17th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I regretto inform honorable members of the death of Major-General Charles Frederick Cox, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D., a former senator for the State of New South Wales, which occurred in Sydney on the 20th November, 1944.
The late Major-General Cox entered the political arena shortly after his return from active service in the first world war, being elected to the Senate for New South Wales at the general election in 1919. He was again elected at the general elections in 1925 and 1931, and retired on the expiration of his term as a senator on the 30th June, 1938. He was a member of the Select Committee on the claims of Captain J. Strasburg for War Gratuity, 1922, and of the Select Committee on the Central Reserve Bank Bill, 1930.
It was, however, as a military leader that Major-General Cox was most widely known. He had a distinguished record of service in the South African War and in the war of 1914-18. In the former campaign, as commander of the 3rd New South Wales Mounted Rifles, he rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, won the Queen’s South African Medal with six clasps and the King’s South African Medal with two clasps, and was created a Companion of the Bath. He joined the Australian Imperial Force in September, 1914, and was appointed to command the 6th Light Horse Regiment with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, later being promoted to Brigadier-General in command of the First Light Horse Brigade. He was wounded at Gallipoli, on five occasions was mentioned in despatches, and was created C.M.G. and awarded the D.S.O.
For several yearsafter his return to Australia, he continued to take an active part in the Australian Military Forces, and was promoted to Major-General in command of the First Cavalry Division, retiring from this post in March, 1923.
The outstanding and gallant services rendered to his country by the late MajorGeneral Cox evoke in the hearts and minds of Australians a feeling of pride in the achievements of men who, in giving that service, have been prepared to sacrifice leisure, comfort, and security, which are held so dear by the great majority of people. Those of us who were privileged to know him in the Parliament for a number of years learned to respect him for his forthrightness, sincerity, and manly qualities. We render homage to his deep devotion to duty, and pay respect to his memory. I move -
That this House records its sincere regret at the death of Major-General Charles Frederick Cox, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D., a former senator for the State of New South Wales, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its deep sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
– I second the motion. My colleagues and I would like to be associated with the tribute from the Acting Prime Minister to a man who was at once a notable soldier and a true servant of the people. Major-General Cox was regarded by those best qualified to speak as one of the most noted of Australian Light Horse leaders. What has been said by the Acting Prime Minister covers everything that need be said about his military record, and of his service to Australia in time of war. When peace came, he entered the Commonwealth Parliament, and there can be no doubt that his prestige, and the general respect in which he was held, enabled him to speak with authority on those matters to which he addressed himself in the Senate. Major-General Cox was respected by every one and very much liked by all his colleagues. He will be greatly missed.
.–On behalf of the Country party I desire to be associated with the sympathetic tri butes which have been paid to a distinguished Australian and gallant soldier. We join with other members of this House in offering our sincere sympathy to those left to mourn his lose.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– by leave - War Cabinet has decided that, in view of the extraordinary privations suffered by the 92 Australian prisoners of war who were rescued from the Japanese transport torpedoed on the 12th September, 1944, and have now returned to Australia, they should be given the option of discharge from their respective services at the expiration of the two months’ leave they are now enjoying. If they elect to remain in the armed forces, and are medically fit, they will be posted to an appropriate unit.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen press reports relative to complaints by returned prisoners of war that their reception in Australia leaves a great deal to be desired and is in striking contrast to the reception extended to British prisoners of war when they returnto their homeland? Will the right honorable gentleman have an inquiry made, not from an Army source, but from a civilian source to ensure that an appropriate welcome shall be given to those men who have suffered so severely at the hands of the enemy?
– The Commonwealth Government issued instructions that everything humanly possible should be done to welcome returning prisoners of war. If any evidence can be adduced that that is not being done, the persons responsible will be dealt with. My colleague, the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser), with whom I have discussed this matter, assured me that last Friday night in Melbourne the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces arranged a special dinner in honour of some 500 repatriated prisoners of war from Switzerland and Germany. The Acting Minister for the Army proceeded to where the men were camped before they took their departure for other States, addressed them and saw personally that everything possible was being done for them. This Government will not countenance any lack of hospitality to these brave men, who have sufferedand sacrificed so much for Australia. I shall have a check made to ascertain whether any grounds for complaint exist, and to ensure that there shall be no justification for further complaint.
GovernmentOwnershipof interstate Airlines.
– by leave - The Government has decided that, a wholly governmentowned statutory authority be formed to take over, operate and maintain all interstate airlines. The Department of Civil Aviation will continue, as at present, to provide and maintain all services ancillary to the operation of air routes, such as landing fields, radio and other navigational aids and the like. The effect of this decision is that the Commonwealth Government will take over all interstate airline operations. All employees in the industry will be fairly and justly treated. The assets of present airline companies will be taken over on fair and just terms.
This early announcement is made so that private operators may know the Government’s policy, and so that the Commonwealth may tackle the many pressing problems associated with civil aviation. Much work will need to be done in planning the acquisition of land, the building of runways, the erection of airport buildings, and the provision of modern radio and radar ranges throughout the Commonwealth, so that not only domestic aircraft, but also aircraft of other nations, may fly over properly established airways. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), who is at present attending an air conference in the United States of America, is fully in accord with this decision, and was a member of the Cabinet sub-committee which investigated the whole subject.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister intend to move that the paper be printed?
– I made a statement.
– Does the announcement of the Acting Prime Minister imply the taking over of the services permanently or only for war purposes?
– As if the right honorable gentleman does not know.
– If the Minister knows he will be able to tell me. Is this policy to be embodied in a bill to be presented to this Parliament?
– Of course it is.
– Oddly enough I was not asking the Minister, but it is a delight to me that he does know something.
Mr.FORDE. - This policy does provide for the permanent taking over of interstate airlines, and it will be the subject of a bill which will be introduced in this Parliament probably in the new year.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister what procedure willbe adopted in connexion with Quantas Airways in view of the fact that the Government has decided to nationalize civil aviation in Australia? Quantas operates air services over big areas in Australia and also over certain routes beyond our shores. If the internal operations of the company are to be nationalized, will its external operations be left to private enterprise? If so, will not that procedure be at variance with views expressed by the Minister for Civil Aviationbefore he left Australia? Seeing that the Minister for Transport has taken so much interest in the air transport of certain schoolboys, will he assume control of the new national air transport service, or will it remain with the Minister for Civil Aviation?
Mr.FORDE. - I suggest to the honorable member that he should not try to jump his hurdles before he reaches them.
– Tell us the whole story.
– I have already informed the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that a bill will be introduced setting out the whole proposal in detail. When that is done the honorable member will receive all the information that he desires.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister indicate whether or not the proposed acquisition of commercial airlines is to take effect immediately, or subsequent to the passage of the legislation he has foreshadowed? Is it proposed that commercial services operating within but not extending beyond the boundaries of a State, shall be acquired ?
– Obviously, airlines will not be taken over until the legislation has been fully debated and passed by this Parliament. The matter of airlines that operate intra-state is being further examined.
– In view of the failure of the Acting Prime Minister to give the necessary information to the House concerning the Government’s commercial air policy, are honorable members and the public to understand that this policy is the outcome of a snap caucus decision, and that theGovernment has not worked out the actual details?
– I am not responsible for the inability of the honorable member to understand plain English. I made a clear and unequivocal statement setting forth the policy of the Government. That policy was decided upon by a meeting of the Cabinet, and is not the result of a discussion by the parliamentary Labour party. My colleagues in the Cabinet know that what they have done is in accordance with the platform of the Labour party, and when the necessary legislation is introduced to give effect to the policy, full details will be set before honorable members - but even then, some of them will probably not be able to understand the scheme.
-Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether the proposed acquisition by the Commonwealth of interstate airlines is to be interpreted as the first step in Labour’s nationalization programme?
– The policy whichI announced represents a Cabinet decision regarding the future control of this great public utility, which is of growing importance to Australia. The Government makes no apology for having come to this decision, and I make no apology for having announced it.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister tell us which union the pilots of aircraft will be forced to join after the airways are nationalized ?
– One union which they will not be asked to join is the Country party union.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service give me some idea as to the position of labour for this year’s sugar target and the preparations for the 1945 crop?
– The present season will not finish until the end of next month, but I am able to say that the target fixed for this season of 600,000 tons has been exceeded by from 30,000 to 40,000 tons. Preparation for the provision of labour for the next season’s planting is already in hand. I am perfectly sure that the honorable gentleman has no need to be afraid that we shall not be able to provide the necessary labour.
– I have received a resolution of protest passed by many branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia expressing resentment and consternation at alien internees sent here from the United Kingdom and Straits Settlement, being released, to take civilian jobs in Australia, and to become securely entrenched therein, especially when such positions may have been vacated by members of our fighting forces. Particularly do they protest against such action regarding importees who are proved to have been untrustworthy of British freedom in the past, and demand their deportation after the war to their respective countries of origin. I ask the Minister: (1) Will the Minister state the policy of the Government in this matter? (2) Was a Japanese released under such policy? (3) (a) Is it the approved policy of the Government to consider applications for release from any such white internees from the United Kingdom and other British territory? (b) Are such to be permitted to reside permanently in this country and secure facilities for work and settlement while our own servicemen are absent? (c) Are undesirables and untrustworthy citizens to be allowed to stay here in this manner, if they have been proved to be unworthy of British justice and institutions in the past?
– I think that the question involves the national security service of the Attorney-General’3 Department as well as my own, and that the people who sent the resolution have unconsciously mixed up two or three phases of the matter. The first part of the question relates to British internees. I remember, when I was in Opposition, with the consent of the then Government, visiting the internment camps, and I understood then, as I know now, that the whole arrangement was a joint one between the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government. Honorable members will recall that when war broke out unnaturalized aliens in the United Kingdom were “combed out”, and many of them were sent to Australia, the understanding being that the Commonwealth Government could not release them, even if it desired to do so, without the consent of the British Government. Negotiations are proceeding all the time. Some of those men were not, as was stated in the question, people who had not the confidence or trust pf the British Government. They were hurriedly “ picked up “ on the outbreak of war. Some of them were children when they arrived in Great Britain, and others had sons fighting in the British forces. Many of them were employed in engineering works which later became munitions establishments. After they had been here for one, two or three years, the British Government itself, after investigation, asked for them to be returned, or gave permission to the Commonwealth Government . to release them and use them in industry. Many of them have since been making machine tools and gauges, or doing other special war work in Australia. I do not know whether any Japanese were among them, but I consider that in order to provide a proper answer to such a large and very important question, I should confer with the Attorney-General and give further details to the honorable member later.
– by leave - I should like to give to the House some figures showing the result of the Second Victory Loan. When the loan closed, I announced that the final number of subscribers would be approximately 410,000. The number actually recorded to date is 404,310. To this must bc added group applications and service allotments numbering approximately 14,300. This will bring the total number of subscribers to 418,610. The total amount subscribed in new cash is £113,840,000. In regard to the conversion portion of the loan amounting to £47,520,000 which matured on the 15th October, the number of people who have converted is 40,544, for a total amount of £40,196,940. Redemptions by 6,290 holders amounted to £6,039,200, leaving the amount of securities outstanding £1,283,990. The redeemed securities have been met from the National Debt Sinking Fund, which will also pay off such of the outstanding securities as will not be converted.
When the loan was issued it was estimated that approximately £6,000,000 would not be converted and provision was made for these redemptions to be met from the sinking fund. It is expected that a fair proportion of the securities still outstanding will ultimately be converted. Although a great deal of work remains to be done in the registries in regard to recording subscriptions, these figures may be taken as the final result of the loan.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, as the result of the conferences which were held in Canberra last Monday and to which reference was made in anticipation last week, he has any statement to make to the House on the coal problem ?
– Conferences on coal were held in Canberra on Monday, and were attended by the Premier of New South. Wales, Mr. McKell, and the State Minister for Mines, Mr. Baddeley, representatives of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation, and representatives of the Australian Colliery
Proprietors Association. There was a free and frank exchange of views between senior Ministers of the Commonwealth Government and the parties whom I have mentioned. I believe that as a result of that free exchange of views, there is a better understanding of the grave position confronting the nation. Not only were the representatives of the Government of New South Wales grateful for an opportunity to meet Commonwealth Ministers on this matter, but also representatives of the miners federation, and the Australian Colliery Proprietors Association, in particular, thanked the Government for the invitation to attend the conference and put their views. I believe that in a democracy the Government should be prepared to listen to the views of all sections of the people. I also believe that, arising from our conferences last Monday, there will be an increased production of coal.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister make a statement setting forth the latest details regarding coal stocks in Australia? Is it correct that reserves of coal are so small that if the miners take a fortnight’s holiday at Christmas time some munitions plants, including that of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, will probably be compelled to close down, so that many thousands of workers will be laid off, and theflow of war material to the battle front interrupted ? Seeing that the Government has justbeen conferring with representatives of the coal-mining industry, can the Acting Prime Minister say what plans have been formulated to avert a catastrophe?
– Last week, I made a clear and frank statement regarding stocks of coal. Again, on Monday, a clear statement was made to representatives of the Government of New South Wales, the miners federation, and the Australian Colliery Proprietors Association. I shall keep in touch with the position from day to day, and further statements will be made whenever it is deemed advisable.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is correct, as reported, that on the last two occasions on which representatives of the miners’ federation have visited Canberra cars have been provided to bring them to Canberra. If that is correct, can it be taken as. evidence that the petrol position is improving and can essential users of motor transport hope for mitigation of the restrictions imposed upon them?
– I shall have to make inquiries. I have no knowledge of the matter to which the honorable gentleman refers.
A lleged Absenteeismon Golf Courses.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service received a report from the Man Power Directorate in New South Wales concerning an alleged wastage of man-power due to business executives spending their time on golf links? Can anyaction be taken to deal with this form of absenteeism?
– I have no knowledge of this subject apart from what, I have read in the newspapers.I do not know whether there has been any absenteeism on golf courses. If men and women, whether they be employers or employees, who are engaged on essential work neglect their duties through spending too much time on golf courses, I presume that they will be dealt with in the same way as other people.
-As it is generally recognized that if Australia is to remain a great nation, every effort must be made to increase our population, and as Australian babies are our best asset, I ask the Acting. Prime Minister whether he will take action to have servicemen, especially married men, in base jobs in States other than their own, returned to similar jobs in their own States?
– I am entirely in sympathy with the proposal of the honorable member and will have it examined.
Proposed Representative Conference
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform me whether it is the policy of the Government to ignore the interests of primary producers in formulating its policy for the remainder of the war, and for the immediate postwar period, in relation to post-war local and export trade? If not, will the right honorable gentleman explain why the Government, whilst calling conferences of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures and the Associated Chambers of Commerce, and setting up a committee of representatives of those organizations and departmental heads, has failed to call a similar conference of practical representatives of major primary industries? So that these rural producers, whose stability is essential to national security and post-war reconstruction, shall not remain completely in the dark as to their future, will the Acting Prime Minister arrange for their representatives to confer with the Government before the end of this year?
Release from the Army.
– I ask the Acting-
Prime Minister whether the Government intends to release from the Army men who had not completed their university courses prior to enlistment? If not, will the Government consider temporary releases which will enable these men to complete their courses?
– by leave-War Cabinet last week approved of an arrangement to facilitate the release of service personnel for university study, these men to be included in the 45,000 already approved by War Cabinet for release.Servicemen qualified to undertake university courses will be considered for release under the following arrangement : -
Students who have interrupted courses to enlist -
Faculties. - The Universities Commission may recommend the release of serving personnel to return to interrupted courses in the six reserved faculties - medicine, dentistry, engineering, science, veterinary science and agriculture - and in the faculty of architecture if, in the opinion of the commission, the record of the student prior to enlistment was reasonable.
Students who wish to commence courses: In general, releases will be recommended to commence courses if they enlisted before their 21st birthday; have had three years’ service; are now qualified to enter on the course; and are selected within the limited number prescribed for release. The number of these to be released will not exceed 10 per cent, of the ordinary civilian quotas; that is, the obligation of the services to release personnel to commence university courses in 1945 will be limited, in all, to 160. In the event of there being more than this number of applications, or in the event of qualified applicants for release to commence courses at a particular university exceeding 10 per cent, of that university’s civilian quota, a selection as between applicants will be made by the University. An applicant who has had two years’ service may be released if he applies for selection within the quotas of reserved students, and is selected for reservation in open competition with other applicants.
A serviceman who desires to be released to resume or commence a university course will make application for release to his commanding officer and will, at the same time, communicate direct with the university at which he desires’ to study. After consultation with the university, the commission will advise the Director-General of Man Power, who will, where release is recommended, approach the service concerned.
– In portions of Queensland, particularly the southwestern districts, where drought has prevailed for two years, water supplies on properties are failing, and there is urgent need for bore casing, galvanized piping, tanks, and pumping equipment. Will the Minister for Munitions indicate what possibility there is of having these requirements met? If supplies are unavailable in Queensland, will the honorable gentleman arrange for them to be made available from other sources, and for expeditious delivery?
– I am deeply concerned at the difficulties which people in droughtstricken areas are experiencing in providing for their stock both water and fodder. I have had considerable correspondence from, honorable members, as well as personal representations, for bore casing to be made available in other States as well as in Queensland. My inquiries have revealed that the manufacturers have not any reserve stocks, the whole of the production having been utilized for Army purposes. I applied to the Army for the release of a proportion of its stocks for use in droughtstricken areas, on the understanding that they would be replaced later, and a small quantity was made -available, but I was informed that on account of urgent needs, it was impossible to promise further releases. Stewart and Lloyds Australia Proprietary Limited, the manufacturers of bore casing in Australia, have a maximum productive capacity of 50 tons a week, and 50 per cent, of this output is going to Queensland, where 1 trust it will help to relieve the position in the drought-stricken areas.
– A very fine residence has been presented to the citizens of Burnside for the purpose of establishing a war memorial hospital. The citizens have decided to raise £100,000 for the extension of the building. Will the Treasurer consider allowing all donations to be free of income tax?
– If the Burnside memorial hospital is to be a public hospital, all donations will have the benefit of a rebate under the Income Tax Act, but the Commissioner must first be satisfied that it is a public hospital. Many claims are made on behalf, of hospitals which do not fulfil this condition.
Sh outage of Hospital Staff.
– What steps does the Minister for Repatriation propose to take to correct the very serious position in relation to staff revealed before a Commonwealth industrial commissioner a few days ago, when a nursing sister testified that, although the normal staff of the Lady Davidson Sanatorium, at Turramurra was 21, in fact it has only nine nurses at present, consequently the majority of the patients have to look after themselves?
– This matter is viewed very seriously. Every effort has been made to obtain staff. Although I have been in communication with the Ministers for Labour and National Service and War Organization of Industry, 1 have not, so far, succeeded.
– Could not nurses be seconded from the Army?
– An effort has been made to second nurses from the Army, and a few from this source have been placed in the hospital at Caulfield, Melbourne, but it has not been found possible to second any for service in New South Wales. Some repatriation patients have had to be left in the 113th Australian General Hospital, Concord. At Randwick, two wards are closed because of the inability to obtain staff. I assure the honorable gentleman that everything possible has been done, and that efforts are still being made to obtain releases from the Army.
– The belief is held in many quarters that pressure is being brought to bear for the reduction of the Austral ian-sterling exchange rate. In view of the vital effect which a reduction would have upon Australia’s export industries, will the Treasurer give an undertaking that before any such reduction is permitted Parliament will be afforded an opportunity to discuss the matter ?
– I have heard of no such proposal, and, so far as I know, there is no intention, to reduce the exchange rate.
– In view of the wide publicity given recently to soil erosion in Australia, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture have an investigation made by skilled authorities into all phases of the subject, including land control and titles? If the matter is beyond the function of the Commonwealth Government, will the Minister have it investigated by the Australian Agricultural Council or by the Premiers Conference, and the results of the investigation submitted to this Parliament?
– Soil erosion will be listed prominently for discussion at the next meeting of the Agricultural Council, which will be held early next year. I regard this matter as all-important. After it has been considered by the Agricultural Council, it will, if necessary, be referred to the Premiers Conference for further consideration.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say what decisions were made for the framing of a long-range national plan to deal with drought and soil erosion at the conference of Premiers which, as the Acting Prime Minister stated last, week, recently discussed the subject? What action has the Commonwealth Government itself taken in the matter ? Will the Acting Prime Minister, with a view to averting a national disaster, bring before Cabinet, as a matter of urgency, a proposal to secure from the United States of America expert advice and assistance, either by sending Australian scientists and engineers to that country, or by inviting scientists and engineers from the United States of America to visit Australia ?
– -The question will be taken into consideration and a reply furnished.
-Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the ration of fertilizers for citrusgrowers has been cut to half the amount actually required? What authority is in control of the distribution of fertilizers? In view of the urgent need for citrus fruit, will the Minister take steps to ensure that adequate supplies of fertilizers shall be made available to citrus-growers in the Gosford district?
– The overall control of fertilizers is in the hands of a federal committee appointed for thai purpose, but the administration of rationing rests with the Agricultural Departments of the various States. As there seems to be a particular shortage of fertilizers in the citrus-growing districts of New South Wales, I shall instruct the Director-General of Agriculture to look into the matter immediately. I assure the honorable member that, so far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned; there is no differentiation between one district and ‘another in the distribution of fertilizers.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the inquiry into the condition? of the tobacco industry has been completed and when we may expect a statement concerning the decisions reached?
– The committee’s investigations have commenced but are not yet complete. The committee will visit Brisbane next week and later seek information in the Texas area. As soon as the committee makes its report, I shall make it available.
– by leave - On the 17th November the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) directed to me, for submission to the Postmaster-General, a question relating to restrictions on the disclosure of the name of originating stations for trunk-line telephone calls. The honorable member’s representations were referred to the Postmaster-General, whose reply is as follows: -
The procedure referred to was instituted in 1942 for security reasons. The inconvenience caused to telephone subscribers as a result of these restrictions has been fully appreciated by the department, and the matter has since been under discussion on several occasions with the defence and security services. These authorities are convinced, however, that theformer procedure of prior advice as to the exact origin of a trunk-line call should not be restored at the present time because of the probability of the location of defence units, or their movements and route, beingrevealed. Consequently, it is regretted that it is not practicable to revert to the former practice at the present time; but the matter is being kept under close review, with the object of withdrawing the embargo immediately the security position permits.
Meanwhile, in order to afford some measure of relief, arrangements have been made for telephonists to use the phrase “ Interstate calling” in cases where a call is being connected over a main inter-capital trunk-line. In other instances the term “ Trunk-lines calling” will continue to be used until such time as the restrictions maybe relaxed further.
Mr.WHITE.- Will the Minister for
External Affairs investigate the truth of a report that Portugal has agreed to Japan setting up a consulate in Portuguese Timor? If it is true, will he make suitable protests through the United Kingdom Government to Portugal, as the consulate will be a spy centre for Japan after Timorhas been by-passedin the offensive ?
– I saw the press report but have no verification of it. The honorable member will see that if the Japanese forces leave Portuguese Timor there will be some gain to the United Nations. However, I shall look into the matter and give the honorable gentleman a reply.
Secret Information from Taxation Files -Swearing in of Officers.
– by leave - On Thursday last I promised the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) to have inquiries made regarding the following question asked by him, without notice: -
Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether any officers of departments other than the Department of War Organization of Industry have been sworn in as special officers of the Prices Branch so that they may study the secret files of taxpayers in the Taxation Department, and can he say whether it is proposed to extend this method of evading the taxation laws?
I have ascertained that full information regarding the exchange of confidential information between the Taxation Department and the Prices Branch was given to the honorable member in a letter dated the 27th September last by my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs. The Prime Minister also replied to a question, upon, notice, on the same subject on the 29th September. In reply to the specific question now asked by him, the honorable member is informed that no officers of the Department of War Organization of Industry or of any other department have been sworn in as special officers of the Prices Branch so that they may study the secret files of taxpayers in the Taxation Department.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Commonwealth Government has direct representation in the liberated areas of Europe to investigate the practicability of securing migrants to this country? If not, when is it proposed to have such representation ?
– About a week ago I made a considered statement about the present position of migration, proposals. The matter is now with a special expert departmental committee, and a report by that committee will be submitted to the Cabinet at a very early date. This and other matters associated with migration will then be considered, and decisions made upon them.
– Other countries have acted.
– I am advised that that is not so. When the time comes for us to select migrants from other countries, I assure the honorable member that, as the result of action taken by this Government, Australia will not be behind other nations.
– Is the Acting Prime
Minister aware that there are many hundreds of surplus officers in the Australian Army establishment? Will he take up the matter with the British and Indian Governments so as to ascertain whether such officers can be given temporary commissions in the British or Indian Armies, where they will be in operational units, and not wasting their time doing nothing in Australia?
– Because of the reorganization of the Australian Army, the 20,000 discharges to the 30thJune, 1944, and the 30,000 discharges to be made in the year ending the 30th June, 1945, there is a surplus of officers. Officers who reach retiring age are being retired daily from the Army, and that will continue. Furthermore, the Government has agreed to a limited number of Australian officers accepting posts in the Indian, Army.
-What is the number?
– For security reasons, I am not able to disclose the figure.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether the Commonwealthowned power alcohol distillery at Warracknabeal, in Victoria, has yet produced one gallon of power alcohol?
If the distillery is in operation, how many gallons of power alcohol have been produced, and what is the cost per gallon? Is it a fact that coal has been hauled from New South Wales to this distillery and is now being used by the Victorian Railways? Before the session concludes, will the Minister make a statement on the cost to date and the future of this distillery, which was erected in a certain locality for political purposes?
Dr.EV ATT- The delay in opening the distillery at Warracknabeal has been due entirely to the shortage of wheat, a factor of which the honorable member is aware. The same factor has caused temporary suspension of operations at other distilleries. Later, I shall endeavour to make a fuller statement on this matter, but I am sure that the honorable member did not intend the last part of his question to be taken seriously.
– After the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) had addressed employees at the Homebush. Abattoirs a few days ago, many of them absented themselves from their work during the afternoon. Will the Minister for Labour and National Service take steps to prevent these very volatile workers from being provoked in that way?
– I know that the honorable member for Darling visited the Homebush Abattoirs, and other places as well, and the reports which he submitted to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, which have been checked and found correct, reveal that he is doing excellent work.
– I refer the Treasurer to a report prepared by Mr. J. K. Jensen, extensive quotations from which have already appeared in the press, and which, according to newspapers, was discussed fully by the Labour party caucus. I ask the Treasurer whether this document will be made avilable for the information of honorable members?
– A report was made by Mr. J. K. Jensen, the chairman of the Secondary Industries Commission, to me as Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
– Was the report made available to caucus?
– A limited number of copies of that report has been made available to members of the party. Neither the Government nor the party has considered the recommendations contained in it.
– Copies of the report were given to the press.
– I did not give them to the press. It is not usual for reports, which are made to Ministers or to Cabinet for consideration when Government policy is being formulated, to be circulated for general information.
– It is, when they are given to some private members.
– A limited number of copies was distributed to members of the party, who will have the task of determining, in conjunction with Cabinet, the Government’s attitude on certain matters raised in the report. When that has been done, any matters that have to be placed before the Parliament will be submitted ro it, and necessary information will be given to honorable members.
FORMAL Motion fob Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) an intimation that she desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The inequitable working of the method now in use for the calculation of Commonwealth grants to the smaller States “.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I have taken this course in order to draw attention to a matter of sufficient importance to have been the subject, within the last three weeks, of a resolution unanimously passed by both Houses of the Parliament of Tasmania. It is a question which, I believe, can find a satisfactory and permanent solution only in the summoning of a Commonwealth convention that will thoroughly overhaul the whole Constitution, because this is a matter which concerns the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. With the passing of the years, those relations have grown more and more involved, and the disabilities from which the smaller States have suffered under federation have shown no signs of diminution. While those disabilities remain, and pending the calling of a convention, there should not be allowed to grow up great and permanent differences in the financial status of the various States, which might eventually prove to be irremediable, as I hope to show.
I shall not go very deeply into the history of the establishment of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, but it is necessary for me to cover some of the ground in order to establish, and to bring clearly before the minds of honorable members, one very important and significant point. Many people, including, I fear, some honorable members of this chamber, hold the view that grants made by the Commonwealth to smaller or socalled claimant States are in the nature of acts of generosity by the larger or socalled standard States. As a matter of fact, they represent an attempt to compensate the recipient States for disabilities that have been created by federation. It must not be imagined that the smaller States are naturally the poorer States. Take the case of Tasmania for example. It is an island noted for its productivity, its rich agricultural lands, its enormous production of minerals, and its wealth of timber products. It is an island so favoured that I understand one honorable member of the House has been inspired with the desire to change its name to “Honeymoon Island “, but whether he also desires to move the capital to Deloraine I cannot say. Tasmania has always been noted for the economy of its administration, a point which I ask honorable members to note particularly, for it has received official recognition in the fact that, for many years, the Commonwealth Grants Commission has recommended a special allowance in assessment of grant to it on that ground. Prom the Treasury point of view, however, it is the poorest of all the States. Recently the Treasurer of Tasmania, Mr. DwyerGray, said that Tasmania was - a rich country made poor by federation. For years before Tasmania federated there waaa succession of genuine surpluses in its Treasury, and the per head wealth of thecommunity was the highest in Australia.
I hope that honorable members will bear that quotation in mind as I proceed toshow how many disabilities have fallen upon Tasmania through the unequal results that have flowed from Commonwealth legislation. The general reasons for Tasmania’s present position probably apply to the other claimant States in varying degrees and ways. I shall refer to Tasmania because I know it best, and because, during the past two or threeyears, I have made a special study of itsfinancial position, and because, according to Sir Nicholas Lockyer, thespecial Commonwealth Commissioner- who inquired into the subject, “ it is the greatest sufferer from disabilities created by federation “.
What are the reasons that have brought about this result? They are mainly attributable to inequalities in the operation of certain Commonwealth legislation. In 1932 the Lyons Government ordered a full investigation of the economic position of Tasmania. The committee which it appointed for this purpose and which had certain economists associated with it, established that, although Tasmania received benefits from the tariff protection legislation of the Commonwealth equivalent to approximately £4 per head of its population, it incurred, through increased prices, due to the fact that most of the protected industries were on the mainland, a disability equivalent to £6 per head, leaving it £2 per bead worse off than formerly. It was also revealed that, in 1932, the State was suffering a loss of £421,000 per annum in consequence of the operation of the Navigation Act which caused increased aoa freight charges. The Navigation Act is an admirable piece of legislation, but because Tasmania had to depend solely for its trade upon the sea carriage of goods the heavy burden that I have mentioned fell upon the State. The Sugar Agreement, which so vitally and beneficially affects Queensland, and is of great advantage to the whole Commonwealth for defence purposes, was costing Tasmania about £1,000 a day in 1932. That position has been remedied to some degree since then, by reason of concessions made to the jam-making industry, but, according to the State Treasurer, it is still a serious financial handicap to the State. For a population not greater than that of some of the larger suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne - the population of Tasmania is, in round figures, about 250,000 - the figures that I have given are colossal. The payments made to the State by the Commonwealth, therefore, should not be regarded as charity but as what they actually are, an attempt to correct inequalities from which the State is suffering through the effects of federal legislation.
Prior to 1933 it had been the custom for certain States to make application to the Commonwealth Treasurer for grants to offset their difficulties, and the amount* that were paid by the Commonwealth were more or less arbitrarily determined by the Parliament. In 1933 the Commonwealth Grants Commission was appointed to attempt to put on a more permanent and satisfactory basis the assessment of claims by the smaller States. In his second-reading speech in introducing the bill for the appointment of the commission the then Prime Minister said -
Unfortunately it lias not been found possible hitherto to formulate any definite principle or basis upon which the Commonwealth Parliament and Government could be guided in the making of such grants.
He indicated that it was to be the commission’s function to determine such 3 principle if possible, and to make recommendations upon it, having regard always to any special circumstances arising in the various States from year to year. The principle subsequently adopted was - and here I quote - that the special grant should bc equal to thiamount of help found necessary to make ii possible for the State by a reasonable effort to function at a standard not appreciably below that of other States.
The method of calculation was that what was called a “normal budgetary standard “ was determined by methods which ] shall presently describe, and the amount necessary to bring the deficit of the claimant States up to that level was thi’ amount of the special grants recommended, subject to minor adjustments. The commission - and I hope that I shall not hurt the feelings of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in saying this - examined the budgetary results of t-h*> various States, as published, corrected them to actuality according to its opinion, and then the result was brought to a per head of population figure in pounds, shillings^ and pence. That figure was then multiplied by the claimant State’s population, and the resultant total became the amount considered necessary to adjust the deficit to normal standard. Briefly, this means that the budgets’ of all States were corrected for special grants, windfalls of revenue, differences in accounting practice, emergency expenditure, reserve funds and the like. The budgetary insults were then brought to a figure per head of population which represented the normal budgetary standard per head. This was then applied to the population figures of the various claimant States to decide roughly the amount of grant to be recommended. Let us suppose the normal budgetary standard should be a surplus of £2 per head. Tasmania, with a population of roughly 250,000, would be entitled to a grant of £500,000. This method was a practical measurement of the relative financial position as disclosed by budgetary results, and was, at least as far as Tasmania was concerned, entirely satisfactory, although naturally criticism was sometimes advanced of certain corrections and adjustments. In the year 1942-48, however, this measure was departed from, for a reason which is obvious and which I hope the House will note very carefully. Prior to the war, the normal budgetary position of the standard States had been one of deficits. By 1942-43, the results of the war expenditure of the Commonwealth Government were beginning to be felt, and the standard States were then showing surpluses. That meant, of course, that the State grants had also to become very much larger than they had been previously. At this point a Commonwealth Treasury submission was made which caused an alteration of the whole basis of allocation of the grants. lt is interesting to note that, on the 18th September, 1940, when the war had been raging for a year, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, having some idea as to what effects Commonwealth expenditure and policy were likely to have on the budgets of the different States, reported -
The war obligations of the Commonwealth ure, of course, of. paramount importance, since they affect the whole federation and its financial and economic policy. The claimant States ure concerned about the unequal distribution anions the States of war expenditure. 1 interpolate that, for the three years ended the 31st August, 1942, the total amount expended by the Commonwealth Government on defence works in the various States was £59,290,707, the expenditure in the three standard States having been £41,622,727, and in Tasmania £1S4,220.
I have stated the position as it existed in 1940. I have no reason to believe that, relatively, it is different now. Thereport of the commission continued -
It is appropriate, therefore, that we should1 examine some of the possible effects of thisexpenditure on the special grants we recommend. Insofar as there is an uneven distribution of war expenditure among theStates, the finances of the States will beunequally affected. It should be realized, however, that if war expenditure is largely concentrated in the smaller States the budgetary position of these States should benefit, and on our method of assessing grants the claimant States would also share in such benefits, since we bring the budget position of those States up to the standard of the non-claimant States.
Here is the kernel, of the whole affair, or, if you like, the milk in the coco-nut, for it is the reason for the making of the Treasury submission. The statement continued–
On the other hand, it is possible that adverse factors may affect the finances of the non-claimant States as well as those of. the claimant States, but these too would automatically bc taken into account under our method of assessment. After careful consideration we believe that the correct course of action for tile Commonwealth is to rely largely on methods that have proved effective in the past and to assess the grants on the actual budgetary results of the States, at the same time exercising a broad judgment on changing conditions.
That, was the considered opinion of the commission prior to the Commonwealth Treasury submission in 1942-43. The effect of compliance with that submission was that, when the standard Stateswere in surplus, for purposes of thecalculation of States grants, actually they were deemed merely to have balanced budgets. Take 1942-43, for example. In. that year the published budget surpluses of the three standard States amounted to £1,179,304; but their actual surpluses, on the commission’s own figures, allowingfor reserves, replacements, deferred maintenance, &c.. amounted to £14,110,000! Under the new method of calculation resulting from the Treasury submission, this surplus of £14,110,000 was taken as being no pounds, no shillings, and nopence! Since 1942-43 is taken as the year of comparison for the assessment of this year’s grant, the loss to Tasmania in this ‘year amounts to £700,000. That is an enormous amount for a small Stateto lose. According to calculations that: have been made bv the Treasurer of Tasmania, the total loss to that ‘State during “the last three years has been £812,000.
It may well be argued that the States have no right to exploit for their own financial benefit the pressure of war necessity upon the Commonwealth Government. With that, I agree. I havenot, at any time, believed or suggested that any amount of war expenditure should bc diverted to Tasmania merely for the purpose of benefiting that State. It has been and continues to be the duty of the Commonwealth Government to use the whole of its resources for the. prosecution of the war, in the best possible place and manner. But this is different. To change the method of assessment that has been used in determining grants to the States, which are the only means of recompensing the smaller States for inequality due to war expenditure and the like, .at a time of unprecedented Commonwealth expenditure which is permitting the larger States to budget for big surpluses, is to commit an act of the grossest injustice, and it is that procedure to which Tasmania is now protesting. [Extension of time granted.] The general effect is that, while some other States arc able to set aside large reserves for purposes of reconstruction after the war, Tasmania has no opportunity whatever to do so, and will therefore be left behind when the work of reconstruction begins. Surely it is not the wish of the Commonwealth Government or Parliament that, in the difficult days that will follow the war, any State shall be left without financial reserves to develop its resources and to rehabilitate its industries and its peoples, while other States have ample funds with which to carry on in those directions! It must be apparent that the States that have reserves which enable them to expand will attract population from all the smaller States.’ Thus, inequalities existing at that time will become permanent, -and for ever must be a source of dissatisfaction and at times almost a dislocation in the Commonwealth structure.
I remind the House, also, that while the standard States were in deficit Tasmania shared their adversity. Now that they are in surplus, I consider that Tasmania should participate equally in their prosperity, especially as that prosperity is the direct result of Commonwealth expenditure on the war, to which Tasmania has contributed its share.
I have mentioned certain adjustments and corrections which from time to time have been challenged. I shall now mention briefly one that has caused a good deal of heart-burning, and I believe that it will administer a shock to some honorable members. One of the conditions imposed by the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been, that the standard of expenditure on social services in the three claimant States must be 8 per cent, below that of the three standard States. For the purposes of the commission, social services consist of three groups. In the first group is education. In Tasmania the standard of education is supposed to be S per cent, below that of other States. The second group embraces health, hospitals and charities. The people of Tasmania must be at least. S per cent, less healthy than the people of other States. The third group covers law, order and public safety. It is intolerable that, in a federation, any State should be arbitrarily assigned to a position in which its expenditure on social services must be 8 per cent, less than that of other States. Indeed, it is open to question whether any such penalty should be imposed on expenditure of that nature, provided there is no evidence of undue extravagance. We do not ask for what is impossible or foolish. To try to impose that arbitrary difference, when already the larger States have been shown to be benefiting disproportionately from the legislation of the Commonwealth, is, we believe, to inflict a very grave injustice indeed upon the smaller States. This matter of expenditure on social services, including education, is of particular importance to Tasmania, because, at the present time, that State is in the enviable position of having earned the admiration of the whole of the educational world by reason of certain experiments in methods of education which it has adopted. The teachers of Tasmania are asking for an increase of salary, not on selfish grounds alone. Certainly, as a.n act of social justice, the claim should be granted. But they are asking for it also on the ground that the effect would be to raise the service to such a position that it would be able to attract men and women of the right type for the training and education of the rising generation. At the present time, many teachers in Tasmania who are 21 years of age and fully qualified, are receiving less than the basic wage. If the State accedes to their request, not only will it have to meet the difference in the cost of salaries, but in addition it will be penalized by the adjustment of the grant which it receives from the Commonwealth. Eventually. the Commonwealth Government will have to provide subsidies for educational purposes in all the States. That, however, is another story.
I plead the cause of the smaller States, but particularly that of Tasmania. Large and permanent differences in the financial status of the States should not be allowed to develop within the Commonwealth. In the press of last Friday there was the announcement that a new lend-lease plan was being formulated to provide aid for Britain, to assist that country in the work of reconstruction. The statement was made that hard-headed American business men were anxious to help Great Britain, because they realized that it had been seriously weakened by its prodigious war effort. They argued that, in the long run, a quick recovery by Great Britain would be very much cheaper than a later attempt to rehabilitate the whole of the economic -structure of an impoverished British Empire. Thar is the realistic attitude which prevails in inter-allied relationships. It should prevail no less within our own boundaries. It is not a matter only of justice to the States; it is a matter also of sound business that the smaller States should not be allowed to fall behind ;n the march of post-war reconstruction. In the field of international affairs it is regarded almost as an axiom that peace is indivisible. Surely, within the framework of a federation, it should be regarded as no less axiomatic that prosperity also is indivisible.
.- The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) presented her case very well, and her speech indicated that she had made a careful analysis of the system by which the special grant had been made to
Tasmania this year. “With some of the arguments of the honorable member 3 agree, but with others I certainly do not agree. In the first place, the honorable member told us that she thought that the whole subject of the relationship of the States and the Commonwealth should be examined by a Commonwealth convention. That might produce some result, but, on the other hand, it might be as abortive as was the Constitution Convention held in Canberra about two years ago. The purpose of that convention was defeated by the intrusion of party politics, and by the obstructionist tactics of certain members of the privileged chambers in State legislatures. I see no hope of success from the proposal put forward by the honorable member for Darwin. She had an opportunity to support the referendum proposals.
– -I supported the convention very strongly.
– Instead of supporting the referendum proposals the honorable member, on the public platform and in other ways, set out to defeat them.
– “With very good effect.
– The effect was achieved by the expenditure of large sums of money paid into the campaign by big business interests.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion.
– I am strongly opposed to the proposal of the honorable member for Darwin. She was in error in her statement regarding the salaries of education officers under 21 years of age. It is true that they were in receipt of less than the basic wage, but that matter has now been adjusted. I agree with her, however, that officers of the Education Department are, on the whole, underpaid. For instance, I know of one married man with two children who, after five years’ service, receives only slightly more than f 5 a week. That is a crying shame, yet if the Government of Tasmania were to raise the salary of that officer, and of others like him, the Commonwealth Grants Commission would, under the present method of assessment, penalize the State by reducing the Commonwealth grant.
The relationship between States and the federal authority represents a problem in all countries where there is a federal system of government. This was pointed out to me when I was in the United States of America recently, and there, as here, the larger and more prosperous States, because of the inducements which they hold out, are able to rob the smaller States. I have always objected to the flippant approach of many honorable members to the subject of Commonwealth grants to State governments. This Parliament frequently votes grants to interests of various kinds, generally on the mainland, and there is no flippancy, but every year, when the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is Tinder consideration, we are treated to allegedly humorous remarks about the poorer States living on the bounty of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Darwin (.Dame Enid Lyons) referred to the history of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. That authority was established some years ago to attempt to place upon a proper footing the making of Commonwealth grants to the States. Every year since then the commission has reported to the Government, and the Government, no matter of what political complexion, has always accepted its recommendation, and Parliament has duly adopted it. On this occasion, the commission has varied its method of assessing the amount of the grant, and this lays it open to criticism. Some time ago, I discussed with the Treasurer of Tasmania this year’s grant, and his views on the matter, to which 1 subscribe, are embodied in the following statement : -
The most curious, fateful and significant sentence in this remarkable compilation was this: “It seems unnecessary to attempt to correct the budgets of the standard States “. The Treasury surpluses of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, which were “ the standard States”, totalled £1,971,304 “as published” in the year 1942-43, the year of comparison, but, as adjusted, they totalled £11,930,000. Queeusland alone had reduced a huge real surplus to the relatively diminutive amount of £102.022 by the simple process of transferring £4,000.000 of its revenue of that year to the credit of its Post-war and Reconstruction Fund, and a further £1.250,000 to other useful reserves for the future. The amount necessary to adjust the Tasmanian budget for that year to the average factual budgetary position of the three “ standardStates, in accordance with the principle long. sanctioned by the commission, was £1,220,000. But, according to the commission’s present recommendation, the amount necessary to bring the Tasmanian deficit to what it now chose to call “ the normal budget standard “ was only £640,000, making a difference of £580.000 in the special grant for 1944-45.
The commission had not corrected the budgets of the standard States, but had deemed fit to “ correct “ that of Tasmania, by disallowing £34,301 to liquidate losses in connexion with soldier settlement revaluation, and £10,917 charged to revenue in excess of the minimum requirements of the sinking fund provisions of the Financial Agreement. The “ sound finance “, not to say virtuous aspect of these two common-sense appropriations, had not apparently made any appeal to the com-, mission and had consequently involved theState in the indirect penalty indicated. Similar methods, involving a departure from the factual measurement of the relative financial position, had caused a loss of approximately £90.000 in last year’s grant and of about £13,000 in the special grant for 1942-43- This all arose from a lamentable “ Federal Treasury submission “ placed before the commission’ in April, 1942, which resulted in a special meeting of the commission in Melbourne at the instance of the Tasmanian. Government. At that meeting Mr. DwyerGray had very expressly declared that if the new” principle set out in that Federal Treasury submission were accepted, “this would remove the very basis of the methods of the commission which have so highly commended themselves to the Government of Tasmania “.
What other claimant States said or did~ through their Premiers or Treasurers, wastheir affair.
The Commonwealth’s differential war expenditure, however unavoidable, was having its inevitable treasury effects. Thus, for instance, during the three years ending” 3 1st August, 1042, the Commonwealth had spent £59,290,707 on defence work? alone, of -which only £184,222 represented the Tasmanian allocation, while the three standard States received all the benefits of a vast federal expenditure of £41.1122,727 on defence works in their areas. During the five-year pro-war period 1934-39. inclusive, the three standard States of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland had accumulated net treasury deficits totalling £9,828.000 and Tasmania’ had had to sharein their treasury adversity through diminished grants. But as a net result of the five-year war period ending on 30th June, 1944, their treasury position had improved by £12,527,000. even on the figures “as published”, while - the Tasmanian aggregate deficit for the war period was £257,000, or £34,000 in excess of its aggregate net deficit for the five years before the war. This, too, though the total’ expenditure of Tasmania from revenue per head of the population was, and long had’ been, easily the lowest in Australia with, occasionally., the single exception of Victoria, which notoriously starved its social services. Thus, adding railway expenditure in Tasmania in that year, for the purpose of making the- figures correctly comparable, the Tasmanian expenditure from revenue in 1943-44 was only £18 9s. per head of its population, against £28 12s. in Western Australia (highest), £27 19s. in Queensland, £25 9s. in New South Wales, £25 5s. in South Australia and £17 12s. in always penurious Victoria (lowest). There was only one way to compensate Tasmania for the grave incidental wrong inflicted upon it by the Commonwealth’s unavoidably differential war expenditure, and that was through the special grant system. But this the Grants Commission had refused to do up to date, and its abandonment of the factual measurement of the relative financial position in budgetary results was the particular means of depriving Tasmania of its just recompense in these respects. Vet, assuredly, since Tasmania had been compelled to share in the pre-war budgetary adversity of the standard States, it was morally entitled to share in their Commonwealth-created war prosperity, and should not be denied an opportunity of building up at least some small reserves for post-war use during a period when the treasuries of the standard States were piling up huge reserves, in millions, for post-war use. as a direct result of federal policy. [Extension of time granted.]
There we have the cause of Tasmania’s complaint, made,I think, with some justification, against the altered method of determining the grant. It is natural that the State is concerned that it not only has not shared with the mainland States the buoyant revenues brought about by Commonwealth war expenditure, but also has been penalized because of its increased activity in some forms of social service. I shall not support the motion.
– Why not?
– It is not of sufficiently urgent public importance. My concern for the State I assist to represent is as great as that of the honorable member for Darwin, and that I have satisfied my constituents is proved by the fact that at every election I have been returned with an increased majority. Until we have a system under which all States are treated more or less equally and none is penalized by being compelled to keep its social services below a certain level there will always be complaint. Having said what I wanted to say, I rest content.
Sitting suspended from4.53 to 8.0 p.m.
.- I heartily support the motion moved by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid
Lyons), and Icongratulate her upon the clear and able case she has placed before honorable members. I am somewhat amazed at the statement of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) that he will not support the motion, even as a protest against the present inequitable method of assessing State grants. The Commonwealth Grants Commission was established by the Lyons Government in 1933. At a very early stage in its history it evolved a just and equitable formula for assessing the disabilities of the claimant States, and the compensation payable in respect of those disabilities: and that formula gave general satisfaction. Indeed, the commission itself was universally approved, as a means of dispensing a measure of justice to claimantStates. It evolved a formula which enabled it to measure factually the relative financial positions of the States under federation, and to give to the claimant States equitable financial compensation for disabilities inflicted upon them by federation. The Treasurer of Tasmania, when delivering his budget in the Tasmanian Parliament a few days ago, said -
For the first eight years of the Commission’s working, Tasmania was placed in a position in which it could achieve at least something like a relative approximation to the same financial results as the largest States, provided it made the same effort in revenue and maintained a comparable level of expenditure. The normal standard was a deficit, and thus the special grant payable was limited to the amount sufficient to enable Tasmania to achieve a comparable position. But since 1940-41 (as the year of comparison), when the three largest States all had surpluses, the Commission has adopted a balanced budget as the normal standard instead of the average of the per head surpluses in the standard States. This alteration affected the amounts of the Special Grants for 1942-43. Thus, whilst Tasmania has shared in the adversity of the standard States when they were in deficit, Tasmania has not been allowed to share in their prosperity when they have enjoyed large surpluses.
As the result of departing from the long-established principle on which the commission originally assessed these grants, Tasmania in 1942-43 suffered a loss of £13,000, which rose to £99,000 in 1943-44, whilst this year it has risen to £700,000. Thus, within the last three years, because of the alteration of the method of assessing grants, Tasmania has suffered a total loss of £812,000. The previous method of assessing grants gave general satisfaction. Why has that method been altered? The change was made as the result of a submission by Commonweal th Treasury officials to the commission in April, 1942. The responsibility for this unjust alteration, which, within the last three years, has robbed Tasmania of £812,000, rests upon this Government, because the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) suggested the alteration, and he has stated that, hp approves of the new method, .lt is his duty to reconsider this matter, and to take steps to remedy the grave injustice done to Tasmania as the result of that submission. His action savours of altering the terms of a contract after the document has been signed, scaled and delivered. Tasmania is the only State which showed a deficit for the year 1942-43. In that year the other States. showed surpluses as follows. New South Wales, £1,115,000; Victoria, 1:754,000; Queensland, £102,000; South Australia, £223,000, and Western Australia, £24,000,’ whilst Tasmania had a deficit of £.109,000, and its estimated deficit for the present financial year is £21S,000. It cannot bc claimed that Tasmania’s expenditure i* extravagant, because it amounts to only £14 per capita, compared with the expenditure per capita of the Commonwealth and the other States, as follows: Commonwealth, £40; New South Wales, £25; Victoria, £18; Queensland, £28; South Australia, £24; Western Australia, £27. Thus, Tasmania’s rate nf expenditure- was approximately onehalf of the average of the Commonwealth and the other five States. Tasmania has suffered considerably in the allocation of Commonwealth expenditure during the war. The island State does not derive anything like the same benefit from the Commonwealth’s war expenditure as do the other States; and this discrimination in war expenditure has caused not only a serious loss of population by migration to the mainland, but also a serious loss of revenue. The people of Tasmania are just as heavily taxed as are the people of the other States, and the Staff cannot stand the drain upon its population resulting from the greater opportuni ties offering on the mainland. Only the Commonwealth could have checked that drift by giving to Tasmania its due proportion of the work associated with the nation’s war effort. Unfortunately, that was not done. Whilst the other States enjoy much prosperity as the result of war work, Tasmania is forced to observe the most rigid economy. The honorable member for Darwin has pointed out that of an amount of £59,000,000 expended by the Commonwealth during a period of three years, only £184,000 was allocated for work performed in Tasmania, whilst £41,500,000 was expended in ‘lie three standard States, which, of course, enjoyed all the benefits arising from that expenditure. Is it any wonder that Tasmania had a deficit of £109,000 in the financial year 1942-43? Buoyant revenues have enabled the three standard States to set aside substantial special reserves for deferred maintenance and general post-war expenditure, as follows : Now South Wales, £4,000,000; Victoria, £2,200,000, and Queensland, £5,250,000. Those reserves are in addition to the large surpluses shown in the budgets of those States. Under the present method of assessing State grants, the three standard States have been enabled to accumulate £12,000,000 out of their revenues for reserves and post-war work, whilst, Tasmania has been denied all opportunity to establish I’ven the most modest reserves. [Extension of time granted.] I cannot understand why this supposedly Labour Government, which always claims that it looks after the interests of those on the lower rung of the economic ladder, a claim which, of course, it cannot substantiate, can penalize any State in respect of its expenditure on social services. In effect, Tasmania has been fined by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, roughly S per cent., or £50,000 of its grant, and that treatment of Tasmania by the commission is approved by this Government; and of that sum £20,000 is expenditure directly incurred by Tasmania in improving social services. It is wrong for this, or any other government, to’ penalize a State to that degree because of the latter’s effort to improve its social services. I repeat what I said on the second reading of the
States Grants Bill, namely, that Australians should enjoy the same amenities of life irrespective of the part of the Commonwealth in which they live. An Australian citizen should not be at a disadvantage simply because he or she lives in a small State. The financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the Statescannot be satisfactory unless the Commonwealth frankly takes into consideration the. economic position of the respective States and provides for a periodical systematic review of the functions performed by the respective State governments. I heartily support the motion moved by the honorable member for Darwin.
– I am afraid that some of the newer members of this House may be convinced by what has been said by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy), and may conclude that some grave injustice has been done to Tasmania by the Commonwealth. For the benefit of those honorable members who have not studied this matter closely, I shall traverse what has happended in respect of State grants. Prior to 1933 various bodies attempted to assess the disabilities of the less populous States, until the Commonwealth fixed the grants at an arbitrary figure. In 1933 the Government in office in this Parliament, which was politically akin to honorable members opposite, set up the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and it appointed to that body a very experienced ex-Minister holding the same political philosophy as that held by honorable members opposite, although at various timeshe belonged to different political parties.
– He was a very able man.
– I admit that he brought a great deal of knowledge to his task as a member of the commission. I do not reflect upon his ability in any way whatever, because I have had opportunities in respect of other matters to appreciate his ability. Originally, the commission took the view, which it has since strictly adhered to, that it should meet only the absolute needs of the claimant States. Certain changes which have occurred during the last three years have resulted in an alteration of the method of examining the requests of the claimant States. All of the reports of the commission have been adopted by this Parliament - in almost every instance without dissent. The Premiers of Western Australia and South Australia have warmly praised the standard of its work, and its impartiality. Two of the members of the commission were originally appointed by a previous government, and were re-appointed by this Government. In other words, the majority of the commission were appointed by the parties now in Opposition.
– Why did the commission alter the method of assessing grants?
– I shall deal with that matter. Since 1940-41 the three nonclaimant States have had surpluses each year. Until three years ago, the commission’s method of determining a reasonable budgetary standard for the claimant States was to take the average budgetary position of the non-claimant States, and the budgetary position of each of the claimant States; and in averaging the deficits and surpluses of the budgets of the non-claimant States, the commision worked out what might be termed a reasonable budget for the purpose of determining the grants which would be made to the claimant States. But some time ago, all the non-claimant States achieved a budgetary position in which they had surpluses, so the principle previously adopted of averaging the surpluses and deficits of the non-claimant States was changed. If the commission had continued to observe that principle it would have been providing for the claimant States a grant on the basis of the surpluses which were being achieved by the non-claimant States. Who would have paid that grant if it had been computed in that way? The Commonwealth Government would have had to pay it. Now, the Commonwealth Government has always taken the view, quite properly, that payments made from Commonwealth funds ought not to be more than are necessary to meet absolute needs. Although the Commonwealth Treasury has exercised its undoubted right to appear before the commission and state its views, it exerts no influence on the commission in the compilation of its report. The commission acts under legislation which was introduced, not by this Government, but by a previous government.
– But this Government acceded to the submission of the Commonwealth Grants Commission to alter the method of assessment.
– The Treasury submits to the commission a fair and reasonable statement of its views. So do the States, and on those submissions, this semi- judicial body makes its decision. As I stated previously, the majority of the members of this commission were not originally appointed by this Government. Surely it cannot be said that this Government has acted unjustifiably! Is it suggested that any submissions by the claimant States should be accepted ex parte, and that the Commonwealth should not be entitled to say, “ “We think that you should survey certain features of this position, because the situation has changed “ ? The position was that some of the non-claimant States had surpluses and some had deficits, and the commission generally was trying to strike an average for the claimant States. But the time came when the other States had surpluses, and the suggestion’ was then made that the Commonwealth should make a grant, having regard to the budgetary position of the non-claimant States that provided surpluses. I desire to make it clear to honorable members that nothing which this Government has done in this matter is either unfair or unjustified, or has had anything to do with the mechanism governing the functioning of the commission. The Commonwealth Treasury is entitled to place its views before the commission. The States have a similar right, and the commission, as an impartial body, makes its report on those submissions. No one can say that members of the commission in the past had affiliations with the political party represented on this side of the chamber.
– One of them is a T asm an ian, too.
– Exactly. Another was a Western Australian and a former Minister of the Crown. The third member, who is the chairman, could not be said by any stretch of the imagination to have any political affiliations.
A good deal has been said in this debate about social services. The position is that at one time the commission decided that the effort required for claimancy should be assessed on the basis of 8 per cent, of the States’ expenditure on social services. But that has since been varied.
– At one stage, adjustable expenditure had to be reduced by 10 per cent.
– That is correct, but was a Labour government in office at that time?
– I did not accuse this Government at all.
– I am not suggesting that the honorable member did so; I am merely stating the position. I do not know whether honorable members who have participated in this debate have read fully the last report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Until some one raised this hornets’ nest, I had not read it very closely, but I direct attention to the following passage on page 93 : -
We decided this year that the effort required for claimancy should be 1 per cent, of adjustable expenditure, and accordingly obtained the following figures. . . .
Those are not my words; they appear in the report. The commission has adopted the figure of 1 per cent. It is perfectly true that if a claimant State was not prepared to apply the same severity of taxation as a non-claimant State which was providing social services by imposing heavier taxation it could not expect to get a special grant from the Commonwealth. Every one will admit that if such a grant were to be made, it would have to come from the Commonwealth, and the taxpayers in a non-claimant State with a severity of taxation greater than that of the claimant State would be obliged to pay this bonus to the claimant State. If the claimant State had increased the severity of its taxation, it would have been able to get from that source an income per capita equivalent to that received by the non-claimant State.
The fact of the matter is that the nonclaimant States, as well as the claimant States, have received from this Government a great measure of social .benefits which they did not enjoy under their own legislation. A former Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr. Holt, introduced child endowment, which was one of the finest social benefits given to the people of this country. I do not wish to deprive the honorable member of any credit for doing that. Other factors also entered into consideration, but the result was well justified. That social service applied to Tasmania as well as to other States.
– It did not benefit Tasmania any more than it benefited other States.
– It was a social benefit which operated in that State.
– It was general.
– I am not denying that. Widows’ pensions, which were introduced by this Government, also had a general application. I have no hesitation in saying that the Tasmanian budget indirectly derived a great benefit, or considerable relief from the provision of those social services. By the provision of child endowment and widows’ pensions, all the States which did not have them previously obtained some budgetary benefit, because prior to the introduction of those social benefits, they had various welfare services that they had to meet. Since 1940-41, all the States which had a surplus have been in a somewhat changed position. Let us examine the great “hardship” that has been done to Tasmania specifically. Examining the history of grants made by Commonwealth governments, we find that in 1936-37 the payment to Tasmania was £600,000. Thereafter the grants declined; but in 1943-44 and in 1944-45. the payments to Tasmania have been the highest that have ever been made to that State.
– The needs of Tasmania might also have been higher.
– I do not deny that. I said that the Commonwealth ‘Grants Commission adhered to the principle of always making grants in relation to all the needs of a State. If the needs were greater, the grant was increased. Last year, the grant to Tasmania was £720,000. This year it will be £742,000. The previous biggest payment was £600,000, which was made in 1936-37.
– The Treasurer will admit that a portion of the money paid this year had been held from last year.
– It is money which goes into the coffers of the State, and not an amount which some one promises to the State Treasurer. I am speaking of things that Tasmania will get. Admittedly, certain difficulties are associated with assessing the needs of a State, having regard to the equal severity of taxation. Prior to the introduction of uniform income tax, the matter of the severity of taxation applied was taken into consideration in an examination of the budgetary position of the claimant States and the non-claimant States. Since the introduction of uniform income tax, that investigation can apply only to taxes other than income tax, which form a very small proportion of total tax collections. Very great difficulties confront the commission when it has to ascertain whether an equal severity of taxation is being applied in a claimant State and a non-claimant State.
I now come to the matter of Commonwealth expenditure. What has the Commonwealth done? The position is that the Commonwealth on the advice of those most competent to know has expended the money for the defence of this country in places where it was wisest in the interests of the nation to expend lilt is true that, as the result of those selections, some States have built up very substantial surpluses. But no one will deny that Tasmania, disregarding for the moment its budgetary position, has not substantially improved its economic position. Undoubtedly the economic position of its residents has improved. I shall not weary the House with the figures, but if honorable members will turn to statistics prepared by the Commonwealth Grants Commission and to data obtained from other sources, they will find that all the economic aspects of Tasmanian life improved as the result of the war, though not to the same degree as those of the non-claimant States.
– For the first time for many years the population of Tasmania has increased by about 4,000.
– I shall not attempt to weary honorable members with all the details, although some of the figures are most striking. But Tasmania has shared in the general prosperity arising from war expenditure, though not to the same degree as have some of the other States. It is said that those States will have built up reserves, and that is not denied, but surely it is not suggested that when the Commonwealth Grants Commission examines this subject after the war taking into consideration the budgetary position of the non-claimant States and the fact that they have reserves to spend, it will not give consideration to the claimant States accordingly. That has always been done before, the needs of the States have been met, and on every occasion the Government has accepted, as previous governments did, the verdict of the commission. There may be some things requiring consideration in relation to- severity of taxation as between the States, which is a very difficult problem. The Leader of the Opposition paid in this House the highest possible tribute that could be paid to that very informative document, the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s report. It would be an education to honorable members who have not done so to read that report from year to year, and note how thoroughly all these matters have been investigated and explained. Honorable members at least on this side of the House should not be misled into thinking that the Treasury has done something unfair in putting before the commission subjects which it ought to examine, and aspects which it ought to regard, but let me tell them that that has always been the practice of the Treasury no matter what government has been in office. It is entitled to do so under the act, and it has done in that regard no more than it had a right to do. Finally, Tasmania received more last year by way of grant than in any previous year, although the economic position of its residents was belter than it ever was previously.
.- The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) has initiated a useful dis cussion- on the war-time financial experiences of the Australian States. The first three speakers to the motion dealt with the special problems of Tasmania - it is true that they all represented Tahitianian electorates - and the Treasurer not unnaturally has devoted most of his time in reply to the position of that State,although he also mentioned some” of the general principles of the Commonwealth grants system. It would be unfortunate if the consideration of the motion by the House were to be confined to any one State. The honorable member for Darwin made the valuable suggestion that as soon as practicable after the war a suitable body - I think she suggested an elective convention - should review the war-time experiences of the States in order to ascertain to what extent, some redress might be desirable in particular directions. We should, I think, all agree that during the war the States have had rather different experiences, some more fortunate than others, as to the degree of government expenditure for war purposes in their territories, and the extent to which their civilians have been called upon to bear the discomforts and hardships of the war itself. Tasmania through the first three speakers in this debate has made out a case to-night, and has indicated something of its own special problems, but those of us who do not perhaps see the problems of Tasmania as painfully as the Tasmanians themselves do,, see something of our own States’ contributions to the Tasmanian scene, and are influenced by consideration^ which do not normally enter into the calculations of investigators such as we have known in recent times. For example, Tasmania -benefits from two wellestablished institutions to which contributions are made in rather large measure by the mainland States. It benefits from an extensive tourist trade, which no doubt is reduced to a very considerable degree in war-time, but is highly developed in times of peace. The Tattersall’s lottery isanother well-known Australian institution through which the people on the mainlandcontribute extensively to Tasmania’s finances.
– They get something in return.
– Some receive dividends from it, but most of the contributors get only a flutter in return for their money. It is true to say that during the war years the people of Tasmania have experienced less of the war-time deprivations in terms of consumer goods than have the people of most of the other States, and that a (better standard of living can be maintained in Tasmania and at a lower cost than in most of the other States of the Commonwealth. I merely mention those factors without enlarging upon them, in order to show that these other considerations exist. Other States have had experiences which will also need to be reviewed at the conclusion of the war. Queensland has felt the war-time restrictions more severely than have any of the other States, but it has had a muchgreater proportion of expenditure on. government works, such as defence projects, than they have. In fact, the Allied Works Council organization alone I am told has spent £38,000,000 in Queensland, and many of the projects carried out by it will have a permanent peace-time value. Port and harbour facilities, strategic roads, aerodromes, hospitals and the like are all assets which represent some war-time advantage to Queensland. South Australia has had the benefit of the development of the vast munitions industry. Western Australia on the other hand may not have had its proportionate share of war-time industrial development or expenditure upon defence projects, but by contrast its citizens have suffered less deprivation of ordinary consumer goods than have some of the other States. So one could go on enumerating advantages and disadvantages, but I wish to lay special emphasis upon a point raised :by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) as to the effect of uniform taxation. Sere again obviously there is a call for a post-war review of the wartime experiences of the States. The present act under which uniform income taxation operates is limited to the period of the war, but I suppose most of us now anticipate as inevitable the continuation after the war of a permanent form of Commonwealth income taxation on a uniform basis. If that is to he brought about, there must clearly be a review of what has happened during the war years, because some of the States have had unfortunate and indeed inequitable experiences in this regard. On a per capita basis, according to the figures which were made available when the scheme came into operation - and I should imagine that, broadly, the same ratios apply to-day - Queensland was to contribute to the Commonwealth revenue, after the apportionment of revenue to the States had been made, £10 6s. 8d. a head, and was to receive £5 14s. a head in return; in the case of New South Wales the figures were £14 7s. 3d. and £5 15s. respectively, and Victoria £16 5s. 3d. and £3 10s. Id. respectively. In other words, Queensland was to receive a little more than half of what it contributed, New South Wales a little more than one-third, and Victoria only a little more than one-fifth. That has been going on through the war years, and quite clearly at an opportune time a review of the experiences of the States in that regard should be made. It is difficult in the time available to us in this discussion to carry these illustrations beyond the point of stating them and letting honorable members form their own conclusions from them, but I think it should be clear to us all that there has been during the war years a variety of experiences in the case of the different States, whether they be claimant or contributory. Some have benefited to a large degree. For example -I concede that Victoria, whilst it made a perhaps unduly large contribution to the Commonwealth revenue by comparison with the revenue returned to the States, has undoubtedly benefited by the great industrial expansion that has taken place within its borders as the result of the development of war-time industries. Some properly constituted body can make a fair and impartial review, uninfluenced by State or political considerations, of what the war-time experience of that and other States has been, and to that extent I entirely endorse the proposals made by the honorable member for Darwin.
.- This motion is a futile beating of ‘the air. I believe that it is merely an attempt to gain political prestige for the movement that has been growing in Tasmania to regard that State as having suffered as the result of federation. If any disinterested person cared to look at the figures contained in. the report issued this year by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, he would find it clearly demonstrated that Tasmania has not suffered by becoming a member of the federation. This debate could easily degenerate into a vulgar scramble for State rights, or an attempt by various States to secure a bigger expenditure from Commonwealth revenue. The speech of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) was most illogical and inconsistent. She claimed in effect that Tasmania should have had greater consideration in the grant made by the Commonwealth, but at the same time she definitely asserted that we shall not diminish by a single penny the amount which Australia must spend in prosecuting the war relentlessly until the enemy was defeated and peace once again restored. Her approach to the problem was therefore completely inconsistent, and demonstrated a mere desire to make political capital out of the movement to which I have referred as now developing in Tasmania. It, has been said that Tasmania is a rich .State, made poor, as the Treasurer of Tasmania remarked, by federation. It has also been stated that Tasmania has made by far the greater contribution - I presume that means per capita - to education and social services. I do not desire to go at length into the question of what social services have been established, or education facilities provided in Tasmania, or what the financial needs of the various States are, but I think that it is necessary, following on the three speeches t,11 at have been made about Tasmania, to give some comparative facts regarding the relative positions of the claimant States. Western Australia is a large State from the point of view of size, but a tiny one from the population point of view. Tasmania certainly has a small population, and also a very limited area, so that it is rather difficult to say which should be called small States and which should be called large ones. If any State had suffered from federation to a greater degree than any other, it has been Western Australia. It is far from my intention on this occasion to suggest that Western Australia should receive greater consideration than the Commonwealth Grants Commission has extended to it, but I shall at the appropriate time demand that Western Australian development be pushed on, and that its economic possibilities be taken full advantage of. Developmental work in Western Australia must be undertaken in the interests of the safety of this nation, and the welfare of its people. To secure the defence of this land, the vast coastline and uninhabited areas of Western Australia must be given the fullest consideration when huge post-war expenditure is being contemplated. Let us examine the amounts which the various States claimed, compared with the actual grants recommended by the commission. According to the commission’s tenth report Tasmania claimed £1,000,000, and the final figure decided: upon by the commission was £720,000, or a reduction of £280,000. Basing its estimates on the very real disabilities which it suffers Western Australia claimed £1,500,000, but the commission recommended only £680,000, or a reduction of £820,000. Western Australia has not set up a hue and cry claiming that it has been badly done by, yet clearly it has been more heavilypenalized than Tasmania or any other State.
– Tasmania’s claim may have been more justified than that of Western Australia.
– An examination of the facts will prove that that is not so. Compare, for instance, Western Australia’s financial commitments with those of. Tasmania, in regard to social services generally, or educational facilities in country areas. Also Western Australia has a vast agricultural production, the machinery for which has to be imported from the eastern States, and has to bear the impact of the high tariff imposed to assist secondary industries in those States. The unequal incidences of the tariff was one of the strongest reasons for Western Australia’s claim for a grant of, £1,500,000. It has been admitted throughout the years that the development of Western Australia has been greatly impeded, because that State came late into the field, and because a high tariff has been imposed to protect Australian secondary industries, established mainly in the more populous States. Western Australia based its claim secondly upon the disabilities caused by the impact of federal policy generally upon State policy and State ‘finances, and the difficulties arising from the development, control, and maintenance of a large territory with a relatively small population and limited resources. Some honorable members opposite have spoken of Tasmania’s educational standards and of the large sums of money expended in that State on this work. Actually Western Australia has spent more per head of the population than has Tasmania, but because of the vast areas and many remote communities which must be provided for in Western Australia, the cost of education in that State is far higher than it is in a small State like Tasmania. The report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission shows that expenditure on education in Western Australia amounted to 38s. lOd. per head of the population, and in Tasmania, 35s. lid. These figures demonstrate, if any further proof be needed, that in this respect at least Western Australia, because of its vast area, its limited resources. and its scattered population, has to carry a more onerous burden than does- Tasmania. The same is true of expenditure on health, hospitals, and charities. Under that heading Western Australia expended 26s. 7d. per head of the population, whereas Tasmania expended 25s. 4d.
My object in speaking in this debate is to emphasize that despite the arguments that have been advanced by Tasmanian members for increased financial assistance to that State, it is vitally necessary that at a time such as this we should avoid making further huge demands upon the Treasury to meet purely State needs.
– The honorable member will not say that when a request is made for £30,000,000 for social services.
– We shall go further than that with social services, the results of which cannot be measured by the amount of money expended, but by the benefits conferred upon the people of Australia. I emphasize that although Tasmania may have suffered serious disabilities under federation, a heavier burden still has been borne by Western Australia. To move a motion of this kind is futile. The honorable member for Darwin suggested that a convention should be held to dis cuss this matter, but I point out that such a convention was held not so very long ago to deal with proposals to confer additional powers upon the Commonwealth, and to charge the Commonwealth Parliament with the full responsibility for dealing with major national matters. That convention, although not an elective body in the true sense of the word, was attended by the elected political leaders in the various State Parliaments, and the Commonwealth Parliament. A decision, was reached in regard to the handing over by the .States of the powers required, but honorable members opposite ranged up and down the country during the ensuing referendum campaign, urging the people to vote against the proposals. The Commonwealth Parliament was willing and anxious to assume the additional responsibilities, and the carrying of the referendum would, have meant that governments, State and Commonwealth, no longer could have evaded their obligations by claiming either that they did not have the power, or that they did not have the resources to deal with vital matters.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [8.52).- It is time that we got away from the flavour of red herring party politics, and returned to the motion now under discussion. The mover of the motion suggests that a convention be held. The motion is not concerned with arguments for or against increased grants to Tasmania or any other State. When the motion was moved, the case of Tasmania was cited only by way of illustration, for the simple reason that the mover knew the conditions that prevailed in that State better than those obtaining in any other State.. The main thing is to get down to a method formula by which the States should be compensated for disabilities suffered under the federal system. So long as we have a federal system, we shall have States which will be unable to balance their budgets because of federal policy, and other States which will gain from federal policy, and consequently will have substantial financial surpluses. The comparison is so great to-day that we find in one case three .States, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, are unable to balance their budgets and, so long as the present formula for assessing State grants is used, it will be utterly impossible for these States to have a surplus of revenue; on the other hand, due to the federal policy and due partly, perhaps, to the fortuitous expenditure of war moneys, Queensland, we are informed, has been able to invest more than £7,000,000 in war loans. That is a state of affairs which may require a little explanation to the less fortunate States. If federal policy on the one hand is penalizing certain States, and that penalty is to be compensated by grants, it is equally logical that cognizance should be taken of a state of affairs which enables certain States to build up large surpluses. Take, for instance, one matter which has been referred to by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), namely, the Commonwealth uniform income tax law. Under that legislation New South Wales is in a position to receive from the Commonwealth large sums of money to which it has a legal right, but not a moral right. I am sure that honorable members opposite will find their party loyalty and allegiance severely strained if they be called upon to support the retention of that legislation in the future. This is a matter which must be attended to in the interests of more than one State. Queensland is in an exceedingly fortunate position under federation. No doubt some honorable members will point out that much Commonwealth money has been expended in Queensland for war purposes; but it does not follow that because a lot of money has been expended in a particular State for war purposes prosperity will continue in that State after the war is over.
– It is a little mobile.
– Yes. I say that particularly in regard to South Australia, where a considerable amount of war money has been expended. The South Australian Government will have an acre of headaches when it attempts to convert to peace-time production many of the munitions factories which are now dotted throughout that State, some of them in my own electorate. If at some future date the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) visits Murray Bridge or certain other places where he has been a fairy godmother and Father Christmas, he may find many of the receivers of his gifts waiting on the doorstep asking him what he proposes to do about unemployment. Perhaps the Minister, fortunately for himself, may have gone to a quieter and calmer life before this state of affairs arises, but the problem is one that will have to be faced by his unfortunate successors.
The time has come for a better method of assessing the disabilities of the less fortunate States to be devised. It must be a fair and just method, and one which will be adaptable, and to a certain degree, elastic. Any attempt to form a cast-iron mould will not assist the development of the smaller States. To the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) I say this: Western Australia has some advantages which none of the other States enjoy. For instance, it has the great gold-mining industry. Also, in regard to cold storage it is better off than the other States, for the time being at least. The greatest disadvantage suffered by Western Australia is the fact that it is impossible to administer 1,000,000 square miles of territory from one centre in the south-west corner of the State. The day will come when Western Australia will have to be subdivided.
– Western Australia has contributed largely to the building up of the eastern States, but it cannot get any assistance from those States.
– I know that when the time comes the honorable . member will be able to find a wonderful collection of reasons for slandering the eastern States, and he will cease to be a unificationist in spirit at least. To-day Western Australia has one-thirtieth of the territory of the Commonwealth and New South Wales has 40 per cent, of the population, 45 per cent, of the wealth, and should be one of the greatest coalproducing States, but is not. These things must be taken into account. The whole industrial future and prosperity of the Commonwealth can be vitally altered by a decision made by a few cranks, or crooks, on the New South Wales coal-fields.. That could happen in peace. We see the same influences holding up the prosecution of the war in Australia to-day.
– Order! The remarks of the honorable member are quite outside the ambit of the subject.
– This is an important matter, and is one of those that were argued during a certain campaign not long ago. It constitutes a barrier which whatever government may be in office will have not only to face but also to surmount, because the present federal set-up is one that is not adaptable and is not entirely suitable to the requirements of the community. It badly needs an overhaul; and until it has had that overhaul, in the form of some worthwhile alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution, those things of which the honorable member for Darwin complained so eloquently this afternoon will be with us in fact and in spirit.
– Tasmania had to engage in a long and stern struggle before it succeeded in obtaining the first grant from the Commonwealth through the instrumentality of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The decisions of that body have not been challenged previously, and they would not be challenged now except for party political purposes.
Mr. Guy interjecting,
– The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) is a Labour “ rat “, and can twist either way to suit his own ends. He is the greatest “ googly “ member who has ever come to this Parliament from Tasmania.I have received from the press in Tasmania a reply-paid telegram, asking me to state whether I put my State before my party, and saying that a similar telegram had been sent to every Tasmanian member. The honorable member for Wilmot would do anything for the State, no matter how his action might affect his party’s policy. I have stood not only to Tasmania, but also to the party to which I belong, and will always do so, notwithstanding what anybody says. It is well known that the government party has sought an inquiry concerning the workings of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. If the claimant States are not receiving justice, we shall endeavour to obtain it. This year, the grant to Tasmania of £742,000 was the largest which it has ever received from the Commonwealth. Its first grant was approximately £95,000. If the Government of Tasmania had considered that it had not been properly treated, and had stated its case, the Commonwealth Government would have endeavoured to rectify the position. I was asked to say whether I put my State before my party.
– What was the honorable gentleman’s reply?
– I did not send a reply. I do not reply to questions of that sort. I am not a twister, like the honorable gentleman. He would do whatever he thought was the popular thing. He has no principles, and never has had any. The Commonwealth Government has expended huge sums for war purposes throughout Australia. I am pleased to say that there has been war expenditure in Tasmania. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) mentioned the large amount that has been expended in Queensland. By this means, roads have been constructed in that State. When the war is over, these will have to be maintained, and their maintenance may prove a burden to the State.
– That is a weak argument.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has admitted that the munitions establishments in South Australia may become a burden to that State. Contracts for the supply of huge quantities of primary produce have been met by the Commonwealth in Tasmania. Last year, and again this year, I advocated in this House that contracts for a great deal more should be let, because Tasmania is one of the most stable States in the Commonwealth. Over twelve months ago, I urged the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to place orders for all the potatoes that could be grown in Tasmania, and he did so.
– What was paid for them?
– What was paid does not matter ; the potatoes were delivered. They were unobtainable in Victoria. Australia is in the throes of one of the worst droughts in its history, and produce of all kinds is needed. It would be more economical for the Commonwealth to release men from the Army to plant huge areas with potatoes, vegetables and other produce in Tasmania than to risk planting on the mainland. I say that, not because I am a Tasmanian, but because it would be advantageous to the Commonwealth. The average annual exports of potatoes from Tasmania have been approximately 1,000,000 bags. This year, that State has exported more than 2,000,000 bags.
– Is the honorable gentleman advocating a reduction of the Commonwealth grant?
– I am not. I say definitely that the commission should fix the amount of the grant, and should rectify whatever anomalies may exist. It is natural that the House of Assembly in Tasmania should agree to the proposition of the Treasurer of that State that a higher amount should be granted. What parliament in similar circumstances would say, “We do not want more; we are getting quite enough”? I would support a higher grant to Tasmania. But let us be fair, and say that we will endeavour to secure it if it can be shown to be essential.
– Does the honorable gentleman accuse the Government of Tasmania of having stated the position wrongly ?
– I do not. Tasmania has budgeted for a surplus this year. The contention of the Government of that State is that, because of the huge surpluses in three of the other States, they will be in a better position than Tasmania to provide employment for their people in the post-war years. Tasmania is asking that the Commonwealth shall make a larger grant which will enable it to build up a surplus for use in the development of the State after the war.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Debate resumed from the 15th Novem ber (vide page 1801), on motion by Mr. Scully -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill before the House is one to provide, by the Commonwealth and the States acting in conjunction, £3,000,000 for drought relief in the present year. The Commonwealth will provide £1,500,000, and the States £1,500,000. Those who are to be relieved are the growers of cereal crops in the various States affected by the drought. Stating the matter in those terms, I am quitesure that every honorable member of this House will support the bill. I think, myself, that insofar as it is a bill to provide for direct monetary assistance in one year, it is a good bill; and I should have no difficulty in endorsing it except for one comparatively small point, to which I shall refer a little later.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) made a speech in which he touched on a matter which is almost as old as this Parliament; that is the problem of how far the Commonwealth should feel under an obligation to relieve misfortunes which happen in industries under State control. The honorable gentleman, in dealing with that matter, made a remark which I shall venture to quote with approval, because it seems to me - if he will allow me to say so - to be a very sensible remark on a difficult matter. He said this -
Drought relief normally is a matter for the State concerned, and not a function of the Commonwealth. When, however, drought is widespread, as it is now, relief is more than a State matter and is one in which the active co-operation of the Commonwealth with the States is both proper and necessary.
I agree with that statement broadly. I should, perhaps, prefer to put the matter slightly differently,but only very slightly differently, in this way: That Commonwealth intervention in a field which is not normally one for Commonwealth action, like this one, is justified, first, when the disaster dealt with is nationwide and is not confined to one locality - that is the reason put by my friend - and, secondly, when there is a marked national importance in maintaining the production which that particular industry provides. Therefore, I am very glad indeed to notice that the Minister has laid stress upon this - and I quote his own words - that only those who continue farming will receive assistance. That, again, I venture to think, is a wise decision, because it lays emphasis upon this - that not only have you a nation-wide disaster, but also that, from the national point of view, it is most desirable that production shoved be kept up, for three reasons, which at once will occur to honorable members. The first is that, for the first time for many years, we are actually confronted .by a possible shortage of, for example, wheat in Australia for domestic consumption.
– I do not think that that statement is true.
– I understand that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture agrees with me that it is quite possible that at some stage before the next harvest comes in we shall be in some stress in regard to that matter.
– It is highly improbable.
– I am delighted to receive that assurance, but the two Ministers must settle their difference of opinion between them.
– Transport is the major difficulty.
– That is what I had in mind, and I still think that I am right in what I said. For the first time in many years, we may find ourselves confronted with actual difficulties with regard to our domestic wheat supply in the various parts of Australia before the next crop is harvested. If that be so, that is a very good reason for the Minister doing what he has done, and saying, “ This assistance is being given as part of an endeavour to keep this industry in production. It is to be given to those who continue farming.” There is a second reason for my statement, and that is that the maintenance of wheat production in Australia is now seen very clearly to have a direct association with the world food position. “We have had an excellent illustration of that in the last week or two by the discussions in this House regarding the Unrra and food and agriculture agreements. Australia finds itself, in connexion with wheat production, dealing, not only with its own domestic problem, in the light of a drought, but also with wheat in the light of the world demand for it for a few years after this war. A person would be singularly blind to the food demands of the world, after the war finishes, and indeed before it concludes, who did not realize that the wheat industry in Australia has a first-class international task to perform. I do not say that by way of criticism of the bill. On the contrary, I say it in order to emphasize what .1 find in the Minister’s speech, and that is, first, that here is a case that warrants Commonwealth intervention, and, secondly, that the assistance to be given ought to be in the direction of maintaining wheat production for the future.
I notice, in clause 5 of the bill, that any sum granted and paid to a State under this measure is to be paid to it on condition that it is to be applied by that State in a manner approved by the Minister for the purpose of alleviation of hardship and so on, and that the equal amount which is to be made available by the State is also to be applied in the same manner. The effect of that is that the £1,500,000 provided by the Commonwealth is to be expended under the control of the Commonwealth Minister, and that the £1,500,000 to be privided by a State is also to be expended under the control of that Minister. I am quite sure that this has only to be pointed out to the Minister for him to realize that it is asking a little too much of the States. If they are to provide one-half of the money, it is clear that the State governments ought to have a voice as to the manner in which the money is to be distributed, and that they should have an important voice, because they live very close to the industries with which we are now dealing.
– They will have that opportunity. There will be distinct cooperation between the States and the Commonwealth.
– I am not suggesting anything to the contrary, but, as the bill stands, the whole matter is under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Minister. At the committee stage, T propose to move an amendment to substitute for the expression “ in a manner approved by the Minister “ the words “ in accordance with any agreement or agreements made or to be made between the Commonwealth and that State “. That would ensure that the control of this money would be a matter of agreement - as I am sure it will be in the practical result - between the Commonwealth and the States, and not a matter for single direction on the part of the Commonwealth Minister.
That is all I desire to say upon the actual contents of the bill, but before resuming my seat I shall refer to the broader problem with which this bill is associated. Every honorable member will sympathize, and sympathize profoundly, with those who have suffered from the disaster of drought this year. Fortunately, we have not witnessed anything comparable with it for many years, and I trust that we shall not again see anything comparable with it for many years; but it has hit with exceptional severity the growers of cereal crops, and, in particular, it has hit with devastating severity the growers of wheat. No honorable member will quarrel with what is proposed in the bill, but at least we must recognize that a. measure of this kind is in. its nature a palliative. This bill does not solve problems. It, in effect, says that, for one year there is a problem that cannot be solved except by a grant. Why is it that the wheat industry is unable, without special assistance, to sustain the shock of drought? The answer, unfortunately, is all too clear. The industry has lived precariously for many years, and has not been able to build up reserves in that time. I am not discussing this matter in terms of criticism. I am not criticizing this or any other government. I dare say that all of us who have had some association with policies for years past are wide open to criticism on this matter. I do not believe that we shall ever have the wheat industry in a position to withstand the damaging effect of a similar disaster until we have tackled the problem of giving real stability to the grower.
– That is correct.
– Real stability for the wheat-grower will involve, not only some stabilization of prices, but also the giving of some reserves to the industry upon which it may call in a time of stress.
– Does the right honor- . able gentleman refer to financial reserves ?
– I mean that any system of stabilization for a great primary industry must be one that enables appropriate financial reserves to be brought into use by that industry at times when bad seasons have involved it in losses.
– Something in the nature of drought insurance?
– That is one suggestion, but not the suggestion that I had in mind. I was thinking rather in terms of price stabilization, and of a plan under which, with an adequate measure of assistance by the people who consume the wheat at home, some attempt would be made to equalize prices over periods of high and low prices. I know that that matter has been in the mind of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson). Until we have some long-term system of stabilization for wheat, I believe that the industry will continue to live precariously, and be the subject of political action every now and then. It will continue to be forced into the position, at times of droughts, low yields or abnormally low prices, of appealing to the Government for help. The perfect way is to pool all our intellects, so that the industry may be put in a position to help itself.
In the manufacturing industries in Australia we have long since adopted what I may describe as long-term policies. We considered the manufacturing industries in terms of tariffs. We established the Tariff Board, which, over a period of years, established a very high position of authority in Australia. It was impartial and skilful, and when it made a report it was almost unanimously thought in Australia that the matter had been carefully considered, and that the recommendation of the board was right. The people trusted that body, and the result has been that the manufacturing industries have been able very properly, and most desirably, in my opinion, to plan their development over a period of years. I do not say that the position of the manufacturing industries and the position of the primary industries are entirely analogous. Whilst the manufacturer produces for a known market, the primary producer does not know in advance what’ his market will he. He may produce 80,000,000 bushels for export or he may have to try to find a market for 14!0,000,000 bushels. But the positions of the manufacturer and the primary producer are analogous to this degree, that, if these matters are to be freed from constant chopping and changing by political action, we must strive to produce continuity and a longrange policy in relation to the rural industries.
I have a strong feeling that, if wheat is to be stabilized, the right time to set about it is not during a time of depressed prices, but when the demand, so far as it can be anticipated, is likely to be good, and prices are likely to be remunerative. For exactly the same kind of reason that I have always thought that the right time to introduce unemployment insurance is when employment is high; no great scheme of stabilization ought to begin in the Bankruptcy Court. It ought to begin at a time, if possible, when there are all the possibilities of establishing reserves. Therefore, I believe that the right time for us to tackle wheat stabilization is upon us. We should not merely say to ourselves on this occasion, “We have provided this money. This will grant drought relief, and that is that”, and, so to speak, wash our hands of it for another season. We should say to ourselves, in view of the whole of the international and production prospects, “ This is the time to see whether this Parliament cannot develop a stabilization scheme which will straighten the sharp curves in the wheat industry, and enable this matter to pass to a substantial degree out of current political hands “. It is right that I should offer a word of comment on what is called the “ Scully plan”, although I have heard it asserted that it was actually somebody else’s; but whether it was the Scully plan or the Roberton plan, I feel that I must express some criticism of it. I give credit to the Minister for Commerce, and Agriculture for having made an earnest attempt to solve the problem of the wheat industry, but I cannot see in the plan any prospect of achieving a per- manent stabilization of the industry. At present, the growers who produce more than 3,000 bushels a year constitute only 30 per cent, of the total number of growers, but they produce 70 per cent, of the total quantity of wheat. Thus, the industry has been stabilized on the basis of 4s. a bushel for the benefit of 70 per cent, of the growers, who, however, produce only 30 per cent, of the wheat ; while the remaining 30 per cent, of the growers, who produce 70 per cent, of the wheat, must accept an average price, not of 4s. a bushel but of 3s. 6d. or 3s., or even 2s. 6d., according to world’s parity price, for what they produce in excess of 3,000 bushels.
– The honorable member’s figures are incorrect.
– I admit that I speak without the practical knowledge of the honorable member, but I know that when the world parity price is well below 4s. the man who produces 6,000 bushels receives a lower average price than 4s., while the man who produces 3,000 bushels or less will receive 4s. for every bushel. Thus, the bulk of the wheat, even though it be produced by a comparatively small percentage of growers, has to be sold at world parity prices. Of course, there is no trouble when the price goes up to 5s. or 6s. a bushel. No stabilization plan is looked for then. The matter becomes important only when the price is low. If we imagine that we are stabilizing the industry by exposing the bulk of its production to the world parity price when that price is low then, to borrow an expression from our allies, we have another guess coming.
– Between 70 per cent, and 80 per cent, of the wheat produced in the last two seasons has been quota wheat.
– I understand the Minister to say that even the 30 per cent, of the growers who produce 70 per cent, of the wheat have a proportion of their crop taken as quota wheat, and paid for as such. I point out, however, that the man who produces 8,000 or 10,000 bushels does not assess his results by saying that he gets 4s. for 3,000 bushels, and something less for the rest. He works out the average return for the whole crop, and this average may work out at 3s. 3d. He may then find that 3s. 3d. a bushel is an unpayable price, whereas 4s. would be a payable price. If we are to have stabilization we must endeavour to provide for the whole of the industry, and certainly we must place no disability upon efficient production. If the industry is to be stabilized it must be on the basis of the highest efficiency, and we must, not divide the growers into two sections. We must plan for the whole industry if there is to be any hope for it in the post-war period. We must evolve a long-range plan that will work automatically year after year, one which will, save the wheatfarmer from what has become the humiliating experience of having to come periodically to Parliament and say, “ Please help us “.
I am not indulging in querulous criticism. If somebody says to me, “ You have been a Minister of the Crown, and what did you do to stabilize the industry?” I can only answer that we can never solve the problems associated with the industry by talking about the past. I have given much thought to this matter, as have other honorable members, and I have come to the conclusion that if there is to be any real attempt at post-war reconstruction, we must recognize that there is an Australian cost level, that there is an Australian wage level, that there is a set of principles artificial, if you like, but necessary, applying to other industries, and we must be prepared to apply the same set of principles to the primary industries with a view to putting them on a permanent footing.
.- I support the bill though, like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), I regret the need for it. I agree with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) that the reasons are beyond the control of men on the land, that they must accept drought conditions when they come since they have no means of combating them. This is, perhaps, the worst drought in our history. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture pointed out that in severity it was equal to the droughts of 1902 and 1914. Not only has it brought great financial loss to the farmers, but it has also seriously reduced the nation’s output of food. Immediate assistance is necessary to enable the farmers to carry on, and to prepare for a crop next year.
At a time like this it is right and proper that the National Government should come to the help of the men on the land. I approve the decision of the Government to make assistance available in the form of a free grant, instead of by way of loan. In the past, money advanced for this purpose has been regarded as a loan, and the debt has proved an embarrassment to the farmers for years afterwards.
I am sorry that the bill does not provide some assistance for the growers of vine fruits who have suffered much damage, particularly in South Australia, from frost. It is estimated that losses amounting to more than £100,000 have been incurred, and the effect of the drought, following upon the frost, has been seriously to damage the vines so that it may take years for them to recover. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Government will give some consideration to those who have suffered loss in this way. Their efforts are just as important to the food front as are those of the wheat-growers.
Normally, drought relief is the responsibility of the State governments, as the Minister pointed out, but the present is a nation-wide catastrophe, and it is proper that the National Government should do what it can to help. The Minister made the significant statement that it was not possible for the primary producers to control drought, that they had no alternative but to bow to the inevitable. I believe that it is the duty of Federal and State governments to investigate the causes of drought. Over the years, droughts have cost the nation millions of pounds. It is estimated that the present drought will result in a loss of more than £20,000,000, although the amount paid out in relief will not be so much as that. The grants to farmers will do little more than enable them to put in a crop next year, and the total losses sustained will be very great. Other industries also will be affected. I stress the urgent necessity to do something practical in order to lighten the impact of recurring droughts in Australia. We must get at the causes of drought. In the past, both Federal and ‘ State governments have dealt with the effects of drought, but they have neglected to follow a preventive policy of water conservation and reafforestation. During recent months, particularly during the last few weeks, Hie effects of this neglect have been only too obvious; many parts of Australia, particularly the central and northern districts of South Australia, have experienced the most severe dust storms in Australia’s history. I do not say that a sound policy of water conservation and re-afforestation would have entirely eliminated those dust storms, but it would certainly have minimized their severity. It is time that the National Parliament, in co-operation with the Parliaments of the States, formulated a policy to conserve water. A sound reafforestation policy is also necessary. Unfortunately, large tracts of country lir been denuded of valuable timber; thousands upon thousands of trees have been destroyed by axe and fire. To-day we are reaping the harvest of that policy of destruction. Recently, Australian newspapers and film companies have given prominence to the effects of drought and erosion. We are indebted to them for bringing this matter so forcibly before the people. I hope that when the dust settles and conditions become normal the people will not again become complacent. From time to time, Australia has suffered from droughts, but, unfortunately, when good seasons have returned the lessons of the drought have been forgotten. 1 agree with the Leader of the Opposition that a stabilization policy is necessary, because the things that I have mentioned are fundamental to the success of primary industries in this country. Millions Bf tons of valuable water run into the sea every year. That water should be conserved. I shall not be satisfied until something practical is done to conserve water and to- preserve our forests. The primary producers will not be fully compensated for their losses even if they bc handed a cheque for £20,000,000. Commonwealth and State Governments should take steps to deal with the causes of such losses. The alleviation of distress caused by droughts and erosion is only tinkering with these problems. At a in ore appropriate time I shall deal more fully with -the ‘subject of soil erosion. I hope that the lessons of recent weeks will not pass unheeded, and that Australia will not continue to convert good farming land into dust bowls.
– - I am entirely in accord with the object of th*is bill which seeks to provide grantsto producers who have lost their year’s income. Where soils are suitable, primary producers would be well advised to grow other crops besides wheat, so that in the event of a failure of the wheat harvest they will not be without some income. The primary producers of Australia have been urged to grow more wheat in the interests not only of thiscountry but also of other nations whom we desire to help in their time of need, but, unfortunately, the drought has so affected the harvest that help in tho measure that was expected will not be possible. It would be a calamity indeed if we were to experience another drought next year. In order to encourage greater production, stabilization of the wheat industry is essential. The farmer should not have to carry the whole financial burden associated with surplus production; that burden should fall on the nation. As I understand that there is to be a conference next month on problems affecting the wheat industry, I- suggest that no State should be subject to restrictions in regard to the production of any primary product required by its own people. A policy of . restriction now applies to Queensland. The nation is losing money by paying to Queensland wheat-growers the guaranteed price for only the first 3,000 bushels of wheat from each farm, because every bushel of wheat that is imported into Queensland costs about is. 6d. in addition to the guaranteed price. It must not be forgotten that the granting of a licence will noi of itself produce wheat. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) may authorize growers in Queensland to sow up to 20,000 acres with wheat, but if the price be not satisfactory the wheat will not he sown. The Premier of Queensland disagrees with the policy of the Commonwealth Government in regard to wheat. He urges, as I have repeatedly urged, that there should be no restriction in regard to either production or price of wheat in
Queensland until that State produces sufficient wheat for its own needs. Queensland wheat-growers, unlike those in the other States, do not get the benefit of the subsidies paid in respect of wheat made available for feeding pigs, poultry, &c. Lack of transport facilities is pre venting Queensland from obtaining sufficient feed wheat; many orders which have been placed have not been fulfilled. Proteins and meat meal also are in short supply in Queensland. The supplies of sorghum have been exhausted, and there is considerable distress because of the shortage of feed for poultry and pigs.
– This is a bill to grant drought relief to certain States.
– I suggest that the bill is not wide enough; it should be extended to cover the needs of drought-stricken producers iri Queenshind. I have received the following telegram from a producer in the Western district of Queensland : -
Don’t forget advise Government there is a drought also in Queensland particular area inspected by you. Consideration should be given allow graziers save at least portion of breeding ewes to enable rebuild nock Stop Tracts of virgin mulga in south-west Should bc made available also release bulldozers on hire for knocking mulga in preference to unacclimatized axemen who during summer would not be able to stand trying conditions.
The sender of that telegram stresses that the drought in south-west Queensland is as bad to-day as it was last July.
– No. wheat is grown in that portion of Queensland.
– In the Dalby district some wheat is grown.
– Conditions are good in the Dalby district.
– In all parts of Queensland where wheat is grown the crop is satisfactory. I am not claiming consideration in respect of wheatgrowers only ; other producers also have claims. I emphasize that there is a drought in Queensland which has affected other than wheat-growers, just as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith) stressed the losses which growers of vine fruits in South Australia have incurred. Graziers and dairymen in my district have suffered severe losses’; in the St. George district 2,000,000 sheep have been . lost in the present drought. Several dairymen in the Wandoan district have had to sell their herds because the water supply failed. Last week I saw a Department of Information film showing the conditions in the Riverina, but they do not compare with those in southwest Queensland. For hundreds Of miles one can travel without seeing a blade of grass; the only feed left is mulga, and that has been almost exhausted. Consequently the telegram which I have read suggests that the virgin mulga scrub country should be made available. Last week I suggested to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) that the Government should consider granting assistance to graziers who have lost all their stock. I do not ask the Government to do impossibilities but, without aid how are the small growers who have lost their all to make a fresh start? I suggested two alternatives, either that land be given in the form of a gift, or that the Government should make available loans free of interest in order that they may re-establish themselves. Sufficient breeding ewes should be made available to enable them to rebuild their flocks. I have been through drought-stricken country in Queensland, and I sympathize with those who have lost all their year’s income. I trust that the Minister will give some consideration to their position.
.- In supporting this bill, which I do with great pleasure, I am afforded an opportunity to thank the Government for the relief which it, in co-operation with the State Governments, is giving to the farmer’s and to congratulate the Minister on his magnificent speech on this bill. Wheatgrowers in the three stricken States of Australia will, under this measure, be given an opportunity to start afresh. They welcome this relief, but I believe that their thanks is probably superfluous - this grant is something the nation owes them. There can be no argument about the need to give relief or about the important place the farmers occupy to-day in the economic structure of the country. I hope that that will be remembered for many years after the war has ended. Within my electorate, a huge area has been devastated by drought - the fed marauder. Areas that have never before been known to fail have collapsed. Districts which we always regarded as the best of the safe country of Australia have been devastated. Nothing remains of some crops but a few withering leaves, and farmers are battling against conditions almost, unprecedented in our history. Frequent though drought is in Australia, the uncertainty of its incidence is frightening to men who have been through bad seasons. But with backbone and a belief in the country they are farming, these men carry on. The people of Australia do not know what the farmer has to endure. They know little or nothing of. the trials and bitter disappointments of the man on the land. And yet, our whole country carries on its day to day activities against a background of .rural endeavour, with men sweating in the dust and heat, and sometimes cursing the country they love so much. But there comes a time when the fear that a drought instils in the farmer is reflected among the city people. They visualize some of the hideous things that drought brings in its wake. They see the swirling red dust clouds over their cities, they glimpse the copper disc of the setting sun and for a a few minutes perhaps think of the ravages that the drought is causing out west.
The Minister, in an excellent speech, presented a living picture of the drought and the conditions of the farmers suffering under it. He spoke with sober sincerity, neither over-stating nor. understating the position. He, as a former wheat-farmer, realizes the way the farmers look at this terror, their philosophy in the face of bad seasons, and their willingness to produce all they can from the soil. But drought breaks men and ruins properties. Men producing in a small way have in the past, left the land they had loved and tilled for a score of years because they could not face another year of crushing burdens. Drought and the finance companies had won. But this Government’s attitude towards the wheat industry differs from that of most of its predecessors. It believes that the men must be assisted, in good years and bad. It has introduced a stabilized pooling scheme and provided good prices. It has given wheatgrowers economic security which they have not had for many years. Now it is seeing them through the drought. This Government will not let the farmers down. It intends to keep them on the land, secure in the knowledge that they will salvage something from the wreck. It will help them to continue with the hope, a hope we all share, that the land will once more yield fields of golden grain. The failure of wheat, oats and barley crops affects every section of the community. Food is vital in both war and peace. Already, the drought has threatened our export wheat trade, and every Australian breakfast table, and, incidently, our beer production. Those are the immediate results; but many more complications arise as a result of the importance of our agriculture generally. But even the immediate results provide a lesson for all Australians. This year, the Commonwealth set out to increase our grain production. It made representations to Great Britain and the United States of America for increased allocations of superphosphate. The Japanese, by occupying Nauru and Ocean Islands, struck a blow at the heart of Australian agriculture. Japan, apparently, planned to rob the Allies of vital raw materials. It captured 90 per cent, of the world’s sources of rubber and a large proportion of the oil, tin, and quinine production centres, as well as the world’s richest deposits of superphosphate. Before the war we used more than 1,000,000 tons of superphosphate a year. Last year, because of the loss of these equatorial deposits, our imports decreased to 475,000 tons. At the same time, we were establishing new industries which required superphosphate. We expanded our vegetable production ; and our increased production of food generally, in order to meet our commitments to the allied nations, increased our requirements of superphosphate. Thus, these representations to the British Government were vital to the wheat industry; and the assurance that 800,000 tons would be made available put new heart into the farmers. There is no doubt that the shortage of superphosphate has been the main, if not the only valid, explanation for the reduced area sown, with wheat. However, despite the prospect of increased supplies of superphosphate, the plantings of wheat were disappointing. Whereas the area sown in 1943-44 was 8,603,000 acres, official returns show that farmers intended to plant 9,152,000 for the 1944-45 harvest. However, the land could not be prepared in many districts. Elsewhere, it was tilled and dressed with fertilizer, but not planted whilst in other areas, the grain was planted, but failed to germinate. Therefore, the Government’s plains for increased wheat sowings for the 1944-45 harvest came to nought. The Commonwealth, after consultation with the States through the Australian Agricultural Council, decided to guarantee the producers a good price for oats and barley as part of a general plan to stimulate the growing of coarse grains for feeding stock. These grains were to be sold as stock feed at a price subsidized by the Government so that cheap feed would be available to the dairying, pig and poultry industries. Drought has destroyed the crops. It has wrecked what would have proved a wonderful scheme for the farmers. Let us hope that that scheme will meet with success next year.
Let me now examine the effect of this disaster to the wheat industry. It is estimated that the next wheat crop will be between 50,000,000 and 55,000,000 bushels of which about 40,000,000 bushels will be delivered to the No. 8 pool. It is expected that the carry-over from the cereal year ending on the 30th of this month will be approximately 75,000,000 bushels. In all, therefore, total stocks, including the new harvest, should be about 115,000,000 bushels. Fortunately, our carry-over is many times greater than our usual peacetime carry-over, and our available supplies will thus be greater than last year’s harvest of 109,559,000 bushels. Our wheat commitments in 1944-45 appear to be: local flour 35,000,000 bushels, services and exports 15,000,000 bushels, and stock feed 40,000,000 bushels; or a total of 90,000,000 bushels, leaving a margin of 25,000,000 bushels. As the Minister has so aptly said, a drought like the present comes once in a generation. We can look forward to a better season next year, not with certainty, but with the optimism and experience that agriculture has ingrained in our producers. Thus, we can hope that our exports of wheat may bo 25,000,000 bushels. The Minister, in a recent statement, contemplated that, despite the drought, we might be able to maintain our exports to Great Britain, although we would not be able to export wheat to other countries. That is a bright spot in an otherwise depressing picture I realize, of course, that we shall not be able to grist for large overseas orders for flour. In 1943-44 we exported 33,658,000 bushels of wheat and 590,544 tons of flour. The Commonwealth sought a British contract for flour, knowing that the bran and pollard produced by the mills on a threeshift basis, would provide large supplies of fodder for the pig, dairying and poultry industries. As a result of the drought, production of those valuable supplementary commodities will be reduced. Therefore, we must look to the farmers whose crops have failed this year to supply sufficient wheat next year for the supply of offals and hay to those industries. Without sufficient stock feed the pig, poultry and dairying industries will have a hard time. Our food programme might be severely affected ; but if 40,000,000 bushels of stock feed wheat can be made available to the priority industries, the inter-dependence of primary production will be preserved until the next crop is cut. Since we must look to the farmers whose crops have failed for our new supplies of wheat next year it is important that relief be given to them as soon as possible. I agree with the Minister, that if possible, this relief should be made available by January. The bill provides a valuable measure of relief financially; and the recent decision of the Minister with respect to wheat plantings next year constitutes another form of relief to growers. He has announced that growers whose crops have failed will be allowed to double up next year, and that the Wheat Stabilization Board is to be directed to issue licences for areas in addition to those already licensed. This will constitute a great form of relief to fanners, since it will give to them a practical way in which, with the finance provided by this bill, to grow more wheat next year and to increase their returns above what they could expect from their normal areas.
The Minister has also announced that temporary licences will be granted next season to any person who wishes to grow wheat next year. I approve of this temporary measure as an expedient only, but it must be watched. I know that the Minister appreciates the position, and will do nothing that wall jeopardize the future of the 70,000 growers in the industry. I am glad to have the opportunity to thank the Government, on behalf of the wheat-growers in my electorate, for having introduced this measure. Drought is a hideous thing, and relief must be given to assist the men and their families who have suffered from it. I hope that the day is not far distant when the Government will be able to tell honorable members something about the land itself, about measures for water conservation on a huge scale, about national measures against soil erosion, and about plans tobuild large national fodder reserves to cushion the primary industries against another disaster like this. These are problems which become prominent only when a drought occurs. The wretched spectacle of hundreds of thousands of tons of our good earth being swept into the air and blown across the Tasman sea to New Zealand should make us bestir ourselves. We must preserve the land. We must not contemplate losing our top-soil until the country becomes a dust bowl. We must plan to protect the land, as the Government has planned by this measure to afford drought relief. My belief is that we should plan now, while drought threatens our war effort on the food front and the future farming of this country. For years, our political opponents did nothing, although they are the people who now criticize the Labour party for doing things which they failed to do. If previous governments had carried out the national works which should have been undertaken, perhaps Australia would not have been devastated, to the extent that it is to-day. This Government got on with the job, and will continue to do so. Our opponents frequently criticize us, not in the interests of the country, but for political advantage. But we do not fear them or the charges that they will make against us at the next elections. The Government has a record of which it can be justifiably proud. The farming community in general and the wheat-growers in particular are standing behind us to-day, and will stand behind us in future. I am gratified to have had the opportunity to support this bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McEwen) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Railways Act - Report on Commonwealth Railways Operations for year 1943-44.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of automotive spare parts (No. 3).
Restriction of celery planting (South Australia) (No. 2).
Taking possession of land, &c. (23).
Use of land (3).
National Security (Industrial Property)
Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (232).
National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations - Order - No. 18.
National Security (Maritime Industry) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 46, 47.
National Security (Vegetable Seeds) Regulations - Order - Control of sale of vegetable seeds.
Supply and Development Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 158.
House adjourned at 10.24 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– On the 15 th November the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Lawson) asked the following question, without notice : -
Sonic weeks ago, I forwarded to the Minister for the Army protests from servicemen, returned soldiers’ organizations, and citizens, against an order issued by the military authorities, compelling servicemen oh leave to pay to them the sum of Id. a mile in respect of transport fares from their camp to the nearest point at which public transport is provided. Can the Acting Prime Minister state what action, if any, has been taken to revoke this order, which is considered by all interested parties to be mean, paltry, arid unwarranted against members of the fighting services? Was the order issued for the purpose of conserving liquid fuel, tyres and spare parts? If so> why was not similar action taken in respect of service personnel, in base .jobs, who have the use . of military vehicles to transport them to and from their homes? If action has not been taken, can the right honorable gentleman inform me what he proposes to do i’ri regard to the position?
The object of the instruction referred to was to confer a benefit on the troops, and if the effect has been otherwise in any particular locality I shall be pleased to have the matter examined further. Prior to the recent instruction no provision was made to enable Army transport to be made available for the use of members of the military forces for recreational purposes in non-operational areas. If units so desire charges can be met from unit funds for amenities. The answers to the specific questions asked by the honorable member are as fOllow: : -
The vast majority of base personnel pay their own fares on civilian transport in travelling to and from duty.
Interstate Travel Priorities.
– On lie 15th November, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) asked whether I would review the decision to close the power alcohol distillery at Cowra. I have had this matter investigated and am advised that the present wheat supply position will not permit the operation of the distillery for the time being.
The wheat supply question has been exhaustively analysed by the Australian Wheat Board, and in the light of the acute wheat shortage brought about by drought and demands made for local and overseas flour commitments, increased poultry feeding and starving stock food, there is no alternative to temporary suspension of operations at the Cowra power alcohol distillery. Operations will be resumed at the earliest practicable date.
In regard to the loss of stock feed in the form of offal resulting from the distillery closing down it can be said that the maximum aggregate quantity of stock feed will become available to consumers in the form of offal by milling wheat for flour and by using wheat as a straight food.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Government inform owners of properties in Darwin damaged by enemy or other action that they are entitled to have their homes restored to their original state and quality instead of being obliged to accept a cash payment?
– It is not intended that owners of property in Darwin should receive new buildings for old buildings which may have suffered damage. All owners will receive fair and reasonable compensation, having regard to the values of their buildings at the beginning of 1942 and the values when they are again available for occupation by the owners. In appropriate cases the War Damage Commission may repair or restore property instead of making a cash payment.
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Wool Industry : Report .by Mr. J. K. Jensen.
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What quantity of wheat, bulk and bagged, has been sold from each of the pools, and what has been the average realization per bushel and total realization value -
What quantity of wheat remains unsold in each of those pools, showing -
– The desired information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Waterside Employment at Brisbane.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
Is it also a fact that sub-clause (c) of clause 6 of the Stevedoring Industry Commission Order 72, Port of Brisbane, states that no federation man shall work between 9 p.m. Sunday, and 7 a.m. Monday, but urgent vessels -shall be worked by service personnel ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows:-
Production of ZIRCON-RUTILE
y asked the Minister for War .Organization of Industry, upon notice -
What permits have been issued under (a) Regulation 31a, and (6) Regulation 59a a of the National Security (General) Regulations to zircon-rutile operators in New South Walesand Queensland?
– - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are asfollows : -
Building permits under National Security (Supplementary) Regulation 31a or National Security (Building Operations) Regulations were granted to Southport Minerals for the construction of an engineering shed at a cost of £150 and for the construction of a caretaker’s cottage at a cost of £200 on the- 19th June, 1944, and the 16th August, 1944,. respectively. Permits have also been granted! to Mineral Deposits for the construction of a new engineering shed to cost £600, and for extensions to that shed costing £300. These permits were granted on the 4th June, 1943, and the 4th August, 1944, respectively, the latter permit being extended to £350 on the 12th September, 1944. A permit was alsogiven to Rutile Sands Proprietary on the 15th July, 1943, for the construction of a shed to cost £150.
Australian Foodstuffs : Supplies to the United Kingdom.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The desired information is being compiled and will be furnished to the honorable member in due course.
s asked the Minister repre senting the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 November 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19441122_reps_17_180/>.