 90 percentage of total ore crushed less two dwts. from assay value less twenty-five per cent, of remainder. Regards.
This sort of thing occurs in the name of development.
– What does it work out at?
– At £3 18s. a ton. The policy in South Australia is totally different. The South Australian Government welcomes taking 40 per cent, of the cost of treatment onto its own shoulders, for it knows that in producing gold the State derives benefit, not .only because it keeps men in employment and spreads business enterprise, but also because gold helps in the making of our overseas payments. Surely there are more cogent reasons why the Commonwealth should welcome taking a similar responsibility.
– The Richards Labour Government liberalized the Mining Act of South Australia.
– Yes. I draw that analogy to show that 7.3 dwt. from a parcel of ore showing 18 dwt. is mulcted from the miner at Tennant Creek. It is incredible.
– What about the conditions of the miners?
– I have dealt with that subject on many occasions. Ministers of the Interior have all been there and they know all about that. There is a former Minister for the Interior, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) seated in front of me now. He knows all about it. Nevertheless, there are some places that they do not see, Hatchett’s Creek, for instance. That is a barbaric place, with the look of a fowlshed. The amenities of life at Tennant Creek in the main street are not consistent with the conditions a few miles south off the main road.
When the honorable member for Indi was Minister for the Interior, a road train was instituted in the Northern Territory. It was imported from South Africa for military purposes in the Northern Territory, and it was intended to solve the transport problem. I have consulted my constituents, large and small land-owners, and they would all prefer, instead of this road train, which goes through the district only once every three or four months, diesel trucks, because they know that they would get thereby a more frequent service. I do not decry what was done by the honorable member for Indi; I congratulate him for trying to do what he was not allowed to do, and repeat my belief that his proposals were emasculated in the Cabinet room. When that road train is outworn, as it must almost be, I recommend that it be replaced by diesel trucks. Because the Government has refused to subsidize the small boats from Darwin to these areas, and has confined transport development to the provision of road trains, people living in the far northern areas around the Gulf of Carpentaria, at Booralloola, in the Kimberleys, and in the Victoria River district, are obliged to take in stocks of flour, sufficient to last for periods up to six months. In that humid area flour will not keep for long periods, because it rapidly deteriorates and becomes infested with weavils. It is high time that these areas received more adequate transport services. I am voicing - an appeal on behalf of the hardy pioneers who, with their wives and families, have taken up holdings in remote areas, and have cut themselves off from the amenities of civilization.
Proceeding further in an attempt tu elucidate the purposes of this grant of £13,900, I realize that the money could not .possibly be for use in connexion with the geophysical survey. As the Government has already spent £150,000 on such a survey, a sum so small as £13,900 would make no appreciable difference and would not last long with this spendthrift government.
Proceeding still further north, we come to Newcastle Waters. Possibly the money is to be spent on developmental services for stations in that vicinity. I think, however, that that explanation can also be discarded for the reason that, many years ago, the Government put down a line of bores from Wave Hill through Newcastle Waters to the Queensland border. That line was installed almost solely for the purpose of serving two stations, particularly the Vestey interests. It is a joke to see a government staff at Newcastle Waters devoting most of its time to a furtherance of the interests of Vestey Limited, which is able to send cattle into Queensland in order that they may be used whenever necessary to depress the prices of beef whenever the exporters wish to purchase fat stock for shipment overseas. That is a. problem which the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser),, and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter), will have seriously to consider before long. It will be interesting to note their reaction.
Proceeding again further north, we arrive at Darwin, and that is where we find money being indiscriminately spent on fantastic schemes. I. am afraid thai this £13,900 will not go very far in Darwin, because, instead of carrying out developmental works of an essential character, such as the provision of housing accommodation for people who are not members of the Public Service, the Government is wasting huge sums on unnecessary undertakings.
– What are the fantastic schemes to which the honorable member refers ?
– It is proposed, for instance, to spend £60,000 on the erection of new administrative offices. That money could be more usefully devoted to the development of the Adelaide and Katherine River districts. I understand a scheme for the erection of an aboriginal compound at the cost of £40,000 has been abandoned. Apparently the unfortunate aborigines have to be content to live in their bark gunyahs. I have on many previous occasions opposed the needless expenditure which is being indulged in by the Government in Darwin, and I wish once more to register a vigorous protest against that policy. To-day I gave evidence before the Public Works Committee in connexion with the erection of new administrative offices, and I hope that my recommendations will be given full consideration. Members of that committee should realize the seriousness of their job.
– Does the Government recognize the fact that the honorable member is the representative of that area?
– That is a question that is being asked by many of my technical friends, such as engineers and surveyors. It would seem that the greater the knowledge which one possesses of one’s own electorate the less inclined is the Government to take one’s views into consideration. That is especially true of a wasteful bureaucratic government such as this. I regret that I am not a member of the Public Works Committee. I would be willing to give my services free as a member of that body. It is interesting tu note, however, the meticulous care taken to make sure that I am not a member of it.
I am wondering whether the developmental services mentioned in this bill inferred to the establishment of the cotton industry in the Katherine River district, and to the fostering of the production of other products such as soya beans, tobacco, and sisal hemp. The whole of the vegetables required for the Darwin defence forces could be grown around Darwin if the matter were tackled properly. I have ascertained, however, from a. senior officer of the department that there is no intention to appoint a tropical agricultural expert to the Northern Territory. Interest is being taken only in the growing of grass because of the influence which is brought to bear by such people as Vesteys Limited, who claim that the Northern Territory is fit only for cattle-raising. The appointment of an agricultural superintendent at Darwin is being consistently delayed, and half of the growing season will have elapsed before anything is done. I say here and now, that the Government has no intention whatever of appointing a man trained in the tropics to that- position, and I challenge a contradiction of that statement. The Commonwealth Government should follow thi excellent lead set in Queensland, where the Minister for Agriculture is himself an expert, and has surrounded himself with a well-trained agricultural staff including tropical agriculturists. Queensland has no less than 24 field stations, and the Government of that State has had the wisdom to send officers to Singapore, and other tropical centres, for training. Such was the case with Dr. Kerr, who is one of the best qualified agriculturists in Australia. Queensland also trains field experts at its own agricultural station. If the Commonwealth Government cannot devise its own schemes, surely it can follow the example set by the Queensland Government. The agricultural problems of the Northern Territory are even greater than those of Queensland. I am hopeful that a comprehensive scheme for the agricultural development of the Northern Territory will be introduced, and that a superintendent of agriculture will be brought from New Guinea, where there are many highly qualified officers with a thorough knowledge of tropical agriculture. I am waiting to see if an interest is to be taken in the growing of cotton in the Katherine River district. The seed has already been sent up there by boat. Government officers so humbugged and delayed this matter that, without waiting for government action, the seed has been sent to the farmers, who will endeavour to grow cotton in spite of what the attitude of this Government may be. I appeal to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior to see if some assistance cannot be given by the Government to the cotton industry in the Northern Territory in the same way as assistance has been given in Queensland. All that is required is a one-strand ginning plant at Darwin. No attempt has been made to utilize the vast potentialities of the Katherine River. There is an ample supply of cheap diesel oil in Darwin. It is sold to the pearlers at the paltry price of 4d. a gallon, and if they take it outside the 3-mile limit they get it for about1d. a gallon. The establishment of diesel engine plants along the Katherine River would greatly facilitate the cotton industry there. Possibly that is what the Minister has in mind in making available £13,900 under this bill, or perhaps he merely intends to send an anthropologist to Arnhem Land, or has some other equally crazy idea.
Reference is also made in this bill to forests. I am particularly interested in forestry, and I have delivered two speeches in this House on that subject during my term of office as member for the Northern Territory. The sum provided for forestry under this bill is £2,270, which, in my opinion, is far too little, and quite insufficient to carry out the work which the forestry department is expected to do. That department carries out a considerable amount of research work, and acts in an advisory capacity to the State Forestry Bureau. I am particularly interested in the work of the Australian Forestry School at Canberra, and I should like to see its activities not only continued, but also considerably expanded. I ask the Minister to give special attention to the timber industry, because hitherto the Commonwealth’s policy in regard to timber has, in effect, merely been that when too little is imported too much is cut in Australia.
Iaskthe Minister for Trade and Customs to make a searching survey of our stocks of all the hardwood timbers held in the capital cities. There are large stocks of second-class timbers in the various capital cities, which, because of some flaw, cannot be classified as firstclass, but which, I contend, could be successfully used for building purposes. It seems a pity that timber men should go out and cut the timber and pay for hauling it to the cities only to find that a building contractor has the right to veto it if, in his opinion, it is not of first-class quality. I have examined in Sydney numerous stacks of really good timber classed as second-class merely because it has a small sappy vein running through it. In view of the ruthless depletion of our forests we should make a very careful survey of all stocks of hardwood throughout Australia, particularly in the capital cities, with a view to inducing contractors to use second-class timber in specified areas. “We import timber in order to preserve our forests and, at the same time, we desire to keep our men in employment. The question that confronts us is how to strike a balance. We should ask our forestry experts to devise a scheme whereby all buildings should contain certain proportions of imported wood and Australian hardwood. That is only reasonable. I suggest that the proportion of imported timber should be made as low as possible and also that second-class timber should be used where possible. 1 know that there are a number of people who say that we must have oregon for certain building purposes; I am inclined to agree with them ; but at the same time I suggest that the importation of oregon should be limited to bare requirements. We should do everything to keep our men in employment, and at the same time preserve our forests in perpetuity for the nation.
.- I desire to bring to the notice of the Parliament a matter which I consider to be of great importance to the members of the Opposition and to workers generally throughout the Commonwealth. This matter has been brought to my notice only within the last few hours. It is regrettable that, in the closing hours of these sittings, we should find that the Government is beginning to use its powers under the National Security Act to suppress freedom of expression. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the members of the Government when dealing with the National Security Act said that the Government would administer the regulations made under it in such a way as to cause as little friction as possible among the people of this country. Honorable members supporting the Government argued that these powers were necessary because we were in a state of war, and that the Government should take to itself full and complete powers. One of the powers which the Government took to itself under the authority of the National Security Act was the right to exercise a strict censorship over the dissemination of news throughout the Commonwealth. It can be argued with a certain amount of reason that it would be a reasonable exercise of this power to prevent the dissemination of news likely to be of advantage to some nation with which this country is at war; but we find that the Government has already availed itself of this power to prevent the free expression of opinion of political organizations opposed to it. That is a very serious matter. The Miners Federation publishes an official organ know as The Common Cause. In a contributed article on the National Security Act and the emergency regulations, the editors of that journal have come into conflict with the authorities, not because of violent language used in the article, but simply because it contained statements that the Menzies Government is a minority government and that Labour unions and the Labour movement generally should organize to bring about its defeat at the earliest possible moment, and that the Labour movement should resist the operation of any of the regulations which infringed their civil liberties. Nobody would suggest that statements such as these would be of any assistance to an enemy of this ‘ country. This is one of the passages which was excised from the article by the direction of the censor -
The united efforts of the Labour movement must be directed towards the defeat of the minority Menzies Government, and the return of a Labour Government which would have the interests of the Australian workers at heart.
It will thus be seen that already we have evidence as to what is likely to happen by the abuse of emergency powers granted to the Government. This instance supports the fears expressed by honorable members on this side of the House when the National Security Bill was under discussion. Next year we will be faced with an election and honorable members on this side of the House through their various journals will be claiming that the Menzies Government is a minority government, and urging the electors not to return the Menzies Government because of its many political sins. No doubt the powers conferred upon the Government under the emergency legislation will be invoked by it in a compaign against the Labour movement to prevent Labour spokesmen from presenting their side of the argument. The Prime Minister, speaking with regard to the necessity for protecting the democratic rights of the people, said that the people should have the right of free speech and expressions through their various newspapers and journals. Here is evidence, at a time when this Parliament is about to go into recess, of the excess to which the Government may go under the powers conferred upon it only recently. It is well to remind honorable members what may happen if these powers are not wisely and justly used. We all know what happened during the ‘ last war. when the Government was given similar powers under the War Precautions Act. It will be remembered that twelve members of the Industrial Workers of the World were arrested and thrown into prison during the height of the conscription campaign. They were not immediately charged before a court because that did not suit the Government’s purpose; it wanted to get as much political capital out of the circumstances as was possible. When the men were ‘finally brought to trial and the charges of the prosecution were laid, the whole of the evidence for the prosecution was taken, and then the cases were adjourned until after the conscription referendum had been taken. The government of the day abused its powers under the War Precautions Aat, just as this Government is already commencing to abuse the powers granted to it under the National Security Act. Ever since the Government first announced its new defence plans at the outbreak of war, it has made appeal after appeal to the Opposition not to do anything which might be considered to be critical of its actions.- It has constantly adjured the Opposition to support its actions in the national interests, saying that only by unity in the Parliament could the war be waged to a successful conclusion. I say to the members of the Opposition that, if they are not very careful, they will see brought into being in this country the very things against which they are asked to fight. We know that in Germany” political and industrial organizations have been suppressed. This is the commencement of a similar campaign of oppression in this country. The Government first of all commenced by asking the Labour party to join it in the formation of a national government. That appeal was made in order to endeavour to prevent any criticism of its present or past activities. When the Government failed to secure that measure of cooperation from the Opposition, it began to use the powers conferred upon it by the National Security Act to prevent the free expression of Labour opinion in this community. I ask honorable members of the Opposition to consider what is likely to happen to them in the near future if this sort of thing is allowed to go on unchecked. Each one of us will be returning to his electorate within a few hours and with an election looming on the horizon next year will place before the people his views regarding the sins committed against the interests of the people of this country by the Government. No doubt if we do so we shall expose ourselves to a great deal of personal risk, and if any of the journals under our control publish statements derogatory of the Government, this unscrupulous Government will swoop down upon them. 1 enter my emphatic protest against what has happened in the case of the excision of what I regard as fair comment from The Common Cause. I ask the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) whether this action was taken by the censor at the instigation of the Government, and, if not, to give an immediate assurance that there will he no repetition of this sort of thing and, further, to take appropriate action to see that no steps are taken either by the censor or hy the Government to suppress freedom of thought and freedom of speech in this country. That is a principle for which the Labo’ur party is prepared to fight and to take whatever risks are necessary to maintain despite what regulations are made. We regard it an inherent right, of the people of this country. If the Government continues this policy it may rest assured that it will have in this Parliament, and out of it, the sternest opposition from the members of the Labour party.
.- My mind, in common with that of other honorable members, is exercised in regard to the administration of the different departments, the paramount one being the Defence Department, of which I have complained in days gone by. It is pleasing to find that considerable advancement has been made in the organization of that very important department. It is not many months since I referred in this House to the lack of co-ordination and co-operation in the various branches of the Defence Department, without which complete harmony and correct administration cannot be assured. I had occasion to draw attention to the fact that the Minister was issuing one statement and departmental officers definitely opposite statements. This condition of affairs existed also in connexion with works. I blame, not Ministers, but the lack of administrative capacity and co-ordination in the different branches. I drew attention to the fact that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) had told me one thing in connexion with the proposed formation of infantry units in certain towns and that, upon inquiry, I had found that the direct opposite was the ,case. The Works Minister advised me that certain promised works had been carried out, and when I made inquiries and inspections I found that that was not the case. Under the present Administration, a very pleasant state of affairs exists. I have received a copy of a report issued by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) in connexion with works that are needed to meet the urgent requirements of the Defence Department and other departments. I am sure that the present efficiency in the departments is welcomed by honorable members as well as by the people of Australia generally. This report reads-
A staff of architects, two of whom are very senior in the Service, has been established in the Defence Department at Melbourne. These officers are assisting the defence officers in the preliminary preparation of plans. Their presence in the Defence Department has eliminated all correspondence between Canberra’ anC Melbourne in regard to details, and has resulted in a considerable saving of time. Preliminary plans are now received in the central office in Canberra in such a state that the working drawings and specifications can bo proceeded with at once.
The fullest possible measure of co-operation has now been established between the Defence Department and the Department of the Interior to the advantage of both.
The Works Director, Melbourne, is also working in close liaison with the Defence Department.
In the other States, the Works Directors are in close touch with the military authorities and as a result defence works have been greatly speeded up.
In the central office in Canberra, administrative staff, which it was found possible to release from the Immigration Branch of the Department, has, with the approval of the
Public Service Board, been allocated for duty with the Works Branch. This has considerably relieved the pressure on the administrative staff and has resulted in the expeditious handling of works requisitions, contracts, &c.
The staff of the Surveyor -General and Chief Property Officer has also been increased to meet the heavy demands for the acquisition of land for Government purposes.
At the close of the last financial year, works to a total of £4,558,5.15 were authorized, of which approximately £3,200,000 will be carried out this year. Since the 1st July last, an amount of £322,402. in addition to the sum previously mentioned, has been authorized. It is estimated Chat the amount of work that will be authorized this financial year will be £8,000,000, of which it is expected £5,000,000 will be completed at the end of the financial year.
In June last the Government appointed a panel to advise the Commonwealth on matters relating to the execution of defence works. The members of this panel consist of Sir Archibald Howie, Mr”. T. R. Hall and Mr. A. G-. Gutteridge.
These gentlemen, whose services have been made available to the Government in a purely honorary capacity, have thoroughly investigated the defence works in hand and contemplated in each State, and have furnished recommendations to the Government which must lead to earlier completion of the works programme.
Early in August last the members of the panel took the opportunity of meeting the Commonwealth Works Directors from each State and not only discussed the programme but also investigated the problems and difficulties associated with the execution of works, particularly in distant localities such as Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Since the appointment of the panel a keen desire to be of assistance has been evinced by the Master Builders’ Associations throughout Australia, and those connected with the building industry.
Immediately on the outbreak of war, the provisions of the Commonwealth War Book in relation to works were put into operation. The value of the careful consideration given to this matter during peace time has resulted in a complete absence of confusion and the expeditious execution of the pre-arranged plans.
The Minister added that he was delighted to be in the position of stating that the Works Branch of his Department is now working smoothly, efficiently and expeditiously, and that complete liaison had been established with the departments, particularly the Department of Defence, for whom the works are being carried out.
I need only mention that on one occasion the Defence Department made a request in the morning for certain urgent works to be carried out, and that -evening all arrangements were completed for a contractor to begin them immediately. The present Minister is partly responsible for the improvement that has taken place; but it is due also to the wisdom of the people in desiring to see that complete co-operation exists between the departments and private enterprise which is offering its services in an honorary capacity for the purpose of carrying out work that is so essential to the satisfactory and successful prosecution of the war into which this nation has entered.
Another matter to which I desire to refer has already been eloquently dealt with by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Eadden). For a long time I have complained of the failure of the Postmaster-General’s Department to provide adequate services in country districts. I have made representations on behalf of various country centres, and an almost pauperized state of the finances has been the excuse for failure to carry out essential works. I had the privilege of visiting a small village in the electorate of Darling Downs, in which I saw three telegraph poles standing in the street about ten feet from the pavement. From time to time representations have been made for their removal, hut the department could not decide whether it would be less expensive to remove them than to remove the town. Apparently it has decided to take no action, and they are still standing on the highway. In fairness to the civic pride of the people of that town, those posts should be removed. I have applied for favorable consideration to be given to requests for new post offices, alterations to existing post offices, and other improvements in country centres, but promises are all that I have received. The fullest consideration should be given to the provision of post offices and other services for the benefit of those who are providing the revenue of the department. Compare the case referred to by the honorable member for Darling Downs with the improvements and additions that are being made to the General Post Office- in Sydney. I make no complaint in respect of those additions and the provision of greater facilities for the staff at Sydney General Post Office, provided that similar privileges are extended to their fellow employees in country towns who do exactly the same important work but under far less favorable conditions. I object to the excuse of poverty being advanced whenever representations are made to the department for services of this kind.
For the last five years I have appealed to the Government to provide a post office at a small town named Walla Walla in my electorate. The exPostmasterGeneral, now Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron) visited that town with me, and expressed the opinion that the existing post office and residence were in an absolutely appalling condition, and that the prevailing conditions at many other places could be described only in similar terms. The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison) also paid a visit to that town, and knows full well how essential it is that a new post office should be erected. .The department quibbles over small matters, such as the payment of a. rental of fi a week. Where civic pride leads people to put their towns in order, the Government should at least provide decent post offices, and residences for their employees. I am sure that the Postmaster-General is sympathetically inclined towards the request that I am now making. The exPostmasterGeneral was so disturbed when he examined the position that he said to me “ I promise you definitely that if I am Postmaster-General next financial year that post office will be built “. I look to the present Postmaster-General to redeem, that promise of his predecessor, in the interest of those who are doing their share towards the advancement and development of this country district. The development of the country adds materially to the progress of the city and the nation generally. In one town where there is adequate space for the erection of a new post office, the present building is so antiquated that there is not sufficient room for the servants of the department to do their work efficiently and under comfortable conditions. The mailmen, who have to carry mails into the country, are obliged to kneel down in the yard under bags in wet weather to do the sorting. I hope that the conditions will-be improved in the future.
Temporary linemen who have been employed for some considerable time are being dismissed when the interests of the nation would be promoted, and the business of the department would be more efficiently conducted, if their services were retained, instead of being dispensed with because they may qualify for permanent appointment.
Another matter to which I feel I should direct attention is the preparation that is being made by the major oil companies for adequate supplies of oil fuel in Australia. While time is yet available to them, they are securing as much as possible for storage in Australia. I took occasion some time ago to examine the position. I then found that Australia is rich in most of the raw materials, but is sadly lacking in the discovery of oil. The Government has done its part in providing money foroperations designed to locate sources of oil supply, but so far no wells have been discovered to which we can look to meet our requirements. The latest figures issued last year show that about 300,000,000 gallons of motor spirit and 14,000,000 gallons of lubricating oils are used annually in Australia. With the exception of a very small quantity, this is imported from overseas. It is not generally known that the bulk of our oil supplies is obtained from the Netherlands East Indies, which are about sixteen days from Sydney by steamer, and, of course, closer to our northern ports. The use of oils and petrols is of extreme importance to Australia at any time, but particularly so in war-time. I hardly need to remind honorable members of the extent to which these fuels ure used to-day in mechanized units on farms. Tractors have to a very large degree displaced horses in field operations, and we know very well that the old farm waggon has practically disappeared, together with the spring dray. This has meant that draught horses, as well as horses of lighter types, are relatively scarce on our farms. Years ago, quite a substantial proportion of the farmer’s operations were designed to provide fod- der for hisstock; but those days have gone. Petrol and crude oils are used nowadays to the almost complete exclusion of horses. I do not suggest that there is anything wrong with that policy; it is merely in accordance with the trend of the times; but the point serves to illustrate the urgent necessity to ensure regular and adequate supplies of oils’ of various kinds. To this end, the Government should be using every endeavour to discover any possible supplies of oil in Australia. Now that we are using motor lorries and trucks in place of the old waggons, we must ensure that petrol is available to drive them. If, by any unhappy circumstances, our oil supplies should disappear, we should certainly not have sufficient horses in this country to maintain our agricultural operations. This would be exceedingly serious. I therefore reiterate that the Government should do its utmost to examine all possible natural supplies of oil.
Another matter that should receive the closest attention is the reserving of adequate supplies of wool. I have been interested in this subject for a long while. On the 4th April, 1938, I wrote to the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) on the subject in the following terms: -
Having regard to Great Britain’s defence policy and the proposed expenditure of millions of pounds towards that end, with one eye on the interests of Australian wool-growers and the other on the Empire’s defence plans, I am wondering if Great Britain has con-, sidered in the scheme of thingB the storage of adequate supplies of wool as Japan has done and is still doing.
In case of war, and the possibility of interference with trade routes, great difficulty may be experienced in securing the necessary supplies of wool for uniforms, &c, unless provision has already been made for the storing of reserve supplies. Wool, as you are no doubt aware; canbe kept indefinitely without deterioration.
I have little doubt but that the necessary attention has been given to this aspect of the scheme, but, if not. in my humble opinion, it would be wise to have the reserves on hand. The authorities may be depending on the manufacturing firms to hold sufficient quantities in stock, but, owing to the unsteady markets that we have experienced this season, it is hardly likely that any firm would purchase more than requirements.
I should like to know if the matter has occurred to you, and, if not, mightI suggest that it would be advisable to have inquiries instituted with a view to ascertaining just what the position is regarding such reserves.
I received a reply to the effect that inquiries would be made into the subject; but I have not had any further communication to indicate the result of the inquiries. However, the following report appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald five days after my letter was written: -
Storing Wool in War.
British Government’s Inquiries.
London, 8th April, 1938.
The British Government has approached prominent wool-traders to ascertain what facilities are available for wool storage in the event of war. It wishes to discover where supplies can be dispersed, as it considers that the ports, especially on the east coast, would be subjected to intensive air bombardment.
The inquiries are being made informally and almost casually. It is believed that ample storage is available to meet any demands.
So far there is little foundation for reports that the Government is making large purchases of wool.
Some alarm is being expressed in Bradford because of drought reports from Australia. The Yorkshire Observer declares that it may solve the carry-over problem in a disastrous manner.. Wheat prices are higher, as a result of the reports.
This shows the importance of the subject.
I now direct the attention of the Government to the position of persons resident in Australia of the same nationality as the nations with which we are at war. Many Germans in this country, and also people of German origin, are excellent citizens who have played a notable part in the development of our resources. They are law-abiding in every sense of the word, and are entitled to be included among our finest citizens. Having in mind the injustices that were done to such people during the last war, when many of them were interned without any just cause whatsoever, I think it proper to urge that the Government should on this occasion take care to deal justly with these people, who, in the great majority of cases, are discharging their obligations as eitizens as well as are the people of our own race. We understand that some internments are about to take place. I trust that in every case the noble principles of Magna Charta will be upheld. The Great Charter was designed to protect people against the rapacity and tyranny of the Crown, and to ensure that injustice would not be inflicted upon the innocent. It is not the fault of the folk of German extraction in Australia that we are at war to-day with the Nazi regime, and due regard ought to bo had to the unfortunate position in which they find themselves. I hope that the fullest care will be taken to ensure that injustices shall not be perpetrated.
I take this opportunity to make my position in relation to national insurance quite clear to honorable members and the country at large. When the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill was before this chamber. I intimated that I was prepared to support the policy the Governniem advanced, provided that provision was made for supplementary legislation to be introduced to cover certain primary pro- ducers and self-employed persons.The Government undertook to introduce such a measure as early as possible. Subsequently we were advised that difficulties had arisen, and an appropriate measure of the kind desired could not be enacted. The so-called national health and pensions scheme therefore became a sectional scheme.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member may not enlarge upon that subject, for a motion appears on the notice-paper in connexion with it.
– I shall content myself with observing that I pointed out inmy second-reading speech on the bill that our capacity to give effect to the proposals of the Government was subject to the obtaining of satisfactory prices for certain primary products, the profitable marketing of which was of supreme importance to this country. I make it clear, too, that until we are able to market our primary products in a satisfactory manner without the assistance of bounties, bonuses or subsidies, and under conditions which will permit of the people engaged in these industries receiving a reasonable return for their labour, until the great body of unemployed workers in Australia arcin permanent employment, and until the secondary industries of the nation are organized on a satisfactory basis, I do not think it desirable to place upon tlxshoulders of employers and employees the burden that a national insurance scheme must inevitably involve.
.- I understand that a Blue Book, containing certain documents and papers relating to the outbreak of war, which has been laid upon the table of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, includes much more comprehensive information than is con- tained in the White Paper laid upon the table of this Parliament some time ago. I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether he will obtain copies of that bluebook, and circulate them to honorable members, so that we may be fully informed on these matters, which are of such significance to the whole nation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion, by Mr. John Lawson), read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 21st Septem- ber (vide page . 1006), on motion by Mr. John Lawson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I do not intend to oppose this measure, the purpose of’ which is to authorize an extension for five years of the bounty payable in respect of tractors of the internal combustion type, produced in this country. The rates of bounty are similar to those provided in the Iron and Steel Products Act 1922-34, as amended by our financial emergency legislation in 1931. The provision that not less than 90 per cent. of the material and parts should be of Australian origin is a most commendable one. The bounty was first granted in 1922, when the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act was passed. The bounty system, instead of a duty, was employed to encourage the industry, so that British tractors might still be admitted duty free, while tractors from foreign countries would be admitted under the intermediate tariff at a duty of 10 per cent. This industry has developed substantially since a bounty was granted. In 1938-39, the number of tractors produced in Australia was 334. There is still a wide field for expansion, because 4,377 tractors were imported in 1938-39, while in 1937-38 the number was 11,026. The report of the Tariff Board shows once more the efficiency that has been reached in many Australian secondary industries. Referring to the manufacture of tractors, the board compliments the manufacturers upon their efficiency, and remarks that the industry is rendering good service to the community.
The Labour party has always insisted that, in measures of this kind, there should be a clause requiring the recipients of a bounty to observe award rates and conditions in their factories. That provision is missing from this bill, and I should like to know why. I take it that no federal government desires to stabilize an industry that sweats its employees. We know, unfortunately, that in some backyard industries there are employers who resort to all kinds of shifts to avoid observing awards. They even go so far as to get their employees to sign for award wages, and then pay them something less. During periods of unemployment, gome unfortunate persons who have been out of work agree to work for less than award wages. The Government should not allow exploitation of that kind to take place, The employees, as well as the proprietors, should be considered in an industry of this kind. Because of their economic condition they are sometimes unable to help themselves. If they open their mouths to protest against injustice they are given a week’s notice.
. - in reply - The provision requiring the recipient of a bounty to observe award rates and conditions was omitted from these measures on the advice of the then Attorney-General, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who considered that it was unconstitutional, havingregard to the decision of the High Court in the Harvester case. Since then efforts have been made to devise means to protect the employees, but so far the Solicitor-General has been unable to hit upon a satisfactory method. However, ail employees in this industry are working at full award rates, and under award conditions. In the circumstances,I think the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) may accept that assurance.
– Will the Minister give an _ assurance that the Government will take steps to police the industry in order to ensure that award conditions are observed, and that no exploitation takes place ?
– I am prepared to give that assurance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 21st September (vide page 1008), on motion by Mr. John Lawson -
That the bill be now rend a second time.
– I do not intend to oppose this measure. Its purpose is to assist an industry that is of great importance to Australia, particularly at the present time, and it will become increasingly important if the war lasts for any considerable period. We can all recall the difficulties experienced in 1922 in getting supplies of sulphur. It is my desire to see industries of this kind established in Australia, so that we may become independent of outside supplies.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 21st September (vide page 1009), on motion by Mr. John Lawson -
That the bill be now read u second time.
.- This is another Government measure which the Opposition finds itself able to support. I have been impressed by the rapid strides made by the wire netting industry since it was established in Australia. It now employs 500 persons, and pays wages each year amounting to £125,000. Over the last five years the average production amounted to 16;000 tons, and there is a steadily increasing export trade of an average value of £1,600. That is what we should aim at - the raising of the standard of efficiency to such a degree thai we can not only supply ourselves with an article as good as can be produced in any part of the world, but also find markets overseas. The establishment of this industry has been made possible because of the protectionist policy which is accepted by an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia. The Tariff Board has expressed the opinion that the industry has now become so firmly established that the bounty could be abolished altogether. The manufacture of wire netting was recently commenced in Western Australia. We are not parochial, and we desire to see secondary industries established in all of the States of Australia. Probably the people in some of the more distant States would take a more reasonable view of federation and protection if industry were decentralized. This bounty will apply exclusively to the new company established in Western Australia because profits are limited to 6 per cent. Representatives of Lysaghts and Rylands advocated the return of the full bounty of 68s. a ton and the allowance of 15 petcent, profits as in the original bounty act. but their claim was excessive, and, indeed, bordering on the ridiculous. I am glad to see that Australia to-day is producing wire netting at £A.34 ls. 6<1. a mile, compared with the British price for home consumption of £35 19s. 8d. sterling. Figures were submitted to the Tariff Board showing th, low prices quoted by British manufacturers in order to secure orders in Australia and New Zealand and other countries. It is stated that the f.o.b. price for export to Australia is £23 18s. 9d., which is £12 less than the price quoted for home consumption. These factor* have to be kept in mind by the Minister and the department. I believe that the Australian manufacturer has the right fo expect the whole of the Australian market.’ That he is able to do so to-day is due to the high standard of production aud the fact that he produces at a lower home-consumption price than any other part of the world. This should blow out for all time the contention of freetraders that if protection could be eliminated articles could be imported here at a lower cost than that’ at which they can be made in Australia. I welcome the start of this small factory in Western Australia and the Minister was wise to exclude, in effect, the “two large factories in the eastern States which are hig enough to stand on their own feet.
.- Is it right for the Commonwealth Government to give bounties away at this juncture? I understand that the Government is up against it for money.
– This will cost only £500 a year.
– Whenever the representatives from Tasmania, including yourself, Mr. Speaker, have approached the Government with a request for assistance to an industry in their State, a deaf ear has been turned to them. I am not satisfied that it would be right for mc to support the establishment of the wire netting industry in another part of Australia when the industry is so well established in New South Wales as to be able to supply the whole of the requirements of the Australian people.
– It cannot.
– It cannot! Well, this Parliament should be prepared to assist in the production of more important things than wire netting, which is not needed for defence. All it is used for is to keep the rabbits out or in.
– This is national defence.
– It is not. I have yet to learn that the rabbits have ever eaten a farmer out and I have travelled extensively throughout Australia. As a matter of fact, I think that rabbits, commercially, are of more importance than wire netting.
– I wish . the honorable gentleman would take some of mine. . -;
– This bill represents money thrown away. All that the Ministry is doing is trying to curry favour with the farmers who want to get cheap wire netting in Western Australia. I understand that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which controls the wire netting industry, can compete with any other country in the production of this commodity. That being so, why pay this bounty?
– I understand that the new factory which this bill seeks to assist is in the electorate of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin).
– That does not prevent me from expressing my objection. If I think something is wrong, no matter whose electorate is concerned, I express my belief. I should have expected a more intelligent interjection than that from the Minister for Trade and Customs as justification for the bounty. I object to this bill on behalf of the electors who have sent me here.
. - in reply - To answer briefly the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), the position is that at present the annua! cost of the wire-netting bounty to the Commonwealth Government is approximately £17,000. This bill will reduce the liability to about £500 a year, rip to the present, the bounty has been paid on a profit limit of 15 per cent. The profit limit is now to be reduced to 6 per cent. The reduction has been made because it was felt, in the first place, that the industry was monopolized by one firm - two firms in name, but one in factexcept for another firm in a distant part of the Commonwealth, which has been carrying on a desperate struggle to establish itself against overwhelming. financial superiority of the firms in the eastern State. Economically, and in every other possible way, it was desirable that this industry should be encouraged in Western Australia. To give that encouragement will cost, no more than £500 a year, and I feel that no serious objection can be levelled against the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 21st September (vide page 1012), on motion by Mr. John Lawson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.-I am sorry that on this measure there will be considerably more talk than there has been on the measures just agreed to; because the Government has not done justice to this industry.
Mr.Francis. - Ask for a postponement until we have consulted the Ministry. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) is to see a deputation.
– Yes. I am very disappointed at this proposal, which, if it is put into effect, will have a disastrous effect upon a great primary industry in Queensland. To prove my contention, I shall read what Mr. Young, the general manager of the Queensland Cotton Board, has sent to me by telegram -
Raw cotton bounty payments announced by Government as3¼d. per lb. with maximum payment in any year of £130,000 is a reduction of1d. from present payment, and will limit production to 15,000 bales though there is market here for 35,000 bales. New cotton bounty payments will definitely mean the extinction of cotton-growing in Queensland.
I am gravely alarmed at the action of the Government. It took longer than was necessary to make its decision; and now the decision is a bad one. It referred the matter to the Tariff Board in September of last year. The board considered it until April of this year, and submitted a report, which has been in the hands of the department and the Minister ever since then. I stressed the importance of an early pronouncement as to what ‘the Government intended to do by way of increasing or continuing the cotton bounty in order to encourage cotton-growing. The Minister said that he was giving the matter consideration. The matter was put off from day to day, until now in the closing hours of Parliament a measure is brought downwhich, in the opinion of the general manager of the Queensland Cotton Board, will mean the extinction of the industry in Queensland. I do not think for a moment that the Minister wants to bring that about. The time has arrived for the newly-appointed Minister to visit the cotton-growing districts of Queensland and to confer with the Cotton Board personally. I shall be glad to accompany him, as I have accompanied his predecessors. When I say that I know that I am voicing the opinion of all of the honorable members from Queensland.
I wish here emphatically to protest against the failure of the Tariff Board, appointed some years ago by a government of the same political brand as this and consisting of gentlemen from the southern parts ofAustralia who had no idea of the important ramifications of this industry, particularly on the practical side, to visit the big cotton districts in Central Queensland. Certainly members of the Tariff Board did on one occasion intend to go up through Rockhampton and across to the Dawson, Callide and Burnett districts, but excessive rains made transport difficult and the visit was abandoned. Instead, they visited the relatively small cotton-growing area at the back of Maryborough, where the industry is not carried on in anything like the proportion it is being developed at Callide, Upper Burnett and Dawson Valley. They did not get a true impression of the great importance of this industry, in conjunction with the dairying industry and the pig raising industry, to the closer settlement of Queensland. I say to the Minister that before he gives this measure the imprimatur of Parliament, and asks honorable members to agree to a sharp reduction of the rate of bounty from4½d. to 3¼d., he should give further consideration to the whole matter and receive a deputation from the Queensland Cotton Board. He should also pay a visit to the cotton growing areas and confer with the Queensland Government. Negotiations have been carried on between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland, and the Premierof Queensland (Mr.Forgan.Smith) has indicated that the Queensland Government has the following projects in hand : -
At prices, ruling for the last two seasons, the output apparently would be limited to 15,000’ bales, whereas the immediate objective is 35,000 bales, and the ultimate objective 50,000 bales. Unless an adequate bounty is secured immediately, planting will practically cease, and farmers who are preparing to plant and who have already planted, will have been woefully misled. The Queensland Department of Agriculture and the Queensland Cotton Board are working in complete harmony to produce Australia’s spinners’ requirements as to types and staple lengths.
Cotton plays an important part in time of war, and it is absolutely necessary that this country should be independent of overseas supplies as soon as possible. To-day Australia imports 35,000 bales of raw cotton as well as the equivalent of 350,000 bales of raw cotton per annum in the form of finished cotton goods. Last year Queensland produced 12,000 bales. Is this industry one that we can afford to let down? Is it not our duty to promote the great primary industries, which supply raw materials, side by side with the secondary industries, which turn the raw materials into finished products. Australia should be made independentof the importation of raw materials from overseas as soon as possible. In peace time that is important, but it is far more important to-day.
Surely the Minister for Trade andCus toms will realize that the general manager of the Queensland Cotton Board would not make a statement of the kind he did if he did not. honestly believe it to be true, and that the industry would be annihilated if the Government took the retrogressive step proposed by this measure. That gentleman said that if this bill were passed the extinction of the cotton-growing industry in Queensland would result. He pointed out to me by telephone that the United States of America subsidizes the export of cotton to an amount of11/8d. per lb., and said that the industry would have to meet that subsidy. The provision of a maximum payment in any one year definitely limits the production to 15,000 bales a year, although Australia uses 35,000 bales a year. Surely it is of vital importance that production of cotton in Australia should not be restricted to 15,000 bales. The Queensland Government has announced that irrigation schemes to assist the production of cotton are now well under way and, as the result, the cotton-growing industry will be placed on a much sounder production basis than hitherto. I paid a visit to the Callide Valley recently, and I was informed that steps had been taken by the Queensland Government toassist farmers whose holdings were on land suitable for irrigation. Within a few miles of the Callide Valley is the Theodore irrigation area where £1,000,000 was spent some years ago in damming the river and laying down the foundation’ of what is now known as the Theodore irrigation scheme. Irrigation can increase production of cotton threefold, and . I believe that therein lies the solution of the problem of growing sufficient cotton in Australia for our own requirements. I admit that in the Callide district there is a. particularly good rainfall compared with other districts in the north-west, but the rain frequently falls at the wrong time and it is important that the water should be conserved by means of irrigation schemes. If these schemes are embarked upon on a large scale, I believe that Australia will in the near future, be able to cope with the demand from our great spinning mills. The Minister for Trade and Customs might be able to tell us what sum of money the Queeusland Government, has offered to spend on irrigation in the Callide and Dawson valleys if the. Commonwealth Government will re-enact the existing raw cotton bounty legislation passed in 1934. I spoke to the Premier of Queensland by telephone yesterday, and he is very keen that the Federal Government should play its part and pass legislation to give an adequate measure of assistance to this in- dustry. The whole scheme will fall to the ground if the Federal Government does not give more generous assistance to the industry than is provided for in this bill. In the Department of Trade and Customs there are experts who could accompany the Minister to Queensland and make personal investigations of the economics of this industry. These people could submit a very much more reliable report than that submitted by the Tariff Board, because they have made a study of this industry over a period of years and are conversant also with its secondary branches. I would have much greater confidence in a recommendation made by such officers than in one made by the Tariff Board which is overburdened with a multiplicity of requests to inquire into a hundred and one different industries. I again point out that members of the Tariff Board failed to inspect the major cottongrowing districts of Queensland at a time when it should have made itself thoroughly conversant with the economics of this industry. We must bear in mind that, although Australia to-day utilizes only 35,000 bales of raw cotton a year, that quantity will grow year by year as the protective incidence of the tariff is widened to cover an increasing number of cotton goods which to-day are imported from other countries and which, as I said, represent an equivalent of 350,000 bale:; of raw cotton a year. There is an almost unlimited market in Australia for locally-grown cotton.
I was fully cognizant with the value of this industry when I became Minister for Trade and Customs in 1930, and during my term of office I. took a very keen interest in all primary and secondary industries which came under my purview.
A retrospective examination of the cotton industry reveals that cotton-grow ing has been carried on in Australia since 1870, but it was in the doldrums until the Queensland Labour Government in 1920 guaranteed a price of 5½d. per lb. for a period of three years. Later the industry was taken over on a national basis by the Commonwealth and assisted by bounty legislation passed in 1930, which placed cotton-growing on a solid footing. As a collateral part of that bounty system the Commonwealth Government undertook to increase the protective incidence of the tariff to cover an increasing number of items of’ cotton goods and thereby to increase the home market for locally-grown cotton. Every industry has its ups and downs within the first, ten or fifteen years of its existence, and in the, case of cottongrowing, owing to the uncertainty of seasonal conditions over which the growers have no control, there are times when only a half or quarter crop can be gathered. Such failures would be almost completely eliminated by the establishment of suitable irrigation schemes. One of the Queensland Cabinet Ministers, the Honorable T. A. Foley, M.L.A., who represents a large part of my federal electorate which is engaged in cotton-growing, has been indefatigable in his efforts to assist the cotton industry, and I appreciate the part that he has played in conjunction with his leader, Mr. Forgan Smith, in the introduction of irrigation and water conservation schemes in cotton-growing districts with a view to increasing production. At a time like this, however, when there is such a drain on finances, Queensland cannot afford to incur increased expenditure by entering upon schemes of water conservation and irrigation if the Commonwealth Government allows the bottom to fall out of the cotton industry by withdrawing the bounty necessary to keep it alive.
The size of the cotton-growing industry may be readily appreciated when one realizes that to-day there are 3,600 cottongrowers and 2,000 seasonal workers. It is the very backbone of districts like Biloela and Monto, in which areas there are to-day approximately 6,000 settlers, whereas, fifteen or sixteen years ago, there were only twenty or 30 people engaged in pastoral pursuits. This closer settlement was made possible by the establishment of the cotton industry, because, when the timber was failed and burned out, cotton seeds were planted amongst the stumps and a crop was produced immediately thus enabling the settlers, who previously were engaged in manual work ami lower-paid occupations such as farm work, ruining and railroad work, and had very little, if any, money to set up their farms and purchase the necessary machinery, implements, and livestock. With the proceeds from the cotton crop, they acquired an additional “equity in their property, and were able to purchase cows, as well as to borrow money from the Agricultural Bank to extend their dairying and pig-raising operations. Are these people to be given the setback which this decision will give them? I have no axe to grind. The only personal interest that T have in cotton-growing is that the growers are my constituents, and are Australians. As members of this Australian Parliament, we cannot afford to give a setback to these 3,600 cotton farmers just as the war has broken out. A large number of them are returned soldiers from the last war. Many of them went on the land as young men, and now, after 15 or 16 years, they have sons and daughters growing up who are assisting them on their properties. The aggregate income enables the’ boys and girls to remain on the property. Surely that is what we want ! We do not want them to flock to the capital cities to accentuate the unemployment problem. To-day. there is quite a. substantial acreage under cotton. In Central Queensland, 43,954 acres are planted, the remaining 21,000 acres being in thb Burnett and other southern cottongrowing areas. The Callide Valley, in Central Queensland, has 20,000 acres under cultivation. There is no reason why this industry should not become one of the major industries of Australia. Consider the important part played by it in Egypt and the United States nf America. The total world production of raw cotton is 36,000,000 bales, of which 18.000,000 bales are produced in the United States of America and IS, 000,000 bale« in other countries. Before the commencement of the present conflict in the East, Japanese cotton mills used practically 4,000,000 bales of raw cotton annually, one-half of which was purchased from the United States of America.
I am astounded that the Government should make this ill-considered decision on the eve of closing up Parliament for a recess of a couple of months. I do not question the integrity or the honesty of the members of the Australian Tariff Board, but I do say that those gentlemen have made an honest mistake, which, I hope, will be soon rectified. I do not believe that the Government should be bound willy-nilly to follow the recommendations of the board in this matter. There is a Minister in charge of this department, and he has experts under his control who can give him a much better recommendation in the interests of farmers of this country, and in the interests of the unemployed who depend upon this industry for seasonal employment. It is an industry which fits in with canegrowing. For several months, 2,000 odd workers pick cotton, and when that work is finished they go into the canefields to cut cane. If this industry goes out of existence, those 2,000 seasonal workers, so we have been told by Mr. Young, the general manager of the Queensland Cotton Board, will be deprived of a livelihood for a substantial part of the year. The sugar industry engages them for only six months, and they have to find some means of livelihood for the remaining six months of the year. What will happen to them if they have not the cotton fields in which to obtain employment in the picking of cotton
I’ find no fault with the proposed duration of the bounty. Although the Queensland Cotton Board asked for a period of ten years, the Minister has agreed to its operating for a period of five years. The basic rate of bounty is to be 3id. per lb. when the Liverpool spot price of American middling raw cotton is 6d. per lb. That means a reduction of 1¼d. per lb. The raw Cotton Bounty Act of 1934 provided for a bounty at the rate of 4Jd. when the liverpool middling spot price was 6d. per lb. or .Old. per lb. more or le*s than 4fd. per lb. for every .Old. per lb. by which the price was more or less than 6d. per lb., but so that the rate of bounty should not in any cas? exceed 54d. per lb. That was the formula by which the Government arrived at the rate that would apply at any given time. Mr. Young, representing the Queensland Cotton Board, in evidence before the Tariff Board, asked that assistance be granted to the cotton-growing industry in the form of a direct bounty on the production of raw cotton, and, in addition, a customs duty of at least1d. per lb. on all importations of raw cotton from any source. Another request was that the assistance granted be equal to the difference between the cost of efficient production in Australia and the cost of production in overseas countries, “including cheap-labour countries, such as India. That seemed a very reasonable request. A bounty for ten years was sought in order to give stability to the industry, so that an opportunity would be afforded for the expansion of the cotton ginneries and oil-mills, and the farmers would be able to lay down a long-range policy. Mr. Young, in asking for a customs duty of1d. per lb. on all imported raw cotton, made itclear that he did not also ask for the present rate of bounty ; the result of that duty on imported raw cotton would be the reduction by1d. per1b. of the bounty which otherwise would be payable. He urged that theprinciple of the adoption of a home price for Australian products sold locally was generally accepted by the Commonwealth Government and the people of Australia, and said that he looked forward to the time when the grower would be protected by this means rather than by means of a bounty, which he regarded as something of a temporary nature; and I support him in his view.
I have received the following telegram from Valentine Plains, in my electorate : -
Proposed bounty legislationat present before the House will mean the extinction of cottongrowing industry and the Callide Valley as a closer-settlement area. Only increased assis tance over present rates of bounty will assure expansion. Suggest no maximum limitation of funds forbounty payments. Proposed legislation means limiting the crop to 1 5,000 bales. (Signed) Fleming; Member Queensland CottonBoard.
Mr. Fleming is one of the largest cottongrowers in Queensland. He lives in my electorate, and I know him personally. He would not send such a telegram if he did not believe that its contents were true.
He is one of the young men who entered the industry, cleared the land - cut a farm out of the scrub, as it were - and by tireless work over a number of years, developed his property. He is bringing up a good Australian family, and is typical of thousands of others. Can we afford to throw out of this industry men of that type, when approximately 200,000 of our people are out of employment in the cities of Australia? This is a time when not one additional man should be put out of work. On the contrary, we should make every effort to keep in employment every man who is now engaged. I make no charge against the Minister of being unsympathetic. He has only recently been installed in the Department of Trade and Customs, but he has had some experience of primary production and has followed a profession which brought him very largely into touch with the primary producers of this country. If he pushes this measure through to-day, hundreds of farmers who are clearing land and intend to put it under the plough with a view to planting cotton inthe next few weeks will be disappointed, and there will be a substantial reduction of the acreage under crop, with the result that we shall not grow this year even what we grew last year, namely.. 12,000 bales out of an Australian demand for 35,000 bales.
I regret that the Minister did nott bring forward a more generous measure.This falls far short ofwhat is necessary. I appeal to him not. to try topushit through the House by weight of numbers, but to agree to meet a deputation of the Queensland Cotton Board and Queensland members, and to pay a visit to Queensland during the recess to see the ginnery and the oil mill and to obtain first-hand information in the cottongrowing districts. If he does that, with the assistance of his departmental experts. I am confident that he will do justice to the Queensland cotton industry. I hope that he will do the right thing by this industry, which has played such an important part in the development of the more recent closer settlement areas in Queensland.
.-If this proposal be proceeded with in its present form, from information thatI have received, I can say that the industry will be wiped out. I protest very strongly against proceedingwith the proposal at this late hour of the session. The Tariff Board did not visit the cotton-growing areas, but made only a superficial examination of the subject. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
.- I move- [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 12)]
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390922_reps_15_161/>.