17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 12 noon, and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Transport inform me whether tyres and tubes are released to the public on the basis of licences for petrol issued by the Liquid Fuel Control Board? If so, are tyres and tubes released only to persons holding petrol licence priority numbers 1 to 6? Can the Minister give any indication that there will be an improvement in the release of tyres and tubes at an early date?
– The release of motor tyres and tubes, and the issue of petrol licences, are controlled, not by the Department of Transport, but by the Department of Supply and Shipping.
– Did the Deputy Prime Minister read in the press last evening and again this morning a news item which indicated that censorship had been used to found a prosecution in a rationing offence in Melbourne ? Will he issue directions that in future, or at least until the committee appointed by the Government to inquire into censorship has submitted its report, no further prosecutions shall be permitted or proceeded with in respect of similar offences founded on information gleaned from censorship ?
– I have not seen the report, but I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– Some time ago, I directed the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to a report of a statement by the Premier of Victoria in the Age of the 3rd March last, that a Victorian factory had been prevented from converting tomato pulp into tomato sauce and that eight inspectors had visited the factory in one day.
Has the Minister made inquiries into those allegations, and if so, what were the results?
– When the honorable member addressed a similar question to me recently I requested my senior departmental officials in Melbourne to ask the Premier’s Department to furnish the information that we required for the checking of the allegations and making an immediate investigation. Although that request was made to the Premier’s Department three weeks ago, the required information has not yet been forwarded to us. I believe that this is one of those sensational charges that are being continually made by the Premier of Victoria, who has an anti-Commonwealth complex. His actions are lowering the morale of the people, and do not tend to promote a 100 per cent war effort.
– At present, the fixed prices of potatoes are £15 a ton in Queensland, £14 a ton in New South Wales, and from £11 to £12 10s. a ton in Tasmania according to the variety. In view of the widespread feeling that these prices discriminate unfairly against the Tasmanian growers, will the Minister explain the basis upon which the prices are determined ? Will he state also what supplies of potatoes are arrivingfrom the various States?
– I have not a detailed knowledge of She differentiation of prices mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall consult the Potato Committee and furnish a full reply.
– Did the Deputy
Prime Minister read in this morning’s press a statement regarding an alleged shortage of books imported from England? According to the news item, no books have been sent to Australia since last October. Has the honorable gentleman any information to the effect that this shortage is due to official opposition to the rising tide of propaganda in favour of an early and reasoned peace among the warring nations?
– My attention has been drawn to the scarcity of books from overseas, but I am not aware that the shortage could be attributed to the cause mentioned by the honorable member.
Liability of Taxpayers
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform me whether the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, Mr. Whitlam, at any time submitted to the Government an opinion regarding the alleged tax lag? If so, was he of opinion .that there was no tax lag? Was the Crown Solicitor’s opinion based on the argument that because implementing tax legislation had to be passed annually, tax was levied on the current year’s income, and that the previous year was merely a yardstick ito measure liability?
– I am not aware of any opinion given by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor on that matter. None has been brought to my notice. As I told an honorable member yesterday, I am aware that for a considerable time the Income Tax Assessment Act has contained a provision which continues the liability to pay after a taxpayer’s decease or retirement from work. If that is the sense in which the right honorable gentleman uses the word “lag”, L. point out that the issue is settled not by an opinion, but by reading the plain words of the act.
– The Sunday Times, of Perth, has attributed the following statement to Mr. A. J. Reid, the chairman of the Workers’ Homes Board: -
The acute shortage of homes in Western Australia is State-wide. The Commonwealth housing plan will bc a very slow business aa there is an acute shortage of bricks and of skilled labour.
Will the Minister for Labour and National Service take all necessary steps to ensure that the required labour and building materials shall be made available for the purpose of carrying out this limited housing plan in Western Australia?
– I shall open negotiations with the authority in Western Australia that is to build the quota of houses allotted by the Commonwealth to that State.
– Surely that applies also to other States.
– I shall also discuss the matter with, the Minister for War Organization of Industry with a view to ascertaining whether building materials can be released for the work.
– Has the Deputy Prime Minister read a statement issued by the Honorable G. Chandler, M.L.C., of Victoria, who was president of the Bush Fire Relief Committee in that State, regarding wanton waste by the Allied Works Council ? References to the same subject have also been published in the press. .Speaking to me by telephone this morning a member of the Brighton Municipal Council told me that as one of those who subscribes to Commonwealth funds he has also drawn attention to this fact. A great clamour has arisen in Victoria for the institution of an inquiry into the operations of the Allied Works Council, and many alarming figures of waste have been mentioned. For example, settlers are being charged £52 for 100 posts, whereas 52s. would be a more reasonable figure. As those allegations seem to be sustained from many quarters, will the Deputy Prime Minister institute an inquiry into them, and ascertain whether employees of the Allied Works Council are idle and are being paid for waiting time?
– The Government is constantly investigating complaints about waste. I have not seen the news item to which the honorable member referred, but if he will bring it to my notice, I shall be pleased to consider his representations.
– This morning I received from the secretary of the Trades Hall Council, in Newcastle, a complaint about an advertisement appearing in the February issue of Army. The advertisement refers to a recent industrial dispute at the works of the Broken Kill Proprietary Company Limited, and was inserted by the proprietors of that organization. The secretary of the Trades Hall Council contends that the advertisement is an unfair and untrue presentation of the case. I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is the policy of this magazine to adopt a partisan attitude between industrial leaders and workers, or whether it is the intention of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to reduce the cooperation now existing between workers and soldiers?
– Although that magazine is entitled Army, it is not a government publication. A private company publishes it, and the whole of. the profits from its sale are given to the Australian Comforts Fund. The Army itself exercises no supervision over advertisements published in the magazine, but I. shall have the subject of the complaint thoroughly investigated,
– Some weeks ago, a meeting took place between the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the president of the Milk Producers Association, at which an increase of the price of whole milk was requested. I have received to-day, from the chairman of that association, a telegram in which he states that the milk producers are very gravely dissatisfied wth the present inadequate subsidy of 3d. a gallon and are hostile on account of the delay in coming to a decision. The further statement is made that drought conditions are causing the position in Victoria to become serious, and that it is likely to become worse. Is the Minister able to static whether or not a decision has been made? If not, when is he likely to make it!
– The fixing of the price of whole milk is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs, because it comes under the direct control of the Commissioner of Prices. From my observations and the information that I have, I can say that the Commissioner of Prices has paid attention to the request of the suburban dairymen, and has increased the price of whole milk to a record level in all the capital cities. Generally speaking, the matter has been divorced from political considerations, although it was from an Australian Country party politician that the honorable gentleman received the telegram that he has mentioned. The Government has done everything possible to subsidize purchases of fodder. As recently as yesterday evening, the amount of the subsidy in relation to grain supplied to dairy-farmers, was announced over the national broadcasting stations. On the whole, the action of the Government has proved entirely satisfactory, and has been commended by dairy-farmers.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Supply and Snipping whether or not the supplies of certain essential lines of hollow-ware are inadequate for the needs of the people of Victoria? If they are, what are the prospects of lifting the existing ban on the export of hollowware from South Australia?
– I shall look into both matters, and shall endeavour to reply to the honorable member before the termination of the sitting to-day.
– Can the Deputy Prime Minister inform me, and incidentally the House, of the reason for the non-submission to this House of certain resignations from the Social Security Committee, one at least of which was- submitted to the Prime Minister many weeks ago?
– by leave-I move -
I take this action in accordance with a promise that was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) last week.
.- It would be unfair if this motion were disposed of without the
House being informed of the reasons which caused the honorable member for Hinders (Mr. Ryan) and myself to resign from the Social Security Committee. It is not altogether a secret to honorable members that these retirements were .caused by what is regarded as a gross injustice to the ex-secretary of the committee. The historic facts are these : The Social Security Committee was established in 1941, concurrently with a number of other committees. It is traditional and, I believe, perfectly right, that parliamentary committees, when instituted, should be staffed by members of the parliamentary clerical staff. With that I have no complaint. But when committees were established in July, 1941, there were not sufficient properly qualified members of the parliamentary staffs to accept executive positions on them. In that circumstance, the Social Security Committee approached me, as Minister for Social Services, for the release of my personal secretary, Mr. Roy Rowe, for service on it as its secretary. The implication was that, with the background of experience which Mr. Rowe had had for a number of years as the secretary to the Minister for Social Services, he at least would be able to commence the occupancy of his new office with some knowledge of the duties entailed. At some personal inconvenience I conceded the request, and Mr. Rowe was duly installed as the secretary of that committee. That my action was approved by the committee is shown by a paragraph which it embodied in the first report that it presented to this House. That report was signed on behalf of the committee by .Senator Keane, then deputy chairman. The paragraph reads -
It affords me very great pleasure indeed to say that, after representations had been made to him, Sir Frederick Stewart agreed to release his secretary, Mr. R. Howe, to act in a secretarial capacity to this parliamentary committee. Mr. Rowe’s considerable knowledge is such that I feel that we are very fortunate that he is to serve us as secretary.
That arrangement continued unchanged for two years. In the interim, the committee submitted reports to this House, all of which were accepted as having considerable value. Any one who has had experience of the working of parlia- mentary committees knows that a not inconsiderable portion of the responsibility - and credit, if credit there be - for the formulation of the investigation, the presentation of evidence, and ultimately the preparation of the report, devolves upon the secretary. That, I am sure, can be said of the two years during which Mr. Rowe acted as the secretary of this committee. I again quote a person other than myself in support of that view. The sixth interim report of the committee was tabled on the 1st July, 1943, just prior to the dissolution of the last Parliament, before there was any suggestion of a change in the secretarial appointment; consequently there could not be any sinister suggestion, and if there were, all the Government members on the committee would share in it, because each of them signed the report. It contained this paragraph -
Firstly, we wish to express our great appreciation of the valuable assistance given to the committee by its secretary, Mr. Roy Rowe. Throughout the investigations of the committee, which covered not only the present inquiry, but also many other aspects of the problem of social security, Mr. Rowe has been untiring in his devotion to his work. The administrative arrangements made by him for the conduct of the committee’s business have never failed and his help in the compilation of the committee’s reports has been throughout of a very high standard.
That disposes of any possibility that I, as Mr. Rowe’s ex-ministerial head, was biased in his favour. With the dissolution of the last Parliament, the parliamentary committees automatically disbanded. But, in order that Mr. Rowe’s services might be retained until the Social Security Committee had been re-appointed on the assembly of the new Parliament, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made a special arrangement for the provision of salary, and Mr. Rowe continued to prepare work for the new committee during the election campaign and the period which elapsed before the new committee was constituted. .Shortly after the new Parliament had met and the committee had been appointed, it was informed, without prior discussion of any kind, that a change had been arranged in respect of the secretary, and that in future an officer of the parliamentary staff would act in that capacity. I hasten to say that I - and I understand that I speak for all the other members of the committee - have no objection whatever to the officer who was named to act as secretary in the place of Mr. Rowe, but we do say that no officer, however competent he may be in the conduct of his ordinary duties, could possibly pick up the threads of an investigation that had already been current for two years, and discharge those duties as satisfactorily as the man who had occupied the chief executive position during the whole of that period. I am sorry to say that the matter was not conducted on the plane which the committee had a right to expect. In the first place, I repeat, there was no consultation whatever with either the chairman of the committee - who is in the chamber and, [ hope, will speak to this motion - or any other member of the committee. The committee was merely informed that the change had been made. When, not unnaturally, it expressed surprise, and discontent with the arrangement, and temporarily continued to use the services of Mir. Rowe, it learned that certain of its records in this building had been locked away from him. In consequence, the chairman had personally to secure perr mission to gather those documents in order that Mr. Rowe might continue with the work which the committee had assigned to him. Moreover, the matter was carried to a further unfortunate degree - I 3ay that quite definitely - when the officer in charge of the parliamentary refreshment rooms was instructed to refuse to supply refreshments to Mr. Rowe in this building. These are historical facts. If they are not correct, let them be answered.
– They will be answered.
– The matter then proceeded a little farther. The committee made it clear that there was no personal objection to the man whom it was proposed to appoint as secretary. After consultation with the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and other Ministers, who were not at all unsympathetic, a compromise was reached by which Mr. Rowe’s services were to be retained as research officer, while the parliamentary officer would fill the position of secretary. The committee definitely understood that Mr. Rowe was to suffer no loss of emolu ment. This arrangement was continued for some weeks, and then out of the blue, came an intimation that the chairman of the Public Service Board had made a determination reducing Mr. Rowe’s salary by £147 a year. The chairman of the Public Service Board is charged with the responsibility of fixing’ salaries, but surely he is also charged with the responsibility of making some investigation before he acts. In this case, the chairman made no inquiries whatever.
– What rot!
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who is chairman of the committee, can say whether I am right ot wrong when I maintain that no investigation of any kind was made, that no questions were asked of him or of Mr. Rowe, and that there was no consultation with the head of the department from which Mr. Rowe had come. Such inquiries, one would have thought, would be a necessary preliminary to any variation of an officer’s salary.
– Who gave instructions for the salary to be reduced?
– The chairman of the Public Service Board. That was the position until a few weeks ago. Now the plot thickens ! This parliamentary committee, constituted not of irresponsibles, but of members of this House, elected by the people of Australia, met in conference representatives of the British Medical Association and associated bodies. The conference met in this building, and under the able chairmanship of the honorable member for Bass, a considerable approach was made towards a settlement of certain issues between the medical profession and the committee. However, it was impossible for the committee to enter into all the details of the proposals enunciated at the conference, so it was decided to delegate this duty to a smaller body consisting of three members of the parliamentary committee, and three members nominated by the British Medical Association, including Sir John Newlands and Sir Charles Blackburn. This smaller committee met in Sydney, arid a whole week was spent in discussions. Mr. Rowe was directed by the chairman of the- Social Security
Committee to attend the meetings in Sydney, but when he presented his account for travelling expenses, he was told that no expenses could be allowed him
– Who told him that?
– The officers of this House. It seems to me as if some one, in firing at Mr. Rowe, brought down bigger game. Mr. Rowe was told that he could not draw expenses for attending the meetings in Sydney because the Social Security Committee had no power to delegate its functions to any other body. The chairman of the Social Security Committee was then told that, although he had travelled from Tasmania, and spent a whole week in Sydney doing most valuable work in conference with the representatives of the British Medical Association, he could not collect travelling expenses, either. The other members of the committee who had travelled to the meeting in ‘Sydney were in the same position. I can speak dispassionately, because Sydney is my home town. I was not entitled to draw expenses while there, nor did I ask for them. I suggest that, for any officer of this House to tell the chairman of a parliamentary committee that if he dares to attend a meeting of members of that committee in Sydney he must do so at his own expense, is to go a little too far. That is why some members of the Social Security Committee felt they could no longer be associated with it. I place in the forefront of my objections the treatment of the secretary. I took him out of his routine as a ministerial secretary and he, having left that position, now stands to lose substantially. However, the important principle involved is whether members of this Parliament, serving on parliamentary committees, are to be told by officers of the House that they may not conduct their own affairs in their own way. Surely, on the merits of the case, no one can maintain that there was anything wrong in delegating the consideration of an important matter to a sub-committee. As a matter of fact, if the chairman had decided to call the other seven members together in Sydney at 5 o’clock each afternoon to hear the result of the sub-committee’s discussions during the day, all of them who are non-residents of Sydney would have been entitled to draw expenses.
The same thing was attempted in. connexion with the Broadcasting Committee, but in that case it did not work. I remember that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was most insistent that the Broadcasting Committee should control its own executive officers and manage its own affairs. Whoever else may be squealing among honorable members opposite, I know that the honorable member for Melbourne will be on my side. Those honorable members who objected to what has taken place had no option but to resign in order- to bring the matter before the House. I hope that out of this incident will emerge a clear direction of Parliament as to the prerogative and power of- parliamentary committees.
.- The House is entitled to a full explanation of what led up to the resignation of myself and the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) from the Social Security Committee.
– You have gone on strike in war-time!
– It is not a strike, it is a change of employment. Parliamentary committees, unfortunately, are not protected undertakings, and therefore I am entitled to resign from this one. This matter affects the whole parliamentary committee system. ] know that there are members of this House who do not approve of parliamentary committees, but I am not one of them. I believe that they perform a very, useful function. They make recommendations which are frequently accepted by the Government, .they acquaint those members of Parliament who serve on them with the details of the problems investigated, and, through the reports which they prepare, they provide an opportunity for other honorable members to inform themselves, also. In addition, their investigations afford an opportunity to members of the public to come into closer touch with members of Parliament. I believe that every parliamentary committee should be given that degree of expert assistance which it needs to perform its functions. The Social Security Committee has been investigating a wide range of subjects, including old-age and invalid pensions, medical services, &c. A similar committee in New Zealand inquired into two matters only, superannuation and health services, but it had placed at its disposal a staff of no fewer than six persons. “We started off with one, and a second was appointed later. I maintain that the committee is entitled to a voice in the appointment of the staff which assists it, and members of that staff should be given reasonable and proper remuneration. My reasons for resigning from the committee are the same as those stated by the honorable member for Parramatta. The first reason is the treatment of “ the past secretary, Mr. Rowe, who was appointed secretary to the committee in 1941 at the special request of the committee. He worked with us, and gave excellent service, until Parliament was dissolved last year.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the last Parliament was dissolved the then committee arranged with the then Minister for Social Security that Mr. Rowe should continue until the new Parliament met to carry on the -current work, of which there was a considerable amount, and he was given the same remuneration. In the new Parliament the new committee was informed that it had been decided to replace Mr. Rowe as secretary. The new secretary was Mr. Chubb. All honorable members, certainly those honorable members who are members of the Social Security Committee, know that Mr. Chubb is a most capable and efficient officer. There was and there could be no objection by the committee to accepting him as secretary. At the same time the committee felt, I think very properly-
– And unanimously.
– Yes, and unanimously, that it was essential that we should carry on the research that had been started. For that purpose an official was needed who was thoroughly acquainted with all social security measures, and, in particular, the negotiations with the medical profession in regard to the proposed scheme for medical benefits and health.
Discussion then arose between the committee and officials of the House. While those discussions were in progress steps were taken as related by the honorable member for Parramatta. On account of the action taken by the officials of the House - I will state this very briefly because the honorable member for Parramatta has already given the details - Mr. Rowe was refused access to the room which contained papers of the committee which at that time were being worked on. He was also refused admission to the Parliamentary RefreshmentRooms. In addition, other measures were taken which were not mentioned by the honorable member for Parramatta. At the request of the committee and with the help of the deputy chairman, Senator Cooper, a room at the Senate end of Parliament House was provided to accommodate Mr. Rowe and his papers and to enable him to carry on his work. An effort was made to remove him from that room, but was, I believe, unsuccessful. In addition he was refused the services of a typist, and on the 2Sth October last, when he had to prepare a report for the committee, he had to engage a typist at his own expense. The official telephone which he enjoyed in his own home was cut off, and he had to make the official calls which he is frequently called upon to make also at his own expense. Finally, a letter was sent to the head of his department accusing Mr. Rowe of having tried to make use of ‘political influence in order to forward his own purposes. 1 emphatically deny that. Any action taken in respect of Mr. Rowe was taken by the committee as a whole to ensure that he should be able to do his work efficiently. Mr. Rowe had nothing to do with it at all.
I now turn to the visit of a part of the committee to Sydney. I was not one of those who went there, but as a member of the committee I very much resent the action which was taken subsequently. We were engaged in December in . very difficult, though friendly, negotiations with the representatives of the British Medical Association in an effort to work out details of plans for the operation of certain portions of the new medical services scheme which I hope will be brought into operation. In the hope that the negotiations might be furthered and u reasonable solution reached by agreement with the representatives of the medical profession, it was decided to send only a part of the committee to Sydney. The House appreciates, I am sure, that large bodies find it much more difficult to arrive at a decision than do small bodies. So a part of the committee went to Sydney, and, in the course of discussions over a week, the parties arrived at a very satisfactory decision on points which had eluded agreement between governments and the medical profession for many years. I do not know why, but after that the members of the committee were refused the travelling allowance necessary for the journey to .Sydney, and maintenance while there. It has been said that payment is not provided for in the rules of the House. I cannot find anything in the Standing Orders which warrants that action. Assuming that the rule exists, all I can say is that the action taken under it is the most narrow-minded that one could imagine. If the committee had gone to Sydney en bloc and thereby increased the expenses, apart from the difficulties of negotiation, the allowance would have been paid. The authorities are prepared to swallow the whole, but baulk at the part. If that is not red tape to the nth degree, I do not know what is. I feel that the whole committee is being impeded unnecessarily in its -work. I raise this matter not to stress my own point of view, but on behalf of parliamentary committees as a whole. We all work according to some principle. I have had a fairly long public career and have always worked on two principles which I believe are sound. The first is that if a job is worth doing it is worth doing well. The conditions under which this committee has been working make it impossible for it to do its work well. The second principle is that I regard it as the responsibility of individuals or an individual to ensure justice to colleagues or subordinates. I have never been prepared to stand for injustice and I will not now. That is the second reason why I resign. I resign with very great regret because I am one of the many who regard measures of social security in this country as being of the greatest im. portance. I regarded it as an honour to serve on the committee which, I believe, is laying the foundation for a better scheme of social security than we have had in this country so far. And I regret that I have to resign when this committee is half-way through the most important job of trying to work out plans for the future health services of this country.
– Does not the honorable member think that he should have stayed on the committee in order to help it to do its work?
– I ‘have told the House my reasons for resigning. My decision was not reached hurriedly. As the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) knows, we have been in negotiation with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and other Ministers ever since the first meeting of Parliament after the last general elections. Nothing has happened so far, and it does not seem that anything will ever happen to put the situation right. I am not prepared to go on until this matter is put right. The whole matter concerns, not me personally, but the House and the committee. I suggest to the House that it is opportune, even necessary, to have a thorough investigation of the parliamentary committee system, particularly with reference to this episode in order to prevent such an occurrence again.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker–
– On a point of order, I want to know whether it is in order for Mr. Speaker to speak from the ministerial bench on a question like this. I think that the place of Mr. Speaker is in the Chair, and I think that for Mr. Speaker to speak from the ministerial bench-
– From the table.
– Yes, from the table, on -a matter like this allies him with the Ministry in putting a partisan view on a matter is outside the Standing Orders, customs and procedure of this House. I contend that it is entirely wrong for you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to occupy the Speaker’s Chair while the Speaker is in the chamber.
– Standing Order 45 provides -
The Chairman of Committees shall take the Chair as Deputy-Speaker whenever requested so to do by’ the Speaker during a sitting of the House, without any formal communication to the House; and the Speaker shall nominate at the commencement of every session a panel of not less than two members who shall act as temporary Chairman of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
To-day I was requested by Mr. Speaker to occupy the Chair as Deputy Speaker. With regard to the question as to whether the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is in order in addressing himself to this question, there are precedents in this House for the Speaker taking his place on the floor when the Estimates of Parliament are before honorable members. On this occasion, the administration of the Speaker is under discussion. I rule that the honorable member for Dalley is quite in order in addressing himself to this matter.
– On a further point of order, I ask how you, as Deputy Speaker, can make such a ruling when Mr. Speaker is in the House and should be in the Chair to decide matters of this description. I contend, with great deference to you-
– Order ! The Chair has given a ruling and the honorable member is not in order in discussing it. The question of whether the ruling is right is now in the hands of the House.
– On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I ask for a further ruling? Is there any precedent for Mr. Speaker addressing the House from the table?
– I shall address the House from over there if the right honorable gentleman likes.
– The honorable member for Dalley is quite in order in addressing himself to this question from any part of the floor. I call the honorable member for Dalley.
– lt is passing strange, after the clamour last, week about freedom of speech, that certain honorable members should now desire to deny freedom of speech to the highest officer ofl the House, irrespective of where he may speak from. It is not by my choice that I am addressing the House to-day. The practice is unusual; but unusual circumstances surround this case. I take the opportunity to address myself to the subject because the two speeches that have been delivered on it have contained a good deal of misrepresentation. I look upon this happening not influenced by the consideration that the finer feelings of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) may have been hurt on some occasions, but rather in the light of the general situation. Ever since the Social Security Committee was formed attempts have been made to frustrate, in connexion with it, the authority which I exercise as Speaker of the House. The matter has come to a head to-day because of further ill-advised actions of honorable members. They have even gone to the length of pestering the Prime Minister with the problem.
– I am sorry that the Prime Minister is not here.
– So am I; but it would not make any difference to the observations that I shall make, though the honorable member himself might have, been a bit more careful in his statements about compromises alleged to have been made by the Prime Minister, which, in fact, were not made. The responsibility of honorable member! in accepting service on parliamentary committees is considerable. They are honoured by their leader and by their party in being nominated as committee members, for the committees are called upon to consider problems of greatmoment and report upon them to the Parliament. Appointment to a place on a parliamentary committee is an honour sought by honorable members, for it shows their fitness to deal with the problems that have to be investigated and reported upon. The Social Security Committee was chosen to investigate and report upon one of the most vital problems facing this country, namely, the provision of adequate social services. I suggest that members who resign from the parliamentary committees to which they have been appointed should have good reasons for doing so.
The two honorable gentlemen whose resignations are now being considered might have been expected to advance substantial grounds in support of their action. The genuine grounds for resignation are somewhat limited. A member might find that he lacks the necessary time to perform the service required of; him; he may seek to be excused- from such service because of ill health; and in a few instances - and I imagine that they would be very few indeed - a member might admit that he is incapable of dealing with the problem.
– That would rule out both of the honorable gentlemen who have resigned.
– I point out that even if members of the committee dissent from the views of the majority on any matter that is investigated, they may submit a minority report to the Parliament.
– Of what value would that be?
– Minority reports are not infrequently taken notice of by the Parliament. But for a minority of members to resign because they cannot got their own way, savours very much of the little boy on a village green who takes his cricket bat home when he is given out. That appears to be the attitude of the two honorable gentlemen opposite.
– The honorable gentleman may find that we are not in a minority before this discussion is finished.
– Two peculiar reasons have been advanced by the honorable member for Flinders for his resignation. One is that he is dissatisfied with the limitation of authority vested in the committee in respect of’ the appointment and control of its secretarial staff. The other is, that he is dissatisfied with the general method of investigation. As to the first of these two excuses, an accepted principle of parliamentary practice, ever since parliamentary committees have been formed by this House and the Senate, has been that the presiding officer of the appropriate House shall appoint the officials of the committee. I did that on this occasion, and. so far as I know, this is the first instance of any one challenging the right of a presiding officer to do so. Neither the honorable member for Parramatta nor the honorable member for Flinders has said one word against the capabilities of Mr. Chubb. In fact, both have said that they welcomed him as a capable officer. But, unfortunately, he did not happen to he the officer they wanted. I shall show later how they welcomed Mr. Chubb to the committee. Apparently . those two . reasons for resignation are being abandoned because the two honorable members opposite who have spoken in this debate are trying to win the sympathy of the House by alleging that Mr. Rowe has been victimized. Underlying the speeches of both honorable gentlemen has been the suggestion that this subject has been dealt with unfairly and that there has been victimization. I suggest to the House, however, that from the inception of this committee there has been constant intrigue behind the scenes for the purpose of frustrating the undoubted authority of the presiding officer to appoint the staff of -the committee. Staffing of committees has been a difficult problem. During the life of the last Parliament several committees were appointed. These included the Rural Industries Committee, the “War Expenditure Committee, the first Broadcasting Committee and the Prices and Profits Committee. All of these were joint committees. There was also the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee. Owing to the fact that considerable inroads have been made on the senior staff of the House to provide meI for service on loan in respect of various war efforts, there was at one stage a shortage of competent officers to take charge of the various committees. Mr. Rowe, of whom so much has been said during this debate, was, at the time of the appointment of these committees, private secretary to the then Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart). That honorable gentleman made representations through the Clerk of the House to Mr. Speaker Nairn to allow Mr. Rowe to act in the joint capacity of private secretary to the Minister and secretary to the Social Security Committee.
– That action
WaS taken at the request of Senator Keane.
– Mr. Rowe was intended, apparently, to act as liaison officer between the Minister and the committee. [ suggest, particularly to Ministers and to honorable gentlemen who hare held portfolios in past governments, that they have generally regarded their private secretaries as their right-hand men. It seems peculiar to me that a man with the high capabilities that ‘ have been claimed for Mr. Rowe by the honorable member for Parramatta should have been not indispensable to him and that he could afford to relinquish such services to enable Mr. Rowe to act as secretary of a committee to consider social security problems.
– Perhaps he was an extraordinarily good Minister.
– His action could be interpreted in that way, but it might also have been regarded as a polite way to jettison his private secretary.
– It is a neutral argument either way.
– I agree, and I do not Stress it. I simply point out that the honorable member for Parramatta, when Minister in a previous government, could afford to dispense with the services of this man as private secretary in order to allow him to be absent from, his post for months at a time to engage in the investigations of the committee and to prepare reports for submission to Parliament. While Mr. Rowe was in that position he was paid his normal Public Service salary of £400 per annum, plus £306 per annum higher duty allowance. On the staff of the Social Security Committee at that time was a Mr. Mendelsohn, who held the degree of Master of Economics. He was appointed as research officer at £522 per annum. It must be apparent, therefore, that at that time the work of the Social Security Committee was not being done solely by Mr. Rowe, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Flinders, for he was assisted by an officer with much higher educational qualifications than he himself possesses.
– That does not prove much.
– It proves that, however valuable the staff work of the Social Security Committee was, it was shared by. Mr. Rowe and a gentleman of much higher -educational qualifications. Later Mr. Rowe became private secretary to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) when he was Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services. He subsequently dispensed with Mr. Rowe’s services, although Mr. Rowe was allowed, with the consent of Mr. Speaker Nairn, to carry on and complete the work of the committee. The Public Service Board was informed that Mr. Rowe’s services with the committee concluded on the day that the committee dissolved. It cannot be suggested that that action was not taken in proper form. The next move made for the personal advancement of Mr. Rowe, to the disadvantage of other people with higher qualifications, wa; taken under section 48a of the PublicService Act when he was appointed to an entirely new position as senior research officer of the Department of Social Services, at a salary of £562 per annum, which was £40 per annum in excess of the amount provided for a person of higher educational qualification? who had been appointed to a similar position. No applications were called for this new position. Apparently this gentleman had made a nest for himself at the remunerative salary of £562 per annum.
– Who made the appointment?
– I am not in a position to say who made it. I merely state the fact in order to indicate that this gentleman is not the creature of victimization that he has been made out to be. Another very strange move in this matter was made this week. As honorable members know, the returned soldier members of this House have been constituted into a committee. They were approached by representatives of the Canberra branch of the Returned Sailors. Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, whom Mr. Rowe had apparently succeeded in interesting in hi? case. Just a little bit of pressure politics, and this gentleman is no novice at it! He exploited the situation and indulged in some political wire-pulling. He apparently claimed this position with an unwarranted salary increase because he was a . returned soldier. On this account he considered that some additional consideration should be given to him. If the principle of preference to returned soldiers was to be applied, should not the position of senior research officer in the Department of Social Services have been thrown open for application by all returned soldiers? Apparently it was to be preference to “ a “ returned soldier, not preference to returned soldiers. Mr. Rowe seems to have considered that he had claim to this nest, although he must have been aware that the appointment has caused a great deal of dissension among members of the Public Service generally, who had senior rights. This man, who has such high qualifications, is a Fourth Division officer. Only 30 out of nearly 20,000 Fourth Division officers in the Commonwealth Public Service receive anything like the salary that this victimized man receives. The fact is that he has not proved himself capable of aspiring to a position in the Third Division, but he does seek through political wire-pulling, regardless of the party which does the pulling, to advance himself, to the disadvantage of other more deserving members of the Public Service.
On the 14th October, 1943, this House created only two committees, and staff had to be provided for them. I have already pointed out that the previous Parliament appointed six committees. Following precedent, it was decided that the “War Expenditure Committee should be staffed by officers of the Senate, and that the Social Security Committee should be staffed by officers of the House of Representatives. I appointed Mr. Chubb as secretary of the Social Security Committee. My first reason for doing so was that Mr. Chubb is the Second Clerk Assistant of this House and is the Acting Clerk of Committees, at a salary of £860 per annum. I have not the least doubt that in computing that salary the Public Service Board took into considera- tion the fact that, apart from being the Second Clerk Assistant of this House, he has higher duties to perform as Acting Clerk of Committees. My second reason is that he is a capable officer. His ability has been attested by the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Flinders.
– His ability is not questioned.
– I am pleased to hear that. The House will begin to wonder why the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Flinders, who think so much “of Mr. Chubb’s capabilities, treated him so cavalierly as they did after his appointment to this committee.
– That is news to me.
– One lives and learns, of course! Mr. Chubb rendered such good service to the Rural Industries Committee, which dealt with very intricate problems, that it carried a resolution unanimously conveying its thanks to me, as Speaker, for his efficient service on its behalf. My third reason for appointing him was that the Prime Minister had personally requested me to exercise a careful supervision over the expenditure of the House. The appointment of Mr. Chubb meant that the expenditure of the House would not he increased by the appointment of a secretary to the Social Security Committee. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and Senator Cooper conferred with, me in my room regarding the position. I set out my reasons, and they stated their reasons, but I refused to alter my decision. That was followed by a threat that they “ would go somewhere higher “. I do not know where that “ higher “ authority was; but that was the threat. The honorable member for Parramatta agreed that Mr. Chubb was a man of great capabilities and efficiency, and that he was always welcomed - mark the words “ always welcomed “ - by the committee.
– So he was.
– The honorable member for Flinders endorses that view. At the early sittings of the committee, those two honorable members were parties to the snubbing of Mr. Chubb, in that they refused to recognize him as secretary and invited Mr. Rowe to carry on as secretary despite the authority of the Speaker in appointing Mr.Chubb to the position. That is how they welcomed him. In view of the attitude of the committee, and the challenge to my authority, I considered that I had to be firm in dealing with the situation. The committee asked for Mr. Rowe as a research officer, and suggested that he should carry on in that capacity at his old salary. I have heard talk about a compromise on this matter. The following is an extract from a letter that I sent to the committee: -
In view of all the circumstances I am prepared to agree to the appointment of Mr. Rowe for the purposes mentioned in your letter, provided that all arrangements involving the use of staff, office accommodation and travelling are controlled by Mr. Chubb, acting under your instructions as chairman of the committee. This must not be taken as any reflection on any officer but is to assure that there will bo single control of all expenditure on staff and office accommodation and travelling by a senior officer and to avoid dual control in these matters.
There is just one point raised in the final paragraph of your letter, wherein you state, “ It is assumed by the committee that Mr. Rowe’s present rate of remuneration would be continued “. You are no doubt aware, from the discussion we have already had on this matter, that I take the view that the question of salary is one entirely within the province of the Public Service Board. Your committee’s suggestion is that a total salary of £703 per annum should be continued, but I understand that quite recently a position of Senior Inquiry Officer was created in the Department of Social Services carrying a salary of £562, and that Mr. Rowe was appointed to, that position. Whether the Department of Social Services or the Public Service Board envisaged such services as it is proposed Mr. Rowe shall perform for your committee would come within the scope of the office of Senior Inquiry Officer, I am not in a position to say. However, I will submit the whole question of the salary to be paid to Mr. Rowe, whilst in the service of your committee, to both the Department of Social Services and the Public Service Commissioner and ask them to consult on the matter and make an early decision.
From that letter it will be seen that when the committee asked for the services of Mr. Rowe, and I was aware of the fact that the previous committee had had a research officer, I had no hesitation in offering the services of Mr. Rowe, but I submitted the matter of salary to the Public Service Board. I do not know what other course honorable members consider I should have taken in the circumstances. The Public Service Board replied -
A position of Senior Inquiry Officer was created in the Department of Social Services recently with classification £450-£522 (S.) , £490-£562 actual, and Mr.Rowe appointed thereto under the provisions of section 48a of the Public Service Act.
When considering an appropriate classification the board envisaged that Mr. Rowe’s departmental duties would be somewhat along the lines of the work he will do for the committee, and the salary scale was fixed accordingly and with due relation to the various classes of inquiry and investigation work done in different sections of the Service.
There is a fairly wide range of payments for investigators, varying from approximately £300 to £700 per annum, according to the class of work to be done and the special qualifications which the officers must possess. For many of the positions carrying the higher salaries we demand fully qualified and skilled accountants, and in other cases it is essential that the officers be graduates in commerce, economics or law.
As I understand the position, the secretary to the committee is the executive officer and Mr. Rowe is to be engaged on research and inquiry duties in a position subordinate to the secretary.
Compared with many officers engaged on taxation investigation work, investigations for the Prices Commissioner, and other activities needing qualifications of a high order, the salary of Mr. Rowe, viz., £562, would seem to be adequate for what it is thought Mr. Rowe’s duties will be. A similar classification applies to an officer of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, who at present controls astaff making important inquiries, necessitating much tact and judgment, including inquiries in connexion with stoppages on the coal-fields.
That is the impartial view of the Public Service Board.
– Reached without any inquiry !
– And without consultation!
– The Public Service Board probably knows more about the qualifications of this gentleman than any other body. I understand that the file relating to him is the biggest in the board’s records.
There has been no victimization in fixing the remuneration of this man. As I pointed out earlier, he is receiving a higher salary thanthe great majority of Fourth Division officers in the Public Service. His salary was fixed by the Public Service Board on the basis of what his duties would be. Later, I received a second letter from the Public Service Board -
Consideration of the information you have been good enough to supply regarding the duties and responsibilities of the secretary of the committee and of the nature of the duties to be undertaken by Mr. Rowe, and comparison of the duties with those of officers in a wide field of investigation work in other Commonwealth activities, confirm the view that no increase on Mr. Rowe’s salary as an officer of the Department of Social Services is justified. That salary is £522, plus £40 cost of living adjustment, and the board would not be able to approve of his receiving payment in excess of that amount in respect of the class of work in question.
That sets the seal on what the Public Service Board thought of his qualifications, his work, and his remuneration. Surely it cannot be suggested that the Public Service Board would victimize a man in fixing his salary. There is not a vestige of truth in what the honorable member for Parramatta said to-day, or in the statement that he made to the Canberra Times during the week, that there was any compromise of .any description by anybody with authority regarding the payment to Mr. Rowe of money in excess of what the board considered fair remuneration. The honorable member for Parramatta said that “ the plot thickened “. As a matter of fact, it did thicken. The committee got itself properly “ into the soup In order further to frustrate the decision that I made - that is the only reason that I can ascribe to its action - the committee set up what is known as a “ Medical Planning ‘Committee”, and complained because the Clerk of the House, who has authority to pass the accounts of the House, has not seen fit to pay the expenses of that committee. The setting up of that committee was a totally irregular and improper procedure.
– Is there .any authority for that statement?
– If the honorable member will consult the Votes and Proceedings of the 8th October, 1943, he will find that two committees - the War Expenditure Committee and the Social Security Committee - were appointed. He will find also that the House, by resolution, authorized the War Expenditure Committee to set up sub-committees and provided for their working; but no such provision was made in relation to the Social Security Committee. May’s Parliamentary Practice clearly indicates that it is not within the competence of any parliamentary committee to set up a sub-committee unless specifically authorized by the Parliament to do so. What is the position in which the Social Security Committee has placed the officers of this House? The committee adopted a totally illegal procedure. The Clerk knows that it took a totally illegal procedure. Yet it has the effrontery to place before him accounts that have accumulated as the result of that totally illegal procedure. ‘Because the Clerk did not pas3 them, it is claimed that there is some form of victimization. There is not the slightest doubt that the action of the committee came very close to contempt of Parliament. It is not the Clerk, who is the responsible officer for paying the accounts, who should be on his trial to-day, but those responsible for this totally illegal and improper procedure. Furthermore, the Medical Planning Committee, purporting to be a subcommittee of a parliamentary committee, consists of three members of a parliamentary committee and three members of the British Medical Association. What authority has the Social Security Committee to set up a sub-committee, onehalf of the members of which are not members of this House or the Senate, or to compromise its work by reporting to an outside body, perhaps before it reports to Parliament? The whole of the procedure associated with the setting up of this Medical Planning Committee was totally illegal.
– Other parliamentary committees have power to set up subcommittees.
– Exactly, when they have been specifically authorized so to do by resolution of this House.
– I realize that. But how can it be argued that it is improper for one committee to confer with a subcommittee if it be not improper for another committee to do so?
– This was the setting up of a sub-committee of a parliamentary committee. On that subcommittee were men who are not members of Parliament.
– To do what?
– To investigate certain medical reports.
– Would it not he competent for the committee to appoint one or two of its members to confer with other bodies?
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - That is a different proposition. Such a subcommittee would not be entitled to make investigations which would lead to members of the British Medical Association incurring expense, and then ask the Clerk of this House to acceptthe responsibility of passing those accounts. That is quite clear.
I now revert to the cheerful acceptance of Mr. Chubb by the honorable members for Flinders and Parramatta. I have already indicated what the treatment was of him initially. Their last move, and so far as they were concerned it was fatal, was to set up this subcommittee and appoint Mr. Rowe as the secretary of it, totally excluding Mr. Chubb from its proceedings.
– That was done, not by the honorable member for Parramatta or myself but by the committee.
– It was not done by the committee. The committee agreed 10 the setting up of the sub-committee, but did not appoint its members. Here is an extract from a letter which the chairman (Mr. Barnard) addressed to Sir Henry Newland, president of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association -
With reference to the recent Health Services conference at Canberra, I would like to confirm the arrangements for the appointment of the representative committee on medical planning which the conference left to you and me to determine. It is agreed that the following personnel be on the committee: -
As the work of this conference committee will consist entirely of medical planning as distinct from the wider implications of the Social Security Committee’s field of inquiry, I suggest that my research officer, Mr. Roy Rowe, be appointed secretary in conjunction with Dr. J.G. Hunter.
If that is not an exclusion of the official secretary of the committee, I should like to know what is; because the committee as a whole was not operating while this sub-committee was conducting its investigations.
– That action was taken by the chairman of the committee, not by the honorable member for Parramatta or myself.
– These gentlemen talk with “ tongue in cheek “ about the special qualities of Mr. Chubb, yet in the first instance as well as in the last they did their best to humiliate that officer, and when their tactics failed to achieve the result that they desired they ‘retired from the committee.
Further proof of the exclusion of Mr. Chubb and the substitution of Mr. Rowe as nominal secretary is furnished toy the fact that, immediately the sub-committee had been set up, another request was made for the restoration of Mr. Rowe’s salary to £703. [Extension of time granted.] That request was submitted by me to the Public Service Board. At a conference held in my office, one of the Commissioners discussed the matter with me in every respect. I stated this fact, to which I still adherethat the appointment of the sub-committee had been totally illegal and improper. I questioned whether, in the light of that fact, a request for an increase of salary for Mr. Rowe could be sustained. The Commissioner was not concerned with the legality of the appointment of that subcommittee, but wished to convince himself as to whether or not the new duties to be performed by Mr. Rowe’ imposed additional tasks upon him. He concluded that they did, and decided to recommend the payment of an additional £36 per annum, which would raise the salary to £598 per annum.
– There was nothing wrong with that.
– I am not questioning that. I am merely trying to convince the House that I submitted the question of the services and remuneration of Mr. Rowe to the only competent authority, the only authority which honorable members will agree is entirely impartial and beyond question in the fixation of a proper remuneration for an officer of this description.
– The honorable gentleman tendered advice to the Commissioner.
– Not at all.I discussed with him only one point. As, in my view, the setting up of this subcommittee was totally illegal, I questioned whether it would be right to raise the salary of the man who had been appointed secretary to it. No other advice was given by me, and the matter of remuneration was left entirely to the Public Service Commissioner.
Those are all the facts that I can place before the House. Throughout the piece there has been a determined attempt by some of the members of this committeenot the whole of the committee, I am positive - to frustrate a decision Which I had made as .Speaker. I was the only person clothed with the necessary authority to make the appointment of secretary to this committee. I made the appointment for the reasons that I have given. Mr. Rowe has no more claim to this position than has any other man. From the time when my decision was made, there has been an attempt to frustrate it. Even the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has been pestered with problems that were not his concern. I am positive, because I have discussed the matter with the right honorable gentleman, that there was no compromise by him in the matter of the appointment. He had not the authority to interfere with either the appointment or the salary of this officer. I am convinced that he would not attempt to override what is recognized as the only authority that could deal with the matter. Prom start to finish there ;has been an attempt to make it appear that this officer, about Whom some honorable members are so particularly concerned, is being victimized in some way. It will be agreed that the only competent authority has dealt with the matter. I was prepared to let the matter rest, but in view of the attitude of honorable gentlemen opposite, it would appear that this sub-committee will no longer operate, I propose to send Mr. Rowe back to his department forthwith. I believe that with his departure from this parliamentary committee, there will be an end to this sordid story of intrigue, subterfuge, and political wire-pulling, to suit no other purpose than the personal aggrandizement and advancement of Mr. Rowe.
Mr. HOLT (Fawkner) [3.10 J.- The motion relates to the resignations of two members from one of the committees of this Parliament. That, of itself, is a matter of some importance. Involved in those resignations are allegations of victimization in respect of a member of the Public Service. That, too, is a matter of some importance. But there is a matter of very much greater importance. I refer to the episode of which we, as private members of this House, have just been spectators. In this free, democratic institution, to which we have been sent to express ourselves in accordance with the wishes of our electorates, the responsibility devolves upon every honorable member to declare himself in regard to that episode, which is without precedent in the annals of a free Parliament, namely, the descent of Mr. Speaker from the dignified position that he usually occupies, and his indulgence, from the position at the table normally occupied by the Prime Minister, in a thoroughly partisan expression of view. I do not intend to deal with the merits of the motion proper; being unacquainted with the facts, I am not competent to do so. But I should show a lack of appreciation of the responsibilities that I owe to this institution did I not record strong disapproval of and regret at this episode. I do not challenge the right of Mr. Speaker, as the chief officer of this House, to make to it from his proper place a statement upon a matter which affects him in that capacity, in accordance with what he believes to be the facts as they have been brought to his knowledge ; that is his duty and his responsibility. But the whole institution of Parliament is weakened when Mr. Speaker, whose function is to act judicially, and to give impartial decisions in respect of any matter that arises in the House - without respect to party affiliations, and wholly in accordance with the rights which every honorable member enjoysshould so far divorce himself from that responsibility as to descend to the floor of the House and make a thoroughly partisan statement. That cannot fail to undermine the stability of this institution of Parliament. I listened very attentively to what he said, because I regarded the matter as one which could not be allowed to pass without comment. I heard him use such expressions as “ effrontery “, “ wire-pulling “, “ illegal and improper procedure “, and “ talking with tongue in cheek “. Is that what we are entitled to expect from the man whom we have elected to adjudicate impartially and fairly between all sections of the House? Unless this House records the strongest disapproval of such procedure, it will do a disservice to this institution, and weaken its standing in the eyes of the people of Australia.
– On a point of order, 1 submit that the honorable member is criticizing the ruling of the Chair.
– An honorable member is not in order in debating a ruling of the Chair. I permitted the honorable member for Fawkner to make certain observations in order that I. might determine at what he was driving. I ask him to desist from further references to the ruling that I have given.
.- It is very interesting to see honorable members of the Opposition supporting a strike. They are like small boys, who, having misbehaved themselves, have received a hiding, and now they are squealing.
– This afternoon, the House has witnessed a spectacle that cannot be regarded as edifying. Mr. Speaker left his place, and indulged in a vicious, personal attack on members of the Opposition.
– I remind the honorable member that he may not reflect on the conduct of Mr. Speaker unless he makes a substantive motion.
– I rise to order. It is true that an honorable member may not reflect upon a ruling of Mr. Speaker given by him in his capacity as Speaker, but if Mr. Speaker leaves the chair, and claims his right as a private member to attack other honorable members, then he exposes himself in just the same way as would any other honorable member who made such an attack.
– I did not say that the honorable member could not reflect upon the ruling, but I said that he should not reflect upon the conduct of Mr. Speaker.
– Are we to take it, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that your ruling relates to that period after Mr. Speaker had left the chair and taken his place on the Government side of the House ?
– I rise to order.
– I ask the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) to resume his seat, or I will name him.
– I submit that, during the period I have mentioned, Mr. Speaker had assumed the role of private member in order to debate this matter as a private member.
– My ruling was that no honorable member would be in order in reflecting on the conduct of Mr. Speaker. No one may do that except by making a substantive motion. N”o honorable member would be in order in reflecting on the conduct of Mr. Speaker in leaving the chair to take his place on the floor of the House.
– Can you inform honorable members who is at present in control of the House - yourself, or the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) ?
-The honorable member is not in order in reflecting on the Chair.
– I did not reflect on the Chair. I asked a perfectly proper question in view of your ruling. Who is at present to be regarded as being in charge of the House - yourself, or the honorable member for Dalley, who is seated on the front ministerial bench?
– As I stated earlier, under Standing Order 25, I, as Deputy Speaker, am in charge, of the House, and remain in charge until Mr. Speaker resumes the chair.
– I concede that Mr. Speaker has the right to leave the chair and to address the House as a private member, but when he does so, may he not be replied to, just as any other honorable member may be replied to?
– It is true that once Mr. Speaker leaves the chair, and takes his place on the floor of the House, he is in the same position as an ordinary member. It is in order for any other honorable member to support or combat the arguments used by him in such circumstances.
– That is all we ask for.
– But an honorable member is not in order in reflecting upon the action of Mr. Speaker in leaving the chair.
– I did not do that. I said that we had witnessed the unprecedented spectacle of Mr. Speaker taking his place on the floor of the House, and then, in his capacity as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), making a vicious, personal attack upon an officer who has not the right to defend himself in this House. That was most reprehensible, to say the least of it. If there was anY doubt previously that this officer had been victimized, no doubt can remain in the minds of honorable members after hearing the attack made upon him by the honorable member for Dalley. Had there been no victimization the honorable member would not have descended to the making of such a speech. Apparently, the honorable member for Dalley was mainly concerned over the fact that he had been frustrated in something that he had proposed to do. He has been so used to exercising his great power that he cannot bear that any decision of his should be challenged. Thus, because he gave a ruling, even though it may have been grossly unfair and partial, he objected to its being questioned by a committee appointed by this Parliament. After all, such a committee derives its authority from greater source than Mr. Speaker, namely, from Parliament itself. “When the committee proposed to adopt a certain line of action, Mr. Speaker, in his pettifogging way, declared that he had given a ruling and that he would not depart from it. This Parliament can deal with Mr. Speaker, and can ensure that he respects its will. The honorable member for Dalley, in making a personal attack on this officer, has sought to make him the scapegoat for the action of the parliamentary committee itself. He gibed at the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), for being like small boys, who, not being able to have their own way in the game, took their bats home. The honorable member for Dalley was chairman of the Man Power and Resources Survey Committee, and, because he could not get his own way with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), he took his bat home. He resigned, and the other members of the committee resigned, because the honorable member for Dalley could not prevail on the Prime Minister to give effect to his recommendations to the committee. Therefore, it ill-becomes him to gibe at the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Flinders for what they have done.
The honorable member for Dalley also said that the honorable member for Parramatta, while Minister for Social Services, sought to dispense with the services of his private secretary, because - the honorable member suggested - he was not equal to his job. However, there was one piece of information which the honorable member failed to give, namely, that the Social Security Committee itself requested the honorable member for Parramatta, as Minister for Social Services, to make available the services of Mr. Rowe. The committee recognized the value of the work that he had done, his capacity, his knowledge, and his organizing ability, and. they knew that he would make a good secretary of the committee. Moreover, they thanked the Minister for making Mr. Rowe available.
But the most important thing that emerged from the attack of the honorable member for Dalley was the fact that Mr. Rowe is a returned soldier. The honorable member said, “He is a returned soldier, and he went to the Returned Soldiers’ Committee of this House “. I know the feelings of the honorable member for Dalley in regard to returned soldiers. He has expressed them when repatriation bills have been before the House, and Ave know how he would treat the returned soldiers. We know the bitterness he feels towards them.
The Social Security Committee is responsible to this Parliament, and to no one else. It is empowered to call evidence, and to report to Parliament. Surely, if the committee is to perform efficiently tho work entrusted to i-t, it must be permitted to select its own staff, and it must have power to conduct its own business. Most honorable members of this House serve on a committee of some kind, and they know the importance of having a suitable secretary. The prestige of honorable members is, to a large degree, in the hands of the secretary of the committee upon which they are serving, l t is essential that the committee should conduct its own business and should have power to appoint its own staff. I am amazed that the chairman, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), has not taken part in this debate.
– I have not had a chance.
– I hope the honorable gentleman will, because it is possible that he will controvert quite a lot of what the honorable member for Dalley said and that we shall get a clearer picture. There are certain things that this House should demand to know. We want to know why the Public Service Board reduced Mr. Rowe’s salary without inquiry. It is generally said in Canberra that Mr. Rowe, ,who at one time was president of the local branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, fell foul of the Public ;Service Board when he was trying to get preference for returned soldiers in the Public Service, and that that is why that branch is interesting itself in this matter. I should like to know why the hoard took arbitrary action against Mr. Rowe. We also want to know why the amenities of Parliament were refused to Mr. Rowe although he was appointed by the Prime Minister as research officer of the committee.
– They were never refused while he was a member of the staff of the committee.
– He was refused when, at the instance of the Prime Minister himself, he was acting as research officer for the committee, the amenities that are available to any member of the staff of Parliament. That amounts to victimization of Mr. Rowe by the officer who controls this House.
– What was he refused?
– He was refused permission to partake of the ordinary refreshments available in the refreshment rooms, and he was also refused a room in which he and a typist could carry out the work of the committee.
– That is not so.
– He was refused the general amenities given to other members of the staff. If that is not victimization I do not know what the term means.
– But it is not true.
– It is true. The honorable member for Dalley did not controvert it, although it was one of the main points made by the honorable member for Parramatta. He cleverly skated round that subject.
– I shall get some one else to say it.
– The honorable member wa§ not prepared to face up to that argument. He very cleverly evaded it. That is the second point. The third is that Mr Rowe was refused expenses. That was partially explained by the honorable member for Dalley. I must agree that his interpretation of the rules is correct. If Mr. Rowe was appointed by the chairman of . the committee to act as secretary to a sub-committee and thereby incurred a great deal of expense on behalf of the committee, it is for the committee to insist that it shall ask for a further reference of powers from Parliament, or disband.
– I agree.
– I agree with the honorable member for Dalley that Mr. Rowe was not entitled to draw expenses under the terms of references of the committee, but the chairman of the committee has a duty to ensure that he shall be reimbursed. In my opinion, this officer has been victimized. That he has been has been proved conclusively by the honorable member for Dalley, not by a reasoned and logical approach to the matter, but by a vicious attack on him. I cannot condone that. Secondly, the withdrawal of the ordinary amenities of the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms from Mr. Rowe also makes it clear that he has been victimized.
– If it is true.
– The third point in regard to expenses I have dealt with. The question of principle involved is whether a committee appointed by this Parliament shall be allowed to conduct its own business in its own way and appoint its own staff. If it cannot do that it cannot discharge its duties efficiently. If it cannot appoint a staff with which it will work harmoniously its prestige is destroyed.
With regard to the contention of the honorable member for Dalley that he was frustrated in the discharge of his duties as Speaker, I put it to him that Parliament is greater than the Speaker.
– And that if he was being frustrated, he had the right to appeal to Parliament for protection.
– I look after myself.
– Instead the honorable member has chosen to get down from his chair on to the floor of the House and divest himself of his halo in order to make a vicious attack upon a man who has no opportunity to answer his charge.
.- It is not my purpose to attempt to traverse the whole ground covered in this debate on the resignation of two members of the Social Security Committee. I regret that the debate has been necessary, and I very much regret the incidents which finally brought about their resignations. With the two members, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) and Senator Cooper, I have worked on this committee for three years. I found them very helpful in the discharge of duties that have been frequently onerous and always important. The Social Security Committee is probably the most important committee that Parliament has appointed for many years, because it deals with the social and living conditions of the people and aims at raising those conditions and removing many of the troubles and hardships that have existed for so many years. The committee has made seven reports to Parliament. Honorable members can judge for themselves the value of those reports. I assume that most honorable members have read them. It is a compliment to the committee that so many of its recommendations have been given legislative effect. All the reports have been unanimous. That reflects credit on the officers of the committee. When the committee was appointed it had at its own request a certain officer assigned to it part-time. The work grew so great that it was impossible for him to continue on a parttime basis, especially when the research officer enlisted. I requested the then Minister for Social Services to release his private secretary for full-time duty with the committee so that we should be able to get on with the important inquiry into medical health services. He agreed and that officer became the fulltime secretary of the committee. He remained with us to the end of the last Parliament. The committee had carried negotiations with the medical profession to an advanced but incomplete stage. We had taken evidence from the medical profession throughout Australia. On the dissolution of Parliament, I requested the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that this officer’s salary should be continued until the general elections had been held, and until it had been decided whether the committee would be reconstituted. I assumed that the new committee would go on from where the old had left off, and that it would be necessary, because of this officer’s knowledge of the work, that he should remain on that work on behalf of the new committee. When the committee was reconstituted I was met in the lobbies by the Clerk ofl the House and told that the committee had been allotted a certain officer of the House as secretary, and that has led to the many troubles that have been referred to by honorable members. I need not recount them. Some of the references were true. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has in some of his statements, however, drawn a very long bow.
– The honorable member is casting some doubt.
– Some doubt. The negotiations between the committee and the British Medical Association had reached the stage before the sixth interim report was completed at which we had agreed to a conference between the committee, the British Medical Association, and the “National Health and Medical Research Council. We were unable to hold that conference before Parliament was dissolved. When the committee had been reconstituted I communicated with the president of the British Medical Association, Sir Henry Newland^ and told him why we had not been able to fulfil our undertaking, and that it would be fulfilled at the earliest opportunity. That opportunity occurred in December last. We met at Canberra with representatives of the British Medical Association and National Health and Research Council to consider certain aspects of the sixth interim report of the committee with which the British Medical Association did not agree. We desired to get closer together on the medical health services, because we wanted to present a final report recommending a national health scheme which would be workable, and which would avoid some if not all of the pitfalls which other countries that have given effect to health legislation have met with. We believed that it was possible for us to reach an agreement. In the two days on which the conference at Canberra sat we made some progress. The conference suggested that there should be a sub-committee of the conference composed of members of the Social Security Committee, the British Medical Association and the National Health and Medical Research Council to hammer out certain details that had been agreed to in principle. Well, it was left, as the honorable member for Dalley has told honorable members, to Sir Henry Newland and myself to agree on those who should attend. I ought to say that those who attended the conference included the Medical Survey Subcommittee that was appointed at the request of the Social Security Committee during the last Parliament.
– And the heads of’ the medical corps of the three services.
– Yes. We reached the stage at which Sir Henry Newland’ and I agreed that certain people should be members of the sub-committee to meet in Sydney. After considering the subject in consultation with members of the committee, I advised; the secretary that in view of the fact that Mr. Rowe had a complete knowledge of what had taken place, I thought it best to appoint him, in conjunction with Dr. Hunter, executive officer and secretary of the British Medical Association, to act in a joint capacity to keep a close check on the business. The honorable member for Dalley is, therefore, in error on this point. Apparently he was either misinformed or not fully informed. I said, in my discussion with Mr. Chubb, that although Mr. Rowe was to act as secretary of this sub-committee, I wanted Mr. Chubb to be at hand to advise me, and to assist me in the deliberations of the committee. We all regret the reason why Mr. Chubb did not go to Sydney. He had suffered a serious bereavement at that time, and when he consulted me by telephone I expressed our deep sympathy with him and said that there was no need for him to go to Sydney. He had a sound reason for not doing so. Many of the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley are equally wide of the mark. As to the propriety of all that has been done, there may be some room for a little criticism, though that is a moot point. Certainly we did not intend to depart from the terms of reference of the committee. The committee was anxious to complete its investigations, and to submit a comprehensive report and sound recommendations to the Parliament with as little delay as possible and with a minimum of expense.
– Similar sub-committees have been appointed by other committees. The fact is that the expenses of three members have not been passed for payment.
– Why should a clerk acting under instructions be victimized ?
– As to whether regulations have been disregarded, I point out that I was not advised of any trouble until I received a letter from the Clerk of the Joint Committees. I do not propose to debate the allegations of misrepresentation, lack of co-operation and attempts to frustrate or circumvent the authority of Mr. Speaker. The committee was anxious to discharge . the duty that had been entrusted to it, and to do it in the right way. I was quite happy to have
Mr. Chubb associated with me as secretary, and he was appointed in the terms of the letter addressed to me by the Clerk of the House. I regard Mr. Chubb as a very capable officer. I say, however, that no officer, however capable he might be, could step into an inquiry of this kind when it had been half completed and when delicate negotiations were in process^ - they are still in process - and not feel the handicaps of the situation. 1 do not know whether Parliament will be satisfied to accept the situation that confronts it to-day. The only change that occurred in connexion with this committee was that after the general elections had intervened certain vacancies were filled. The committee then carried on its investigations from the point at which they stood when the elections interrupted them. To say that in such circumstances a committee must accept a new secretary is, in ray opinion, grotesque. That is the only word I can use. It was only after considerable persistence, and a good deal of vigorous activity, that we were able to retain the services of the previous secretary in the capacity of research officer. It seems to me that the whole machinery under which power is vested in Mr. Speaker and the President should be overhauled, for the situation with which we are nowconfronted has occurred previously in relation to other committees. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) had to deal with it in connexion with a former broadcasting committee.
– He frustrated Mr. Speaker.
– The President of the Senate and. not the Speaker of the House was involved on that occasion. Mr. Speaker is drawing a long bow when he says that his authority was being frustrated. Surely some solution can be found to this problem. At present we have a joint committee which is representative of only the Government side of the House. I greatly regret that this situation has arisen. A national health and superannuation committee was formed in New Zealand several years ago. It consisted of eleven members and, as to staff, it was decided by the Government that Messrs. B. C. Ashwin, G. H. Maddex, and J. S. Reid should be attached to the committee as r.v. –pert secretariat, also that Dr. M. H. Watt, Messrs. A. 0. Keisenberg, and C. E. Wynne should represent the Department of Health, whilst Mr. R. S. Wogan, the secretary of the Public Service Superannuation Board, was nominated as secretary of the committee.
Our committee has conducted its activities at minimum cost ever since its appointment. It has asked for very little extra assistance. When it discovered that a survey was needed to obtain certain factual information it took up the subject of expense with the Treasury and the Treasurer approved. The information obtained by that committee was furnished to me a3 chairman of the Social Security Committee. If such committees are to make a success of their activities I suggest that they should have some say in the appointment of their officers; otherwise they may become ineffective and expensive, and. in this case, most unsatisfactory.
– At the beginning of this discussion I questioned, by interjection, whether the proceedings were in order. I am not really convinced that they are in order, although I accept the better judgment of Mr. Deputy Speaker on the point. I question the propriety of the discussion because we have before us a motion to accept resignations from a committee which have been tendered by two of its members. Presumably the two members desire to resign. I enthusiastically support their resignation. If the Government is favorable, and if honorable members opposite support their colleagues, I cannot understand why the consideration of important parliamentary business has been delayed by this discussion. I do not consider that the two honorable members who have resigned have said anything which can justify their action. The chairman of the Social Security Committee, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), has said that the work of the committee is important. I agree with him. I consider it to be of much more importance than the treatment of any particular individual. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has indicated on many occasions in speeches in this House that he is favorably disposed to the liberalizing of social services. The honorable member has, however, consistently voted against any improvement of social services, and so has proved himself to be the greatest of humbugs on this subject. We well remember that some years ago he attended an International Labour Conference and supported a proposal for the adoption of a 40-hour week. When the subject was subsequently debated in this Parliament he voted against a 40- hour week.
– But introduced it in his own factory.
– A question has been raised as to whether the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) was justified in leaving the Speaker’s Chair to participate from the floor of the House in the debate on this subject. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) accused Mr. Speaker of having made partisan statements. The whole tenor of the speeches of honorable members opposite has been to accuse Mr. Speaker of having victimized an exofficer of the Social Security Committee. As Mr. Speaker was the subject of such accusations I consider that he was fully justified in defending himself on the floor of the House. He dealt with the subject in a most temperate manner and confined himself to a clear statement of the facts so that honorable members would be able to make an impartial judgment. Seeing that the individual involved in this discussion has been dealt with by the appropriate authorities, I cannot understand why he should be regarded as of more importance than the work on which this committee is engaged, In what way can it be said that this person has been victimized? Such a charge can be answered by saying tha,t Mr. Speaker would not allow his position to be used by the individual affected or by certain members of the committee to obtain for him a position of higher status and pay than the Public Service Board considered to be justified. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) went so far as to accuse Mr. Speaker of having made a. vicious attack upon a man who could not defend himself.
– A vicious personal attack.
– The honorable member has a reputation for making such attacks on persons who cannot reply to them. Immediately after making such a charge against Mr. Speaker, he proceeded to attack the Public Service .Commissioner, who, he suggested, had not made adequate inquiries into the salary that should be provided for Mr. Rowe. The Public Service Commissioner is not in a position to defend himself. He is not able to answer in this House. But I venture to say that there is not one honorable member who would not accept the word of the Public Service Commissioner regarding this matter, in preference to that of the honorable member for Wentworth. He mentioned that Mr. Rowe was not allowed to use the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, is not responsible for the fact that Mr. Rowe was denied the opportunity, for a period, of going to the Parliamentary Refresh.ment Rooms.
– -No one said that he was.
– The honorable member for Wentworth used it as evidence that Mr. Rowe had been ‘ victimized. Victimized by whom? Victimized by Mr. Speaker! The facts are that Mr. Rowe was debarred from going to the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms, not by Mr. Speaker, but by the fact that he was not eligible to do so, because during that period he was not an officer of the Parliament. Those facts have not been stated. Mention was made also that Mr. Rowe’s telephone service was disconnected. The only persons other than Ministers who are entitled to a telephone service at the expense of the Parliament are the private secretaries of Ministers. All that happened was that Mr. Speaker, as the custodian of the rights and privileges of this Parliament, could not and would not approve of the payment of a telephone connexion for Mr. Rowe when he was not acting in that capacity. Honorable members will realize that statements regarding the action taken in this case have been grossly exaggerated. The honorable member for Flinders said, “ We have only transferred our services elsewhere. This is not a strike by honorable members of the Opposition”.
– Of course it is!
– I do not mind if it is. It will be the easiest strike that the Government has had to solve. When Ministers have had other strikes to deal with they have experienced great difficulty in replacing the men who stopped work. On this occasion, it will be very simple to replace those honorable members who have resigned from the committee. It is rather amusing to hear the honorable member for Parramatta, the honorable member for Flinders, and the honorable member for Wentworth talk about victimization. The honorable member for Wentworth made some unwarranted and malicious attacks in this House upon certain sections of the trade union movement, who have not an opportunity to defend themselves. The honorable member for Flinders said, “ We are not going to see one of our subordinates victimized “. That is one of the basic principles of trade unionism. Surely the honorable member is not suddenly becoming a strong advocate of trade unionism and union principles! His record has been one of opposition to trade unionism.
Mr.Ryan. - Never!
– The honorable member, who has opposed trade unionism and the unity of the workers for the purpose of defending their rights, now takes a strong attitude. I accept the statement made by Mr. Speaker. It was a very lucid and temperate explanation of the facts. In my opinion, Mr. Speaker acted quite properly. No committee has the right to try to get around the decision of Mr. Speaker, especially by such questionable methods as those which, it appears, were adopted by certain members of this committee. They were determined to defeat Mr. Speaker in the exercise of his authority. I am pleased to see that Mr. Speaker adopted a firm attitude in regard to this matter. Mention has been made of undermining our parliamentary institution. One act that will undermine the parliamentary institution will be the undermining of the authority of Mr. Speaker. We can leave it to the majority of honorable members to support Mr.
Speaker in the attitude that he has adopted, and I hope that they will support the motion for the acceptance of the resignation of two honorable gentlemen opposite with as much enthusiasm as I shall myself.
Motion (by Mr. Sheehan) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr.riordan.)
Majority . . . . 20
Motion agreed to.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - The quality of the woollen cloths produced for civilian use in Australia has received the consideration, of the Production Executive of Cabinet. As misleading statements have been made regarding this matter, the House should be informed of the basis of the existing control. Under the Control of Woollens Order issued in April, 1942, and subsequent delegations, the responsible authority in the Department of Supply and Shipping is authorized to determine “ from time to time the classes, types and grades of woollen materials and the quantities of such classes, types and grades of woollen materials which may be manufactured for civil consumption from materials available for that purpose “.
Prior to the introduction of this particular order, the matter was discussed with the textile manufacturers and the Textile Workers Union; ‘both endorsed the proposals as a means of securing, with the resources available, the maximum production of reasonably priced, goodquality cloth. The Controller of Woollens in the Department of Supply and Shipping, who has wide experience of the textile industry, has expressed the opinion that the woollen cloths now being produced are better than SO per cent of the locally made material purchased by the public prior to the war. From the samples of cloth produced by some mills, there is no doubt whatever that good quality cloths are being made.
I emphasize that the control exercised under the Control of Woollens Order has not prevented the production of good quality cloths. If some mills have produced inferior cloth, it hasbeen done, not because of the order, but because of the fact that some mills are either incapable of producing better cloths, or, while sheltering behind the statement that the industry is prevented from producing better quality, are prepared to produce inferior materials. If the production of a quantity of twofold weft worsted suiting would solve the problem of the production of inferior cloths right through the range of woollen materials, it would be a very simple solution. However, such a course would he most unlikely to solve the problem of the production of poorclass material, since it is probable that the mills making the better singleweft cloth would convert some of their production to twofold weft, whilst the producers of inferior cloth would continue to produce inferior cloth, and thereby would perpetuate the waste of manpower and materials.
The Government is naturally anxious for the best possible materials to be produced, consistent with the needs of the war effort, and for poor-quality cloths to be eliminated, as they represent a serious waste of manpower and other resources. Therefore, in order to secure an expert and unbiased opinion on the general subject it has been decided to refer the matter to the Tariff Board for urgent report on the following questions: -
To obtain evidence from experts in respect of all wool cloths being produced in Australia, and to report in particular as to -
Immediately the report of the Tariff Board is received the Government will decide on the steps necessary to meet the situation disclosed.
Debate resumed from the 23rd March (vide page 1912), on motion by Mr. Scully -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– With the approval of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) I shall discuss this and the other two wheat measures together ; because, in my view, it would be unwise to attempt to deal with the wheat industry in three separate’ sections.
– Is the House agreeable to that procedure ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear. Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON.- I realize that the Minister had to make three second-reading speeches, because there are three bills. But they deal with three correlated aspects of the wheat industry, and of the policy of the Government; therefore, from the stand-point of the Opposition, their consideration as one plan, rather than as three separate measures, is desirable. To me it appears rather strange that on this, the first occasion after its great electoral victory on which the Government has introduced measures dealing with the wheat industry, it should have decided to make no reference to very important international aspects of the wheat situation. First, in not one second-reading speech has the Minister said a word about Australia’s obligations and intentions under the international agreement on wheat. or of what Canada, the United States of America, Argentina, and the other signatories to the agreement propose to do in the immediate post-war period ; provided, of course, that there has not been any discussion lately - which I find it difficult to believe - and that certain countries have not come to agreement. In addition, it is fairly well known that the Commonwealth Government has assumed liabilities and responsibilities in connexion with the feeding of Europe immediately after the termination of the war. The basic foodstuff of the greater part of Europe - I refer to all areas west of Poland, and a few very small areas of the Balkans - is wheat. The other two foodstuffs are not produced in this country for export. One of them is rye, which would be required only in central and eastern Poland, parts of Russia, and certain areas of the Balkans. The other is maize, which is grown extensively in the Balkans, but is not exported by Australia. Therefore, whatever our grain obligations may be in regard to the immediate post-war food problem on the continent of Europe, they will be confined to the wheat industry. There is a rather peculiar setup in that industry in Australia to-day. I say that, with the full knowledge that at the elections held last August the wheat areas of Australia, in common with other areas, gave to the Government a very good majority, in consequence of which it is entitled to argue that the wheat plan which now carries the name of the Minister, instead of the “Roberton” wheat plan which was given to it at its rather inglorious birth, has received unqualified acceptance by the wheat-growers of Australia. However, I am; df the opinion that before long the wheat-growers will sing a very different tune. I have had’ some slight connexion with the formulation of wheat, schemes, and I know the wheat industry fairly well in every State. It will not be assisted by being placed once more in the cockpit of party politics. That is what will happen under these bills. The first proposal of the Government is the repeal of the Wheat Tax Act 1940, passed by the Menzies Government in December of that year. The intention of that tax, which might have been carried into effect had it remained in force foi’ a few weeks longer, was that when the price of wheat, exceeded 3s. lOd. a bushel, 50 per cent, of the excess should be paid to the farmer and the balance into a special treasury, fund for use when the price was lower than that amount, in order to bridge the difference between the prevailing price and a maximum of 3s. 10d. a bushel. It is quite true that on more than one occasion I have been accused in this House of being one who did not go in for extra high wheat prices. My ceiling price has never been a high one. I say that, having had an experience of more than twenty years in wheat-growing in one of the poorer parts pf South Australia - an experience for which I have paid considerably, and, I hope, sufficiently. The wheat problem is a very difficult one. There are two things that I do not want. One is to have conferred on me a knighthood - for which I would not give “ tuppence “ a dozen - and the other is to have a wheat scheme named after me. The Minister is at least “ one up “ on me in that respect. Doubtless, after victory has been won, honours will be distributed among members of this very militaristic government which is so widely advertised in the press. If one were to judge by .the full-page advertisements which appear, one would believe that the right honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) was a native of Essen instead of Coburg. These wheat schemes remind one of what the blackfellow said to the squatter in regard lo a stockyard - “It looks all right on paper, boss, but just how are we gol-g .o get it up ? “ I have no doubt that the Minister is having a similar experience. It does not matter whether or not 3,000 busheld a grower and 4s. a bushel for that 3,000 bushels, are fixed, or whether the fantastic fraction of 4a. 1-Jd. a bushel which the Minister has adopted, is ‘ accepted. That is cheeseparing which does not appeal to even my Highland nature. But a government which can get down to one-third of a penny in fixing the price of wheat has something to commend it. I am not at all sure that in a year or two the growers will be of the same mind. The fantastic feature of this Scully wheat plan - to give it the adopted name - is that under it a great deal of discretion rests with the Minister. I have a strong suspicion that he has altogether too much discretion. Further, I have a strong suspicion that, if the matter were in the hands of anybody less scrupulous than the honorable gentleman, and a difficult election were approaching, we might witness the making of rather extraordinary offers in respect of wheat. I thought that the wheat industry had been taken more or less out of the realm of party politics; but by the abolition of the act of 1940, and under the provisions of the other bills that have been introduced, the Minister or the Government is once more fo have the discretion of saying what the industry shall receive from year to year. That will apply to quite a number of things. There is nothing sacrosanct about the 3,000 bushels limitation. The Government, if pressed a little, might decide upon an increase to 3,33 3$, in order that the acreage might be in keeping with the price of 4s. 1 1/3 d. a bushel. On the other hand, if the political weather appeared to be fairly fine - by which I mean not dry, but fine from the point of view of the farming community - it might decide upon a reduction to 1,999-9/10.
– Whatever it did, would be right.
– That is what Mohammed said. I have a strong suspicion that there is something of the Arab in the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). There is nothing sacrosanct about the present price or the acreage restriction. In fact, the Government will no doubt shortly tell the people of Western Australia what a wonderful lot of fellows they are. Obviously, those people on the 21st August last considered that government candidates were fine fellows. That State is still suffering from the penalty imposed as the result of the implementation of the policy of the Commonwealth Government in regard to wheat acreage. The acreage which they may sow this year is to be one-third, less than they were allowed to sow in normal times.
– In agreement with the Government and the wheat-growers of Western Australia.
– I have seen quite a few agreements in my time. One agrees to what one cannot alter; one has no alternative. In contradistinction, and giving .point to what J. have said, the Minister referred to the extension of the cultivation of wheat in Queensland. Does that mean that when military necessity has passed, and when the present transport difficulty can be pushed more or less into the backs of our minds, the State of Queensland, which must have incurred quite a lot of expense in giving effect to government policy during war-time, will be told : “ You boys up in the Maranoa and on the Darling Downs have done a pretty fair job. You can now get out of the wheat industry, and revert to what you were producing in pre-war years “.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that there has been an extension of wheat-growing in Queensland ?
– According to the statement of the Minister, there has been.
– It has been very much reduced.
– It would appear that there is scope for a firstclass argument between the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) and the Minister, because the Minister has definitely stated that the acreage of wheat in Queensland has been extended. And he has just as definitely admitted that it has been reduced in Western Australia by agreement. Many things are done by agreement. For example, the miners can be induced to return to work. But somebody has to pay the penalty. One of these days, when times become whatever “ normal “ will be in the future, the farming community will begin to realize that it does not pay to have a certain area of land, stock and plant, and noi be able to use them to legitimate advantage. Any man engaged in’ the wheat industry must know that, by reason of the rather severe restrictions that are imposed to-day, a man is practically told that if he is a tall poppy in the wheat-growing sense, then “ off goes his head “. The Minister will recall certain correspondence I have had with him in regard to some of the larger growers in my electorate. One man, a little while ago, was guilty of having grown 27,000 bushels of wheat. According to the ideas which prevail in some wheat-growing circles, and I am afraid in all Commonwealth Government circles, that man is not a benefactor, but a liability to the country. He must have a very big plant. He must have a big stake in the country, and, consequently, he is to be pushed deeper and deeper into the dust. I put this point to the Government - and to wheat-growers, too, because there are many in my electorate mis-, guided enough to believe in the Scully plan - that if the present policy is followed to its logical conclusion the Australian wheat industry will become- a replica of the system of peasant-farming which obtains in the Balkans, in Poland, in Lithuania, and in other eastern European countries. The Government has declared that the farmer’s activities shall be limited, and that he is entitled to only sufficient plant to raise a certain quantity of wheat. This involves a contradiction of policy. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has said that wheat licences do not apply directly to the land. He spoke of entangling interests as between husband and wife, which made it impossible to work on the principle that every holder of a registered farm should have the right to raise the full quota. It was interesting to me to hear that there was such a thing as a personal licence to grow wheat. The Minister has already laid it down that, for the distribution of superphosphate, there shall be no personal licence, but that the licence shall go with the land. Also, in connexion with the production of sugar, the licence to grow cane attaches to the land itself. Just over the fence there may be equally suitable land held by a neighbour, or even by the same owner, but because it has not been licensed for the growing of cane, cane may not be grown upon it. I maintain that this system should also apply to licences for the growing of wheat. There should be no monkeying around with share-agreements between husband and wife, or father and son, or father-in-law and son-in-law. If the quota is to be fixed at 3,000 bushels a licence, then the licence should be attached to the land. How does the Minister suggest that personal licences can be policed? Will a licensee, if he does not choose to grow wheat in the top end of my electorate, take his licence down to the Angas Plains, and grow wheat there? The Minister will find himself in serious trouble if he persists with the present policy.
Early in the war I said and believed - and I still think I was right at the time - that it was then necessary to limit the production of wheat in Australia. The position in regard to shipping was very delicate. We remembered what happened during the last war, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) will recall his worries over weevils in wheat stacks. It was the policy of the Government, of which I was a member in 1940, to get out of Australia every bushel of wheat possible. For that reason, wheat was sold to certain countries on credit. We believed that it was better to dispose of wheat to New Zealand or Japan or some other country for cash, or, in some instances, for credit, than to have it stacked up at Port Adelaide, or in western New South Wales, exposed to attack from weevils and mice. Now times have changed, and when the war ends in Europe there will he a wonderful opportunity to get Australian wheat into European countries. We shall still be at a geographical disadvantage as compared with America, but there should
Be a demand for our wheat from southern Europe, from the Balkan countries, and, perhaps, from Black Sea ports also. The Government should have in mind a humanitarian policy that will enable Australia to help to save Europe from death by starvation after the German armies have been pushed out of the countries they now occupy. It is interesting to note that great quantities of food have been transported by the Arctic route from the United States of America and Canada to Russia during the last twelve months. It may be that we shall be asked to send wheat into the Black Sea for the people of southern Russia, and it is almost certain that we shall be asked to send shipments to the Persian Gulf, as well as for supplying British and American forces in India and Ceylon. Only Ministers of State, who are in possession of the facts, can know for certain, hut I suggest that these are factors which ought to shape our policy in regard to wheat production during the next few years. I suggest that the Government’s policy of limiting its price guarantee to 3,000 bushels per grower is not in the interests of the world generally. It may be good policy viewed from a selfish, Australian point of view, but .if Australia is to contribute to the rapid and effective rehabilitation of Europe, the policy is short-sighted, defeatist and isolationist. The Government can well afford to discard such a policy. Having regard to the present shortage of labour and superphosphate, there is not likely to be any great surplus wheat acreage sown in Australia. Farming is, for the most part, being carried on by middle-aged and elderly men, assisted by boys, and, in many instances, by women. In such circumstances, only a percentage of the area can be sown that would be cropped in normal times. There was a drought last year, and the tendency is for a good year to follow a drought, but it must be remembered that last year’s drought followed a good year, whereas it is customary for the seasons to taper off. Whether there will be a first-class season after the dry one experienced last year in South Australia, the Wimmera and the Riverina remains to be seen. The shipping position is much easier than it was, and our wheat stocks are small compared with those usually on hand at this time of year. Therefore, the Government might well revise its policy.
The home-consumption price of wheat is of the greatest importance to growers, and has been in the forefront of wheat politics for more than fourteen years. The Minister left this matter of a homeconsumption price in the air. I understand that the’ price of wheat f .o.b. to-day has equalled, if not exceeded, the homeconsumption price fixed by legislation, so that the collection of flour tax from now on will be practically nil. I ask the Minister whether, in the event of the price falling below 5s. 3d. a bushel, the Government proposes to allow the tax to be collected again, or whether it will exercise its powers under national emergency legislation, to abolish the tax. The wheat-growers would like to have this information. Then there is the interesting fact which wheat-growers must bear in mind that whatever opportunities the Government may have had to make the home-consumption-price legislation waterproof by constitutional means, the Government, in its wisdom or otherwise, has deliberately shied clear. Like a pony shying at a piece of paper, it has got right off the road.
– How has it got off the road?
– The Government does not intend to ask the people when it takes the referendum to remedy the position which exists with regard to section 92 of the Constitution. The South Australian Parliament amended the bill referring power to the Commonwealth Parliament in order to provide for certain Commonwealth control of export industries.
– It mangled the bill.
– No. It improved it. I say, very definitely, that this Government, which is supposed to have the interests of the primary producer at heart - and I very much doubt it - made no effort to get the sense of the people on these matters, but concentrated on freedom of speech and such things, although there is no freedom of speech in this House at all.
– The honorable member seems to get opportunity for a fair “ mag “ at any time.
– There are some of us who are built that way. I have to impress myself upon the House in some way.
- (Mr. Riordan). - Order ! The honorable member must address his remarks to the bill.
– I will, but, the honorable member’s looks are such that they must have impressed themselves on even you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There is no need for him to say so much as I- in debate. These are important matters which require answers. We may have to deal with them more extensively in committee. One other matter I raise is the constitution of the Australian Wheat Board. It consists of one representative from Queensland, two from New South Wales, two from Victoria, one from South Australia, and one from Western Australia. The production of wheat taken over the years is not twice as great in Victoria and New South Wales as in South Australia and Western Australia. In fact, in some years, Western Australia and South Australia have each exceeded the production of Victoria.
– That would only be th rough seasonal conditions.
– Hang it all! the wheat yield is based on seasons. It is a matter of acreage, seasons, superphosphate and cultivation.
– In a normal year the difference is not tremendous.
– That is so, and yet we have a wheat board consisting of seven grower members - I exdude the others for I am only concerned with the growers - of whom New South Wales and Victoria nominate four.
– It is the Australian Wheat Board not a State board.
– Therefore, it should be on an Australian basis instead of being loaded heavily in favour of the two greater States, in which the board always meets. Queensland has one representative, and, in normal circumstances, it would not produce 2 per cent, of the Australian wheat. I am not criticizing the members of the Australian Wheat Board, only the allocation of representation. The members have been elected by the growers in their wisdom. I accept whatever democracy happens to love for the time being. The state of this House compels me to say that on the 21st August last year democracy must have had some strange views. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should take into serious consideration whether the board should not bear a better relationship to the average production of the States than it bears today. I put that to him because I believe that the scales are always loaded in these matters in favour of the areas in which the board sits, namely, Victoria and New South Wales. I do not say that in any spirit of hostility to those States. Heaven knows, I love them enough. But we should, get down to a more reasonable distribution of representation. Sooner Or later, this matter will crop up in an acute form, and, being very desirous of saving the Government from trouble, I direct attention to this matter early in order that it may attend to it without calling on the growers to do so.
– What does the honorable member prefer - election to the board on a Senate basis or a House of Representatives basis ?
– If it were on a Senate basis, South Australia and Western Australia would get twice the representation they have now. If the honorable member prefers a House of Representatives basis that means an election based on the amount of wheat produced or the number of growers. Victoria has not the number of growers that other States have.
– I prefer the Senate voting.
– On the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour party, of which the honorable gentleman is a member, the six States ave equally represented. Until such time as the honorable member removes that great beam from his eye he need not refer to the little bit of “ camel dust “ that I have in mine. These matters can always be reduced , to a common working factor, and it is as well that honorable gentlemen should remember that. I am speaking more or less on behalf of the United Australia party. It is not our intention to oppose these bills at the present stage. “We are making our comment on them. We refer to their shortcomings. We refer to their injustice and to the position which inevitably will face the growers. We refer to the lack of balance in the wheat industry between State and State, and to the way in which one State i3 depressed into the ground and the other, for military reasons, is raised up. We refer to the complete silence of the Government on its obligations under the international wheat agreement, and the obligations which it has entered into on behalf of Australia, it is assumed, for the feeding of Europe. Having some hint as to what those obligations are, we say that the present bills do not meet the situation. I am. afraid that other bills of an agricultural character which will emanate from the Government in the next two or three years will be no more likely to meet the situation.
.- I have listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), whom I counsel to keep within his own State when offering advice. He claimed that the Western Australian wheat industry was being forced into the ground, but that is not so. He said that acreage reduction had been forced upon wheat-farmers in Western Australia, whereas the facts are that they were compensated 12s. an acre for the area that was not sown, and that brought £560,000 to the State. Not only was the acreage in Western Australia reduced under regulations by 33$ per cent, for which the farmers received compensation, but also the farmers have further reduced their licensed acreage by 33-J per cent. Just before the licences were sent out to the farmers in Western Australia the State Wheat Committee, of which I was a member, which administers the Scully wheat scheme in that
State, approached the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) with a request that he remove the 33$ per cent, reduction from all growers who held licences in respect of areas of 100 acres or less. He consented and we gave the small growers an option. We sent their licences to them with a. notification that there was no restriction and that they were entitled to grow the full acreage stated on their licences. We also pointed out that, as there would be no compulsory restriction, there would automatically be no compensation. What was our experience? The great majority returned their licences, asking for the 33$ per cent, reduction so that they should get the 12s. an acre compensation. I, therefore, advise the honorable member to deal with matters on which he is better informed.
– I am fairly well informed about the wheat industry in Western Australia, as I shall tell the honorable member in committee.
– On the matter of output, the honorable member talked about acreage licensing and the 3,000 bushels scheme as limiting production. That is entirely untrue. The fact is that growers in the other States are not restricted to-day. They can grow whatever they grew in the basic years, on which the licences were issued, when wheat production was in full swing. The honorable member knows that the real reason for’ reduction of output is one that is impossible to avoid. The Japanese destroyed our source of superphosphate. It is untrue for the honorable member to say that action of the Government is responsible for the reduced output.
– I should like the honorable member not to misquote me.
– The honorable gentleman’s speech consisted of advocacy of a reversion to the old system of wheat control. We may well ask why do we want any method of control. Why not go back to the historical method of selling on the open market? Why not go back, to the law of supply and demand? We could return to that, but, when I have given honorable members my personal experience as a wheatgrower, I think they will agree with me that we should not. I produced in my first year as a wheat-farmer, 1,500 bushels from an area of approximately 105 acres and received 4s. lOd. a bushel which gave me a return of £353 10s. Had the Scully scheme been in operation that year I should have received a first payment of only £300, but, on realization of the pool, I should have received, eventually, what the wheat brought. In the second year I produced 3,600 bushels of wheat, which was a considerable increase on my first year’s production. I received for it the magnificent sum of £330. Had the Scully scheme been in operation I would have received £690. In the third year I produced 6,300 bushels for which I received 2s. 2d. a bushel, making £682 10s. Had the Scully scheme been in operation then I would have received £1,905. Therefore, in three years, under the supplyanddemand, and much talked of open-market system I received £1,375 for my wheat, whereas had the Scully scheme been operating any return would have been £2,085, £701 more than I actually received. In my .second year of wheatgrowing, the price of wheat was only ls. lOd. a bushel. Unorganized marketing was largely responsible for this. At that time many “Western Australian wheat-farmers were being sold up and thrown to the financial wolves. Others of us were compelled to organize and stand together in order to stop forced sales and evictions. I remember that, at that time, a returned soldier who had refused to submit to orders and had sold a small quantity of wheat to pay his store bill, was imprisoned and died while in gaol. An unfortunate lady who had lost her husband sold a quantity of wheat in order to pay her husband’s funeral expenses, and she was prosecuted for so doing. Those conditions resulted from the absence of controls and guaranteed prices. An examination of official statistics during the last fifteen years reveals some startling facts. In the period 1928 to 1931 the average price of wheat was 4s. 6£d. a bushel. I calculate on the Australian price, which is f.o.b. at Williamstown, and have taken off 7d. a bushel because that is the normal cost of getting wheat from farmers’ sidings to shipboard. In wartime the cost has ranged between lOd. and ls. a bushel. I take the Australian price because it is relevant to the Scully scheme. The price quickly fell during 1931, to ls. 11 3/4 d., a decline of 53 per cent. Subsequent to 1931 the price fluctuated between ls. lid. and 2s. 5d. a bushel until, in 1936, an upward trend occurred, due to the depletion of stocks in consequence of drought conditions in North America. By December, 1936, the price had increased to 4s. 5d., and it remained at that high figure for twelve or eighteen months; but in 1939 a crash came, and wheat had practically no commercial value. These “ boom and slump “ conditions would be greatly aggravated in the post-war period if adequate controls were not applied to the industry. Such fluctuations were common even in the days of horse-drawn vehicles and limited mechanization, but unless controls be maintained they will become much more marked in the postwar period because science and mechanized production have resulted in quite different conditions which make it practicable to increase production rapidly. In the absence of controls, therefore, farmers would be likely to be worse off than even then. The controls inherent in the Scully plan have been applied to the industry hitherto by National Security Regulations, but I am glad to support the bills that have been introduced by the Government in order to give legislative form to them.
In the period 1931 to’ 1940 a 3,000- bushel farmer would have received an average rate of 2s. 9£d. a bushel for his wheat, or £408 a year. Under the Scully scheme such a farmer would have received £600 a year or an increase of £108 5s. a year. Over the ten-year period that would have meant an increased income to the farmer from his wheat of £1,812 10s. The 2,000 bag, or 6,000 bushel, farmer would also have benefited considerably. In the ten-year period that I have mentioned he would have received for his 6,000 bushels, £837 10s. a year. Had the Scully scheme been in operation over that period he would have received £1,050 a year or £202 10s. a year more than under the then existing conditions. His aggregate advantage over the ten years under the Scully scheme would have been £2,125.
These figures show that genuine farmers, whether they operate on the 3,000 bushel or the 6,000 bushel basis, are in a much better position under the Scully scheme than they were in in the old days of open market selling or the voluntary pool system. Personally I considered the voluntary pool system preferable to open market selling. The voluntary pools were largely co-operative and they returned to the farmer promptly two-thirds of the market value of their wheat. But farmers had sometimes to wait eighteen months for pools to finalize their accounts. Under the stabilization plan of the previous Government farmers were to have received an advance of 2s. a bushel, but they would have had to wait upon realizations before final payment could be made. If the realizations had proved to be in excess of 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. which, at present, represents approximately 3s. at sidings, the growers would have had to return half of the excess amount to the Government. They would not have benefited by the full return for their wheat. Under the Scully scheme a first payment was made of 4s. a bushel on quantities delivered up to 1,000 bags per unit of licensed growers, and 3s. a bushel on quantities in excess of 3,000 bushels. As payments have represented approximately 75 per cent, of quota wheat, and are made immediately on delivery, the growers have received something in excess of the market value of the wheat, the difference having been made up from Treasury funds. Wheat-growing is our second largest industry in export importance, and is directly and indirectly responsible for the employment of more labour than is engaged in any other industry in the country, but for the first time it has been placed’ on a sound foundation. Not only has the Scully plan given economic and financial stability to the wheatfarmers, but it has also brought financial stability to all business people who trade directly with the wheat-farmers. Experience has shown that whenever the countryside is prosperous, the whole community is prosperous. That has been proved true at all times and in all countries. The far-reaching benefits of the Scully scheme have been advantageous to all sections of the Australian com munity. Undoubtedly, a prosperous countryside means a prosperous nation. An important factor in the Scully scheme is the control measures which it applies. Under the scheme wheat may be grown only by a licensed grower, and only on a registered wheat-farm.. The scheme prevents uncontrolled expansion of wheat production, particularly in areas with a poor rainfall. Guaranteed prices may sometimes tempt farmers to sow wheat in unsuitable areas, but sooner or later such farmers must become a liability to the nation.
When the honorable member for Barker was Minister for Commerce in a previous government he endeavoured to apply a policy under which farmers could be removed from unproductive areas. This Parliament has been required on many occasions to make charitable gifts to wheat-farmers who have been unable to make a living on their poor and unsuitably situated holdings. The licence provisions integral to the Scully scheme ensure security of tenure to farmers. In the past, farmers have often been sold up by banks or financial institutions. The licensing scheme ensures a measure of supervision which will greatly reduce the risk of forced sales. I fear that unless some such controls be enforced after the war chaos will overtake the industry. In the absence of controls people are tempted, in good seasons, to take up wheat-growing in entirely unsuitable areas, and ultimately the nation has to foot the bill. We all know that, in wheat-growing, drought conditions occur, and rust and root rot are always lurking about to hinder and hamper agricultural operations. Unless controls are applied many farmers are likely to become victims of financial jackals who will demand their pound of flesh. Eighteen months ago I attended a wheat conference in this very chamber, and advocated the application of even greater measures of control than have been applied to this1 industry. I did not succeed in my endeavours’, but the Scully scheme achieves my objective in part for, to use a colloquialism, it prevents persons from “blowing into the industry”. It. limits to a large degree the number of purchasers of farms. Speculators will not be able to buy farms. Even if they do so, they will have to grow nonquota wheat, and will not be able to obtain a quota. I advocate the retention of the system of quota production.
The method of control under this scheme is based on the principle which has long been advocated by growers’ organizations in every State - the principle of orderly marketing under grower control. The growers claim the right to control, their own industry. Tt is an outstanding example of decentralized administration. For each State a committee is constituted, consisting of one public servant and two practical farmers. In each roads board district or shire council area, a local committee consisting of one State officer and two .practical farmers is also appointed. They examine cases in dispute and bring local knowledge to bear on the problem. This system has operated most satisfactorily in Western Australia. In the first year of the scheme, the number of appeals due to partnership agreements, estates, family arrangements, share-farming agreements, cases of husband and wife, and basic acreage adjustments, exceeded 3,000. All decisions were made by the State committee, and only two appellants were dissatisfied and made further representations to the Minister. In both instances the Minister upheld the committee’s decision. Therefore, I consider that the Scully scheme is a practical example of decentralized control.
The honorable member for Barker, in particular, has contended that the big farmer is the most economic producer, and has been severely penalized under this scheme. I have yet to be convinced that large wheat-farmers are more economic than smaller farmers who produce 3,000 and 6,000 bushel crops. Experience shows that as soon as the price of wheat begins to decline the large farmer drastically curtails production and dismisses his employees. They are thrown on to the already overburdened labour market, and the taxpayer has to maintain them. When market prospects begin to brighten the large wheat-grower picks up seasonal workers, employs them for a month, and again discharges them. That kind of wheat-grower may be economic to himself, but he is not economic to the nation. The farmer whom this Parliament should assist, is the man who maintains a steady flow of production. He is of great advantage to the country.
– Small farms maintain the rural population.
– I suggest that a portion of the receipts from this tax ought to be paid into a provident fund for the purpose of relieving the plight of farmers, who, through circumstances beyond their control, encounter great, hardship. Every year, some wheatgrowers suffer a local catastrophe through the agency of rust, drought, or flood which destroys the fruits of their labour. This provident fund would be of great assistance to men who suffer those hardships.
The wheat plan which has been submitted by the Minister encourages the farmer to plan steady production. It removes one of the greatest perils of the industry, namely, price fluctuation. It. helps to a great degree to put the industry on a sound financial basis. It is a scheme which brings comfort to the farmer who desires to earn his living and rear his family by the cultivation of the soil for the production of wheat.
. -I commend those provisions of the bill which I consider are of benefit to the industry and to the nation. Primary production should be organized, and my actions support the contention that I have always endeavoured to bring about organized marketing in various primary industries. Whilst I have no desire to destroy any schemes that are of benefit, to the country, I wish to offer a few suggestions for improving the bill. Listening to the speech of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), one would believe that all the wheat-grower has to do is to sow the seed and stand by while payment for the crop is handed to him on a platter. Wheat-growing is not so easy as that. The industry has had some “ups” and many “downs”. I disagree with the open-market system, and have always opposed it in primary industries. Contrary to a widespread belief in this chamber, the machinery employed in the Scully wheat plan was created in 1940 by the then Minister for
Commerce (Sir Earle Page). He introduced the licensing system, but did not go so far as to impose quotas.
– The right honorable member foi’ Cowper set up the machinery, but there were no results.
– I do not condemn the quota system.’ One operated in the peanut industry in Queensland before the Commonwealth Government look control. Then we lost grower-control and authority was placed in the hands of inexperienced government officials. As the result of the Scully plan the production of wheat is decreasing rapidly. The 1941-42 harvest was 153,000,000 bushels. A year later, production declined to 143,000,000 bushels, and the last harvest was 94,000,000 bushels. That decline is most serious in view of the world’s needs at the present time. If that is the effect of the Scully plati, we had better knock it on the head at once. I admit that drought conditions were responsible to some degree for that decline of production. But drought did not affect the harvest in Queensland where we had a wonderful season. Drought did not ravage all of the wheat-growing districts of New South Wales. Some honorable members opposite commented on the good crops in their electorates. Other States also escaped the effects of drought. What, then, was the cause of the decline? In ray opinion, the system of payment was partly responsible. The previous Government guaranteed a payment of 3s. lOd. a bushel for 140,000,000 bushels, and the Labour party declared that the arrangement was not satisfactory. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has now admitted that the average payment on the 1941-42 crop of 153,000,000 bushels, will be 3s. lOd. a bushel. Where has the industry gained any advantage from the change of government? The price is still 3s. lOd. a bushel. Tinder the previous Government growers did have the latitude of being able to sow the acreage that they desired, and they received 3s. lOd. a bushel for a much larger quantity of wheat than the Scully scheme envisages. The fixation of a quota of 3,000 bushels has a good deal to do with the decline of production.
I urge the Minister to increase the quota. The gross proceeds from the sale of 3,000 ‘bushels are not sufficient to ensure to the farmer an adequate livelihood. If the proceeds were the net results of his labours, his reward would be somewhere near the mark. But the farmer, under present conditions, is unable to pay all working expenses, and taxes, maintain himself and his family, from so small an income. Practical men opposite will agree with my contention. The offer of 2s. a bushel for all wheat produced in excess of the quota pf 3,000 bushels, did not induce farmers to exceed their quotas. In order to make farming worthwhile they turned to the production of other crops and to dairy-farming: We must agree, as sensible legislators, that the quota of 3,000 bushels is too small. The minimum should be 5,000 bushels, because a smaller quota will not give to the wheatgrower an adequate livelihood. I disagree with the system of issuing licences to farmers. In the peanut industry and the sugar industry licences are issued in respect of the farm, and that system has operated successfully for years. If it is too late to alter the method this season, the Minister should introduce it next season. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that, according to the Minister, the production of wheat in Queensland had been increased. I referred to the Minister’s speech in that regard, and learned that he said that he had found it necessary to try to increase the production of wheat in Queensland ; consequently, temporary licences had been, granted in that State to farmers who had not been growing wheat during the basic period that had been taken for registration. I can say with authority that in comparison with pre-war years the production of wheat im Queensland has seriously declined. According to my memory, the record production in that State was 7,000,000 bushels, which was equal to its consumption. Because of transport difficulties there is need, as the Minister stated, to increase production in that State. It is common knowledge that approximately 400 tons of. wheat is sent daily from the southern .States to Queensland, necessitating at least one train a day. That is ridiculous, when a portion of the deficiency could be grown locally. There is also the present farcical position of feed wheat being transported from South Australia to Queensland, at a cost of £2 10s. a ton. Why should it be sent from that State, when so much of it is available in Victoria and New South Wales ? Another question that should be answered is: Why should a flour-mill in Queensland be closed because it has surplus stocks of flour, at a time when flour is being imported from the south? That is an anomaly which should be corrected immediately. An inquiry into management is demanded. The wheat-growers of, Queensland have been penalized in respect of both price and acreage. They are receiving a lower price to-day than they received before the war under their own marketing organization. During any period of years that might be taken, the price was higher than it now is under the Scully wheat plan, with the exception of that received, by men growing up to 3,000 bushels. The Queensland growers believe in, and instituted, growercontrolled organizations. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), with his rural outlook, deserves thanks for having instituted the rural credits department of the Commonwealth Bank. It has enabled producer organizations to obtain up to 80 per cent., as a first advance, on the product as it was put into the pool. The scheme has been a success, and an extension of the principle is desired. But I do not favour overmuch bureaucratic control by departments. What I want is greater organization, control, and orderly marketing, as well as an extension of the system of finance which operates under the rural credits department of the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Government is not doing better than that, except that it is paying interest and making good any deficiency. But the grower is paying interest on the surplus wheat produced- for export overseas, in which respect he and not the Commonwealth Government is the banker. He has to wait for two years before he receives payment. The whole of the production above the quota .has to face the open market. That market should be eliminated. The present Government has not improved on the record of its predecessors. According to official figures, the payment on up to 153,000,000 bushels averages only 3s. lOd. a bushel. Wherein does the industry benefit? Let the quota be increased and the Commonwealth Government be made responsible for financing all production in excess of Australia’s consumption. It should be the banker in respect of surplus wheat that is sent to other countries. The responsibility is a national one, and the growers should not be expected to wait two years for their payment. I admit, of course, that they had to do so in other years. But we are aiming at betterment of their conditions, and should provide that finance shall be found for all the wheat that is grown. The Government is encouraging an increase of production by, I understand, approximately 20,000,000 bushels. If the growers had to await realization on the 50,000,000 bushels for approximately twelve months, that would be all right. Why should they have to wait for wheat to be sold overseas - a period of two and a half years? Industrial workers would not wait for two and a half years for their wages. The proceeds of the wheat crop are the wages of the wheat-growers, and they are entitled to receive payment at least every twelve months. The ideal condition in Queensland would be the abolition of the quota system for this year or for as long as it may be necessary to save transport. The increase would not exceed 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 bushels, because of the shortage of man-power. I have heard honorable members ask for supplies of superphosphate to be made available. Queensland must be the only State that has excellent soil, because it can grow wheat without superphosphate. The proposal of the Minister to issue temporary licences in respect of areas that are not now being cultivated for wheat, will not bear substantial fruit, because nobody will bother to grow wheat for a gross income of £600 a year, as he would be in debt at the end of the year and in addition would run the risk of a bad season causing him to have a total loss. The cultivator of a big acreage has been condemned. Any person who has been energetic enough to produce wheat in a big way, and who endeavours to achieve economy in handling, should be allowed to use his machinery to its full capacity during the war period, and thus assist the Government to produce the wheat that is needed. I agree -with the statement of the honorable member for Barker, that a limitation would be imposed by the shortage of superphosphate.
The bill is deficient, in that the quota fixed is not large enough, and the financial position is not satisfactory, because the delay in receiving payment is excessive. The Government ought to accept the responsibility of. meeting all financial commitments above Australia’s consumption. The growers would then respond patriotically as, indeed, they always have done.
.- The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), in his second-reading speech, gave an indication of the huge undertakings that are represented by the wheat industry. The honorable gentleman said that the total overdraft guaranteed by the Government for Nos. 5, 6 and 7 pools, is more than £70,000,000. The actual liability, of course, does not reach that total, after allowance has been made for the receipts of the pool. The honorable gentleman pointed out that the total overdrafts now outstanding exceed £37,000,000. Before the war, the price of wheat was ruinously low. Not only were the wheat-growers unable to plant crops with any assurance of a return, but also no government of those days would promise to them even a basically fair price. After they had struggled for years on promises, the Menzies Government early in the war produced a plan of stabilization. They learned, to their disgust, that this was not only limited in scope, hut was also paltry in the extreme ; it applied only to 140,000,000 bushels, and the guaranteed price was 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. bagged basis. The right honorable gentleman told this House that he regarded as generous a first advance 0D 2s. 6d. a bushel, and that statement was repeated by his. counterpart in the Senate. The present Government has kept every promise it has made to the wheat-growers. It has given to them the soundest scheme that has ever been undertaken in Australia. Compared with 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. offered by the Menzies Government, which made an advance of 2s. 6d. a bushel, it is guaranteeing 4s. l$d. a bushel, not f.o.b., but at the sidings for quota wheat. Some honorable members opposite may say that 1 am over-stressing the price that is paid for quota wheat. I refer them to the estimate which the Minister gave in his speech, namely, that almost SO per cent, of the wheat delivered into No. 7 pool falls within that category. Thus, 80 per cent, of the delivery will be paid for immediately at 4s. l$d. a bushel at sidings, compared with 3s. lOd. a bushel, f.o.b., payments of which extended over two or three years, under the plan of the Menzies Government. Those who have a knowledge of the wheat industry, and the costs involved in freight, handling, and other charges, will realize that the payment by the present Government is equivalent to 5s. a bushel. It has been suggested that the price is too low. That is an incredibly stupid statement for the Opposition to make, particularly in view of the public statement three or four years ago that the growers could consider themselves lucky if they received an advance of 2s. 6d. a bushel. This Government has allowed for increases of costs. It has also raised the price to be paid on quota wheat this season by 1$<3. a bushel. Every bushel of quota wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board represents a direct loss to the Treasury. I emphasize that. This bill is intended to subsidize growers to the amount of that loss. There is also this important consideration - the payment for quota wheat is not a final one. It is an advance, and if the price rises above the stipulated figure it may be that 4s. lid. will represent only a first advance from the pool, and that other advances will be made later.
The wheat-growers need have no fear of their future under this Government. The present shortage of wheat and flour overseas, and the big demand for grain and stock-feed from Great Britain and America, have resulted in a widening of the world’s markets for Australia, and our growers have already benefited. The recent record sales of flour and wheat indicate that Australian stocks will be considerably reduced by the close of the present season. Although growers have difficulties to face in common with all others engaged in essential industries, they may rest assured that there will be a market for all the wheat they can produce from sowings up to their basic acreage, and that there will probably be a greater expansion of production for the following season. This Government has given the wheat-growers a better deal than they have received from any other government in the history of Australia. I am proud that I represent an electorate in which wheat-growers constitute ‘ an important section, because I know that they will receive a better deal from this Government than they did from the government supported by my predecessor. I believe that my presence in this House, as the representative of a rural electorate is due in large measure to the manner in which the Government has catered for all sections of primary producers, and not least for the wheat-growers. When we hear honorable members opposite criticizing what the Labour Government has done for the primary producers, we remember that they had the opportunity to do something, and neglected to take it. I am confident that it will be many years before the party opposite is again in power. I whole-heartedly support this measure, which is designed to implement the Scully wheat plan.
– I express my gratification that the Government, although it has varied the price of wheat, has adhered to the main principles of the stabilization plan which I brought down at the end of 1940, and which has been in operation ever since. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) very graciously praised the main features of that plan, which made for decentralized and democratic control of the industry. There was provision for working in co-operation with the State governments through committees representative of the farmers and of .the ‘State Agricultural Departments. I am pleased that, although the scheme lias been altered in some respects, thai feature has been retained.
It is worth while referring to the nature of the scheme, because it may not hp. familiar to honorable members who lui ve only recently entered the House.
Speaking of new members, I congratulate the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) upon his contribution to the debate, and I also congratulate the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller). The stabilization plan which I introduced provided a guaranteed payment of 3s. lOd. f.o.b. ports for 140,000,000 bushels of marketable wheat. This was based upon an estimated crop of 160,000,000 bushels, the’ understanding being that 20,000,000 bushels would be kept on the farms for seed. If the wheat were sold for more than 3s. 10d., the grower was to receive the full amount. The plan provided for a production ceiling of 140,000,000 bushels of marketable wheat, and included a system of registering farms and licensing growers, because our objective was that the men actually engaged in the industry for years past should gain the advantage of the plan. We did not wish others to come in suddenly because the industry had been stabilized, and take the benefit from those who had done yeoman work in the past. Finally, the plan provided a guaranteed price over the whole crop up to the quantity fixed. The Minister has varied the payments, but I am glad that he has not altered the main structure of the scheme as it affects the production ceiling, the licensing of growers, and the registration of farms.
In October, 1941, when I attended the International Wheat Conference, in Washington, I was told by the representatives of all the wheat-growing countries that if the wheat industry was to be stabilized it was essential that every producing country should put into operation a scheme similar to that which I had inaugurated in Australia. I am pleased that the Government has accepted the recommendations of the International Wheat Conference, and has become a signatory to the agreement. Only by such an international arrangement can we ensure that wheat-farmers will receive a reasonable return over the whole of their crop, including that part which is exported - and until Australia has a much larger population than at present we must continue to grow wheat for export. I am sorry, however, that the Government has seen fit to discriminate between various classes of growers. There is no such -discrimination in the secondary industries. If a secondary industry is given the benefit of a tariff or a bounty all producers in the industry, whether large or small, share equally. The iron and steel industry, for instance, is supported by both a bounty and a tariff, but there is no discrimination against the big undertakings. In fact, governments have taken the view that the bigger the iron and steel industry grows the better for Australia, and we know what a vital part it has played in the defence of the country. When a bounty is granted on wire netting or on barbed wire, the big manufacturer and the small one are treated exactly the same. The bounty is fixed at so much a ton, and it is paid on every ton produced. I see in the Government’s wheat plan the beginning of a system of discrimination in all primary and secondary industries. It is a vicious principle to introduce. There are other ways than this to safeguard the interests of the small man. We shall not be able to maintain our export quota of 100,000,000 bushels under the International Wheat Agreement if the Government’s policy of discrimination remains in force, and if we fall below our quota for any considerable period it may be reduced. In order to maintain production we must encourage the growing of wheat by ‘men on fairly large holdings. I am all for making certain that men shall be able to obtain a living for themselves and their families on small holdings, but it is wrong for the Government to discriminate against those on larger areas.
The Minister explained that the practice was to take out of the current crop wheat used for the making of flour for local consumption, and to pay the proceeds of the sale of that wheat into the pool. For all other sales the wheat was taken from the oldest pool and sales credited to that pool. If there were no discrimination in regard to price, it would not matter much whether that wheat were taken from the 1941-4’2 pool or the 1942-43 pool, but when it is provided that some men shall receive 4s. l$d. a bushel, which is the quota price, and that others shall receive only what the wheat realizes, a grave difficulty may wise.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said in moving the second reading of the Wheal Subsidy Bill-
It is the practice of the Australian Wheat Board to credit to the current pool the proceeds of wheat sold for the manufacture of flour to he consumed in Australia during the year concerned. All other sales made in any year are credited to the oldest pool operating.
Later, in the same speech, he said -
Three pools are active, and they cover the crops for 1941-42, 1942-43, and 1043-44. The first pool - No. 5 - is nearing finality after more than two years of operations; No. 6 pool after more than a year of operations still has about half its life before it, while No. 7 pool, covering the crop just harvested, is only commencing operations.
He went on to point out -
No. 5 pool covers the 1941-42 crop from which 153,000,000 bushels were delivered to the Australian Wheat Board. Tile wheat in the pool has all been sold, but payment will not be received until the quantity remaining is shipped, cither as wheat or flour, during the next few months. The middle of the year may see the completion of shipments and the pool transactions will be adjusted soon after that.
The Constitution provides that; -
The question arises as to what portion of the sales for both local flour and overseas should be credited to non-quota wheat. For instance about 34,000,000 bushels of wheat for flour has been sold out of the Nos. 6 and 7 pools for local consumption each year. The question does not arise in respect of the No. 5 pool because there was no discrimination in that pool, but the question does arise as to how much of the 5s. 2d. a bushel wheat - that is the price at which wheat is credited to the farmers under the flour tax provision for local consumption - belongs to the non-quota wheat. Whose wheat is it that is being sold in this way? If the wheat belongs to the non-quota growers they should be credited with a definite homeconsumption price. The next question is, whose wheat is being sold overseas, and from which year’s crop. That question gains considerable importance from the fact that sales of Australian wheat in the last month have taken place at 5s. 4-£d. f.o.b. for bagged wheat east of Suez and 4s. 10d. west of Suez. The 5s. 4 1/2 d. f.o.b. wheat is well above the 4s. Hd. a bushel at home rail sidings that is being paid by the Government on quota wheat. The question as to “whose wheat is being sold must be determined. It will not matter to the growers whose wheat it is if the prices continue to rise, but, if they should fall, the non-quota men who put their wheat into the pool last year and received an advance of 2s. a bushel and ls. a bushel since will, I should think, if their wheat has been sold at prices very much above what the Commonwealth has paid them, have cause for action against the Government. That is especially so when one sees that the price of wheat in other countries is very much higher than what the Government is paying for wheat at present. The price in Canada is 6s. Id-, a bushel and in the United States of America 7s. lid.
– The wheat now being sold costs more than 10s. a bushel when it arrives in the United Kingdom.
– That may be so. Even at 5s. 4$d. a bushel f.o.b., with about 10d. a bushel deducted for charges, the price is still above 4s. 3d. or 4s. 4d. a bushel.
– The growers get the full . realization.
– Yes, but on the Minister’s own statement, wheat being sold to-day is out of a two-year-old pool, and we wish to know which growers will get the full realization ?
– The proceeds are being credited to the pool.
– That wheat should be acquired at a price which is more relevant to present-day prices. In 1940, the price was 3s. 10s. a bushel. That was the price fixed under the scheme that was agreed to by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and it was about 2d. a bushel above realization prices at that time. I think that it is reasonable, since costs of production in Australia have risen by at least 30 per cent., that there should be a guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.b. for the whole, not just a part, of the crop. That is the price for which the Australian Wheat-growers Federation decided, when it met last week, to ask. They regard that, as being comparable with the price given by our Government in 1940. In view of the prices that are being paid for wheat overseas, the Government should give full consideration to agreeing to the federation’s proposal that the guarantee should be for the whole crop at this enhanced price. The Government would then be able to avoid the difficult position in which it would otherwise be if prices fell, in determining the price due to each grower. If prices do fall the Government will find that the grower who has put his wheat into the pool this year and sees the price fall two years or eighteen months hence will have a legitimate complaint if he is credited with the reduced amount. I submit that the Government should consider this matter not on party lines, but as a business proposition. We must increase wheat production. It is difficult to do so because of the grave disadvantages that exist on the wheat farms owing to lack of labour and fertilizers. If we allow our production to fall it will militate against our receiving a fair quota under the international agreement which will be made when the war ends. When the war is over and fertilizer is again abundant and machinery is used to the full, we shall hope to be able to get back to the average production for the ten years preceding the war of 160,000,000 bushels, instead of the 90.000,000 bushels which we are now producing. That will put us “ on side “ when international wheat quotas are being examined. The quota plan must make the work of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture extraordinarily difficult. I pity the Minister and his departmental officials in their having to deal with a subject which becomes more and more complicated every day.
I regret the decision of the Government to discontinue the wheat industry stabilization fund. Instead of doing away with the fund, the Government should raise the figure at which payments into the fund become payable.
– The farmers, . not the Government, make the payments into the fund.
– My suggestion is that, instead of the price at which payments into the stabilization fund become payable being 3s. lOd. a bushel, it should be 5s. 2d. a bushel. For ten years before the war, wheat-growers throughout Australia begged for the formation of a stabilization fund. Now that war conditions have permitted of the establishment of such a fund, I would regard its legislative discontinuance, even temporarily, with disfavour, because we may not obtain another chance to re-establish it. I point out to the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) that the farmers’ contributions are made not to ‘the Government but to the stabilization fund and will ultimately be repaid to them. If we raised the level at which the farmers began to contribute to that fund we should still be doing something towards securing a permanent wheat pool for Australia. The stabilization fund was designed for two reasons: first, to safeguard the position of the farmers in the future when prices may fall, and, secondly, to safeguard the fund itself by creating a substantial vested interest among the wheat-growers themselves in the fund’s continuance. We have known for years that section 92 of the Constitution is the obstacle to the establishment of a compulsory pooling system. In 1935 I, as Minister for Commerce, obtained acceptance by the States at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council of a general scheme, and later the Commonwealth Parliament and the State Parliaments passed the necessary legislation to bring the pool into existence; but, unfortunately, the pool was smashed to pieces in 1936 by a decision of the Privy Council. But for the war we should not have been able to circumvent that decision. I am dismayed, therefore, that the Commonwealth Government does not propose at the forthcoming referendum to ask the people to amend section 92. The proposal contained in the Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstuction and Democratic Rights) Bill is that the Commonwealth shall have power to make laws with respect to the production and distribution of goods, but there is a proviso that no law made in respect of primary production shall have effect in the State until approved by the Governor in Council of that State and that no law shall discriminate between States or parts of States. The proposal, as it stands, really does not cover this matter, because section 99 of the Constitution says -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof. ,
Therefore, the proposal in the bill is worded in such a way that primary production is excepted, except with the consent of the Governor in Council. That makes it possible still for a State to prevent Australia-wide pooling even if the referendum be carried. That puts primary production under the protection, not of this Parliament, but at the mercy of any State government which desires to hamstring measures brought forward by the Commonwealth for the control of primary production.
I urge the Government to give the most favorable consideration possible to the submissions that I have made. The price level for the wheat-farmers and for contribution to the stabilization fund should be raised, and if that he done, there will he time for future consideration of the whole subject.
I ask the Minister to clarify the position in relation to the flour tax if wheat should increase in price to 5s. 2d. a bushel. Will the Wheat Board receive no advantage in such circumstances? Nothing should be done to endanger the opportunity to secure permanent constitutional alterations at the right time in order to enable us to give effect to a wheat stabilization scheme on a permanent basis. We have been trying to stabilize this industry for about 30 years. I desire the establishment of a Commonwealth pooling scheme on a basis which will be beyond dispute, so that wheat-growers may be assured of a permanently satisfactory price for their products.
– I was surprised that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) had the .temerity to make any suggestions for the improvement of the wheat industry. If there is one honorable member who has done more than any other in this House to damage wheat-growers, and also other primary producers, it is the right honorable gentleman.
– Nonsense !
– “While the right honorable member for Cowper was Minister for Commerce, the wheat industry touched its lowest depth. I desire to refer particularly to the No. 5 pool, for I consider that the right honorable member for Cowper has deliberately tried to mislead honorable members in that connexion. “When the scheme on which that pool is based was introduced, the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), and other honorable members of the Labour party who represent rural constituencies, contended that it would be of no value to the wheatgrowers. Their arguments have been justified. There was really no guaranteed price for the wheat that was put into that pool. :We said that the growers would not receive 3s. a bushel for the wheat they delivered to that pool, although the right honorable member for Cowper said that the realizations would amount to 3s. 3d. or 3s. 4d. a bushel. In my opinion, it was impossible for such a result to be achieved. The farmers had to bear all costs in connexion with that scheme and, as honorable members are well aware, storage and other charges in relation to it have amounted to more than-‘ ls. a bushel.
The members of the Labour party have been accused again and again of confiscating excess wheat under the Scully scheme, but the reverse has proved to be true. The right honorable member for Cowper is the last member of the House who should talk about wheat, for he proved to be a dismal failure as Minister for Commerce, whereas the present Minister has been a great success. I compliment the honorable gentleman on having introduced the measures that are now before Parliament. The right honorable member for Cowper talked for years before the war about the desirability of introducing a wheat stabilization scheme, but even in the pre-war days he seemed to be unable to do anything effective in that way. The No. 1 pool, which was established during the time the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister, yielded only from ls. 5d. to ls. 7d. a bushel to the farmers.
The Scully scheme, which has been in operation for twelve months, has yielded to them 4s. a bushel. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) indicated to us to-day how much better off he would have been had the Scully scheme been in operation in the days when he had to deliver his wheat to the No. 1 pool. He told us that he had lost about £260 through having to market his wheat under the conditions then in force, compared with the result that he would have achieved had the Scully scheme been in. operation.
As I look across the chamber this evening, I call to mind some gentlemen who, as members of the last Parliament,, had a good deal to say about the wheat industry. I do not see their faces before me for the reason that they_ lost their seats. The farmers, whom they claimed to represent, are now being represented by honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber. Under the Scully scheme the farmers will receive 4s. lid. at sidings for their new season’s wheat. That is a big advance on the 2s. or 2s. 6d. which farmers received in initial advances during the period the previous Government was in office. Any other payments werespread over quite a long period. The Scully Government’s scheme - well, so far a.s the primary producers are concerned, I can say “ Scully Government “, because the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has done so much for primary producers. I make no apology for my error.
I compliment the Minister on having - agreed to pay an extra ls. a bushel on other than quota wheat, delivered as the result of the last harvest. The honorable gentleman did not need much persuasion to agree to submit our request for this extra payment to Cabinet, and Cabinet agreed to the proposal. The scheme that we know as the 3,000 bushel plan was first proposed by a man who lived within a few miles of my home, and it was then known as the Roberton scheme. Several deputations submitted this scheme to the Minister for Commerce in the previous Government, but all the representations fell on deaf ears. The right honorable member for Cowper took no notice whatever of our submissions. All we said seemed to disappear into’ thin air. I congratulate the Government upon meeting interest and storage charges in respect of wheat delivered under the Scully scheme. Formerly the farmers had to carry these imposts, whether the wheat remained in storage for a long while or not. Wo provision was made under the Menzies Government proposals for the wheat industry to deal with production in excess of 140,000,000 bushels a year. The farmers could not get even an estimate of what they might expect for such excess wheat. Under the Scully scheme, farmers will receive 4s.’ Hd. a bushel for all the wheat they deliver up to 3,000 bushels from each licensed holding, and we know now that they will also receive a substantial return for their excess wheat. I am glad, too, that the payment of the extra
Hd. a bushel is intended to enable farmers to pay award rates to their employees. Tn previous years the farmers did not have a sufficient return to enable them to pay decent rates of wages. Farmers never begrudge their employees good conditions, but, of course, farmers must be able to obtain a fair price for their products before they can pay fair wages to their employees. I do not think that any one will dispute that farmworkers who have to endure excessive heat and arduous conditions, particularly during harvest time, should he paid reasonable rates of wages. Hitherto the farmers have been told that honorable members who belong to the Labour party were their opponents ; they have now discovered that we are their friends. Not only have the wheat-growers benefited substantially from the Scully scheme, but so have the business communities in the small towns in the wheat-growing areas. These general storekeepers have often given farmers twelve months’ credit, and, in some instances, they have suffered bankruptcy because the farmers have not been able to meet their indebtedness. The present prosperity of the farmers is reflected in the prosperity of country towns. Whereas it wa3 painful to have to spend much time in country towns during the depression years, when wheat was practically unsaleable, it is a pleasure to visit such towns nowadays.
The speech of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) consisted largely of “ ifs “ and “ ands “. The honorable member suggested that satisfactory results could not be expected from the administration of this Government, but the facts are against him. If he and his colleagues knew what to do to improve the circumstances of the wheat industry they failed lamentably to do it. They misled the farmers into believing that they would be able to stabilize the industry. The farmers showed by the votes they recorded at the last general-election? that they did not appreciate being misled. I believe that the honorable member for Barker said at one time that farmers could not expect conditions which would give them a production cost of 2s. 6d. a bushel for wheat, but the Curtin Government has done much better than that for the farmers. If the policy of honorable gentlemen opposite had been applied, the wheat industry would probably have been ruined by this time. Australia is at war. Our rural industries have been drained of their man-power, not because of the activities of the man-power authorities, but because primary producers, broken in spirit,- were only too glad to enter the fighting services in order to earn a few pounds. The lack of fertilizers presents another problem. The main source of our supplies of superphosphate is now in the hands of the Japanese, and without supplies of superphosphate no experienced wheat-grower would attempt to .grow a crop on some of the areas normally used for the production of wheat. Those two factors, not the price, were responsible for the decline of production. If wheat-growers had been left to the mercy of honorable members opposite, the industry would have disappeared by now. I hope that, twelve months hence, Australia will be obtaining adequate supplies of superphosphate.
I compliment the Government upon the wonderful work it has done, since it took office, in the interests of primaryproducers. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) criticized the limitation of production. He should be aware that Australia was a party to an international agreement to restrict production. Until that agreement is revised, and the world wants our wheat, the Commonwealth Government must continue to limit wheat production.
The previous Government introduced the plan to restrict acreage and to register farms. The Labour Government was not responsible for that.
The Government deserves congratulation for having established the mortgage bank department of the Commonwealth Bank. This institution is now lending money to wheat-growers at lower rates of interest than ever before. Every for-m of assistance, large or small, helps to reduce the cost of production. When conditions improve, the operations of the mortgage bank department should be extended so as to enable every person who desires to borrow money to benefit from its terms. Interest is a big item in the production of wheat, and, for that matter, in the conduct of business generally. Any relief that can be afforded to industry by a reduction df interest rates will be of great benefit. I hope that, when the referendum is held,- every primary producer will vote for the extension of Commonwealth powers. Unless farmers have a guaranteed price and organized marketing, Australia will experience another great depression. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) has assured the people that the Commonwealth without these powers will be unable to control marketing in peace-time, and chaos will result. At all costs, that must be avoided. I congratulate the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture upon haying brought into being this scheme, which is 100 per cent, better than any previous scheme, and I hope that next year the price of wheat will be increased to 5s. a bushel.
– I am very reluctant to intervene in this pleasant family atmosphere that has descended upon the debate - an atmosphere of the warmest mutual admiration. I am genuinely reluctant to intervene, because I personally have a pleasant feeling towards the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), and a great affection for the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry). It is perfectly true that on the last occasion I said that of an honorable member, he lost his seat at the next election; and I was about to say that nothing could be more pleasant than to hear the honorable member congratulating the Minister upon the scheme with which he and Mr. Roberton are associated, because that is the kind of tribute which should be paid while one is in Parliament. As I shall miss the honorable member after the next election - > -
– The right honorable gentleman said that about me before the last election.
– The honorable member must admit that ‘we came very close to missing him.
– The Leader of the Opposition was nearly lost in the wilderness.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) would like to have the majority that I obtained. However, I was not discussing the last election or even the next one.
– I was hoping that the Leader of the Opposition would return to the bill.
– I rose to offer two observations on this bill because I have a certain obituary interest in this matter. I noticed that the main operative provision of one bill is to repeal the Wheat Tax (War-time) Act 1940 and the Wheat Tax (War-time) Assessment Act 1940. As they relate to the stabilization scheme established when I was Prime Minister - it was the first stabilization scheme, and I still think it was an extraordinarily good one - I want to say something about the proposal before the House. The honorable member for Riverina spoke about the forthcoming referendum and, of course, he was not out of order because he was relating his remarks on the referendum to the proposals in that bill which bear upon primary production, I have no doubt. To me the most curious thing in the whole of the Government’s handling, not only of the wheat industry, but of all primary industries, is its attitude towards the necessary changes in the Constitution. I would have thought that section 92 still represented a most formidable barrier to any real permanent peace-time scheme for stabilizing wheat, dairy products, dried fruits or any other primary industry. I well remember that in 1936 the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and I were associated in an attempt to amend the Constitution in order to facilitate real, permanent schemes of wheat stabilization which would get rid of the constant annual political discussion of that commodity. We invited the people of Australia to put into the Constitution a provision that, notwithstanding anything in section 92, schemes of organized marketing could be carried out. Some of those who to-day are the mast vocal members of the mutual admiration society, were among the most vocal opponents of the proposal that we submitted to the people. That proposal was defeated - hopelessly defeated - by votes of many, thousands of people who should have understood how important it was to them.
– People on both sides of politics.
– That is true. I was not attempting to say. that there were not such people on my side. I was merely reminding the honorable member that there were such people on his side.
– It is just as well the honorable member reminded the Leader of the Opposition, too.
– I have every reason to remember it, because f.or months after I had advocated that change, I had to dodge some of my best friends in my own electorate.
– The Leader of the Opposition is still dodging them.
– I am, but for different reasons. The present position, apparently, is that the Government says not only to the wheat-grower but also to every other primary producer, “Look, it is all right. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge and section 92 is not really troublesome to you”. I would have said, for myself, that the position of this industry in the face of section 92 was very precarious. I remind honorable members that section 92 guarantees freedom of interstate trade, and, as the Privy Council has in its last pronouncement explained, section 92 binds the Commonwealth as well as the States. That is the whole importance, or the major importance, of the last decision of the Privy
Council. My own view would be perfectly expressed in the following sentences : -
Several of the limitations have operated in the past to fetter, in undesirable ways, the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. A good example of this is section 02 which, as already pointed out, effectively limits the marketing and price-fixing powers of the Commonwealth in time of peace.
That expresses quite neatly my own opinion. I shall, perhaps, not need to tell honorable gentlemen that what I have just read is an extract from the language of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in the book which he prepared in November, 1942, for the Constitution Convention at Canberra. I draw attention to the date, 1942, because that date is quite subsequent-
– I rise to order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the Leader of the Opposition is not in order in speaking of the referendum. The bill before the House deals with the wheat industry, and is not related to the referendum.
M.r. SPEAKER. - The Leader of the Opposition is quite in order. He is trying to connect the constitutional position with the proposals contained in this legislation.
-“ Let the galled jade wince, my withers are unwrung”. The words which the Attorney-General used are, I believe, accurate. Later in the same book, as honorable members, I hope, will recall, the right honorable gentleman developed what I describe as the Socratic mood. He began to put questions to himself and provide the answers. As I said on the previous occasion, that is the easiest form of cross-examination of which I am aware. In the course of those questions and answers, the right honorable gentleman wrote -
– Does the Leader of the Opposition believe that?
– Of course, I do. I regret that the Minister for Labour and National Service does not. The answer continues - the full effect of which cannot yet be regarded as finally settled, but which stands as a perpetual menace to any scheme of compulsory marketing of primary products.
The Minister asked me whether I believe that. So much do I believe it that in 1936 I accepted, as I am sure the Minister will agree, very considerable political risk in order to advocate an alteration of the Constitution to set limits upon the operation of section 92 in relation to the marketing of primary products. And yet, in spite of those statements made in 1942 and in spite of their unquestionable accuracy, we are now told in the latest production of this somewhat fertile Government, what I call the “ orange book”-
– It must not be quoted from.
– It began by being confidential; but it is confidential no longer. I violate no secrecy when I refer to it. In the “orange’ book - I hope no one will think that that is an improper description-
– The right honorable gentleman had better be careful!
– Page IS of this fruity publication contains the following:
When heed is paid, therefore, to the line oi judicial decisions that have followed James’ case-
Lie had just referred to them; all were prior to 1942-r-
I think it cannot be doubted that the power proposed in this paragraph- that is the marketing power - can be made effective.
We have had some puzzling experiences recently in this House. But I find it very difficult to reconcile the statement that section 92 is a perpetual bar to effective legislation in respect of marketing and price control, with the statement that I have just quoted. The simple fact is that, as the law now stands, as it has .been disclosed by the highest authorities, nobody can doubt that section 92 can be a real thorn in the flesh. I do not discount at all the merits of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but, after all, he has had a good wicket to play on, because he has been the Minister handling these matters in time of war; and in time of war people will not effectively challenge the power of Government in relation to. such matters. But if we are looking forward to a time of peace - and after all the wheat industry is entitled to some security in the future - then we must not shut our eyes to the fact that section 92, so long as it stands, will make any Constitution alteration which the Government proposes relatively futile. It will be no further forward1 than it was in the days of the right honorable member for Cowper, who had to get the States together, obtain agreement, and evolve a joint scheme of legislation, hoping that within the limits of section 92 it might be effective. I remind the House of that, because it is no part of my function to be the apologist for any other member of this House. We must all accept our responsibility for our own policies and acts in the past. But to say to the right honorable member for Cowper - who, after all, has devoted twenty-five years of his life to serving the interests of people on the land - that he was indifferent to their interests, when, as a matter of fact, for years before this war he found himself confronted by this dragon - section 92 - which the Government does not propose to destroy, is to ignore the whole story of politics in this country.
The second thing that I want to say in this : I will not attempt to discuss in any detail the merits or demerits of this plan which has now come to be known as the Scully plan; this plan by which differential treatment is accorded to the first 3,000 bushels of production. After all, as the honorable member for Riverina pointed out in the course of his speech, I heard the plan some years ago, when it was propounded by Mr. Roberton, whom I found most engaging. He had a delightful Scotch accent and a clear mind. I understood him perfectly. So, on all counts, I was disposed in his favour. He propounded this scheme, and it was discussed by many people, including many experts in the wheat industry. They condemned it, on grounds which I see no reason at this moment to doubt at all. The scheme involved making some arbitrary distinction between the first 1,000 bushels of production and the rest; or, as the right honorable gentleman said in the course of his speech, between quota wheat and non-quota wheat. These distinctions are not real ; they are, in a sense, theological. How does one distinguish in selling, in the calculation of one’s returns, in the distribution of one’s returns between one parcel of wheat and another, saying of one, “ That is within the first 3,000 bushels “, and of another, “ That is non-quota wheat “. It introduces us into a world of complete unreality. But the substance of the point that I want to make is this : A scheme which differentiates in favour of the first 3,000 bushels will always be well received by the small wheatgrower; it will always operate for the benefit of the small wheatgrower; it will always tend to render completely uneconomic the activities of the large wheatgrower. You cannot discuss the economics of the wheat industry in this country, merely by saying, “We will consider it as an industry which includes Brown, Jones and Robertson, and if we can cope with the cases of Jones, Brown and Robertson, it does not matter what happens to Smith?” You cannot deal with the economics of the industry on that footing, because this is the position: We have discussed wheat far too many times in Australia as though it were some pleasant little domestic problem of a highly political character. The first thing that has to be understood about the wheat industry is that wheat is one of our great international commodities, and that what the world does about it, in just the same way as what the world does about wool or dairy products, will have everything to do with the soundness of the industry inside Australia. Consequently, we have two big tasks in relation to wheat. We have always had them, and I take the liberty of stating them as I see them now. First, we have the very great responsibility, to which we have awakened perhaps unduly slowly, of seeing that the man who grows wheat in Australia enjoys in relation to the price of his wheat in Australia the full benefit of our protective system; in other words, that he receives a home consumption price for his wheat which is adequately related to Australian standards. That is our first task. Our second task, if the export of wheat is to be effective and profitable to Australia, is to reduce our costs of production. Far too little has been said or thought about costs of production. If we are to reduce our costs of production, are we to put a premium on small production? Let me take an analogy. The fiscal policy, the general economic policy of Australia, must be just as intensely concerned with primary industry as with secondary industry. What do we do with secondary industry in Australia? What do we do when we put a tariff on some imported article so that it may be manufactured effectively in Australia? Do we so adjust our tariff as to encourage small industries or, as we used to describe them in this House, backyard industries? Not at all. We set up a Tariff Board, which always went to immense pains to satisfy itself that the industry was conducted effectively and economically. And how do we conduct manufacturing industry effectively? By seeing that our overhead costs are spread over as great a turnover as possible. We have, in reality, looked for large secondary industries, for large production, for production under circumstances which would give to us the lowest possible costs. Had we not done that what fools we would have been, because we would forever have excluded ourselves from the world’s markets for manufactured commodities.
– If that were done to primary commodities, they would cease to exist.
– They would not. Let me apply the principle to primary industries. Suppose that a man on a wheat farm is’ capable of producing, not 3,000 bushels but 10,000 bushels of wheat.
– Sixty thousand bushels!
– Or 60,000 bushels, if the Minister likes. I do not care what number he may think of. The more bushels of wheat a man produces, the more effectively will he use his plant, and the more effectively will his capital costs be distributed over his production.
– That by no means follows.
– Normally, it will follow. I am not talking about accidental cases. The more effectively capital, plant, energy and supervision can be distributed over a large volume of production, the lower will be the cost of production. Yet the Government comes along and says, “Up to 3,000 bushels we will protect you and give you a good price, but after 3,000 bushels you will take your chance in the mere higgling of the market, and the more wheat you produce the lower inevitably will be your average price. Consequently, you will find that it will pay you far better to be a small producer, to spread your overhead over a small production, under our scheme “. I have never believed, and I have occasionally got into hot water about it, that the business of government in relation to primary production was a mere business of pleasing a majority of voters. The real problem in dealing with primary production, secondary production, or any other production in Australia, is the business of producing the best economic result, so that this country may reduce its costs and begin to compete with the world.
– The right honorable gentleman believes in mass production.
– Does not the honorable gentleman believe in mass production? My friend cannot have it both ways. After all, the Government has made great claims about mass production in the last couple of. years. I have not noticed that it claims not to have had effective mass production of munitions, for example. Why did it have mass production of munitions? The honorable gentleman is trying to set up an entirely unreal antithesis. He says, “ You are only concerned with the big fellow “. I am not concerned to deprive of his price the man with a production of 3,000. bushels, not for one moment. But why does the Government set out to destroy the man who produces more than 3,000 bushels? Why are the growers divided into the sheep and the goats? Why am I to be told that the man who is precariously producing wheat somewhere west of Ouyen, in my State, is to be guaranteed a sound price for 3,000 bushels, whilst a man on a higher-priced wheat property near Horsham or Warracknabeal, who is able to produce 8,000 or 9,000 bushels, is to be penalized for the success of -his production? That is the essential error of this scheme; because it ignores the national economics of this industry. I believe that we shall have no health until we discover quite plainly that the economic policy of this country has to operate quite equally in favour of primary production and secondary production; that we must not disdain any artificial expedient for the one that we would apply to the other; but that, throughout the whole of them, we must realize that our success in the post-war world will depend more on our capacity to produce cheaply and effectively. If these things be true, then we must have no scheme which offers a premium on smallness for its own sake, but must rather have a scheme which aims at stabilized justice for every man who is engaged in the industry and is competently carrying on his work.
.- The wheat stabilization scheme, known as the Scully plan, incorporates both a policy and a plan. It has been discussed in this House during the last eighteen months, and the forecasts of those who had little faith in its merits have been proved by experience to be wrong. It enabled the wheat-growers to meet a difficult situation, and it has succeeded much better than any previous scheme. I do not suggest that the plan which was in operation last year must necessarily be continued unaltered in the future. The wheat industry is affected by many factors, over some of which we in Australia have no control. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) referred to post-war conditions, and to the difficulties which were likely to confront us after the war. We know that the Atlantic Charter and the International Wheat Agreement are two factors not within the control of the Government, which may have an important bearing on any proposals for the control of the wheat industry. However, no matter how the plan of control may have to be modified, no government would run counter to the traditional land settlement policy of the country - a policy which has been recognized in the drawing up of the Scully plan. For many years all governments have endeavoured to settle the land on the principle of family labour units as against the farming of the land in great estates. All governments are satisfied that, for reasons of defence if for no other, more people should be settled on the land than obtain a living off it at the present time.
Even though it is true, as the right honorable member for Kooyong pointed out, that the farming of big areas is more efficient than small farms, governments are prepared to sacrifice apparent economic efficiency to the greater good achieved by closer settlement. The Scully plan has succeeded to a degree not expected when it was first introduced, and now wheatgrowers’ organizations throughout Australia desire the continuation of control. These organizations represent not only the small growers, but also men whose properties are large enough to produce many times the quota of wheat fixed in the plan. The operation of this plan has led to the growth of diversified farming, something which is favoured by all political parties, and approved by economic leaders. We recognize that there is a financial as well as a production side to farming, and it is bad economy for a farmer to put all his eggs in the one basket. As the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) demonstrated, when there was no control over the production of wheat, there were such violent price fluctuations that this factor alone was tending to destroy the industry. The honorable member showed that, in a year when there wa3 a bumper harvest, the farmer might not obtain a sufficient return to meet expenses, whilst in a year when the yield was low he might, from the same area, obtain a fairly satisfactory return. That has been the experience of those engaged in primary industry in Australia - violent fluctuations of prices, due sometimes to world conditions, sometimes to local climatic conditions, but always producing their worst effect because of the absence of scientific control of production. Of what use is it to produce commodities for which there is no market? It is more economical to limit production of a particular commodity to what the market can absorb, and use the rest of the farm for producing something else for which there is a market. The Scully plan has encouraged farmers to follow this practice. The farmer saw that he could obtain the guaranteed price for only a certain quantity of wheat, so he devoted a part of his farm, even though it might be good wheat-growing land, to the raising of fat lambs. This has had the effect of stabilizing production, and the farmers are now asking for a continuation of the Scully plan of control. The guaranteed price is paid to each grower for 1,000 bags of wheat, but that is not a cast-iron provision. It may be varied from time to time to meet circumstances as they arise. For instance, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has informed growers in parts of New South Wales and Victoria that they may apply for permission to increase their acreage under wheat. Despite the fact that there was a surplus of wheat in Western Australia and South Australia, it is found to be more profitable in the nation’s interests to grow more wheat in another part of the country. However, the overriding principle of the plan is that a greater number of persons should be settled on the land than previously. All political parties have accepted this idea, but it was left to the Labour party, which really represents the people on the land, to put it into force. This Government knows that unless the land be settled with a race of hardy yeomen, rather than held in great estates, we shall never .be able to support the population necessary for the defence of Australia in the next twenty years.
– How many people does the honorable member suggest should be brought here in the next twenty years?
– Australia could easily feed a population of 20,000,000 people.
– Would the honorable member bring people here at the rate of 1,000,000 a year?
– I do not say how they should be brought here. If the birth-rate can be raised so as to increase our population by natural means so much the better. Failing that, we shall have to bring to Australia as much of the surplus population of Europe as we can. However, it will not be enough to ask the people of the Balkan peninsula, or France, or Germany, or northern Europe, or Great Britain, to exchange conditions in their own countries for a condition of serfdom in Australia. We must offer them something better than they would be leaving behind them. We must make the land more attractive. We have had the spectacle of thousands deserting the land because conditions are unfavorable for the raising of families at the standard of living of which we have taught the Australian people that they are worthy. The policy of the Labour Government, as it has been enunciated and is being applied by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, is so to improve conditions as to keep on the land the people already there and attract others to return or take up farming as a career. The policy or, rather, want of policy that prevailed in this country prior to the advent of this Government caused the exodus of people from the land. It was a policy of unrestricted production of a commodity that the markets of Australia and the world would not and could not consume, and it brought about financial chaos in the industry. The short term that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has enjoyed has been beneficial to rural industries. Country people, particularly those in the wheat-growing electorates, showed their appreciation of the policy and work of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture by the great number of members of the Labour party that they returned at’ the last general elections. The resolutions and activities of primary producers’ organizations throughout Australia since then have been directed to co-operation with the Government. They believe’ in its earnestness and the practicability of its policy. If the representatives of rural constituencies on the Opposition side were more attuned to the desires and demands of rural people, they would be more constructive and less obstructive in their criticism of the various measures that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has brought down.
– The history of the Australian wheat industry has been one of considerable disaster, fluctuating prices, and varying production. Government supporters have said that the Scully wheat plan, which, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out, was previously known as the Roberton plan, has done some service to the wheat industry, but it could never have been brought into operation had it not been for the act, introduced by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in 1940, which established the principle of quota production and limitation of acreage. I may differ from some members of the Australian Country party with regard to the guaranteed price to the first 3,000 bushels of wheat produced, but my. view is that the wheat industry, like every other industry, is not static and that it cannot be subjected to absolutely fixed rules and regulations which must apply in every case and in all circumstances. I believe that the time has come when, without any danger whatever to the Government’s finances, the guaranteed price could be paid on all wheat grown. Later, I shall give figures to show that that is possible. When prices are low and it 13 difficult for the industry to carry on, the people who must be sheltered are the small growers, because they are mostly one-crop producers and unable to stand up to economic blizzards. They must have an umbrella to protect them. It may not be economic to shelter them. It may not be the cheapest means of producing wheat. But there are things in this country which count more than economics or cold cash. One is that we must keep a contented yeomanry, if I may be pardoned for using the term. They are the people to whom we must look to maintain Australia in the most stable condition possible.
– Hear, hear!
– But now the umbrella could be folded for the present and the benefits of a guaranteed price could be extended over the whole field of wheatgrowing in Australia. Wheat prices are steadily rising in all the world markets. The Age of the 26th February last contained the following paragraph: -
Another large sale of Australian wheat has been made to the British Ministry of Food. The quantity was 40,000,000 bushels and the prices for delivery are: East of Suez, approximately 5s. 44d. f.o.b. for bagged, and 4s. lid. f.o.b. for hulk, and for West of Suez 4s. 10 3/4 d. for bagged and 4a. 5d. for bulk. . . . The prices mentioned represent increases ranging from 3Jd. to 5d. a bushel on those obtained in the preceding transaction between the Australian Wheat Board’ and the British Ministry a few months ago, when the sale was made of wheat and flour, involving in all about 44,000,000 bushels, worth in the aggregate about £10,000,000. It is interesting to recall that at the outbreak of the war the selling .price of wheat was 2s. 7 1/2 d. a bushel.
This shows that the price has almost doubled. It is very easy for Government supporters to paint a picture of the heavenly conditions in the industry now compared with other times, but I point out that the Government is lucky because it is operating on a steadily rising market. The world is facing a shortage of wheat. Production has ceased in vast areas of China. Enormous areas of the Soviet have been put out of production and will not be restored to production on the scale of the past for some time to come. Wheat stocks which, two or three years ago, looked enormous are shrinking rapidly and greater and greater demands will be made on them in the future. Even the invasion of Italy, which is a small operation compared with the action which we shall soon be taking to release the population of Europe from the Nazi yoke, involved the feeding of another 10,000,000 mouths by the Allied Nations. I do not wish to criticize the Government because of the diminution of production, in Australia, but as the result of the Scully plan wheat consigned to the Australian Wheat Board has fallen as follows: -
The pre-war wheat acreage was 13,500,000 acres, compared with 8,500,000 acres last year. That is a consequence, I believe, of this plan operating up to this year on the basis of a guarantee of only 2s. a bushel for the non-quota wheat. Production has shrunk, but, in view of the conditions in the world markets to-day, the Government should take urgent steps to make the advance on non-quota wheat at least equal to the advance on quota wheat in order to stimulate production of a food which is so urgently needed throughout the world. Wheat-farmers in Australia have been for months past faced with rapidly rising costs of production. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture himself showed that he recognized that when he instituted an inquiry into the extra cost of harvesting wheat brought about by the increased wages paid to farm hands. The increased cost was estimated at l$d. a bushel, which is added to the 4s. a bushel paid on quota wheat. I point out to the Minister’ now, as I have done previously, that no allowance is made in those figures for wheat that is kept on farms for seed and stock feed purposes. Under the original scheme introduced by the right honorable member for Cowper, providing for an annual production of 160,000,000 bushels, it was estimated that 20,000,000 bushels would be kept for feed and seed on the farms.
– The money is paid on all wheat delivered to the pool.
– It costs as much to harvest the wheat which is preserved for seed and feed as it does to harvest the other wheat which is sent to the board, and if it is just to pay that extra l$d. on the wheat sent to the board, it is equally just to pay it on the wheat which is not sent.
– Would it not be difficul) to assess the figure?
– No. It was estimated during the regime of the previous Government at 20,000,000 bushels in a 160,000,000 bushel harvest.
– One farmer might need only 50 bags of seed wheat, but he might keep a considerable additional quantity back for stock feed.
– Even so, it would be wheat that was produced on Ms own farm, and I contend that the l$d. a bushel should be paid in respect of it.
– The only wheat on which an actual loss would be shown would be that held back for seed.
– Wheat for seed and feed should be taken into consideration.
– A stabilized price has been provided for eggs, pig-meat and other commodities, in the production of which feed wheat would be used.
– A stabilized price for commodities is of no use if a farmer’s stock dies owing to the shortage of fodder. Starving stock is of no use to a farmer.
I direct attention once again to the constantly increasing price of supplies required by primary producers. I refer particularly to machinery, oil and cornsacks. Labour costs have also risen considerably.
– The Government is subsidizing farmers in respect of superphosphate.
– I admit it, and the Government deserves credit for what it is doing in that regard ; but that does not alter the fact that costs generally are much higher now than they were before the war.
– I admit it.
– And I admit the Government’s subsidy, so we are even on that score. Despite everything that has been done for the farmers, there is dissatisfaction throughout the country regarding the price for both quota and non-quota wheat. I read in the Melbourne Age, which came to hand this morning, that the Wheat-growers Association of Australia is demanding an allround price of 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat. Conditions in the industry cannot be regarded as satisfactory until the farmers receive a higher price for their product. Other farmers’ organizations, as well as the federation, have requested that an inquiry be made at once into the increased cost of producing wheat. So long as costs are increasing greatly without commensurate increases of the price of farm products, the farmers will be unable to increase their production of foodstuffs.
A book was published in Great Britain last year on food control during the war, in which the author pointed out that the greatest incentive to increased production of foodstuffs was increased prices. Lord Woolton has strongly supported that contention. He has also emphasized the need for increased man-power to be made available to farmers. Such man-power needs to be skilled in primary production if the best results are to be achieved. I do not intend to embark, at this moment, on a discussion of man-power needs in relation to the wheat-growing industry, except to say to the Minister that if we are to achieve in this country the increased production of foodstuffs which is so desirable men must be made available for the purpose.
I mentioned in this House some time ago a promise which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was alleged to have made during the election campaign, that if the Government were returned to .power he would arrange for an inquiry to be held into the increased cost of producing wheat. Nothing has been done to give effect to that promise. Although the Minister may deny that he gave such an undertaking, farmers generally are convinced that he did so. Whether he did so or not, an inquiry into the subject should be held.
– My promise was that an inquiry would be made into increased labour costs as the result of the harvesting award.
– I know that the Minister is a broad-minded man. I ask him why inquiry should be limited to one aspect of the subject. The honorable gentleman is a patriotic Australian, who realizes that one of the greatest contributions that Australia can make to the war effort of the United Nations is to increase its production. He knows that wheat will be an important foodstuff for many years to come. I therefore ask him to start an investigation of the general increase of the cost of producing wheat in Australia. Farmers should be given every possible encouragement to achieve their maximum wheat production, particularly in view of the present shortage of superphosphate.
– I have listened with deep interest to the speeches that have been delivered to-day on the wheat industry. The remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) were made in such a way as to lead me to conclude that the honorable gentleman was not keenly interested in his subject. He gave me the impression that he was beating against the wind. When the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) was speaking hs inadvertently spoke of the “ Scully Government”. I believe that, apart from the leadership of John Curtin, whose statesmanlike attitude to the problems of Australia made a great appeal to the people, the greatest factor in the success of Labour candidates in rural districts with the consequent empty spaces on the benches opposite, was the Scully wheat scheme. The speech of the honorable member for Barker, who initiated the debate on behalf of the Opposition, was notable for many omissions. He failed to mention that the Scully wheat scheme has already been submitted to rural electorates and has been endorsed by the farming community. The honorable member did not seem to be seriously discomforted by the decisive opinions expressed by the wheat-growers of South Australia and also those of other States; but he must concede that the decision was emphatic. I represent the largest wheatgrowing division in Australia, for twothirds of the wheat grown in that State, and 85 per cent, of the barley are grown in the division of Grey. A most emphatic decision was given in favour of the Curtin Government when its candidate won the blue-ribbon seat of the Liberal-Country (party in South Australia.
For consistent inconsistencies, I know of nothing better than the statements of some honorable gentlemen opposite in relation to the wheat industry. It was only as the result of continual pressure by the Labour party that the Menzies’ Government brought down its scheme to pay wheat-growers 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.ib. which, after the deduction of expenses for freight, storage, handling and excess wheat would return the growers only about 2s. lOd. a bushel net. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and other honorable members opposite stated that that scheme would stabilize the wheat industry. I maintain that it would not cover cost of production in all cases. Is was condemned by the majority of wheat-growers. Particular significance is attached to the publicly expressed views of both the right honorable member for Kooyong, when Prime Minister, and Senator McLeay in announcing the amount of the financial assistance to be made available for this purpose. They said -
We are now able to announce that we have arranged not only that the amount of the advances shall be increased to 2s. lOd. per bushel for bagged wheat less rail freight and 2s. 84d. per bushel for bulk wheat less rail freight, thus giving an average return of 2s. Od. pei- bushel oil bagged wheat at the country siding, but also that the advances shall be paid in one amount as soon as practicable after delivery of the wheat. . . . We earnestly say that these financial proposals represent not only a fair but a generous approach to the problem by the Government.
At a later date the right honorable gentleman made a statement of particular interest to growers at that time in his comment on the finance to ‘be provided for Wo. 1 and No. 2 pools. He said -
We cannot continue to provide large sums of public money to support the wheatgrowers while they go on producing unsellable grain. Such a procedure would be demoralizing and unsound.
On the 21st November, 1939, an amendment was moved in this House to a Government proposal to guarantee the wheat-growers 3s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b. on the wheat acquired by the No. 2 pool. When the Labour Opposition members attempted to have a vote taken to allow Parliament to give a decision on the question, all the Country party members voted with the United Australia _ party members and so prevented Parliament from expressing its view.
The honorable mem!ber for Barker, speaking in Parliament on the 11th December, 1940, on the then Government’s wheat proposal, said -
It is a -pretty piece of impudence on the part of the representatives of the grower to contend that the farmer should direct the operations of the scheme.
Evidently, the honorable member does not approve of the wheat-growers controlling their own affairs. When asked whether he favoured the proposed price of 3s. lOd. a bushel he said -
In my opinion, the price is too high, and ! frankly confess that I have not been enthusiastic about any wheat stabilization scheme.
A good democrat would accept the decision of rural electors. It can be said for the honorable member for Barker, however, that he has never claimed to be a democrat. In that respect at least he is consistent.
Some weeks prior to the last elections, Mr. J. E. Maycock, Secretary of the South Australian Wheat-growers’ Association, pointed out that the Scully plan was to be greatly preferred to the plan introduced by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister. Mr. Maycock, who is a former president of the Australian Wheat-growers’ Federation, probably knows the South Australian wheat areas better than does any other man in that State.
I desire to bring to the notice of honorable members certain figures relative to bankruptcy in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, southern Queensland and Western Australia. The figures make very interesting reading. The table is as follows: -
These figures disclose that during that period of seven years bankruptcies in South Australia were 55.1 per cent, of the Australian total. I have not the figures for all other States since 1939, but I shall give the statistics relating to bankruptcies, including compositions and schemes of agreement, for South Australia. They are -
When these poor farmers- in South Australia were going to the wall, the primary producing districts were represented by the United Australia party and the United Country party. To-day, the shipbuilding yards at Whyalla are practically manned by ex-farmers. A few years ago I used to meet them on the road. They were engaged on the hardest job that any honest man can undertake, namely, looking for employment. Today, those farmers in the shipbuilding industry arc performing yeoman service.
Mr. Maycock made it plain that wheatgrowers had been able to meet their commitments for the first time since the war began, and. that this was due very largely to the operation of the Scully plan. The honorable member for Barker and others opposed to the Government objected to this statement. That the statement was well-founded is disclosed by the latest figures dealing with bankrupt- cies. Wheat-growers, in common with other sections, face difficult war-time problems; but they are now fortified by the knowledge that this Government has made their financial position immeasurably better. They can, as the Minister has said, face the future with greater confidence.
I need scarcely remind, honorable members that for many years prior to the war, attention in this Parliament was consistently focused on the difficulties of wheat-growers. That much’ will be admitted by every honorable member. The difficulties first provoked the appointment of a royal commission, and later the establishment of debt adjustment authorities whose duty it was to arrange for the scaling down of farmers’ debts. The acute economic position of many wheat-growers, it was proved, was due to concentration on wheat-growing to the exclusion of everything else. The Scully plan sought to correct this. It encouraged the man with a large area to go in more for mixed farming at a time when the Government was being embarrassed by wheat surpluses. The conversion of purely wheat holdings to mixed farms is not only having a beneficial effect on rural economy, but is also helping materially in the production of essential foodstuffs. Land hitherto thought to be suitable only for wheat has, in many cases, been found to be more suitable for fat-lamb production. Thus a sounder rural economy is being developed.
Any discussion on wheat would be incomplete without a summary of war-time pools. It is of interest to note that the No. 1 poo], the first of the war-time pools, returned only 2s. 9.9d. a bushel, bagged basis, less freight. It has been argued that associated with this pool were certain difficulties which caused such a low return to growers. None of the arguments adduced, however, has been very convincing. The low return was due to the failure of the Government led by the Leader of the Opposition adequately to compensate growers. It was not due to anything else. The returns received by growers for the No. 2 pool showed an increase. Advances for this pool totalled 3s. 7.9d. a bushel, less freight. When freight is taken into consideration, the net return to growers was just over 8s. a bushel. Therefore, the total return was a little more than the guaranteed first advance for non-quota wheat for next year’s crop. Total payments for- the No. 4 pool totalled approximately 3s. lid. a bushel, bagged basis, less freight. The average return to growers was about 3s. 6d. a bushel. This is 6d. a bushel less than the first advance made on quota wheat under the Scully plan.
The No. 4 pool was the last pool administered by honorable gentlemen oppo- site. It was a drought pool, little more than 80,000,000 bushels being received into it. In those circumstances, and. in view of the reasonably low carry-over, a higher return might have been expected. The No. 5 pool was the first administered by the Labour Government, and the last under the plan instituted by the honorable members of the Opposition when they were in office. This pool, it is expected, will be wound up within the next few months. The machinery for the No. 5 pool was ready when the Curtin Government was formed, and it, was then too late to effect any improvements for the 1941-42 harvest. The No. 6 pool saw the start of the Scully plan to which I have referred in detail. There is little doubt from the figures cited that growers have received substantial benefits from the operations of the ‘Scully plan.
I would remind the honorable member for Barker that he also raised objections to his own Government’s stabilization plan. The honorable member considered that the price of 3s. lOd. a bushel, f.o.b., was too high. He contended that the price of wheat should not have been fixed above 3s. 6d. a bushel. Had the honorable member been given his way, the price received by growers during the last few seasons would not have been more than 3s. a bushel, after taking into account handling, storage, interest and other charges which would normally be deductable. The Scully plan provides foi1 43. l$d. a bushel at sidings for quota wheat. Thus the grower receives ls. l$d. :i bushel more for his first 3,000 bushels than the price advocated by the honorable member. Advances on non-quota wheat in the No. 6 pool have already reached 3s. a bushel, whilst this amount has been guaranteed as a first advance on nonquota wheat for the No. 8 pool. It is obvious from the figures I have cited that growers are infinitely better off under the Scully plan than the one originally proposed by the honorable - member for Barker. Logically, therefore, it must be argued that his statements do not in any way square with either political developments or the views of the industry.
The honorable member was one of those who objected to grower control of the Australian Wheat Board. He argued that majority representation for growers was not a business proposition. This Government granted majority representation to growers. It believes that if growers are capable of producing the food, they are capable of attending to their own marketing requirements.
However, the Government did more than merely give growers majority representation on the Wheat Board. It decided that grower-members should truly reflect the opinion of the industry, and to that end provided for the election of representatives by growers themselves. The first election has just been held, and Mr. J. E. Maycock has been elected to represent the industry in South Australia. It is worthy of note that one of Mr. Maycock’s opponents^ was Mr. A. Oliver Badman, an opponent ‘ of the Scully plan. If the honorable member for Barker chooses to disregard the emphatic verdict of rural electors at the last federal elections, I am wondering what excuse he will proffer for the more recent decision by the growers themselves. I represent two-thirds of the wheat-growing area of South Australia, and I am closely associated with the largest wheat-grower in the State. The company with which I am allied has produced in a season over 20,000 bags of wheat and barley. The principal is in thorough agreement with the Scully plan.
– A sound business man !
– Undoubtedly! In the past, and even to-day, the banks have not co-operated fully with the primary producers. In making that statement I speak with a certain amount of knowledge. I do not know whether it was a privilege or a pleasure, but for a number of years I was a bank officer. When I was stationed on Eyre’s Peninsula, the banks used to burden farmers in that portion of the State with an additional 2 per cent, interest on their overdrafts, compared with the rate paid by people with property in the sounder districts. That was one way in which the banks assisted to “ settle “ men who had settled on the land.
I draw attention to another anomaly. The rate of exchange on Eyre’s Peninsula is £ of 1 per cent., or 2s. 6d. for £100. [f I desire to send a cheque from Port Augusta to Whyalla, a distance of 47 miles, it costs 2s. 6d. for £100. But if I send a cheque from Bordertown to Alice Springs, a distance of 1,500 miles, the charge is ls. I have here correspondence from the associated banks in South Australia, to which I made representations that primary producers and business people generally on Eyre’s Peninsula should be subject to the same rate of exchange as are people in other parts of South Australia. I realize that when the banks fixed the rate of exchange some years ago, they had in mind the time that it took to clear a cheque. That consideration no longer exists. With rapid means of transport by air or road, a clearance takes place in Adelaide, and an hour later the cheque is presented at Port Lincoln. Yet the associated banks, in correspondence with me on the 10th March last, declined to give the same consideration to people living on Eyre’s Peninsula as they give to people in other parts of the State.
I speak with a certain amount of inside knowledge when I say that another branch of the industry that will have to be watched very closely is stevedoring and the handling of our wheat. I am sure that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will give particular attention to this matter.
Earlier, I referred to insolvencies that occurred in South Australia in 1938. At that time the price of wheat fell to ls. 8d. a bushel. That recalls to my memory the fact that my predecessor opposed the action of the Government in transferring the handling of cornsacks from the jute merchants to the agent. As the result of that action, the saving to the farmer u approximately £150,000 per annum. In 1938-39 I did not hear any objections from the same gentleman when the jute merchants and foreign wheat firms operating in Australia were handling second-hand sacks in this way. The price of wheat was ls. 8d. a bushel. For the sake of argument, let us suppose that it was 2s. 6d. a bushel. That would mean $d. per lb. The tare of a bag in South Australia is % lb.; and 2i lb. at £d. per lb. is l$d. Therefore, when the merchant purchased the wheat the price which he paid for that cornsack was 1-Jd. The wheat was emptied into ships’ holds, and the empty sacks were sold to the farmers at 9s. a dozen. In 1939, when the farmer brought in his wheat, he was clocked 6s. a dozen because the sacks were second-hand. That was the first wheat shipped. The reason for shipping it was, that the merchants had submitted that, because of its weight, it could not be preserved in the second-hand sacks. When the wheat had been emptied, the sacks were sold to potato merchants and others for 6s. a dozen. Therefore, these merchants realized approximately 21s. a dozen upon something for which they had paid to the farmers less than ls. 6d. a dozen. Honorable members who now sit in Opposition did not protest on that account, nor did they assist the farmers in any other way at that time. I compliment the Government upon the manner in which the bill has been presented to and received by the House.
– in reply - The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made a strong plea for uniformity of treatment of small and large wheat-growers. I point out to him that a fundamental feature of the quota plan is the protection of the small wheat-grower economically, because, by reason of the prices which have prevailed, he was in a most precarious condition throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Since the quota plan was introduced by this Government a general election has been held. Evidence of appreciation of it by a majority of the wheat-growers of Australia is furnished by the fact that government candidates were returned in practically the whole of the wheatgrowing electorates. Long before I became Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I determined that, given the opportunity, I would take action to stabilize the economic position of the small wheat-grower. My aim, and the slogan of the Government, has always been and will be, not the production of wheat by fewer growers, but production on a large number of farms. Under the quota plan, relatively small growers will be able to produce all the wheat that is required for local consumption, and the production will definitely be restricted in accordance with the International Wheat Agreement, to which Australia is a signatory. It behoves the Government to see that those who are producing wheat shall be enabled to conduct their operations economically, and rear their families in decency and comfort. From all parts it has been reported to me that, for the first time in the history of wheat-gr owing in Australia, an overwhelming majority of those who are engaged in the industry are now in a happy financial position. Quite recently, the representatives of one of the largest machinery firms in the Commonwealth advised me that last season and this season have been the best in their history in respect of debt collections from the wheatgrowers. I have been in consultation with bank managers in rural towns, who have informed me that the wheat-growers in their areas are now more stable financially than they have ever been previously. That is a sufficient vindication of the quota plan.
Initiating the debate, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) criticized the licensing ofwheatgrowers. On the other hand, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) expressed gratitude to the Government for having adhered to that method, which he claimed to have introduced. This provides for the licence to be attached to a definite grower and a specified registered area. Two factors have to be observed: A grower must be licensed, and the area upon which wheat is grown must be registered. That stabilization plan, introduced by the right honorable member for Cowper and objected to by the honorable member for Barker, was in operation when I assumed office. What, from the viewpoint of the
Government, is relatively more important than the conflict of opinion between the honorable member for Barker and the right honorable member for Cowper, is that this method of control was originally suggested by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. It has long, been recognized that no plan of guaranteed prices can operate effectively unless some measure of control be exercised. The claim of the right honorable member for Cowper is noteworthy for another reason. It will be recalled that the Premier of Victoria has frequently criticized the Commonwealth stabilization plan, on the ground that it does not permit uncontrolled production. That, gentleman is a member of the same political party as the right honorable member for Cowper, and we have the spectacle of one claiming credit for action which is bitterly assailed by the other. I make this observation merely in passing, so that honorable members may view in correct perspective the criticism of the Premier of Victoria.
The honorable member for Maranoa said that payments under the quota plan were limited to 140,000,000 bushels. That is not the case. The guarantee provided by the Government is for all wheat produced from a licensed area. The limiting factor referred to by the honorable member related to the plan introduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies).
The honorable member also referred to a decline of production. This inevitably is the outcome of shortage of superphosphate. Honorable members representing rural electorates have repeatedly represented to me that I ought to secure additional supplies of superphosphate so that growers in their electorates might increase the area sown to wheat. The Government has made, and is continuing to make, the strongest representations, with the object of securing supplies of phosphatic rock. If these representations prove successful, I hope to be able to announce that additional supplies of superphosphate will be provided for the wheat-growers in the coming season.
The honorable member for Maranoa also said that growers had to wait a lengthy period before receiving final payments. That was the chief fault of the plan introduced by the Leader of the Opposition. In the operation of earlier pools, growers had to wait for up to two years for their final cheques. This lengthy wait has largely been eliminated under the present plan ; payment is made immediately upon delivery at the siding, for 80 per cent, of quota wheat. That has gone a long way towards making the plan the success it has proved to be. .
The honorable member for Barker objected to the constitution of the Australian Wheat Board, and claimed that Western Australia and South Australia are entitled to representation equal to that of Victoria and New South Wales. This view is not shared by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, which has not voiced any protest against the present method of representation. Honorable members are aware that the average production of wheat is infinitely greater in New South Wales and Victoria than in South Australia and Western Australia. Should the position be reversed, then the Government would undoubtedly consider an alteration of the representation. I also point out that not only is production greater in New South Wales and Victoria, but in addition those States have a larger number of growers than have the other States.
Another criticism of the honorable member for Barker was that the quota plan makes for peasant farming. That is not so. The quota plan protects small farmers, who need protection so that they may not fall to the peasant level. That, is apparent to any one who has a knowledge of the wheat industry.
Before concluding, I shall deal with some of the points that have been made in reference to the stock position, and the decline of production. The Australian wheat season begins on the 1st September. At the beginning of the present season, we had on hand a record carry-over of 158,000,000 bushels. This was an increase of more than 50 per cent, on the quantity held one year earlier, and was the highest quantity that had ever been carried over. The normal peace-time carry-over was approximately 16.000,000 bushels. The 1943-44 crop has been harvested, and totalled 108,000,000 bushels. The quantity of wheat available is, therefore, 266,000,000 bushels. This represents a larger supply than we have ever had previously. After allowing for all local needs, there will be available between 190,000,000 and 200,000,000 bushels for export and carry-over to next season. With another crop to be harvested at the end of this year, honorable member: will realize that the supply position i? assured for this year and next year. Fortunately, markets overseas have improved considerably; otherwise, with such a supply of wheat our storage difficulties, which have been a feature of the war years, would have been intensified. Wheat is produced in large quantities in four of the States, and there are also small crops in Queensland and Tasmania. Of the main wheat States, at one end there is Western Australia with a very small local consumption, a small flour-producing capacity, and normally a big surplus for export. At the other end, New South. Wales has a comparatively big local demand and a big flourproducing capacity. Victoria is in much the same position as New South Wales, whilst the position in South Australia approaches that of Western Australia. Actually, the wheat available was fairly evenly divided among the States. Each of the four has over 50,000,000 bushels available for the season, whilst the largest holder, New South Wales, has about 70,000,000 bushels. Thus, while supplies are adequate, wheat in New South Wales and Victoria must be reserved for export flour orders, whilst the exports of wheat - as distinct from flour - must come from Western Australia and South Australia. Where bagged wheat is concerned, South Australia will be the supplier, since Western Australia is almost entirely a bulk wheat S’tate.
At the end of this season, the carryover is likely to be 90,000,000 bushels That will leave us with more than half of a normal crop in hand, and a very handy reserve for next year’s exports. Compared with the carry-over last November, this will be a reduction of nearly 70,000,000 bushels. It is one of the fruits of increased exports, and a reason why it is now desirable to increase wheat production.
Up to the present season, our war-time crops were almost normal, despite the difficulties in connexion with manpower, materials, and superphosphate. From 1939 to 1942, the wops were 210,000,000 bushels, 82,000,000 bushels, 167,000,000 bushels, and 157,000,000 bushels respectively, or an average of 154,000,000 bushels compared with the pro-war average of 160,000,000 bushels. This season the crop is down to108,000,000 bushels. That is the result of drought and an acreage which has decreased considerably during the war years, because of the shortage of superphosphate.
It is inevitable that, under the stress of war, production of surplus commodities must be reduced in order to concentrate on those commodities of which there is a shortage. That has happened with wheat here, and in the other wheatexporting countries. The pre-war average acreage was 13,300,000 acres, and last year the area sown was 8,300,000 acres, a reduction of 5,000,000 acres. For the coming season, the goal is 9,000,000 acres. This figure was set, not because the Government would be averse to a bigger area, but because it represents a practicable goal having regard to the labour and superphosphate available. Next year it is intended to seek a considerable expansion, and we then hope to h ave more superphosphate available to permit wheatgrowers to use their resources fully, and to achieve their desire to sow larger areas. It will be realized, however, that manpower must remain a big problem while the war lasts. There are competing demands for every commodity available, and whilst we hope to get back a big proportion of the reduced area, normal acreages may not be restored during the war.
We have just readied the end of the period marked by crop accumulation and lack of markets. That period imposed a strain because of selling, shipping, and storing problems. All the export countries were in the same boat, and the natural response was a general decrease of the area shown here and abroad. Now things have changed, and so we have to adjust our policy to the change and produce to meet the market. Other countries are doing the same, and for the next two years market prospects are stood. The change has occurred in the last six months. Previously, we were searching for orders to keep our mills working. Now we have orders to keep them going at capacity to the end of this year, and there are no fears about the next year. Bound up with this, of course, is the feeding of the populations of devastated countries liberated by the Allies.
Wheat orders from Britain in the past few months have absorbed 46,000,000 bushels of wheat, besides which there have been straight-out orders for 37,000,000 bushels. When provision is made for local needs, wheat still available for sale is reduced to just over 100,000,000 bushels. Thus sales have been satisfactory, and our flour manufacturing and wheatshipping arrangements are fixed until the end of this season, since export orders expected for the remainder of the period are comparatively small, and will not reduce the carryover below the 90,000,000 bushels mentioned earlier. Having regard to the position indicated, I should like to scotch rumours and refute statements about a prospective wheat shortage. Australia is a wheatexporting country, and even with reduced war-time production, we can continue to have a substantial surplus for export. There is no question of a shortage, and the only danger, which is a remote one, is that a complete crop failure might make it necessary to reduce our exports. Wheat is still a surplus commodity here and abroad; so much so, that considerable quantities are being used for fuel and other extraordinary purposes. Now that there is at last a reasonable prospect of making sales, we find that Australia has ample stocks available, and there is time to adjust our production while those stocks are being sold.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 23rd March (vide page 1913), on motion by Mr. Scully -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 23rd March (vide page 1913), on motion by Mr. Scully -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to extend the duration of the Supply and Development Act. Honorable members may recall that five years ago the Government took steps to create machinery to assist the supply side of the defence of Australia. At the time the measure was introduced it was realized that the work which had previously been done by a branch of the Defence Department was likely to assume such vast proportions as to make necessary its centralization in one authority. The work of the department during the war years has justified that policy. The period stipulated in the act expires, I think, in June next. It is proposed to continue it until a date to be fixed by proclamation, that date to be determined by circumstances.
. -When the original act was passed, the time limit then imposed was thought to be adequate. In the event, it has proved to be inadequate, and, therefore, there is justification for this measure, which has my support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill -by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That Orders of the Day Nos. 5 and 6 be postponed until after Order of Day No. 7. Government Business.
– There are two secondreading speeches to be made by Ministers, one on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill and the other on the Maternity Allowance Bill. I suggest that those speeches should be delivered, and then those two measures, together with the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill, would be listed on the noticepaper for debate. Some of us desire to have an opportunity to say something on the AustralianNew Zealand Agreement.
– The right honorable member will be lucky if he gets the opportunity.
– Why ?
– Because, if it comes on at all, it will be in the dying hours of the session.
– The Government has agreed to the adjournment of this debate on two occasions to suit the convenience of members of the Opposition. It cannot agree to a further adjournment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 3rd March, (vide page 936), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the bill he now read a second time.
– I regret that I have to address myself to a bill so important and so far-reaching as this one so late at night, but “needs must”. The bill is one to provide for unemployment and sickness benefits, and it represents a very major instalment of the Government’s proposal for new social services out of what has been called the National Welfare Fund. Honorable members will recall that the National Welfare Fund was set up last year, and into it was to be paid onequarter of the income tax from individuals, or £30,000,000, whichever sum was the less, and at that time the fund was, to use the current expression, hypothecated for future social benefits. In this sessional period we are dealing with this measure, which, as I shall point out, hypothecates or appropriates a very great sum of money out of that fund, and we shall also be dealing with a pharmaceutical benefits bill at some later stage. In approaching these problems of social services, the two sides of this House differ on methods and principles, but not on objective. The objective is common. Everybody desires to see set up in Australia as high a level of security and protection against the results of unemployment and the results of economic dislocations as is possible. Where we do come to issues is when we consider just how we shall produce that result. I followed the speech made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), in moving the second reading of this bill, with very great attention. Certain features of it should be noted and emphasized. In the first place, the Minister said that, however successful our economic policy might prove to be and he had certain high hopes of the economic policy in the future there would always be and I adopt his words a certain percentage needing financial aid. That was a very proper admission, because, for a variety of reasons which one need not discuss at this stage, there will always, in my opinion, be a certain perceptible percentage of what we call unemployed people in Australia. We may properly aim at full employment, but I agree with the Minister in thinking that we shall not expect to achieve that in the sense that there shall not be any unemployment at all. Of course, the reason for that is that in some instances we shall have unemployability, and in others, seasonal unemployment. It is difficult, notwithstanding the efforts of the Minister to devise some formula by which we can deal adequately with the seasonal unemployment. There will be temporary business and trading adjustments, and we should be more optimistic than wise if we thought we were going to avoid all those things, and that, for the first time in the history of Australia, we should have a nil percentage of unemployment recorded in the YearBook.
– And there will be sickness.
– As the Minister so rightly says, sickness will always tend to produce some percentage of unemployment. As honorable members know, unemployment figures, so far as they are reported by the trade unions of Australia, have been kept for very many years. If honorable members will look at the YearBook to see the recorded figures of unemployment, they will find that very seldom in the history of Australia, so far as it has been recorded on this matter, have we had less than 5 per cent, of recorded unemployment. I myself had a look at the figures for what I think might be a highly relevant period, namely, the ten years immediately following the conclusion of the last war, and in that period the percentage of unemployment in successive years was as follows: -
So if one runs one’s eyes over that column of figures one sees that the average percentage in that highly relevant period is approximately 8 per cent. We all shall hope to do better than that in the future, but we do not know whether we shall succeed. We certainly shall not avoid all the economic shocks of the future by merely expressing pious sentiments about them. A great deal of really terrific work will have to be done in relation to the financial and economic structure of Australia if we are to keep unemployment down to 5 per cent. That throws a very sharp light, first, on the financial implications of this bill. The Minister tells us, I have no doubt with proper authority, that the cost of the scheme is estimated at £2,000,000 a year for each 1 per cent, of unemployment, plus £8,500,000 for sickness benefits. If the average unemployment were taken at 5 per cent, that “would mean that we should have an average commitment under this bill of £10,000,000 for unemployment, and £8,500,000 for” sickness benefit. So, under this one measure, -we propose to dispose of £18,500,000 out of this alleged £30,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund.
– If things remained as they were.
– No. If things are better than they were.
– The average for the ten years that the right honorable gentleman mentioned–
– That was approximately S per cent. I am saying that if it is 5 per cent. - and the honorable gentleman will have to go back a long way before he can find anything that looks like 5 per cent. - the cost will be £10,000,000, which, with £8,500,000 for sickness benefit, means that the cost of this scheme is £18,500,000.
– The figures the right honorable gentleman has cited are the figures recorded by the trade unions.
– Yes. It is always estimated that they represent the typical percentage and carry right through the total. The third comment that I want to make about the speech of the Minister - and his speech very properly expounded the scheme in the bill - is that these benefits are to be conferred, not upon a contributory basis, which would have enabled us to omit the means test, and, I believe, to have a much more solvent and stable scheme, but on a so-called free basis out of the fund constituted by the National Welfare Fund Act. I shall come back in a moment to that fund, because it merits some slight further consideration; but I want first to say something more about the absence from this bill of a contributory scheme. A great deal has been said and written in the last few months about what ha3 been called the Beveridge plan in Great Britain. The Beveridge plan has been very much praised, and very much criticized. By some people it has been thought to go wildly too far. and by others that it is conservative and does not go far enough. But, of course, the truth is that the Beveridge plan represents no great fundamental change in principle, because Great Britain has had national insurance for a long time. But it does represent a very great extension, and if carried out would add enormously to the total social service provision in Great Britain. When Sir William Beveridge came to compile his report he very early found himself up against the problem whether the scheme, to be effective, should be on a free ot a contributory basis. I propose to read three passages from his report to show what he has to say about that matter. He says this under the heading of “ The Nature of Social Insurance “ -
Under the scheme of social insurance, which forms the main feature of this plan, every citizen of working age will contribute in his appropriate class according . to the security that he needs, or as a married woman will have contributions made by the husband. Each will be covered for all his needs by a single weekly contribution on one insurance document. All the principal cash payments - for Unemployment, disability and retirement - will continue so long as the need lasts, without means test, and will be paid from a social insurance fund built up by contributions from the insured persons, from their employers, if any, and from the State. This is in accord with two views as to the lines on which the problem of income maintenance should be approached.
The first view is that benefit in return for contribution, rather than free allowances from the State, is what the people of Britain desire. This desire is shown both, by the established popularity of compulsory insurance, and by the phenomenal growth of voluntary insurance against sickness, against death and for endowment, and most recently for hospital treatment. It is shown in another way by the strength of popular objection to any kind of means test. This objection springs not so much from a desire to get anything for nothing, as from resentment at a provision which appears to penalize what people have come to regard as the duty and pleasure of thrift of putting pennies away for a rainy day. Management of one’s income is an essential element of a citizen’s freedom. Payment of a substantial part of the cost of benefit as a contribution irrespective of the means of the contributor is the firm basis of a claim to benefit irrespective of means.
The second view is that whatever money is required for provision of insurance benefits, so long as they ave needed, should come from a fund to which the recipients have contributed and to which they may be required to make larger contributions if the fund proves inadequate. The plan adopted since 1930 in regard to prolonged unemployment and sometimes suggested for prolonged disability, that the State should take this hurden off insurance, in order to keep the contribution down, is wrong in principle. The insured persons should not feel that income for idleness, however caused, can come from a bottomless purse. The Government should not feel that by paying doles it can avoid the major responsibility of seeing that unemployment and disease are reduced to the minimum. The place for direct expenditure and organization by the State is in maintaining employ ment of the labour and other productive resources of the’ country, and in preventing and combating disease, not in patching an incomplete scheme of insurance. [ apologize for reading that lengthy excerpt, but I commend it to the attention of honorable members. I could, perhaps, summarize what is said in those passages by saying that contribution preserves self-respect; it enables social security schemes to be kept solvent; and it dispenses with the humiliation that is involved in a means test. Humiliation is involved in * such a test. The moment we establish, or perpetuate, the principle that the citizen, in order to get something he needs, or wants, and to which he has looked forward, must prove his poverty, we convert him into a suppliant to the State for benevolence. That position is inconsistent with the proper dignity of the citizen in a democratic country. People should be able to obtain these benefits as a matter of right, with no more loss of their own standards of self-respect than would be involved in collecting from an insurance company the proceeds of an endowment policy on which they have been paying premiums for years.
The Government will, no doubt, seek to answer what I have said, and what I have read from the Beveridge report, by saying that its scheme is, in effect, contributory because it will be financed out of a tax fund to which wage-earners will contribute.
– Is not that so?
– My answer is that it is not; and I expect the honorable member anticipated that I would say so. In my opinion, this is not a contributory scheme. A fund is not, in substance, contributory because it is financed from taxation to which wage-earners contribute. To say that it is, is merely playing with words. The best proof that this scheme is not genuinely contributory and is not an insurance scheme is that the means test is to be applied.
That means test will automatically exclude from benefit many thousands of people who pay taxes. It cannot be said that a scheme is contributory in substance unless all the contributors are entitled to benefit.
– If they contribute through permanent employment, would they not be ‘entitled to benefit?
– They might be entitled to benefit, but they would not collect benefit unless they became unemployed. Many people pay insurance premiums on risks which never mature, but they are still parties to an insurance proposal. I may insure my house against fire, but never have a fire. I may pay my premiums for 40 years, and have been a party to an insurance contract all that time, though I may never collect anything. I will have insured, of course, against the risk. In this case the Government says to certain contributors to the fund, “Even if you become unemployed you will not be entitled to benefits under this scheme unless you can prove the necessary absence of means “. The result is that, from the very beginning, we make it clear that thousands of contributors can never become beneficiaries. This is not a contributory scheme, nor is it in any sense an insurance scheme. That point is so plain that it does not need to be laboured.
I turn now to the National Welfare Fund. When this Government first imposed taxation in any volume on people in the lower income groups, it was understood, certainly by me, and, I venture to say, by many other citizens, that it was being done as a part of an all-round war effort on the financial front. That was the first proposition that broke on the people when the heavy taxation proposals of the Government were introduced. But no sooner had that policy been partially applied than pressure was brought to bear upon the Government, with the result that it retreated from that position and adopted a new scheme. We were told that a substantial proportion of the extra taxation was to be paid into h fund the proceeds of which would be hypothecated for social services, and not necessarily postponed social services. In Hip meantime the Treasurer told us, with some naivete, that the money which wont into the fund could be taken out and used for war purposes and be replaced after the war by long-term borrowing from the public. That was a method of finance which at the time staggered me, but which, apparently, will not stagger me much longer because the money in the fund is obviously to be used quite promptly and extensively for social services of an increased character while the war is still on. Ever since that time the Government has been developing what is, to me, a most curious psychology. When the National Welfare Fund Act was passed and the fund was established we were told that an amount of £30,000,000 per annum, or a quarter of the proceeds of the tax on personal exertion income, whichever was the less, would be paid into it, without apparently giving one glance to the amount of income tax collected. The Government and its supporters were quite willing, apparently, for this £30,000,000 to go into “ kitty “- I believe that is the expression.
– The right honorable member ought to know.
– I am not so familiar with these terms as the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), .whose sporting proclivities are well known. This £30,000,000 was to go into “ kitty “ and then the Government proceeded without more ado to devise ways and means of spending it.
– Hear, hear!
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) always obliges with a remark of that kind at the right time. His “ Hear, hear ! “ indicates that what I have said is quite right. That is exactly the Government’s view. We have £30,000,000 in the fund and it begins to burn our fingers so we must proceed to pass it out. Such an approach to this problem at such a time as this shows a complete abandonment of principle. There is a strange irony about the fact that the Government can say, in one breath, to the people, “You must accept all the financial burdens involved in the war, even to the amount of many millions. Whatever the sacrifices may be you must accept them “, and then turn blithely to this fund of £30,000,000 and say in the next breath, “Here is £30,000,000 which we can begin to hand out to you “. That aspect of the subject may be debated when a bill related to this one is before the House. The money in the National Welfare Fund is to be applied to the provision of a series of free payments associated with the perpetuation of the means test.
– In other words it is to be a dole.
– That is so. It is probably more true of this country than it is of Great Britain that no bottomless purse is available into which we may dip without restriction. The Government, apparently, has no quarrel with such a statement of the case, because it purports to say that a fund must be created before it may be expended. But this Government has no bottomless purse into which to dip.
I say to the Government that while it may desire to provide sound protection for the citizens of the country, it will do them a very ill turn if it contemplates a future in which individual effort and individual contribution are replaced by non-contributory community benevolence. We do not desire to develop in this country a pauper approach; on the contrary we desire to develop an approach of virility and self-reliance. The Government should have emphasized the true principle that a citizen’s first duty is to contribute to the limit of his capacity in matters of this kind.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that persons who receive pensions are paupers?
– We are being asked to adopt a pauperizing system by insisting, through the means test, that citizens shall prove poverty before they may receive benefits under this scheme.
– “ Pauper “ is a very nasty word.
– It is of no use to “ beat about the bush “. When I mean pauperizing, I say pauperizing. The choice that confronts the people of Australia is the choice between pauperization and contribution.
– Keep on talking like that and you will never get back on the treasury bench.
– If the Minister expects that members on this side of the House are going to endeavour to get into office by providing a diet of evasive language and telling falsehoods to the people he is making a great mistake. That seems to he what is in his mind. It is about time some plain English was used in regard to these matters, In this proposal the Minister and his colleagues are offering the people something that will appeal enormously to those who believe that the duty of citizens is to look for all they can get in this way. However, those who believe in the future of this country believe also in the development of a real spirit of independence in the people. I said that the Government cannot draw on a bottomless purse. I suppose that is an unfortunate thing to say, and will probably lose a few votes, because it is current gospel that the Government can draw on a bottomless purse and that money does not matter any longer. I hope that the Minister for Labour and National Service does not subscribe to that policy. Before people rush off with any idea that these things can be got on the principle of “ something for nothing “, I should like to warn them to consider just where we stand at this time in relation to this fund. The Government is plainly going to arrange for the expenditure of at least £30,000,000 out of the National Welfare Fund. That means that if £30,000,000 a year is to be paid into the National Welfare Fund, income tax collections from individuals, apart from companies, must be maintained at £120,000,000 a year. The Government pays into the National Welfare Fund one-quarter of the receipts from income tax on individuals. Before the war, Commonwealth income tax collections from that source amounted to a little less than £10,000,000 a year. Therefore, this policy of the Government amounts to an announcement to the people of Australia that, year by year, even allowing for the average of unemployment to which I referred not being exceeded, we shall be committed to maintain the total income tax receipts of the Commonwealth at twelve times their pre-war level! No sentimental argument will suffice to dispose of this proposition, that if we are to maintain income tax at that level in perpetuity, we shall strike a great blow, and perhaps a fatal blow, at private enterprise in Australia, on which our reconstruction will so vitally depend.
– Out-of-date economics.
– It is not out-of-date economics to the people who are paying income tax on a scale undreamed of before the war. It is not windy economics preached at some street corner. It is the economics which strike home. The people know exactly what the income tax means to them. If the Government means to say to them, as it plainly does, “You must understand, ladies and gentlemen, that your present income tax rates will remain at the present level “, I shall he interested to know what the people will reply. During the war the people will pay “ through-the-nose “ income tax, or subscribe to loans because there is a danger, and they are influenced by the pressure of patriotism and the urgency of war. But in time of peace, does any one suppose that all these people who are paying these high rates of tax, whether they be big or little people, will be willing to continue to do so? And yet, if these collections from income tax fall, the fund itself will become bankrupt unless the Government alters the terms under which the fund was created.
It is said that two matters must be borne in mind. The first is that all these things are matters of comparison and that this volume of money should not be compared with merely our present-day income. Incomes will grow in the future, and the national income will swell. Therefore, this provision will be perhaps a much smaller proportion of the total national income. That proposition sounds very attractive, but it does not admit of very much examination. As I have had occasion to say before in this House, a great deal of misunderstanding exists about this so-called national income of Australia. What appears to be a swelling revenue is really little other than a swelling expenditure. Of course, by depreciating our currency we could increase the nominal amount of our national income. But what really matters is: What are we producing in Australia and what is it worth? We must consider all these problems of expenditure against the background of production and in the light of this truth, that unless we encourage production and make it more efficient, all the finest schemes in the world will go down the wind.
The second thing I want to say is this : All of us have a most convenient faculty for discussing one problem and at the same time forgetting all other problems. Saying that we have to consider how much ought to be paid to an unemployed man, we turn our back on all the other vital elements that exist. Let me mention one. As the Minister knows, because I have no doubt that he has given a great deal of attention to these problems, two things are happening to the population of Australia. One is that it is not growing very much, and that something very like a miracle will be needed if it is ever to exceed 8,000,000 without a major migration movement. The second is that people are living longer, with the result that our increase of population is almost entirely an increase of the pensionable ages. As time passes, we shall have more and more persons within the pensionable ages in Australia, and ultimately a declining number of people to pay taxes and make contributions. That is not the sort of problem which can be conveniently put on one side. All these burdens, having regard to our population movements, will tend to grow intrinsically, and not to diminish.
– We must not let them starve.
– The problem will not be solved by absurd statements, and I am surprised that the Minister should give way to them. He suggests that the people are starving. I do not see many victims of starvation among honorable members opposite; amongst them the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Puller) is the only one who is decently emaciated.
– The right honorable gentleman looks well padded.
– Of course, no one is advocating starvation. It is quite absurd to talk about starvation in this country, having regard to what this country has done increasingly year by year.
– Does the right honorable gentleman remember conditions in 1930-31?
– I do, very well.
– Did people starve then ?
– I do not know.
– The right honorable gentleman does know!
– All I know is that governments at that time, and most of them were Labour governments, spenta great deal of money on the relief of people in Australia. Do not talk to me about1931! A Labour government was in office in this very chamber.
– In office, but not in power.
– The Leader of the Opposition stands for monopolies.
– I am very glad that my words have had a provocative effect. All the old catchcries are being uttered. One honorable member said “ starvation “, another honorable member said “ monopolies “, and a third, with exquisite taste, made a rude remark about my appearance. The real question to which I am addressing myself is not whether people should get social benefits or have adequate social security, but whether they should get it as a grant from the Treasury, with a means test, or as a payment due to them under a system of insurance. That is the real issue, and it is not to be evaded.
I turn from that to give to the House a few figures for consideration. In 1937-38 the total social service bill of the Commonwealth was £25,860,000. In 1938-39 it was £34,182,000. In 1944-45, assuming I fear quite rightly that the measure now under consideration will come into operation, the bill will total £63,000,000. That sum includes the total of child endowment, and if we omit the amount of child endowment provided by the pay-roll tax, the figure will be reduced to between £52,000,000 and £53,000,000. That figure is computed on an allowance of 1 per cent, of unemployment. If unemployment reaches 5 per cent., we must add £8,000,000 to my figure, making it £60,000,000 or £61,000,000. However much we may be indifferent to money, and our indifference, I find, usually depends upon whether it is ours or somebody else’s money, we should at least try to relate that total to the general budget of Australia. In 1937-38 Commonwealth income tax was a little less than £9,500,000. In the next year, it was a little under £12,000,000. That figure includes receipts from companies. Receipts from income tax on individuals would be materially less than that amount something of the order of £9,000,000.
Our total revenue from direct taxation in the financial year before the war was £13,000,000, and our total revenue from indirect taxation was £60,000,000, a total of £73,000,000. Honorable members will see that during the war we have built up a social service obligation, noncontributory, which is within a touch of the total direct and indirect revenues of the Commonwealth before the war. Commonwealth loan raisings before the war were very small. Two years before the war, they were about £8,000,000 and a year before the war they were about £12,000,000. During the current financial year the estimated collections of income tax from persons, apart from companies, is £140,000,000. If honorable members will consider all those figures, they will see that we are making commitments which, putting to one side all the ordinary administrative costs of government and defence, will account permanently for an infinitely higher rate of taxation than we had before the outbreak of war.
– That is the right honorable gentleman’s great fear, is it not?’
– It is not a great fear. I regret that I have to correct the Minister, because that is a most disingenuous statement. If anybody thinks for a moment that I am such a fool as to believe that the Commonwealth collections of income tax from individuals will ever return to £9,000,000 a year, he has, in the words ‘of one of our allies, another guess coming to him “. Of course we shall not! After the war income tax collections in this country will never return to their pre-war level. But I should be very disturbed if I thought that income tax was to stay permanently at to-day’s level; yet I see no escape from its remaining there permanently, having regard to the expenditure policy of the Government.
– That is going to the other extreme.
– I am not going to the other extreme. I challenge the Minister to show to the community how there can bc any reduction of income tax at any time, in the absence of a remarkable increase of the total of personal incomes, so long as expenditure is on this footing. He will have a little embarrassment in setting out to prove that; because last week - if I may cast a backward glance - Government members were at great pains to establish that incomes were going to fall. They cannot have it both ways. If incomes are going to fall, then what chance is there of any reduction of the existing income tax rates, having regard to the. Government’s expenditure policy? Of course, one answer that will be put at some stage - quite casually, no doubt - will be, “ Ob yes, but the Government has vast resources by borrowing”. I agree that, in truth, the Government is paying for most of these things out of loan moneys. When I say “ out of loan moneys “, I mean either long-term borrowing from the public, or bank credit. But when the war is over - and I put this most seriously - do honorable members really believe that we are going to continue to borrow money from the public on the present scale? Really, it is time that we began to think about that quite seriously. Before the war, the total borrowing by the Commonwealth and the States in Australia was, as a rule, approximately £30,000,000 a year. Allowing for some alteration, one would not expect to be able to go on the market and obtain money for normal government purposes to an amount of more than £50,000,000 in a year. To-day, we are borrowing from the public between £250,000,000 and £300,000,000 under the stress and pressure of war, and from the Commonwealth Bank between £100,000,000 and £200,000,000 as well. That sort of thing does not go on indefinitely. When we come back to peace, the time must come when the financial structure must assert itself, and we will borrow much less from the people because they will be much less willing to lend. In those circumstances, so to mortgage our taxation revenues, direct and indirect, that we make yourselves practically dependent on borrowing for the ordinary purposes of government, ‘is an unthinkable proceeding. That is why I believe that, if these schemes are to be really permanent, if, in the long run, they are to give real security to the people, they must be taken out of this “ chancy “ position into which this bill and the present scheme put them, and must be put upon a firm basis of contributions, so that there will be an insurance fund which will be solvent, having regard to the nature of the contributions that are made to it, and will represent, not a mere direct payment out of the Treasury, but in the truest sense a joint effort by the Government, the employer, and the employee.
– Back to the Casey plan.
– The Minister has the most juvenile idea that he has only to put a label on something in order to condemn it. All that I say is that I make no apology whatever for the Casey plan. One of the great misfortunes of this country is that the plan had not come into operation before this war began.
I desire to give to the House the opportunity of concentrating its discussion upon what I believe to be a major principle in this matter, and of expressing its view; so I move -
That all words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the bill be withdrawn and re-drafted so as to provide for an equitable scheme of unemployment and sickness benefits on a contributory basis”.
.- “We have listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) deliver a speech on a bill to provide unemployment and sickness benefits for the people of this country. He has delivered a speech of the type that he usually makes when he is in a destructive frame of mind. A little later, I shall refer to what he has said in support of his amendment.
The political historian of this century will record an amazing development towards social security throughout the whole world during the period of the present war. This is no less conspicuous in Australia than in the older countries of the world. After the suffering and lack of security of millions of people in the last post-war period, public opinion in all countries swung very definitely, during the early stages of the present war, towards making life more secure and really worth while when the present struggle is ended. That is particularly the case in the great democratic countries which are fighting for the preservation of the rights of the people. One has only to study the Beveridge report quoted by the Leader of the Opposition, the social security plans of Canada and the United States of America, and what has been put into operation in New Zealand within recent years, to appreciate tie trend of the minds of the people in democratic countries. At the conference that is to be held in Philadelphia next month, the main topic will be world-wide social security. All minds are to-day thinking about such things, and are trying to devise means ofl developing a plan of social security for the people when this war ends. The last war, we were told, was fought in order to make the world safe for democracy. But the depression years brought stern and sad disillusionment, even in countries in which social insurance of various kinds had been in vogue for years. These systems proved totally inadequate to meet the demands of mass unemployment; and even in the fields covered by such systems, the benefits did not provide adequate protection against the scourge of unemployment.
Social security planning in Australia has been undertaken chiefly by the Social Security Committee during the last three years. That committee has had the responsibility of evolving recommendations which would make up the leeway, so that in the social field Australia might enjoy a position at least comparable with that of other progressive countries. The credit for implementing the recommendations of the committee in the last and the present Parliaments is due to the Curtin Administration. It is to be congratulated upon its courage, and its consistency in breaking down many of the conservative barriers of the past, at the same time placing on the statutebook a succession of laws which will go far towards providing a real measure of social security to the people of this country. The bill now before us is the most important single social measure to be introduced since the passing of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act in 1908. Of the chief phases of individual insecurity in life, namely, old-age, incapacity and unemployment, the lastnamed is probably the worst hazard which the average citizen has to face, and up to the present it has been the one against which the least protection has been provided. It may be said that governments over the years have never attempted to tackle the problem of unemployment. Even the measure introduced and passed through this Parliament under the operation of the rigid time limit known as the “guillotine”, having been placed on the statute-book by the Lyons-Menzies Administration, was not given legislative effect; and it omitted to deal with the important matter of unemployment. We have learned from bitter experience the complete inadequacy of past provisions, under a system which has permitted supply and demand to be the determining factor in the health and economic standards of a very large proportion of the people. We know, too, the inadequacy of unemployment insurance ‘in countries in which it was expected that adequate provision would be made against unemployment. In Great Britain, limited unemployment insurance was introduced in 1911, and this was supplemented by a more comprehensive act in 1920; but even these did not include domestic and country workers, and self-employed persons. Also, the benefit was limited to a prescribed period. The subsequent demands of post-war unemployment were so great in England, as to render the fund completely unable to meet the requirements.
– Not its ‘ statutory requirements; other burdens were loaded, on to it.
-Whatever else may be said, the fact is that it was inadequate to meet the requirements of the day, and was in debt to an amount of about £120,000,000, following the depression years, during which demands that bad not been contracted for were made upon it because ofl widespread unemployment. I presume that that is the point which the honorable member for Parramatta makes. It has taken many years for the fund to become stabilized, largely by being relieved of the assistance that was made necessary through continued unemployment, which was outside the scope of the insurance benefit, to meet which a contract had been made. The insurance principle always breaks’ down at that point. The subsequent demands of post-war unemployment were so great as to render the fund completely unable to meet the requirements, and the fund was in debt to the extent of about £120,000,000, following the depression years, during which demands not contracted for, were made upon it because of the widespread unemployment. It has taken many years for the fund to become stabilized, largely by relieving it of assistance made necessary through continued unemployment, but outside the scope of the insurance benefit contracted for.
This is a typical example of the unsatisfactory and inadequate provisions of orthodox unemployment insurance, which is also in operation in Queensland. Under the insurance principle, the fund is usually established by contributions from three sources, namely, employer, employee and government. The benefit is actuarially related to the premium paid, and is therefore limited in duration, irrespective of the period of unemployment. Moreover, such claims almost invariably exclude self-employed persons, who represent a large number in any community.
Because the period of unemployment is in no way related to any prior premium paid, the insurance principle is inadequate, and in all countries where it has existed, it has had to be supplemented by assistance from various other sources, in order to maintain the unemployed person during the period after which his insurance benefit has expired.
In its third interim report of the 25th March, 1942, the Social Security Committee dealt with this aspect, and stated -
The first disadvantage of the method (insurance) is the fact that, since it ie constructed on a quasi-actuarial basis, benefits and contributions must balance. Because it is impossible accurately to estimate the incidence of unemployment from year to year, benefits arc severely limited, and this in turn necessitates supplementary government assistance, usually, on a relief basis and involving a means test, after the expiry of benefits. A further disadvantage is that the scheme cannot cover the whole population, but only workers employed under a contract of service. All independent workers, farmers, shopkeepers and other self-employed persons, many of whom are in the same income class as employees, are excluded.
The fact is, therefore, that “ insurance “ schemes have dealt and can deal only partially with unemployment, and do not fully provide against the distress arising from it even amongst those who participate in the schemes.
Our problem- is capable of solution provided that appropriate action is taken before unemployment - war caused or otherwise - makes its appearance on a large scale. The fact that unemployment is primarily a national problem and not wholly the responsibility of the States or of industry must be recognized. Our problem can be solved only by providing work or maintenance for every unemployed person in the- community as a right for the full period of unemployment, it being understood that compliance with a work test is a condition of the payment of maintenance.
This brings me to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, who made much play on the proposal to impose a means test. Personally, I do not particularly favour a means test. The Social Security Committee was impressed with the suggestion that there should be a work test rather than a means test. The committee stated in its report -
When fully organized, the National Service Offices in each State would be the appropriate agency through which to apply a work test, one object in establishing such offices being the fullest possible employment of all labour.
As the committee pointed out, the organization is now in existence, and could be continued to operate a work rest -for unemployed persons and, in some measure, for the direction of labour. The Minister and his officers have decided that some sort of means test is necessary, at any rate in the early stages of the scheme. I accept their decision, despite the fact that the Social Security Committee was opposed to it. The recommendation of the committee had to bc translated into legislation, and if it was found upon examination by experts that our proposal was, for the present, impracticable. I am prepared to accept the measure which has been placed before the House.
The Leader of the Opposition referred ro the limitation of benefits to certain sections of the community. It is true that, when a means test is applied, there must be a limitation of benefits, but that applies only to unemployment. It does not apply to sickness, and all sections of the community, irrespective of financial position, may participate in sickness benefits.
The only country to face squarely this responsibility and provide unemployment benefit for the full period of unemployment - subject to adequate, protection against abuse - has been New Zea- land, where again the credit goes to a Labour administration. Under the New Zealand Social Security Act of 1938, unemployment benefit is paid for the full period of unemployment, subject to a work and means test, but this progressive measure is not surprising when the comprehensive nature of New Zealand’s Social Security Act is understood. As in the present bill, New Zealand has also made provision for a comprehensive sickness benefit.
The need for unemployment cover in Australia on a comprehensive scale if. more fully appreciated by reference to the unemployment position during the period between the two world wars, the census figures for which were -
Although not very marked1, unemployment was again beginning to rise at the outbreak of the present war, and that increase may have been ominous. Were we heading for another depression, which the full-time employment resulting from the war has averted? It has taken another war to teach us that full-time employment can be provided at a time of national crisis, when the goods produced are for the destruction of human life and not for improving the lot of mankind in the world.
We have also learned that money can be found for this purpose during wartime, but it is remarkable that it could not be found to prevent large numbers of Australians from suffering very severe distress from 1929 onwards when unemployment was at its worst. I do not want to decry our economists, who have a useful part to play in, reconstruction after the war, but it seems to me very strange that the same authorities who favoured the drastic reduction of Government expenditure at the first signs of, and right through, the depression, now have very liberal views on finance for providing large-scale employment during future depressions. Listening . to evidence before the Social Security Committee, I have been struck by the unanimity of the evidence of economists and other experts who consider that a period of economic depression is one occasion when the release of credit can safely be undertaken in order to maintain a reasonable level of employment.
Like all who have the welfare of mankind at heart, I earnestly hope we shall not again experience anything approaching the depression level of unemployment, in this country. I do not think it is necessary, and I do not believe it would again be tolerated, particularly after experiencing the readiness with which money has been provided for the purposes of the war; but my chief hope is that the policy of all governments in Australia after the war will be a guarantee of full-time employment for all, and if this be done, we will not be in the unhappy position of having to provide large sums for unemployment benefit. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the cost of providing unemployment benefit if the percentage of unemployment were high. It is true that, for every 1 per cent, of unemployment, the cost will be £2,000,000, but the remedy lies, not in providing large sums for the relief of unemployment, but in providing full employment for the people. In any case, if we fail to bring into proper relation the available labour and materials in our possession for such undertakings as the building of homes, and for the genera] advancement of the community, then it is only fair that the community ought to provide a minimum standard of subsistence below which no one should be’ allowed to fall. Of course there will be intermittent unemployment even under the best regulated scheme, and it is essential that unemployment .benefit shall be paid to all so unhappily situated as to need it in order that they may maintain themselves and their families.
I, however, strongly stress the fa el that the greatest single need in the post-war period will be stabilized employment rather than unemployment benefit, and there is a tremendous job ahead of whatever party is in power to ensure the achievement and maintenance of that objective. If in peace for the development of the country, as in war for destruction, we can provide full-time employment, we shall not have to worry about the cost of this legislation. Immediately after the war, however, the Government will be faced with the problem of demobilizing the men and women of the services and restoring war workers to their former trades. The transfer from peace-time to war-time production has dislocated many industries and caused others to cease to exist. The work of restoration will not be accomplished overnight. It may occupy months or even years. It is vitally necessary, therefore, that there shall be a largescale scheme of public works to absorb those who cannot he absorbed by private industry. It is unquestionable that there are great undertakings which can be undertaken for the development of the country.
I was interested in what the Leader of the Opposition said about this measure, and I direct his attention to the following leading article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 11th March.
– A filthy rag.
– It may be, but I quote this opinion from a journal thai, certainly does not support the Labour party- . . A nation-wide unemployment and sickness scheme is long overdue in Australia It is a reproach to successive TJ.A.P.-C.P. Administrations that they neglected favorable opportunities during the pre-war years to deal boldly and comprehensively with problems oi social security which a Labour regime is now attempting to solve in its own fashion - a fashion which pays more regard to political expediency than to sound social ami economic principles. . . . The proposed payments are by no means so lavish as to encourage attempts to evade the safeguard* erected against deliberate idleness or malingering. One such safeguard is a provision that the income of the family group shall bc taken into consideration in calculating benefits the inclusion of a means test, of course, is indispensable in a non-contributory plan. On the other hand, the benefits obtainable increase with the family responsibilities of the recipient. In general, the success of the Government’s effort to alleviate the ills of unemployment and sickness in industry must depend in very large measure upon the care with which the scheme is administered.
That is not an unqualified compliment to this bill, but it does give the Government some credit for having tackled the tremendous problem of providing for the unemployed and the physically afflicted. 1 do not say that the bill is perfect, but I do claim that it is the basis upon which we shall be able to build in the light of experience. Like all legislation of an experimental character it will have to stand the test of trial and error. In that connexion, I consider that the giving of discretionary power to the DirectorGeneral of Social Services is a good provision, because it will enable him to decide cases which, because of our inexperience with this kind of legislation, may otherwise be harshly treated, although harsh treatment is not intended. He, from time to time, will be able to make recommendations to the Government for the improvement of the legislation. The bill is an excellent start. I do not subscribe to the fears expressed by the Leader of the Opposition, who raised the old bogy about the cost and the raising of the money required. We have never been able to raise money in times of peace for the promotion of the welfare of the people, but we have always found as much as we need for the destruction of mankind. I commend the bill, which is based on a report of the Social Security Committee.
– The necessity for making provision for the relief of the unemployed cannot be disputed by either side of the House. We remember the period after the last war when many of the promises that had been made to the servicemen were denied by events. I see signs throughout the world that many of the promises held out in this war may prove difficult to fulfil. We have as our first obligation, which I believe we can discharge, the obligation to provide full employment to the people. To the degree that we do not, our second obligation is to make the provision that this measure proposes. The only substantial issue that arises is as to whether the proposed methods of finance should be adopted or whether the scheme should be a contributory one. The Leader of the Opposition (Mt. Menzies) has moved an amendment in a form which is becoming almost classic - that the bill with which general agreement is expressed should be withdrawn for the purpose of having it redrafted on certain lines.
– That is the only course open under the Standing Orders.
– I do not think it is. I believe in a contributory scheme, but I do not believe that it is necessary to go through the procedure of withdrawing the bill completely in order that it may be redrafted. That could be completely misunderstood by the people whom honorable members on this side represent, and, accordingly, I do not propose to support, the amendment. Whilst I believe in the contributory principle, I venture to say that it is capable of being overstressed. Contributions, as generally understood, would come from three sources, one-third from the employee, one-third from the employer and onethird from the Commonwealth. I stop there to consider what that actually means. One-third from the employee has a habit of eventually finding its way into the living regimen and through various charges being distributed over the people. One-third from the employer tends again to be added to the cost of goods and services, and one-third from the Commonwealth would in any event be raised from the people by the ordinary means of raising revenue. I doubt whether there is as much force as. is generally believed, therefore, in the argument in favour of the contributory principle. Having regard to the taxes that are levied, particularly the indirect taxes, I think there is a great deal in the contention that benefits should be paid for by the recipients, but not enough to induce me to support the amendment. In many of the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition, I concur. I agree that individual initiative ought to be encouraged, and that we must be able to look forward to a substantial reduction pf the income tax after the war, but I do not imagine that it will be reduced to the level of the pre-war years. Indeed, if we are to fulfil the promises that we have made to the people that they will receive a better deal after the war, the income tax will have to remain at a level substantially higher than in previous years. I am a great believer in the principle that those more fortunately placed in life should contribute to the less fortunately placed. I see nothing inconsistent with that view in the method of finance that has been adopted by successive governments over the years. For example, the direct levy on the people before the war was about £10,000,000 a year, and £60,000,000 came by way of indirect taxes. In my view, indirect taxes weigh more heavily upon those on the lower incomes than those on the higher incomes. So there is not a huge gulf in any issue between the Government and the Opposition in regard to the method of finance. As to the cost of social services, there again I think we must face our responsibility. It is true that the programme of the last two years has substantially increased our annual bill in respect of social services, but; if we are to relieve those in need, as has been advocated by each side of the House in the last few years, we mustnot hesitate to support a social programme such as that before us now. I desired within a short compass to indicate the reasons why, although I believe in the principle of contributory insurance, I intend to vote for the motion and not for the amendment. I consider that the differences between the two parties in this instance when regard is had to the methods of finance employed in respect to soldiers’ pensions, widows’ pensions, and old-age and invalid pensions are not sufficient to justify the withdrawal of the bill.
Debate (on motion of Mr. Williams) adjourned.
Thursday30, March 1944.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to this day, at 10.30 a.m.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) tabled the fourth report of the Broadcasting Committee, the subject being the broadcasting of news. The report was ordered to be printed, but I am sure that the honorable member for Moreton did not realize that the order to print the report would have the effect of preventing a debate upon it. However, that was the result. I am, therefore, obliged to take this opportunity to discuss the subject. The committee was requested to report upon certain agreements proposed to be entered into between the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian Associated Press Proprietary Limited, and the Australian Newspapers Proprietors Association, concerning the provision of services of Australian and overseas news to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) having exercised his power under section 21 of the Australian Broadcasting Act to veto the proposed agreements, the PostmasterGeneral directed that the matter be referred to the Broadcasting Committee. It appears from paragraph 5 of the report that -
The Government does not approve of the Commission drawing its Canberra news through this agency or from any other source than its own newsgathering staff.
The agency referred to is, of course, that covered by the agreement. It is quite obvious that the Government members on the committee decided, before any inquiry whatever was made, to recommend the policy proposed by the Government; but if a committee of this kind is to exercise its functions properly it must submit to the Parliament an impartial report based upon evidence. Quite obviously, in this case, the majority report has been prepared without proper consideration of the evidence submitted. The veto of the proposed agreements by the PostmasterGeneral was, in my opinion, most unfortunate, for it suggests that political pressure may be brought to bear upon the commission in order to oblige it to conform to the desires of the Government. That would tend to a further denial of the right of free speech, and we have seen sufficient of the results of that policy in this House recently to cause us to resist it in every way in our power. Paragraph 13 of the report includes the following comment by the commission on the exercise of the power of veto by the Postmaster-General -
If the Minister, in exercising his prerogative to check expenditure beyond a limit of £5,000, can, in effect, direct the Commission in such a fundamental detail of policy as the source of its news, it is only a short and logical step further to direct it to take news from a particular newspaper or agency, thus ensuring that only news of a particular colour would be available to it.
The commission has now had an experience extending over ten years, and obviously it had good reasons for desiring to enter into the vetoed agreements. It believed that such agreements would prove to be in the best interests of broadcasting in Australia. It is regrettable, therefore, that the Postmaster-General should have intervened. The general manager of the commission, in summing up the commission’s case in favour of the agreements, stated -
The agreement would enable us to use important news which at present we obtain from the newspapers after publication. The advantage would be that we would obtain that news fresh before it was treated by the newspapers, and we could broadcast it much sooner than we are able to do now. I can see no disadvantages under the new agreement. The old service had plenty of disadvantages. The news was not fresh. Much of it had to be taken from the newspapers, and we were restricted as to broadcasting times, and the amount of news that might be given in a session. Under the new arrangement, no such restrictions apply. We ore completely free in respect to the number of times that we may broadcast and when we broadcast. We could increase the period of the news sessions to 30 minutes if we liked.
It is not correct to say that under the new arrangement the observer at Canberra will have no duties to perform.
The issue between the majority and the minority reports is as to whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission should organize its own news service. Such a course would inevitably lead to duplication and would also involve the establishment, at great expense, of a service which, in the nature of things, could not at present be as efficient as the existing services.
– The commission has somersaulted within twelve months.
– The agreements referred to the committee were made as the result of the experience of many years. The general manager, meeting a suggestion that the news services of the Australian Associated Press might on occasions not be in the best interests of the public, stated -
I have a high regard for the integrity of the journalists. I cannot believe that journalists in Australia are of any different calibre fromBritish or Canadian journalists, who supply the agencies that in turn supply the broadcasting stations with news.
Unfortunately, what has happened in relation to this matter brings to attention the possibility of the danger of political pressure being brought to bear on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The commission should not be subject to dictation as to how it shall conduct its business. I refer to the matter at this stage, because a dangerous tendency is observable in this country for government to be conducted by party, and for one party to rule with dangerous disregard of the views of all other parties. Without doubt the right of free speech. i3 being denied to people, and individual members of the Government party are being silenced in a way that is most regrettable. The methods of propaganda that are being adopted by the Government are likely to have serious consequences for the people of Australia. 1 have never been a party to any procedurethat would tend to bring the Australian Broadcasting Commission under the influence of any particular party. 1 believe that the commission should becompletely free from such influences. 1 do not believe that the commission should be restricted to an expenditure of £5,000 in respect of any one item without, obtaining approval in certain prescribed ways. The commission should be free tocarry on its work fearlessly and independently. I make these comments now because we shall not have another opportunity to debate the report of the committee.
.I bring to the notice of the Government a housing matter which I regard as of great importance. In one part of my electorate a number of homes has been made available to war workers through the
War Workers Homes Trust. Nearby, certain other homes have been provided by the Victorian Housing Commission under a slum clearance scheme. The weekly rental of these homes varies from 25s. to 27s. a week. It appears that because the people occupying the homes provided by the War Workers Homes Trust are tenants of the Commonwealth Government they have been denied enrolment as municipal ratepayers, and consequently may not be enrolled for legislative council elections. This is a very serious matter, which I ask the Government to inquire into, so that a remedy may be applied as early us possible. This is a definite injustice to a large number of war workers, and C ask the Government to take the necessary action to ensure that these people, whose qualifications are ‘exactly the same as those of other tenants, shall bc entitled to vote at municipal and legislative council elections.
– On several occasions I have mentioned the distribution of tyres to primary producers in my electorate. Whilst I realize that the matter- has been flogged, I heard the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), in reply to the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) yesterday, declare that primary producers were receiving improved supplies. Just prior to his illness, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) assured me that he would request the rubber controller in Queensland to consider sympathetically the applications of primary producers for tyres. The position now is desperate. The primary producers are imprisoned on their farms. They cannot get tyres to enable them to take their produce, pigs or calves to market. During the last week, I have received from two farmers letters stating that they have tried for fourteen months to get tyres and that if my representations on their behalf are unsuccessful, they will close their dairies. They mean it. They are “fed up to the neck”. Two members of the Emergency Road ‘ Transport Committee in Brisbane, which is the final appeal board to determine whether or not applicants shall get tyres, stated that the holders of No. 4 priority - the primary producers - have practically no hope of receiving tyres for trucks or utilities unless the vehicles can be used for bulk cartage. In other words, a man who makes a particular run with a motor truck has a chance of getting tyres, but primary producers have none. That definite statement conflicts with the assurance which the Attorney-General gave yesterday. 1 know that the right honorable gentleman made the statement in good faith. It was prepared for him, and I do not. blame him for it. However, I remind him that the primary producers are imprisoned on their holdings and are not prepared to submit any longer to thai condition. They will close their dairies.
.I draw the attention of the House to the case of volunteer bush-fire fighters who did such splendid service to the nation during the recent disastrous outbreaks. These men are always ready to answer the ‘call in time of national crisis, be it bush-fire, flood or any other danger that threatens the community. Although the press has lauded them and the people have praised them. they are quickly forgotten. This oblivion would be as they desire were it not for the fact that many of them are injured while working as volunteers in fire-fighting, and, although they are national heroes in a sense, no compensation is provided to them.
During the recent bush-fires in the Hulme electorate, the countryside was ravaged, stock destroyed, fencing ruined and even harvested crops were burnt. The tragedy would have been greater and the loss on the food front would have assumed much higher proportions had it not been for the toughness and pluck of the volunteer fire-fighters. ‘Compensation is provided for property-owners who lost heavily during the -bush-fires, but so far there has been no move to provide for the men who were injured in putting out these fires. This is too much of a strain on the country man’s sense of justice. Bush-fires will come again and volunteers to fight them, but, as a matter of ordinary decency, we should see that those who suffer as the result of such public-spirited action are not forgotten before the grass begins to grow again on the lands they helped to save.
One volunteer bushfire fighter now lies in the Gundagai District Hospital with a broken back. His injuries were sustained when a tree fell on him during the fires. His injuries are serious, and the best that can be hoped for at the present time is that the man will leave hospital crippled. He is a widower with three sons and a daughter. The eldest boy is in the Army and the two younger sons are in their earlyteens. This man is a splendid type, having turned his hand to all sorts of jobs with great success. He showed the true spirit of the pioneer when he dropped the job he was doing and rushed to the aid of the settlers of Benangaroo when beset by bushfires. For this worthy action, he has lost his health and strength, and because there is no compensation for the volunteer firefighters, he is facing the future without money and with broken health. Had he beenworking for a farmer or grazier, and directed by his employer to help to put out a fire, his injuries would have been covered by workers’ compensation. As it is, his act of mercy in a national crisis has brought him and his family nothing but misery.
This is a shocking state of affairs. The Commonwealth Government should co-operate with the States in drafting some scheme to cover men who rushed to the call of a neighbour when his property was threatened, with such disastrous result to themselves and their future.
– I shall refer to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) the representations of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) for the payment of compensation to persons who may be injured while working as volunteer bush fire fighters. I shall discuss with the Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping (Dr Evatt) the difficulties of primary producers in Queensland in obtaining tyres for their motor trucks and utilities.
The matter of which complaint was made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) is a live one. Many people in more than one State are disfranchised for municipal and legislative council elections because they happen to live in Commonwealth properties. That position has existed since the beginning of federation, and the explanation is that Commonwealth property does not pay rates. I do not know whether the Department of the Interior can overcome the difficulty, but I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) to see whether the responsibility for the position lies with the Commonwealth. If it does not, negotiations will be opened with the State authorities with a view to having their electoral laws amended so that persons occupying Commonwealth properties may have a vote in municipal and legislative council elections.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Apple and Fear Marketing Board -Report by the Commissioner appointed under the National Security (General) Regulations and the National Security (Inquiries) Regulations on certain trading operations.
National Security Act -
National Security (Land Transport) Regulations - Order - No. 17.
National Security (Supplementary)Regulations - Orders by State Premiers -
South Australia (No. 1 of 1944).
Western Australia (dated 11th March, 1944).
Peace Officers Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 53.
House adjourned at 12.24 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The information, is being obtained and will be supplied as soon as possible.
t asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be supplied as soon as possible.
s asked the Deputy Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Governmental action in respect of these matters will be considered in association with the Government’s policy in connexion with the rehabilitation in the Commonwealth Public Service of returned servicemen and service women and the future staffing of the Public Service.
r asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as practicable.
e. - Yesterday the honorable member forWarringah (Mr. Spender) inquired regarding a reply to a series of questions which he asked, upon notice,. on the 23rd February relating to censorship. On the date mentioned the honorable member was informed that inquiries were being made and that a reply would be furnished as soon as possible.
Whilst the questions raised by the honorable member were under review by the Government, further representations on these and other aspects of the matter were made by other honorable members. The Prime Minister announced on the 15 th March that after consultation between himself, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party, he had decided to constitute a committee to inquire into censorship and make recommendations to the Government with respect to censorship. This committee comprises Mr. Forde (chairman), Dr. Evatt, Senator Ashley, Mr. Calwell, Mr. Abbott, Mr. Archie Cameron and Senator Foll. The questions raised by the honorable member will be brought before the committee for investigation and report.
Civil Aviation : Flying Boat Base at Bell Bay.
– On Wednesday, the 22nd March, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following question, without notice: -
When dealing with post-war civil aviation, will the Minister for Civil Aviation have an inquiry made with respect to the suitability as a flying boat base of Bell Bay, in the river Tamar, Tasmania?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that from a study of available charts, Bell Bay does not appear suitable for use by flying boats under all wind conditions. However, an inspection of the site will be made at the first opportunity.
Australian Army: Badgesfor Returned Soldiers; Releases for Food Production; Leave for Soldiers in Western Australia ; Australian Women’s Army Service.
e.- On the 17th March, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked me a question, without notice, on the subject of entitlement to active service chevrons.
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member that authority to wear chevrons is granted to members of the Australian Military Forces, approved representatives of philanthropic societies, and civilians attached to the Australian Military Forces in an official capacity to denote operational service. For the purpose of service chevrons, “operational service “ means service during the present war overseas in any theatre of operations not being a part of the Commonwealth of Australia, or service during the present war in any other place which the CommanderinChief declares, for the purpose of this order, to be a theatre of operations. The mandated territory of New Guinea and the Territory of Papua have each been approved as a “ declared theatre of operations “ as from the 1st January, 1942. Torres Strait islands, including Thursday Island, have not been declared a theatre of operations for the purpose of service chevrons nor have any portions of the mainland been so declared.
Draft conducting officers and others, who visit an overseas theatre of operations or a declared theatre of operations on duty of a temporary nature but who are not appointed for duty on the establishment of a unit on operational service will not, by virtue of such visit, be deemed to have been on operational service for the purposes of service chevrons.
On the 11th February, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) expressed concern as to whether the policy of the Government in regard to the release of men from the Army in order to engage in food production was being carried out, and referred to the case of 70 B class men who were to be released from units stationed in country centres in order to engage in food production, but whose releases were not effected.
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member that the 70 men referred to by him did not come under the scheme for the release of manpower to engage in food production, and it would appear that he is confusing two entirely different schemes for the release of serving personnel. The one he refers to, and which was temporarily suspended for three weeks, is known as the endorsed soldier scheme. The scheme was an arrangement with the Man Power Directorate whereby men of B medical class coming through General Details Depots were made available to manpower on the understanding that if manpower could place them they would be discharged and that manpower would make available in their place medically fit A class men. It was thus an exchange system by replacing in industry a man classed A who had not served by a man who had served but. whose medical category had been slightly lowered. The men in question were in no instance ever considered for the problem in connexion with the shortage of labour for food production which has always been dealt with with the scheme which I shall later describe. The question of any suspension of this exchange system was always reserved by the Army to provide for any use of B class men in base installations and thus allow of medicallyfit A class men to be sent to forward operational units. Under this endorsed soldier scheme there is absolutely no contact made with or reports received from District “War Agricultural Committees concerning this type of release. The question of provision of labour for food production and work of other national importance is dealt with under an entirely different scheme called for purposes of clarity, “ The MPR Scheme “. Under this scheme District War Agricultural Committees make the initial investigation and recommendation to the Man Power Directorate, who, in turn, post the information to the Army. On receipt of the manpower recommendation, Army applies the conditions of release set by the CommanderinChief and approved by the Government. If the man recommended complies with those conditions, release and discharge is arranged forthwith. It is desired to emphasize that there has been no suspension of this scheme in any way since its inception in November last.
On the 17th March, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked me a question, without notice, concerning leave for members of the military forces located in Western Australia whose homes are in the eastern States.
I now desire to inform the honorable member that this leave has been restricted because the limited transport facilities available have been required for the movement of other troops. However, special steps have been taken to alleviate the situation and it is anticipated that it will be possible to clear up the more serious delays in the leave programme of the troops serving in Western Australia within the next few months, provided that the programme is not interrupted by unforeseen changes in circumstances.
On the 1st March, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) stated that in an authoritative broadcast members of the Australian Women’s Army Service were led to believe that in those cases where they had homes in the city and came from camps like Royal Park they would be allowed to live in at their homes, and therefore asked whether such broadcast was made authoritatively on behalf of the Army and whether these women, who are now ordered into camp, would be allowed to live at their homes, more particularly in those cases where the women are wives of soldiers and airmen.
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member that advertisements callings for volunteers for the Australian Women’s Army Service did not contain any conditions that any personnel could live athome when their place of duty was in the same locality as their homes. The only relevant instruction states that the general policy is that in capital cities and large towns Australian Women’s Army Service personnel should, wherever possible, live at home or in suitable private accommodation. The same instruction states that barrack accommodation should be provided as follows: - (a) For minors who are not living with parents or guardians; (b) for shift workers, where considered necessary for efficient performance of their duties; (c) at training establishments; (d) for adults unable to find suitable accommodation as approved by assistant controllers, Line of Communications Areas.
Shift workers are, in general required to live in baracks in order that they may be in proximity to their place of duty and therefore avoid the necessity of travelling various distances, at any hour, to their homes. By placing shift workers in barracks, the Department of the Army is ensuring that Australian Women’s Army Service personnel who work unusual hours receive adequate rest and meals, and furthermore, that proper supervision is exercised in rest periods.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
All the above statistics refer to the period from the end of October, 1943, to the 25th March, 1944. Detailed information in respect of October, 1943, is not available. In addition to the above, there were 2,962 recommendations for release of men for food processing, slaughtering, &c., of which 1,092 have been approved for release, 1,347 have been rejected and decision pending in 523 cases. Recommendations for release of men for industries other than primary and food processing were 7,713, 2,436 of which have been approved and 2,944 rejected and decisions pending in 2,333 cases. Total recommendations for all industries are 27,726 approvals 10,991, rejections 11,350, decisions pending 5,385.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. Lieutenant D. P. H. Packer, who had been serving with Headquarters, 1st Armoured Brigade, was seconded in April, 1942, for special duty with the Allied Works Council in the capacity of Director of Personnel. With the gradual diminution of the activities of the’ Civil Constructional Corps, Mr. Packer has now applied for his release from his duties as Director of Personnel, in order that he may return to the Army, if medically acceptable. This request has been granted.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440329_reps_17_178/>.