17th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read in this morning’s press the statement reported to have been made in Washington by Senator Keane, that Australia wants to secure Britons, Americans and Scandinavians as migrants, but fears that Great Britain and Scandinavia will require to retain all their men to rebuild their own countries ? Is it the policy ‘of the Government to limit migrants to those who may come from Britain and Scandinavia; and if it be unlikely that those countries will ‘be able to spare migrants, is the Government sincere in its proposals ?
-Judging by the reported statement read by the honorable member, I have no doubt that Senator Keane, realizing the importance of a scientific and well-planned migration policy for Australia, was giving a gentle hint to Americans that we would welcome for settlement in this dominion in the post-war period some of the best elements of the American community, such as those who have proved themselves to be such gallant comrades of Australians in the fighting in the islands to the north of Australia. Senator Keane is quite conversant with the Government’s policy, decisions and attitude in the direction of welcoming migration by, preferably, exservicemen from the British Isles, and orphan children of British servicemen. Probably Senator Keane has read the statements that have been made by public men from Great Britain who have visited Australia, to the effect that, unfortunately, Great Britain will not he able to spare very many of its people for settlement in any other country after the war : having such a big post-war reconstruction programme to undertake, it will need to keep practically all of its people. I have read some of those statements. I assure the honorable gentleman that the Government is proceeding with its planning for a comprehensive and scientific post-war migration policy. The planning will be carried to the blue-print stage, so that the scheme may be put into operation immediately upon the cessation of hostilities.
-I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government’s interest in post-war migration is to he judged by the appointment of a junior as immigration officer at a salary scarcely in excess of that of a ministerial chauffeur, or is it intended to make a more suitable appointment in order to attract immigrants to this country?
– I understand that the salaries of many public servants are decided by the Public Service Arbitrator, and that special appointments are made on the recommendation of the chairman of the Public Service Board. I am not aware of the salary paid to the immigration officer mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall have inquiries made, and consideration will be given to the suggestion that his salary should be increased.
– In the course of a press conference at Washington, Senator Keane is reported to have said that the coalminers of Australia had done a magnificent job. I ask the Acting Prime Minister to state whether Senator Keane was speaking for himself or for the Government. If he was speaking for himself, does the right honorable gentleman endorse the statement, which is calculated to encourage the Australian coal-miners in their very thoughtless attitude towards the community of Australia as a whole?
– I have not read the statement reported to have been made by Senator Keane, but I know that he is a very intelligent man who makes forthright statements according to his beliefs. He probably had in mind the record low production of coal while the Menzies Government was in office, and compared it with the record high production that has been attained during the period of office of the present Government, as well as the aggregate production of the last three years with that of the previous three years, in order to show that the record under the present Administration has been infinitely better than it was under the last Administration.
Mr.RANKIN.- Did the Acting Prime Minister see the statement in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning that the miners at one coal-mine went on strike because one of them had to stand in abus for fifteen minutes when travelling to work? “Will the right honorable gentleman send to those miners a copy of his statement on the maltreatment of Australian prisoners of war in Malaya, especially that part relating to the fact that men were compelled to work eighteen hours a day and for trivial offences the men had been compelled, to stand for hours holding over their heads heavy blocks of wood, in order that the miners may be made ashamed of their traitorous conduct?
– I did not have time to read the newspapers this morning, but I shall peruse the Sydney Mornmg Herald and other journals as soon as possible. The honorable member may rest assured that every consideration will be given to his request.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister if it is a fact that in the State ofNew South Wales ten coal mines were idle yesterday? If so, does the right honorable gentleman regard this as evidence that the decisions made at the conferences held at Canberra on Monday are not to be observed ? If so, what action is proposed to ensure that the law shall be enforced ruthlessly, as the Government assured the general public it would be?
– I have not received a report on the coal-mining industry to-day, but I do know that on Tuesday the number of mines idle inNew South Wales was only half the number that were idle on Monday.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read the statement published in the Melbourne Age of the 2nd November, headed “ Strike Losses in War Time”, that, according to figures issued by the British Ministry for Labour, the present year has been the worst year of the war in Britain for strikes; that up to the 30th September, 3,291,000 working days had been lost compared with 1,153,000 for the first nine months of last year; and that the rise was almost entirely due to coal strikes? In the opinion of the right honorable gentleman, is this an indication that even that eminent statesman, Winston Churchill, has found this problem almost unsolvable, and has not been any more successful in dealing with it than has the present Australian Government?
– I have read the report. It indicates that a war neurosis is operating in all the countries that are engaged in an all-in war effort. Industrial stoppages are deplorable. It is evident that, even in Great Britain and the United States of America, there are industrial stoppages despite the efforts of the authorities to have them eliminated.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether or not the average loss of shifts among the coal-miners of Great Britain was less than two shifts a man last year, whereas in Australia it was nineteen shifts a man. Can the right honorable gentleman explain why the considerations to which he has referred as affecting the coal-miners in the State of New South Wales do not affect the coalminers in the other States of the Commonwealth ?
– The honorable gentle-‘ man has made an assertion which I do not know to be a fact. I do not try to justify stoppages in the coal-mining industry, or any other industry, at the present time. They are to be deplored. The representatives of both the coal-miners and the coalmine owners were told that, at the conferences that were held at Canberra last Monday.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, on or about the 30th October, the Prime Minister, referring to the coal-miners, used these words -
Until they reached production of 1,200,000 tons of coal a month to the end of the year the Government would not implement the proposed Federal pension scheme, nor could there be any consideration of miners’ claims for a general variation of their award.
In the absence of the Prime Minister can the Acting Prime Minister give an assurance that there will be no surrender to the miners’ claims.
– I shall be glad if the honorable gentleman will give to me a copy of the words he attributes to the Prime Minister. I assure the honorable member that all statements made by the Prime Minister will be taken into consideration before any decisions are made.
– Can the Minister for Information say whether it is correct, as has been reported, that Mr. Frank Goldberg, an advertising manager of Sydney, is being given an official appointment in the United States of America by the Department of Information? If so, what salary is to be paid to him, and what are the conditions of his appointment? Did he receive a travel priority, and is the Commonwealth paying his steamer fare or other expenses?
– Mr. Goldberg has not received any official appointment in the Department of Information. The Government is not paying his steamer fare or other expenses, nor were travel priorities arranged for him. The Government is not committed to him in any way in respect of an offer he made to me, just before leaving for the United States of America, to try to help Australia while he was in that country. Mr. Goldberg is visiting the United States of America for business reasons. He asked me whether he could do anything to help the Australian war effort while he was abroad, andwhether he could assist in regard to migration, post-war trade and the tourist traffic. I told him that the facilities of my department in Washington would be available to assist him, and he said that he would present the Government with a report when he returned to Australia. Beyond that, there is no arrangement whatsoever with Mr. Goldberg. Any story that he has been appointed to my department for service outside Australia is without foundation in fact.
– Yesterday, the Acting
Prime Minister gave an undertaking to arrange for a conference before the end of the year between representatives of rural producers and the Government in order to formulate plans for the export trade after the war. Will be immediately communicate with organizations of primary producers in the same way as the Prime Minister has communicated with the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the Chamber of Manufactures so that they may be able to prepare a case for submission to the conference?
– Yes. As soon as I can get a little spare time I shall be very glad to give this matter urgent and prompt attention.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether any action has been taken to render more habitable the wooden and asbestos wards of the military hospital at Daws Road, South Australia ?
– With that close attention to the requirements of his electorate which is characteristic of the honorable member, he invited me to accompany him on a visit to the military hospital mentioned, and he pointed out its shortcomings. I shall be very pleased to give prompt and sympathetic consideration to his representations.
– I ask the Acting
Prime Minister whether more than a hundred houses built at Westmead to accommodate employees at St. Mary’s are vacant? In view of the number of homeless civilians, especially wives and other dependants of servicemen, will the right honorable gentleman investigate the possibility of making these homes available as a temporary measure? If so, will he consult the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and the Australian National Service League, which have large waiting lists of soldiers’ wives and other dependants of’ soldiers requiring accommodation.
– Consideration will bc given to the representations of the honorable gentleman.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, before any decision or agreement is arrived at regarding the standardization of railway gauges, Parliament will have the opportunity to consider the project side by side with national works of urgent and great importance, such as water conservation and hydro-electric schemes?
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen the following article, published in the Melbourne Herald: -
LONDON, Tuesday. - Qualified support for the Australian Government attempt to gain greater control of the Commonwealth Bank is given by the Manchester Guardian’s financial correspondent.
He sees no reason to believe that a government will lie less expert in. rejuvenating national financial life than the combined wisdom of bankers.
– I have not seen the paragraph mentioned. I shall he glad to discuss it with the honorable member if he will bring it to my notice. I understand that many other communications ure being received by honorable members on the subject of banking. That statement will be taken into consideration with others.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the commercial banks are circulating their managers instructing them to point out to customers, and others with whom they may come in contact socially, the detrimental effect of the present banking regulations upon the public, and that each manager is required to furnish a weekly report on the matter to his head office? Is it not a fact that the regulations were framed for the purpose of furthering the country’s war effort? Does not the Treasurer believe that this action by the private banks amounts to party political propaganda?
– I have had brought to my notice a number of letters sent to the customers of private banks, and those letters contain statements, which, in my opinion, are intended to mislead customers. I have seen copies of circulars which have been sent hy the private banks to their managers, and these indicate that a campaign is being waged by the private banks to mislead the public into the belief that the banking proposals of the Government, which are to come before this Parliament later, will be detrimental to their interests. Such statements are entirely inaccurate.
– Is the Treasurer prepared to answer all the letters which honorable members receive on the subject of the Government’s banking proposals ? One would not require the wisdom of Solomon to be able to tell the public what are the Government’s banking proposals, but one would need to have all Solomon’s wives trained as typists in order to answer the letters which honorable members are receiving.
– Will the honorable member repeat his question?
– The honorable member for Barker wants to know if you will answer all the correspondence which honorable members receive about the Government’s banking proposals? The remainder of the question is out of order.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is, “ No “.
– Has the Treasurer seen ah article which appeared in Smith’s Weekly on the 28th October last in which it was stated that a depositor of the State Savings Bank of Victoria gave notice that he desired to withdraw £500, and was informed by the manager that he would have to disclose the purpose for which he required the money? The manager is alleged to have said that he had received a direction to exact this information. The story continues that the depositor, having said that he required the money in order to pay his income tax, was given permission to withdraw it, and was then given, not cash, but a cheque drawn in favour of the Income Tax Commissioner. Will the Treasurer make a statement on the matter, because such a story, whether true or false, is calculated to disturb the trust which depositors have in government hanking institutions?
– I have not seen the statement in Smith’s Weekly,but I received a communication from a Victorian source setting forth a story similar to the one which the honorable member has just told us. Unfortunately, the communication which I received did not disclose the name of thebank, nor of the manager, nor of the depositor. I have asked the Commonwealth Bank authorities to follow up the story, and try to learn these particulars.
– Was an instruction given that depositors must disclose the purpose for which they required money ?
– Is it suggested that the State Savings Bank of Victoria obeys any instructions received from a federal source?
– But all banking institutions are subject to the instructions of the Treasury.
– The Banking Control Regulations do not apply to ‘State banks. There are certain agreements with State banks, but I cannot imagine the State Savings Bank of Victoria taking instructions from the Commonwealth regarding what its managers are to do. I am doing my best to find out who this alleged depositor is.
Interstate Airlines - Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited
– In view of ‘the announcement by the Government regarding the control of interstate civil aviation, will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction give a direction to the Secondary Industries Commission to explore the possibilities of utilizing government munitions establishments for the purpose of supplying aircraft and equipment for those services?
– The utilization of government factories f or the national good is constantly under reviewby the Secondary Industries Commission.
– In regard to the nationalization of the interstate air services of Australia, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he consulted any one who knew anything about the subject, such as those controlling the airline companies or others associated with aviation, or was the decision the result of a recommendation of the left wing of caucus?
– The Government, on this and every other matter of national importance, makes the fullest investigation before reaching a decision.
– The operators of airlines say that they were not consulted.
– The honorable member referred in a disparaging manner to government owned and controlled organizations as being socialized concerns. I believe that his remarks will give offence to the gallant members of the Royal Australian Air Force, which is under the control of the Government.
– The Acting Prime Minister stated that the fullest investigation is made before the Government reaches a decision on any matter of national importance, such as the socialization of the airways. Will the right honorable gentleman say why the undertaking controlled by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has not been nationalized during the war as he said it should be? Did the Government, as the result of its investigations, discover that it would be the wrong thing to do ?
– The honorable member’s representations will receive consideration.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister lay on the table of the House the report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Civil Aviation? It is understood that this report was made recently, and it has a bearing on important matters that call for discussion.
– Interdepartmental committees make recommendations to Cabinet for the information of Ministers. The report to which the Leader of the Opposition referred is not a public document, and cannot be laid on the table of the House.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister inform me whether the opinion of the Director-General of Civil Aviation, Mr. McVey, was sought before the decision was made to nationalize Australian interstate airlines ? If so, will the Acting Prime Minister lay upon the table of the House the report of the Director-General upon this matter?
– Naturally, before reaching a decision, the Government took into consideration the views of all individuals who had any knowledge of this very important and. complex subject. When the bill implementing the Government’s decision is introduced into Parliament honorable members will be given much more detailed information than it is possible to make available at present.
– Will the Minister for Information arrange that publicity be given to the fact that a member of the Opposition in this chamber has suggested that the undertaking controlled by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited should be nationalized?
– I shall endeavour to give that fact the widest publicity.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The question asked by the honorable member for Adelaide, and the reply given to it by the Minister for Information, make it appear that I had advocated the nationalization of the undertaking controlled by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. As a matter of fact, in the question which I directed to the Acting Prime Minister, and which he answered so flippantly, I stated that some time ago the right honorable gentleman had threatened-
– Order ! If the honorable gentleman has been misunderstood, he may refer only to the statement made to-day, he may not go into history.
– I am referring to the statement made to-day. I said in my question that some time ago the Acting Prime Minister had said that the Government or he intended to take steps to nationalize the Broken Hill
Proprietary Company Limited. The purpose of my question was to elicit information concerning the intentions of the Government in that respect.
– The Acting Prime Minister has said that negotiations were conducted with persons who have some knowledge of aviation.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not ask a question based on another question.
– Has the right honorable gentleman read in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald, the statement in which the managing director of Australian National Airways said this -
It is completely contrary to the whole tenor of such discussions as have taken place, and it seems incredible that the Government should decide upon the taking of such drastic action without at least some consultation with the airline operators or without giving them at least some hint of its intentions.
Oan- the right honorable gentleman answer that statement, in view of hia statement to the contrary?
– I have not read the report.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether or not British capital is invested in Australian interstate airways? Before the decision was made to acquire civil airways, did the Government take into consideration the fact that it would seriously affect the flow of British capital to Australia for developmental purposes in the post-war period ?
– The Government took all factors into consideration. Probably, to-morrow, the honorable gentleman will raise the subject of the poor widow and the orphan, in order to furnish reasons for the rejection of the Government’s proposal.
– Has the Government formed any estimate of the capital cost of acquiring the interstate commercial airlines from the companies now operating them?
– At the appropriate time, which will be when the bill dealing with this subject is before the House, the curiosity of the honorable member will be satisfied.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the representatives of the Commonwealth Government at the international air conference at Chicago submitted proposals that international airlines should be under government control? If so what was the result of that proposal? Did any other governments participating, apart from the Government of New Zealand, endorse the proposal ?
– The Government is awaiting the report of the deliberations of the conference. It does not base its decisions on newspaper reports.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House what amount of money has been made available by the Commonwealth to the States for the rehabilitation of farmers, and whether the distribution of the money has been left to the discretion of the States?
– I am not able offhand to give the honorable member the details, but I shall obtain the information and supply it to him as early as possible.
– Has the Minister for
Munitions read a press report stating -
In view of that statement, will the Minister review the munitions production programme of this country with a view to restoring munitions factories and annexes to full production, so that Australian troops fighting in this theatre of war will not run the risk of being short of equipment?
– To date, all equipment and munitions required by our fighting services have been supplied, and so far as I know there is no shortage of any war material whatsoever. On the contrary, large reserves of munitions and equipment are held for the fighting services. It is not the function of the Minister for Munitions to determine what types of munitions or equipment are required, or in what quantities. That is done by the Defence Committee, and I can assure the honorable member that upon a request being made by that autho ri ty to my department for increased production of munitions of any type, steps will be taken immediately to ensure that the demands are met.
Prisoners incivil Gaols.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister yet able to supply to me the information for which I asked last week, concerning the number of members of the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia who are serving sentences in civil gaols for purely military offences? If not, when may I expect to be supplied with the information?
– I have asked for the information, but it has not yet been supplied. I shall make it available to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government will consider extending to Australian prisoners of war who were captured in Crete and North Africa the same privileges as are being accorded to men who have been prisoners of war in Malaya? Men captured in Crete have been told that their service as prisoners of war is not effective military service; consequently, they do not get recreational leave. Upon their return to Australia, they were given 21 days’ leave, compared with the two months given to the men who were prisoners of war in Malaya, who in addition have been given the option of either remaining in the forces or taking their discharge. Will the Government see that the men first-mentioned by me shall at least receive fair treatment in regard to leave, and some consideration in regard to discharge? A member of the 2/7 th battalion who had had five years’ service, was given 21 days’ leave, and quite recently was refused compassionate leave for an extra ten days when his wife was confined.
– I shall confer on the matter with the Acting Minister for the Army. I hope to be able to furnish without delay the information which the honorable gentleman seeks.
PAYMENTS on Nos. 6 and 7 Pools - PRICES
– by leave - I inform honorable members that an advance of 6d. a bushel has been approved for non-quota wheat of the 1942-43 crop in No. 6 pool. An advance of ls. a bushel has been approved for nonquota wheat of the 3 943-44 crop in No. 7 pool.
No. 6 pool contains 70 per cent, of quota wheat, and 30 per cent, of nonquota wheat. Two advances, amounting to 3s. net, bagged basis, have been paid to date, and this third advance brings the payments to 3s. 6d. a bushel net for bagged wheat. The advance will mean a payment of £1,050,000 to wheatgrowers. Last season’s crop in No. 7 pool consisted of SO per cent, of quota wheat, and 20 per cent, of non-quota wheat. A first advance of 2s. 1 1/3 d. net for bagged wheat has been paid on non-quota wheat, and this second advance will bring the payments to 3s. 1-Jd. a bushel. The advance will mean an additional payment of £850,000 to wheat-growers. There is still, in No. 6 pool, a considerable quantity of wheat to be sold and shipped, whilst sales from No. 7 pool are not expected to be complete until the end of next year. At a later stage it will, therefore, be possible to make further payments to growers from each pool.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture recommend to the Government that the full advance of 4s. 1-1id. be paid to all wheatgrowers without restriction on quantity for this season only when the harvest will not be sufficient to meet the needs for local consumption?
– I think that the advances already arranged will meet the position. For the first 3,000 ‘bushels there will be an advance of 4s. a bushel, and for the residue there will be an immediate advance of 3s. a bushel. That is a greater advance than any ever made in the history of pooling. Wheat is selling so rapidly and at such substantial prices that I think the wheat-growers’ needs will be met not only for the quota wheat but also for the residue.
– In view of repeated statements by anonymous Government spokesmen, to the effect that egg rationing will have to be resorted to early next year, is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to make an authoritative statement on the matter?
– Negotiations are proceeding between my department and the Rationing Commission, and in the immediate future I shall make a statement on the lines suggested,
Investment in Australia. -
– Has the Acting PrimeMinister seen in this morning’s press a reported statement by Senator Keane in Washington that American capital investments in Australia would bc welcomed on the same terms as those from Great Britain? In view of the statement last week by the Treasurer that preference would be given to British capital investments in Australia, can the Acting Prime Minister say what is the Government’s policy, who speaks for the Government, and what encouragement is being given to British and American capital investments ?
– I have not seen the statement attributed to Senator Keane, but Senator Keane knows that the policy of the Government is to encourage the development of secondary industries in Australia after the war, to encourage Australian manufacturers to expand existing undertakings and to establish others. It is also the policy of the Government to encourage industrialists, from other countries to establish factories here so as to create employment that will absorb the 800,000 members of the fighting services who must be repatriated, as well as others whom we may induce to settle in Australia.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that the New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry has published figures showing that, during the twenty months ended the 31st August last, industrial disputes involved 588,951 workers, and resulted in the lossof 1,461,071 man-working-days? “What is the Government going to do to curb the industrial anarchy which is impairing the country’s war effort, and affecting every branch of Australian industry?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member refers. I thank him for the information he has given to me, and I assure him that it will be taken into consideration when further government policy is being formulated.
– Will the
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider the justice of providing government compensation to stock owners whose stock wastes at sale yards and slaughter yards owing to irresponsible people indulging in strikes and deliberate go-slow methods ?
– The matter will receive consideration.
– In view of the buoyant conditions of State revenues referred to in the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission and in debate in this House yesterday, will the Treasurer take steps to amend the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act so that the Federal Treasurer will be placed in the same favorable position as that of the State Treasurers, in other words, will he have the right to ask for a review of the present arrangements in cases where State Treasuries prove to be over-abundantly supplied with money?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable gentleman’s suggestion.
– Technical schools in Victoria are asking for the replacement of existing machinery and also for additional machinery, from munitions works which may be disposing of, capital equipment. They ask whether the Munitions Department and the Department of Supply and Shipping will give to them the highest priority before any machinery which they need is sold by auction or disposed of in any other way.
– It is my desire that technical schools shall receive every possible consideration in that respect. I have already intimated that they will have a high priority in the acquisition of machine tools.
– I have received from the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The announced intention of the Government to acquire and operate all interstate airlines “.
– 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 step in order that honorable members may have an opportunity to discuss the important announcement that was made in a special statement by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) yesterday. That announcement was in substance to the effect that the Government was proposing to bring down at a future session legislation to take over the civil interstate airlines of Australia, and it was, therefore, the first announcement of wide interest in relation to the carrying out of a Socialist policy. To-day, questions were put to the right honorable gentleman in order to get further information about this proposal, and I say right away that, as I listened to him yesterday, I thought it was a strange and irresponsible thing to be saying months ahead that certain businesses were to be taken over without any regard whatever for what may happen to those businesses in the intervening period’ or to the interests of the public they serve, but my feeling in that matter has been reinforced by the attitude of the right honorable gentleman when .questioned to-day. First, he was asked whether he would table for the information of honorable members the report of the interdepartmental committee, which, as every honorable gentleman knows, sat for a long time and investigated the future of civil aviation in Australia. It is no secret that that committee was carrying on its operations and it is no secret that a great number of people concerned in civil flying in Australia gave their views to it. One can only assume that the committee was set up in order that the Government might have the advantage of some objective examination of this matter on its merits by people whose official position put them in the way of finding out the facts. When the right honorable gentleman was asked to provide information to this Parliament, and, through this Parliament, to the people of Australia, whose money, after all, is involved in the expropriation of those airlines, and when asked to table the report, his answer was : “ Oh, this is a purely private document for Cabinet “ - and I suppose, following practice, for the information of caucus - “it is not a. document designed for presentation to the Parliament “. This is an extraordinary thing. I would not mind if people were consistent; but this Government has made a fine practice of producing departmental reports whenever those reports have suited it.
– Even Cabinet minutes.
– Yes, even. Cabinet minutes, whenever their production suited the Government. But on this occasion, the attitude of the Government is, “ Oh, we are eminently correct. We do not produce the document “. We all know why the Government does not produce the document, and it is a great pity that the public will not have an opportunity to read it.
The second question which was put to the Acting Prime Minister to-day, and which elicited, a curious answer, was aa follows : - “ What is the estimated capital cost of taking over these airlines ? “ That, after all, is a matter of importance, lt may not be the last determining factor, but the people of Australia, when they are presented with a proposal to socialize an industry, are at least entitled to know whether an estimate has been made of the cost of doing so; and it is perfectly clear, from the attitude of the right honorable gentleman, that no estimate has been made at all. All that has happened is that suddenly, in the middle of a session of Parliament, and in the absence of the two most significant Ministers for this purpose, a bald announcement is made for the benefit of those honorable members opposite who applaud the Government’s proposal, that the airlines are to be taken over.
– It is a statement of high principle.
– It is a statement of principle, I agree, but. whether it is high principle depends upon whether one is using the word in its sense of elevation or its olfactory sense.
I desire to make, in the very limited time at my disposal, five comments on this remarkable proposal. The first of them is that the proposal is unquestionably in accordance with socialist policy. That is entirely intelligible, and those honorable members on the other side of the House who believe in socialism will be delighted with the announcement. But it can hardly be said that the proposal is in harmony with the vote just given by the Australian people. It is very difficult to believe that the recent referendum could have resulted as it did, if a majority of the people of Australia really desired the Government to have power to go into business. Yet the first fruit of. the resounding defeat, of the Government at the referendum, is the production of an extensive measure of socialist enterprise in this country.
My second point, is that, the whole proposal is a piece of arrant political confiscation. It is quite true that the Acting Prime Minister, in his short speech, said that the assets of the airline companies would be taken over on fair and just terms. That has almost become a sort of cant phrase. But what are the assets that will be taken over? It is worth asking that question, because the companies in Australia have done work in air pioneering that no government has attempted to do. Their assets consist partly of plant and equipment, a great deal of which is now growing old in the service under war conditions, and partly of goodwill. But the irony of this natter is that these companies have been going through their pioneering days. Their shareholders have met their losses. They have gone through all the literal pains of pioneering air services.
– They received subsidies from the Government.
– They have had to live, to some extent, on subsidies from the Crown; but just as the time is corning when civil aviation will be able to exist in ils own strength and when unsubsidised civil aviation will turn out to be not only a great service to the people but also a profitable investment, the Government steps in and says, “ At this point of time we shall take over what you have, and the benefit of your pioneering work. We cannot pay you for it and we will not pay you for it but we shall take over your plant and let you go “. That, I describe as a simple piece of confiscation.
My third comment is that this method, So far from helping air development in Australia, will stultify it. I know that some honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House believe that a condition of progress is to abolish competition. But very few people in this world really believe that. In air matters above all matters, we have been shown the contrary by all the events of the last few years. It was open competition, not government enterprise, in the United States of America, for example, which produced the Douglas airliner and enabled the greatest step forward in civil aviation to occur. It was open competition in Great Britain that gave us the Hurricane and the Spitfire and so on up to the Lancaster, and enabled us to avoid defeat in the most vital period of this war. It is the spirit and practice of free enterprise in the civil aviation field that gave to Australia its civil air services and enabled it to survive all the risks and disappointments involved in the establishment of air services at a time when they were regarded as a very dangerous novelty.
My fourth comment is that this is a time when the Government should be building up the strength of private enterprise, because private enterprise will have the major share of the work of reconstruction in Australia. I say that now: but I have said it many times and on many platforms.
– It did a great job during the depression!
– Do not quarrel with it too soon. I know that the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) occupies a position of some ambiguity in the Cabinet on banking, but I do not want him to get into holts with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) about what I am now saying, because I propose to quote from a speech which his leader made last August at the time when the referendum was in the air -
The Government recognizes that while there is a place for the expansion of public enterprise in industry, it must look in the post-war period primarily to private enterprise to provide for industrial development and to give employment to the industrial population.
That is a very clear and very sound statement. It is not what I would call a statement of Socialist belief. It is what I call good Liberal philosophy. Later, the Prime Minister said -
Industry must be enterprising, ingenious and determined, ready to attack excessive costs and inefficiencies wherever they may appear. Continuous scientific investigation of the problems of industry, and continuous application of the results are required.
There in two sentences we have the case, not for the Crushing of private enterprise in the post-war period, but for the enlarging of private enterprise, and for strengthening unci restoring it, because in this country, and indeed in every other democratic country, it is the largest single arm that we have in reconstructing our affairs, and the fortunes of our country. Yet, at a time when that is so abundantly trite, this announcement is made and a blow is aimed at private enterprise in an industry in which enterprise is of all things the most significant and the most necessary. Clearly, this announcementwill be followed by others. Are there no “ Hear, hears “ from the government benches? What a pity! I was sure that this announcement was to be followed by others. I await with interest the future decisions that will be made. W° have’ had an announcement on civil aviation; I suppose we shall have one on banking. That would be well within the Commonwealth’s power. I suppose we shall have one on insurance; that also would be within the Commonwealth’s power. Then I suppose we shall hear something about interstate shipping, because, after all, control of interstate shipping is no more and no less within the power of the Commonwealth than the proposal whichwe are considering now. This kind of policy and this kind of announcement, made, and to be made, will weaken inevitably the confidence and security that mustbe felt by those who engage in business and invest in business if business is to be able to take up the task of employing hundreds of thousands of people when the war is over. Occasionally, a good deal is said by Ministers about reviving at the appropriate time the willingness of people to invest in industry, and, apparently as a first encouragement to do so, they now turn to an industry in which people have invested money with great courage, in which people have conducted public services with great courage, and in which atlast there is some sign of reward for efficiency, and say, “We shall confiscate your assets. We may give you some money to compensate you, but we do not know how much it will he. That matter has not been considered yet. We shall encourage people to invest in and develop other industries which will be vital to Australia’s future “.
I shall say one last thing in my limited time; if this Government’s conception of the future progress of Australia is that it canbe attained by providing comfortable government jobs for all, which is, after all, the true Socialist doctrine. God help this country ! If the 7,000,000 people are to survive in this country, they should not be imbued with such comfortable doctrines of life as that; they should possess all the qualities of enterprise, work, imagination, and selfreliance, and socialism cuts across all these. In the case of the civil airlines, I fear that we shall live to see socialism’s most damaging results.
– I am not surprised at the action taken by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) inmoving the adjournment of the House to discuss this matter, because by doing so, he reveals himself in his true rale, namely, as a champion of big business and great vested interests in this country as against the interestsof the people. It is only natural that he should have supporting him in this action a galaxy of political talent, noted for its wholehearted support of vested interests - interests that are the backbone of the Opposition parties.
I make no apology for what the Government has done. In my memory, there has never been a proposal before Cabinet which has had more careful consideration, or the same unanimous approval as this.In fact, it was the unanimous decision of the full Cabinet. It was out of consideration for all the interests concerned - we are not unaware of the fact thatcontrol of a great public utility such as this is a very important question, transcending, at least so far as the Government is concerned, the realm of party polities - that this announcement was made. The Leader of the Opposition knows quite well that for some time all the interests engaged in civilaviation in Australia have been pressingthe Government for a declaration of its policy towards this industry. Frequently we havebeen asked, “ Why do you wait any longer before making a statement “. As honorable members are aware my colleague the Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drateford), who is at present in the United States of America, was asked questions frequently in this House. Also there were numerous deputations to him from interested companies, andmanyrequests for a proclamation of Government policy. They said, “ Why allow the companies and people to remain in doubt?”. Well, God knows nobody is in doubt any longer. Apparently the gravamen of the charge against the Government is that the decision went the wrong way. No doubt had the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues been on thisside of the chamber, the decision would have been in favour of vested interests. The Government has made its decision on the merits of the case - a decision that we believe to be in the best interests of the nation. It is a historic and momentous decision, and one on which the Government will stand.
The complaint that there should have been prior notification of this decision is without justification. This early notification will serve as a clear indication to the airline operators that the services which they now run are to he nationalized. It represents due notification of Government policy, and will obviate the acceptance by the companies of further contractual obligations which might increase considerably the value of the assets to be acquired, and further complicate the acquisition of these public utilities when the time arrives. Had a statement not been made at this juncture, the private companies would have had reason to believe that they were to be permitted to carry on and expand and develop their undertakings. It would have been most unfair to these people and to the people of Australia had the Government not announced its decision as soon as it was made, and where could it be better announced than in this Parliament.
Once again this afternoon the old bogy of the” socialistic tiger “ has been raised. “Whilst the Leader of the Opposition may have succeeded in convening in Canberra a largely attended conference of representatives of all the bits and pieces of defeated political parties in Australia, and in giving them a new name, he has not succeeded in putting forward any new propaganda against the Labour party. I remind the right honorable gentleman that 40 years ago, even greater men than he, such as the late Sir George Reid, demonstrated their great histrionic talent complete with table-thumping, in their efforts to paint glowing pictures of the evils of socialism which would result should the Labour party be ever trusted to govern. The same performance was repeated when the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank was proposed by the Fisher Government in 1910-13. Opponents of the proposal claimed that there was no need for a Commonwealth Bank; that private enterprise could carry on all the banking required in this country without unreasonable interference with its rights and privileges.
It was said, “ This bank is doomed to failure. This nation cannot carry on banking successfully”. It was also said that the notes to be issued would be known as “ Fisher’s flimsies “ and that £1 notes would be worth only 5s. each. Propaganda of the same sort in relation to interstate airways is being indulged in to-day.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman may not engage in a dissertation on banking.
– I am showing the sort of criticism that was then used. It is being used to-day, when the Government proposes to take over a great public utility in the interests of the people of Australia. A canard has been circulated to the effect that the decision of the Government was taken behind the backs of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford). The fact is that the Minister for Civil Aviation was a member of the Cabinet sub-committee which dealt with the matter. Indeed, it was his agendum, and his name appears at the foot of it. It was prepared by him and his department after a searching investigation, and was submitted to Cabinet. Further, he was advised of the decision of the Cabinet, and of the terms of the announcement that was to be made in this House, and in reply he cabled his whole-hearted approval and his blessing. The matter was before Cabinet in December, 1943, and again in 1944, and on both occasions the Prime Minister was present. The Cabinet agendum was fully known to that right honorable gentleman before his visit to Western Australia, and before the departure of the Minister for Civil Aviation for America. This criticism of national control of interstate airways falls down under the facts that are available in regard to private operators. I liken this proposed control to the Government control and ownership of railways in this country. No political party dare advocate the sale of railways to private enterprise. This proposal is bound up with the defence of Australia, and the development of New Guinea and the territory from Darwin to Tasmania. This country must be served with airlines. The work is of national importance and is too big for profit motivated companies. There has been a merger of Australian National Airways Limited and. Airlines of Australia, and it is known that further mergers were in contemplation, one of them involving Guinea Airways Limited. All the evidence before the Government showed that experience and actual results in airline operations pointed to the fact that an organization operating a multiplicity of routes would operate them more economically than would a multiplicity of companies, each operating separate routes. With one operator, there are savings in administration, and administration does not increase in ratio to development. There are savings in spare aircraft, engines, equipment, traffic staffs and supervision, buildings, workshops, advertising, training of crews and ground engineers, and many other expenses, some of which are due solely to rivalry between separate companies. From the economic viewpoint, there is a clear case for the amalgamation of the existing private operators. But the matter goes much deeper than financial results, and involves post-war development and the influence of international operations on internal operations. It is undeniable that the outcome of the present Air Conference in the United States of America will be a plan for international airways which will have an important bearing on Australia’s aviation future. Undoubtedly, not only will Australia be placed in a much better position in the n ego tiations-
– I rise to order. Is the Acting Prime Minister in order in reading a speech in reply to a motion for the adjournment of the House?
– I am not convinced that the right honorable gentleman is reading his speech. I believe that he is referring to copious notes.
– I am not reading a speech ; I am using notes. The honorable gentleman does not like what I am saying, but he is going to hear it. Let us give some of the facts to the people of Australia, as to the annual commitments of the Australian Government, by means of subsidies to these airline companies, in order to determine whether the people of Australia are indebted to them or whether the companies have reason to feel deeply grateful to the people of Australia and the Australian Government for the assistance that they have received. The amounts of the subsidies have been -
From these figures, it will be seen that the total amount of subsidy which the Australian Government has been enabled by the taxpayers of this country to pay to these operating companies during the period I have mentioned, has been £3,367,000. That is the “nigger in the woodpile “. During the last five years, the amount has been £2,100,000.
– Is the right honorable gentleman referring to straightout subsidy, or do the figures include payments for services ?
– They represent subsidy and poundage agreement payments made by the Government of Australia on behalf of the people of this country.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! If there is much more Opposition disorder while the Acting Prime Minister is endeavouring to make his speech, I shall have to deal with some honorable members. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) presented his case without interruption. I shall insist upon all members having the same right, and shall deal with those who try to frustrate my intention.
– In the last two years alone, the amount contributed by the taxpayers of Australia towards subsidies and poundage payments to these operating companies, has been £1,507,000. Up to the present, the Commonwealth Government has spent £4,000,000 on aerodromes and navigation aids. The private companies have the ticket offices, about 28 aircraft and certain workshops. I do not believe that any one would suggest to-day that the railways of Australia should be handed over to private enterprise. What would happen to a bill having that object, if it were introduced in this Parliament? What would happen if legislation were introduced, designed to hand over to private enterprise the activities of the Post- m aster-General’s Department, or to enable private banking institutions to obtain possession of the Commonwealth Bank? Short shrift would be given to any such legislation, and to any government which dared to try to turn back the hands of the clock by handing great public utilities to big vested interests in this country. Take, for example, the British Overseas Airways Corporation established by the Chamberlain Government. The British Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation are Government owned and controlled. I believe that an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia stand behind the Government in its action in this matter. I have never felt so certain about anything in my life as I am that the Government is now doing the right thing.
There is a lot of talk about the interdepartmental committee. I cannot give the whole of the conclusions that were reached by the committee, but I shall give some of them. They were -
The merging of airline companies will continue in Australia as a matter of necessity.
The airline interests claim that they have developed, at their own risk and expense, airline businesses. This is true, but it overlooks the fact that they were able to do so only by Government aid providing a large share of the capital and the annual charges which made this development possible.
– I rise to order. Is the Acting Prime Minister in order in presenting to the House excerpts from a document, the production of which he refused earlier to-day on the ground that it is a document of a private character?
– The right honorable gentleman is entirely in order.
– I rise to order. Do not the Standing Orders lay it down that an honorable member must, if requested, lay on the table of the House any document from which he may quote?
– That may be so. But if every document quoted in this House were called for, extra accommodation would be needed.
– I rise to order. Does not Standing Order 317 provide that, if the production of a document quoted from be called for by an honorable member, it must be produced?
– Standing Order 31 7 reads -
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by Address, may be called for and made a public document.
– On a point of order, I call for the document.
– It would appear that the Acting Prime Minister is quoting from a public document.
– I am not quoting from a public document.
– The Standing Order refers to -
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature
– It has not been so stated.
– I did so earlier in reply to a question.
– I am not sure that the Acting Prime Minister is quoting from such a document as that to which the standing order refers. It appears to me to be quite clear that, if the right honorable gentleman is quoting from such a document, he must table it, unless he states that it is of a confidential nature.
– I rise to order. Earlier to-day, the Leader of the Opposition asked that a certain document be tabled. The Acting Prime Minister said that it was a confidential document which should not be tabled. That is the document from which the right honorable gentleman is now quoting.
– Order ! Decision in the matter depends upon the opinion which the Acting Prime Minister expresses. There is nothing in the standing order which says when a document shall be declared a confidential document. The Acting Prime Minister has not admitted that he is quoting from a public document. It appears to me that, if he is quoting from such a document, and he states at any time that it is a confidential document, it need not he tabled.
– I ask that Hansard be required to say whether or not the Acting Prime Minister stated that it was a confidential document. The Acting Prime Minister said that he was quoting from the report of the Inter-departmental Committee on Aviation.
– There is nothing in the standing order which says at what stage a Minister must declare that a document is confidential. He may do so after he has been asked to table it.
– Go on, do what Mr. Speaker tolls you to!
– If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison; makes any more insinuations againstthe Chair I shall deal with him promptly. The standing order says that if a document is not declared by a Minister to be confidential, it is competent for any honorable member to ask that it be tabled, but the standing order does not say when the Minister shall make the declaration.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to direct the Acting Prime Minister to lay the document on the table. He said that he was quoting from the report of the Inter-departmental Committee on Aviation.
Mr.Forde. -I have notthe report here.
– There are two points at issue, now that it appears to be alleged that the document is of a confidential nature. Proof of the matter can be had by impounding the Hansard notes of what wassaid by the Acting Prime Minister earlier this afternoon, and also by impounding the Hansard notes of what he said immediately before he started to quote from the document. I am sure that at no stage did he say that it was a confidential document, and he cannot say so now. I have asked that the document be tabled, andI ask, further, that the Hansard notes of the relevant discussion be secured and examined.
– The whole matter rests upon the opinion which the Acting Prime Minister expresses regarding the document. It seems to me that only one interpretation can be placed on the Standing Order, which is as follows: -
A document relating to public affairs quoted! from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by Address, may be called for and made a public document.
There is nothing there which states when: a Minister shall declare that a document is confidential. If the Acting Prime Minister does so now, that ends the matter.
Mr.FORDE. - Any honorable member who was listening to the discussion this afternoon will remember that I was asked to lay the report of the interdepartmental committee on the table, and that I replied that I could not do so because it was a confidential report submitted to Cabinet. I understand that such documents may not be tabled. Then, the Leader of the Opposition, feeling that he was quite safe, suggested that there were passages in the report which would entirely alter the opinion of honorable members if only they knew of them.. [Extension of time granted.] The best advice which the Government could get, after a searching examination into the whole matter, was that a single control of interstate airlines in Australia would’ be the most efficient. The Government, having no reason to disregard such advice, unanimously decided that the airlines should be taken over by the Commonwealth, and that notice should be given as soon as possible of its intention, so that all the interests affected would know where they stood. I know that the decision does not suit honorable members opposite. They feel that it represents a forward step in regard to public utilities. They realize that this undertaking will bean outstanding success, that the Government, with the facilities at its disposal, and with the substantial number of new Douglas airliners which have been brought from the United States of America recently, will be able to give an expanded and improved service to the public and that the development of the country and improved service to the people must be given priority over dividends for shareholders. Members of the. Opposition are. harking back to their cry of 1939 when they demanded that there should be “business as usual “. There must be no interference whatever with big business. Vested interests must be supreme. The Government has no embarrassing ties which prevent it from putting into operation the policy which has been decided upon after the most complete investigation. The decision was reached only after advice had been received from the Crown Law Department as to the constitutional position, and the Government proposes to introduce a bill as soon as possible, which will be early next year. Further details will then be disclosed to Parliament, and no action will be taken until the measure has been passed by both Houses of Parliament.In a democracy, the will of the people and of Parliament must prevail over the interests of big business, as represented by the Opposition.
– I rise to order. I should like to know, Mr. Speaker, whether you have ruled forme or against me in regard to my request that the report of the Inter-departmental Committee on Civil Aviation be tabledso that it may become public property.
– I have no recollection of the Acting Prime Minister saying earlier that it was a confidential document, but if hesays so now-
– I did say so.
– I challenge that.
– I stand on that assertion.
– Then that disposes of the honorable member’s request. If the Acting Prime Minister stated that it was confidential, the matter ends.
– And if he did not?
– I must follow the parliamentary custom, and accept the assurance of the Acting Prime Minister that he did. If there is any doubt about the matter he can state now that the report is confidential.
– I did, two minutes ago.
– It is obvious that the Government has something to hide in regard to its taking control of private airline companies. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) failed utterly to answer the charges of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). He advanced a most specious argument in an endeavour to justify the secret action of the Government in deciding to acquire interstate airlines. He stated that he was not surprised at the action taken by honorable members on this side of the House in challenging the decision of the Government. There is no reason why he should be surprised, because the action of the Leader of the Opposition is consistent with the avowed policy of the Opposition, enunciated openly and consistently time after time; namely, that it stands for private enterprise as opposed to undue and unwise socialization. Just as the Acting Prime Minister is not surprised at the action of the Leader of the Opposition, so I am not surprised at the action of the Government. It is obviously a first and determined step to apply the Labour party’s fundamental policy of socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The Government came back from the people after the last elections with a definite mandate for socialization. The people would not believe me and other members of the Opposition when we stated that if they returned the Labour Government they would have imposed upon them socialization under the guise of war needs. The Government denied that it intended to do anything of, the kind, but I have here a record of the very definite pledges given on the point by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and other senior Ministers. There was no ambiguity about their pledges. In reply to my charge that the Government was out to socialize industry under the pretext of furthering the war effort, the Attorney-General, on the 4th August, 1943, when opening his election campaign in Hurstville, said -
There would be more room for private enterprise and business initiative after the war than ever before.
I ask the House to note particularly that declaration by a senior Minister of the present Government. Does the Attorney-General to-day hold the views that he held fifteen months ago? If he does, perhaps be would explain to the House and to the nation why, as a member of the War Cabinet, he endorsed the decision that the Government should assume control of a major private enterprise, namely, the civil aviation companies. In his Hurstville speech, the Attorney-General made these further pertinent observations -
The Commonwealth Constitution gave no general power to nationalize industry. There whs a limited power over expropriation, subject to just compensation. The power of expropriation was limited to specific Commonwealth purposes, but there was no general power to nationalize industries.
Therefore, the charge of socialization against the Curtin Government had no foundation.
In fact, this statement was used in a Labour party election advertisement, which carried a photograph of the AttorneyGeneral and bore the caption “Dr. Evatt ends an argument “. Here are some other quotations which will show the emphatic nature of, the declarations made by the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral. On, the 11th May, 1943, the Prime Minister said -
We are not fighting this war on text books written by Karl Marx, nor on the text books by Herbert Spencer. 1 am concerned only with the economic measures necessary for the prosecution of the war. . .
Surely it is not seriously suggested by any member of the Government or of the Labour party that the decision of the Government to nationalize interstate airways has been taken in the interests of the country’s war effort, or indeed, that it is anything other than an act of appeasement for the benefit of those socialistic members of the Labour party who have for so long been clamouring for socialism. I know that this decision represents a great victory for certain members of the Government, and some of the “ boys “ are up in the air about it.
The Acting Prime Minister made it quite clear that the nationalization pf interstate air services is to be permanent. Therefore, it will continue long after the war has ended. How does that square with the Prime Minister’s assurance that there would be no socialization of industry or dislocation of fiscal policy so long as the war lasted ? On the 23rd July, 1943, the Prime Minister said -
The Labour Government has’ not, socialized Australia and does not intend to do so just because we are at war.
Shortly afterwards, on the 16th August, at Perth, the Prime Minister, in reply to my assertion that we should get socialism with a vengeance if his party were returned to power, had this to say -
The Government’s proposal is to organize Australia not for the purposes of socializing or capitalizing but to get the utmost strength to defeat Japan.
The Commonwealth Government has no power to socialize anything even with itf war-time powers.
On the 19th August, the Prime Minister made a further declaration on the subject in these words -
The Commonwealth Parliament has no power to socialize industry. I say further that my Government has not socialized any industry. I say further that my Government will not during the war socialize any industry. The reason is that all the physical things requisite to war can, under the National Security Act, be directed for the purposes of war. Therefore, all the talk of socialization in this election campaign is irrelevant.
So, from the quotations I have made, there emerge these facts -
The Attorney-General, while stating in August last year that there would be more room for private enterprise and business initiative after the war than ever before, in November, 1944, endorses government action designed to put several private industries out of business.
The Attorney-General, who said in August, 1943, that the Commonwealth Constitution gave no general power to nationalize industry, apparently takes the view in November, 194’4, that there is no legal obstacle to nationalizing the airline companies.
The Prime Minister’s view in August last year that the Commonwealth Parliament had no power to socialize industry is obviously not now held by him or by his colleagues because he is stated to have had full knowledge of the Government’s intention to take over the airline companies.
We have striking evidence of a deliberate breach of faith and of the Government dishonouring the pledges that the Prime Minister and his Attorney-General gave to the people. [Extension of time granted.]
The country was given definite pledges that ‘there would be no socializing of or interference with industry, particularly war. industry, during the war.
The answer is supplied in the Acting Prime Minister’s declaration and the bill which will come before Parliament. The Acting Prime Minister to-day stated that this matter had been considered consistently by the Government since as far back as 1942. So, obviously the intention to take over the airlines and introduce that form of socialism was known to every member of the Government, including the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, during the last general elections, and the referendum campaign. With regard to the economics of this matter there is another point. The Acting Prime Minister stated, speciously, the economic cost of maintaining the airlines and endeavoured to mislead the House and the country into believing that the figures which he gave were in connexion with subsidies only until he was questioned by the Leader of the Opposition. I say to the Acting Prime Minister and to the Government that if the Government did not get value for the money expended, not only on subsidies, but also on the carriage of mails, which brought more revenues to the postal department, it had the right to bring the matter before Parliament long before now. It would have announced its intention to socialize the airlines on the occasion of the last general elections.
– I do not intend to spend much time debating this motion. I am astounded that such a motion should have been moved. Yesterday there was an announcement of Government policy, and in a long parliamentary life, this is the first time such an extraordinary attitude has been taken. The whole matter can be dismissed with a couple of sentences. It was discussed by Cabinet after exhaustive inquiries and research over a long period, and the decision was reached unanimously that the interstate airlines of Australia should be nationalized.
– In the absence of the Prime Minister.
– With the Prime Minister fully aware what was being done.
– He did not agree with the decision.
– It was a unanimous decision of Cabinet, and also a unanimous decision of the party in both Houses. It will be carried into effect. Whatever emerges from here or anywhere else, nationalization of the airways will be accomplished. It seems to me that the right thing for honorablegentlemen to do would have been to wait until they had the proposed legislation before them and then discuss the matter, but so anxious are they, particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), immediately any attack is made on rapacious monopolies to rush to their defence -
– It is not a monopoly.
– It is not the first time, and I do not suppose that it will be the last time, monopolies have been defended by the honorable gentlemen of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition talked about “ this policy of socialism “. This is a matter of the linking of a further transport system with the already nationalized transport systems of this country, the railways, tramways and motor-bus systems. The Opposition parties were in office for years, but made no attempt to remove the postal department from national control. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) wants to extend the socialized electricity systems. He has written a book about it. “Socialism” is a catch-word now just as it was in the late Sir George Reid’s day. It is a wonder that honorable members of the Opposition have not used the tag “ communism. “. They have never dared to abolish national control of various public services which form a part of the economic life of the country, because they know that any government which attempted to do so would not last.
– The honorable gentleman will not last.
– I have been many years in this House and, if God spares me, I shall outlast the honorable member, even though he is much younger than I am. It is trite to say that air transport, with its great development since the war, will gradually become the most popular means of transport. The people, through the Commonwealth and State Governments control the great national railways of this country as well as the tramways. The tramways in every city, even in the cities of the most conservative State of the Commonwealth, Victoria, where, owing to the gerrymandering of the electorates, Labour has little chance of attaining power in the legislature, the railways and tramways are socialized. The people have invested huge sums in the railways and tramways. The development of this country by means of the railways has involved the taxpayers in vast losses. The development of railways was not attractive to private enterprise, and it did not want to enter that field, “but, because of its character, air transport became a means of profitable investment. Honorable gentlemenopposite want to snatch this type of transport from the control of the Government. The Leader of the Opposition said that government control of air transport would stifle its development. It will do nothing of the sort. It will stimulate it, and it will make it possible to give more efficient and safer service to the public than ever private enterprise could give. National control of air transport will stifle one thing, the development of monopolist control ofthe air, which is what the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues desire. Australian National Airways is already endeavouring to monopolize air transport in this country and is about to absorb Guinea Airways.Qantas is enteringinto mergers toenable it to become a monopolistic concern. The anxieties of honorable gentlemen opposite on behalf of private air transport companies arise from the fact that from those companies money flowsinto their party funds. Perhaps some honorable gentlemen have shares in the companies or are thinking of investing in them. Those are the reasons why they are fighting the action of this Government to take control of the development of air transport in Australia, which must become a most profitable investment for the people as a whole, because it will be one of the chief forms of transport in the early post-war years. When the New Year comes,the proposed bill will go through this Parliament and the CommonwealthGovernment will control interstateairways. I am prepared to gamble thatif a miracle happens and honorable gentlemen opposite, within the next two years, as forecast by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), regain office it will not dare to allow the control of air transport to revert to private hands. My last word on this matter is that it is vital that the Government should control air transport in the interests of the railway systems of this country, in conflict with which it is inevitable that air transport will come. The only way in which both systems of transport may be made solvent and the taxpayer protected against exploitation by monopolists is by taking air transport under government control in order that our transport systems may be co-ordinated.
.- The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) declared that the proposal of the Government to take over interstate airlines in Australia is historic and momentous.It certainly is, and it will be long remembered in Australia’s democratic decline. The Acting Prime Minister misled the House on two matters. When he referred to subsidies paid by theCommonwealth Government to aviation companies,he included the amounts paid for the transport of mails, totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds, as if that were unjustified expenditure. He said also that the proper authorities were consulted about the Government’s proposal. When I questioned him, he rudely replied that I was casting a reflexion on the Royal Australian Air Force. He cannot speak for the Royal Australian Air Force, nor can any otherhonorable member in this chamber. One of the bright spots about civil aviation in Australia is ‘the high calibre of the young men who have participated in it. One of the private airlineoperators, Air Vice-Marshal Bennett, is to-day world-renowned as the creator of the “ Pathfinders “.. No one has played a greater part in the bomber war than he has in enabling bombing by precision to be carried out. So the Minister misled the House on two vital matters. He stated that the Government had consulted the proper authorities about its proposal, hut this was denied by those controlling the civil airlines in Australia. He also misled the House about payments to civil aviation companies for thetransport of air mails.
Civil aviation in Australia has as fine a record of achievement as in any other country. In fact, there was a time when Australia led the world, and the length of our airlines, before the greater range of aircraft developed, exceeded that of any other country. Australia’s record is not only an individual but also a corporate one. I recall historic names such as Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Sir Ross Smith, Sir Keith Smith, Hinkler, Butler, Melrose and Hudson Fysh, the man who founded and developed Qantas. If any honorable member has travelled in other countries, he will know the high reputation of Qantas. Honorable members should read Front Line Airline, the war record of this company, whose pilots, in Australia’s emergency, brought across the Pacific such aircraft as the Catalinas.
I do not believe that monopolies should be encouraged. When I was a Minister, [ always endeavoured to clip the claws of monopolists, particularly trade union monopolists who tried to monopolize the labour market. I should not like to see civil aviation under one control. There are big aviation companies in Australia, including Qantas and Australian National Airways, and smaller companies such as the MacRobertsonMillar Aviation Company. Who would say that the small air service between Alice Springs and Wyndham, operated by a young man named Connellan, has anything to do with a monopoly? Former governments approved the establishment of these small airlines for the purpose of preventing the growth of a monopoly, because aviation, unlike a railway, is a form of transport which can be switched from place to place. Small operators can come ro the rescue if big operators are unfair ; but nothing has been adduced to show that the big operators are unfair!
I wish that the Government would be frank about the report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Civil Aviation. When I asked on many occasions for the report, my requests were met with evasions and refusals, and the document was not laid on the table of the House. But the Acting Prime Minister read bits and pieces from it to suit himself, without allowing members of the Opposition to see it, and declared that the report was confidential. The only document available to the Opposition is a report on civil aviation in Australia and New Guinea in 1940-41, issued by the Department of Civil Aviation. Portion of that report, reads -
The loading on the regular services has been extremely heavy - in excess of 70 per cent, in some cases - and owing to the reduced number of aircraft in use those available are of necessity in use over long hours daily. Notwithstanding this pressure it says much for the organization of the civil companies and the skill and care of the pilots that not a single accident involving death or serious injury has occurred on any regular airline route for the second year in succession, and during this year over C7,000,000 passenger miles have been flown. This in itself is a valuable contribution to flying morale and sets a standard of achievement.
That is a governmental report on civil aviation companies, whom the Government is now endeavouring to destroy and which have not been invited to express their views upon the Government’s proposal. I can imagine the confusion in which civil aviation companies will conduct their business during the next six months while the Government is framing legislation to give effect to its proposals. Some honorable members opposite frankly admit that they are Socialists, and others go beyond even that. I agree that some things can be conducted better by the Government than by private enterprise. English Socialists do not adopt the rabid form of socialism that is so noticeable in some honorable members in this chamber. They believe that we should take into account the efficiency of the service, and’ that a post office or the like can be conducted better under government control than by private enterprise. As a matter of fact, civil aviation is now controlled by a government department ; and can be conducted by the Government and free enterprise in partnership. But to-day, the Go:vernment will blot out all that efficiency and pioneering work by men who are renowned throughout the world. They will leave Australia if the Government’s proposals are given effect. Not many months ago, I met Captain P. G. Taylor on the steps of Parliament House. He was going to another part of the world because there was not enough work for him here.
The Government should give private enterprise an opportunity to expand. I understand that Ansett Airways, one of the smaller companies, has submitted to the Government plans for its expansion. Let me make it clear at this juncture that I have no interest in any aviation company except the Australian Aerial Medical Service, which I played some part in pioneering and which depends on private enterprise and a government subsidy to-day to carry out this humanitarian service. I inform honorable members opposite, who discovered aviation only recently, that this aerial medical service has saved more lives than have been lost in civil aviation in Australia. For over 30 years I have sponsored and advanced anything advantageous to aviation in Australia, because I believe that aviation can be of greater use to this great country, with its sparse communications and great area than to any other country. Let us not be guided by dogma, or swallow socialism! Let us examine factual matters. I am sure that some supporters of the Government believe that the proposal to take over airlines in Australia will be detrimental to civil aviation.
Mr.Ward. - No, we are unanimous.
– I know that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) sees visions of himself controlling every form of transport, including horses and jinkers. We have an example of his capabilities in the “ splendid “ railway service between Goulburn and Canberra, about which I have asked many questions. For fifteen years I have tried to induce the Government to put into operation a reasonable air service with this capital city.
– The honorable member was a Minister for some years, so he could not have exerted much influence with various governments.
– I was responsible for some of the small airline operators getting their charter, in order to discourage the growth of a monopoly. I should like to know, too, what the Government proposes to do with the Douglas aircraft which it recently permitted one of the private companies to purchase in the United States of America. Will the Government take over those aircraft?
This proposal is most drastic because the civil aviation companies operated with great efficiency and initiative and had an excellent record of safety. But honorable members opposite will curb them, and lay the dead hand of governmental control on what should be the most advanced form of communication in this country. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), who is now in the United States of America, expounded this socialist policy to other nations, but they scoffed at him and rejected his ideas. So the Government is trying out the scheme in Australia. [Extension of time granted.] This is a time in our history whenwe should be looking to the future. We must encourage migration in order to enable us to hold this great country for all time against any aggressor. We should also encourage the investment of overseas capital in Australia for the purpose of assisting our industrial expansion, creating employment and increasing our prosperity. But if the Government embarks on an out-of-date policy, honorable members can be sure that Australian airmen will look elsewhere for employment. Thousands of members of the Royal Air Force desire to migrate to Australia after the war, and they will find employment here if private enterprise is allowed to display initiative and is not checked by theGovernment, although it must be guided by the Government. But if civil aviation companies are taken over by the Commonwealth Government, investors and airmen will have to look elsewhere. Let the Government heed my warning and thoroughly explore its proposals before attempting to give effect to them! This is not a political matter but it will have a vital effect upon the progress of Australia.
– Hear, hear!
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) is a socialist, and will socialize anything that lies within his power. We have seen some evidence of his efficiency. If his standard is to prevail in air communications, will the people be satisfied? Let us prevent any democratic decline in Australia and not embark on socialist enterprises unless they will be for the best. Certainly, the present proposal of the Government does not fall in that category.
– I believe that the decision of the Government in this case is probably the most far-reaching and. excellent it has made since it took office. T am not surprised at the attitude of members of the Opposition, because I quite understand their violent reaction to the decision of the Government to implement a portion of its policy. They must earn their fee from the vested interests in this country who subscribe to their political funds. When private enterprise is challenged,- honorable members opposite must rush to defend it. But in the opportunities presented to them, they have not shown us the great advantages which, they say, will accrue by retaining private ownership and control of our interstate airlines. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) referred to the report of the InterDepartmental Committee on Civil Aviation and asked that it be tabled. Departmental officers do not determine government policy. They advise the Government, but it is for the Government to say whether that advice shall be followed in every detail. Actually, great disadvantages could overtake the people of Australia if this Government had not been courageous enough to adopt this proposal for taking over interstate airlines. The Acting Minister for Air (Mr. Lazzarini) pointed out the difficulties that will arise in the post-war period if those air services remain under private control. He drew attention, to the many millions of pounds of government funds now sunk in State railway services. I am amazed to think that any member of the Australian Country party should oppose this proposal. What would be the position when the war ended? It is recognized that aircraft could not carry what is regarded as lowgrade freight. They would take only the cream of the traffic, with the result that unlimited competition by privatelycontrolled airlines would cause the railways to operate at a considerable loss. That loss could be offset in two ways: either by heavier taxation, or higher freight charges which would be detrimental to country interests.
The Leader of the Opposition was disturbed because in taking this action, theLabour party is implementing a portions of its policy. In a democracy surely thereis nothing wrong with a government, which has a. substantial majority in! Parliament implementing the policy approved by the people at the polls?.’ Actually, this decision shows the Government’s desire to keep faith with the people. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of referendum results, but I do not regard the result of the last referendum as a complete rejection of the proposals advanced by the Government. I am strongly of the opinion that a great deal of public support was not forthcoming for the Government’s proposals because many people thought that the Government was too hesitant in putting its policy into operation. The decision to nationalize air services will have an exhilarating effect upon the people, because they will realize that the Government is prepared to put into effect the policy which was approved at the last elections.
The Leader of the Opposition said that he would deal with five points. With these five points, and the various points of order raised by honorable members opposite, I am reminded of a steer - a point here and there and a lot of bull in between. However, the first point made by the right honorable gentleman was that the Government’s decision amounted to confiscation. I fail to see how that argument can be sustained. The Government is merely doing what it is empowered to do by the Constitution, namely, acquiring plant for. Commonwealth purposes on just terms. The Leader of the Opposition then referred to the assets of the private companies now conducting airline services and sought to establish that the equipment used by these organizations, although it had rendered a wonderful service during thewar years, was now getting old, and that,, as a result, compensation for its acquisition would be fixed at a low figure. That may be quite true. In view of the profits that have been earned by these aircraft* a high valuation may not be placed upon them, but I am sure that if the airline- companies are treated as well as the honorable member for Parramatta, Sir Frederick Stewart, was when he disposed of his bus services in Sydney, they will not be disappointed. Just what are the assets ‘of this industry? Prom the speeches of honorable members opposite one would gather that all these assets had been furnished by private enterprise, but the fact is that the Government has more money invested in civil aviation in this country than all the private airlines combined. Under the present arrangement, the Government provides air terminals, radio location facilities, and ground staff operators. Also, by means of subsidies, the Government has enabled private companies to establish certain air services and keep them in operation. Honorable member: opposite are not very much concerned when it is a question of sacrificing the assets of the people; it is only when the assets of their friends are affected that they become alarmed. I have a clear recollection of what happened to the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, which represented a huge public investment. A government formed by the parties now sitting in opposition, was quite prepared to sacrifice that asset, and also to make such ti loose agreement with the purchaser that the full purchase price was never obtained. These are the gentlemen who claim now that the Government’s aim is to abolish competition in air services. In. my opinion it is a very good thing that competition in these services should bo abolished, and I shall deal with that matter in a few moments.
The Leader of the Opposition expressed concern about the treatment which was to be accorded to the pioneers of air transport in this country. I notice, however, that the right honorable gentleman did not name any of these so-called pioneers. Anybody might imagine that they were small investors who decided to risk their life’s savings in the establishment of air travel; but “let us see who are the shareholders :in Australian National Airways, the “largest company conducting air services in this country at present.
– Australian National Airways is not a pioneering company.
– No, that is the very point to which I am coming. The real pioneers have been swallowed up by big vested interests.
– Some of them are still operating.
– Let us look for some of these struggling pioneers amongst the shareholders in Australian National Airways. For instance, there is Huddart Parker Limited, with 74,999 shares; the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited, with a similar number; Holyman Brothers Proprietary Limited, also with a similar number ; the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, with 75,000, and the Orient Steam Navigation Company, with 74,998. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition was speaking of men named Webb, Souter, and Johnson, who each have one share. The right honorable gentleman said that control of the airlines must be left to private enterprise for the purpose of reconstruction when the war ends. Has he even heard of private enterprise initiating an unprofitable air service to any part of Australia? Of course not. Left to itself, private enterprise will undertake only profitable lines. If losses are unexpectedly incurred, they want the Government to make up the deficiency, and if they operate at a profit they want to keep it. all to themselves. That has been the history of private enterprise in control of air travel in this country. What would happen after the war if air services were to remain in the hands of private organizations? The result would be that air services would not be established to certain country areas, where operations would not be profitable because of limited population, and population can be brought to country areas only by the construction of railways. On the one hand, the people of this country would be taxed to pay for the provision of railway services, and, on the other hand, the privately owned airlines would be permitted to take the cream of the traffic. Here are one or two illustrations of what private enterprise will do: Sydney Ferries Limited is a privately controlled organization. When the ferry service to Watson’s Bay became unprofitable, did that company worry about the welfare of the residents of Watson’s Bay? No, it ceased to provide a service. To show the advantages of government control as against privately owned enterprise, I next cite the Sydney buses. When they were made a government undertaking, screeches of protest were heard from a few people - I do not include among them the honorable member for Parramatta, who did so well out of the deal - but although anti-Labour governments succeeded the Labour Administration which assumed control of bus services in that city, no attempt was ever made to restore the services to private ownership. To-day the bus service in Sydney is operating more efficiently than ever before.
I come now to the question of safety in air travel. This is a matter to which reference has not yet been made. It is quite true that the present air services have operated very successfully, and that they have a great safety record; but I point out that the men responsible for that record are the pilots operating the aircraft, and the ground staffs, who make the aircraft serviceable. At every opportunity, I have discussed this matter with the men operating aircraft, and on no occasion have I met any one who has not been in favour of government control of these services. Apparently, the honorable member for Balaclava would have us believe that the wealthy individuals who sit behind the scenes collecting profits and taking no risks are responsible for the safety of the airline services. I contend that safety would be increased under government control. Private companies operating for profit make profit their first consideration, and are prepared to take chances and risk lives in a manner which a government service would not tolerate. Aircraft have been lost because of overloading. Why? Simply because private enterprise wanted to get the maximum profit from its investment.
– Who told the Minister that?
– I obtained the information from pilots in the airline services. Men actively engaged in those services have told me that planes were lost in Bass Strait in the early days of the service to Tasmania, because it is believed they were overloaded. They were carrying too big a passenger load, and were not able to carry sufficient petrol, the result being that they were forced down into the sea before completing their journey. With the Government in control, safety would be a major consideration. Pilots would not be asked to risk their lives and those of their passengers by leaving in unfavorable weather. Under private control that is what has happened’. Therefore, I say that it is to the advantage of the people of this country that there should be government control of civil airlines. [Extension of time granted.’]
To-day, the carriage of mails is regarded as of very great importance, and the tendency throughout the world is that air transport should be used for this purpose. The transport of mails is a government responsibility, and is a highly remunerative undertaking. Being a government responsibility, is it wrong that a government should use a government airline service for the purpose wherever required?
If we failed to have a governmentoperated and controlled airline service at the termination of; the war, probably we would not be able to maintain an aircraft construction industry in this country. It is important for the defence of this country that we should build up an industry for the construction of all types of aircraflt. What has happened with our interstate shipping services under private control and with anti-Labour governments in office? When vessels were required for those services they were not built in this country, but were purchased overseas because they could be obtained more cheaply. So, at the end of this war, if the airlines remained under private control, aircraft to operate them would always be purchased overseas, with the result that the aircraft construction industry would never be firmly established in this country. On the other hand, if we link the operation of civil airlines and the construction of aircraft in Australia, there will be a sure market for the locally produced planes, and the success of the industry will be assured. I hope that the Government will not stop at interstate airlines, but will explore the possibility of taking over intra-state lines, so that when the war ends people in the outback areas will be guaranteed adequate air transport which otherwise they would not have for many years to come.
All the advantages are on the side of the action the Government has taken. All that honorable members opposite can say, is, “ This is socialism “. Why do they not tell us in what manner this decision will injure the people of this country? Have they pointed to any direction in which the general public will be worse off as the result of the action of the Government? All that they have said is that these wealthy interests who at present control interstate air transport pioneered the industry. I have already sh own that the pioneers have disappeared.
Some honorable members who sit opposite recently held what they termed a. unity conference, at which was established the same old party under a different name. The Liberal party, as it is now designated, must obtain funds, and it can do so only by serving vested interests in this country. I am convinced that the Government has nothing to fear, if this be a sample of the course which honorable members opposite intend to pursuein the future. Although I know that it is unnecessary to do so,I say to my colleagues that we shall have nothing to fear if we do what is in the interests of the people. Honorable members opposite may squeal, and indulge in propaganda through the press and over the radio, but they will never affect public opinion. Already, in a campaign in defence of the private banks, an initial contribution of £50,000 has been made, simply because our friends opposite are afraid that this may be the first shot in a big fight which will include the taking over of other activities. They may rest assured that this Labour Government, elected with an overwhelming majority and still retaining the support of by far the largest proportion of the people of this country, is not going to be deterred from giving effect to the policy of which the people approved.
.- The House has not been at all astonished by the characteristic speech that has just been made by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), or the invective in which he has indulged. To him, it matters not whether his statements are true or untrue. If he lacks a few facts, he manufactures them as he proceeds. I shall remind the House of one or two things. The honorable gentleman spoke of air accidents.. He knows that every accident is inquired into by a properly constituted tribunal, which determines the cause of it, and that never has there been any determination of the kind that he has mentioned. A certificate of airworthiness is issued to every flying-boat which takes to the air. The manufacture of aircraft in. this country during the war was made possible only because the industry was established by a government consisting” of and supported by honorable members who sit on this side of the House. These considerations have no weight with the Minister for Transport. He has referred to the advantage of Commonwealth control. When the Constitution Alteration (Civil Aviation) Bill was before this House, he spoke and voted against it; yet now he renders lip service to this new project, and comes forward as a “ Simon Pure “ who has always supported Commonwealth control of aviation. I dispose of him with those few remarks, because he is not worthy of further comment.
The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) is a man of standing in this House, and has the prestige of his position to uphold. We were entitled to expect from him a balanced statement of government policy, and arguments in. rebuttal of those adduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), but what did we get? His speech consisted of platitudes, and evasive and grossly misleading statements. Having quoted from a confidential document, he had not the courage to table it. What doesit contain which the Government desires to hide? The right honorable gentleman ga ve figures which he said represent - subsidies to operating companies, yet a question by the Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Menzies) revealed that they include payment for services rendered by thosecompanies, including postage and freight and - this is most important - the carriage of service personnel. From time to time, civil passengers are denied the facility of travel by air in order that service- personnel may be carried. That is the reason for the payment of subsidies by the Government, and for the marked inflation of the amounts paid.
There are two reasons for my support of the Leader of the Opposition. One is, that in my opinion the statement of the Acting Prime Minister will destroy the confidence of the people in government integrity. What is my reason for that belief? It is that from time to time I have heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) say that he had no intention, during the period of the war, to introduce socialization in Australia. The party that sits opposite won the last elections on that stand. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) took the Leader of the Opposition to task when that gentleman challenged the Prime Minister in regard to the possibility of his introducing socialization if he were returned to power, and stated that there was no such intention, yet he supports a decision of which socialization is part and parcel. I believe that the Prime Minister is a man of his word. Has he consented to this proposal? From time to time, he has assured the country that there was to be no socialization; yet, while he and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) are absent from the Parliament, the leftist side of Cabinet has taken the bit completely in its teeth and has reduced to naught all the assurances that have been given. The Minister for Transport said the departmental officers do not determine government policy. Yet from time to time, different bureaucrats appointed by the Government voice in public places the need for socialization and, indeed, affirm that it is to be introduced. When Ministers have been asked whether or not these have been statements of government policy, they have glibly replied that they are purely the personal opinions of the bureaucrats who have expressed them. The Minister for Transport claims that these bureaucrats do not determine government policy. Of course they do ; this is the direct outcome of the influence that they wield. When the Acting Prime Minister states in this House that the will of the people must prevail, he must mean that in all sincerity. The will of the people in regard to socialization and nationalization was expressed very forcefully at the last referendum. They then indicated quite clearly what they expected the Government to do. They refused to give to it the power to introduce a scheme of socialization or nationalization. In the light of what the Government has now done, the declaration of the Acting Prime Minister, made with all the sincerity of which he is capable, that in a democracy the will of the people must prevail, is farcical. The people meant what they declared when they defeated the proposals of the Government at the referendum. Socialization of industries, and nationalization of banking, if practised, will boomerang upon the party which sits opposite. The old saying still holds good, that those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. I believe that this proposal is aimed at the destruction of private enterprise. Again and again it has been said truthfully that in peace-time private enterprise has provided employment for between 80 per cent, and 90 per cent. of. the people. This proposal is designed to drive the first nail into the coffin of private enterprise, which pioneered the airways of Australia. That adventurous experiment did not fall upon the shoulders of one or two persons. The Minister for Transport has referred to vested interests. One small company of which I have knowledge is Ansett Airways, which has 1,050 shareholders with an average holding of 222 shares. Is that a monopolistic concern? Does it consist of bloated capitalists, or of a body of Australians who have been prepared to apply some of their material substance to the development of an air service? Let us consider the growth of the airways of Australia, because it is characteristic of what private enterprise has done generally. In 1927, 423,235 miles were flown and 1;087 passengers were carried. In 1938, the numbers were respectively 9,654,67S and 106,339, and in 1941 they were 8,345,842 and 170,262. [Extension of time granted.] We have heard much about the profits that are alleged to have been made by these huge capitalist concerns. Let us consider the position of the particular company that I have mentioned. In 1940-41 it had a deficit of £25,117, and in 1941-42 a profit of £77,374, the net surplus for the two years being £52,257. Oan that be said to be an undue return for the money invested and the work that was undertaken in the pioneering stage?
I shall cite one example of a govern.mentcontrolled concern in order to show what the taxpayer may expect. The Victorian railways, a State-owned undertaking, wrote off £30,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money in 1937. Every governmentcontrolled undertaking in Queensland, where there has been a, Labour government for years, showed such a. substantial loss that they had to be closed. That applies also to New South Wales, in which Cockatoo Island Dockyard is a classic example. This is characteristic of every industry on which the dead hand of the Government presses. Canada has adopted nationalization in some degree. The Trans-Canadian Airways have been nationalized, and in 193S the loss was 111,005 dollars, while in 1939 the loss was S1S,026 dollars. That is an illustration of what happens whenever a government -assumes control of business undertakings. Political pressure is exerted to influence policy, and to secure preferment in the appointment of staff. Before the commission took charge of- Cockatoo Island Dockyard, politicians were always sending their friends along there for jobs. Du ring the general election campaign, and again during the referendum campaign, the Government assured the people that it would not nationalize industry, or introduce socialistic measures. Now the Government has broken its word to the people. I warn the Government that this must be the last step that it takes in applying its nationalization policy before receiving a mandate from the people. If honorable members opposite value their political Fides, and I take it that they do, they must realize that they will have to account to the people for this base act of treachery, which is so directly opposed to the pledges ofl Ministers during the election campaign and the referendum campaign.
– The House is considering a very great question, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) did not discuss it at all. Indeed, he indulged in a general discussion of the functions of the State. The answer to his argument is plain: There are some utilities which the Government not only can, but should, operate to the .exclusion of private enterprise. There are others, such as retail businesses and most wholesale businesses, which the Government should never attempt to control because it is unfitted to do so. Between those two extremes there’ arise questions of time and place and circumstance to bc be taken into account when any proposal for nationalization is under consideration. It is impossible to generalize on this subject. Therefore, I proposeto confine tuy attention to the particular matter of interstate air services. I tell the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) that what the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and I said during the general elections campaign was correct. Our opponents were saying that the Government would confiscate private concerns without paying anything for them.
– I said no such thing.
– I do not say that the right honorable member said it, but it was being said from one end of the country to another. I said that there was no general power in the Commonwealth Parliament to nationalize industry. What doo.? that mean ? It means that any power must be related to the specific heads of power in the Constitution. I said also that there would never be confiscation of property. The Constitution guarantees payment for property on flair and just terms. I said, and I repeat, that after the war there would, be opportunities for expanding private enterprise. I still believe that to be true, but that does not mean that an enterprise which involves the defence and safety of the Australian public must for ever remain in private hands.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that the assets of the aviation companies would be taken over as mere plant. There is no justification for saying that. The determination of compensation is, in the last resort, for the courts, and everybody will agree that the valuation of assets usually includes a fair allowance for the goodwill of the enterprise taken over.
– That is what I said.
– That is exactly what the right honorable gentleman did not say. He implied that the companies would be taken over on a plant valuation, with nothing for goodwill. Reference has been made to those who pioneered aviation services in this country. I agree that enterprise has been exhibited by those who started some of the services, and they are entitled to credit for what they have done ; but credit is also due to those who pioneered aviation itself - the great pioneering aviation heroes of this country, Kingsford Smith,Ulm and many others. After they pioneered the great air routes, they found that there was no room for them in private enterprise, or even in government employment, to enable them to give further service to their country. I believe that interstate aviation is a matter with a great public interest. It is the duty of, the Government to develop it because, obviously, services will have to be extended to New Guinea, Papua and other Pacific territories. I believe that the decision of the Government to undertake this work is wise. Fair compensation will be paid to those whose property is taken over. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) is right when he said that the decision was an historic one.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 257b.
Debate resumed from the 22nd Novem ber (vide page 1978), on motion by Mr. Scully -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) explained to Parliament in terms which need no emphasizing the magnitude and dire effects of the drought. In the record of our agricultural and pastoral industries certain drought years stand out as years of terrible hardship and loss both to persons and the nation. Two of those which stand out most prominently are 1902 and 1914. The present year, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has stated, bids fair to equal those others, both for the severity of the drought itself and for the extent of the area affected. I have examined the rainfall figures in some of the affected districts, which comprise the south-eastern corner of the continent with the exception of the coastal fringe. Not only is the rainfall for this year at a record low level, but this very dry year is one of a series of unusually dry years. Balranald, which is a typical western Riverina centre, has an average rainfall of 11.78 inches. The rainfall so far this year is only 4.56 inches, which is about equal to the average rainfall for Oodnadatta. Moreover, the record low rainfall of 4.56 inches this year follows an almost equally disastrous experience last year, when the rainfall was only 5.53 inches. Over the last five years the rainfall has been below the average in four out of the five. Narrandera is what might be described as a favorable wheat-growing area, the average rainfall being 17.22 inches. This year, only8.68 inches have fallen so far, and we know that little good may be expected from any rain that falls between now and the end of the year. Moreover, the rainfall for each of the five years just past has been below the average. At Echuca, in the central Murray Valley, the average rainfall is 16.92 inches, but this year only 7.19 inches have fallen. Last year, the rainfall there was only8.86 inches, yet Echuca is generally regarded as one of the safe areas of Victoria. The rainfall this year was substantially less than the average rainfall at Alice Springs, and for the last five years it has been considerably below the average. At Mildura, the average rainfall is 10.56 inches. Mildura itself is an irrigation area, but it is the centre of a large pastoral district. This year, the rainfall has been only 3.5 inches, and last year it was no more than 6.54 inches. Honorable members will realize that such a rainfall is practically useless in a district subject to such hot dry winds as prevail in that area. Charlton, in the very heart of what wheat-growers would describe as a safe wheat area in Victoria has an average rainfall of 16.79 inches, but this year only 6.74 inches have fallen, while last year the rainfall was 10.7 inches. Over the last five years less than the average fell in four of them. The position is much the same in South Australia, and it is also bad in certain areas of Western Australia. Surely a drought of such wide extent and such unprecedented intensity ought to be accepted as a matter for consideration by this Parliament. Unhappily we find, however, that the legislation brought before Parliament deals not with the area or the people affected by the drought, but exclusively with people engaged in certain industries in drought-affected areas. That is my first criticism of legislation which I hoped I should be able to support wholeheartedly. If this Parliament is provoked by humane feeling, which would be complete justification for this measure, the benefit should be extended to all people in the drought-affected areas who are suffering losses, whether they are growing wheat or raising sheep or fat lambs; but this bill is confined exclusively to those in the cereal-growing industries. The Minister’s speech reveals a Minister who says, “ Here is a national calamity with tremendous loss of production and revenue, and the Government should aid “. Taken from that point of view there is justification for the proposed relief, but this drought has fallen, not only on growers of wheat, oats and barley, but also on sheep, cattle and fat lamb raisers, and, if the national good, or, in reverse, the national calamity, from which this bill results, is the justification for this proposal, there is no reason why it should be confined to those engaged in cereal production. So I find myself at the out-
Set completely unable to comprehend the motives of the Government in restricting this financial assistance to so limited a group of people. Then, to crowd limitation upon limitation, the Government says that this assistance is to be extended only to those able to remain in the industry. I take the strongest exception to legislation which, under the guise of drought relief, excludes, if not the majority, at least a very substantial proportion of the people who are enduring the ravages of this drought. As my leader intends to enlarge upon that aspect of the matter - in fact, he intends to direct the attention of the House to it very pointedly - I do not propose to go further with it, but I am sure that the Government would do right if it accepted the fact .that the assistance proposed is far too limited. This is a Government which has claimed that it interests itself in persons rather than industries, and it is very difficult for any one to say - I am not one who desires to say it - that industries ought to be given prior consideration to persons. All I say is that the fates of industries and persons are inextricably interwoven. It occurs generally in industry that industry is most efficiently carried on by the bigger operators.
– That is not general in the farming industries.
– Of course it is, whether it be wheat-growing, woolgrowing, dairying or any other form of primary production. This Government has deliberately embarked on a policy of assisting the wheat industry and I will not distract myself or the House by unduly considering that. It has deliberately embarked on a policy of aiding persons, that is the small growers, rather than a policy of encouraging the industry as a whole, not by selecting the major operators, but by giving them equal treatment with the minor operators. So, here we instantly find a complete conflict of policy. In dealing with the wheat industry in general, this Government says, “ We will help the majority of the persons, the smaller operators, and we will actually prejudice the major operators, who, through history, have shown themselves to be the more efficient “. Good ! That is the Government’s policy. But here we have a complete reversal of policy under which it says, “ We will not help all persons, because we will first exclude those persons completely driven out of business by the drought. We will confine our assistance to those who are able to show that they have remained in their industry, and we will exclude all those engaged in live-stock industries in the droughtaffected areas “. You cannot make the two march together. That certainly suggests that the Government should have another look at this policy.
My second criticism is on the financial extent of the assistance proposed to he given in relation to the losses involved and of the means of the people concerned. Four States are named, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and
Western Australia. In those States we have the overwhelming proportion of the cereal industries.
– Western Australia is not named as a recipient under this hill. It is named for future reference.
– The honorable gentleman will agree that Western Australia is in mind. In those four States we have for practical purposes the whole of the cereal industries and the whole of the cross-breed sheep industry, which means the fat-lamb-raising industry. A drought of unprecedented proportions following drought after drought is upon us, and what is to be found by the Government of Australia ? - £1,500,000 ! Why, I could not have dreamt that such a paltry amount would have been thought adequate. Memory is inconvenient on occasions, but I remember that in the year in which I entered this House, when the total income of the Government was less than £50,000,000, a grant of £3,500,000 was made to the wheat industry with the commitment of an additional £12,000,000. This year, when the Government’s revenue runs into hundreds of millions of pounds, astronomical figures, and when we have an unprecedented drought, the Government thinks it is meeting the situation by proposing to vote a paltry £1,500,000 to cover the distress in what is 75 per cent. of the agricultural area of Australia. It is not enough. The Government ought to have another look at that. I am astounded to find that the Government proposes that the payment of this £1,500,000 shall be conditional upon the State Governments providing an equal amount. The State Governments have had their revenues pegged by the uniform income tax legislation and have no new field of revenue open to them. Yet, they are to be brought to the party and are to come in pari passu with this millionaire Government, and the distressed people are to receive assistance only if the State Governments give equal assistance on the same conditions.
– Did not one of the honorable member’s colleagues say that the State Governments were getting too much rebate?
– If I understood the interjection, I should be glad to reply to it. The drought relief proposals in extent and in the amount of assistance are ill conceived and completely inadequate, and they certainly call for the withdrawal of this measure in order that: it. may be redrafted on more generous lines calculated to meet the needs of the situation. We all know that, although this goes under the name of drought relief, it is to afford relief to certain cereal growers. Those who grow oats and barley exclusively are not to any substantial extent within the drought-affected area. Oats and barley are, of course, grown in , the area, but those who grow oats and barley exclusively are not within it. So the bill really becomes a proposal to assist the wheat-growers. Why do people need financial assistance from the Government? Because of their financial circumstances.
– The barley-growers in Victoria are seriously affected.
Ma-. McEWEN.- Those who exclusively grow barley in Victoria are in the coastal areas, and they are not substantially affected.
– There is a substantial quantity of barley grown outside that area.
– This money will be paid almost solely to wheat-growers. Why do wheat-growers need assistance? They should have been able to build up some reserve if the claims of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and his colleagues about their magnanimity in the last few years are justified. But these people require assistance, very largely because in previous years the price of their product was extraordinarily low and, more recently, they have had a combination of bad seasons and a denial of the payment to which they were justly entitled. When I referred to this matter on a previous occasion, I directed attention to certain aspects of the position of the wheat-growers. I said that if the present policy of the Government regarding the sale price of wheat were continued until the 1945-46 harvest, the wheat-growers would have had stolen from them an amount of not less than £10,000,000. I repeat that charge to-day.
Mr.Scully. - And I repeat that the honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– I am not by any means alone in making that charge. The Minister declared that I do not know what I am talking about. He is entitled to make the best case he can, but he revealed during the previous debate on this subject, that he did not know what he was talking about. There is less justification for a Minister in charge of a department not knowing what he was talking about, than for a private member. I remind the House that during the last debate dealing with the disposal of wheat, I said, that the wheat has been either acquired from farmers by the Government, in which case they should be paid the just price for it, as the Constitution provides,” or they retain proprietary interests in their wheat, in which case they are entitled to have it disposed of on their account, as they desire, and in the best market available.
– Order! Having said that, will the honorable member direct his remarks to the subject of drought relief, which has no relation to sales of wheat from Australian wheat pools?
– With respect, Mr. Speaker, I am bound to point out that if the wheat-growers were about to receive £10,000,000 the justification for granting this drought relief would be completely altered.
– That is beside the point.
– I remind the House that following the debate on this subject, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture withdrew what he had said earlier.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to deal with the subject of drought relief.
– The whole point which I desire to make is that this bill carries the caption, “Drought relief”. A bill for the relief of wheat-growers cannot, be unrelated to their financial circumstances.
– This bill deals with the amount that shall be paid to cerealgrowers in the way of drought relief, and is in no way related to the sales of wheat from various, pools. I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– The bill, of course, deals with the consequence of drought to persons concerned in the production of cereal crops, and that clearly embraces the circumstances of persons engaged in growing wheat. If wheatgrowers were wealthy and had bulging bank balances, it could reasonably be argued that Consolidated Revenue should not be drawn upon to aid them. But they are not wealthy. They are people, who have been paid certain amounts and have indeterminate balances due to them. Earlier in the day, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, happily, was able to inform us that certain additional payments are to be made to wheatgrowers. I have no doubt that if he had not been able to state that an additional1s. a bushel on certain wheat and 6d. a bushel on other wheat was to be paid forthwith to wheatgrowers, the measure of the necessity of these people would have been assessed as being greater than it is now. What I propose to make quite clear is that these people should be paid, not an additional1s. a bushel, but an additional few shillings a bushel.
– Order ! The honorable member is trying to evade my . ruling. Clause 3 clearly provides that the sum of £1,500,000 is tobe appropriated for the purpose of assistance to the States of. Hew South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, or such of those States as the GovernorGeneral, having regard to the effects of drought on cereal crops in each of those States, determines. The GovernorGeneral has not to consider whether farmers receive a proper price for wheat which has been placed in pools. The Governor-General has to consider only one question, namely, how the money shall be distributed, having regard to the effect of the drought on cereal crops in each of those four States. That is perfectly clear.
– I entirely agree with you, Mr. Speaker.
– Then I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– A bill coming before this House is not to he accepted arbitrarily as being in its ultimate form. I have, in my experience, known bills to be amended, and I hope that this bill will be amended.
– It might be amended, but the proper time to speak to an amendment is when the amendment is moved.
– Am I not entitled to forecast an amendment and to explain the justification for it? I thought that the customary practice in this chamber was to permit an honorable member to explain the justification for an amendment before he moved it, and I merely hoped that I would be permitted to explain the justification not only for amending the measure, but also for the withdrawal of the measure. Would you, Mr. Speaker, be kind enough to advise me whether it is necessary for an amendment to be moved before one explains the justification for it, or whether practice permits the making of a case before the amendment is moved?
– It appears to me that the bill is very specific in its terms. It provides for the expenditure of a certain amount of money for the purpose of granting assistance to cereal-growers in certain drought-stricken States. The honorable member might argue, for instance, that the amount specified in the bill is not sufficient to provide the relief required, or that the amount is excessive; but the main purpose of the bill is to provide for the distribution of the money.
– I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your explanation, but I am not yet sure about the matter. I desire to intimate that I intend to move an amendment. Before doing so, I wish to explain the motives which prompt me to take this serious step. My amendment, if adopted, would necessitate the withdrawal of the bill. If you desire it, Mr. Speaker, I shall read it.
– If that will ease the honorable member’s position in any way, I shall hear the amendment.
– Later, I propose to move -
That all the words after “ That “ ‘be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “this House is of the opinion that the bill is incomplete in that the amount provided is inadequatebecause it fails to make provision for producers of other primary products who have been adversely affected ‘by drought conditions and that financial provision should be made for such cases, having regard to the circumstances of the persons concerned.”.
– That may be termed a declaratory amendment. Whilst the bill provides assistance to droughtstricken producers of cereal crops, the amendment suggests that the scope of the bill should be widened in order to include other sections of primary industry. In discussing the proposed amendment, he may refer to drought relief in respect of stock losses, but not to the price to be paid for wheat in the various pools.
– Then I may be obliged to submit another amendment. I contend that there should be a fairer apportionment of any moneys voted for drought relief among persons entitled to assistance. The amendment, which I read, is for the purpose of bringing within the ambit of entitlement persons engaged in primary industries other than cereal industries, and increasing the total amount of the vote. One can visualize the Government, acting upon such an amendment, introducing another bill which would pay regard to the needs of droughtstricken persons in the live-stock industries, and those of cereal-growers in the apportionment of the money. From that standpoint, I desire to refer to the financial circumstances of wheatgrowers at present, and what they would be if the producers received their just due from the realization of their wheat, which has been compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth Government. No less an authority than a member of the Australian Wheat Board has made an important declaration on this matter. This wheat is either the property of the growers who are the subject of this legislation, or even if it is not their property, they still have an interest in it. If sold for export, the wheat would bring a substantially higher figure than the growers now receive. I refer to the wheat produced in excess of the requirements of Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I move-
That all the words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ this House is of the opinion that the bill is incomplete in that the amount provided is inadequate because it fails to make provision for producers of other primary products who have been adversely affected by drought conditions and that financial provision should be made for such cases, having regard to the circumstances of the persons concerned.”.
The purpose of my amendment is to make clear the deficiencies of the bill, namely, that no provision is made for the relief of live-stock owners who have been adversely affected by the drought, and to secure the withdrawal and redrafting of the measure for the purpose of including such farmers. The live-stock owners to whom I refer include all the graziers raising crossbred sheep, and all the fat lamb raisers. These people form a very important section of the primaryproducing community, and their losses, and diminution of production due to drought conditions, will have a very substantial effect upon the national economy. From the industrial and national aspects these people are no less entitled to assistance than are the wheat-growers, and it is quite beyond my comprehension why they should be specifically excluded from this measure. If, on the other hand, the Government’s object were to assist persons in distress, obviously it could be shown that thousands of stock-raisers were suffering just as acutely as the wheat-growers. I should not like my remarks to be construed as indicating that the financial assistance now intended for the relief of wheat-growers should be taken away from them and paid to some one else. I admit freely that the wheatgrowers are in a bad way; but any one who reads the daily newspapers or attends stock sales must know that thousands and thousands of sheep are being sold to-day at prices which literally provide no return whatsoever to the growers. It is not uncommon for buyers attending sheep sales at Newmarket, Shepparton or Echuca, to see sheep, which, although aged, are still capable of breeding another lamb or two, sold, not for shillings, but for pence.- Thousands of farmers are confronted with the choice of killing their sheep on their property, or watching them wither away and die. This is occurring, not only in the less-favoured areas, but also in parts of Victoria and the Riverina district of New South Wales, which for generations have been regarded as safe areas. I have attended Newmarket stock sales lately, and have seen sheep which, although aged, could not be described as “ old crackers “, offered for sale and the auctioneer struggling hard to obtain a bid of more than 2s., 3s., or 4s. a. head. The national and individual loss is tremendous, yet, notwithstanding a comprehensive speech by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), the National Parliament is not invited by the Government to vote one penny for the assistance of stock-owners unless they happen to be cereal-growers also. A few days ago I read in the Melbourne Herald of a farmer in the Mallee district of Victoria who, finding that he could no longer maintain his horses on his property, was sending them away for sale. At the same time, his wife was sending fowls to the market, and jocularly they had a bet as to who would receive the better return, the farmer for his draught horses, or the wife for her poultry : The wife won. That is illustrative of the state of affairs which exists to-day over a huge area of Australia, and without labouring the point any further, surely it justifies the Government accepting the advice which I am now offering, namely, to withdraw this measure and recast it to include provision for assistance to live-stock owners.
Undoubtedly, the wheat-growers are in a desperate position. The normal wheat crop for Victoria ranges . between 36,000,000 and 40,000,000 bushels a year. Latest estimates of this year’s crop vary from 3,000,000 to 5,000,000. (Extension of time granted.] It is very doubtful whether there will be any wheat at all delivered to the Australian Wheat Board in Victoria. At best, there will be very little. That is something upon which there is general agreement. An almost identical state of affairs exists in South Australia and in the Riverina district of New South Wales. Wheat-growers would be very greatly assisted if they were to receive additional disbursements from wheat pools holding wheat grown in earlier and more bountiful seasons. I have included in my amendment the words, “ having regard to the circumstances of the persons concerned”. In brief, the circumstances of the wheatgrowers are these: Their wheat has been acquired compulsorily, and is realized by the Government. After the Government has recouped itself, wholly or in part, the wheat-growers receive such additional dividends as are available. There are quite substantial quantities of wheat, and certainly substantial money values, still undistributed in respect of the numbers 5, 6 and 7 pools, that is, wheat from last year’s harvest and from the harvests of the two preceding years. By reason of Government policy, much of the wheat that has gone into pools from these three harvests has been sold at figures very much lower than could have been obtained had the best offer been taken. Wheat for human consumption in Australia is sold on a basis of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r., ports, with an average of10d. a bushel for costs and leaving about 4s. 4d. a bushel; but the additional wheat used for human consumption in Australia has not been sold in accordance with the directions of the realizing authority, namely, the Australian Wheat Board. That organization, 1 am quite sure, construes its responsibility as the trustee for the Australian wheatgrowers, as an obligation to realize on their behalf to the best advantage. The board is composed of able business men experienced in the wheat trade, and the elected representatives of the wheatgrowers themselves. Naturally these individuals would assume that their first duty as trustees for the Australian wheatgrowers would be to sell this vast and valuable property to the best possible advantage; but it not been left to the board to do this. The wheat has been sold very largely as directed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and by the Government. At least as much wheat as has been sold for human consumption by Australia’s 7,000,000 people has been sold at 3s. 3¾d. a bushel bulk, by direction of the Government, for stock feed in this country. Added to that is the sum of 6d. a bushel as a Government subvention. What is the value of that wheat?
Wheat-growers believe that they are entitled to its value. It has had a variable value according to the circumstances of war, but it has an exact and determinable value to-day. Not very long ago in this House I forecast that the next sale of wheat for export on a bulk basis to the United Kingdom would bring at least 6s. 6d. a bushel. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture interjected on that occasion, “That is ridiculous “. I assured the Minister that subsequent events would prove whether or not my statement was ridiculous. I have asked the Australian Wheat Board for information regarding current sales, and I have been informed that wheat sold for delivery to the United Kingdom or west of Suez is realizing 5s. 3¼d. a bushel f.o.b, or 5s. 9d. a bushel bagged basis, f.o.b. Out of the last sale of approximately 19,000,000 bushels, 5,500,000 bushels has been sold to the Government of the United Kingdom . for delivery to India or east of Suez at a price which justifies entirely the forecast which I made some time ago, namely, 6s. 61/8d. a bushel f.o.b. for bulk wheat, and 6s.11¾d. a bushel f.o.b. for bagged wheat. When I ventured the opinion that it was worth 6s. 6d. a bushel, the honorable gentleman who administers the affairs of the wheat-growers said that I was ridiculous in making such an estimate.
– The statement then made by the honorable gentleman was entirely different in substance from that which he has made to-night.
– It was not. A perusal of Hansard will prove that, in respect of this matter, I to-night am merely stating as a fact, that which I ventured as an opinion six weeks or so ago. The wheatgrowers who are to be the subject of drought relief had their wheat compulsorily acquired during the last three or four years and, by reason of government policy, sold at a figure which returned to them for silo wheat, stock-feed, and the produce trade, 3s. 10¼d. a bushel, whereas the Australian Wheat Board could sell to-day to India every bushel of it for 6s. 61/8d. a bushel. I am not arguing that it ought to be sold to India, and that our stock should be allowed to die ; obviously, that would be an indefensible attitude to adopt. What I am arguing is that, if it be proper in the public interest to assist the stock-owners of this country by providing feed for drought relief, it certainly ought to be provided by the Government at whatever cost the Government might determine, but not at the cost of a section of the community which has endured more adversity than any other section, namely, the wheat-growers. Between 35,000,000 and 40,000,000 bushels of wheat will be used in Australia this year for stock-feed. On every bushel sold for stock-feed, the wheat-growers are being deprived of approximately 3s. a bushel. I said in this chamber a few weeks ago that what isbeing done and what is intended with respect to the wheat that is to come out of the next harvest represent a “ steal “ of ?10,000,000. I find, upon examination, that I understated the amount.
– How does the honorable gentleman reconcile his statement with the fact that the “Wheat Growers Federation of Australia, which consists of direct representatives of the wheat-growers and not men appointed for political purposes, have accepted my assessment and are quite content with the prices they are receiving for feed wheat?
– The answer is very simple. They are so dissatisfied that they have made representations to and have waited upon the honorable gentleman. Their secretary, Mr. Stott, M.H.A., and their president, Mr. Lilley, having returned from an interview with the honorable gentleman in Sydney a few weeks ago, reported in their official journal in these terms -
On returning from Sydney, the president of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, Mr. Lilley, and the secretary, Mr. Stott, issued a joint statement on their conference with the Minister. They said: “We wish to make it perfectly clear that the result of the conference was perfectly satisfactory regarding the controversy over concessional prices for stock-feed. The Minister made it abundantly clear that the concessional price being received for sales of wheat for breakfast foods, stock-feed, and power alcohol, would not be taken into the calculations to ascertain the final realizations of the pool. The Government would make up the difference between the prices received for concessional sales and the prices received by the Australian Wheat Board on export sales, and the home consumption price.
They were thoroughly satisfied. Last week, when I quoted that statement in the House and asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether or not it was correct-
– The honorable gentleman quoted only the word “ export “, and did not mention home consumption sales.
– When I asked the honorable gentleman whether or not that was a correct report, he denied that it was. I am not making any allegations ; but on the most modest basis this expression of satisfaction is certainly the result of a misunderstanding.
– Only on the part of the honorable gentleman.
– The amount involved has been calculated by a member of the Australian Wheat Board, Mr. Teasdale, whose record in dealings in the wheat trade is as long, honorable and successful as is that of any man in Australia. He was the president or the chairman of trustees of the Western Australian wheatgrowers organization. He has said this -
If the amount to be paid by the Government to the Wheat Board to bridge the gap between concessional prices for stock-feed
He did not touch on the wheat for breakfast foods and power alcohol - and the average export realization be taken as “the correct principle, then the Government will have to pay to the board approximately ?6,850,000 on the stock-feed item alone. [Further extension of time granted.]
Mr. Teasdale continued
If, on the other hand, the current realization of wheat sold in the free market east of Suez-
There is scope for an unlimited sale of our surplus wheat there - be taken as the basis, then the Government, to do justice to the grower, will need to pay in approximately ?9,850,000 on account of the two pools 6 and 7.
My estimate of ?10,000,000 included the succeeding pool No.8. Thus it is shown quite clearly by one of the best informed and most experienced wheat experts in this country that on the item of stock-feed sales alone the wheat-growers have been mulct of at least ?10,000,000 ; and when we take into account, in addition, the breakfast food and power alcohol sales, it is more. Therefore, what has been stolen from the wheat-growers diminishes this drought relief of ?1,500,000 to microscopic proportions. I repeat, that the financial circumstances of the wheatgrowers - which, of course, in themselves justify the drought assistance which every member of this chamber doubtless is willing to give to them - are affected more by Government policy than by any other single factor. If the Government really’ wants to help the wheat-growers, and to place them in a position to carry on their industry, the proper thing is to pay to them for the product seized from them the value which they could get for it. That is not raising the consideration that the Australian public enjoyed for many years a loaf of bread made from wheat grown by these same people and sold for as low as ls. Sd. and ls. 9d. a bushel.
– What government was then in office?
– Some of my friends opposite, who represent wheat-growing electorates, are not well-informed. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) will be sorry that he asked that question, because the price that I have mentioned was paid in 1930, when the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was the Prime Minister of this country. In the same year, Mr. Scullin promised the wheat-growers of Australia 4s. 6d. a bushel; and Mr. Lang, then Labour Premier of New South Wales, promised them 7s. 6d. a bushel. I am not saying that the fact that the Australian people are being fed to-day with wheat grown for a gross return of 5s. 2d. a bushel, which provides a net return of 4s. 4d. a bushel, is unjust, and that they ought to pay the 6s. 11¾d. a bushel which could be obtained in India. It would be logical to argue that Australian people, having enjoyed the lower price, ought now to pay the higher price; but I am not using that argument, because, as my friends - many of them newcomers and perhaps not long to remain - will not remember, it was a government drawn from members who now sit on this side of the House which introduced a stabilization plan, although it is claimed by honorable members who now sit opposite that their Government was the originator of it. Hansard and the statutes will show that a measure for the stabilization of wheat was placed on the statute-book on the initiative; of, the Menzies Government. When one is tour ing the electorates, it is not pleasant to be told that the present .Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has stabilized the wheat industry. The truth of the matter is that the wheat-growers themselves, in their organization, devised the formula for the stabilization of the wheat industry. Honorable members who now sit on this side of the House wound their way through the tortuous intricacies of the Constitution in order to establish a home consumption price fo.r wheat by means of the flour tax, in face of the recorded votes against it of every member then belonging to the Labour party. It was honorable members who now sit on this side of the House who established the stabilization plan, and it was the Scully plan which destroyed stabilization. It was the Scully plan which created a state of affairs under which only the small growers received even the comparatively low price of 4s. a bushel. Evidently it was the Government’s intention to create a peasantry. Any man who sowed even 200 acres in wheat was to be regarded as a capitalist, and received only 2s. a bushel for all the wheat he produced in excess of 1,000 bags. The figures which I have produced, supported by those of Mr. Teasdale, showed that the wheatgrowers of Australia have, as the result of this Government’s policy, had not less than £10,000,000 stolen from them. If the Government wishes to assist the farmers it should ensure that they receive a proper price for their products. The Government should withdraw this bill and introduce another in which provision is made for the giving of relief to distressed farmers, other than cereal - growers. It should be able to provide assistance from the almost unlimited millions at its disposal, and thus do the fair thing by the producers of Australia.
.- -As one who comes to this House fresh from the farm-
– And who will be quickest to return to it.
– I remind the honorable member that in 1904 my father was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, and he is still a member of it.
I can at least claim that, like the racehorse, Peter, I am ‘bred on staying lines. I feel deeply concerned for my fellow producers still on the farms when I hear statements of the kind which emanated this evening from the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr. McEwen), a man who is supposed to represent the primary producers. At this time, when the nation is gripped by the dual tragedies of war and drought, it is altogether to be regretted that a responsible member of this Parliament should state that the primary producers have had £10,000,000 stolen from them. In an effort to support his argument he goes back over a period of three years, to a time when it was impossible for us to sell our wheat overseas - .when it was practically impossible even to ship it from Australia. Then he went on to say that if we had all that wheat now, and could place it on the market now open to us, we could get a very fine price for it. He has even changed the basis of his own argument. He used the same argument in this House some time ago, and when I challenged his assertions, he said that the £10,000,000 he was talking about represented a “steal” over a period of eighteen months, but now he places the period at three years.
The honorable member referred to stock feed, but I remind him that a large proportion of the wheat sold as stock feed was bought back by the farmers themselves. The Minister said that the plan for distributing relief would be prepared to suit the farmers, and that is a commendable arrangement. I agree with the purpose of the amendment in that I believe that assistance should be given to farmers to enable them to save breeding ewes and cattle. However, the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party merely told us some harrowing stories about the farmer who was able to sell his poultry for more than he could get for his horses ; he did not tell us how the position could be remedied. So far as I could make out he could do no more than suggest that the farmers should feed their starving stock on £1 notes. I believe that, where water and feed are obtainable, farmers should be assisted to obtain supplies so that they may save the ewes, and thus the fat lamb industry for next year, and dairy cattle, so that the dairying industry may be preserved.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) gave notice that he intended to move an amendment in committee to clause 5 in order to give to State Parliaments greater control over the allocation of relief money. I hope that the .Minister will be very wary in considering such an amendment. I remember that when the Commonwealth Government voted money for the relief of farmers during the depression, and handed it over to the State Governments for distribution, some of them made the money available in the form of loans upon, which the farmers had to pay interest. Just recently, when the Premier of Victoria thought that the Commonwealth Government proposed to provide the whole of the £3,000,000 for drought relief, he was very anxious that the money should be distributed in the form of a grant; but when he found that the States were expected to subscribe half the amount, he was just as anxious that the money should be distributed in the form of loans.
The Deputy Leader of the Country party said that the quota system put a premium on inefficiency. I remind honorable members that, during the economic drought that afflicted the farmer at the time of the depression, it was the small f armers who came through, and the big producers who went out. That does not support the assertion that the big farmers produce more economically. The Scully plan did not destroy stabilization; it assured its success. Under that plan every producer receives the world parity price, whilst for the first 3,000 bushels of his crop he receives the fixed price of 4s. a bushel. The big man has what he always had, a world’s parity with something more - a guarantee of 4s. a bushel and 3s. a bushel for any excess quantity for what he produces. Thus the Scully plan represents a foundation upon which the industry can safely rest.
The Leader of the Opposition says that those growers who produced more than 3,000 bushels represented only 30 per cent, of the total number of growers. I challenged that statement at the time. The latest figures available, those for 1941-42, show that, of a total of 38,655 growers, 18,266, or 38 per cent., were in the category that produced more than 3,000 bushels. Since then the number of large growers has decreased, so that I should say that the percentage is now nearer 50 per cent.
I congratulate the Government on bringing down this measure, which demonstrates its practical sympathy with the primary producers, and indicates that the Government recognizes the importance of the rural industries to Australia. The financial assistance for which the bill provides will enable the farmers, when the drought breaks, to return quickly to the plough, and once again play their part in producing the rural wealth of the nation.
– One would think, listening to the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), who has just addressed the House, that the Government had strained itself almost to the stage of political hernia and financial hernia in order to assist the wheat industry, but ihe facts are very different. The Government has waited for a second devastating drought before it has done anything at all. Last year, over wide areas of South Australia, and a good quarter of Victoria, and a fair part of New South Wales, there raged a devastating drought, which has been succeeded this year by one of the worst droughts in Australian history, one which has affected four of the mainland States. Even Western Australia, which is rather fortunately situated, has had a severe “ caning “ this year. This hill, however, deals with only one aspect. It deals only with the effect of the drought; it does not relate to the causes underlying the difficulties of the grain-producing industry of Australia. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. McEwen) attempted, by his amendment, to steer the discussion in a different and important direction. I agree with the honorable member that this drought has affected not only the cereal-growing industry, but also the live-stock industry. In accordance with custom, the drought has been accompanied by very severe frosts. In three of the States, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, the frosts were of such intensity that during the winter severe damage was done to the citrus industry. Then, unusually severe frosts occurred in October, resulting in whole areas of vines being 100 per cent, lost. In other cases, losses of apples, plums and other fruits were as high as 90 per cent. Those matters are not dealt with under this bill at all. A drought situation is very difficult to control. I do not want to be over-critical, but a country which is fighting a war and has a government of this type should, in my opinion, be spared the difficulties of drought. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) will know that in farming areas there is a saying, “ It never rains but what it pours “, and, consequently, the Australian primary producer has to face all that is meant by war, drought and a Labour Government. The effects of a Labour Government are shown by the necessity to introduce this bill. It is my intention to say something about the underlying causes, which will have to be faced by this Parliament, in association with the State Parliaments, before we shall be able to properly appreciate what the drought position really means to Australia and, before we shall be able to devise measures which will enable us to meet the difficulties with which the Government is faced. Rainfall is the most important factor in this country, but, unfortunately, rainfall is a very doubtful quantity over very large areas of Australia. We have been in the habit of talking rather glibly about our huge land resources. Certainly we have the land, but not the rainfall necessary to make it effectively and consistently productive. There is a certain periodicity in the rainfall returns which tells any student of agricultural matters that about every thirteen years we run into a major drought. I can just remember the 1902 drought. Then came the 1914 drought. There was a big drought in 1927, 1928 and 1929- three years of it! Now we have the drought of 1943 and 1944. Whether this year will be succeeded by another next year remains to be seen, but, if we are faced with, a threeyear drought this time, as we were in 1927-28-29, I shudder to think what will be Australia’s position twelve months bence, and for some time after that, in regard to grain, dairy products and meat.
The next thing that strikes one is that if one looks at the map of Australia - I am afraid there is not much study of geography in this Parliament - is that our country can be divided roughly into five types. First, there are small areas in various parts of the interior which can be classified only as desert. There can be no argument about that. Then, well over half of Australia must be classified as arid, because the average rainfall is under 10 inches, and that rainfall is not consistent. If we had a consistent 10-inch rainfall over that area, it would be a very different matter, but we do not have it, and, in many cases, k is well below 10 inches. Then, we have another belt of land which is purely pastoral country, pastoral because it can maintain a consistent number of sheep. Inside that we have our real agricultural country which normally would not be affected by legislation of the type that we are discussing to-night. Still further inside that, we have, our intensive agricultural areas. Those are dotted in various places according to the location of irrigation, and they do not conform to some of the conditions which apply to the other four areas. Dealing with settled areas which will fee affected bv this bill, most of the money will be expended in what one may call light rainfall and light soil areas. Those areas begin in the west and then there is a semicircle starting in South Australia and running across the gulfs and the River Murray - the River Murray is crossed twice - right up into New South Wales. That is the country which will be chiefly the subject of the benefits, such as they are, which this bill will provide. A lot has been said lately about soil erosion. There cannot be any effective discussion of the drought problem unless we are prepared to face the facts in regard to soil erosion.
– There was some erosion within the Opposition ranks last year.
– Yes, and I have seen erosion in the Labour ranks. I have seen a Labour party of 30 members before the elections come back with only four members. I shall see that again. I shall be here to welcome the remnants of this Government. As I was saying, however, there are many factors which one must consider in dealing with drought and soil erosion. It is utterly impossible for the Commonwealth Government to deal effectively with the drought problem by way of assistance unless it is prepared to deal with the underlying causes of drought conditions in Australia. We have to recognize that a good deal of land has been cut up in four of the agricultural States for the growing of wheat and, to a lesser extent, oats and barley - which as a matter of fact are only sidelines in this country - in areas in which the Lord never intended wheat to be grown at all, in many cases owing to the insane policy which usually emanates from the Labour party. Emanating from that side, we frequently get - we have it in New South Wales today - a hue-and-cry in favour of cutting lip large estates. My experience over a long period of years has been that in too many cases the result of that policy has been that good stations have been cut up to make bad. farms. That applies in every State. In those areas in which wheat-growing can be carried on, the light soil and light rainfall country, I think the first question to be settled is that of rainfall. After that there is the question of soil. A lot of the money that will be expended under this bill will go into areas where the soil is not fit for continuous- production of wheat, at any rate production on the scale on which the farming community has carried it on in years gone by, not always, owing to the wishes of a lot of the farmers, but owing to the conditions that they must face because of the economic structure of the Australian wheat industry. The subject of Soil is very important. If you have light soil and high rainfall there is a certain amount of risk in cultivation because the soil may be washed away, but, where you have light soil and light rainfall, you run up against the difficulty that you may clear too much of your timber or subdivide your ground perhaps not enough, or fallow too consistently. You may sow too many crops on ground which is stubble ground. Furthermore, there is a tendency in a lot of such country to burn stubble which should be ploughed in. The failure to look at those things and to get down to a proper system of farming consistent with the needs of such country is one of the reasons why we have these drought relief bills coming before us from time to time. There must be at some stage of our career, if, such country is to be successfully worked and held, a proper study and, with study, the making of certain decisions which must be ruthlessly enforced by some government, State or Federal, which will see that the country shall not be over-cropped, over-stocked or over-cleared, and that it shall be properly subdivided to enable the people occupying it to carry on properly.
– The honorable member will be interfering with private enterprise if he is not careful.
– In a civilized community government consists in interference with private enterprise. The moment we pass a law to do anything, whilst we may give some one authority to do something, in nine cases out of ten, we limit the rights of some one else. That is the principle which we need to recognize and watch when we are dealing with private enterprise. Being one of those who stand unequivocally for private enterprise, I believe in the right of owning private property. I know that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) is a firm believer in private property, too, although he does not believe in private enterprise. I do not know how he reconciles the two views.
– Order! That has no relation to the bill.
– Yes it has. This is a matter dealing with property, most of which is held privately. Large areas of soil are seriously affected by drought. Some of the soil is light, some of it is sandy and powdery, and a lot of it is blowing away. An honorable senator, who travelled with me on Sunday night from Melbourne to Sydney, can testify to the liftting of huge areas of New South Wales during a drought. I could tell that it was New South Wales dust, because it was so red. I say to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) - I do not know where he got the title f Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, because “ Agriculture “ is not mentioned in the Constitution-
– The dust which the honorable member saw was the result of the ravages of private enterprise.
– Let me tell the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini), who knows no more about agriculture than he knows about finance, that the great bulk of this land is not privately-owned but is Crown leasehold. For the benefit of the Minister, whose education has been so sadly neglected and delayed, I point out that the States laid down in those leases certain covenants with which the landholder must comply in order to retain the land.
– They break the covenants.
– If they break the covenants, the State has its remedy, and in all States but two, we have governments of the same political colour as this Commonwealth Government. One of the things which must be undertaken by governments in much of this country, is the provision of cover. Unless Commonwealth legislation is directed towards producing a cure for this disability, the money which we shall vote to-night will be wasted. I may say that I am in agreement with the appropriation of this money.
– At last the honorable member agrees with something!
– I am always positive. In a great many cases, the country under discussion now has been cleared too much. Too much timber and too much undergrowth has gone from it. In some cases, the areas which were allotted by the Crown were too small. In other cases, the areas allotted were subdivided, and farms which were established on too small an area were brought into production. Those things bring their own difficulties, such as the difficulty of over-capitalization. In addition to that, land was sold at too high a figure, and the interest burden became too great. A good deal of that is due, not to Government action, but to the fact that many farmers believe that they can get more out of the soil than the fellow next door, and they are prepared to pay £1 or 10s. an acre more than the land is worth. Ultimately, it gets into, a competition. I have seen these competitions where men have paid much more for ground than it was worth. As soon as conditions arise such as those which we faced in .South Australia from 1927-29, followed by good crops but record low prices, there must be a break.
One of the criticisms which I offer against land-holders in this country - and I speak as one of that class, if I may use that word, though not in the sense in which it is used by other honorable members opposite - is that they endeavour to take too much out of the soil without putting anything back. In order to get a quick crop, the stubble and grass is burnt off the ground, instead of being ploughed in for the purpose of building up the soil. Then, again, too much of this country affected by drought has been denuded of all cover. There seems to be an insane desire in this country to destroy trees. I fully appreciate the reason. Our grandparents came here to a perfectly virgin continent and everything they saw around them was scrub and forest, and, therefore, an axe was one of the most popular implements on the place. In all too many cases, the axe and the scrub roller are still popular in Australia. Afforestation is not popular. The tendency is to destroy everything in the way of timber, shrubs and grasses without putting anything in their place. In this connexion, I greatly admire the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; but I believe that the number of men engaged on the job is not sufficient for the task ahead of the Commonwealth, and that the money allotted is not sufficient. These men must virtually scour the world in order to select suitable grasses, shrubs and trees that will thrive under certain conditions, perhaps with a little protection and assistance, in some of the country which we have completely denuded of the native flora. In my opinion, one of the worst features of Australia’s light soil country contributing to the devastating effects of drought, is vermin such as rabbits. The destruction done by cattle is not great. I have a violent objection to them at certain times. Sheep have their own particular way of going around and destroying native flora, but the rabbit leaves practically nothing. That is the reason why in great areas of pastoral and light agricul tural country in Australia practically all the trees, shrubs and herbage have disappeared. The moment a seedling appears above the ground, the rabbit bites it off. So many of our trees will not continue to grow once the main stem has been bitten off by a rabbit or any other animal. I refer in particular to the Murray Pine, which is one of the best soil holders that we have. As soon as the centre stem of a seedling is bitten off, the tree ceases to grow any higher. The seedling has not a very high food value for the rabbit, but such vermin will eat anything green. That applies to many of the shrubs in this country and to many of the native trees in the light rainfall areas. Consequently, we get the indisputable fact that the Diamentina and the Cooper, two rivers that carried flood waters from north-western Queensland into Lake Eyre for unknown centuries, have not flooded since 1914. The reason is that the rabbit became « pest in those areas 30 years ago, and denuded the sand ridges of the cover which the Almighty, in His wisdom, placed on them ; and sand began to drift, so that the rivers became blocked and the flood waters which formerly went into Lake Eyre are now wasted in areas of sand and rubbish in the north-eastern portion of. South Australia, and in Queensland itself. Perhaps those remarks are outside the scope of this bill, which is to grant relief to drought-stricken producers of certain cereals.
– But it is an excellent speech on soil erosion.
– I set out to show that soil erosion is one of the biggest problems connected with drought, and unless the Government is prepared to tackle the problem, all we shall get every few years will be demands on the Parliament for money to assist droughtstricken producers. Whilst this bill is satisfactory for the purposes for which it is drafted, it does not deal with the underlying causes of these drought conditions. Those conditions are not improving. They are growing worse every few years, due to causes which I have described.
– This is the only Government which will ever take measures to combat soil erosion.
Mi-. ARCHIE CAMERON.- If there is any truth in the theory- of reincarnation, I am sure that the Minister for Information will be a bantam rooster, because he is a great one to crow.
I never take the attitude that one should criticize the Government or any legislation without putting up some constructive proposals for consideration. I have had some years’ experience - all too many, I am afraid, for my pocket- - of farming in the areas which I have been describing. The destruction of vermin, the conservation of soil, the limitation of fallowing and the absolute prohibition of fallowing of certain types of soil if that soil is to be held, are matters that must receive attention. But there are certain things which I should like to make compulsory for every land-holder in that type of country to do. One is the provision of fodder. Hay is perhaps the commonest. In some areas, the provision of ensilage is quite feasible but in very few areas do we see that attempted. “What I am about to say may savour a little of party politics, but I recall that in 1940 the then Minister for Commerce, Sir Earle Page, introduced legislation for the provision, of fodder reserves in Australia.
– That is all the right honorable gentleman ever did about il
– Nothing was done about it. The right honorable gentleman went overseas on a mission of importance, and displayed such competence that the Labour Government kept him in London for over a year. He. was the best man that the Government could find for the job. The Government must tackle the problem of fodder conservation. Admittedly, constitutional limitations may restrict its activities in this respect, but I believe that those limitations were overcome in the legislation introduced in 1940. I 3ee no reason why next year the Government should not proceed to give effect to the principle laid, down in that legislation and approved by a previous Parliament. They would go a good way towards overcoming fodder difficulties.
– I remind the honorable member that this Government did attempt to do that, and provided a grant for the States.
– As the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) is one of the chief defenders of the Government, and politically is bound to defend a Government which he helped to assume office, I am prepared to discuss that matter with him.
– I should like to be fair, and not indulge in party politics for politics sake.
– That is something that I know nothing about. The provision of fodder is most important. I am quite sure, speaking with some knowledge of the farming community, that the legislation introduced in 1940 would secure all that I want. I would be prepared to go so far as to make the cutting of a. certain percentage of crops for the conservation of fodder, one of the necessary conditions attaching to the holding of land in the country that I have been describing. That should be compulsory, but I doubt whether the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) would agree.
– The scheme would be difficult to administer, and that would necessitate increasing the army of bureaucrats, about which the honorable member has complained.
– We have them in- South Australia already. They are called District Agricultural Inspectors. They go all over the place, and could administer the scheme. Another thing which should be compulsory on all holdings in that type of country is the keeping of one year’s seed wheat in reserve on the farm. That is not done today. I realize that this may be difficult in view of the financial circumstances of many growers in these districts. Usually they are no sooner over one drought than they are into another, or they strike a period of low prices. However, I contend that the conditions which I have mentioned should attach to the holding of land, just as in the time of Henry VITI, it was laid down that in order to establish the linen industry in the United Kingdom, every farmer holding 60 acres had to sow a quarter of an acre of flax. There should also be a definite restriction upon the number of stock carried by any holding. Overstocking is one of the great curses in drought areas.
– That would have to be done through the State Governments.
– I suggest that the matter is one which could be brought before the Australian Agricultural Council, of which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is chairman. I know some of the Ministers who are members of that council, and I am sure that any such proposal would receive a sympathetic hearing. There is no better Minister for Agriculture in Australia than Mr. Wise, of Western Australia. Another practical man who has just taken over the job of Minister for Agriculture in South Australia is Mr. Jenkins.
The next suggestion which I have to make is that there should be a restriction on fallowing. There are certain types of light soil in low rainfall areas which should not be fallowed. The object should be to provide that soil with cover. Experiments should be carried out to ascertain the best type of grasses for this purpose. I have experimented with several grasses obtained from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and I have found one, a grass from central Asia, which has produced reasonable results. The value of soil under covering grasses or shrubs will not be great, but if that is not done the economic value of the country Under drift will be nothing at all. In addition, the. drift soil will spread over adjacent areas, covering good soil, and reducing still further the capacity to control that type of country. The covering of soil, whether by grass, shrubs or trees, will have to be made compulsory.
I shall deal with one other aspect of the matter. “When We come through a drought period of two years, such as that which has afflicted the northern part of my electorate and portions also of the electorates of the honorable members for Wakefield (Mr. Smith) and Grey (Mr. Russell), we find that the drift has been blown over heavier soils in surrounding country. The drought may be followed by two or three good seasons, during which the drift will grow good crops, but when the dry weather returns, crops on this land will die quicker than any other crops. Furthermore, that ‘drift will again start to move, usually towards the northeast. I recall when one of my neighbours walked off his farm in 1928, his brother-in-law said, “It’s no use. Your farm will catch you up on the track”. That virtually is the position. This job is not finished when Parliament agrees to the expenditure of this money. In fact, that is only the beginning of the job. Real measures must be taken to conserve the soil of this country. I am not referring to Central Australia, because fourfifths of Central Australia does not have the agricultural conditions which produce the difficulties withwhich we are faced to-day. The dust which has blown over Canberra on two occasions lately did not come from Central Australia ; it came from the Riverina, the northern portion of the Wimmera, from South Australia, or from somewhere along the western slopes of New South Wales. Central Australia is not cultivated, and it never will be. It is purely pastoral country. It will carry a bullock to so many square miles, or in some areas, a sheep to so many acres. That is not the type of country in which drift and drought problems are encountered. These problems are to be found in the light soil and low rainfall areas which under certain conditions will grow wheat, oats, barley, rye, and other similar crops. Unless the Government is prepared to tackle the problem in the manner which I have suggested, and deal not in palliatives which may ease the position for perhaps twelve months, but in a concrete way for the permanent betterment of the country, money voted under legislation of this kind, acceptable though it may be to the recipients, will be practically wasted.
.- It is regrettable that nature should have treated this country so unkindly that it is necessary for the Government to come to the assistance of a large section of primary producers in drought-stricken areas. Once again, the Government is making history by introducing this measure. It made history first in this regard by granting assistance to unfortunate individuals who suffered losses in the recent disastrous bush fires in Victoria. All my research indicates that in the past when some disasterhas struck the citizens of this country, the usual practice has been for the particular State or States concerned to render assistance. However, when the bush fires to which I have referred devastated portions of Victoria early this year, spontaneously, and without request, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) announced that the Commonwealth Government would make a gift of £200,000 for the alleviation of distress. That money was not a loan. There was no question of repayment. Subsequently, the Premier of Victoria who, of course, should have been the first to take action, because it was the citizens of his State who were suffering, generously offered to add £50,000 to the Commonwealth’s contribution. Later, that sum was increased to £70,000. Again, to-day, when the citizens of several States are suffering acutely because of drought conditions, the Commonwealth has decided to render similar assistance, and to that degree the governments of the States concerned are to be relieved of the necessity to provide for what normally is regarded as a State responsibility. Again the money is to be a gift, and droughtstricken farmers who receive assistance will not be faced with the prospect, as they have been in the past, of having to make restitution as soon as their financial circumstances improve. This is a most desirable departure from the usual practice. It is true that in the past the various Commonwealth Governments have come to the assistance of primary producers, but that assistance has been given, not by a direct grant to the sufferers, but in the form of a financial allocation to the State governments concerned. I remember a famous action taken by the then Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr.Fadden), at a time when, due partly to certain external factors, but in the main due to continued bad government over a period of years, the primary producers of this country found themselves in dire distress.Were they given direct financial assistance? No. The then Government made a sum of money available to the States, and left it to the States to make the adjustment between debtors and creditors. The result was that in many cases storekeepers and machinery agents who had stood by the farmers were faced withthe disas trous prospect of having to write off a substantial portion of their credits. In this case the money will be given to the farmers themselves, and they will make their own arrangements for the liquidation of their debts.
I have before me a most interesting document which was circulated in this Parliament on the 6th November, 1939. It is headed, “The Wheat Industry”. At that time the Minister for Commerce was the present Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McLeay), the Prime Minister was the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), and his supporters, of course, included the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who rose in what appeared to be righteous indignation to-night, criticizing what this Government has done for the wheat industry. I point out that in 1939 when this document was prepared, this country’s war obligations were not nearly so extensive as they have become since. The statement reads -
The statement that the Commonwealth should assume full financial responsibility because the wheat industry is a national industry, creates the impression of a paramount Commonwealth power over the industry. This is shown to be quite erroneous. The wheat industry in each State is under the complete and undivided control of the State Government. The Commonwealth cannot interfere in problems of production, and cannot control trade within Australia. It follows clearly and obviously that it would be quite unreasonable to expect the Commonwealth to accept full financial responsibility in respect of an industry over which it has no control.
The pithy part of the statement is headed “Financial responsibility for further assistance “, and reads -
The Commonwealth Government has consistently made clear to the States the financial position in regard to further assistance to the wheat industry. The first intimation, just prior to the submission to Parliament of the legislation for the Home Consumption Price, was given to the States by Sir Earle Page, with the. full authority of the Commonwealth Government. In November, 1938, Sir Earle Page, as Minister for Commerce, told the State Ministers on behalf of the Commonwealth Government that it was quite obvious to any one who studied the position that the Commonwealth had not a shilling to give to anybody. Sir Earle Page informed) the State Ministers of the Commonwealth Government’s financial responsibilities in respect of Defence. He told them, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that there was not the slightest chance of any money being available from
Commonwealth resources for any purpose other than that of Defence, which must take priority. That statement by the second member of the Commonwealth Government could have left the States in no doubt as to the Commonwealth’s financial responsibilities.
That ‘Government could not spare a shilling at the outbreak of the war. I recall that the budget introduced by the then Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) provided for financial commitments aggregating £100,000,000. The commitments to-day amount to approximately £700,000,000, yet the present government has been able to guarantee prices tinder the Scully wheat plan, and to provide £1,500,000 for drought relief.
– The present Commonwealth Government “ pinched “ all the taxes from the States.
– The Government of Victoria has a surplus of £640,000; yet, when the farmers of that State found themselves drought-stricken on this occasion, and the Premier, Mr. Dunstan, came to Canberra to attend a Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers to deal with the problem, his suggestion was that any money provided for their relief should be by way of a loan, bearing interest, and not as a grant. I quote from this document further interesting statements -
The Prime Minister told the Premiers that a scheme of price stabilization aiming at 3s. 4d. per bushel at ports would cost at least £3J million in addition to the Flour Tax, and pointed! out that that sum -would have to be provided from the Loan programme.
I want honorable members to note that the 3s. 4d. a bushel which the right honorable gentleman said would cost at least £3,250,000 meant a net return to the farmer at rail sidings of 2s. 4d. a bushel, compared with the present return at rail sidings of 4s. 1 1/3d. a bushel - a marked contrast.
– Under war conditions.
– In both instances, there were war conditions. It is related that, had Victoria shown the same spirit as was shown by the other States, a scheme of stabilization could have been put into operation for the 1939-40 harvest, but Victoria did not show a very co-operative spirit, and ultimately the McEwen-Page-Cameron scheme of stabilization was hatched, with a guarantee of 3s. lOd. a bushel on 140,000,000 bushels. The honorable member for Indi ought to be ashamed of the hypocritical statements he has made to this House. Nature has endowed him with fine physical and mental ability. It is a pity that he does not put it to better use, and is not more honest in the statements that he makes in this House. This paragraph is rather interesting -
The Prime Minister referred to the matter again in his 1939-40 Budget Speech, when he said - “ Victoria, which is a large wheat growing State, refused, through its Premier, to participate in the scheme or to contribute towards its cost, and in those circumstances the scheme propounded by the Commonwealth became impossible. You cannot have a stabilization scheme without effective regulation of production. You cannot have effective regulation of production except by State legislation and, consequently, for any one State to stand out was to bring the whole scheme down and consequently that stabilization scheme has been for the time being rendered impracticable. Since then, war has occurred and we do not know at the present what drastic changes may take place. We do not know what the effect on the price of wheat will be, nor yet what the effect on the marketing of wheat will be. It is clear, however, that the circumstances in which this problem was discussed a week or two ago are fundamentally different from the circumstances in which it is to be discussed now. Nevertheless immediately after the failure of that conference I stated that the Commonwealth Government was prepared to maintain its offer to provide up to £2,000,000 for 1939-40, as either a contribution to an agreed and effective stabilization scheme, or, if it became necessary, as a straight-out bounty with a price limit of 3s. 4d. f.o.r. ports.”
The Government admired, supported and beamed upon by the honorable member for Indi, could not do better than that at a time in the history of the Comonwealth when our financial commitments for war purposes were not nearly so great as they are to-day, and Japan was not “ in the picture “. That is the degree of responsibility and risk which that Government was prepared to- take at that time to meet the position that existed in the wheat industry. The statement from which I am quoting goes on to say -
The Australian Wheat Board has no power to pay to farmers more money than it receives for the sale of the wheat. It is not an agency for payment of bounties to the industry. The Board will make all necessary arrangements for the proper storage of the wheat. It will, under guarantee by the Commonwealth Government, arrange advances to wheat-growers in respect of wheat delivered by them, and it will make final adjustments with growers when the marketing of each crop has been completed. The amount of the advances which the Wheat Board can make to wheat- growers, therefore,must be limited by its estimate of what the subsequent returns, less marketing costs, will be.
I was interested to near the honorable member for Indi state a case for some assistance to be rendered, through the medium of a grant of this sort, to the people, who, by reason of drought, have suffered and probably will suffer losses of stock. It is true that many sheepowners in this country have suffered and will suffer severely in the present drought. Probably; some of them have suffered and will suffer as heavily as those who are wheat-growers. But it is also true that many of them are both wheat-growers and lamb-raisers, and when they receive assistance on account of the drought having effected their wheat crop they will be given a substantial amount to meet the position which they face in regard to their stock. Giving illustrations with a view to showing how these people are suffering; the honorable member made a statement which implied that the stock markets, particularly the store stock markets, in Australia to-day; are at a very low ebb in relation to prices. That statement is untrue. I challenge the honorable gentleman to go into the Parliamentary Library now, and peruse the colunms of the Melbourne Herald, in which are published the market reports for store sheep within the last month. Invariably, the heading is, “ Store sheep market firm “. Owing to the competition of graziers who have been burnt out in the western district, in addition to the comparatively sound financial position of many of the primary producers of this country as the result of the policy of the present Government, which includes the payment of a bounty of 6d. a bushel on certain wheat, many stockowners are able to hold their stock on their farms. That was dot the position in former drought, years. Recently, a farmer told me that he had sold his wheat, had received full payment for it under the Scully plan, and had bought back 300 bags at a concession of 6d. a bushel. I can remember some of the past droughts; I passed through them. Invariably, under past governments, the farmer was in such an unfortunate position that he had many of his sheep on lien from the auctioneers. “When unfavourable seasonal conditions were encountered, and the risk looked to be rather dangerous, his bankeror hisauctioneer would whisper in his ear, “ Bill, old boy, the skies are looking bad.You owe me £300 on these sheep.You had better put them in the market nest week “. Faced with the knowledge that, if he hung on and the position became worse his indebtedness to the auctioneer might increase, and he would not be able to discharge it, the unfortunate farmer would send his sheep to the market. To-day, these people, comparatively, are financially strong. That is one of the reasons why, during this drought, they are not. rushing sheep into the store stock market and sacrificing them as they did on previous occasions.
– Sheep were sold for 3d. a head recently.
– I have heard a lot about sheep being sold at 3d. a head. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) knows as well as I do that sheep sold at that price are not worth taking out of the yard. Recently,
I went to the Bendigo store stock market with the intention of taking advantage of the drought. My experience of past droughty conditions has been that invariably the farmer flooded the store stock market and sheep were picked up comparatively cheaply. There were three pens of store sheep in that great market - old “ crackers “ which one could not drive out- of the yard; They realized from1s. 6d. to1s.10d. a head, and that is all they were worth. The position of men who have stock of that sort has been cited by the honorable member for Indi in order to stress the financial sufferings of the stock-raisers in this country. Not only have I studied the stock market reports, but I have also visited the store stock markets. At Newmarket, I have seen good lines of weaners, breeding ewes, and store sheep of any kind, realize good prices. It is humbug for the honorable member to relate stories of dire distress, and of stock being sacrificed by reason of very low prices. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) who is an auctioneer, knows that what I say is correct. I have issued a challenge to the honorable member for Indi to produce to me any fair run of store stock market reports. He will find that they confirm my statement that good rates are obtained for different lines of store stock sheep. What is the use of his telling a tale of worry and distress, and of always looking on the sad and sorry side of life ? Instead of doing that, he should face the world with a stronger morale, and encourage the people to keep up their morale. If he continues much longer in his present strain, the people will begin to believe that they are worse off than they are. Fortunately, I do not think that anybody takes very much notice of him. I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this legislation which will prove to be most helpful to those suffering from the effect of the drought. Indirectly, it will be of benefit to persons other than farmers inasmuch as it will create a sense of security among those who are economically dependent upon the wheat industry. I listened with great interest to the constructive remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Cameron) on soil erosion. I do not propose to embark upon a discussion on soil erosion and its attendant problems, but I am heartily in agreement with much of what the honorable member said. However, the carrying out of many of his suggestions would involve the creation of a very wide-spread bureaucracy. State officials would have to place all sorts of restrictions upon individual farmers, and the farmers have always resented official interference of any kind. Official’s would have to be given authority to tell the farmer how many sheep he should carry, what crops he should grow and how he should grow them. In fact, the bureaucratic idols which it would be necessary to set up would far exceed in number the wicked images which the honorable member and his colleagues succeeded in casting down during the recent referendum campaign. However, although I recognise the difficulties of administering any scheme for controlling the erosion, I recognize also that some action is urgently necessary. I believe that when the time comes for the Government to act it will do so in the same practical manner in which it has dealt with so many other problems.
– I desire to associate myself with the amendment moved by my colleague, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). The introduction of this measure is an indication that the Government realizes the seriousness of the drought, but it also indicates that, in the opinion of the Government, the drought is confined to the States mentioned in the bill. The bill provides that relief shall be paid only to the growers of cereal crops. As a matter of fact, the drought is not by any means confined to the States mentioned in the bill, and, of course, its adverse effects are felt by many farmers other than cereal-growers. Under this provision, the Commonwealth is to provide £1,500,000, and the States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia are between them to provide another £1,500,000. So widespread is the drought that the matter must be dealt with on a national basis. This drought, which is having such disastrous effects throughout Australia, is all the more serious in its effect because of the war-created difficulties under which farmers are compelled to operate. A further consideration is that the drought has come upon us at a time when we are obliged to feed, not only our own citizens, but also members of the Allied Forces in this area. In addition, we are required to send supplies to the United Kingdom and. other countries. The purpose of the amendment is to enlarge the scope of the bill. We submit that the amount provided is not enough to give adequate relief to those affected by the drought. It cannot be denied that industries other than those covered in the bill should receive consideration. The honorable member for Ballarat said that governments supported by honorable members on this side of the House had never given any practical assistance to the wheat industry, and he applauded the present Government for having granted £200,000 last year for the relief of bushfire victims in Victoria. I remind the honorable member that governments which were supported by parties now on this side of the House made available over the years the following assistance to the wheat-growers: -
The 1940-41 budget, which I presented to this House, provided £2,770,000 for drought relief to the wheat industry, and there was a condition that repayments should be made by the States in four annual instalments, commencing three years after the making of the grant, the Commonwealth to meet interest charges in full for the first eighteen months. Under the proposals now before the House the Government proposes to make available only £1,500,000, and certain States are to provide between them a similar amount, although this is the most disastrous drought since 1902. Those figures are an effective answer to the charge that non-Labour governments did nothing to help rural industries. It is obvious that the production of beef, mutton, lamb, pork and dairy products, as well as vegetables and wheat will be seriously affected by the drought. The Government is providing assistance for cereal-growers, but it is essential that relief should also be afforded to other classes of primary producers who have been hit by the drought, and who normally play an important part on the food front. Drought relief should be tackled on a comprehensive scale, and the matter is one of extreme urgency. Unless we are favoured with extraordinarily good falls of rain in the near future the whole of our rural production will be adversely affected, and the Government will, perforce, have to revise its food goals. The starting point of all measures for social justice must be rural production, because everything is based upon it. Rural production must be stabilized if the Government is to be in a position to discharge its national and international responsibilities. Droughts, and the problems arising out of them, should receive the earnest consideration of the Government and the consideration should not be on party lines. This should be a national matter.
In the first speech I made in this House in 1937, I referred to the problem of drought, and said that an authority should be set up to grapple with it. If the drought continues there must be food shortages in Australia. Farmers will not be able to comply with the request of the Government to produce more food. For some years now they have laboured under the difficulty of a man-power shortage, and now they are afflicted by drought.
A recent suggestion commends itself to me, and I offer it to the Government for its consideration. It is that a survey should be made of stocks of grain, hay, chaff, mill-offals, linseed meal and other kinds of fodder now available with the object of ensuring that they are used in such a way that Australia as a whole will derive the maximum benefit. Another proposal is that servicemen in camps and depots throughout Australia should be made available for emergency farm work. When I discussed fodder conservation in 1937, I emphasized the need for Parliament to concern itself with the matter of drought alleviation. I quoted the experience of Queensland, because figures dealing with that State were the only ones available to me. As far back as 1894 there were 7,000,000 cattle in Queensland. The. economic depression which followed, together with the drought of 1902, had the effect of reducing the number of cattle in that State to 2,500,000 by 1903. By 1921 the number had again risen to 7,000,000, but by 1928 it had declined to 5,000,000. Notwithstanding the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the relief measures which were applied from time to time, the number of cattle in Queensland to-day is only 6,500,000, or 500,000 less than in 1894.
In the case of sheep, there was some variation. A peak .of 21,700,000 was reached in 1892. This dropped to 7,200,000 in 1902. In 1921 it was reduced from 23,000,000 to 16,000,000 by drought, increased to 20,700,000 in 1925 and reduced again to less than 17,000,000 by the 1926 drought. In 1935 drought caused a decrease of 2,500,000, bringing the flocks down to 18,000,000. The latest figures place sheep flocks in Queensland at 23,200,000 at the 31st March, 1944- a decline of more than 2,000,000 compared with March, 1943. According to the Queensland Economic News the most significant feature of the operations in 1943-44 was the steep decline of the number of sheep, the sharpest fall being in the central west, the north-west and the far west. The journal goes on to say that there are strong indications that in Queensland the number of sheep will continue to decline, one of the factors being the drought which prevailed in the Roma and south-western divisions throughout the autumn and winter months. According to the Commonwealth Statistician’s approximate figures about 3,300,000 sheep were lost through drought in Queensland in the year ended December, 1935 ; 396,000 in 1936 ; 622,000 in 1937 ; 1,200,000 in 1938 and 758,000 in 1939. Over a nine-years period between 1926 and 1935 approximately 2,000,000 sheep a year were lost in Queensland, definitely as a, result of drought, and if we go back to 1937 Queensland had fewer sheep than in 1891 and 500,000 fewer cattle than in 1895. “When these losses of valuable Stock in Queensland are considered in conjunction with the losses in other States the decline in the national wealthproducing capacity of the country must be brought into bold relief. Only production will stabilize this country’s economy. Having regard to the Government’s financial policy, Australia obviously must look to increased production to prevent insolvency through disastrous inflation and to stabilize purchasing power. If our economic stability is to be maintained something must be done to check the disastrous losses caused by drought and soil erosion. The preent Government is not fully alive to the seriousness of the position. There is no use in tackling the enormous problem of drought and soil erosion piecemeal. It must be tackled on a. national scale without delay. The Government has brought down a hill providing for the distribution of a meagre £1,500,000, to which certain State governments must add the same amount, making £3,000,000 in all, but the disbursement of the money will be limited to the growers of cereal crops, although the disastrous effects of the drought are apparent through every branch of primary production.
The importance of the stability of our rural industries to the nation’s economic well-being is such that no expense should be spared in solving the problem. Drought and erosion have destroyed valuable natural assets and reduced production to the danger point. Therefore, the Australian Country party considers that this measure does not go far enough, and it is for that reason that we have submitted an amendment to the House. Actually, soil erosion is a menace equal to that of an enemy. It is even more menacing in that while Australia can vanquish an enemy, the menace of soil erosion will become more acute unless it is attacked with foresight, realism and vigour. To do this it is essential that Australia should have the benefit of the experience of American scientists and engineers with a first-hand knowledge of the problem. It is imperative, therefore, that the Government should, without further delay, send Australian scientists and engineers to the United States of America or invite that country to send scientists and engineers here to advise and plan to combat this menace to Australia. The Australian Country party, with its knowledge of the effects of drought, is not prepared to accept without protest the amount of relief proposed and the means of distribution, and consequently we have placed before the House the amendment so ably expounded by the honorable member for Indi.
.- I support in principle the amendment moved by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), but I doubt the wisdom of introducing it into a bill for assistance to cereal-growers who are so urgently in need of assistance that I would deprecate the delay that would be involved in withdrawing the bill for redrafting. The supreme consideration is to provide the proposed relief to the cereal growers as quickly as possible. Therefore I hope that there will be no delay in the passage of the bill. From wheat areas in my own electorate and other parts of the country, I am receiving communications urging me to press upon the Government the need to give, as expeditiously as possible, the relief proposed by this bill whereby £3,000,000 will be provided by the Commonwealth in conjunction with certain States. The amount is not over-generous, and I should have liked to see it raised, but in all the circumstances, I accept it as reasonable, for it will provide fairly substantial assistance to those who have suffered from this severe drought, especially those who are in their second year of drought. Last night the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) adopted a very co-operative attitude and suggested that the measure should be debated on non-party lines. That was a commendable approach to the measure. From the political point of view, it was a wise approach because, after all, the record of governments with which the right honorable gentleman was associated with were not wonderful in respect of assistance to the wheat industry. It is true that previous governments have provided substantial relief to wheatfarmers by way of bounties when, wheat prices have been low, and also by the provision of moneys for adjustment of farmers’ debts.
As drought conditions occur at all too frequent intervals throughout the Australian wheat-belt, I believe that it is essential, as an adjunct to stability in the industry, that a growers’ provident fund be established to which growers could have recourse to tide them over periods of drought instead of having to appeal to governments for assistance. A simple and effective scheme would be to make a deduction of a fractional amount from each bushel of wheat marketed each year, and to place this in a general fund which the Commonwealth Government could supplement by a similar amount. The amounts contributed in this way could then be credited to each individual grower and shown in a pass book. “When drought or other similar visitation occurred, and only then would the wheat-grower be permitted to have recourse to this fund, except in the case of retirement from the industry or the death of the wheatgrower, whereupon the full amount remaining to his credit in the fund could be released, I suggest also that the fund be exempt from all forms of levying or distraint during the whole period in which the grower-contributor is actually engaged in the growing of wheat and is a registered wheat-grower. I suggest also that the fund be exempt from taxation, at least until death or retirement. This plan would, I submit, confer a further needed degree of stability, on both the large and the small wheat-farmer, in that it would provide ready finance in adverse seasons, and when farmers did not draw upon the fund it would accumulate to form a retiring or superannuation fund of considerable value to the recipients in the latter years of life. As the fund accumulated it could be suitably invested after the estimated liquid requirements for administration and seasonal needs were provided for. Administration could be handled comfortably and cheaply by such bodies as the Australian Wheat Board or the Wheat Stabilization Committee. That is the principle of a plan which I have always had in mind as something which would obviate our having to come to the Government pleading for a substantial sum of money to assist wheat-growers who have met with adverse seasons and consequently, as on this occasion, are not financially able to carry on. Such a fund would remove the wheat industry from its dependence on politics. The industry has been the subject of political moves for many years, and it would be all to the good if it could be removed from that undesirable atmosphere. We have seen exhibitions in this chamber of the industry being made the plaything of party politics, and it would be infinitely better for every one concerned, and from the national standpoint, if the matter could be lifted from the sphere of party politics.
I propose to enlarge on the idea which I submitted for a provident fund for primary producers. Assuming that there was a marketable crop of 120,000,000 bushels actually delivered, a levy of1d. a. bushel imposed on the growers would produce an aggregate sum of £500,000 in that year. With a similar contribution by the Government, the total would be £1,000,000. ‘ On that basis, in five years, the total fund would reach £5,000,000, plus increments from the investment of the funds. A grower who marketed 1,000 bags, or 3,000 bushels, would contribute, at the rate of1d. a bushel, the sum of £12 10s. After five years, with the addition of the government subsidy, his credit in the fund would be £125. Five years is the period during which we would not expect a recurrence of drought. It is a fairly conservative estimate. I regard the grower of 1,000 bags as thy smallest wheat producer. A grower who produces 1,500 bags, or 4,500 bushels, would contribute £18 15s. a year, and in five years his credit with the government subsidy would be £187 10s. A wheatgrower with 2,000 bags, or 6,000 bushels, would pay £25 a year and in five years, with the government subsidy added, his credit would be £250. I give those examples in order to indicate the sums which would accrue for the benefit of the average wheat-grower. Increments from those investments would be added, and with the effluxion of time, nf the fund was not drawn on, would amount to a considerable sum. Those are ideas which I submit to the Government in all sincerity as a method by which we can put the matter of drought relief out of the sphere of party politics in the future. It is a simple plan, and the details could easily be worked out.
The Government’s contribution may appear to be considerable, but it already pays out from Consolidated Revenue huge sums for superannuation schemes, invalid and old-age pensions and other social services. A provident fund for primary producers should he brought into the same category. These people are performing a national service of great importance, and should be afforded the protection of a provident or insurance scheme. Previous governments have had their own methods of providing assistance to primary producers in times of drought and low prices. Whilst the sums provided have been substantial, the benefits have not been continuous, and we must aim at something, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said, which will give them a final degree of stability and ‘ will place the industry on a firm footing in future. Surely the objective must be to get away from these appeals for assistance, which have to be made from time to time in this Parliament and other Parliaments, and to put the industry on a basis where the money will be automatically available to the growers in time of drought.
I realize that money is not the only requirement for the purpose of obviating drought. We must also include some form of fodder conservation, and the storing of reserves. On previous occasions I have dealt with the principle of the normal granary so ably advocated by the Vicepresident and Secretary foi- Agriculture of the United States of America, Mi1. Henry Wallace. A plan should be evolved to have a continuous supply in reserve, so that in the event of drought We shall always be able to meet our commitments at home and maintain our markets abroad. The wheat-growing industry is becoming more and’ more international in outlook, and as a Country which plays a major part in the export of wheat, Australia is gradually being drawn into international schemes. Therefore, we must carefully examine the whole problem in order that we shall be better prepared for adverse seasons:
Prom the standpoint of finance, the wheat-growing industry is marginal to a very great degree. Some little time ago, a bill was introduced into this Parliament to establish a mortgage department of the Commonwealth Bank, and we hoped that it would have been a. useful unit in re-organizing the finances of the farmers. After all, the majority of the wheat-farmers, as has been shown by investigations, are still in precarious financial circumstances, To-day they are able - disregarding the drought- -to meet their current commitments and to carry on in a reasonable manner. Many of them are not entirely “ broke “. They still have a little reserve, largely as the result of better prices for wheat, wool and lambs during the past two or three years. That is one thing for which we are very grateful. But we must have some re-organization of farm finance, and T trust that the matter will be taken into consideration and plans evolved for the better stability of the industry in future. It is vitally important that that should be done.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who made a very good contribution to the debate, referred to soil erosion. That danger has been brought home to all of us recently by the disastrous conditions that we are experiencing, with the lifting of the soil in dry areas where the ground is bare of any herbage. The soil is blowing through the air, and we are face to face with a serious problem, the magnitude of which is not so widely realized as it should be. Only those of us who live in those dry areas appreciate the menace. I hope that the Government, in planning for the future, will take into consideration the necessity for providing much larger sums of money to combat soil erosion than have been provided in the past. The reason for this trouble is largely economic. Land has been cleared under our system of economics, and has been made available, and the competition for the land whether to buy, rent or select it has been keen. The value of the land has been artificially raised by this competition, and, therefore, it becomes necessary for the owner or the lessee to get the utmost from the soil either by stocking or cropping it. So we get intense cultivation in those areas, which are largely marginal, where wheat and sheep are produced in conjunction. That leads to soil erosion. If we could have a system of leasehold rather than freehold, where the Government would own the land and fix the proper productive value and charge the lessee accordingly, we should overcome much of the trouble caused by overstocking, overcropping, overcultivation and overclearing. The last-named is the basic cause of the trouble in our lighter soil areas, which comprise the majority of the wheat-growing lands of Australia. I hope that these matters will not be made the plaything of party politics, but that this Parliament will apply itself in the future to deal with them on a purely national basis.
I am in complete agreement with the plea made to-night for the granting of assistance to primary producers other than cereal-growers, who are suffering as a result of the drought. Hundreds of thousands of sheep and other stock have perished, and others have had to be sacrificed at very low prices. Restocking will be a great problem for people on grazing properties. The ability to carry on will present another problem. So I urge the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to provide relief for that section as well as the cereal-growers.
Whatever is done in that direction will have my support. But I should not like to jeopardize or delay the passage of this measure, or to have it withdrawn and redrafted as suggested by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). I hope that at a later stage he will see the wisdom of not proceeding with the amendment.
– The honorable member will have to vote on it.
– I shall have no hesitation in doing so. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) explained the difficulty of introducing any proper scheme for establishing reserves of hay and other fodder. Reference was made to attempts by former Ministers for Commerce to achieve that result. I interjected when the honorable member for Barker was speaking that two or three years ago the present Government had made available to the States the sum of £500,000 for the purpose of financing schemes for fodder conservation and retaining stocks of hay on a basis to be worked out by them.. I do not know to what extent the States availed themselves of that offer, but it is still within the ambit of their activities and authority to evolve such a plan. Some of the States did not accept the offer, but others did so, though I am not aware to what degree. But there we have the problem of trying to arouse sufficient interest in a scheme, such as conserving fodder. It is a difficult job, and must be left largely to the farmers themselves. Regarding other sections that have been affected by adverse seasonal conditions this year, I was reminded by the honorable member for Barker of the severe blow that has been dealt to many citrus-growers. In my electorate in particular, large areas of citrus trees have been completely wiped out by severe frosts. Many returned soldier settlers and others in those areas are practically bankrupt as the result of that disastrous visitation. I plead with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and with the Government to ensure that something will be done for that section of the primary producing community also. With regard to the reference by the honorable member for Indi to what he described as the “ £10,000,000 steal “ I can only say that I regard it as purely political piffle. Certainly it is not based on fact. I accept the assurance given by the Government to the representatives of the industry and to myself that when the pools are finalized, whatever it has cost to subsidize the sale of cheap stock feed, will be made up to the growers. I believe that assurance will be honoured.
– What about the power alcohol schemes?
– So far as I know, very little power alcohol has been produced in the distilleries set up for that purpose. I understand that a halt has been called because wheat is not in sufficient abundance to justify its use for the production of power alcohol. The establishment of the power alcohol industry was recommended by a commission appointed by a previous government, the idea being to produce power alcohol only when there was ample wheat available, which was the case at that time. I understand that the payment of a subsidy has been taken into consideration also, and is covered by the undertaking given by the Minister.
– How much power alcohol has been produced at Wanracknabeal ?
– None, so far as I know.
In my view, the first essential is that the money provided under this measure should reach the people whom it is intended to benefit as quickly as possible. Their need is most urgent. I trust that the measure will have a speedy passage and that the Government will urge the States concerned to speed up the machinery of distribution.
.- I compliment the Government upon the introduction of this measure. The drought which is now being experienced over a large portion of this continent is the worst in my time, not only in my own electorate, but in all the affected areas. During the last few weeks I have travelled from Deniliquin, in the south of my electorate, to Brisbane, and the only areas which I saw in good condition were the irrigation districts and the land along the Clarence River.
I fear that when a final assessment is made of the total wheat acreage which has failed entirely, it will be found that the amount of money required to compensate growers will exceed the sum provided in this measure. Indications at present are that many millions of acres will not produce any wheat at all. Possibly the financial assistance required will be £6,000,000 if farmers are to be paid the cost of planting. After all, some farmers in Western Australia are being paid 12s. an acre not to grow wheat, so surely farmers whose crops have failed completely are entitled to receive, by way of compensation, the actual expenses incurred by them in planting. The position of the wheat industry to-day has been covered adequately by previous speakers, and I shall not delay the House with repetition, nor shall I refer to what was done or was not done by previous administrations. I contend, however, that this Government has done more for the primary producers of Australia in its comparatively short term of office than was done by all preceding governments in all my experience as a primary producer. It has shown that it has a sincere understanding of primary industries.
The argument advanced by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is true to a certain degree, but if relief were extended to the wool industry, where would the line be drawn? Probably we would find that money was being paid to wealthy pastoralists. Sheep farmers who have lost heavily in the drought have my deepest sympathy, because nobody likes to see his work and his investment lost; but to extend the scope of this measure to the wool industry would be most difficult. Practically ail the fat lamb raising is carried out in the mixed farming districts, so that most farmers engaged in this activity will benefit. To use the argument advanced by the honorable member for Indi, some farmers have already received assistance, in that they have been able to re-purchase at a low price some of the wheat which they have sold. That is the case all over my own electorate. Farmers kept a certain quantity for fodder, but because of the extreme conditions, they have been compelled to buy back some wheat. In that way breeders of cross-bred sheep and fat lamb raisers are already receiving some benefit. My sympathy is mainly with the wheat-grower.
I compliment, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture also upon the inclusion in this measure of provision for assistance to wheaten and oaten hay growers. It is the first time in history that this action had been taken. It is most difficult for individual farmers to conserve fodder, and in any scheme for the post-war rehabilitation of rural industries, I suggest that consideration be given to the establishment of governmentowned fodder conservation farms in districts subject to drought. The conservation of fodder of any description is an expensive undertaking. That applies particularly to hay because it must be put into stacks of from 100 to 300 tons. Smaller stacks are useless if the hay is to be kept for any length of time. Most individual farmers do not conserve fodder to-day because their finances will not permit them to do so. Some of them may keep fodder for six or twelve months and then be compelled to put it on the market to enable them to meet their commitments. It is the responsibility of the nation to carry out fodder conservation schemes in areas which are affected by drought. It has always seemed to me to be wrong to cart hay and chaff from fodder-growing areas such as Junee, Coolamon, Wagga, Marrar, Matong and Ganmain to other parts of the State or Commonwealth. Why not establish government fodder conservation farms in all districts where it can be grown, and thus obviate the expensive business of transporting stock-feed from one centre to another? Fodder conservation of course is bound up largely with water conservation, which has been sadly neglected in the past. Our present drought troubles are due in no small measure to the lack of foresight on the part of previous governments. Almost every year there is a more or less serious drought in some part of the Commonwealth. Present conditions of course are the worst in history. I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) that every time there is a drought, wheatfarmers have to come cap in hand begging for assistance. One reason for this is that at existing land values and interest rates wheat-growing has never been a payable proposition. In ,1930 the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry found that the average . price of wheat at country sidings for the previous 25 years had been 4s. lid. a bushel,, the result being that in the first low-price year growers were unable to carry on. That indicates that the industry was never on a sound financial basis, due partly, no doubt, to the fact that weare attempting to grow wheat on unsuitable land and allowing land in good rainfall areas to remain in very large holdings.
I suggest to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that the drought relief provided in this bill should be doubled, or, alternatively, that we should wait until the final figures of crop failures are known, and then provide/ sufficient money to compensate all growers on reasonable terms.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [10.43 J. - Under this measure the Commonwealth proposes to grant to four States £1,500,000, under certain conditions, for drought relief to the growers of cereal crops. I was very glad to hear the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of thebill, because this drought which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has referred to as a national disaster, and which is widespread throughout the Commonwealth, affects not only cereal-growers but also other primary producers. To show how widespread it is I would like to read the report of the Wool Growers Council, dated the 14th November, on seasonal conditions throughout Australia : -
New South Wales. - Extremely dry conditions still prevail over the greater portion of New South Wales, with the exception of Now England and some of the higher districts north of Tamworth and around Werris Creek as far as the top of the Hunter Valley. Western pastures are rapidly drying ofl following hot, dry weather marked by severe south- westerlies and dust storms.
Victoria. - Serious conditions continue toprevail in the Mallee and Wimmera, recent light rains affording only .temporary relief. Grazing areas are entirely denuded of pastures and, except in isolated cases, crops have failed completely.
South Australia. - Good late rainsin agricultural districts.In pastoral districts drought conditions still continue, position as regards both feed and water desperate.
Western Australia. - Apart from Kimberleys past month has been virtually rainless throughout State. Very dry to droughty conditions prevail in pastoral districts. Agricultural areas generally facing trying times during summeras regards shortage feed and water.
Queensland. - Seasonal conditions Darling Downs and north-west of State satisfactory for this time of year. Gulf country generally good with exception of portion which is now verging on dry aide. Balance of State very dry. Conditions are bad in coastal cattle districts and south-west of State where stock losses are occurring. Storms have not eventuated and are urgently needed.
The only place in Australia that is not suffering severely from drought is Tasmania. The important point about the granting of relief to farmers and other primary producers in Australia, who so urgently need it, is this: There are a few farmers in the Commonwealth who are purely single-crop producers. Most farmers engage in mixed farming, and whilst they are to receive some assistance from the Government with regard to their wheat, oats and barley crops, they are to receive no assistance whatever to compensate for losses which they have incurredin other phases of their activities, mainly live-stock raising. Therefore, the Minister should accept the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. McEwen) so that the incidence of this grant may be widened, and mixed farmers may be compensated for their losses in the production of both cereal crops and live-stock. My criticism of the proposal of the Government is that the assistance is too little and too late. This drought is not a new experience in Australia. Droughts have occurred at different periods throughout the history of this country. Had the Government shown more wisdom, knowing ‘ that droughts would recur, the incidence of this drought could have been greatly alleviated. This is only a patchwork proposal. It seals one burst in the dam, but does not do anything to prevent the occurrence of other breaks. Its patchwork does not cover the whole of the primary production in those States in which the drought is raging with the greatest severity at the present time.
Assistance should be given to men who have lost their flocks and herds, as well as to the cereal-growers. What the growers of live-stock want is physical assistance. We have often heard in this House and elsewhere the expression that what is physically possible is financially possible. I put it that what is financially possible is not physically possible in the Commonwealth to-day, for the main reason that very little fodder has been conserved. The Commonwealth Government deserves the severest censure for having allowed the production of fodder to fall. It knew that this is a country in which drought occurs not rarely but often, and with much greater severity in some years than in intermediate, years. I shall give some figures in relation to fodder conservation in the Commonwealth. In dive pre-war years, the average conservation was -
In the five war years the average has been -
In the five war years the average deficiency of hay of those three types, compared with five pre-war years, was 511,000 tons per annum. That means that in the five war years the total deficiency was 2,555,000 tons. The figures for a short period are even more disturbing. The production of hay in 1941-42 was 3,226,000 tons. By 1943-44 it had dropped by 959,000 tons to 2,267,000 tons. Had that hay been conserved in the war years at the same rate as in pre-war years, we would have had in Australia at the present time approximately 2,000,000 tons in reserve to break the back of the drought.
The position in relation to wheat is equally disturbing. Wheat production has been progressively falling. In 1938-39 it was 155,000,000 bushels, and by 1943-44 it had dropped to 109,000,000 bushels. After hearing some of the statements that were made in the House to-night as to wheat stabilization, and the Scully plan not having been detrimental to the production of wheat in the Commonwealth, I was interested to read in an official document issued by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, dated the 13th November, 1944, a summary of the wheat situation. On page 2 it says -
The decline of 4,200,000 acres from 1941-42 to 1 943-44 was due to the continued restriction of wheat sowings under the Wheat Stabilization Plan referred to later.
The document later points out. that the area under wheat has continually fallen, and that there have been restrictions in Western Australia, with the payment of compensation to prevent sowing. The present position, which the Government should have anticipated, has been allowed to drift to absolute disaster. T!he number of sheep in Australia to-day is higher than it has been for many years, and the number of beef cattle also is very high. The Government should have realized that this country would not always be a “ Garden of Eden “, with a reliable rainfall. It ought to have profited by the biblical story in regard to conserving during seven goods years to meet the needs of seven lean years.
– That should have been done while the Government supported by the honorable member was in power.
– Drought conditions have not prevailed throughout the whOle of the period since we went out of office. The present Government has been in office for three years, during which there have been good seasons when it would have been possible to conserve fodder. The wheat position has been allowed to drift, not because of lack of warning. A copy of a letter dated the 28th February, 1942, addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture by the Flour Millers Association of New .South Wales, stated - lt is the opinion of my members that there should be no restriction of production of wheat in States which have adequate and satisfactory storage and stacking facilities.
One reason for this opinion is that nature has a habit of remedying things agricultural due to seasonal changes, and if we were to have » failure or destruction of crops, as Victoria and Queensland recently had failures, in a year following one in which the carry-over had been reduced to small dimensions, compared with population, the consequences could be serious.
The consequences of the present drought are going to be extremely serious, because the growers of sheep and cattle, and the people engaged in dairying will suffer by reason of the position that has arisen in the wheat industry. Only yesterday, a deputation waited on the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) in Canberra to place before him the desperate plight in which the poultry farmers of the Commonwealth find themselves to-day because of the failure to provide pollard and bran for their poultry, and the reduction in the flour mills, since the 1st November, from three shifts to two shifts. All this has arisen through complete lack of foresight on the part of the Government in preparing supplies for the future. When it came into office, there was in existence a Commonwealth Fodder Conservation Board. That board, although established in September, 1941, apparently did not do very much, or was prevented from doing very much by the actions of the Government. Its function was to examine the need for and to implement fodder conservation schemes. It was disbanded about March, 1943, having held eight or ten meetings. No funds .were ever made available by the Government, which sets itself up as a helper of the primary industries, and a far-sighted and all-seeing Administration. It did not do anything to assist the Fodder Conservation Board to implement its plans, or even co-operate with the States by the provision of funds that would have enabled fodder to be conserved. I understand that the Premier of New South Wales and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture agreed to co-operate financially in a scheme propounded by the board about February, 1943. I do not know why the financial provisions of that scheme were not carried out. Nothing was done, and the position was allowed to drift into the desperate state in which we find it to-day. Publicity was given by the Fodder Conservation Board to the fact that funds were to be made available, and people were advised that loans would be provided, yet the next move in this wonderful planning was that the board was told that no funds were available. The Government had a warning of what was likely to happen. On the 7th July, 1942, a meeting held at Science House, Sydney, and convened by the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and the Australian Veterinary Association, was attended by Mr. E. J. Eggins, chairman of the
Fodder Conservation Board, many other gentlemen engaged in primary production, and expert advisers from the Department of Agriculture. Suggestions were made with a view to enabling farmers to conserve fodder. It was stated that funds could be provided, out of which they could be paid for the conservation, and when the fodder ultimately was sold they could receive the difference between what they had already been paid and what was paid by the buyers! Mr. Bartlett, of the Department of Agriculture, referred to the need for realism in the problem, and suggested the adoption of a plan which could be implemented within the next eighteen months. He proposed the payment to wheat-growers of an advance of 35s. a ton on hay in sheaf, and £2 5s. a ton on baled hay. Other speakers suggested the payment of as much as up to £5 a ton for baled hay. These proposals were placed before the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but were never implemented. To-day, we are reaping the whirlwind. Two things were necessary for a successful fodder conservation scheme - manpower and a guaranteed price for hay. Neither was available. It was only after a great battle that we were able to secure the release of any men at all for the primary industries. Even now, a comparatively small number has been released.
– That is not a fair statement.
– Yes it is, and the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has himself been one of the worst offenders, in that he has refused to release labour to those ancillary industries which are essential to the great primary industries. For instance, I had a great struggle with him and with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) in order to obtain the release of two men for an undertaking engaged in the manufacture of horseshoes. A fair number of men has been released recently to the dairying industry, but on many pastoral properties old men and women are still struggling to carry on. They are fighting a losing battle, and stock art dying because there is no one to feed them. The Government should withdraw this bill, and it should lose no time in introducing a measure which would provide a system for all primary industries adversely affected by the drought. I do not want to deprive the cereal growers of one penny, but I want to see justice done to all sections ofl the primary industry.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Rankin) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- We have recently heard heart-rending stories of the sufferings of prisoners of war in enemy hands, and I believe that some special form of repatriation is needed in their case. I asked the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) some time ago what it was proposed to do for them, and he told me that they did not come within his province until they were released from the Army. I suggest that ordinary repatriation measures will not suffice for men who have suffered such hardships. I was greatly impressed by an article I read recently by a medical officer who had himself been a prisoner of war, upon the need for special treatment for these men after their release. This doctor discusses the problem under four headings, the first being what he describes as “ the breakingin period “. He says -
The captive realizes very quickly the loss of friendly association, the loss of his own reputation and prestige, the absence of the sunshine of his own propaganda, and the power of the opposing propaganda. The lot of the man who was taken prisoner in France after three weeks of exhaustive retreat may well serve as an example. Within a month he was switched from the pleasant life of a pseudo-peace-time army into the grip of Nazi persecution. Bewildered by the falsity of his own propaganda and disillusioned as to the mig’ht of his own country, hungry and fatigued to the extreme, he was moved into Germany.
He refers to the sufferings endured by prisoners because of lack of clothing, shortage of food, and the mental depression which overtakes them. He then goes on to say that there is. a second period which begins immediately after their release, the period of convalescence. It is hard for such men to acquire a normal outlook again. There follows, he says, a lengthy period of boredom, and this seriously interferes with their rehabilitation into ordinary civil life. The final phase is the repatriation period, and the doctor recites his own experiences in support of his argument. He states -
The returning prisoner of war is ill-equipped for the difficult period of recreational relaxation, and he is without the sheet-anchor of his daily routine; he has laid aside his habits of recreational relaxation, and he has lost the art of working for his living. With these handicaps he must readjust himself to his return to normal life. Should domestic trouble and unemployment further burden him he may succumb to his adversities and relinquish the struggle. It is reasonable to suppose that at this point a little help from someone who understands the position may be of great assistancc
Finally boiled down the doctor points out the need of a united effort on behalf of P.O.W. personnel who need that help to restore them to their old selves, and chiefly the report mentions the need for “ The establishment of a prisoner-of-war club in all large towns - where ex-prisoners may foregather and know that, should they require advice, there is some one attending each club who understands their difficulties and is willing to help them.” These advice centres may also be used by relatives seeking advice in handling returned prisoners, some of whom may prove difficult at home and refuse to receive any form of help.
The writer has himself experienced what he describes, and he is anxious to safeguard others from the dangers which he foresees. I know of one man from my own district who has returned after having been a prisoner of war for four years. He was in Italy, France and later in Germany, and has just been repatriated. He is a. single man, and has begun on that difficult period when he must rehabilitate himself in civil life. It is good that the prisoners of war recently rescued from the Japanese are, as the Acting Prime Minister told us, to be given leave, and released from the Army if they so desire when their leave is up, but I want to know what special provision is being made to enable them to settle down once more to a normal way of living. The Government should announce its policy on this matter. If there are domestic difficulties because of the long absence from Australia of prisoners of war, it is the duty of the Government to make the way easy for them. I hope that the Acting Prime Minister will give this matter his attention. If anything is being done we should be told of it, and if nothing has been done, then the matter should not be further delayed. Prisoners of war are already coming back, and I hope that they will be returning in greater numbers within the next few months.
– I take this opportunity to place before the Government the facts of a case which I was not allowed to discuss before because it was sui judice. It concerns a young dairy-farmer who, on his return to his farm on the 9th May, was met by an inspector of the Liquid Fuel Control Board, who asked him where he had been, and was told that he had been to the railway station with a load of pigs. The inspector said : “ You have not drawn your petrol tickets. How did you get petrol to go?” The farmer was honest enough to say he had taken it from the 6 gallons which he gets every two months for his cream separator, and that he would replace the 2 or 3 gallons when he had the opportunity to collect his tickets and buy the petrol. On the 20th .September, a summons was issued against him. This man, with the aid of his wife, has to milk 75 cows every morning and night as well as rear a young family. He is a good, honest, hard-working citizen who, his neighbours tell me, has not had a holiday for six or seven years. He had never been involved in court proceedings before. I took up his case and endeavoured to have the proceedings withdrawn. I was told to submit the matter in writing to the Liquid Fuel Control Board, Queensland, which I did. On the 13th November I received the following reply: -
I have received your request for the withdrawal of the summons. The matter was considered by the board at a recent meeting and it was decided that it could not accede to your request and the prosecution must proceed.
I could do no more than make inquiries by telegraphing the town at which the case was to he heard. I was amazed to receive the following reply: -
Case heard November tenth, fine total cost £3 8s.
The reply of the Liquid Fuel Control Board was dated three days after the case had been heard ! The only charge that can be levelled against this man, is that, in order to deliver his pigs to the railway trucks, he used some of the petrol to which he was entitled for his cream separator. In most districts of Australia, dairy-farmers receive their petrol for trucks, farm machinery and cream separators in one container each month and use it according to requirements. This young fellow has taken his conviction, very much to heart. I ask that the Minister concerned take action, not only to remit the fine, hut also to wipe out the conviction, because it represents an injustice. Coal-miners and others are able to escape scot-free when they commit major offences, but this man has been proceeded against to the point of conviction for a technical breach of a stupid regulation, one which would not have been drawn up by any man with common sense and a realization of the difficulties of people who live long distances from post offices. It is a crime that the victim, whose wife’s four brothers enlisted in the Army, one being killed on active service, should have been taken to court and fined.
– And treated as a criminal.
– Yes. I hope that the conviction will be expunged and the fine remitted, that a practical man will be appointed to draft reasonable regulations, and that in future they will be properly administered.
– I have received from a constituent of mine a newspaper extract and certain correspondence disclosing an alarming state of affairs at a military establishment at No. 7 A.B.O.D., Gaythorne, Brisbane. The newspaper extract is as follows: -
BASE MEN TAKE THE STRIPES.
Allegations that former front-line soldiers had been degraded in rank because “base wallahs “ in the unit already had all the stripes available, was made at a meeting of the shipbuilding sub-branch of the Returned Soldiers’ League last night.
The meeting carried a motion recommending that men in base jobs should be replaced by servicemen with long service who have been graded B class medically.
Mr. K. Beaty said that ho knew of eight9th Division men who had been “ B-classed “ into base jobs because they were medically unfit to remain in the front line. Two N.C.O.’s among them had been degraded in rank because “ base wallahs” in the unit already had all the stripes available.
A colonel in this unit had never been to any war and another senior officer had served as a batman in the last war. “The A.I.F. men were all entitled to wear the ribbon of the Africa Star and had been through the blood and dust and misery of two or three campaigns,” said Mr. Beaty. “ When the)’ were posted to this unit under cold-footers they were utterly disgusted.”
If preference to servicemen was being considered it should start in the Army, said Mr. Beaty. The sons of politicians should not have preference before fighting men.
One politician’s son who had never been overseas had a big Packard car to call for him every night. “ Cold-Footers.” “ Cold-footers “ and “ indispensables “ who were occupying base jobs in the Army should be cleared out and positions made available for men who had fought and had been relegated to B class because of wounds or medical grading. “ The men I refer to were all members of a commando unit,” said Mr. Beaty. “ They have been posted to a haven of scamps and coldfooters and are being given a most unsympathetic deal. “ Deep down in their hearts these base wallahs think that the returned man is no good any more.”
Mr. P. W. Taylor said that men in base jobs should be sent to the front or should be fired out of the service to make room for men who had returned from active service and were still being held by the Army.
A recommendation to the South-eastern District of the R.S.L. that inquiries be made of all employers in Queensland for a pledge on the question of preference in employment to returned servicemen was also carried.
I propose to read only extracts from my constituent’s letter to me. Referring to his son, the writer says -
He is 24 years old. He has been overseas, was at the Alamein engagement, came back with the9th Division, hurt his knee at Milne Bay. He has had the cartilage removed from both knees. He is now B class. I think the question is a matter of preference to returned men with the military. Make what use you like of the letter.
He goes on to say -
I feel he is getting discontented as it is the first time he has complained in four and a half years.
He enclosed a letter from his son at No. 7 A.B.O.D.-
At the present we have the R.S.L. and Courier-Mail strongly behind ns and now another paper has taken up our complaint, but we want some one down there to more or less get to Forde. As you can see by this clipping, there’s a reference made to returned men having to take orders from a bunch of “coldfooted base wallahs”. This is quite correct, and I can verify the fact by stating a couple of men have admitted that they’ve never been away and never intend going. Yet .these chaps are young and Al, and hold goods jobs here. One’s a sergeant, aged 28. Secondly, the politician’s son. I have seen his car call for him of an afternoon. Incidentally, the car is a Vauxhall and not a Packard. Two days after this article appeared, the politician’s sou’s discharge came through. Until recently, he was Al and never been away. Yet returned B class men with dairy farms and other essential jobs have been trying for discharge from this unit and have been knocked back. The majority have, anyway, and the “ not approved “ sign was used by our own CO. Thirdly, there’s a lot of drafts leaving this depot for advanced units, and most of the mcn sent are returned A.I.F. B class, some wearing the Africa Star, while single A class “ chocos “, who’ve been here since joining up are kept here. The majority of these “ chocos “ are cither living at home or have their homes round Brisbane. One draft left to-day and, out of the eight men, seven were returned, one nearly blind in his right eye. Fourthly, the 21. C. had cause to correct me over a paltry mistake the other day, which I didn’t mind, except for the fact .that he got abusive and used language that certainly wasn’t fit for the A.W.A.S.’s ears. These girls sit just outside his door and must have heard him. 1 complained to him next morning about iiic way he spoke, and he told me if I didn’t like it, I could go .to the CO. and he would take up his case, too, but so far as I know he had nothing to take me up about. Next, returned men are not wanted here, and I overheard one officer say some time ago that “ the returned men are not worth so and so “. I won’t use the exact term. This same chap stated “a certain chap would never make a soldier”. Yet this same soldier was an original 9th Division man. Again, I and others hold two stripes and we have to do sweeping, clean windows and lamp shades. As a matter of fact, that was my job to-night. Now, about leave, although I am due for mine the first week in January, I can’t have it over Christmas, because the warrant officer, who is on subsistence and lives at home, is taking his at that time, and I have to take a back seat and wait until the middle of January when he comes back. Incidentally, this man has every Christmas at home, but it doesn’t matter to them that most of the returned men have never been home over the past four years for Christmas. I mean.
He goes on to say that they are “ all fed up “. This letter and the complaints in the press disclose a bad state of affairs, and I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to place the facts before the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Eraser) in order that a proper inquiry may be made so that soldiers returned from overseas shall not be asked to remove their stripes in favour of A class men who have stayed at home. I ask that B class returned soldiers be stationed in their own States. This returned soldier says that that is an order which is not being observed, lt must be a most unhappy camp, indeed! Such a state of affairs is bad for the discipline of the Army, and if the conditions are as stated they should not be allowed to continue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.28 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The matter will receive consideration.
e. - On the 17th November, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
In my interim reply, I stated that the information was being obtained. I have had inquiries made, and am now able to furnish the following replies: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In connexion with the Second Victory Loan, what were the amounts subscribed in new cash by each of the following: - (i) individuals; (ii) companies (excluding banks) ; (iii) trading banks (excluding the Commonwealth Bank of Australia) ; (iv) savings banks (excluding the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia) ; (v) the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (excluding the Note Issue Department) ; (vi) the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia; (vii) the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia; and (viii) the State Governments (seriatim) ?
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Certain representations were made to the Government some time ago with regard to the war risk bonus. The Government gave no direction to the commission, but certain members of the commission were made aware of the Government’s agreement in principle with the proposed reduction.
The commission subsequently altered its decision and placed , on record the fact that a statement that the Government had directed the commission to review its previous decision was incorrect. The Director of Shipping had emphasized to members of the commission the urgency of keeping ships moving to meet operational requirements of Australian and United States forces in forward areas and the Government had no doubt that the commission would have given careful consideration to that aspect of the question. In the circumstances the Government directed its representative on the commission to support not the cancellation of the proposed reduction hut merely its postponement until a later date.
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he have prepared a statement showing in respect of each capital city and the Australian Capital Territory the percentage increases in cost of food, rent, clothing and other items, on which the basic wage is adjusted, since the quarter ended September, 1939.
– The following statement of “ C “ series “ Group “ indexes, contains the information desired by the honorable member : -
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice-
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 November 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19441123_reps_17_180/>.