17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
-In view of the possi bility of difficult conditions developing in the post-war period as the result of the cessation of demands for primary products by the fighting services, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether or not he proposes to provide for the continuance of orderly marketing after the conclusion of hostilities? Have stepsbeen taken to have the required marketing machinery in readiness for post-war trading? “Will the honorable gentleman consider convening a conference of producer organizations, in order that primary producers may be given the fullest information concerning the likely trend of post-war demands?
– I shall go into the matter fully, and supply an answer at a later sitting.
– Is the Prime Mini- . ster able to make a statement with reference to the position in the coalmining industry?
– I am not able to make a statement. I can merely say that the sub-committee to which I referred in a press interview last week is at work, that the full Cabinet deliberated upon certain aspects of the matter to-day, and thatplans are being prepared in relation to an increase of production and the conservation of coal supplies. I shall make a statement tomorrow, if not, certainly on Thursday.
-Will the Prime Minister state whether the expert subcommittee of the Cabinet which is investigating the coal problem has given consideration to the representations I made to the Treasurer five or six weeks ago as to the effect of taxation upon stoppages of work in the coal-mining industry? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that when contract miners work for more than seven days continuously one day in ten is worked for nothing, and that their wages are reduced, in many instances, by 17s. a day, whilst shift workers suffer a reduction of wages by 9s.8d. a day. Will that matter be referred by the Cabinet sub-committee to experts in the industry, so that the Government will not have to depend upon the advice of amateurs?
– The Cabinet subcommittee has not dealt with the matterof taxation as it affects coal-miners or any other section of the workers. It is the business of the Parliament to deal with taxation, and it has done so.
– In view of the fact that nineteen or more regulations have been drafted since the Labour Government took office, in an endeavour to discipline the coal-miners and win more coal, will the Prime Minister inform the House when he proposes to implement any one of those regulations, so that the desired object may be achieved?
– In reply to the Leader of the Opposition I said that I hoped to make a full statement to-morrow, and not later than Thursday, on the subject of coal production, and all matters related to it. The honorable gentleman was kind enough to inform me that nineteen or more regulations have been promulgated. If there is a nineteenth regulation, it is because I did not desire to waste the previous eighteen.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Supply and Shipping. A similar question was asked a fortnight ago, and the Minister promised to supply the information sought, but he has not yet done so. Will the Minister give comparative figures for the production of coal in Australia during the periods July-June, 1942, and July-June, 1943? If later figures are available, will he give those in preference? Will he also give the comparative figures for the consumption of coal during the same periods?
– The question was not asked a fortnight ago - it was asked last week by the honorable member for
Fawkner (Mr. Holt). The matter has received attention, but the Coal Commission, which handles such statistics, has been fairly busy with conferences. The commission advised me this morning that it would not be able to supply the information immediately.
– The figures could be supplied in the statement which the Prime Minister has promised to make.
– Perhaps that would be the better way.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether he is correctly reported in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph as having stated that the Government did not intend to nationalize the coal industry, or to take control of it during the period of the war? If so, when did the Government reach a considered decision on the matter?
– Powers conferred by the National Security Act enable the Government to direct what shall be done with all the coal available. The Government has no intention of nationalizing the coal-mining industry.
– Or of taking control of it?
– The matter of the direction of the coal-mining industry is constantly under consideration. I do not propose to pay millions of pounds in compensation when there are other ways of getting done what we want done. I do not hesitate to say that, because of the great demand for coal, the present value of the coal-mines would be very high, and the burden placed on the country in order to acquire them would, because of a recent decision of the High Court, be intolerably heavy. Even if the mines were taken over, I have no doubt that, in the fullness of time, another government would hand them back at half the price.
– Seeing that the Prime Minister is not prepared to nationalize the coal-mines, I ask him whether it is a fact that many of the stoppages in the mines are the result of disputes over sixpence or half-a-crown, because the management is charged with the responsibility of producing profits rather than coal ? Does he not think that, by making the managers government servants, so that they would be responsible to the Government for the production of coal instead of profits, there would be more likelihood of obtaining continuous production ?
– I have been asked to express an opinion as to what would be the result if certain things were to happen. I have no opinion on that matter. Regardless of ownership, there would have to be management, and disputes could, and probably would, arise between the management and the employees. There is machinery for the settlement of disputes and that machinery should be used. I do not think that the mine management has any right to withhold sixpence or a shilling from the men, but if a question arises as to whether money should or should not be paid, neither the men nor the management should, for that reason, suspend production. As I have said, machinery has been provided for settling such disputes.
Organized Sporting Events
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General bring to the notice of that honorable gentleman the matter of the restoration by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of broadcasts of organized sporting events, such as football, horse racing, &c., over the short wave stations, for the benefit of members of the fighting forces in New Guinea, the Northern Territory, North Queensland, and northwestern Australia?
– I shall bring the matter to the attention of the PostmasterGeneral when he arrives in Canberra for the meeting of the Senate to-morrow. I hope that I shall be able to furnish a reply to the honorable member before the end of this week.
– What action has the
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture taken to correct the adverse effect upon Queensland of the differential meat ceiling prices? Will the honorable gentleman make a full statement, assuring to producers of that State the immediate rectification of the injustice of which they complain?
– I am not aware of any injustice. The Controller of Meat is proceeding to Queensland, where ha will remain until all matters have been fully investigated and adjusted.
– Will the Prime
Minister consider the lifting of the ban on the publication in newspapers of weather reports, particularly rainfall data, including forecasts, so far as that information relates to areas south of the Tropic of Capricorn?
– I shall ask for advice as to whether or not the present state of security would justify the taking of the action suggested.
– I ask the Treasurer whether or not instructions have been issued to managers of branches of the mortgage bank department of the Commonwealth Bank, that they are not to take over loans made to primary producers by private individuals unless such loans are due for repayment, or loans made to primary producers by banking institutions? If so, does he not regard such a policy as a negation of the very principles upon which the mortgage bank department was established? And does he not consider it will tend to paralyse the activities of the department?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - I am not aware of such an instruction having been issued, but I shall have inquiry made into the matter. The mortgage bank department of the Commonwealth Bank opened for business only on the 27th September last, and I have not since had a review of the procedure that has been adopted. I am delighted to know that my honorable friend is beginning to adopt views that I have long held.
– On the 29th September, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) addressed a question, without notice, to my colleague the Minister for Supply and Shipping, regarding the use of lanoline extracted from wool scour in the manufacture of paints in Great Britain. My department has interested itself in this matter, and is aware that lanoline derived from this source is used in Great Britain as an ingredient for a class of camouflage paint. A number of plants for the extraction of wool wax is already in operation in this country, and others are being installed. The rate of production, however, enables only essential demands to , be met, and it is anticipated that the planned additional production will also be absorbed by the increasing requirements of essential services.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether or not the Government contemplates filling the vacancy created by the retirement of the Honorable William Slater as His Majesty’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? If so,when may an announcement be expected?
– The Government intends to fill the vacancy. An announcement will be made so soon as we have had time to deal with the qualifications of the numerous persons who, I am sure, are ready to serve Australia in this capacity.
– Is the Treasurer aware that delays ranging up to two or three months occur at the SubTreasury in Sydney in dealing with applications for transfers of properties? Will the honorable gentleman have extra staff appointed in order to avoid considerable inconvenience to applicants for transfers ?
– I am not aware that there is undue delay in this respect. At one period, when application were coming in fairly rapidly, some time was needed to deal with them. Applicants for transfers are at times responsible for delay because of failure to supply all the particulars required. I shall have the matter examined, and shall furnish a reply later.
Transfers to Royal Australian Air Force - Troops in Northern Territory - Garrison Forces.
– The War Cabinet having approved of the transfer of men from the Army to the Royal Australian Air Force, will the Minister for the Army make a statement to the House as to how those men will obtain transfers? Will men who were previously examined and accepted by the Royal Australian Air Force, but were not released by their commanding officers, have first preference ?
– I hope to be able to make a statement on the matter later to-day.
– The conditions agreed upon between the Army and Air Departments on the 24th May, 1942, still obtain. These conditions provide that the Army may release any man up to and including the rank of subaltern whether already serving or enlisted hereafter, who applies and is accepted by the Royal Australian Air Force for aircrew, provided his release to the Royal Australian Air Force will not seriously affect the efficiency of the Army unit concerned. If the commanding officer does not approve the transfer for the above reasons, he must forward the application to the Brigadier or other equivalent superior commander for decision who, in reaching a decision, will give due consideration to the needs of the Royal Australian Air Force, the desire of the applicant, and the needs of the Army. The decision of the Brigadier or officer of equivalent status will be final. The above conditions do not apply to members of the Military Forces who are serving in operational units in forward areas, and the release of Army personnel under these conditions is restricted to aircrews’ and is not applicable to ground staffs.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether he will use the Militia to the full in order to enable as much leave as possible to be granted to members of the three Australian Imperial Force divisions, in view of the latter’s long and gallant service?
– In view of the statement in the press that the area north of Katherine is recognized as an operational area, will the Minister for the Army put the troops in that area on the same footing as the men in New Guinea with regard to the supply of tobacco and other articles distributed by the octopus which has been created by the Canteens Board of Administration?
– Consideration will be given to the suggestion made by the honorable gentleman.
– Many members of the Garrison Forces who enlisted when Japan entered the war are over military age, and, as a general rule, are exsoldiers from the last war. As they are now desirous of returning to their previous avocations, will the Minister for the Army, in view of the Government’s pronouncement that Australia is now free from invasion and the fact that the service which these men were originally intended to render is no longer necessary, give sympathetic consideration to the release of such men from the forces?
– Has the Prime Minister yet reached a decision concerning the re-establishment of the joint parliamentary committee on war expenditure? Before reconstituting the committee will he examine the functions and terms of reference of the British Select Committee on National Expenditure and of the Truman Committee of the Senate of the United States of America, which investigates defence contracts?
– In broad principle I have accepted the suggestion made by the right honorable gentleman last week that the War Expenditure Committee should be reconstituted. I have not considered the reports to which he now refers, and I doubt whether it is necessary for me to do so before the committee is reestablished. One point yet to be determined is whether the committee should have attached to it one or more experts to assist in its work. I have no doubt whatever that the committee appointed by the last Parliament did excellent work, and I should expect such a committee to continue to do very good work in the future. There is need for a watchdog over war expenditure.
– In view of the diffi culty being experienced at present in the manufacture of clothing, and as this may be due to the quality of the material available, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping take action to improve the quality of manufactured worsteds?
– The necessity for improving the quality of clothing materials is receiving attention. Another aspect of the matter is the possibility of extending the manufacture of clothing to country towns. It may interest honorable members if I make a statement later as to the “development in that regard.
– Will the Minister for Information state whether it is a fact, as reported in the Melbourne Argus to-day, that certain changes are pending in the Department of Information? If that is a fact, will the Minister inform the House of. the nature of the proposed changes?
– The honorable member and his informants seem to know more about that matter than I do. If any changes are made in the department, they will be announced in due course; but, as the matter is not one of urgent public importance, I suggest that the honorable member put his question on the notice-paper.
” THE BRISBANE LINE “.
Report of Royal. Commission.
– Does the Prime Minister intend to allow the House an opportunity, before the present sittings are concluded, to debate Order of the Day No. 4-
Alleged missing document relating to defence plans - Report of royal commission - Motion for printing paper?
– Yes. I said last week that such an opportunity would be given.
Emergency Supplies - Release of Man-power from the Army.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether or not there has been modification of the policy relating to the keeping of emergency food supplies in inland centres, since the Prime Minister referred to the improvement of the security position of the Commonwealth? If there has not been modification, will the honorable gentleman consider the possibility of the deterioration of foodstuffs which may not now he needed for the purpose originally intended ?
– There has been modification in some portions of the Commonwealth. The matter i3 to be discussed fully to-morrow with the Treasurer and the Food Controller - who is coming from Melbourne for the purpose - after which I shall make a statement in regard to future policy.
– Does the Prime Minister intend that one Minister shall deal with the return of rural workers from the fighting services in order to engage in food production? If not, to which Minister should questions on that matter be addressed? Will applications which wore considered and rejected before the Government’s change of policy occurred be automatically reviewed without further application being made?
– Questions on the matter should be directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, who administers the man-power regulations. The question of whether particular men arc to be released merely because their release has been requested will be decided in the ordinary routine way.
– By whom will it be determined ?
– It will be decided between the Directorate of Man Power and the other departments concerned.
– Is it correct, as slated in the press, that it is proposed to release from the armed forces 2,000 men a month for ten months in order to relieve primary industries of some of the disabilities from which they are suffering? Is the Minister aware that such a policy “would be futile, and that it is im perative that these men be made available forthwith rather than that their release should be spread over a number of months? Will he undertake to give this matter further consideration, with a view to the early release of these men ?
– by leave - As a result, of the recent decision of the Government that, in response to specific recommendations from the Director-General of Man Power, the Army is to release a net total of 20,000 men by June next, for purposes approved by the War Commitments Committee, the following arrangements are in hand for the release of serving Army personnel in order to enable men to return to their civil avocations of rural pursuits: It should be remembered that the average releases of Army personnel each month which will be effected under the Government’s decision will be 2,000, in addition to normal releases brought about by medical, age, or disciplinary reasons. Consequently, it will not be possible to give effect to all applications made in excess of that number. Employers requiring the release of personnel from the Army should submit full particulars of the men required to the chairman of the local War Agricultural Committee, or the national service officer, of the area in which they are residing. The applications will then be investigated, and the man-power authorities will decide on the eligibility of. the men for release, which will be subject to Army concurrence. Whilst sympathetic consideration will be given by the Army authorities to those releases which are recommended by the man-power authorities, there are certain categories of Army personnel which must necessarily remain available to the fighting services. These categories include men on the posted strength of a unit serving in operational areas outside the mainland of Australia, including men who are serving with such units who are on the mainland for the purpose of recreation leave or attending schools or courses of instruction to qualify them for specialist positions in the fighting service. Other classes of persons who will be excluded from consideration are specialists and technical personnel holding key positions in the fighting forces whose release would prejudice
Army efficiency. It is important also that consideration should be given to the wishes of the Army personnel involved and, in normal circumstances, no man who has been nominated for discharge will be released from the Army if any objection is raised by him to his discharge. In all cases of approved release, discharge will be effected at the earliest possible date, subject to conditions of transport and operational necessity. In the early stages it is expected that in the implementation of the policy releases will be slow, but. as time progresses the releases each month will increase in number until the maximum release of 2,000 personnel a month is effected. For the time being, no discharges in excess of that number can be authorized.
Mr.CONELAN. - Does not the Minister for the Army think that the release of men for primary production only may cause chaos, in view of the difficulties already existing in supplying goods to the civilian population, particularly such commodities as are rationed ?
– In addition to the men to be released from the Army, 20,000 men will be released from munitions factories. All applications for the release of men will be forwarded to the DirectorGeneral of Man Power, who will then recommend the industries to which such persons shall be allocated.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that boys who are taken into the Army for training at eighteen years of age cannot qualify for home leave until they have served for twelve months, and also whether those hoys in the Army who were sent to Queensland to assist in cutting sugar cane did not have the period of three months for which they were engaged on such work included in their period of service, and therefore will have to wait fifteen months before they are given home leave?
– I am not aware that what the honorable member has stated are facts.
– I am asking whether they are facts.
– I shall inquire into the matter and advise the honorable gentleman later. Unfortunately, owing to transport difficulties and to operational requirements, a large number of men in the armed forces have to serve for substantial periods away from home before they can be granted leave. Consideration of operational requirements does not, of course, apply in the case of personnel between the ages of eighteen and nineteen years. I shall obtain the information asked for by the honorable member.
– Now that the Government has changed its policy with respect to the release of men from the Army in order to relieve the shortage of rural man-power, I ask the Minister for the Army what is the position of those men who applied for release during the last twelve months?Will they be obliged to re-apply, or will their previous applications be automatically reviewed?
– Fresh applications will have to be made.
– By whom; by the men themselves or their fathers?
– As the men will be at advanced operational stations, they probably have not the facilities to make such applications. The father or previous employer of a man whose release is desired should apply to the district agricultural committee, which will fully consider the claim and make a recommendation to the Di recto r-General of Man Power. The latter, in turn, will make a recommendation on each claim to the Army authorities.
– I ask the Minister for Munitions, in the absence of the Minister for Labour and National Service, whether he can say at what rate men will be diverted from munitions work? Will men be diverted as the result of individual application by employers seeking labour or will men be just drafted from the munitions industry to industries in which they are required ?
– The diversion of labour is to be completed by the 30th June, 1944, and it will be made in accordance with orders of priority. The man-power authorities and officers of the Munitions Department will confer for the purpose of arranging the draft in the most expeditious and satisfactory way.
– In any statement that the Minister for the Army has made from time to time about the release of men from the Army to industry, is there any prohibition of the release of members of the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions to assist in primary production?
– As the threat of invasion of Australia has disappeared, will the Prime Minister give consideration to the release of 200,000 local defence militiamen to assist in both the primary and the secondary industries? Canada has already taken action to reduce its home defence forces by thousands of men.
– There is absolutely no analogybetween Canada and Australia. The answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is that the whole matter has been reviewed by the most competent advisers available to the Government. The Government has made a decision ; that decision stands. At the end of December there will be a review of the general position, but the idea that 200,000 men, or a number approaching that, could be released from the Australian fighting services at this juncture is fantastic.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House what the Government proposes to do to reduce the black marketing that is now prevalent in the clothing trade? Are fines to be imposed, and more rigid restrictions placed upon those responsible for this exploitation of the community?
– The honorable member has referred to a problem of great difficulty. Parliament passed a Black Marketing Act enabling prosecutions to be launched against persons charged with committing breaches of the prices regulations or of other regulations dealing with the marketing of goods. Before a prosecution can be launched, it must be recommended by a committee. I think it is correct to say that in nearly every instance in which a committee has recommended a prosecution the prosecution has been launched. The act provides that the minimum penalty, upon conviction; shall be three months imprisonment. But the experience has been that the courts, notwithstanding the expressed will of Parliament, have suspended the sentences after having imposed them. Moreover, there is no uniformity in regard to the decisions of magistrates in cases pertaining to the prices regulations. A case which appears to us to be serious is not so regarded by the magistrate who, upon recording a conviction, imposes only a light penalty. In another case which appears to us to be less serious, a severe penalty may be imposed. We are launching a campaign in an endeavour to stamp out black marketing practices, but the difficulties are great. It is hard to get evidence, because the source of information is generally a person who has himself taken part in black-marketing operations. The matter is being investigated by the Ministers concerned including the Minister for Trade and Customs, who is in charge of rationing. I assure the honorable member that everything that we can do on the legal side to assist Ministers to stamp out this pernicious practice will be done.
– It is always difficult to get convictions where the minimum penalty is high.
– I think that is correct, and we have tried to overcome that difficulty by invoking the Black Marketing Act only in serious cases. But we still have this uncertainty in regard to penalties attributed to the offence by the courts. Weare determined to stamp out black marketing, and we want the co-operation of the public so that any cases of which they hear may be brought to our notice.
– Can the Prime
Minister say whether, when the price of wool was advanced on the 1st May, 1942, by arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and tie Government of the United Kingdom, Australia retained the right to approach the British Government for a further alteration of the price? Does the present agreement apply for the duration of the war with Germany and for one year thereafter, or does it apply for the period of the war as a whole? Were any of the other conditions changed when the price was varied ?
– No alterations were made to the agreement except in regard to price.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether any alteration of the conditions now governing the control of the apple and pear industry is contemplated, and, if so, will he give an assurance that before any change is made the growers will be consulted, and also that he will make an early pronouncement of the Government’s intention so that fruit-growers may know where they stand ?
– There is no present intention to alter the existing arrangements in regard to the acquisition of apples and pears. Should any change be contemplated, the honorable gentleman’s suggestions will be given consideration.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say by what authority an officer of the Allied Works Council, Mr. Frank Packer, is empowered to publish a full column ex parte statement in his own newspaper, the Sydney Daily Telegraph, in which the merits of an industrial dispute, in connexion with an undertaking which is under his control, are set out? Further, will the Minister have inquiries made and will he see that Mr. Packer is appropriately dealt with?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for the Interior.
– The statement was made with the approval of the Minister for the Interior.
– The right honorable gentleman is out of order.
– The Prime Minister informs me that the statement published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph was made with the authority of the Minister for the Interior.
– As the Prime Minister seems to be acquainted with this matter will he say whether the Sydney Daily Telegraph has an exclusive right to publish ministerial statements?
– The Daily Telegraph has never had an exclusive right to ministerial statements. Statements are made by me toall the members of the press gallery at conferences, which sometimes are held twice daily, and at other times at regular intervals, but less frequently. The statement to which the honorable member alludes was one which the Minister for the Interior says was made with his approval by a man who knew the facts. The Minister for the Interior is entirely responsible for what is contained in the statement, and he accepts that responsibility.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping reconsider the proposal to cease work at the Wombah molybdenite mine? Is not this the largest molybdenite mine in Australia which, apart from small quantities which are imported, supplies Australia’s wartime requirements of this important mineral? In view of the facts that the mine has been dewatered and reconditioned, that tests prove that this rich material extends to lower levels, and that an efficient manager and staff are available on the job, will he give further consideration to this matter?
– The points raised by the honorable member are important.I shall ask the Minerals Directorate to furnish a report on the subject as soon as possible.
– The public recently witnessed a number of films taken in battle areas shortly after battles had taken place. Does the Minister for Information intend to continue to release such films from time to time in order that the public may be acquainted with the hardships undergone by soldiers at the front?
-I advise my honorable, learned and gallant friend that the Department of Information releases those films as soon as practicable, within the limits of security, so that the Australian people may learn what is happening in the battle zones.
– Especially at election times !
– The policy of the department has never been governed, as far as I can ascertain, by electoral considerations.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether his department has made any investigation of water conservation and irrigation proposals in New South Wales as worksfor immediate action on the cessation of hostilities? If so, will priority be given to those projects in the more settled regions of the State, particularly the northern rivers and the north-western districts?
– The honorable member may remember that some time ago it was decided at a meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers, presided over by the Prime Minister, that a National Works Council should be established in Australia. The Commonwealth CoordinatorGeneral of Works,Sir Harry Brown, was empowered to act in conjunction with State co-ordinators in making a list of all national works of immediate or long-range character. That work is being pushed on. I assume that the State organizations or instrumentalities will submit to the State Governments, for their consideration, those projects which they decide should be dealt with as national works.
– Can the Attorney-
General say whether the Rationing Commission has the power to issue its own regulations? If it has, are those regulations submitted to the Attorney-General for his approval before they are made public?
– The Rationing Commission has no power to issue regulations. It, of course, suggests regulations to the responsible Minister, the Minister for Trade and Customs. The suggested regulations are then sent to the legal department for review in order to ascertain whether they carry out policy. If there are any special questions they come to me.
– They are always issued through the Government?
– Yes. All regulations must be made by the Governor-General in Council.
– by leaveI move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1936, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Additionsto the Government offices known as “ West Block “, Canberra.
The office accommodation for Commonwealth officers in Canberra is inadequate to cope with the expansion of staffs in the various departments as a result of wartime activities. Particularly is this so in the West Block, where considerable expansion has taken place in the Department of External Affairs, especially in the cables section. The only practical way to meet this expansion is to construct additions to the building, which will be in the nature of a new wing conforming to the architecture and general plan of the existing building. The actual working space to be provided in the new wing is 16,525 square feet. The estimated cost is £56,000. I lay on the table plans of the new work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether, at anearly date, he will make a clear-cut pronouncement as to what is exactly the Government’s policy with respect to the distribution of superphosphate, and will he take steps to give that information to every farmer, even if he has to go to the extent of sending to each of them, as was done during the election campaign, a letter headed, “ Dear Fellow Producer “ ?
– The distribution of superphosphate is determined by the State Governments after a certain quantity is allocated to each State as the result of arrangements made at meetings of the Agricultural Council. That body, as the honorable member knows, is composed of State Ministers of Agriculture.
It determines policy in respect of the allocation of superphosphate. The Commonwealth has no say whatever with respect 10 the details of distribution to users. That is the responsibility of the Minister for Agriculture in each State.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation request the Cabinet to give favorable consideration to the proposal that ex-servicemen of the last war who have gone blind since demobilization should have their affliction accepted as a war disability in the same way as tuberculosis contracted by ex-servicemen since the last war is accepted as a war disability?
– Consideration will be given to the matter raised by the honorable member.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 8th October (vide page 312), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1. - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, f 8.3S0 “, be agreed to.
– Most of the features of the budget have already been dealt with at length in this debate. The budget itself has been analysed and dissected, and the debate has indicated that it does not possess any new features. I propose to deal at length with the raising of loans during the ensuing twelve months. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) states that he expects to raise not less than £300,000,000 by way of loan in that period. He also says that the number of Australians who contribute to loans is not so great as it should be. He has pointed out that in Canada as many as 2,000,000 people have subscribed to loans, whilst the greatest number of subscribers to any one loan in Australia was 455,000. He is hopeful that 750,000 persons will subscribe to the current loan. Whereas approximately 17.9 per cent, of the people in Canada have subscribed to loans, the greatest percentage of Australians to subscribe to loans up to date is only 6.5 per cent. A total of 750,000 subscribers, who it is hoped will subscribe to the current loan, represents 10 per cent, of our population, and is, therefore, very much below the percentage of subscribers to loans in Canada. Examining the subscriptions to loans on the basis of income groups, we find that 8.4 per cent, of the persons with incomes under £400 a year have subscribed to the Third Liberty Loan, their contributions averaging Id. in the £1 of their income, whilst 61 per cent, of persons in the over £400 a year income group have contributed to loans, their subscriptions representing 3s. in the £1 of their incomes. It may be said that persons with incomes under £400 a year are not in a position to subscribe to loans; but the fact remains that savings banks deposits in the Commonwealth are increasing at the rate of approximately £100,000,000 per annum. In my opinion, the bulk of those savings belongs to the income groups below £400 a year. That matter requires examination in relation to the increase of the note issue since the outbreak of war. In 1939, the note issue was £49,400,000. On the 20th .September last, it had risen to £149,000,000. Although the “latest statistical bulletin of the Commonwealth Bank does not disclose the value of notes held by the trading banks, the figure appears to have remained almost constant, during the last two or three years, at £15,000,000 or £15,200,000. From that information, one can very well deduce that the value of notes held by the public at present is approximately £100,000,000. Therefore, savings bank deposits and notes in the hands of the public represent a sum of £200,000,000, a large part of which could be invested in war loans. The increase of notes in the hands of the public also indicates excessive hoarding. This Parliament, and particularly the Government, must ascertain the reason for the failure of people to invest these funds in the various liberty loans. One of the principal reasons is to be found in the irresponsible manner in which Ministers, during the recent election campaign, told the people from the platform, in the press and by radio that, the proposals of the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) for introducing a system of post-war credits was impracticable, because the money could never be repaid.
– Hear, hear !
– If the Minister for Information is no wiser than his endorsement of that statement indicates, Heaven help this country!
– The Minister for Information declared that even the ordinary loans could not he repaid.
– Contrary to the views of the Minister, I contend that the denunciation by members of the Government of the system of post-war credits was irresponsible and is the cause of the failure of people in the lower income groups to invest in public loans.
– Rubbish !
– Before I conclude my remarks on this subject, I shall tell the Minister something that will take the grin off his face. The right honorable member for Darling Downs estimated that the repayments of post-war credits would amount to £30,000,000 per annum, and members of the Government condemned the proposal, and declared that the debt could not be met. Wow, the Government asks .the people to subscribe £125,000,000, which is more than four times greater than the estimated annual repayments of post-war credits. The people are by no means foolish ; they take out their pencils and pads and make a few calculations with the result that many of them imagine that the Government will not be able in the future to repay public loans. Obviously, that doubt has been caused by the irresponsible statements of persons like the Minister for Information and his colleagues.
– We have placed the anti-Labour parties in opposition for a long time.
– I advise the Minister not to be so sure of that. The cocksure always fall. Last Saturday, I addressed a war loan rally in a country town, and a minister of religion informed me that the clergy were often given by their flock confidences that members of Parliament do not receive. This gentleman emphasized to me the importance of allaying the fear that loans would not be repaid.
– Was the clergyman a member of the Australian Country party ?
– He belonged to one of the oldest churches in Christendom, and I, for one, do not introduce party politics into religious matters. Another fear in the public mind is that the valna of the money invested in loans will depreciate. Consequently, many people prefer to leave their money in the savings banks or hoard their notes in jam tins.
– The honorable member is knocking down all his own aunt sallys.
– The Government and the central bank should make a statement for the purpose of showing that as long as the interest rate on government borrowings is kept constant, the loans will remain at par. People do not understand that, and recall experiences in the days before central banking was developed in Australia. They fail to realize the technique of “ open market “ operations, and they do not know that one of the functions a central bank can perform is to maintain the rate of interest on government bonds or loans at a figure that will keep their value constant. If that fact were made clear to people, the Government would have much happier results in the flotation of loans.
My second submission is that for the purposes of probate and estate duty, the Government should accept bonds at their face value. By agreeing to that proposal, the Government would not run any risk because it is pledged to keep interest rates down and thus the value of bonds will be maintained. It is only when interest rates rise that the value of bonds declines. If the rates be kept down, the price of the bonds will be preserved. Where probate duty has to be paid, arrangements should be made with the National Debt Commission to redeem the bonds and recompense the State governments. Persons in receipt of incomes up to £750 a year should be granted exemption from taxation on premiums paid on life assurance and industrial insurance policies, because more than 90 per cent, of the total income of insurance companies is invested in government loans for the prosecution of One war. The adoption of these proposals would place the Government in a much better position successfully to float loans. If a satisfactory response to the appeal for investments be not obtained and as the Government is pledged not to increase direct taxation, a review’ of indirect taxation will be advisable. Last weak, the’ House agreed to a bill to reduce from 12£ per cent, to 7-J per cent, the sales tax on certain items. I advocate an increase of indirect taxation on non-essential goods and services. That would not increase the cost of living regimen. For example excise on beer and spirits might well be raised.
– By how much?
– I shall not suggest a figure, because I am not such an authority on liquor as is the Minister for Information.
– I am not an authority on the subject.
– I also suggest that itwould inflict no hardship to increase the entertainments tax, and that the tax on racing should be increased. It would also cause no hardship to impose a tax on people travelling on railways, by sea or by air within the Commonwealth, if they are not travelling for business reasons. Those holding workmen’s tickets and season tickets could be exempted. Any one making a train journey nowadays finds it hard to understand why 50 per cent, of the people are travelling, unless it be for pleasure. The suggestions which I have just put forward are being adopted, I believe, in the current budget of the United States of America.
In financing the war the Government is leaning more and more heavily on issues of treasury-bills. Although the Treasurer suggests that the total to be obtained from that source in the coming twelve months will be only £103,000,000, there is every reason to fear that that amount will bc greatly increased if the experience of last year is repeated. The total cost of the war to the 30th June, 1943, was £1,107,000,000, of which taxation provided 33 per cent., loans 43 per cent., use of temporary treasury balances 1 per cent, and treasury-bills 23 per cent. In the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1943, the percentage raised by taxation dropped by nearly 5 per cent, to 28.2 per cent., the amount raised by loans from 43 per cent, to 38.3 per cent., the amount raised by treasury-bills rose from 23 per. cent, to 32 per cent., and the tem porary use of treasury balances increased from 1 per cent, to 1.5 per cent. I suggest that the Government should make every effort by means of loans and taxation to restrict as far as it possibly can thi3 increasing use each year of treasurybill finance. As the Government is pledged not to increase taxation, it will have to finance by means of increased loans. The Treasurer himself has repeatedly drawn attention to the dangers of the kind of finance represented by the increased use of treasury-bills, but little b done to overcome it.
The right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), in his speech on the budget, drew attention to the evasions of income tax now taking place. I suggest to the Government that it might not be very difficult for it to do what was done in Great Britain many years ago by a man who afterwards became famous as Lord Stamp. By applying Pareto’s law to income groups in Great Britain, he found that certain groups showed definite evidences of income tax evasion. Pareto’s law states that the relationship between the numbers in certain income groups and the total income of the groups represents a constant curve. “When the inland revenue authorities in Great Britain found that, in certain cases, this curve was not preserved, they looked for the defaulters in the income groups indicated, and found many of them. I suggest that the taxation authorities in Australia could, by applying the same test, find a great many of the defaulters who must be known to exist in many groups and categories of income earners.
Another method which I believe would assist the Government to prevent the evasion of income tax is to discontinue the present method of issuing bonds for loans, and issue only inscribed stock. In this way the Commonwealth Bank would know who were the holders of the investments. At present the bonds simply pass from hand to hand as bearer bonds, and it is not known from day to day who holds them. This is a fruitful source of tax evasion. I believe that these reforms would close up some of the gaps existing in our tax collection system, prevent many people from evading their responsibilities, and assist the Government to collect a considerable amount more taxation than it does at present.
As regards man-power in Australia and the serious decline of Australia’s food production from its primary industries, the Treasurer said, on the second page of his budget speech - lt is for these reasons that we must now review the war programme as a whole, so as to take into account the limits of man-power and make sure that it is being used not only for good purposes but for the best possible purposes.
He then went on to say that the greatest hindrances to food production were man-power and transport. During the four years of the war approximately 160,000 people have been withdrawn from primary industry in Australia. Despite everything that the Treasurer says in his budget speech about it, the food position in this country is still bad. It is deteriorating, and will deteriorate very much more rapidly owing to the increasing shortages of man-power in the primary industries, and particularly owing to the exhaustion of the very old people, many of whom are endeavouring to carry on food production in Australia without any help whatever. During the last week statements have been issued by the Government with regard to a redistribution of man-power from the Army, and undertakings have been given from time to lime by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and other Ministers as to the way in which that, is being done. Nothing could be more convincing to honorable members than the relation of a few actual instances of how the transfer of men from the Army to primary industry is not being carried out. Quite recently I asked the Minister for the Army -in this House a question regarding B-class men, and he assured me that if any evidence were put before him of B class men not being released from the Army for primary production, the swiftest action possible would be taken to ensure that they were released. I have before me the case of a B class man employed at Toowoomba as orderly in an Army hospital. His brother applied for hi.s release over five months ago to assist him in running a dairy of 40 cows, which also produces 100 tons of lucerne hay. The brother says that the Minister for the Army did not even reply to his application, and the man is still held in the hospital as an orderly, although he would be much better employed assisting on the farm to- produce the dairy products which are so urgently required. I believe that at the present time food production i3 almost the most essentiathing in this country for the winning of the war. When we consider that, with mass production as practised in the United States of America, the shipyards of Henry Kaiser on the west coast of America are turning out a 10,000-ton ship every day of the year, it seems foolish that we should spend many months, in some instances years, in attempting to make a ship of the same size in Australia. We are trying to make aeroplanes in this country in circumstances of the greatest possible difficulty, because we cannot adopt the mass production methods of. the United States of America or of Great Britain. We have to send portions of the planes over our very congested railway systems from capital to capital, to enable the machines to be assembled. We are also making tanks which are already in excess supply in Australia. The whole of our munition* programme requires to be overhauled, so that people may be brought back in those industries which can produce vital foodstuffs, without which no army or nation can win a war. In recent weeks, quite a lot has been published in the press about the meat position in Australia. The people have been told by one authority that there is a shortage of meat, but subsequently the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture gave an assurance that, no such shortage exists.
– The Minister is right.
– He contradicted himself in a press statement issued last Saturday.
– Despite what, has been said by that great authority, the Minister for Information, the facts are these: There is no shortage of mutton in this country because Australia is carrying the greatest number of sheep in its history; but, although there are 13,000,000 head of cattle in this country, there Ls difficulty in obtaining supplies of beef owing to the enormous demands of the Services. However, the main difficulty in the meat industry to-day, ‘and the one which the Government refuses to face, is the fact that certain bottlenecks exist, notably at the Homebush abattoirs. Sydney. Those abattoirs have a sheep slaughtering capacity of 1S0,000 a week, but at present slaughtering would not reach 100,000 sheep a week. A complete chain is out of action because of an alleged shortage of labour.
– How many men would the shortage involve?
– I cannot say exactly. An attempt was made to work three and a half chains, but the slaughtermen would not agree to work half a chain. An endeavour was then made to get the men to work the four complete chains, but the extra men were not supplied. We have been told time and time again that Australia is making a 100 per cent, war effort; the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) himself has said many times that we are engaged upon an “ all-in “ war effort, and that every one in the community must do his utmost. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he considers that beef slaughtermen at Homebush abattoirs, working 22£ hours a week, and mutton slaughtermen, working 35 hours a week, when they work at all, are contributing their share to an “ all-in “ war effort ? I should like to know also whether the Prime Minister considers that Australia and the Allied countries are benefiting from the state of affairs which occurred at Homebush abattoirs on Monday last, when there were 120,000 sheep awaiting slaughter at the end of the morning sales? It is no excuse to say that the cause is a shortage of skilled labour. Very little training is necessary for slaughtering, and if unskilled men were put to work at Homebush to-morrow, within a fortnight they would be just as efficient as those who are employed there now. It is lamentable and hypocritical that the Government should not have the pluck to tell the people just what is going on in this country. It is obvious that, if they wished to do so, even the present number of slaughtermen at Homebush could deal with a far greater number of sheep and cattle than are being slaughtered at present.
Another factor which is causing untold damage to production in Australia is the divided control of agricultural requirements. I have before me a letter from a man at the Kentucky Soldiers’ Settlement, near Armidale, New South Wales, in regard to the supply of fruit-tree spraying outfits. The pumps for these outfits are controlled by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and there is no difficulty whatever in securing them, together with other components of the spraying outfit, but there is the greatest possible difficulty in obtaining engines to drive the pumps, which are controlled by the Ministry of Munitions. It is claimed that the engines are required for the services, but, on the other hand, one is informed that there are hundreds of these engines stacked in various shops, stores and ordnance depots throughout Australia. Another commodity in short supply is galvanized iron, which is urgently needed for making water troughing, windmills and irrigation plants. Only last week I had brought to my notice the case of a farmer in the Cassilis district of New South Wales who required seme galvanized iron and other material urgently to provide a water supply on a block of 5,000 acres which had to be prepared for the arrival of 1,000 bullocks from Queensland for fattening. The cattle were urgently required to supply beef to the Australian and Allied forces. I applied to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, pointing out the urgency of this matter, but not one single piece of troughing or pumping material could be obtained. That is typical of many such cases. Repeatedly, during the life of the last Parliament and, indeed, since this Parliament has met, we have drawn attention to the hardships suffered by primary producers owing to the shortage of horse-shoes, plough-harness, and other material essential for agricultural purposes, but nothing has been d’one. I suggest to the Government that the Department, of Commerce and Agriculture should make a survey of the requirements of primary industries during the next twelve months. It should not be difficult to arrive at a reasonably accurate estimate so that provision could be made to meet the needs of farmers and so assist them to fulfil their production obligations. When one finds, as I did only a short time ago, that a large country store, which in normal times sold 2 tons of horse-shoes a year, had only been able to obtain 10 lb. of shoes in the last twelve months, one begins to appreciate the difficulties under which many farmers are carrying on their work. That sort of thing is happening all over the country. I believe that if an estimate of the next year’s requirements were made as I have suggested, primary production would benefit greatly. Commodities which are urgently required by the man on the land should be given a priority equal to that of munitions.
Another fact which is having a bad effect on primary production throughout Australia is that the Allied Works Council and the Army authorities have so depleted small country garages and engineering shops of their manpower, that it is almost impossible for farmers to have repairs effected to agricultural machinery. With regard to the production of farm machinery in this country, I suggest to the Government that inventors in the United States of America have far outstripped us. A perusal of American journals dealing with agricultural implements shows the enormous range of labour-saving machinery that the manufacturers in that country are producing to-day. The J July issue of Farm Implements News, a journal published in Chicago, shows that a machine is being made which will lift hay from the ground, bale it, wire it and cut it off into required lengths, the only operative necessary being the man driving the tractor. In Australia any machine serving these purposes would need two or three men to operate it. I suggest that the Government should invoke lend-lease to obtain machinery of the American pattern for this work. If that should prove impracticable, the Government should seek permission to have such machines manufactured in this country subject to payment of royalties. Sooner or later these labour-saving machines, which have had such a big influence upon American agricultural operations, will have to be used in Australia, and the Government would do a great service for primary production if it took any necessary steps either to obtain the machines from America or to have them manufactured in Australia. Our primary producers should not be required to carry on their operations with antiquated plant.
I wish now to refer to the need for a stepping-up of the prices of certain primary products. The greatest incentive to the increase of food production in Great Britain was provided by guaranteeing to primary producers a reasonable return for their products. A constant and vigorous protest is being made throughout Australia to-day against the prices that have been fixed for pig meats. If we are to increase our production of pig meats we must give more consideration than has been given hitherto to the just demands of the raisers. A report in the Northern ‘Daily Leader of the 11th October stated that the north and north-west pig producers had just met in a convention which had agreed to certain important recommendations. I understand that these have been, or will be, forwarded to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. One request of the convention was that there should be an all-round increase of the export price of bacon and pig meats to ls. per lb. At present the price of first-quality baconers, that is, those weighing from 101 to 200 lb. dead weight, is 9d. per lb.
– The British price is 6£d. per lb.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the point I am making, and, in any case, the price is adjusted by subsidies.
– The present price to the Australian pig-raisers is 9d. per lb.
– That is so, and the pig-producers consider that it should be ls. per lb. The stock inspector of the Gloucester Pasture Production Board, covering 2,400 land-owners of whom SO per cent, are dairymen, has stated that in that area, the production of pigs, especially baconers, cannot be carried on unless the present price be advanced to lOd. per lb. He has pointed out that although in that district wheat has been made available at country sidings for 3s. 6$d. a bushel, so much of it has to be carted for distances ranging from 10 to 20 miles from railway sidings to farming properties that the price of the wheat becomes prohibitive for use as pig fodder. In some areas the season for baconers is so short that it is not possible to get them to the 101-200 lb. weight. It is contended that more consideration should be given to pig-raisers who are operating in areas with a short season. Alternatively, some arrangement should be made whereby the bacon-curers could take over the pigs and hold them for fattening until they reach the requisite weight. The Government should give the most favorable consideration possible to these submissions and do everything in its power to ensure that primary producers shall be enabled to carry on their operations at maximum capacity. If necessary, arrangements should be made to provide differential prices that would operate fairly as between different districts. A scheme of that kind is in operation in relation to mineral production. It could be adapted with satisfactory results to the food-producing industries.
Another step that should be taken is to clothe the district war agricultural committees with greater power than they possess at present. These committees operate in little if anything more than an advisory capacity. I consider that the value of the committees would be greatly enhanced if they were given more authority. Under the existing regulations the committees may only recommend the release of men for employment in rural industries. It is quite competent for the man-power authorities to reject the recommendations of the committees. The war agricultural committees of Great Britain have much greater power. The British Government lays down the general policy, but the war agricultural committees are responsible for the administration, and they have done a magnificent service in decentralizing many activities. In Australia there is too much centralization in relation to the war agricultural committees, and this is hindering the maximum expansion of our primary industries.
Another matter which is of vital importance to primary production is currency control, especially in relation to exchange rates. The Bulletin of International News, issued on the 5th May, contains an excellent summary of the British and American proposals made recently for an international currency control. There is very little difference between the two schemes as set out in that publication. They aim at establishing a form of currency stabilization. It is pointed out in that publication that one of the prerequisites of a satisfactory international currency system is the prevention of fluctuating exchange rates between nations after the war. The article quotes the following sentence from the British plan : -
We need an instrument of international currency having general acceptance between nations so that blocked balances and bi-lateral clearings are unnecessary.
In the explanation of the respective schemes, it is stated that the instability in world affairs which occurred in the period between the two world wars was largely due to unstable exchanges. I suggest that the unstable exchange rates were an effect and not a cause of the trading disturbances throughout the world. In each of the proposals that are now being put forward in relation to currency certain severe penalty provisions are stressed.
The British plan proposes that every debit country shall pay to the clearing union a charge of 1 per cent, per annum on its annual debit balance in excess of one-quarter of its quota, and a further 1 per cent, of its balance in excess of onehalf of its quota. A country may not increase its debit balance by more than one-quarter of its quota within a year without obtaining the permission of the governing board of the clearing union. If a country’s debit balance shall exceed one-quarter of its quota for at least two years it may devalue its currency by 5 per cent., or more with the permission of the governing board, but this procedure may be used only once, except by permission. If a country’s debit balance exceeds onehalf of its quota the governing board may require the deposit of suitable collateral security. As a condition of allowing a country to exceed one-half of its quota, the governing board may require it to carry out a devaluation of its currency or to impose exchange control of capital transactions. The American plan also proposes a charge of 1 per cent, on any debit balance in excess of a country’s quota. I do not propose to go into all the details of these schemes. I suggest that the Commonwealth Government should take up the subject of international monetary control with other primary-producing countries, such as South Africa, New Zealand and the South American republics. The countries in the southern hemisphere which are interested chiefly in primary production could form a substantial bloc in any conference called to consider monetary subjects. [Extension of time granted.] Australia or any other primary producing country in the southern hemisphere might be seriously embarrassed in respect of international credits through the clearing union for the purpose of importing goods, should it experience a sharp decline of the prices of primary products or the ravages of a severe drought. A more flexible arrangement should be made than is proposed in either the American currency proposals or those put forward on behalf of Britain by Lord Keynes, for the carrying on of a country the exports of which are in excess of a given percentage. The Government should seriously take up this matter with its monetary advisers.
A good deal has been said in regard to the need for stimulating migration to Australia. In proportion to size, Australia is the most lightly populated country in the world. Even an arid country like Arabia has a population of 8.8 to the square mile, compared with approximately 2.5 in this country. Java has a “ population of 38,000,000; adding the populations of other countries in our immediate neighbourhood, there is a total of over 100,000,000, coloured people in close proximity to us. So far the subject of migration has been treated most academically by this Parliament. “We have given our blessing to suggestions in regard to it, but no action has been taken to implement proposals or even to formulate plans. Some of the speeches in this debate, particularly by new members, have been definitely hostile to migration to Australia. The matter is of such tremendous importance to the Commonwealth that it far transcends ordinary party politics; therefore, the Government would be well advised to set up a committee, consisting of members of all parties, to inquire into every aspect of it, including the types of migrants that would be suitable for absorption into our community. We shall have to accept people from the nations of Europe; but we should not admit those whose economic conditions are materially different from oar own. Neither British stock nor Nordic stock from Europe can be obtained in the number required; consequently, we shall have to be prepared to accept people from Eastern Europe and from the countries abutting on the Mediterranean. I understand that, in Spain and in some of the other countries in Europe there are many orphans whose parents have been killed in civil and other wars. The migration of young children of that type in the post-war period would not present any difficulty in respect of language, because they would quickly learn the language of their adopted country; and they would not be burdened by the remembrance of struggles in the lands of their birth. Eventually, they would become fine Australian citizens.
There cannot be peace or happiness in a world in which there is a marked divergence of wealth, either between different classes in a nation or between different nations. The attainment, of peace will be impossible unless the attempt be made to raise the conditions of life of the many millions of people in Asia and Eastern Europe. Those races that have a high industrial standard, such as the western Powers of Europe, the United States of America, and, in less degree, Australia, have to do everything possible to industrialize the countries in which the population is abnormally swollen, and to raise the standards of the peoples. The Netherland East Indies Information Bureau in Melbourne, has pointed out in a publication what the Dutch authorities have done in connexion with the industrialization of their people. If we can raise the purchasing power of Eastern races we shall so stimulate world trade as to provide all the markets we shall need for our primary and secondary products. The demand for machine tools and the other products of highly industrialized nations would improve world trade in every direction. Only by such means s hall we .avoid the tempests that have torn the world apart during the last 100 years.
.- The budget speech presented to the committee by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is not spectacular, hut is a plain, unvarnished tale of a nation’s great achievements. It presents a picture in cold money terms; nevertheless, the picture is one which must arrest attention. The contemplation of what has been accomplished in this country by a population of 7,000,000 persons, in a period of four years - from 1939 to 1943 - must fill any Australian with pride. The intense organization of man-power, and the vast primary and secondary production, have been great achievements. Australians have every reason to regard with satisfaction the transformation from a country that had not m.ade any preparation for war, to one in which there is a most efficient fighting machine.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has made two constructive suggestions. He has asked why Commonwealth bonds are not accepted in payment of estate duty. That decision was made by the Loan Council after long discussion and a good deal of consideration. It arose out of the fact that during the depression the value of a £100 Commonwealth bond fell in the market to £70 or £80. Persons administering estates bought bonds at depressed prices and presented them to the Taxation Department at face value. They can still get acceptance at face value of all bonds issued before 1934.
– I was referring only to the new issues.
– That was a decision of the Loan Council, and the matter would have to be reconsidered in the light of experience.
The honorable member also suggested that life insurance premiums should be exempt from taxation in respect of incomes up to £750 per annum. Life insurance premiums receive a rebate of taxation up to £100 at present. Very few people whose salary did not exceed £750 a year would expend £100 a year on life insurance, and £100 a year would pro vide insurance amounting to about £3,000. That is a fairly generous concession. If a higher exemption were granted it would benefit only taxpayers in the higher income range.
No serious criticism of the budget proposals of the Government has been advanced. We have been told that the budget contains nothing’ new, and that it is similar to the budget of last year. All that I have to say is that it is a war budget; that last year we had a war budget, and, of course, it is the same war. One (paragraph in the Treasurer’s speech raises consideration of a matter that has come prominently under discussion. The Treasurer said -
With the existing high rates of taxation, taxpayers whose incomes fall may find themselves in some difficulty. . . . The Government is, and has been for some time, closely examining all aspects of the matter.
That statement has close relation to the present agitation for an alteration of the income tax law to provide for payasyouearn taxation. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has laid great stress on the need for that system. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) himself made a less emphatic reference to the matter, and urged that it be considered by a parliamentary committee. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has agreed to the adoption of that course, but 1 consider that such action would be premature at present, because the matter is still being examined from all aspects by the Taxation Department and by an advisory committee. Departmental experts are considering by what method the payasyouearn system could best be applied. Other experts are discussing whether an alternative system would be preferable. I am not in a position to express an opinion on the matter, because I have not given sufficient consideration to it.
– What alternative could be adopted ?
– I shall reply to that interjection, but I shall first state the problem. Under the income tax laws of the Commonwealth we have always adopted the present method, as most other countries have done, of taking the previous year’s income as the basis for calculating the current year’s tax. The advantage of that method is that we have definite figures to guide us, and have not to assume the taxpayer’s income. We know how much a taxpayer has earned in the previous year, and we impose tax accordingly. As the Treasurer has said, many taxpayers will find themselves in difficulty if, after a year of high income, they suddenly find their income considerably reduced. Although that difficulty is not new, it becomes more acute than before on account of the high rates of tax now imposed. The difficulty has not become acute only this year. It was acute when the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) was Treasurer, for even at that time Commonwealth and State income taxes totalled up to 14s. in the £1.
– He proposed to meet the position to some degree by a system of post-war credits.
– That would not meet the position at all. In the Fadden budget it was proposed to raise about £25,000,000 by that means, but compare that sum with the amount proposed to be raised to-day by taxation. I agree, however, that serious problems will arise when thousands of persons now engaged in the production of munitions and working overtime return to the wages that they received prior to the war. In the year in which they revert to their former wage they will, under the present law, be called upon to pay taxes based on earnings in the previous year when they received wages plus overtime. The Hardships Board would be flooded with so many applications for relief that it would be unable to deal with all of them. The board has dealt expeditiously and sympathetically with the cases that have already come before it, but it would not be entirely satisfactory to rely on such a means of overcoming the difficulties that will arise. Some taxpayers have not been aware that they could obtain relief by presenting their cases to that hoard, whilst others have been too proud to plead hardship and have preferred to pay the high taxes imposed. I cannot be as dogmatic as some honorable members have been in saying that the only remedy lies in the adoption of the pay-as-you earn system. The committee appointed by the Treasurer has not yet reported the result of its in quiries, but it is considering an alternative system. Instead of departing from the methods employed for many years which, as far as administration and accuracy are concerned, have proved satisfactory, an alternative to the remission in advance of the tax of every person whose income had fallen, would be to deal with each case as it arose.
– There is merit in that suggestion.
– A formula could be devised to meet different circumstances, including the death of the taxpayer.
– That would be unfair, because a prudent man who had provided for his future would be at a disadvantage compared with a man with no assets.
– I have not suggested that a thrifty person should be penalized.
– The right honorable gentleman would meet the situation when the taxpayer dies.
– The honorable member is jumping to conclusions.
– I was not assuming anything.
– The honorable member, without any right, made an assumption of what is in my mind. There are some who contend that a man’s estate should be taken into consideration, and I do not condemn that view, although I do not advocate it. I do not presume to say whether that is the remedy. I have not had an opportunity to go into the matter thoroughly, nor has any other honorable member here.
– The Attorney-General said that he had.
– The AttorneyGeneral came back from England after having discussed the matter with a number of people there who said that the scheme was working all right, and I presume that with the big war task on which he was engaged he had no opportunity to go into details. If he has reached a decision on the matter, or if any other honorable member has reached a decision on it, I ask whether he has decided upon the American system, the Canadian system, or the British system ? Surely that is an important point.
– That is a matter for the Government to decide.
– It is a matter which must be decided by any man who says that the pay-as-you-earn system ought to be adopted here. At this stage, I am putting a case urging an investigation as to which is the best method to adopt. I recognize that the problem must be faced.
Honorable members may be aware that in the United States of America people were very keen on this system for a good many years. A committee of ways and means recommended it six years ago. The Treasury was keen on it also, but the motive behind its keenness was that incomes were rising after the depression and the Treasury wanted to catch up with them.
– Yes, the situation was just the opposite from what it is here.
– That is so. By anticipating the twelve months period they proposed to catch the taxpayer on his higher income.
– Did not the taxpayer have to pay an extra 25 per cent.?
– Hehad to pay an extra 25 per cent in the transition year, but the payment was spread over two years. Seventy-five per cent of the amount was forgiven, but the Treasury got over that by raising income tax rates all round. Moreover, in the United States of America, the system of collecting income tax by instalments had been in operation for years. Here, it would have to be introduced if we included in the scheme other than wage and salary earners. That is not an insuperable difficulty, I know, but at the present time it would be very embarrassing to the department because of the shortage of manpower and machines. In Canada, 50 per cent of the previous year’s tax was forgiven. They had already been collecting six months in advance, as we collect three months. By forgiving 50 per cent of the tax, they went on as they had been without imposing any penalty in the shape of higher rates.
– They had an averaging system, too.
– Yes. Six years elapsed from the time when the scheme was first recommended in the United States of America until it was adopted.
In Great Britain, it is proposed to introduce the system next financial year - after April, I think. So far as one can judge from the press cables - and that is all the information I have - it is proposed in Great Britain to make the system apply only to salaries and wages, which makes the transition a simple matter. The important consideration is: how much of the tax is to be forgiven? The question should be referred to a committee of this Parliament after all relevant data has been collected by the experts. The committee would then recommend whether the Canadian, or the British, or the American system should be adopted. Another point to be decided is whether all or part of the last year’s tax shall be forgiven. In Canada, 50 per cent is forgiven and in the United States of America 75 per cent. Have honorable members made up their minds on those points? They are very important.
– Those matters can be settled only after investigation.
– Yes, and only by referring them to a committee of Parliament will it be possible to reach agree- ment. It is not a party question. Two years ago I sat on a taxation committee with the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Fadden), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), and others. We sifted many difficult administrative questions and, in most instances, reached unanimous decisions, which went through Parliament in a few days. Had the matter been brought to the House without such prior inquiry, the debate would have taken weeks. I do not think that we ought to dismiss the idea of a committee; but we should not set it up unil the experts have given us all the data.
If it is decided to forgive 75 per cent of the previous year’s tax, we must say to the farmer, “You have to pay 25 per cent in addition to this year’s tax in order to come into the scheme”. We may give him two years to pay the amount, but, even so, he will probably say, “ I have enough tax to pay this year. Rates being already so high, this is not the year in which to introduce the scheme”. In the United States of America, the farmer has to make out his own assessment according to a printed scale. If such printed forms are supplied to the farmers here many of them will probably be lost. Moreover, if the American farmer works out his assessment at 33 per cent below what it ought to be. he is compelled to pay a penalty rate: I have a feeling that we shall have curses heaped upon us for introducing this scheme unless we examine it very carefully.
The alternative suggestion is that, if a man ceases to earn, whether through death or retirement, or if his income is shown to be permanently reduced, an adjustment should be made to meet the case. The ups and downs of a business man’s income tend to balance one another in the long run, but I am referring now to the case of a public servant, for instance, who was earning, say £2,000 a year, and then retires on a pension of £8 a week. There is also the case of the worker in a munitions factory who is now earning a higher income th rough working overtime, but who will later drop back to his customary income of £5 or £6 a week.
– Or the man employed by the Civil Constructional Corps.
– Or the politician.
– Yes, although the politician does not provide the best illustration. When a member of Parliament gets into the Ministry, he knows that his position will carry with it a higher income and he should make provision for the extra taxation. Moreover, in the first year, he will be taxed only upon his lower earnings of the previous year. I have a good deal of sympathy with the cases mentioned, but similar things have happened before. As I have said, there arc two ways in which this matter might be handled. One is by the system of pay-as-you-earn taxation; the other is to meet the situation as it arises, and to say to the woman whose husband has died, “ We shall write off last year’s tax “. That is a generous attitude. But would it not be better to wipe off the indebtedness after a man was dead, rather than alter the act to permit it to be wiped off 40 years before he died ? The cost would be exactly the same in the long run.
– The principle of taxing last year’s income was an invention of the Treasury.
– It is a principle which has been in operation in most countries for many years, because it is the only accurate method of imposing taxes.
– The right honorable member for NorthSydney (Mr. Hughes) introduced that system.
– The right honorable gentleman was closely associated with the man who did it. However, that does not make the system either right or wrong; although the right honorable gentleman’s association with it is almost sufficient to convince me that it was wrong. It is just as easy to wipe out the debt when the difficulty arises as it is to make a general forgiveness in advance. I want both aspects to be investigated thoroughly before I am prepared to come to a decision. Should the payasyouearn systembe introduced, there will be a lot of disillusionment. Honorable members may recall some of the advertisements which appeared during the recent election campaign in an attempt to create the impression that a year’s taxes would be remitted under the pay-as-you-earn system.
– The electors took no notice of those advertisements.
– The advertisements did not deceive me, but they did deceive some persons in the community. However, the result of the electionwas not greatly affected thereby. One objection to the alternative scheme will immediately occur to our minds; namely, that if we wipe out the previous year’s tax when the problem of death, or of loss or reduction of income, arises, we shall also suffer a loss in the first year of income. If the war were to end next year and the members of the fighting services returned, under the present system they would not be required to pay any tax in their first year of earning. Under the pay-as-you-earn system they would pay taxes from the first week that they recommenced earning.
– Under the instalment system the tax would be collected during the first week.
– Yes, hut it would be refunded.
– The Treasury would have the money for several months.
– No. The soldier could make out his return on the day that he left the Army, or even before that, ,and could say that during the previous financial year he had no assessable income. On that ground he could claim exemption. I admit that the difficulty could be partially overcome by exempting all service personnel from payment of taxes for the first year after returning to civil life. That, however, would not remove all the problems, although there is a good deal to be said in favour of not imposing taxes in the first year in which a person earns income. For instance, a man may engage in farming, in which event he will need in the first year of operations ‘all ‘ the cash that he possesses. Under the present system he is given twelve months’ grace; but if we adopt the pay-as-you-earn system, he will not have the benefit of any such concession. This problem bristles with difficulties which ought to be investigated. At this stage I urge honorable members to possess their souls in patience until the facts can he placed before a committee of all parties and the committee has presented a report to the Parliament.
It is a truism that every crisis teaches some lesson. In the lifetime of many of us there have been three great world crises, namely, the World War of 1.914-18, the world depression, and the present World War. One of the lessons which the First World War taught us was the danger of unbridled inflation, with its attendant suffering. Although property-owners benefited, the majority of the people suffered; persons on fixed incomes found that their money would not go so far as formerly, whilst workers in receipt of daily rates of pay found that frequently it took eighteen months for an application for higher wages to be heard in the Industrial Court, and that in the meantime many of them were given the sack and had no opportunity to ‘benefit from any increase of wages which might have been awarded. Inflation is the enemy of every section of the community, with the exception of the members of the privileged class who possess property. Having learned from the First World War the danger of inflation, the Menzies Government introduced a system of price control even before the war began; later the Government adopted a system by which interest rates were controlled. Those decisions have had a remarkably steadying influence. Since war was declared, the system has been improved by the correction of early mistakes, and now it is working fairly smoothly, notwithstanding that there are vultures in the community who would feed on the victims of war in order to increase their own profits. As in the last war, some black-marketers have succeeded in some degree in this war; but, generally, the system of control is giving satisfaction. In the war of 1914-18, when there was no control of either prices or interest, the private banking institutions were given such a free hand that they accumulated huge cash reserves. The expenditure of Government money on the war created a state of apparent prosperity, and money flowed into the vaults of the ‘banks. That money enabled the banks to create credit according to their strength, their confidence in themselves, or their recklessness. The trading banks invested large sums in war lo-ans at interest rates as high as 6 per cent, and encouraged individuals to do the same by advancing money to them at 5 per cent. It looked a good proposition. But the banks were lending money at 5 per cent, to those people by bank credit created on the basis of this flowing in of cash reserves, and that was the very foundation of the whole inflation. Then we had the profiteer, who was not controlled, and, especially after 1916, when he got a free hand, prices soared to the skies. People paid through the nose for everything, and the inevitable result was depression. Here are a few figures to show how costs rose : in 1914-15 they rose by 14 per cent., and in the nest year they increased only 2 per cent. That was because in 1915 the Labour Government led by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) brought in prices control. But, when the conscription split came and Labour went out of office, the controls were lifted, and in 1916-17 prices rose by 7 per cent.; in 1917-1S by 9 per cent., in 1918-19 by 17 per cent., and in 1919-20 21 per cent. The increase was gathering momentum. In the four years of war and in two years immediately following the war the cost of living rose by 70 per cent., whereas in the four years of this war it has risen by only 25 per cent. During the last war the rate of interest on Commonwealth bonds, gilt-edged securities, rose from 4 per cent, to 6 per cent. We had to have u conversion loan in the depression time to bring the rate back to 4 per cent.
Ju this war banking control regulations have been issued by the present Treasurer which specify that all the increased funds of the private banks must 1><? deposited in the Commonwealth Bank at a rate of interest which merely covers administrative costs, only three-quarters of 1 per cent. Those funds amount to £116,000,000, on which the rate of interest paid is only los. per cent. Had that control not operated there would have been nothing to prevent the trading banks from using that £116,000,000 to issue bank credit to the amount of about £500,000,000 and invest it in war loans. But that has been stopped. The banks also are not allowed to advance money to subscribers to war loans as that would be a subterfuge, a back-door method of lending their ora bank credit in the war loans. The control also provides that there shall be no increase of profits. The AuditorGeneral makes periodical surveys to see that that is carried out. There is control to-day, and it is reflected in the cost-of-living figures. It may be said that 25 per cent, is a fairly big increase. Yen, it is. The black market operations and the goods that are not controlled contribute. Costs would have gone up even if there were no profiteers. We cannot control the prices of goods and raw materials imported from overseas. They fire contributing factors. But it is very important to note that in the United Kingdom costs have risen by 28 per cent. The rise in Australia has been 25 per cent. The figures are close to each other, but it must be remembered that the United Kingdom adopted a stabilization scheme two years ago, whereas ours was adopted only last April, and has not yet operated. So our cost-of-living increase has been kept down to 25 per cent, without any subsidies at all. In Great Britain the subsidies have reached £180,000,000 per annum, and yet the increased cost of living in Great Britain is still greater than the increase here. In the United States of America the cost of living has increased by 24 per cent., but the statistician there does not include in ‘ the cost-of-living figures all the things that we include. For instance, he does not include tobacco. The duty on tobacco was increased and then tobacco w-as taken out of the range of goods on the prices of which the cost-of-living index number is arrived at. We have learned the lesson of what we can do and ought not to do. With regard to these banking control regulations, I would add that I hope to see the control soon embodied in legislation.
Wc have heard in this place and from alleged authorities outside that we cannot hope to get for peace as much money as we get for war, and that there will be less money for employment when the war is over than there is when the war is on. Well, I say that is a dangerous doctrine to preach. If the people who return from this war are offered the dole and told that there is no money for employment we can look for revolution. They will have learned that one lesson of the depression. It was burned into the souls of men. There are boys returning from this war who, when called up, were emaciated and ill fed. Only because they have been well fed in the Army have they blossomed into men and played the part of men. During the depression I gave work to a man digging in the garden. When I took him in to lunch he was amazed to see butter on the table - amazed to see butter in Australia ! I said, “ What have you had?”, and he said, “Margarine sometimes, jam sometimes, and when I had to buy a pair of boots for the kid, nothing at all ; only dry bread “. From 1929 to 1939, the average number of unemployed was 250,000. .Not until the Avar broke out, not until the guns thundered, was money made available. And when they cease thundering we are told we shall get less money! Those 250,000 men would have had wives, children or dependent parents, and all would represent close on 1,000,000 people on the dole- 1,000,000 on the dole in a country with a population of 7,000,000! The cry was “No money ! “ I . was told that when I was Prime Minister. No money to relieve the sufferings of men, women and children! Yet I have lived, to see £1,100,000,000 expended on war in four years. Well, the people will not be fooled again, and of that amount £259,000,000 was Commonwealth Bank credit. I put to a conference of bankers the proposition that private enterprise could not employ the workless because there was no market for their products - that was true - and that the only way to employ them was on government works. I put forward the proposition that if we put 50,000 men from the unemployed army on full-time work - new work financed by new money which Keynes had .always advocated - they would create a demand for food, clothing and furniture and that another 50,000 would get jobs as the result. The employment of those additional 50,000 men would create further demands, and so the snowball would gain size. We should gather strength and go up hill instead of down. I was told by shrewd, intelligent bankers that I was only painting pictures - dreaming pipe-dreams, one said. Yet I have lived to see the dream come true. Employment has been found, not for employment, but for destruction. We have found £3,100,000,000 in four years to wage war. But we could not get the banks even to see the solution. We then said, “ We will take it into our own hands and issue £1S,000,000 without gold backing”. The rafters of this chamber and in the Senate, and in all the banks and stock exchanges were lifted by protests that such, inflation would bring ruin to the country. It is proposed to utilize £6,000,000 to keep the wheat-farmers on the land ! £12,000,000 to put 50,000 men to work! That proposal was met with cries of “ Ruin ! “ “ Inflation ! “ ; and the non-government majority in the Senate threw it out. Because we proposed to raise £18,000,000 for those purposes we were told that Australia would go bankrupt. When we proposed to export our gold in order to turn it into a live asset we were told that if we did so the last vestige of our .security would be gone; but that was done a few months afterwards by the very people who opposed us. They condemned our proposal on the ground that it meant a fiduciary currency; but all our notes to-day arc fiduciary in the sense that there is no gold behind them. I raise these matters not in any spirit of recrimination - although God knows my experience has been sufficient to make me bitter; I raise them as a warning that we should not repeat that experience in the future. Even if it bc repeated, I may not live to see it; but I hope that no honorable member will ever see it again. I do not say, as some will accuse rue, as they accuse others of saying - people who speak on the money question with more enthusiasm than judg-“ men t - thai: there is no limit to the money that the banks can create. I draw a. distinction between the creation of credit and the creation of bank credit. I do not agree that banks create credit. They create bank credit on the basis of the other fellow’s credit. A man by hard work acquires a farm, property or business, and uses it as security with the bank. That is his credit, and on it the banks issue bank credit by a stroke of the pen, charging interest at the rate of 5, 6, 7 or S per cent. I do not say that there is no limit to the creation of credit; but the limit to the money that can be made available for post-war reconstruction is the limit of our man-power and materials. No one will convince me that if we put men to the production of real wealth - exchangeable and useful goods - that will create an inflation of prices. Immediately a rise takes place, when there is plenty of men and material, it is corrected by an increase of the supply. [Extension of time granted.’] I shall not be convinced that we can create bank credit for destruction, and cannot create it for production. That’ is the first point. I shall nol. agree that we have anything like the same degree of danger of inflation in peace-time production as exists in war-time. We have to take stock of our present position. I fear inflation. I have always feared it, because I studied the effects of inflation in not only Australia, but also other countries. I know the sufferings that were experienced in Australia as the result of inflation and high prices and the depression that followed. I have also seen the ruin in European countries because of inflation. But I have never known of inflation in any country at any time except when circumstances were such as to create a shortage of production. I do not propose to delve into history; but can any honorable member tell me when he has ever known prices to get out of hand except when so many people were withdrawn from production that industry could not supply the demand? In such circumstances prices invariably rise, particularly when they are not controlled.
– What about the situation in France in 1923 when there was inflation ?
– In my opinion, the situation in France at that time was brought about by a policy of deliberate inflation in order to get rid of France’s debts. As a matter of fact, when I arrived in London in 1930 I read in the London press reports that people of England who had lent money to France on a basis of francs, not sterling, were receiving back only one-fifth of the amounts they loaned. They had made the mistake of not insisting that the loans be repaid in sterling. In that case France paid off a foreign debt by inflation.
– The inflation was not the result of war.
– It was. The debts were incurred during the war and. the people of Great Britain, which was lending money to all its allies, had lent that money to France as a part of the allied war effort. As the result of the war, France was bleeding to death, and it paid off some of its debts in an inflated currency. That was a deliberate act on the part of France. Germany paid off its internal debts by deliberately causing inflation inside its borders. That inflation also was the result of the war. “If any other honorable member has any other illustration on this point let him trot it out.
A strange paradox is apparent in our present situation. Our national income figures have practically doubled ; not in a period of production, but during four years of destruction. Here are surprising facts: To-day nearly 1,000,000 persons fewer are employed in the production of civilian needs than there were during the depression. Prior to the war, when there were 250,000 persons unemployed in Australia, nearly 1,000,000 more people were employed in the pro,duction of civilian needs than are so employed to-day. Yet some people wonder why they cannot obtain full issues of such commodities as butter fruit and meat, and clothing during a dreadful war such as this. With respect to the control of prices, the control of interest and inflation, I issue this warning: When the war is over and controls like rationing, and the restriction of sales of goods and properties, are relaxed, or lifted, as we hope they will be, if we let loose the freedom to buy before production gets properly under way, we shall; with the present volume of money in existence, have inflation up to the sky should we lose power to control prices. The remedy will lie in increased constitutional power in the National Government to control these tendencies. I admit that for a period after the war we shall be able to use our war powers until we settle down ; but we shall strike disaster unless the Constitution be altered along the lines recently advocated in this House, or along those which I proposed to this Parliament when I was Prime Minister, namely, that Ave should go the whole way and ask the people for one sovereign Parliament, and only one sovereign Parliament, in this country. However, whether we do that or not, Ave must have power to control prices. Otherwise, we shall have a repetition of the inflation, and the tragedy which followed the last war. God help us if Ave do. When our troops come inarching back again with glad and gallant tread, and Ave say to them, “ You have saved Australia, for us “, shall we be able to say to them also, “We have saved Australia for you. We have protected you, and shall continue to protect you and your dependants from the enemy within, the enemy of unemployment and Avant “ ? When Ave hold out the hand of welcome to them, let us be assured that we shall be able to say, “ Come home to a land fit for heroes to live in !”.
– Upon becoming a member of the National Parliament, I recognized that I had incurred responsibilities which I had not previously carried. I assure honorable members that I regard those responsibilities as a duty. My outlook may be different from that, of many other honorable members, but I have had some experience of business and industrial activities and a practical experience of rural industries. “Whatever my experience has been, it will be used for the benefit of the country. My election to the House of Representatives as a member of the Queensland Country party places me in a unique position. Although the name implies a sectional interest, representative of one State, the policy of the organization is definitely national, and the party leaves to my discretion the making of decisions on the attitude which I shall adopt towards various political questions. That privilege is very valuable to me.
The Queensland Country party is a champion of rural industries, and I shall fight to correct the many deficiencies which now exist in primary production. A few days after I entered this House the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) made a remark with which I did not agree. He stated that secondary production had done far more towards the war effort than had the rural industries. That statement has not a vestige of truth. It reveals the honorable member’s ignorance of the sacrifices that rural industries had made in the conduct of the war. There are casualties in rural industries in the same sense as those in the front line. Early in the war, the young virile and practical men from the countryside enlisted in greater numbers than did those from the cities. What was the result? Aged men and women emerged from their retirement for the purpose of carrying on primary production. Their hours of labour are not limited to 40 a week. They have toiled from daylight till dark, and many of them, in their endeavour to do their part in maintaining the production of food, arc dropping by the wayside.
I mention food because it i3 vital to our war effort. An army can fight only as long as it is fed. I regret that the Government has not seen fit to plan more extensively for the purpose of solving existing food problems. As our war obligations increase, so will our difficulties in providing food mount. But, the Government is still dilly-dallying with the man-power problem and has failed to recognize that the planting season is rapidly passing. If crops be not sown without delay, the size of the harvest will be seriously affected. Already, the production of various commodities is not sufficient to meet, the demand. The oft.repeated statement by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) about the temporary release of servicemen for the purpose of assisting primary producers is not a guarantee to farmers or an inducement to expand their production and they will refrain from doing so until more definite proposals are made. Whilst I recognize the difficulties of the Army, I am rather sorry tha t the decision on manpower has not been more concrete. Servicemen must be released more speedily so that primary producers will know exactly how much labour will be available to them in the planting season.
I point out another vital need in the production of food. The demand is increasing daily. We see the needs in India, which has been stricken with famine, and China’s needs also are great. As our armies advance, more and more countries will require food from Australia. It is only a Christian act to supply those needs. As a ‘Christian country, Australia has the bounden duty to do everything in its power to see that ample food is provided for starving populations. Viewed from another side, common-sense business acumen prompts us to regard those countries as possible markets in (he future. That is an additional reason why we should not lose our grasp of the position.
No one expects the Government to publish in war-time information about the surplus quantities of wheat stored in Australia. But I warn the Government against regarding that surplus as a security for the future. The wheat crop that is now maturing is not excessive. When harvested, it will not augment the accumulated surplus. Will our small reserve be sufficient to meet the demands of starving populations? To ensure the success of the wheat crop that will mature in November, 1944, the Government must prepare its plans well in advance. Preparations should be made for the purpose of ensuring a bountiful harvest to meet overseas demands as they arise. 1 do not agree with the Government’s policy for restricting the production of wheat. Until the introduction of that scheme, Queensland had always been given the right to grow a sufficient quantity to meet the requirements of its home market. Since the outbreak of war, the market in that State has greatly expanded, but production has been purposely restricted. I am not in a position to compare the degree of restriction in Queensland with that imposed in other States, but the policy is most unfortunate. We have heard many complaints about the lack of farm machinery parts and tractors, particularly in the north, and the excuse invariably advanced is that no transport is available to carry them to primary producers. As the result of this inability to obtain those mechanical parts, many crops have been lost. The Government has stupidly restricted the production of wheat in Queensland and has now to transport up to 400 tons daily from the southern States. If it is desired to conserve transport, and to arrange for some primary producers to transfer their activities from one product to another, why not make these arrangements to the advantage of the Commonwealth, and ensure that there is no unnecessary transport of commodities from .the southern States to the north? Man-power also is involved in this restricted wheat policy. The .growers of wheat who made their whole livelihood out of it, having no side-lines, provided themselves with up-to-date machinery with which to plant and harvest their crops, but. to-day it is out of use. There is no better way of conserving man-power than to use up-to-date machinery, but, under- the policy of the present Government, the farmer who is most capable of saving man-power, because he has np-to-date machinery, has to let it stand idle. Apparently, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and the Government do not think- that that is the way to save manpower, and prefer to have produce grown in the most costly way possible.
Another product seriously affecting my electorate and the whole of Australia at this stage is meat. Australia is facing a crisis in meat production brought about ,by four things: (1) Difficulties in transport, particularly inadequate railage for store cattle from breeding areas to fattening areas; (2) substantial price difference between States; (3) man-power shortage; and (4) unsympathetic taxation, which takes scant account of vicissitudes not experienced by other industries. The three first-mentioned problems are of equal importance for the present situation, and are due to lack of vision on the part of the Government in all matters pertaining to production, but the price difference is a negation of the federal spirit and totally unforgivable. We have Australian prices for wool, wheat and butter. Why not for meat? Why should Queensland be penalized with substantially lower prices for meat, tallow and hides? Can we blame Queensland cattlemen for trucking their cattle south, when the difference in price on a 650-lb. beast is Ss. 4d. per 100 lb., in addition to 1-Jd. per lb. for hides, and £2 a ton for tallow? Obviously, they will get more by consigning their cattle south. Is it any wonder that the Queensland Parliament has unanimously protested to the Prime Minister against this iniquity? When honorable members hear the startling figures given to the State Parliament by the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Cooper, they will understand- what a detrimental effect the Commonwealth Government’s policy has had upon the State. For the three months ended the 30th September, 1942, the number of beasts put through the sale yards was 40,318, and for the corresponding period of 1943 it was 25,104, or a decrease of 15,214. The corresponding figures for the killings at the abattoirs were 73,156 and 50,3S6, or a decrease of 22,770. I hope that the Minister will take note of these figures. The sheep-men of Queensland have been forced to decrease their flocks, and have been advised to stock up with cattle. There is .ample first-class land available for fattening purposes, hut they cannot obtain cattle to stock their properties, because they cannot .compete in the open market with southern buyers. The result is that whilst for the six months ended the 30th June, 1942, 100,821 cattle travelled south and crossed the border, the number rose to 206,512 in the six months ended the 30th June, 1943, because the prices were in favour of the southern States. This meant that the cattle were travelling instead of fattening, so that they lost weight or did not put on weight, and their .marketing was delayed. In the early spring rains the Government has a guarantee against drought, and would do well to take advantage of it, if it wants a greatly increased production of meat, by helping to stock all the firstclass lands which arc available in Queensland. That State, which I understand is the only one that has a surplus of meat, cannot work its employees in the abattoirs more than a few hours a week. ‘That is to say, the State with all the surplus production cannot keep its few employees in the abattoirs fully employed. Such is the one-eyed policy of the Government, with its prices favouring the southern States. I advocate an .all-Australian price for meat and by-products, so in effect applying the spirit of federation.
That does not apply only to meat. While I am dealing with the antiQueensland’ attitude of the Government, I draw attention to the protest which the Prime Minister received last week from the growers of deciduous fruits of Stanthorpe against the fixing of their selling prices lower than those in other. States. The State Minister for Agriculture gave the Queensland Parliament equally startling figures regarding the vegetable industry and the tomato industry - .and tomatoes are vegetables and classed as such - showing that all the State’s vegetables were going south. The Minister of Agriculture said that 10,000 cases of tomatoes a week are required .to supply the services. Until the price ceiling was altered by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner to the detriment of Queensland, the growers in’ that State were able to carry on and supply the original quantity, but since the price ceiling was altered, they have not been able to supply more than 50 per cent, of it. As the prices favour the southern States, these commodities have been coming south, and obviously, as the services up north still have to be supplied, the vegetables go - in the first, instance to Sydney, and then have to be sent (back to Queensland at an increased cost. If the Government desires to save money, that is one field which the new War Expenditure Committee can well investigate. I have seen something similar happen, in my own home town. I have seen potatoes sent down to the Potato Board, although the agent reported that they ought to be sent to the services nearby. The reply was, “ No, they must go to Brisbane, and Brisbane will supply the services ‘”’. That is done repeatedly, but in respect of vegetables, including tomatoes, to which I have just referred, it is being done because the price favours the southern States. If that is federation, then I do not want it. I .believe that federation means equal treatment for all, and I cannot accept, the Prices Commissioner’s sstatement, that the higher valuation of the land in the south is a sufficient justification for the huge difference in the prices of the commodities.
As regards dairying, undoubtedly increased production is wanted, and I should like to see the industry in such a position that it can be obtained. Obviously man-power comes into tthe problem to a great degree. It is regrettable that the Government allowed so many men to leave the land, and so many herds to be sold out before any action was taken to stop the drift in production. The figures for the various months of this year, as compared with last year, are astoundingly low. I believe that owing to the early spring rains, which we all aire glad to see, we ought to have a fairly good increase during the summer months which lie ahead, of us, but I must protest against a policy of fixing prices in such a way that ‘ the more the farmer produces the less be receives. That is not an incentive to increase production. Whatever .price is fixed for butter - and ls. 6d. per lb. is not sufficient, and we shall not average even that price throughout the year - should be in full on all production so that when full production is reached in the summer months, the dairyman will be compensated for his losses during drought periods and during the winter months. The prices and conditions now existing inthe industry will not encourage those dairymen who sold their herds to come back into production.
Sitting suspended from 6to8 p.m.
– I agree with the chairman of the Australian Dairymen’s Federation that an inquiry should again be made into costs of production in the dairying industry as the price now paid is not sufficient to meet present-day costs. The conditions now operating in that industry, and the prices which the dairy-farmers are obtaining for their products, give no incentive to increased production. The inquiry should be a continuing one so that those engaged in the industry will secure the return to which they are justly entitled.
I have already asked several questions in the House regarding the 1942 apple and pear acquisition scheme, particularly as it applied to Queensland. In my opinion, the answers given to those questions did not reveal a very favorable state of affairs. In the first place, apples were sold in the open market that year at up to 25s. a case, but the Government immediately imposed a ceiling price of 15s. a case. That may have been all right had the growers received 15s. a case, less handling costs, but they did not. In reply to my questions the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) stated that growers were entitled to receive particulars of their own consignments. That, of course, is only fair and democratic. I venture to say that neither this Government nor any other government would be game to refrain from giving to workers the particulars of’ time and wages to which they were justly entitled. Surely the same right can be claimed for the primary producer. Although the Minister stated that these particulars were available to growers, I am afraid that that was not so. The honorable gentleman must be aware that most of the apples and pears were marketed in bulk under the packing shed brands. Under those conditions growers would have difficulty in proving their claim to the realization price of their product.What did the growers actually receive? They received only 5s. a case, plus railage charges, although leading growers in Queensland claim that it has been openly admitted that in that State there was a profit of 3s. a case on apples, and 4s. a case on pears. In answer to a question which I asked, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that there had been no profit. Obviously, one of these statements is not correct. In my opinion, the Minister’s statement is somewhat evasive. It may apply to the entire apple and pear crop throughout Australia. If the statement by the leading Queensland growers be correct, I submit that, under a decision given in the Tonking case, no Minister or government is justified in taking the realization price of Queensland apple and pear growers to meet deficiencies in returns to growers in other States. I press for further information in regard to the operation of the acquisition scheme. The Minister cannot be proud of the fact that whilst fruit was sold for 15s. a case, the grower received only 5s. a case. No growers’ marketing board ever made such an unholy mess of its management as that. Surely it cannot be suggested that it is good management to appropriate 10s. a case to meet marketing charges, whilst the grower and his family, who have had to work all hours, and in all weathers, to produce the fruit, receive only 5s. a. case? I cannot blame the growers for crying out to be freed of the acquisition scheme and the restoration of open marketing. Last week I received a copy of a protest sent to the Prime Minister by the Deciduous Sectional Fruit Committee of Stanthorpe, against Queensland being penalized by the fixation of a price for apples and pears lower than that applying in the southern States.
I was pleased to hear the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) state that he would make certain recommendations in regard to a revision of the war damage insurance scheme, and I bring to the notice of the honorable gentleman the necessity to reduce the premium payable on plant. Whereas the premium payable on residences is 4s. per cent., that on plant is8s. per cent. Although that may be a fair rate for valuable plant such as that in munitions establishments, rural plant is scattered all over the countryside, and as the risk of damage seems to be negligible there seems to be no valid reason why such plant should be insured at all.
Another vital matter affecting the production of foodstuffs is the lack of spare parts of farm machinery. This matter has been mentioned by several honorable members in the course of this debate. Itis essential that the Government should expedite the manufacture and distribution of these parts, and it seems to me that an elimination of some of the red tape with which this matter is bound up at present would achieve the desired result.
In conclusion, I should like to make what I consider to be a constructive suggestion in relation to our post-war development. It is a matter which is part of the Queensland Country party’s platform policy - the inauguration of a rural community development scheme. The term generally used to cover this subject is decentralization; but I consider that, that word is hardly correct. Australia to-day has too few industries, and decentralization rather suggests the transfer of industries from one place to another, presumably from the city to. the country, whereas I contend that instead of transferring existing industries we should establish new ones. The basis of such a plan is the establishment of rural industries on a sound basis. At present cnr rural industries are not on a sufficiently sound foundation, and it is impossible to erect a safe structure unless the foundation is solid. Our rural industries can be made sound only by fixing a cost of production price for all primary products, plus a reasonable margin of profit. Primary producers must be guaranteed a minimum price instead of a ceiling price, which seldom is realized. I agree that when war conditions no longer exist we should revert to orderly marketing, controlled by grower-elected boards. We have seventeen such boards in Queensland and each one of them has proved a success. If we have sound primary industries we can build sound secondary industries upon them, and thus ensure an increased population, distributed much. more equitably than is the case at present. We should also have an assurance of labour in country districts. As an example of that I shall cite the example of the small industry with which I am associated - the peanut industry. That industry was started in Queensland in 1924, and by 1942 sales had reached an annual value of £250,000. During the last ten years the population of Kingaroy has doubled. ‘ An analysis of the development of that industry shows that it benefits three sections of the rural community. First, the 1,000 growers engaged in the industry are assured of a stable market, because their product is marketed under an orderly marketing system. Secondly, the growers derive added benefit because the doubled population in the town of Kingaroy means that there is a doubled market for other goods which they produce. The second section of the community to benefit is the rural workers. During harvesting more than 500 .men are employed in the district, and a somewhat lesser number at other periods of the year. In the factory at Kingaroy approximately 200 men and women are employed for twelve months of the year. The rural worker has an assurance that his labour will be in demand within the district, and no longer will he be obliged to go to the capital cities seeking a job. His wage is protected because it is fixed by an award. The third section of the community to benefit, is the town business man. His business is doubled because of the doubled population. That is an illustration of what planned rural development can do. It could be multiplied a hundredfold even in the electorate of Maranoa, which produces all major primary products of Australia, including wool, meat, wheat, dairy produce, fruit and .maize. Maranoa, which has tremendous possibilities in that respect, requires killing yards, scouring plants, flour mills and woollen mills. I am opposed to continuance of the policy which encourages the development of one large city in each State, in which there is a concentration of population, to the detriment of the State as a whole. If this country is to prosper it must be by means of a rural community development plan, under which the population in country districts will grow and prosperity increase, with a consequent increase in the prosperity of the cities. What are the features of such a plan? There has been much talk of water conservation. I urge the Government to investigate fully the late Dr. Bradfield’s plan for utilizing the water of the northern rivers by taking them down the western side of the range. I have had a worthy request from local authorities in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland for the support for the Nimbooda water scheme. Proposals have also been advanced for an irrigation scheme at Reids Creek, in the Gayndah district. It will be impossible to extend even our existing primary industries without a better distribution of existing water supplies or the provision of additional water by building dams and the sinking of more artesian wells. There is also a pressing need for coal, which is in plentiful supply at a low price in the Roma and Dalby districts. Oil fuel also is required. I have yet to be convinced that the Roma oil wells have proved a failure, and I am also very interested in the Lakes Entrance field in Victoria. However, if oil cannot bc secured, then there is ample coal, and we should concentrate upon the production of wheat and other products from which power alcohol can be made. The fourth necessity is the provision of electricity in remote areas. I am in favour of rural electrification schemes, subsidized by the Commonwealth Government, for the provision of electricity to the outback districts, not merely for the operation of machinery, but also for the comfort of country residents. The Government should prepare plans to implement such a scheme immediately the state of the war allows it to be done. The only other necessity i3 finance, of which there has been much talk. I do not agree with such random statements as that whatever finance may be needed after the war will be available. The risk of inflation must not bc overlooked. Although I am not particularly scared of that bogy, we should always be careful to see that whatever finance was needed was obtained in the right way. Inflation would be the immediate result of the circulation of money without the backing of assets. No greater security could be offered for the investment of £100,000,000 or £200,000,000 than the development of industries of such worth as those that I have suggested, and the production of foodstuffs. There would be no suggestion of inflation. It is pertinent to ask what the Government proposes to do with members of the fighting services when they return to civil life, if it does not intend to implement such schemes. I have not heard a statement of policy from any government spokesman. All are anxious to give the assurance that their treatment on this occasion will be better than it was after the last war; but that is not sufficiently definite. Is it proposed that they shall be placed in government employment? The thousands of persons who now hold administrative positions will not willingly allow themselves to be displaced by ex-soldiers. All cannot be engaged on road construction. Each must be gwen a permanent livelihood, which has been well earned, and no better avenue could be provided than in the development of industry. If the planning be left until they have returned, a period of chaos must ensue. I appreciate that the necessary man-power cannot be provided at the moment; but surely the Government can spare sufficient finance, and the requisite number of experts, to at least have the plans ready to implement immediately the great day of peace dawns and our boys return to their homes.
.- I pay a tribute to the hew member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) upon his first speech in this chamber, even though in his opening remarks he took me to task on the ground that I had said that industrialists do more than rural workers. As this is the first speech that I have made in the Seventeenth Parliament, any such statement, if made, must have been by way of interjection, to which I may be impulsively inclined at times.
I should not have spoken to-night had I elicited from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) information in response to two questions which I put to him upon matters that I regard as very important in connexion with the essential coal-mining industry. The right honorable gentleman’s rejection of the proposals placed before him by the representatives of the miners leaves me with the impression that he has developed into a highly skilled “ knock-out artist “. Since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have never endeavoured to mislead, but have always attempted honestly and sincerely to place the case for the coal-miners before honorable members. What I have read in the press, in conjunction with the rejection of the miners’ proposals, has led me to the conclusion that the Government has been wrongly advised. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) quoted a maze of figures, an analysis of which proves that his claim that individual production has not risen could not be based on the number of men engaged in the industry. The period that he surveyed extended back to 1924. In that year, in New South W ales alone, the number of persons engaged in the industry was 24,500. Last year, when production rose, the number was barely 17,000. In my electorate, which is responsible for approximately 70 per cent of the total coal production, the number of employees, when I entered this Parliament was 14,000, and to-day it is only 9,000.
– Production per man has decreased.
– Production per man has increased. The figures definitely prove that whilst the production per colliery has been reduced, all records have been exceeded on the basis of the number of men engaged. That has been caused by the mechanization of the industry. The John Darling colliery produced 3,000 tons a day before it was mechanized, and under mechanization it produces 1.600 tons a day. The production at Abermain colliery has dropped by 300 tons a day, and there has also been a decrease at numerous other collieries. The coalowners are more concerned with an increase of profits than with a high tonnage. This has been proved beyond a shadow of doubt. I issued an invitation to any honorable member who cared to do so, to accompany me on a visit to the coal-fields. Although some accepted, they were not able to spend sufficient time there to compare the mechanized with the non-mechanized mines. My friends the honorable members for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) and Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) saw only the old and the new mechanized mines, not production by individual physical exertion; we did not visit one of those mines.
– We did - Richmond main.
– At that mine, the honorable member saw the old puncher machine. I am referring to the mine in which the men hew the coal with a pick while lying on their shoulders. Many persons are prone to condemn the coalminers on the authority of press statements. I put the other side, in the language of verse written by a miner named Jock Graham, who has been totally incapacitated -
You’ve learned to know the miner - the “ black “ man, the “ slack “ man,
But come with me below ground amid the sweat and stress
And watch him at his hard work, his drill work, his skilled work,
See for yourself his true life before you read your press.
Conic down and breathe the dank air. the foul air, the rank air;
Fill up your lungs with coal dust, disease dust, for proof;
Come down and see the cave man, the slave man, the brave man
Risk life to save his mate’s life beneath a falling roof.
Learn of the grim disasters, the churned up, the burned up;
Go seek the mining churchyards and count the growing roll:
Weigh justice then, so feted, so treated, and meted
Against the dark stain spreading, the blood upon the coal.
You’ll see conditions slipping, thro’ tricking, pin-pricking;
The guilt with which he’s burdened you’ll place where it belongs;
And you will be a just man, a fair man, a rare man,
And you’ll raise coal production by righting miners’ wrongs.
These people have many wrongs that need to be righted, most of themdue to what is described as “ pin-pricking “ - pettifogging little things for which the managements are responsible. The managers are charged by the coal-mine owners with devoting their attention mainly to the making of profits. From six to eight weeks ago I suggested to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that the industry should be nationalized, and his reply was that that could not be done. I have also questioned the Prime Minister in this connexion. A coal-miners’ convention has recently concluded in Britain. In the
Sydney Morning Herald of either Thurs>day or Friday last, the report was published that the convention had requested the British Government to make the managements of the coal-mines responsible to it instead of to the owners for the production of coal, and on the following day a report was published that the Government intended to assume control of the industry for the duration of the war. I believe in nationalization, but, if the Government is not prepared to go as far as that, it should make the mine managers responsible to the Government for production. I have seen production held up for the sake of as little as 6d. a day and for as much as 2s. 6d. a day. Thousands of tons of coal have been lost because a mine manager has had to consider production from the financial aspect. Had he not done so, he would probably have received his walking ticket.
I suggest that a fund should be established from which managers could pay such claims until the dispute had been referred to the Board of Reference; the fund to be reimbursed by the owners or the unions which had the decision given against them. That would avoid many stoppages.
At the Pelaw Main mine, 2,000 tons of coal has been hewn annually by each miner in the pillar section. That is most dangerous work. It is the last extraction of coal when the pillars are being removed. There is danger of the earth falling on the retreating miners and casualties frequently occur. To recompense the miners for that dangerous work they receive an increased rate a ton. If the mines were completely equipped with machinery, production would increase, but the companies have not the necessary priorities to enable the machines to be installed. The “ bosses “ refuse to work those portions of the mines under the old system, because it is more profitable to cut the coal by mechanized methods. At Abermain there is a staple seam about 6 feet high which is about 200 feet below the top seam. The company has closed down the staple seam because it is not so profitable to work as other parts of the mine. The miners would have received higher rates of pay for work in that portion of the mine. Under the old system, the miners certainly earned more money than they do to-day and there is therefore dissatisfaction among them.
Another cause of dissatisfaction is the difficulty in obtaining the release from the Arm j’, and from certain industries, of men who could be usefully employed in the coal-mining industry. The miners’ organization has suggested the release of mine-workers from the Army and from the Lithgow munitions works, the Newcastle steelworks and the Port Kembla steelworks. I have been approached by many men who desire release from those industries and also from the Army. The Government claims that relatively few coal-miners are in the Army, but how can it determine that matter? Prior to the war, many thousands of miners were out of work, but were registered as unemployed. Even on their census cards they described themselves, not as miners, but as unemployed, and they joined the Army because at that period they were glad to get clothing, 6s. a. day and an allotment for their wives. Many of those men served in North Africa, Greece and Crete and it is entirely wrong to say that comparatively few coal-miners enlisted.
– What proportion of the total quantity of coal won in the northern district of New South Wales is obtained by mechanized methods?
– About 50 per cent, of it. The “bosses” will not put the machines into the pillars, because human life is cheaper than the machines. That is the callous attitude which some of the owners have adopted. Throughout my mining experience I have never known a mine-owner to lose a machine, but I know that thousands of miners have met with fatal accidents or serious injury in the course of their employment.
In 1942, Mr. J. Jack, a member of the Coal Commission, and I, inspected the State coal-mine at Collinsville, which is the largest coal-mine in Queensland. Certain proposals were made to the miners there, and after my address they agreed to work an extra day a week. We recommended the installation of pony wheeling instead of hand wheeling, and suggested to the mine management that it should adjust the skips or tubs to enable horses to be limbered up to them.
That was not done. The system of chain wheeling was continued, and this requires the wheelers to be very adept in controlling skips running down hill. It was said by the secretary of the Collinsville lodge that the miners would not agree to the proposal for horse wheeling until every skip had been equipped for it. That statement was made in July last and I visited the district in September, 1942.
The opinion of the Government is that underground transport is already the practice and is being carried out wherever possible, but in the opinion of the Coal Commission, there is not one mine in which underground transport has resulted in increased production. That statement indicates that the Government has never been advised on this matter by experts. In a book entitled Goal and Men, by Harold M. Watkins, I have read that underground transport has stimulated coal production in Great Britain. The innovation has also improved labour conditions. In some of the mines in the south coast district of New South Wales there are very low seams and in some instances the miners have to walk 3 miles to the coal face and 3 miles out under a 4-ft. roof. Imagine a miner having to carry picks, drills and explosives in a crouched position for 6 miles daily! If underground transport were provided the miners would reach the coal face much more quickly and would feel much fresher for their work than they do at present. Each man would be able to produce at least an extra 2 tons of coal a day.
Another proposal of the Coal and. Shales Employees Federation is that we should develop the small black coal-mines in Victoria and utilize the brown coal resources. The Government’s view is that the mining of black coal in Victoria is a completely hopeless economic proposition. I point out, however, that we are at war and I ask the Government whether economic factors are weighed in considering the cost of building battleships, aeroplanes and other instruments of war. Battleships and bombers would be useless without the necessary fuel and it would be economic to produce coal, irrespective of the cost. We are expending £1,500,000 a day in the destruction of life because we find it necessary to do so, but the Government is badly advised when it objects, on economic grounds, to the cost of producing coal.
Another proposal put forward by the federation is that special efforts be made to provide proper ventilation in the mines and to minimize dust. What a tragedy it is to see men aged 50 or 55 years no longer able to work because of the effect that coal dust has had on their lungs! They are now in receipt of invalid pensions, but many years elapsed before recognition was obtained of the fact that coal dust was responsible for their lung trouble. The Government’s comment is that this matter has been the subject of attention by the State Department of Mines over a long period. That is true, but nothing has been done about it. The Commonwealth Government has now practically assumed control over the coal-mining industry and it should not be prepared to “ pass the buck “ to the State authorities. I take exception to the fact that this industry comes under the purview of three Ministers. First, there is the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), who deals with the production side, and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) deals with industrial conditions. I claim that production troubles are industrial troubles and those two aspects of the industry should not be separated. When we turn to the subject of tribunals for the industry, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) comes into the picture. When the miners want to find a way out of their difficulties they discover that one Minister “ passes the buck” to another. In all the States except South Australia there is a Department of Mines, which makes for duplication of control.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the coal-mining industry should be brought under the control of the Department of War Organization of Industry?
– The miners have asked that the industry be placed under the control of a Commonwealth Department of Mines. The Government has answered that if that were done every other industry would be entitled to make a similar claim, but the fact is that most other industries are, in fact, controlled by a Commonwealth Minister. The average person does not understand how intricate is the coal-mining industry. No other industry presents so many problems. In no other industry do the workers have to bury themselves for so long away from ‘God’s sunlight. At least, they can enjoy fresh air. For the coalminers there is not even decent sanitation! Is it any wonder that the miners are a community to themselves, that they live a life apart? They have organized a wonderful system of social service among themselves. I discussed this matter some years ago in the House when the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill was under consideration, and so impressed was the late Sir Henry Gullett with what I had to say that he voted for the motion which I then moved.
The coal-miners h’ave asked for a variation of the method of income tax collections. They want a flat rate, the employer to hold the stamps. They have also requested that electric power or compressed air boring machines he provided. I was a borer myself for many years, and I know what the work entails. In 50 per cent, of the mines the old-fashioned system of boring still obtains by which it takes a man half an hour to bore one hole. “With the use of a boring machine a man can bore ten to twelve 6-ft. holes in that time. Electric power is already available in many of the mines, and where it is not there is compressed air which could be used. A boring machine costs about £S0, and the Government should give priority for the purchase of the machines to those owners who are prepared to install them.
Apparently, the Government does not understand the significance of the miners’ request in respect of taxation, so I shall endeavour to make the matter clear. I have some tables here drawn up by the former secretary of the lodge to which I was attached when I was a working miner. His name is Thomas O’Toole, and he it w.as who induced me to stand for Parliament when my predecessor in this House resigned the seat. This matter of taxation has an important bearing on absenteeism, and on what the public may regard as futile and inexplicable stoppages. The figures which I have here make it plain that if a miner works for ten consecutive shifts he works one shift for nothing, because from what he earns on those days one day’s earnings are taken from him in income tax. Therefore, he is tempted to stay away from work after seven days rather than work one day for nothing, and I remind honorable members that there are many men, such as specialists and dentists and others, who do that also. Professional men, such as specialists, dentists and lawyers, are also staying away from work, and spending the off-time at their clubs, rather than earn more money which would be taken from them in taxes. I notice that the barristers are not accepting so many briefs lately. They are reluctant to earn incomes which would he taxed at the rate of 18s. 6d. in the £1, and so they give themselves a holiday every now and then. People who wish to consult a specialist in Macquariestreet, Sydney, often find that he is out of town, and the reason in his case is the same. However, the miner is expected to keep on working all the time, even though he is, in effect, paid for only two days of the three which he works beyond seven days.
– That applies to everybody under present conditions.
– When the Leader of Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) was Prime Minister there was some talk of the iron-workers refusing to work overtime, and then it suddenly fizzled out. What happened?
– My Government did not give them any relief in the matter of taxation. I told them that they could not be treated differently from anybody else.
– Then why not compel professional men to work continuously, and earn more money so that they can pay more in taxes? At the present time, there is nothing to stop a professional man from knocking off work whenever he likes, but the coal-miner is expected to go on working even if he is working for nothing. The position in regard to the miners’ earnings and taxation is set out clearly in the following statement supplied to me from a reliable source: -
Increase of tax due to working three days in excess of seven equals £1 15s.
This increase is actually more than the earnings of one shift, so that by working ten days, he has, out of the last three days worked, only received payment for .two, the remaining shift, plus 5s., being absorbed in taxation.
Increase of tax due to working three days in excess of seven equals £1 10s. (ki., the equivalent of a shift at his rate plus 6d.
Now again, in this case, by working three days in excess of seven he receives in reality only two days’ payment, the remaining day’s earnings having been absorbed in taxation.
An increase of tax of £2 equivalent to his daily rate, .plus 5s. Again, ,by working three days in excess of seven, one shift is alisorbed in taxation.
An increase of £1 15s. in tax equal to his daily rate, and in this case the working of the three extra shifts results in one of the three being absorbed in taxation.
An increase of tax of £2 6s., being the equivalent of a shift at his rate, plus 6s. Again one shift, plus 6s. is absorbed in taxation.
An increase of tax of £2 2s., being the equivalent of one .shift a.t his rate, plus 2s. Again, we have a man working three extra days, and in reality only receiving payment for two, due to one being absorbed’ in taxation.
The conclusion arrived at is that, by working shifts numbers 8, 9 and 10, the employee concerned, in effect, only receives .payment for shifts numbered 8 and 9. Shift 10, although worked by the employee, results in the employee working his full hours at the coal face, or whatever his classification may be, for absolutely no payment whatsoever.
A statement which I have received from Mr. O’Toole, who has been an official of the Miners Federation for 35 years and has worked at a mine which has an excellent record for continuous employment, contains evidence of a similar kind. Mr. O’Toole says that, in his opinion, there are two chief causes of absenteeism in coal-mines, apart from industrial disputes. In view of the great need for coal, he believes that those causes should be investigated. In his opinion financial considerations should be secondary to the paramount need to obtain coal. He emphasizes that the inducement to work additional days beyond seven days becomes less as each successive day passes. M.r. O’Toole points out that a miner who works for ten days practically works one day for nothing when his net earnings are compared with the pay received by a miner who works only for seven days. He realizes that any inducement offered to miners to work ten shifts instead of seven shifts would lead to some criticism, but he regards any improvement of the coal supply as a valuable achievement at a time when coal is so vital to war production. Let us take the case of a single man working as a miner on pillar work and earning £2 5s. a shift. For seven days’ work he earns £15 15s., and after paying £3 10s. in taxes, he has £12 5s. left to take home. If, instead of working seven days, he works eight days, his earnings amount to £18, but his taxes also are greater - £4 6s. - leaving him with £13 14s. If he were to work for nine days his earnings at £2 5s. a day would amount to £20 5s., and after paying £5 4s. in taxes, he would have £15 ls. left. Should he work a total of ten days his earnings would amount to £22 10s. and his net return, after paying £6 2s. in taxes, would be £16 8s. In other words, the miner who works for ten days takes home only £4 3s. more than the man who works for only seven days. As three additional days at £2 5s. represents £6 15s. extra earnings, it will be seen that he has paid £2 12s. more in taxes because of having worked three extra days, so that he actually works one of those days for nothing. Expressed in another way, these figures show that for the last three shifts he receives only £1 7s. 8d., instead of £2 5s., a shift, a difference of 17s. 4d. a shift. The amount paid to him is, therefore, less, than the rate for a first-class shiftman who. although not a miner, is paid fi 9s. 4d. a day.
Let us consider now the case of a contract miner without dependants, earning £2 a day. Should he work for seven days his earnings would total £14, which, after deducting £2 16s. for taxes, would leave him with £11 4s. If, instead of working seven days, he works for eight days, he earns £16, but has £3 12s. deducted for tax, making his net earnings £12 8s. for the eight days. His earnings for nine days’ work would be £18, leaving him with £13 14s. after paying £4 6s. in taxes. On the basis of ten days at £2, he would earn £20, but that amount would be reduced by £5 2s. paid as taxes, leaving him with £14 18s. It will be seen that the man who works ten shifts takes home only £3 14s. more than the man who works seven shifts, notwithstanding that he has earned £6 more. In other words, the man who works ten shifts works one of the last three shifts for nothing. [.Extension of time granted.) A shift man with no dependants, earning £1 9s. 4d. a shift will receive £10 5s. 4d. for seven days’ work. After paying £1 10s. 6d. taxes, he has £8 14s. lOd. left. If. however, he works for eight days, his earnings amount to £11 14s. 8d., but that amount is reduced to £9 14s. 8d. after paying taxes amounting to £2. For nine days’ work his gross earnings would be £13 4s., but his net earnings would be reduced to £10 12s. after paying £2 12s. tax. Should he work for ten days, his earnings would be £14 13s. 4d., which would leave him with a net amount of £11 Ils. 4d. after paying £3 2s. in taxes. These figures show how the man who works more than seven days is penalized. The same conditions apply in respect of wheelers and other mine workers. It is admitted that there are many disputes in the coal-mining industry. The problem before us is to decide whether’ the causes of the disputes can be removed. “What is the remedy? Can disputes be avoided by providing men who work more than seven days with something in the nature of a bonus, or some rebate of taxes? If some encouragement of that kind were provided I am certain that many miners would bc prepared to work an extra day each week. There is a good deal of absenteeism in the coal-mining industry and I know that it is causing the Government great concern. The conditions to which I have drawn attention are largely responsible for that absenteeism. I believe that some encouragement should be given to these men along the lines that I have suggested. With the consent of the committee I shall incorporate the following schedules in Hansard : -
I am indebted to Mr. J. Appleton, secretary of the Northern Miners Organization, for the above table, which confirms in more detail Mr. O’Toole’s statement.
The spotlight of criticism has been focused on the coal-miners, but many professional men in the community absent themselves from duty in order to escape the payment of taxes.
– What evidence has the honorable member in support of that statement?
– When I have tried to make appointments on behalf of sick persons I have found that many professional men claim that their time is fully booked. I repeat that if some encouragement, such as a rebate of taxes, were given, miners would be encouraged to do more work; many of them would volunteer to work an afternoon shift. The result would be a much greater production of coal. On those conditions, I would be prepared to advocate two shifts of six houi-3 each daily. In my opinion, a period of six hours is long enough for men to work in the atmosphere of a coal-mine.
I cannot understand why the Prime Minister seems unwilling to follow the lead of Great Britain and take over the mines for the period of the war, or, failing that, to adopt my SUK gestion to make the mine managers responsible to the Commonwealth Government. Instead of being the servants of the coal companies, whose only desire is to accumulate profits for the mineowners, they would, practically become public servants. I am reminded of an old friend of mine, Mr. Joshua Jeffries, who was once the general superintendent of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited coal-mines and was a recognized expert on coal-mining. He deplored the wasteful methods of producing coal in the Maitland coal-field, which contains some of the best coal in the world, as is proved by its high oil content, high calorific value and volatility. He claimed before a royal commission on coal-mining that only 30 or 35 per cent, of the coal was being mined. Millions of tons of coal have been lost to the nation through the wasteful methods of mining, which are described, in mining parlance, as “ rip, tear and drag it out “. Throughout the MaitlandWallembiGretaCessnock areas - it is all the one seam - the attitude of the mine-owners is, “ Never mind about posterity, let us get rich quickly”. Generations to come will curse the coalowners for having wasted this national asset and the governments for having allowed the waste. Great areas of the
Maitland field are flooded or swamped through greedy owners not having provided sufficient pillar protection against falls. Four mines in one section are closed for that one reason and the coal in them has been lost for all time. Again, in Greta, millions of tons of coal has been lost through proper precautions not having been taken. An underground fire is consuming vast quantities of coal. Honorable members who have travelled on the old Brisbane railway line will probably have seen this . coalconsuming volcano from the train. In the Pelaw Main colliery three 22- yard pillars split and the fall covered six pillars of coal. Millions of tons of coal were lost in one section alone. In other countries, the hydraulic stowage system, which enables the extraction of 100 per cent, of the coal, as 100 per cent, of gold-bearing ore is extracted in this country, is employed. But Australian mine-owners do not care about safety or conservation of our coal assets; all they care about is using “getrichquick “ methods. The ‘day will come when, as the result of the non-adoption of proper methods, this country will be importing coal.
I have suggested another method whereby the Maitland coal resources could be conserved. The trouble is that everybody wants Maitland coal. They are not prepared to mix it with lower grade coal from the Victoria or the Borehole seam in the electorate of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). My electorate contains most of the coal on the northern coal-fields, but in the Newcastle electorate there is a lot of good coking coal and steaming coal. I realize that that coal is not so good as the Maitland coal, but the two grades of coal could be mixed. Those who could effect this mixture say, however, that it would be too much trouble and that bins would have to be built. Any one who visits Newcastle will know how false that is. He will see fifteen rows of trucks of coal waiting to be loaded into boats. A boat, instead of being loaded entirely with Maitland coal, could be loaded alternately with trucks of Maitland coal and trucks of Newcastle coal. That would effect a big saving of Maitland coal, which at the present rate of production under the present methods, will be exhausted within 40 years.
– Order ! The honorable member’s extended time has expired.
.- I had intended to address my remarks on the budget to an entirely different aspect, but the speech of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) prompts me to say something about the coal-mining industry in reply. For a long time, the economy of this country has been based on petrol and coal. When war came, the petrol situation appeared to be serious, but in some way or other, with the aid of the United States of America, we seem to have managed to get petrol. The coal situation, however, is most extraordinary, for, although the quality of the coal and the extent of its seams are equal to any in the world, we are to-day living fi om hand to mouth. As the honorable member for Hunter said, the problems of the coal-mining industry have to be studied objectively. The honorable member said he had no desire to mislead the committee or the country on this important matter, but the trouble with the honorable gentleman is that where the coal-mining industry is concerned his heart leads his head. He places emphasis on aspects of the problem which I believe are apt to lead to faulty conclusions. At the outset he mentioned that the production of coal in this country had risen. It is true that it has risen by a small percentage in the last few years, especially last year, but in 1913, when no mines were mechanized, 12,414,000 tons of coal were produced as compared with the record production last year of 14,855,000 tons. In other words, in the space of thirty years, production of coal has increased by only about 2,000,000 tons. I think that all honorable members, besides the honorable member for Hunter, realize that, with mechanization, the output per man should be materially increased. Under the ordinary contract system, a miner produces, or should produce, from 2 tons to 3-J tons a shift, but with mechanization he produces, or should produce, from Z tons to 6 tons. One would, therefore, be entitled to expect a very much larger increase than 2,000,000 tons in thirty years, especially when about 40 per cent, of the mines have been mechanized. As a matter of fact, the actual output per miner has gone down remarkably in the last few years, as is shown by the following figures, showing the output per man, taken from the New South Wales Year-Booh, 1943: -1935, 3.33 tons; 1936, 3.44 tons; 1937, 3.42 tons; 1938, 3.51 tons; 1939, 3.34 tons; 1940, 3.39 tons; 1941, 3.33 tons. The figure for 1941 is the lowest since 1935, the highest figure achieved before the war. The percentage of coal won mechanically rose from 2S.4 per cent, in 1938, to 40.1 per cent. in 1.941, the last year for which I have been able to obtain figures. These figures mean that the efficiency of the men has been gradually descending when one would have rightly expected it to increase to the remarkable degree experienced in other industries in this country.
The honorable member for Hunter then went on to talk about the wrongs suffered by coal-miners at the hands of the coalowners. Mine-owners and mine managers are only human, and misunderstanding and disagreements will take place with reprisals on both sides; but the fact remains, as we all know, that these pin-pricks, if we can call them such, can be well remedied by repair to the large and well-thought-out arbitration machinery which has been set up, particularly in the last few years. The whole trouble with those working in the coal-mining industry is that, instead of having recourse to arbitration, they go straight out on strike in accordance with their practice from time immemorial.
The honorable, gentleman also said, it. seemed with some bitterness, that the coal-owners thought less of the lives of miners than of the machinery needed to extract pillars. There is not the slightest evidence of that to be found, either by talking to men in the mines or by a study of statistics. Statistics show that the fatality rate in the coal-mines of Australia, is less than in any other country. In the quinquennium 1930-34 in the United States of America, the ratio of fatal accidents was 4.35 per thousand men employed ; in Great Britain, 1.10 per thousand, and in Australia, .79 per thousand. I have endeavoured to discover the comparative fatality statistics for the coal-mining industry and the heavy industries of Australia in order to ascertain whether the coal-mining industry is as dangerous as it is described by the honorable member for Hunter. I have no exact figures, but I have been told that the fatal accidents in the heavy industries are approximately the same as in the coal-mining industry. The honorable member, -in striking a sentimental note and in indulging in “ sob stuff “, gives to the country and to honorable members a misleading impression of the situation on the coal-fields. It is time that’ we realized that the coal-miners are not in the plight they were in 100 or 150 years ago, when they were overworked, badly treated, underpaid men, working under very dangerous conditions. Under the safety regulations, and with the improvements introduced in this country, particularly in the last ten years, the coalminers are not working under less pleasant conditions or in more dangerous surroundings than those in the heavy industries. Honorable members who have seen the heavy industries in operation and have been in rolling mills will have seen mon working in almost intolerable conditions, bombarded with sparks, shrouded with smoke and almost boiled by the heat of the molten metal; Men who work in the coal-mines, which T had the pleasure of visiting not very long ago, do not work in worse conditions than those in the heavy industries. It is true that I did not visit all the mines. However, those which I did visit, accompanied by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), were said to be, and I believe they are, typical of the mines in northern New South Wales. The first mine we visited was Richmond Main,’ which is partly mechanized. At that mine, both the miners and the managers told me that, it was one of the worst mines on the northern coal-field so far as working conditions were concerned.
The honorable member for Hunter spoke about mechanization. He conveyed the impression that whilst mechanization might be a good thing, the owners, and not die miners, would benefit most from it. The contrary is the case. It is true that with mechanization the output for each miner and, therefore, the average output on the basis of the cost of labour, is slightly greater than under the contract system after allowing for capitalization and maintenance costs. But men who have worked in mechanized mines are much happier in their calling, and find the work less onerous than do miners working on the contract system. Further, work in a mechanized mine is less dangerous. Why, therefore, has not, mechanization been introduced in all mines throughout Australia? There are two reasons: first, we cannot obtain the plant which is manufactured almost exclusively in the United States of America. Secondly, a large number of miners are opposed to the introduction of mechanization because under mechanization they earn less .money on a daily basis than under the contract system. ‘We cannot expect miners to abandon immediately the industrial habits and customs which they have inherited from their fathers. The honorable member for Hunter also stated that mine-owners were not working mechanized plants to remove pillars. He failed to tell honorable members about the fact that the miners themselves are opposed to the use of mechanized plant on pillar work. I understand that no material reason exists why mechanized plant should not be used for that purpose. It is possible to use mechanized plant in every mine in New South Wales, with variations according to the depth of seam ; and it could be installed to-morrow in every mine if it were available, and if the miners themselves would consent to its installation. The honorable member for Hunter also referred to nationalization of the mines. He contended that the mines could be worked far more satisfactorily if they were nationalized than is now the case under private enterprise. I should like to make two points with regard to that argument. First, the fact is that just as many strikes have occurred at the State-owned mine at Lithgow as at any controlled by private enterprise. In addition, that mine works at a loss, as is also the case in respect of the State-owned mine at Wonthaggi. Perhaps, a financial loss does not matter so much in war-time as in normal times; but, at least, we have had no greater measure of peace in those nationalized mines than in those controlled by private companies. What advantage is to be gained by nationalizing the mines to-day ? Under our national security legislation, the Government possesses all the powers necessary to vary the conditions in the mines. It has power to say what work is to be carried out, which seams are to be worked, and how the coal shall be disposed of. Therefore, no additional benefit can be obtained merely by nationalizing the mines. So far as their technical working is concerned, the mines are now practically nationalized. Therefore, nationalization does not offer a solution of the problem. Because of their background and, perhaps, for political reasons, the miners themselves desire to see the mines nationalized. Such action will not help to increase the present rate of production.
The next aspect of the problem is that of underground transport. On this matter the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made a reply to the owners which the honorable member for Hunter, has criticized. He said that experience shows that the provision of underground transport did not increase production. I agree with that statement. In only five mines in New South Wales is the distance from the pit top to the coal face 3 miles or longer. All of the other mines have been provided with horse or motor transport to convey the miners to the coal face; and, with one exception, it is possible, I understand, to introduce similar transport in the other five mines. However, I do not believe that the introduction of such transport in the mines would increase production substantially. The whole problem of the production of coal is psychological rather than material. Not only honorable members, but also people outside, hear many stories of the terrible hardships which the miners have to undergo, but the fact remains that if they want to work they can work. A few days ago, the Prime Minister made a statement which I did not challenge at the time, but which I still believe to be incorrect. He said that the average output of each coal-miner in Australia was greater than that in any other country.
– I did not say that. I said that coal production in this country had increased. In referring to other countries I said that they had their problems the same as we had.
– I understood the right honorable gentleman to say that the average production of coal for each man in Australia was at least as great as it was in any other country. At any rate, our annual output in 1942 averaged 750 tons a man compared with a production of 1,230 tons a man in the same year in the United States of America. Thus, the American coal-miner on the average produced approximately 45 per cent, more coal in that year than the Australian coal-miner. Other reasons for that difference exist apart from the greater number of men employed in coal-mines in the United States of America. “We know that from SO per cent, to 90 per cent, of the American mines are mechanized compared with 40 per cent, in Australia. It has also been said that every country in the world suffers difficulties from the coal-miners. There are strikes in the United States of America and in every country in which coal is produced. While one realizes that coal-miners as a class are always very difficult to deal with, the fact remains that the time and coal lost through disputes in Australia is much greater than similar losses incurred in other countries, particularly in Great Britain and the United States of America. For instance, 711,000 coalminers are employed in Great Britain, and had they interrupted their production for the first six months of this year to the same degree as Australian coalminers have interrupted their production in the same period, 37,000,000 tons of coal would have been lost, whereas, in fact, only 214,000 tons of coal were lost in Great Britain as the result of disputes. On the other hand, during the first four months of this year, 616,319 tons of coal have been lost in Australia owing to disputes. Thus, we have lost nearly three times as much coal as has been lost in Great Britain as the result of industrial disputes. As I pointed out earlier, the problem is not so much material as psychological. We must examine the background of the miners, and realize that for centuries they have always resorted to direct action as a means of settling disputes which arise between them and the mine-owners. That attitude has been bred in them through generations, and, therefore, cannot be easily eradicated. We must face that fact. The second point is that, not only honorable members, but also the Australian people generally, must realize what exactly lies behind the whole trouble. It is not true that the Australian coal-miners to-day are underpaid, or overworked. The contrary is rather the case. Since the war commenced, the wages of our coal-miners have increased by 3S per cent, whilst they still work the same hours as they worked at the commencement of the war, namely, seven and a half hours a day for five days a week. I have pointed out that the output for each man has fallen considerably. We can no longer afford to continue with the policy of appeasement to which we have resorted for the last three years. Every government during that period, including those which I supported, has approached the problem in that way. It failed to deal firmly with the problem. It has now been left to the Curtin Government to handle the matter. We cannot go on playing with t he problem. If you ask the older miners themselves and their leaders, all of whom, incidentally, are anxious to obtain increased production, what they think of the situation, they will tell you that discipline amongst the younger miners has absolutely gone by the board. Even so recently as seven years ago, a young miner had some respect for his elders who were, presumably, his betters, and he had some respect for his trade union leaders. To-day, the old miners will tell you, that the young men will not follow them, but prefer to do exactly as they please. Let us study the history of some recent strikes. I cite one which was reported some months ago when 500 miners in one mine in New South Wales ceased work because some small dispute arose over an immaterial point such as the price of potatoes. It was not a matter of pin-pricking by the proprietors, or mine managers. The miners called a meeting at the pit head at which 120 out of the 500 attended. Of those 120 men, 62 voted in favour of a stoppage and 5’S opposed it. The affirmative vote meant that 62 men were responsible for 500 men going on strike, the mine being idle for several days, and the loss of n considerable quantity of coal. That is not an isolated case.
The honorable member for Hunter, who claims to know the motives that actuate miners in going on strike, declared that the men adopt the attitude that it is futile to work hard and earn additional money, because they have to repay it to the Treasury in taxes. Consequently, they do not toil so hard as they might, or they go slow in filling their skips. Presumably, the honorable member considers that the miners should be given special consideration in the form of a rebate of tax. In other words, they should become a privileged class in this community. He suggests that a portion of their wages should be exempt from tax, although no other section is treated with such consideration. The honorable member mentioned that among other persons who go slow are medical practitioners. It, can be said with the utmost confidence of the medical profession that they are working as hard as any other class. I know a number of doctors who are working from morning till night, not caring whether they pay additional taxes on their earnings. All they want to do is to get on with their job. A few days ago a specialist who lives not far from me undertook a journey of 250 miles to see a patient. He travelled in a motor car equipped with a gas producer, the journey took two days, and his net return, after paying taxes, was 7s. 6d. He did not refuse to treat his’ patient because the effort would bring him little remuneration. What can be said of doctors is equally applicable to dentists and a great many other professional men who work hard and pay heavy taxes. Why should we make a special gesture to the coal-miners? The honorable member’s suggestion is indefensible.
Fundamentally, the individual miner is a good, patriotic citizen, but collectively they become affected by mass psychology, which greatly alters their outlook. A solution which should appeal to the miners was the scheme of post-war credits, enunciated by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). Like many other honorable members on this side of the chamber, I have consistently advocated the adoption of that proposal. If a miner refuses to work because a considerable portion of his earnings is absorbed by taxes, the Government could overcome the difficulty by introducing the system of post-war credits. For example, earnings for overtime could be refunded to him after the war. Then, if that plan appealed to the miners, it could be applied with equal success to other sections. Whatever action is taken by the Government, it must be firm. It is useless to promulgate national security regulations unless the Government is prepared to enforce them. The lack of enforcement has an effect on the miners, who are encouraged to say, “We are the masters. We command the resources of Australia at the present time, and the Government must obey us “. The time has long passed for the Government to make a decisive stand on this matter. The Prime Minister should say to the men, “ Thus far and no farther. If you persist in going farther the Government must punish you”. It is only in that way that Australia’s requirements of coal will be met.
.- Other than the fact that a large number of soldiers are stationed in the electorate of Herbert, that portion of Australia has become a lost province and has been largely forgotten by this Parliament. Though that statement might seem to be somewhat far-fetched, it is the truth, and apparently the problem is incapable of easy solution. Transport difficulties arc preventing the shipment to that area of necessary supplies of food and other commodities for the civil population. Every cubic foot of space is earmarked for military purposes. Whilst I appreciate the enormous demands of the fighting services, the needs of the civil population must not be overlooked. The so-called “ advisers “ of the Government, on being show my complaints, retort that they are not true, but I am prepared to believe the statements of the waterside workers. In the past I have pointed out that ships have arrived in northern ports with partly empty holds, and that, space could have been used for the transport of necessaries for the civil population. One of the excuses advanced is that ships put into Bowen for certain purposes, and it is not desirable to unload goods at that port because the vessels must resume their journey without loss of time. My reply is that food and other necessaries of life, awaiting shipment from southern ports, must be conveyed to Townsville and Bowen. The advisers of the Government appear to have overlooked the fact that a ship remains in the Bowen harbour for 48 hours for the purpose of taking on coal and replenishing its water supplies. In that period food could be unloaded for the civil population without delaying the departure of the vessel. The port of Cairns, in the electorate of Kennedy, is placed at a similar disadvantage. Material required for the Innisfail area is unloaded at Cairns and sometimes lies on the wharf for three or four weeks before it is conveyed to the merchants at Innisfail. When I asked the authorities to arrange for a ship to call at Mourilyan I .was told that it would be impossible so to delay the voyage. Admittedly, my suggestion might have meant delaying the boat for a little while, but that, would not occur every day of the week. Recently, a vessel which was making the voyage from Cairns to Innisfail was sent to a southern port for overhaul. For reasons best known to itself, the Department of Supply and Shipping requisitioned the vessel and failed to replace it. The result is that merchants in that area are again experiencing great difficulty in obtaining their requirements. A few days ago, an officer of the department was deputed to visit the locality and to endeavour to solve the problem, so that the civil population will be able to obtain their requirements. I hope that his efforts will be successful.
For a long time, the city council of Townsville has endeavoured to secure assistance from the Commonwealth Government for the purpose of augmenting the water supply of the town. The peacetime population of Townsville, which is 30,000 persons, has increased since the outbreak of war to between 70,000 and 80,000. Is it fair to ask the city council to provide an adequate water supply for all those people? It, is not. Yet twelve months have elapsed since the first representations were made to the Commonwealth Government to provide financial assistance to augment the supply, and nothing has been done. That omission is unfair to the local people. They are not worrying about the fact that large numbers of troops are stationed in the district. The civil population is happy to have the soldiers there. They derive a great deal of comfort from their presence. But, the Commonwealth Government should give the city council at Townsville some satisfaction in respect of its request for assistance to provide adequate water supplies for the greatly increased population. The Australian Capital Territory is experiencing the first days of summer, but northern Queensland is now enduring the heat of summer and the consumption of water is extremely heavy. The augmentation of the supply at Townsville is required not for the local citizens, but for the large numbers of people who have been sent to the district by the Commonwealth Government, such as troops and Civil Constructional Corps workers. These men use large quantities of water. In fact, under such conditions, they are much more extravagant than they are in their own homes. My complaint is that nothing is being done to meet the situation, and I trust that in the near future the position will be rectified.
On a previous occasion, I dealt with the -requisitioning of homes in the city of Townsville and at Bowen by service authorities, and I regret that reports on the subject in reply to protests are not, in accord with the truth. I shall refer to an aggravated case at Townsville. A woman, more than 60 years of age, was evicted from her home by an order of the Army. She occupied the ‘ premises with her mother, who was more than 80 years of age. They asked the person who required the house whether he would be satisfied to take half of it, and leave them in possession of the other half. He declared that he needed the entire premises and by false pretences he succeeded in getting control of them. Alleged to be an officer of the Royal Australian Air Force, he was. in reality, a member of the staff of the Department of Civil Aviation. If that incident had occurred when the Labour party was in Opposition, there would have .been a firstclass “donnybrook” about the matter in this House. I can justify an attack upon the persons responsible for what occurred. It is a disgrace that this man should be allowed to remain there. He strutted around in a uniform that he was not entitled to wear. When the matter became known, he was reprimanded, but was permitted to retain his occupancy of the premises. In other words, he was told to be a “ better boy “ in future. That is an instance of what is occurring at Townsville. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) was deputed by the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to inquire into this matter and I understand that he mad.e a report upon it.
In the district of Townsville are a number of “ ready-to-erect “ houses, or small cottages, which could very well accommodate the young men who are occupying private homes. Because no bolts were available, these structures could not be erected and will probably lie around on the ground until the end of the war when they may be given away. When Australian pioneers had no bolts, they used wire very effectively as a substitute. But apparently these young “ blue orchids “ must have better accommodation than that. It. is considered to be quite satisfactory to accommodate Army personnel in tents, but members of the Royal Australian Air Force must, have something better. They must, occupy, private, homes, regardless of the inconvenience caused to the civilians.
I have in my possession facts relating to the possible eviction of a man aged 75 years, his daughter, son-in-law and their family, who are caring for him. He has been told that all of them will be evicted from the premises if he does not put a value on the property and move out of it without delay. A service department requires it and they will have to find alternative accommodation. The grim irony of the position is that no houses of any description are available in the town. It is remarkable that a number of dwellings could be erected at, Collinsville for miners who, it was alleged, would be transferred there. Actually, they were not. I agree that accommodation should be provided in these places for men before their arrival ; but I contend that single men who are now occupying private homes could very well be accommodated elsewhere. A visitor to Bowen is extremely fortunate to obtain accommodation. ITo hotel provides meals. The visitor must eat in a cafe. The Royal Australian Air Force has taken control of a large hotel. When the licensee declined to make the premises available, he was told that he would be evicted and that the premises would be required for the duration of the war. Eventually. the place was taken over and placed under an armed guard. Within a year the place was handed back to the lessee, but all the furniture had .been sold in the meantime, the owner could not. obtain any to refurnish it, and the place simply became a white elephant. There- were in the town three other hotels, fully furnished, which could have been told to carry on for the convenience of the- public. I am sure that, what was done was done deliberately by these people in a spirit of spite because the lessee would not yield to them when they asked for the place in the first instance. That sort of thing should not. be allowed to go on. With all the time that the Minister has had the position should have been remedied by now, and many of these people ought to have been back in their homes. The Government has appointed a commission to investigate the building of homes after the war, or, I hope, before the war is finished. I trust that, when a start is made with .the building of these places they will not be jerrybuilt little shacks, constructed for a stipulated figure. That is not the kind of home the workers of Australia ought, to have. My information is that the cost of the proposed homes is to be kept down to £600 each at the outside. Judging by places I have seen around Sydney, nice little cottages which cost £1,000 or £3,100 to erect, a “home” costing £600 in those localities could be only a shack. We should not attempt to put the toilers of this country into such places and expect them to rear healthy families. I hope that the homes when built will be at least equal to those erected for the workers in many parts of Sydney, particularly on the Parramatta River. It will be in the best interests of the country in the long run, to erect good dwellings.
I have on the notice-paper a question which has not yet been replied to regarding the seizure of small boats hy the Government, and placing them under armed guard. This action by the authorities is the most stupid thing imaginable. A lot of flat-bottomed dinghies, which could not be navigated with safety outside of a creek, river or lagoon, arc guarded in council yards because they might be used by the enemy in the event of an invasion. At the outside, only two or three men could get into each of them. The men who guard them know what each individual boat cost, and the number that are there, and they have told me that the wages they draw in one month would more than pay the cost of the whole of them, if the Government bought and destroyed them. The Government says that it does not want to destroy them, but, whether that is so or not, they are going to destruction, lying out in the sun and exposed to tropical rains. There may be among thom a few motor-boats of some little use in a not-too-rough sea, but the great bulk of them are practically useless. At the time of the elections, the only boat which people could use to cross an arm of the Burdekin River in case of flood was taken over by the military authorities, and removed to the town. Nearly all the men who are acting as guards over the boats could be doing useful work relieving the man-power position in industry. They are unfit for active service. They realize the uselessness of their present job, but they are kept on it practically at the suggestion of the Department of the Navy on the plea that the boats might be a possible danger if left unguarded. “When I get the answer to the question that I have asked I am satisfied that what these men have told me will be fully borne out.
I understood from the Prime Minister that the Queensland. Government had been consulted in regard to daylight saving, and had agreed to its application to that State, but the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Cooper, says that he has never agreed to it, and that his Government has not expressed any opinion about it.
– I think the honorable member must have misunderstood me.
– Daylight saving is quite unnecessary as regards the major part of Queensland, which has as much right to be exempt from it as has Western Australia. There are no industries in the great bulk of the State.
– Daylight saving has been applied to Queensland because the Queensland Commissioner of Railways said that its application to that .State would save coal and facilitate transport.
– Quite a number of people do not agree with the Queensland Commissioner of Railways in that regard. The Premier of the State is evidently one of them. It is wrong that the Commissioner should be able to advise the ‘Commonwealth Government to take a certain course, while the State Government’s wishes are ignored. It is futile to talk of saving coal in the north of Queensland, because there are no industries there, except a few electric plants at odd places, and not much coal is used on the railways in the north. If daylight, saving will save coal there, it should save it also in Western Australia. Why should everybody be inconvenienced by the introduction of this change in a place in which it has no application? It may be satisfactory in the cities, where big industries are at work and coal is used in large quantities, but why make people in rural areas get up an hour earlier and knock off an hour earlier, if they are working under awards? If the people who advised this change had to put up with the inconvenience experienced by those in the north they would know what it means.
I wish to deal with the lack of manpower in the sugar industry, taking as an example the small, compact area of the Herbert River. The secretary of the local cane-growers association has issued a comprehensive report, from which I quote the following: -
Production for Queensland, which continues to fall, during the past years was as under : -
In other words, in 1941 6.88 tons of cane was used in the manufacture of a ton of sugar, hut in 1942 7.18 tons were required. The report continues -
The decline since 1939, the record year, when production was approximately 900,000 tons of sugar, has been most marked. Further details covering the past two years are as under: -
The fall in production has obviously had a serious effect on the growers’ income.
As a matter of fact, taking the sugar belt to the north of Mackay, which produces practically all of Australia’s sugar, production is down by 37 per cent, or 4.0 per cent, compared with last year. In other words, the total production this year will be about 120,000 tons less than it was last year. The report continues -
Ordinarily, it would bc expected that a lower crop would mean a higher price, due tn tha greater amount being paid for at home consumption price. This did not materialize in 1942, however, due to the extraordinarily poor sugar yield in both mill areas. In that year the growers suffered from the effects of a poor crop, together with a poor sugar yield. The district production for the two years under review is as under: -
The reason for that decline was, first, the lack of fertilizers, and, secondly, the shortage of ma.n-power Which caused deterioration of properties through lack of cultivation. An Italian friend of mine, who is a cane-grower at Innisfail, told me recently that the total quantity of fertilizer that he had been able to secure during the last two seasons was only 16 tons, whereas prior to the shortage he had used 45 tons a year. That is typical of the situation throughout the cane-growing areas. The report continues -
The current year will be even worse and, in fact, will probably be the record lowest year for cane and sugar production. Indications are the crops will be Victoria 140,000, Markmade 100,000, total 240,000.
In other words, almost as much cane was crushed at the Victoria mill in each of the years 1941 and 1942 as will be crushed by both mills together this year. That is a very serious matter. The manpower position is very unsatisfactory. It is true that men are being released from the Army to engage in cane-cutting, but requirements were based on a cane-cutting capacity of 5 tons a day, whereas actually these men are cutting only 2£ tons a day. In these circumstances the grower requires a longer period to crush his crop, which results in the deterioration of the product. I trust that Cabinet will give immediate consideration to this very important matter. In the near future, a large number of Italian farmers and cane-cutters will be released from internment. In that regard I have two suggestions to make: The first is that, so far as possible, the farmers should be permitted to return to their properties, which, in many cases, have been carried on in their absence by their womenfolk. Only recently I had a letter from a girl eighteen years of age who had been a clerical worker at Innisfail. When her father was interned, she went on to the farm and, with the aid of her young brother aged sixteen years, carried on the work and planted 15 acres of new cane this year. She expressed the hope that her father would be home shortly and would be able to take over the management of the farm. In the meantime she has been doing a man’s work. That girl is only one of many women in Queensland who have been doing a wonderful job for Australia in the absence of their menfolk. In some cases their health is being ruined. On one occasion at Ingham I saw an old woman handling tram lines. She appeared to be much too old for such strenuous work. I asked her age and she replied that she was 60, and had been doing that and other work on the farm for fifteen months while her husband was away. Their life’s work had been put into the farm. My second suggestion concerns the many farm labourers who at present are in internment camps and who have no fixed stake in the north at all. In many cases the wives of these men have asked to be permitted to join their husbands. In my view, upon release from internment, these men should be encouraged to settle in other parts of the Commonwealth with their families. In that way the large concentrations of Italians in Queensland could be broken up. Taken away from those colonies the Italians would more readily assimilate Australian ideals. Unfortunately, in Queensland there are many Australians who believe that they are better than the Italians, but that has not been my (experience. Italians can be just as good and just as bad as Australians. I have found that whenever an appeal has been made for money to purchase an ambulance, to build a. hospital, or carry outsome other necessary social work in. the community, the Italians have been only too ready to subscribe liberally. One interned Italian whom I know has subscribed more than £4.000 to war loans in this country. Others have sons in the fighting services. In my opinion . these people should not have been interned.
.- I should not have participated in this debate had it not been for the evidence given before the Commonwealth Housing Commission at Port Pirie, Whyalla and Port Augusta last week.
First, I desire to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and the Government on the budget. It is a document worthy of congratulation, if only because of the fact that the Opposition has refrained from condemning it. Surely that is conclusive evidence that it is satisfactory to the Opposition. It appears to me that the Opposition has attacked only one feature of the budget, namely, the amountreceived by the Government from the sale af war savings certificates. I believe that the reason for the falling off of receipts from this source is that when war was declared those who purchased war savings certificates could not make a larger contribution to the revenues of the Commonwealth because of the necessity to discharge an aggregation of debts that had accumulated during earlier periods of unemployment. When this liability had been overcome, their financial resources enabled them to invest in Commonwealth bonds instead of in war savings certificates.
Much has been made also of the increase of savings bank deposits. That has largely been due to the successful operations of business people, and persons in other walks of life, who, instead of leaving their funds at current account with the trading banks, have placed them at easy call in savings bank deposits. A large percentage of the contributions of insurance companies to war loans represents premium payments by the workers on insurance policies. There is no need to cavil because the budget provides for £10,000,000 or £15,000,000 more on one item than on another. I accept the authoritative dictum that in proportion to our population and resources no country in the world is doing more than Australia in the present struggle.
That the primary producers of Australia would have been far better off had the Curtin Government been in power ten years ago, cannot be doubted. The Scully wheat plan has been a decided factor in the improvement of the position of 70 per cent, of the wheat-growers. I speak with some authority, because it has been my privilege in private life to handle approximately 20,000 assessments annually. Although not all of them have been those of farmers, I have yet had the opportunity to judge that in the last twelve months this section of the community has been on a more satisfactory financial basis than it enjoyed previously. Members of the Opposition did not in 1.938 and 1939 attempt to convince the farmers that they were having a bad time, fis they did just prior to the elections. My electoral division produces three-fifths of the wheat and 80 per cent, of the barley grown in South Australia. In those years some of the wheat-farmers, particularly on Eyre Peninsula, received only ls. 5d. a bushel. In South Australia, wheat is not shipped in bulk; by that, I mean it is shipped by a system of semi-bulk handling. Let us assume that the price of wheat Ls 2s. 6d. a bushel or M. a lb. The tare weight of the bag is 2^ lb. When the merchant purchases the wheat he pays the farmer less than Id. for the bag. The cornsacks are resold at 10s. a dozen. When the wheat is brought in, a further 6s. a dozen is docked. The bags are then sold to other merchants for the packing of potatoes, bran and pollard, at 6s. or 7s. a dozen. Therefore, the merchant receives approximately 20s. a dozen for that for which he has given the farmer less than ls. I did not notice any of our Opposition friends telling the farmers that they were being exploited ; on the contrary they were strangely silent when the insolvency courts in South Australia were listed with the hearings of those farmers who had found it impossible to pay their way.
All will agree that the main trouble with which the Government is likely to be confronted is that of population. In this connexion, the most important matter to be considered is that of housing. I make bold to say that so long as people are permitted to reside in flats puppies will be nursed instead of nature’s greatest gift - the child. There is ample space and opportunity for the development of secondary industries in country districts. It is my privilege to represent in this Parliament a very important division. I have noted with satisfaction, since I have had the pleasure of being here, that every member quite rightly has the idea that the division that he represents is the most important. So long as that rivalry exists, the better will it be for the Commonwealth. I consider that I represent the most important division, and -I should need very convincing argument to cause me to alter my opinion. I crave the indulgence of honorable members while I read extracts from evidence submitted last week to the Commonwealth Housing Commission at Port Pirie, Whyalla and Port Augusta. The newspaper report is as follows: -
Mr. M. M. Bishop (health inspector) said that he had made a detailed inspection of 42(i of the 2.833 houses in Pirie, in areas deemed to lie where the poorer class of house existed. “ Wallu in many instances are badly affected by termites, others are lined with hessian. flannel, packing cases, and other unsuitable materials. Some are unlined,” he continued. “ Lack of deep drainage is the cause of so many houses having no drainage facilities. ‘ The most amazing feature of my inspection was the number of houses with no facilities for bathing. Others had just a dilapidated filled, a curtain across the verandah, or a woodshed with a shower in a corner. The same may be said of laundering facilities.
In fact, some of the houses could be classed as second-rate sheds. The occupiers are not there because they desire it, but because of the necessity to keep a roof above their heads.”
Mr. Bishop told the commission of specific cases of overcrowding, one of which was a case of parents and six children living in two wood and iron unlined rooms. Another placed on a block 73 ft. by 40 ft. had to be wired together to keep it somewhere near its original shape. The parents there were rearing seven children. “ To the best of my knowledge there is only one unoccupied house in this municipality, and it is my intention to ask that it shall he condemned as unfit for habitation “, he said.
Houses unfit for human habitation, 256. “ In addition to those detailed above “, said the inspector, “ I estimate that there would be at least 200’ houses classed as unfit for habitation. I also estimate another 750 homes as being below standard, but could be made good at moderate expense.”
The Chairman : What would you say is the general condition of housing in Pirie?
Witness : Appalling. ‘
You say that there are nearly 1,200 houses in your 2.933 which you class as sub-standard? - That is so. We can operate on an owner only when the habitation is detrimental to health. Four hundred and sixty houses here should be replaced. The others, I think, could be brought up to decent standard.
The Chairman: Do you wish to qualify your statement that some houses you visited were little better than second-rate sheds? That is a somewhat serious statement.
Mr. Bishop: I repeat it.
Dr. B. G. Johnston, health officer to the Port Pirie Municipality, during the course of his evidence and in reply to the question, “ What is your general opinion of the housing in Port Pirie?”, said: “Some of the conditions here are appalling. I should say that between 200 and 300 houses should be deemed uninhabitable. Others are sub-standard, riddled by white ants, and with construction faults.”
I shall now refer to the housing conditions at Whyalla, which is not a town of mushroom-like growth, like that of some mining towns, but has a shipyard, smelting works with blast furnaces and other industries. The following are extracts from newspaper reports : - “ I have not seen anything worse anywhere than the sanitary conditions in Whyalla “, said Mrs. Ryan, woman member of the Housing Commission, after an inspection to-day of shacks in a “ shockingly primitive “ settlement near the sea.
Twenty-six families, about90 people, live in the shacks. Mrs. Ryan said that one family paid £2 7s. 6d. a fortnight rent. There was no bathroom, and water was heated in a copper in the yard and carried into the house in a tub. There was one lavatory to every three families, for which each family paid1s. 3d. a week.
A tin shack costing £10 to build was let to a married couple for £1 a week. Another three-roomed shack housed a man and his wife at 17s.6d. a week, and two men at 7s. 6d. a week each. All furniture was home-made.
The population of the town has increased from 1,850 in 1939 to 7,700 this year. It is estimated that at least 500 houses are needed at once.
Among cases Mr. Riches quoted were: -
A railway employee, his wife and child who had been living on a front verandah for eighteen months. A canvas blind provided the only protection. The baby had never lived inside a room.
A man, his wife, and six children living in a single room (12 ft. by 20 ft.), which was previously a boot shop. There was no bathroom, no washhouse, no facilities. They had been trying to get a home for over twelve months. The council had served notice on them to move, the landlord had given them notice to quit, but there was nowhere else for them to go.
A woman with seven children living in two rooms, all sleeping in one room. They had no bathroom.
Fifteen people living in four rooms at Port Augusta West.
One humpy dweller told Mrs. Ryan, a member of the Housing Commission, that she had been trying to get a home for four years.
Mrs. Ryan: Would you like a place with a bathroom ?
Humpy Dweller: That would be too much to hope for.
And with a laundry? - That would be wonderful. I have almost forgotten what a house looks like inside.
That woman had three small children, said Mr. Riches.
I was much concerned about a statement made to-day by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), when drawing comparisons between the shipbuilding industries of Australia and the United States of America. I was astounded to hear him advocate the discontinuance of the shipbuilding industry in Australia. It has been my pleasure and privilege to board several vessels that have been built at Whyalla. I have also inspected some of the Liberty ships constructed in the United States of America, and I am bound to say that the Australian workmanship compares more than favorably with that of the workers of the United States of America. Many of the men employed in the shipyard at Whyalla would not have entered that service had they received kindly consideration when members of the Opposition were in power. Thelow prices realized for their products forced them out of primary production into the insolvency courts. That is why many of them found their way into the shipbuilding industry, in which they are now performing yeoman service to the British Empire. I much regret the derogatory remarks that have fallen from the lips of the honorable member for New England.
I should fail in my duty if I did not pay respectto the men and women in the fighting services. Those heroes are doing an excellent job for the Government with which it is my pleasure to be associated. They are fighting for Christianity and civilization and for the supremacy of right over might. I have no doubt that the Government will not forget them on their return to their native land. I am confident that they will not be forced to beg for work, but that on their return from the fight for King and country they will receive the consideration that they undoubtedly deserve.
.- I had expected that at this late hour progress would be reported. This is the first time during the three years that I have been a member of this Parliament that, on the first sitting day of the week, the debate has continued after 10.30 p.m. Why this unholy haste to finish? It is true that the Government has some hard thinking to do, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has said on more than one occasion; but honorable members ought not for that reason to be deprived of the opportunity to discuss the business before the House. In my opinion, Parliament should meet next week, particularly in view of the fact that, during the present sittings, we have adjourned early on more than one occasion to enable honorable members to attend diplomatic functions. Those adjournments were agreed to by honorable members in the belief that they would be afforded an opportunity to say what they wanted to when the House re-assembled. I do not think that honorable members should be asked to discuss important business at a late hour at night.
– It is not the best time for being reported in the press.
– I do not particu- larly want to be reported in the press. Most of what I have to say is in favour of the budget, and the rest will consist merely of some suggestions to the Government as to the best way in which to implement its policy. That being the case, it is unlikely, if I am reported at all, that I shall be reported either correctly or in a favorable manner. What I meant was that honorable members would be better able to consider the business before the House after they had rested from the exertions of travel.
It was Shakespeare who said that there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed to a. number of things which he regarded as flaws in the budget, but those things which he condemned are, in my opinion, desirable. For instance, he mentioned the fact that it was proposed this year to issue treasury-bills for £279,000,000. Although this may not be the most desirable way to finance the war, nevertheless it has been conclusively proved that such an issue is safe, having regard to the economy of the country. As the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) pointed out, it is only about ten years ago that he sought approval for a fiduciary issue of £18,000,000, and his proposal was condemned by the Senate on the ground that the issue would constitute inflation. Now we are to have an issue of £279,000,000, and it is regarded as perfectly safe. I believe that the issue of treasury-bills is a step in the right direction, because it enables the Government to assume a greater measure of control of the banking system. I am firmly of opinion that banking should be nationalized as soon as possible. There ought not to be com peting authorities empowered to issue credit. Every cheque that is drawn, and every order which is made on a pastoral company, constitutes an expansion of credit. When I advocate the nationalization of banking, I do not mean that persons now employed in the banks should be deprived of their employment. I believe that the present banking service is inadequate, and might well be extended so as to give the people a greater measure of economic security. In the United States of America, many of the banks have established a personal loan section. A similar service might well be given by the Commonwealth Bank, thus doing away with a great many moneylenders and usurers who have been exploiting the workers for years. As I have said, the private banks should be nationalized, but even before that is done the wretched Commonwealth Bank Board, which was set up by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in 1924, should be abolished, and the right of the Commonwealth Bank to issue notes withdrawn from it and restored to the Treasury. If the Treasury had had this power during the depression in 1931, it would not have been necessary for the Scullin Government to obtain the approval of the Senate to make a fiduciary issue of currency. The necessary steps could have been taken to lift the country out of the depression and, as recent experience has shown, no danger would have been involved.
When the Commonwealth Bank Bill was introduced by Mr. Andrew Fisher in 1911, he made it clear that it was his intention that the bank should be a people’s bank, and that it should be under the control of what he described as a permanent board, namely, the Parliament. He said that it would be a bank belonging to the people, and directly managed by the people’s own agent. Parliament, he said, would be the equivalent of a board of management. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer must immediately consider ways and means to make the Commonwealth Bank once more the servant of the people, instead of being the football of the private banks as it has been ever since the creation of the Commonwealth Bank Board. The right honorable member for Yarra said this afternoon. that it was a dangerous doctrine .to preach that we should not attempt in peace-time the methods of finance which were used in war-time, yet the Commonwealth Bank .Board has issued a report in which it says that very thing. Before the recent elections the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Sir Claude Reading, openly advocated the doctrine which the right honorable member for Yarra this afternoon described as dangerous. The men who will return from the fighting fronts after this war will not accept the statement that employment for them at satisfactory rates of pay cannot be provided, nor will they believe that they cannot be given security against unemployment in a country in which there are ample raw materials to provide work for all. The Government should abolish the Commonwealth Bank Board as at present constituted and restore to the Treasury the control of the note issue. The first Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Sir Denison Miller, said that there was nothing which the Australian people could not achieve in the financial sphere if they had a will to do it. After a lapse of more than 30 years, the people of this country have at last come to appreciate that the problem to be overcome is not one of money, but of the application of man-power to the country’s resources.. They know now that, under a proper system of control, unemployment in any great volume could not exist in this country.
In my opinion, the tempo of government is not, quick enough. Too many matters of policy which ought to be decided by Ministers are referred to boards and committees for reports which, when obtained, are pigeon-holed, and do not again see the light of day. Ministers who accept portfolios should accept also the responsibilities associated with them. They should be prepared to make decisions in regard to the matters under their control, and should not delegate their powers to persons who, because of their long service ‘ under non-Labour governments, have no sympathy with the policy of the Labour party. I favour in some degree the American system, which provides that when a ministry succeeds to the treasury bench Ministers take with them a number of persons whom they know can be trusted to interpret properly the legislation passed, and administer it in the spirit intended by those who introduced it.
– Surely the honorable member does not want to have more “hangers-on” than already exist?
– I believe that many people in this country arc of the opinion that too many powers have been delegated by Ministers to individuals and bodies who are not acquainted with the policy of the government of the day, and, therefore, may make decisions which are not in conformity with the Government’s policy. Such a state of affairs can only lead to industrial and political unrest. Much waste time would be avoided if Ministers would accept the responsibilities that rightly belong to them. I believe that 90 per cent, of the boards in existence could be abolished, and that powers which ought not to have been delegated to heads of departments should in future be exercised by Ministers themselves.
Mention has been made of a post-war housing scheme under which 40,000 houses at an average cost of £1,000 will be constructed. Such a huge undertaking would justify the appointment of a Minister for Housing.
On various occasions the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has referred to Australia’s need for a rauch larger population. This subject is so important that it warrants the appointment of a Minister to examine the possibility of inaugurating a suitable migration scheme. I agree that the most desirable immigrant is the Australianborn child, and consequently I favour the more liberal treatment of prospective parents, by means of relief from taxes on a graduated scale, under which the parents of large families might be relieved of all taxation. I agree with the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) that the time when people should receive assistance is when they need it most. However, it will not, be possible for the natural increase of the population in one generation to meet Australia’s needs in this direction and therefore a policy of migration will have to be followed. This important duty should be entrusted to a full-time Minister for Migration who, in addition to planning sound migration schemes, should also consider schemes for colonization.
– Already the honorable member has suggested two new Ministers.
– In this connexion, I suggest that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) should make up his mind whether he intends to continue to act as Treasurer or as Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. It should not be postwar reconstruction but post-war planning, because planning, not reconstruction is needed. To call it the Department of Post-war Reconstruction is to presuppose that there will be something to reconstruct whereas what is needed is a proper application of minds to the problems that will have to be solved. I suggest therefore to the Treasurer that he should make up his mind, because no one will doubt that the most important portfolio, apart from that of the Prime Minister, as the war proceeds to our final victory, will be that of reconstruction, or, as I prefer, planning. In its embryonic stage the development of post-war planning is being retarded by its being under the control of the Treasurer, because the Treasury is the department which says: “You cannot spend so much ; you cannot do this or that because it will cost so much”. I believe that the Department of Post-war Reconstruction requires some one with imagination and progressive ideas, and I can think of no one more fitted to take the post than the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt).
There should also be a separate ministry for man-power, because, even in the post-war period, man-power will present a complex problem. It is desirable to maintain the present Department of Labour and National Service to regulate the terms and conditions under which various industries shall work and possibly what industries shall be maintained, but there should be a separate ministry for man-power that would make for a greater understanding of the problems which arise in the minds of individuals who are obliged to accept the Government’s direction as to the type of work theyshall undertake and where they shall work. Honorable members are overwhelmed by correspondence on that subject. The urgent problems in the minds of the writers could be properly resolved by an authority created to examine this particular matter.
The next ministry I suggest, having regard to the others I have mentioned, is that of decentralization ‘because, if we are to continue after the war to allow the pre-war flow of people from rural to city areas, we shall not be much farther advanced than we were at the outbreak of war. It is important, too, that industry should be decentralized so that in the event of our being involved in another war there shall not be the same urgent need to shift industries from the coast as has existed in this war. The Government should not flinch from making changes in this connexion; if it sticks stolidly to outworn and outmoded convention, it may have to suffer many otherwise avoidable headaches.
I now pass to a consideration of some matters relating to social security.. I refer particularly to the provisions that are made in other member states of the British Commonwealth of Nations for the payment of allowances to families whose breadwinner is lost. I do not think that even the contemplated social security legislation providing for sickness and unemployment benefits carries with it provision of that sort. In addition, I think that the provision should be made in the income tax law, as a part of the social security plan, for statutory deductions from the earnings of female breadwinners in families. With little expense to the country some rebate of income tax could be allowed to persons who maintain members of their families who otherwise would qualify for pensions. I think also the present pensions scheme is inadequate because of the property and income limitations. The Government should provide in its social legislation for a scheme of universal superannuation providing benefits at a fixed age, say, 60 or 55, regardless of income, on the same basis as child endowment is paid. I should like to see persons eligible for war pensions receive, not the pittance provided for in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, but an amount equal to what will be paid to unemployed persons if the report of the Social Security Committee is adopted, as I believe it will be. That would mean that a married man would receive a pension of £2 10s. for himself, plus £1 10s. for his wife and os. for the first child. Subsequent children would be eligible for child endowment.
On the question of nationalization generally, I suggest that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) should give immediate consideration to the nationalization of the airways of this country. The air-mail services are operated by private companies which are being afforded certain facilities by the Government because of war conditions. Airways are the most important means of covering the vast distances of this country. The people should have a monopoly of air communications such as they now exercise in the control of railways. The Government should also take over complete control of interstate and intra-state shipping. By doing so, it will obviate such conditions as now deprive this country of important defence communications because of the failure of past governments to standardize railway gauges. Anti-Labour governments in the past refused to standardize our railway gauges mainly because such action would be inimical to interstate shipping interests. “We know that 90 per cent, of interstate trade is carried by ships. However, the big shipping companies provide financial support for antiLabour political parties, and, consequently, anti-Labour governments always protect their interests. I disagree with the view expressed to-day by the Prime Minister that the coal-mines should not be nationalized. I submit that, not only the coal-mines, but also all our natural resources belong to the people, and, as the property of the people, they should be administered by the people’s representatives in Parliament.
In referring briefly to the fighting services, I urge that, in the wages of personnel, special allowances should be granted to certain sections in the same way as differential rates are prescribed within certain industries. For instance, in certain industries special margins in excess of the basie rates are provided in respect of noxious work. An extra allowance should be provided for personnel in the fighting services who are serving in the front-line and in areas where they are subject to special privations owing to climatic and other conditions. I am sure that persons who are notserving in operational ‘areas but are anxious to do so would not deny the wisdom and justice of making extra payments of this class to persons serving in such areas.
With respect to post-war planning, I have already said that it is desirable that a special Minister be appointed to attend to this work, which includes such projects as the standardization of railway gauges and various works now under the control of the Co-ordinator-General of Works. Much land hitherto regarded as uneconomical for the production of foodstuffs could be made productive by the use of such machines as bull-dozers. I refer particularly to lands hitherto described as marginal areas, which embrace much land adjacent ito cities. With the .aid of modern machinery these areas could bc made economical propositions for the production of foodstuffs. Had more attention been paid in the past to the development of hydro-electric schemes, those who are obliged to produce coal under the most trying conditions could now be relieved of a great strain. The Treasurer should plan an extensive hydro-electric scheme with a view to providing amenities in country areas equal to those now available to city residents. Water conservation projects designed to combat “droughts should be undertaken. Immediate attention should be given to the replacement and modernization of railway rolling-stock, as has been done in the United States of ‘ America, in order to enable our railway systems to speed up their schedules and thus be better fitted to compete with air services. Many of the matters which I have mentioned are not practicable at present, because the Commonwealth does not possess sufficient power under the Constitution to implement them. I whole-‘ heartedly support the suggestion made this afternoon by the right honorable member for Yarra that the Commonwealth Parliament should be the only sovereign parliament in Australia, and that the State parliaments should be abolished. I urge the Government to submit that proposal to the people as soon as possible by way of a referendum. Although the Cinderella States of Tasmania, Western Australia and South tralia may not see the light in this respect, and may oppose that proposal, I am sure that with the vast increase of population, which Ave must acquire if this country is to become as great as I believe it will within the next 50 years, or within even a shorter period, State boundaries will disappear. However, we must hasten our progress in this matter. The Commonwealth Parliament must give a lead by abolishing what are, in fact, only tec’hnical harriers. If the quasisovereignty of the State parliaments be removed, our people will be encouraged to abandon the State outlook. Many of the proposals which I have suggested can be implemented only through an expansion of national credit. That is why I have emphasized the urgency of the Government’s responsibility to examine the banking system, and our credit system generally. All honorable members must realize that if, by undertaking a. housing scheme at a cost of £40,000,000 a year, we create an asset to the value of that amount, and, at the same time, create a debit to the same amount by the expansion of national credit, inflation cannot result. In the words of an ancient philosopher, “ a task no sooner begun is already half done”. The Government must throw off the shackles of convention which have in the past restricted the efforts of previous administrations. By undertaking measures to achieve maximum production and the most equitable distribution, the Labour Government will occupy the treasury bench for many years and secure the indefinite endorsement of the people.
.- To a new member, a budget exceeding £700,000,000 is a very imposing document. Recognizing that fact, I shall not attempt to make a technical analysis of its contents, but shall confine my remarks to such subjects as are agitating the minds of honorable members generally. The budget is to be commended for introducing into the discussion a very necessary sense of realism. It serves as a timely reminder that whatever hopes we may entertain as to the possible or probable duration of the war, the struggle has still to be won. In time of war, superoptimism is a much greater menace to security than pessimism. If I belonged to the Labour party, I should possibly feel just as enthusiastic as do honorable members opposite, and share their elation at having been returned with such a huge majority. But I should feel very serious about it, and consider that my party was subjected to a testing time far more serious than any other party has had to face in recent years.
Having those convictions, I have listened with considerable interest to the contributions which new members have made to the debate. Every one had a high sense of responsibility. Some of them even had preconceived ideas as to how the whole social system should be remodelled, but, in the light of cold facts as presented in the budget, our first enthusiasms must cool, at least for a time. First things must come first. Unquestionably, our first obligation is to win the Avar. The most Ave can be sure of at the moment is that our enemies are on the defensive. Their leaders, as distinct from the people, have everything to gain by continuing the struggle, and very little to hope for in the only alternative, unconditional surrender. So unless there is a serious break in themorale of our enemies - a not impossible nor improbable contingency - this defensive phase must be long and bitter. It is just possible that Ave are indulging in hopes a little prematurely in thinking that the war may end shortly. It is necessary that our country should understand this, and also the fact that the new world economy, which will not be determined by Australia alone, cannot become effective until the
Avar is Avon, and other countries have the opportunity to participate in the general solution.
I share the belief that during the lifetime of this Government, decisions may have to be made that Will have a farreaching effect on our national economy. The period immediately folioowing the cessation of hostilities will be the most fateful for good or ill of any period in the destiny of this country. As Ave SOW then, so shall we reap in the future, and the sound foundation laid by this Parliament - I say “ this Parliament not “ this Government “ - characterized by humanitarian principles will have repercussions throughout the years that will have a lasting effect on the character and virility of our race. The solution of these post-war problems will impose severe tests on our impartiality and constructive ability and will require the keenest planning of which the very best intellects of the country are capable. It will not be the responsibility of any individual or political party, because as the effect of any new plan must be national in character, it must be devised by men whose vision goes far beyond the limits of party politics, and who can forget self in the country’s general welfare. I do not say that such men are not to be found in this chamber. Indeed, they can be found on both sides of it. I merely emphasize that whatever scheme we do eventually evolve must reflect the fact that we have profited by the bitter experiences of the past. Without speaking in any party spirit, I state that the advent of a Labour government is not necessarily the answer to the nation’s prayer. This is a job for the Parliament as a whole, and for the best intellects in all parties.
A3 a part? of this plan of postwar reconstruction, much stress has been laid upon the necessity for an increase of population. Honorable members have listened to learned dissertations on the delicate subject of the declining birthrate. All will agree that any nation, in order to become great, must have sufficient population fully to develop its resources and defensive capacity. To Australia more than to any other country, an -increase of population is absolutely essential to success. The several factors which have contributed to our present position have been dealt with very capably by the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) and the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons). I merely add -that I do not agree with the contention that the falling birth-rate can be attributed solely to economic conditions. It has yet to be proved that the size of families is determined by the family income. As a matter of fact, our Eastern neighbours disprove that belief.
The declining birth-rate is merely a phase in evolution.’ It is not peculiar to Australia, but is common to a greater or lesser degree to practically all the countries inhabited by the white race, and as such is not to be cured by a stroke of the pen or by legislation. That the problem is common to all white-race countries will increase the difficulty of our task of attracting immigrants. If we desire to attract a better type which will best fit in with our mode of living, we must create an incentive for them to settle here. We must make .plans to accommodate them, not allow them to come here in a haphazard or catch-as-catch-can manner, but evolve a scheme which will encourage them to leave their own countries in the sure prospect of providing a better future for themselves and their families.
Honorable members will, I think, agree that the basis of any such scheme must be land settlement. I remind the Government that there are to-day tens of millions of acres of barren country in Australia requiring only the application of water to make it fertile and productive. In this connexion, I do not think that I am drawing too long a bow if I suggest that a sum equivalent to two years’ war expenditure spent on water conservation schemes throughout Australia would pay far greater dividends in nation building than would any other project in which this or any other government could engage. I know that that is taking a long view, but it is the only way I can see in which we can ever become a great nation and make provision for the generations which are to come. Most of those who have spoken in this debate have engaged in a discussion of the country so far opened up. Only our southern and eastern coastlines are closely settled, and while I agree that they could possibly hold two or ‘ three times the number of people which they now hold, I believe that in order to build a nation we must go out farther, conserve all the water now running into the sea, and, if necessary, give the land to people to go out and develop it. I admit that that does not offer any immediate return for the money expended, but the increase in national wealth would be enormous, and, coupled I believe with schemes such as have been mentioned, including the standardization of railway gauges, re-afforestation, repairing the ravages of soil erosion, which are all national works, and more intensive exploitation of our mineral resources, would provide profitable employment for many more than our present population for many years to come.
I believe that honorable members will agree that the solution of our problems cannot be divorced from the solution of similar, problems in other parts of the world. The false Utopias created by feverish war-time expenditure, in which the problems of consumption have never troubled us, will, I think, automatically vanish when we are faced again with the need for finding markets for our surplus production, and when the finding of those markets becomes again our greatest worry. As our productive capacity will be increased rather than impaired in this period, we shall be looking to other countries to consume many of the goods that we produce as the result of our labours. If we become a seller nation, as we necessarily must, then I should say that, within ‘ our capacity to absorb, we must become a buyer nation also. “We can no longer be a host unto ourselves. I believe also that for a well-,balanced economy we must have secondary .as well as primary industries. As every one acknowledges since the war began, Australia owes a great deal to ite secondary industries. I am one of millions who believe that the buying public of Australia paid an enormous price for the luxury of having them at their beginning, but I am one of the same number of millions who say to-day that that debt has been cancelled by the splendid job which those industries have done during our time of trial. It is, however, quite possible that after this war is over we shall have a new world outlook. If the Atlantic Charter with its four freedoms means anything, and if anything is meant by the phrase “ equal access to the raw materials of the world,” we must envisage at least a period of greater freedom of trade throughout the world than we have had for many years. This may then mean that our secondary industries must be re-established on a basis which will enable them to compete with other countries. I like that fine patriot ism which would insist that other countries should buy everything that we have to sell, while we go merrily along manufacturing every secondary requirement of our own, but it must be a practical patriotism. Honorable members will agree that many of our secondary industries, because of increased efficiency through the expansion of war-time industry, could manufacture in one month more than our population could hope to use in one year. If we continue as we did in pre-war days with a very high protective tariff in a world which I believe will be almost free trade, we shall at least provide an interesting study for the budding economists of the future. I am all for it if we can do it, but I stress the fact that we cannot any longer be a host unto ourselves. We came too near to destruction on this occasion. The speeding up of communications alone means that isolationism as a national policy is merely a synonym for national suicide. If we can order our own house in a way to suit ourselves, and still maintain good neighbour relations with other countries, particularly our allies, then I am all for the job and will do my best to help it along.
I wish to touch briefly on the primary production side. The only difficulty which I think this Government will have is to ensure a price for our primary produce. The marketing will solve itself. I believe that for a period of from two to five years the devastated countries of the world will take more than we are able to send them, until they have reestablished their own herds and flocks, and built up reserves to meet the requirements of their own people, but the time will inevitably come, and the difficulty inevitably arise, when we shall be faced with increasing production through soldier and other settlement, and also with diminishing markets owing to those other countries having rehabilitated themselves. Therefore, I think the time is opportune’ for the Government, through its agencies in Eastern countries, to lay the foundations now for markets when that time arises. Again not in a party spirit I mention that it may not be this Govern”ment which has to face up to that difficult period. If it comes five or six years hence, some other Government may have to do it, and it would not be wise to wait too long before we begin looking for markets again. On the subject of the rehabilitation of our fighting men, I am one of those optimists who ‘ believe that every member of this House, regardless of his party affiliations, is determined to see that our soldiers, sailors and airmen shall receive the reward to which they are entitled for the invaluable services that they have rendered to this country. I quite understand the psychology of certain honorable members who believe enthusiastically that conditions after the war will be such that preference in the treatment of returned soldiers will not be necessary because there will be an abundance of everything for everybody. If that hope be realized, there will be no argument; but if it is not. then it will .be up to us to show these men who have proved worthy sons of Australia that their country is worthy of them. This is a subject on which I shall have more to say at a later stage. In fact it is a subject which should .be dealt with at a special session. Our soldiers must not be thrown to the wolves when they return to this country. They are doing a job much harder than that which confronts any of us who remain behind, and they should be rewarded adequately for their services. The only reward that they seek is security. Whatever plans are formulated to rehabilitate our fighting men, they must provide a home and a living for these men when they return from the front. Steps must be taken to see that a millstone of debt is not placed round their necks as was the case after the last war. When the Government brings down legislation to deal with this matter, which really is a matter for Parliament as a whole and not for parties, I shall have an opportunity to make a further contribution to the debate on this important subject upon which I feel very strongly.
I shall conclude upon a note which, although it may sound rather parochial, is really a matter of national importance. I refer to the production of aluminium in this country. This subject was dealt with often .by my predecesor, the Honorable T. Paterson. There is considerable” feeling about it in Gippsland’ where, inci- dentally, the best bauxite deposits in Australia, .if not in the world, are situated. I regard these deposits as a national asset which cannot, must not, and dare not, be overlooked. We cannot afford to overlook them, because of their value to the nation. It has been stated that after fully exploring the possibilities of establishing the aluminium industry in Australia the Government has decided to erect a plant in Tasmania. I congratulate Tasmania upon that decision; the people of my electorate are not envious. ‘Whilst we will not deny Tasmania the advantage .accruing from the establishment of this industry in that State, we contend that the reasons which actuated the Government in deciding upon that location were not sufficient to warrant ignoring the deposits in Gippsland. I would remind honorable members that the Gippsland bauxite deposits have an alumina content of 50 per cent. In other words, 1 ton of aluminium can be produced from every 4 tons of bauxite. The Tasmania n deposits cannot equal that figure. If the reason for the selection of the Tasmanian deposits is in the fact that cheap power is available in that State for use in the industry, I point out that one of the embarrassments in winning the bauxite in Gippsland is the presence of large quantities of coal, which would provide a cheap fuel for the jab. I contend that the Gippsland deposits should bc opened up immediately if the man-power is available, but if it is not available, .the people of my electorate will be quite happy if the Government promises to make a start as soon as that difficulty is remedied. Such a decision would please me personally as well as the people of Gippsland, because it is my duty in this Parliament to see that a national asset such as these bauxite deposits is not forgotten. I am sure that this Government has no desireto limit industrial expansion.
I trust that the few remarks which I have made represent a constructive contribution to this debate.
– I listened with interest to the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) this afternoon, and was impressed with, his clear elucidation of several points i» the speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) which to me were somewhat obscure. I acknowledge my debt to the right honorable member for his speech. The right honorable gentleman drew attention to the changed opinion of socalled financial experts in regard to what constitutes inflation and laid emphasis upon the reason for that change. Mention is made in the budget speech of the increased number of people who have been brought into employment since the outbreak of the war. The Treasurer said : -
Since the outbreak of war, the total working population lias risen from 2,750,000 to 3,370,000 persons, an increase of 020,000.
The Treasurer stated also that savings banks deposits in Australia had risen from £245,000,000 in January, 1940, to £382,000,000 in August, 1943. Therefore, if we take the figures given by the Treasurer in regard to the number of people employed at the outbreak of war and the number employed in August of this year, and assuming that savings banks deposits of Australia arc owned by the working people of Australia, we find that whereas the average was £89 per capita in 1940j it was £113 per capita in August, 1.943, a differene of £24. According to the particular viewpoint that one holds, that has been due either to thrift or to inflation. I was always taught that if I saved money, did without luxuries, and worked long hours, I would be regarded as a thrifty industrious person, and would make progress in the community. Those who believe that the increased savings are a sign of inflation apparently hold the view that although the working people have saved the additional money by working longer hours and doing without many luxuries and comforts to which the Australian people have become accustomed, it is a national trend which must be stopped. I leave it to honorable members and the public generally to ascribe the cause. With regard to the so-called inflationary tendency in relation to primary industry f point out that, despite the relatively high prices that are ruling for foodstuffs at the present time, authoritative commissions, industrial tribunals, and other bodies appointed by the Government from time to time, have clearly proved that, if the producer of foodstuffs were to receive less than existing prices, his standard of living would be lower than the average standard enjoyed by workers in industries which provide the other two necessary concomitants of civilization - housing and clothing. Such a state of affairs must be obviated if, arising out of the war, practically famine conditions are to be avoided. During the period in which the worker in primary industry had the choice of continuing at a standard below that enjoyed by other sections of the Australian community, or of starving, he had to continue to work; but when war conditions enabled him .to sell his labour-power in a more profitable market he either enlisted if he had not been called up, or obtained employment in secondary industries, the transport services, or the production of munitions, so as to provide for his family some of the amenities enjoyed by his fellow Australians. The Government has now to face the consequences of that exodus from primary industry into other avocations. If it does not take action, it will be confronted with a shortage of foodstuffs. Despite the existing surplus, due to favorable weather conditions, and to other factors which may have brought about a considerable accumulation of foodstuffs, there is a great strain on our food-producing agencies. Preparations must be made in the present state of emergency to guard against the contingency of famine if the barque of state is to he guided through the troubled waters on which we are sailing. The Government has attempted, with good prospects of success, to fix the prices of foodstuffs at a level that will enable the primary producer to pay wages to those whom it is necessary for him to employ in order to continue his farming operations and to enable his family ito live in comfort. I do not consider that the fixing of prices is a solution of the problem. The position has to be stabilized, so that we shall have a properly balanced economy which will enable all sections to enjoy that reasonable standard of living at which we aim. In that task, much assistance can be derived from the war agricultural committees that have been set up under the jurisdiction of the
Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the aegis of the State Departments of Agriculture. I havebefore me an agenda of one of these committees, which is operating in the central-west of New South Wales. It deals with a vast and diverse volume of work, with particular reference to labour conditions and the need for the supply of labour to various sections on the food front producing foodstuffs of which a shortage is threatened. The agenda shows that applications have been made by various station owners and individual farmers for prisoner-of-war labour. The type needed is the Italian, who is amenable to this class of work and is sufficiently submissive to be worked profitably. I understand that the rate of pay of a prisoner of war is £1 a week and keep. Producers who are so fortunate as to obtain such labour will produce foodstuffs by its means in competition with those who have not as cheap a supply of labour. The question that arises is, whether or not those who have not prisoner-of-war labour will attempt to worsen the conditions of Australians who happen to be working for them, in order that they may compete with other farmers who have cheaper labour. The Rural Reconstruction Commission has been charged with the responsibility of inquiring into every aspect of rural economy, including the economic and social conditions of primary producers and other workers on the land in rural areas, with a view to post-war reconstruction, the principal fields of investigation being the conservation and development of Australian natural resources, land utilization and settlement, and the prospects of the absorption of discharged and demobilized members of the armed forces in primary industry.
Wednesday13, October 1943.
If demobilized members of the armed forces have to offer their labour in primary industries in competition with the labour of prisoners of war who receive £1 a week and keep, I cannot sec much chance of Parliaments, rural reconstruction committees or anybody else making life on the land desirable to those who have made Australia a white man’s country. The conditions of employment in rural industries are of vital importance, not only to those who produce foodstuffs, but also to the nation as a whole. In our attempt to increase food production, we should not prevent men whowere engaged in primary production before their enlistment in the fighting services from competing with those who did not enlist. Unless prices equal to those being paid to-day for foodstuffs are maintained in future, wage-workers on the land cannot be paid at rates that will enable them to maintain themselves and their families in comfort. In the past the improvement of the wage standards of the workers has resulted in a vicious circle in which the cost of living has increased as wages have risen. Those who finance industry have “ passed the buck “ to the wage-workers, who in turn have passed it on to the producers of foodstuff, who have had to carry the burden in the form of a low standard of living.
Under war conditions, work became available in secondary industries, and many men formerly engaged in the production of foodstuffs preferred employment in secondary industries. The Government, realizing the seriousness of the situation, fixed the prices of primary products far above those ruling in pre-war days. It adopted various means of pumping finance into the primary industries, and at the same time it attempted to keep down the price levels of foodstuffs. To some degree it has met with success”, but we still see the vicious circle in operation and the problem will have to be tackled seriously by the people of Australia. High price levels for foodstuffs will have to be maintained in future, and the equation worked out by varying the factor of profit, reducing that, rather than reducing the standard of living of those engaged in primary industries. Opportunities should be given to the farmers to improve their minds, thus enabling them to help themselves and the people of Australia to solve the problem of food production and improve the relative standard of living of those engaged in that production. Apparently the food front is the Cinderella of economic activities throughout the world. The farmers’ organizations in the United States of America are struggling constantly against a burden of debt, the displacement of farmers from their holdings, low standards of living as compared with those of persons employed in secondary industries, and other factors that militate against a properly balanced economy. I suggest that the Government should finance the visit of a delegation of Australian farmers to America. That country has shown that the conditions of the Australian farmer could be much improved by the mechanization of industry. Machinery imported from the United States of America under the lend-lease agreement has opened my eyes to the possibility of .better conditions in the farming industry of this country, if wo can adapt new mechinery to local conditions. By sending several practical farmers to the United States of America to observe the farming conditions and the work of farmers’ organizations in that country, we could assist the Government to make a success of its efforts in the direction of rural rehabilitation. Many of the difficulties associated with farming in Australia are due to the competition of the United States of America on European markets. America produces many of the same primary commodities as we do, and sells them on the same markets. It is necessary for us to sell our produce overseas in order to meet our financial commitments, and this brings us into competition with American farmers who are producing by more scientific methods, and in addition, enjoy the advantage of being much nearer to the world’s markets than we are. Notwithstanding the disadvantages under which we have laboured, we have managed to carry on by virtue of the preferential tariff accorded us by Great Britain. However, if the provisions of the Atlantic Charter are applied, and no tariff preference accorded to any country, our position on the world’s markets will be seriously affected. I assume that the Atlantic Charter will be enforced because the United States of America, through its lend-lease agreements, is in a position to compel its observation, particularly in regard to tariffs. However, we have one commodity which the world needs, namely wool, and which we can sell on the world’s markets without competing with the United States of America. Similarly, the United States of America produces a commodity, cotton, which the world needs, and which it can sell on the world’s markets without coming into competition with us. Both those commodities are needed for the manufacture of clothing. It might be possible to enter into an arrangement with the United States of America in respect of other commodities so that we could both supply the world’s markets without entering into destructive competition.
In regard to the stabilization of farm labour, I am convinced that much valuable assistance can be rendered by the war agricultural committees which have been set up in rural areas. Many of the bad features associated with compulsory arbitration might be avoided by making use of the war agricultural committees as conciliation committees, empowered to consider such matters as wages, working conditions, transport and housing for workers in the primary industries. There is a precedent for that. When the system of compulsory arbitration failed in New South Wales in the early 1920’s to keep industry working smoothly, the Labour Government in power at the time set up a number of conciliation committees consisting of representatives of the employers and employees, with independent chairmen who were sometimes legal men, and sometimes not. Those committees worked very satisfactorily. In my opinion, many of the difficulties associated with the primary industries, and particularly with the low standard of living, are due to the lack of industrial awards. On more than one occasion, when Labour governments have been in office, rural awards have been made in an attempt to regulate the position as between workers in primary and secondary industries. Later, politicians who took a short-sighted view of the matter, induced the governments concerned to scrap the awards on the ground that the primary industries could not afford to pay the wages fixed. As a result, the standard of living slipped very rapidly until, in the dairying industry, for instance, it might be compared with that of the convicts in the early days of colonization in Australia. Now that the Government has accepted the principle that a proper standard of living must be maintained in all industries, primary and secondary alike, tribunals will have to be set up to regulate wages and conditions for rural workers. I suggest that, instead of appointing cumbersome tribunals presided over by judges, and addressed by lawyers who have no interest in the question at issue beyond trying to outwit the other fellow, the Government should enlarge the functions of the war agricultural committees so that they shall become, in effect, conciliation tribunals. Members of war agricultural committees are drawn from all phases of primary production. They understand agriculture and realize the need to preserve a reasonable standard of living for primary producers. The prospects of maintaining harmonious relations between employers and employees, and of preserving fair standards of living in primary industries would be greater under this form of control than by any other means.
I come now to the provision of labour to meet the production goals set up by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I do not think that the present system of pools of labour at various centres from which men are transported to various places where their services are required can be as successful as has been predicted in some quarters. Generally, the Australian farmer does not employ continuously throughout the year more than one or two workers; the rest are casual employees. The average farmer cannot afford to build a house to provide farm labourers and other workers with accommodation for only a part of the year, and his own housing facilities will not enable him to accommodate them. In the past he has depended largely on the members of his family to assist him, but now the younger and more virile members of his family are engaged in other forms of work with a higher priority. The problem is to get them back into the farming industry. Most of these young men are in the Army, and if all of them who ought to go back to the farms were allowed to do so we would scarcely have any army left. If we take these men from the Army we shall have either to reduce the strength of the fighting services or fill their places with men from other industries. Although the latter course would lead to loss of production in those industries, some of the less essential industries could again be combed out, even though it meant a temporary loss of production. That loss could, however, be met in some degree by the employment of women. In some munitions factories there is a shortage of labour, whilst in others, there is a surplus. The question then arises how that surplus labour can be made available in the places where production is being carried on. That leads me to the subject of housing. In Orange there is a shortage of several hundreds of munitions workers, with the result that every business concern in the district has been combed in order to provide them. There is no chance of obtaining additional workers from those concerns. Several plant’s within 200 miles of Orange have either been closed or their production decreased, but if houses were provided for workers those establishments could continue in operation. Just as no sane person would allow valuable machinery to be exposed to the elements in a paddock, but would take care to protect it, so these human machines must be housed under suitable conditions if they are to function efficiently. That cannot be done while workers have to live three or four in a room, or are left to fend for themselves. I ask the Minister in charge of the housing of war workers to consider these aspects of the problem, and to put first things first. The problem of providing man-power for army purposes and other services which must be maintained will be less difficult as housing for workers is provided. I, therefore, urge that a housing programme be proceeded with. If labour and material were diverted from less essential jobs there would be less difficulty in meeting the demands of the food front.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– To-day I asked two questions of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, both of which were answered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). They related to an article which appeared on Monday in the Daily ‘Telegraph, Sydney, entitled, “ Communist Influence Blamed For Strike “. The article, which occupies a column, consists of a statement by the Director of Personnel of the Allied Works Council, Mr. Frank Packer, which, according to the Prime Minister, had the approval of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings). The article in a great number of particulars is incorrect; but I raise the matter, not only on that account, hut also because of one or two other matters which I think are pertinent. I deal first with the inaccuracies. The article says in bold type -
Unless all men on the job are prepared to work where those directing the project think they are’ needed, we might as well stop trying to build this vast undertaking straight away.
My information, provided by a member of the Boilermakers Union, working on the job, is exactly the opposite. It is as follows : -
The boilermakers want to know why the two men in charge of the job are there at all. The day boss is an electrician with absolutely no qualifications for the job, which is all steel and calls for a man with the widest experience in steel work. Thu night boss is the son of a director of Sydney Steel Limited, and is a cabinet-maker by trade. The opinion of the men is tha.t this appointment savours a little of army dodging.
A footnote states that the position of these two men should be inquired into. The statement continues -
There is an awful lot of electric welding, and the men are required to work about three feet apart with resulting danger of electric flashes to the eyes. The men asked for screens to be placed between them for safety with the result that one of them was transferred to another job.
It goes on in those terms until it comes to this point -
This job is a caisson or dock gates, the most important part of the whole project. Its function will be to hold back all .the water weight while a ship is in dock. I can assure you as a man of 30 years’ experience of boilermaking and all sorts of steel work that this requires the maximum amount of skill, of which only first-class tradesmen are capable. I submit that the men cannot settle down .to the job under these so-called experts. That is the whole root of this trouble. Just imagine the tragedy if there was .the slightest flaw in those plates and if the gates gave way while a ship was being repaired. It is too horrible to contemplate. I believe this has been pointed out before by experienced man-power officers, but these gentlemen just laugh i.t off in their ignorance. Action will have to be taken by the Government to get rid of these men before it is too late.
The point is that certain persons who claim to be experts capable of directing others to do this class of work are not experts, and the result may be as envisaged in this letter, namely, flaws in the gates which may give way while a ship is being repaired. The statement made by Mr. Packer, which is published under a snide heading, as I shall show in a moment, is contrary to the facts. One of the headings is “ Challenge to Union Authority “ ; but on the same day an evening paper in Sydney stated that Mr. C. Dalton, of the Australian Workers Union, had said that that organization was 100 per cent, behind the strike. Mr. Jack Hastie, secretary of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemens Association, also said that he and his union were 100 per cent, behind the strike. There was, therefore, on the same day a denial of the statement by Mr. Packer which appears only in the Daily Telegraph, of which Mr. Packer is a part owner and managing director. I shall speak of that matter in a moment. This statement was apparently issued by an officer of the Government, and it states certain things which, obviously, have been concocted for political purposes. I say “ political “, because this statement was made exclusively in the Daily Telegraph. The same subject-matter was dealt with by the Sydney Morning Herald, but Mr. Packer’s statement did not appear in that newspaper. All that appeared was what I think was a full and fair report of the circumstances of the dispute. This matter is obviously political, and Mr. Packer is influenced by political considerations, because the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was dismissed by Mr. Packer from the employ of Consolidated Press Limited when he nominated for Labour selection as candidate for the Parkes seat, although for nine or ten years be had been editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly. Mr. Packer and the Director-General of the Allied Works Council, Mr. Theodore, who is chairman of directors of Consolidated Press Limited, have attacked this Government before and after the general elections, although they occupy government positions. Such a situation is intolerable, and we must not allow it to continue. For myself, as a responsible member of Parliament, I do not intend to rest until both Mr. Theodore and Mr. Packer are dismissed from the positions which they hold. Other gentlemen, also, who are now employed by the Allied Works Council were previously associated with Consolidated Press Limited. I refer to the Deputy Director in New South Wales, Mr. Stewart Howard. He is a gentleman of this ilk: When I endeavoured to telephone him a few weeks ago in order to make representations which I was requested to make to him, I was told that he was in conference. Later the same day I tried again to get in touch with him and I was again informed that he was. still in conference. Subsequently, I was told that at the times I inquired for him he was at a certain club in Sydney having a Turkish bath. I understand that two or three persons who are employed on the construction of the graving dock in positions of authority were formerly employed by Consolidated Press Limited. One of them is a Mr. Fitzpatrick, who was formerly employed as a photographer with Consolidated Press Limited. According to my information he distinguishes himself daily by going around the job telling the men that they will get themselves called up if they do not behave themselves. I am informed that he causes so much trouble with the men that the union organizer on the job is at considerable pains to restrain the men in their attitude towards him. Further, when any one on the job has a complaint to make they must make it to Mr. Howard, and should they not agree with his decision their only appeal is to the same gentleman. No government officer should be allowed to publish a statement iri a newspaper when first, the statement is untrue, and, secondly, it is obviously made for political purposes. Having regard to that fact, I also challenge the ability of any man to act as an officer of the Government, and, at the same time, to retain an interest in a newspaper which is advocating a policy contrary to that of the Government. I make these requests to the Government: First, I desire to know from the responsible Minister the number of persons now employed by the Allied Works Council who were previously employed by Consolidated Press Limited. I also wish to know the number of persons who were previously associated either in a business capacity, or personally with the DirectorGeneral of Works, the Director of Personnel and the Deputy Director in New South Wales, and who are now employed by the Allied Works Council. Secondly, I seek an undertaking from the responsible Minister that whenever an industrial dispute is reported in the press, he will require the newspaper publishing such reports to publish at the same time and with equal prominence the workers’ case in the dispute. Thirdly, I ask the Government to set up a judicial inquiry to investigate the administration of the Allied Works Council. I am aware of the abortive inquiry conducted by a departmental officer, Sir Harry Brown. That was a whitewashing affair, and this House was not given an opportunity to debate Sir Harry Brown’s report. I suggest that the House be given an opportunity to debate the report which is furnished to the Government as the result of the inquiry which I now request. If these things be done, perhaps the confidence of the employees of the Allied Works Council can be restored. However, regardless of the capacity of Mr. Theodore, Mr. Packer or Mr. Howard to Jo their jobs as officers of the Allied Works Council, I say deliberately that many other persons could have done with equal efficiency any of the jobs they have accomplished, and, in addition, would have worked in harmony with the employees under their control. Perhaps, they have been able in the past to “get away “ with so much industrially because of the fact that the Minister in charge of that council has not been very willing to do as much as he could have done for the council’s employees. If it is proper for a departmental officer to publish his side of a dispute ez parte in a partisan newspaper, I am equally entitled as a workers’ representative to present their side of the case in this House.
.- I listened with interest to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), but I have come to the conclusion that he is “ barking up the wrong tree “. No notice will be taken of his statements because he has now lost the support of those who previously used him in these agitations They have been emancipated. They have become good loyal supporters of the Government. I refer to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). I have come to the conclusion that loyalty does not get an honorable member anywhere. Once an honorable member becomes a sniper he, like yourself, Mr. Speaker, becomes emancipated.
– You, Mr. Speaker, have. been given the privilege of occupying the chair. The Minister for Information is now on the ministerial bench.
I now revert to the old subject which I understand so well, namely, coal. On this matter the Government is advised by officers who were appointed by its predecessors; and it religiously follows their advice. If a Labour Government makes appointments, a succeeding government, if it, be anti-Labour, immediately removes those appointees. But Labour is generous. It does not do things of that kind. It retains the services of appointees of. its predecessors, even though our predecessors are not our friends. I said previously, and probably unkindly, that appointees to the Coal Commission do not understand coal. They have not sufficient knowledge to distinguish coal from chalk or cheese. To-day, the Government is accepting advice from those persons in preference to advice from myself. I, at least, do understand coal. I have never been consulted on the matter. But I ask honorable members to note this : The Greta. Extended Colliery is closed down. Why? I have received the following communication from officers of an organization to which I am proud to belong : -
Greta Extended Colliery. Management of this pit has given workers fourteen days’ notice of its intention to close down because the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell, has ordered that the contract price for Greta Extended coal supplied to the New South Wales railways should be from 2s. 3d. to 3s. 3d. a ton less than the price received for all other Greta seam coal.
This means that thousands of tons of coal will be lost to the war effort. For a coal-mine to cease production when the country is at war is a national calamity.
The management contends that it cannot operate at the price fixed by Mr. Mighell. Yet the country must have coal ! Economic arguments applicable to the conduct of business in peace-time are not tenable under war-time conditions. For example, battleships, bombers and tanks are weapons of destruction that do not contribute to the national income and therefore are uneconomical, but we have to build them. The Government does not apply that argument to the production of coal.
The mine mentioned is to be closed for economic reasons as the result of a decision of a man who does not understand the industry. Unfortunately, the Government is following all too closely the methods of its predecessors and is also retaining in office the appointees of antiLabour administrations. Experience has shown that appointees of Labour governments subsequently receive short shrift from anti-Labour governments. The appointees of the previous Government hold all the key positions, and the time has arrived for us to review them. I should like the Minister for Information to define his attitude on this question.
– It is still the same.
– Of course, the Minister is “ emancipated “ now and will help to keep the Government in office. I am coming to the conclusion that the only way in which to gain promotion in the Labour party is to become a sniper. However, I have always been loyal to the party, and I am not sniping now. I am urging the Government to mend its ways, or I shall become a sniper. I do not want “ emancipation “.
The only authority who has the right to fix the price of a commodity is the wage-fixing authority of the Arbitration Court or a Conciliation Commissioner, because he has an extensive knowledge of the subject. When that authority is conferred upon some other official, the result is chaotic. The boss supports his claim for an increase of price with the argument that, as the workers’ wages have been increased by o per cent., he is entitled to a “ commensurate allowance “. I do not dispute that. Usually that allowance is an increase of the coal price far in excess of the wage increase. I cannot understand why Mr. Mighell reduced the contract price of the coal by from 2s. 3d. to 3s. 3d. a ton. If he had been hearing an application for an increase of wages, he would have been entitled to make the statement that he did. The only practical form of arbitration is that established by the Industrial Peace Act, under which the coal tribunal functioned not only as a wage-fixing authority but also as a price-fixing authority. During the last war the operation of the act produced more harmony and greater output than have been achieved during this war. I urge the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) to note that on this occasion, the mine-owners are to blame for the loss of coal. If the Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, who has ruined a number of governments, is to fix the price of the output of certain coal-mines, why should Mr. Mighell fix the price in the present instance?
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– in reply - The remarks of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) will be brought to the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) and the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr.Curtin) respectively.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Bankruptcy Act - Fifteenth Annual Report by Attorney-General, for year ended31st July, 1943.
Defence Act - Royal Military College - Report for year 1942.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Cowra, New South Wales.
Evans Head, New South Wales.
Tea Gardens (Port Stephens), New South Wales.
Tocumwal, New South Wales.
National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Asbestos cement sheets.
Manufacture of domestic furniture.
Use of land (3).
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinance - 1943 - No. 10 - Trustee.
Regulations - 1943 - No. 5 (Building and Services Ordinance).
War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, No. 259.
Wool - Report of the Central Wool Committee for season 1942-43.
House adjourned at 1 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. Carcasses examined during period the 18th-28th August, 1943, totalled 335, of which 203 were rejected on account of Cysticercus bovis; the 29th August-4th Sep tember, 183 examined, 109 rejected; the 5th- 11th September, 93 examined, 65 rejected; 12th-18th September, 100 examined, 73 rejected.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Tomatoes : Suppliesfor Victoria.
y. - On the 24th September, 1943, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture questions without notice, relating to the price determination by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner for the sale of tomatoes in New South Wales and Victoria. The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following information : -
The Sydney market was not controlled but a price of 18s. a case had been fixed in Victoria to cover tomatoes imported from Western Australia and South Australia.
Prices on the Sydney market rose to 50s. a case and there was a tendency to forward South Australian tomatoes to Sydney instead of to the natural market which is Victoria. Investigation of the New South Wales position indicated that 30s. a case is a reasonable maximum price for the local glass house production and that figure was fixed as the maximum for the Sydney market, by the Prices Commissioner.
A review of the price on the Melbourne market for South Australian tomatoes disclosed that an increase of 4s. a case to 22s. a case was justified and the price was adjusted accordingly.
It is not true that as a result of the difference in price in Sydney and Melbourne that tomatoes are being sent from South Australia to New South Wales and avoiding the Melbourne market. That undoubtedly was the case prior to the fixation of prices in New South Wales and the narrowing of the margin between prices in Melbourne and Sydney. Arrangements have been made whereby the normal method of marketing South Australian tomatoes will be continued.
River Murray Waters Scheme.
i. - On the 28th Sep tember the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked the following questions, without notice: -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior give early and favorable consideration to the matter of implementing fully the first plans of theRiver Murray Waters Commission, which provided for the construction of a greater number of locks and weirs on the River Murray than was subsequently constructed? Will the honorable gentleman also impress upon the Commission the desirability of increasing the capacity of the scheme to the limit which is recommended?
The Minister for the Interior has now furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s question: -
By the 1934 amendment of the River Murray Agreement various works set out in the original agreement to be constructed under the supervision of the River Murray Commission were deleted therefrom and others added thereto. The amended programme of works has been practically completed.
Any works additional to those referred to in the agreement as amended would require to be carried out by the State concerned or, where more than one State was affected, made the subject of another agreement, and any action in this regard should be initiated by the appropriate State Government or Governments.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The matter is being considered and a reply will he furnished as soon as possible.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 October 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19431012_reps_17_176/>.