17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Si (Hon. J. S. Rosevear took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Presentation to this GovernorGeneral.
– Accompanied by honorable members, I “waited this day upon His Royal Highness the Governor-General at Government House, and. presented to him the AddressinReply to His Royal Highness’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of the Third Session of the Seventeenth Parliament, which was agreed to by the House on the 15th March. His Royal Highness was pleased to make the following reply :-
T desire to thank von for the AddressinReply which you have just presented to me. It will afford me much pleasure to convey to His Most Gracious Majesty, the King, the message of loyalty from the House of Representatives of thu Commonwealth of Australia to which the Address gives expression.
I also thank von and members of the House of Representatives for your expressions of welcome to me.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture investigated the position in relation to the shortage of poultry feed in Queensland, and can he make a statement upon it?
– .After a deputation, introduced by the honorable member for’ Griffith and another honorable member, had waited on me, I instituted inquiries, but I am not yet in a position to make a statement. I was very greatly impressed by the facts which the deputation submitted, and believe that the Government will do all that it can to meet the request that surplus supplies of dressed poultry shall be put into reserves. I have instructed officers of my department to make the necessary investigations in the different States, with a view to relieving the glutted market of any surplus dressed poultry, by putting it into reserves for use by the services and institutions such as hospitals.
– A section of the press to-day contains this report -
Shearer members of the Australian Workers Union, in New South Wales and Queensland, have succeeded in bringing to a stop shearing and crutching operations in both States. The Australian Workers Union does not countenance the strike; the union has always insisted on the principle of arbitration-
We know that that is so -
On 16th March, a secret ballot of the Queensland shearers revealed that the men, by a 2 to 1 majority, wanted to resume work; the strike was declared! illegal by the Queensland court in February.
In view of the very great urgency of avoiding a stoppage of this kind in Australia’s most important industry, has the Minister for Labour and National Service a statement to make in regard to the matter, in particular as to what action, if any, the Commonwealth Government proposes to take to deal with it?
– I. understand that the shearing dispute in Queensland has been practically settled. In the last conversation that I had with Mr. Fallon, the secretary of the Australian Workers Union, he advised me not to interfere in any way, because the men were employed under an award of the State of Queensland, the Industrial Court of that State had decided to hear the case, and the date of the hearing had been listed. So far as I know, the court is proceeding to hear the case.
Supplies for United Kingdom - Rationing
– In view of the severe shortage of meat in the United Kingdom and our failure to supply the agreed upon quota, will the Prime Minister take action to ensure that the quantity agreed upon shall be supplied, either by an increase of production or by a revision of meat rationing in Australia which will make available the quantity required?
– I do not know what the honorable gentleman means by his statement “ our failure to supply the agreed upon quota “. To me, a question in that form appears to ‘be argumentative and may lead to controversy. I shall have a general examination made of the capacity of Australia to provide additional supplies of meat to the United Kingdom. That will take the form of an investigation as to whether^ or not production can be increased; whether or not, if it were increased, the requisite shipping would be available; and, in the latter event, whether or not an increase of production and a reduction of consumption in Australia would result in a greater quantity of meat being provided than hitherto has been made available. The circumstances which have led to the situation in Great Britain operate also in Australia, the United States of America, Argentine and Uruguay.
– Would the reduction of the ration in Australia alter the situation?
– The degree to which a contraction in our economy would result in a contribution that would be worth while, I shall most certainly have examined. How far it would contribute to an improvement of the situation seems to me to be beside the point, because the amount which an Australian would be asked to give up would prove of little detriment to him, whereas the additional amount which the Britisher would get would be of great advantage to him.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether Australia’s shipments of meat and dairy produce to Great Britain are in accordance with the undertaking given some time last year, and, if they are not so large as we undertook to supply, has he any measures in mind which would increase the volume of exports of those commodities from this country to the United Kingdom ?
– The shipments of the commodities referred to are quite satisfactory.
– The Prime Minister promised an investigation of the supply of foodstuffs for the United Kingdom. Will he take into account that the reduction of the supply of meat from the United States of America to the United Kingdom will mean that the people of Great Britain will have their meat ration reduced from 14 oz., or ls. 2d. worth, to 8 oz. a week and that Great Britain is helping to feed some liberated countries and will shortly have to include Norway and Holland in such relief? Will he take into account also that the Minister of Food in Great Britain has stated that he has already made inquires in America, New Zealand and Australia? Will the fact that American forces have largely left these waters be taken into account in order that we -may supplement what we are already supplying to Great Britain?
– The information that the honorable gentleman has given to me will be incorporated in the examination that will be carried through, but there is very little that he can tell me which I do not already know. I say to him and to the House that in May last, as the result of my own observation and study, I offered to the United Kingdom Government an extra 100,000 tons of sugar, believing that that could be achieved by cutting the Australian sugar ration and, perhaps, by increasing production. Production has been increased. The Minister of Pood was very much obliged and accepted the offer, but when we went into the question of its transport, we discovered that Great Britain, with all the eagerness in the world to accept and Australia’s anxiety to add to the contribution that, was already being made, could not accept because it was impossible to provide the additional shipping. That happened with sugar. The honorable member need not talk to me about meat. If we can get it there, we will get it there. All the Britishers in the House are not on the opposite side.
Sleeping Accommodation on TRAINE - Trans-Australian Line - Travel PRIORITIES
– Following the information given to this House that he expects the War Railways Committee to meet shortly after Easter, can the Minister for Transport hold out any hope that favorable consideration will be given to the restoration of sleeping car accommodation on interstate trains?
– I cannot forecast whether the coal situation will have improved when the War Railways Committee meets, but, provided the position with regard to coal stocks is not worse than at present, I hope that the restoration of sleeping car accommodation will be possible following the meeting of that committee.
– As only one train a week now runs between Perth and the eastern States, compared with three trains weekly prior to the war, can the Minister for Transport inform the House whether any survey has been made as to the possibility of providing additional trains on that line? If that matter has not been considered, will the Minister look into it, and ascertain whether at an early date the needs of the residents of Western Australia can be met by providing a more regular service of, perhaps, two trains a week in each direction?
– The Government fully appreciates the difficulties experienced by the residents of Western Australia owing to the restricted train service which is due largely to the fact that rolling-stock has been converted to military use. I shall take immediate steps to have the service reviewed. I shall confer with the Army authorities and inquire whether it is possible to comply with the honorable member’s request.
– Is the Minister for Transport aware that despite his statement last week that priorities in respect of rail travel would not he relaxed, a large contingent representative of Melbourne financial interests has been given priority to visit “Canberra, and members of the party are now present in the galleries to give moral support to the Leader of the Opposition in his speech against the Government’s banking proposals ?
– The latter part of the honorable member’s question is out of order.
– The Commonwealth Transport Department only supervises priorities, the actual administration being carried out by the S’tate departments. It is possible that the gentlemen indicated by the honorable member may have travelled to Canberra ,by air, which services come under the control of the Minister for Civil Aviation. However, should the honorable member furnish me with the names of the persons he has in mind, I shall ascertain whether they travelled to Canberra by rail, and if so, what reasons they advanced in order to obtain priorities, and whether the statements so advanced were true.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council inform the House whether, in the enormous list of requirements submitted by the Republic of China to Unrra recently, and discussed at the Lapstone conference, no request was included for the supply of as much as a single bale of Australian wool? If that be a fact, will the Government ascertain whether the Attorney-General was responsible for the failure to watch Australia’s interests by putting its greatest export commodity into the largest potential market in the world? If that be a fact, will the Minister attempt to induce the Government to suggest to the Chinese Government that wool be included in its list of requirements from Unrra ?
– I am not familiar with the proceedings of the conference at Lapstone, and I cannot say whether China has requisitioned wool. All of the wool in Australia has been acquired by the Government of Great Britain, and a very representative body is about to leave Australia for the purpose of carrying on further discussions with the British authorities on this important matter.
– Will the Minister ascertain whether the Chinese requisition did not include wool?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information desired by the honorable member.
Restoration of Civil Administration
– Has the Minister for Externa] Territories received the report by Mr. Barry, K.C, concerning the circumstances in which civil administration ceased’ in Papua after the outbreak of the war with Japan ? If so, will he make the report public? If he has not received the report, will he make a public announcement as soon as possible, giving an indication to the House of the degree to which civil administration has been restored, and when he expects it to be restored even further?
– The report of Mr. Barry is not yet to hand. He has been busily engaged on other matters, but I anticipate that the report will reach the Government within a few days. After it has been perused, consideration will be given to the request of the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Information read the report in the Melbourne Age, of the 16th March, of the conference of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association, in which that organization is reported to have expressed its complete approval of the Government’s legislative proposals regarding banking? Has the Minister or his department any knowledge as to why an almost complete blackout was observed by the leading daily newspapers in other States regarding that important decision? Is it within the province of his department to give such important decisions the widest publicity possible? If so, will he see that that shall be done, so that the Australian public may know the views of those who support, as well as those who oppose, the Government’s banking proposals, which have been given great prominence by most of the daily newspapers ?
– I read the report in the Melbourne Age of the deliberations of that important and representative organization, the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association. I also noted that the resolution to which the honorable gentleman referred was carried unanimously, and with loud applause, by the 200 delegates to the convention. I am also aware that there has been an almost complete blackout by the newspapers of the Commonwealth of the fact that the conference passed that resolution. But that is not surprising; it merely shows that the right to deny freedom of the press has been exercised just once moTe by the newspaper proprietors.
As to the extent to which my department can give publicity to the deliberations and conclusions of the convention, I cannot offhand make any statement, but there may be many agencies by which the people of Australia can be led to understand the real feelings of the primary producers of this country, as expressed by the representative organization to which reference has been. made.
– Has the Minister for Information seen an announcement in the daily press concerning the formation of the Political Research Society Limited, the function of which is to investigate underground, undemocratic .political activities in Australia? The officebearers of the society include Mr. J. E. Cassidy, K.C., chairman; Mr. J. P. Abbott, M.P., vice-chairman; Mr. C. F. Walton, treasurer; Mr. Brian Doyle, librarian; and Professor Bland. The aims of the society are, as stated in the press -
To investigate the activities of any organization considered to he subversive or to be deceiving the. public about its real aims.
To establish a library of publications and indexed information relating to such organizations.
To offer all material so obtained to the Public Library of New South Wales when the society has no more use for it.
First, is the Minister in a position to say whether the members of this society are prominent supporters of the so-called Liberal party and of the Country party? Secondly, does the Minister believe the founders of this organization to be ideal persons to act as the watch-dogs of democracy in Australia? Thirdly, in view of Mr. Wentworth’s statement that one of the objects of the society is to investigate the activities of any organization considered to be deceiving the public about ite real aims, will the Minister arrange for it to investigate the credentials of such political organizations as the Sane Democracy League, the Institute of Public Affairs, and the so-called Liberal Party of Australia? Fourthly, will the Minister say of what use the inglorious history of these anti-Labour organizations would be to the Public Library or the people of New South Wales?
– I rise to a point of order. The questions which have just been asked invite an expression of opinion from a Minister on a number of matters. Is it not contrary to the Standing Orders to invite a Minister to offer opinions in answer to a question?
– Only a small part of the question may be regarded as inviting the Minister to express an opinion. The rest of it is in order.
– It is true that all of the gentlemen whose names have been mentioned as office-bearers of this unique organization are members of the anti-Labour political parties - the Liberal party and the Country party. It is equally true that they cannot be trusted as watch-dogs of democracy. As for the suggestion that they should conduct an investigation into the affairs of organizations that were created by themselves, such an investigation would be a waste of time. The report would not be as valuable as the honorable member might think it ought to be. However, I think that the people of Australia can be left to deal effectively with organizations of this kind.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, a question on a matter which touches the privilege of members of this House, and I preface my question by quoting Standing Order 96a, as follows: -
The reply to a question on notice shall be given by delivering the same in writing to the Clerk at the Table, and a copy thereof shall be supplied to the Member who has asked the Question, and such question and reply shall be printed in Ilansard.
There is a growing practice among Ministers to ask members to put questions on the notice-paper, and then to write to them stating that the information will be supplied later. Thereupon, the question is removed from the notice-paper, and the answer is never given in the House or recorded in Hansard. Is that not a breach of Standing Order 96a, and should not a question upon notice remain on the notice-paper until it is properly answered ?
– This matter has caused me grave concern, not only since I have occupied the chair, but also for many years while I was a member on the floor of the House. The point is whether Ministers are entitled to answer questions upon notice by private letters to honorable members. This is not a new practice; as a matter of fact, it is a very old one.
– It is growing.
– And I think it is a wrong practice, but it is mostly done, I think, at the end of a parliamentary period.
– If the honorable member can give me a specific instance in which the reply to a question upon notice has not been published in Hansard during the currency of a session, I shall see that the matter is attended to. I think I am correct in saying that it usually occurs when honorable members ask involved questions during the last few days of a period; the Minister is unable to give a reply before the House goes into recess, or .before the last number of Hansard for that period is published. This has happened under all governments. I shall confer with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin-) so that he may make it known to Ministers that if a reply to a question upon notice is too late to be printed in the last number of Hansard for any period it will be inserted in the first number of Hansard for the next period-.
– There is no need to confer on the matter: I quite agree.
– In answer to a question which I asked some time ago the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that the Australian Agricultural Council had recommended the appointment of a standing committee to consider the problem, of soil erosion. Can the Minister say what steps, if any, have been taken to give effect to that decision ?
– I know that the honorable member is very concerned over this matter because it particularly affects his electorate. At the earliest possible moment we hope to call the standing committee together in order to work out ways and means to give effect to the decisions which have been reached for the control of soil erosion. The State departments have done much valuable research work, but there has been little practical application of the results. When the standing committee is functioning, we hope to be able to give effect to the promise of the Prime Minister that financial assistance willbe forthcoming from the Commonwealth to combat this menace. I shall keep the honorable member informed of what is being done.
– Is it a fact that growers of potatoes in Victoria, particularly in the Koo-wee-rup district, have had their deliveries limited to eight bags an acre each month, and is he aware that at that rate of delivery it will take about fifteen months to dispose of the crop? If the facts be as stated, will the Minister take steps to arrange for more generous deliveries, so that a waste of potatoes and losses to growers may be avoided?
– I shall have an immediate investigation made. The present position in regard to potatoes is rather favorable, because for the first time for several years there is a surplus of potatoes throughout the Commonwealth. I can assure the honorable gentleman that the interests of growers are being watched continually, both by the Australian Potato Committee and the Food Control authorities, and that everything possible is being done to ensure that growers shall not be placed at a disadvantage or made to suffer financial loss.
– Has the Treasurer seen a statement published in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 17th March, and attributed to Mr. Playford, the Premier of that State, as to the position of the Savings Bank of South Australia in relation to the Banking Bill at present before the Parliament? Further, can he say whether the suggestion of the Premier of South Australia that the institution referred to will be subject to the legislation now before the Parliament has any foundation in fact?
– I have seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred, and I understand that the Premier of South Australia has also communicated with the Prime Minister in regard to this matter. That there is no intention that the banking legislation now before the Parliament shall apply to the Savings Bank of South Australia is made clear in clause 5 (1) of the bill. The bank referred to has always been regarded by the Commonwealth as a State institution. When the legislation now before the House was being prepared this matter was examined, and attention was drawn to an opinion given in 1923 by Sir Robert Garran, the then SolicitorGeneral, that that bank was a government institution, and therefore not subject to taxation. That successive governments have regarded the Savings Bank of South Australia as being outside the taxable field is a clear indication that they have believed that the Commonwealth lacked constitutional power to tax it. As, however, the statement by the Premier of South Australia may easily create misunderstanding I shall later let the honorable member have a detailed statement covering the various points that have been mentioned. It may be well to add that, although the legislation now before Parliament for the regulation of banking does not cover the bank in question, certain matters, such as the control of exchange, which is outside ordinary banking operations, may be affected by the new legislation.
– Has the Min ister representing the Minister for the Army seen reports in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald by two war correspondents referring to the inadequacy of the equipment supplied to Australian troops, one of them stating that it is being supplied on a pinchpenny basis ? In view of the seriousness of the position, will the Minister take steps to ensure that all necessary modern equipment shall be provided as soon as possible
Mr.DEDMAN. - A statement on the subject will be made in the House tomorrow.
– In view of reports that girls in country districts in the early teen ages are being called up by the man-power authorities for domestic service in hospitals and institutions in metropolitan districts, will the Minister say whether the regulations authorize such action, and, if not, under what authority the man-power officers are acting?
– The regulations do not permit children in the ‘teen ages, whether girls or boys, to be called up by the man-power authorities and transferred from one part of the country to another. I do not admit that that has been done, but I shall have an investigation made, and will let the honorable member know the result.
– In view of advertisements in country newspapers urging primary producers to plant oats, and intimating that a guaranteed price will be paid, can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say what arrangements have been made toensure supplies of seed oats to those who have been waiting for months for supplies? If he has not been able to make arrangements for supplies, will he say what necessity there is for these advertisements?
-Itshould be obvious to the honorable member that seed for the production of green-fodder crops should now be sown. In some States, there is a surplus of seed oats, and endeavours have been made to transport that surplus to other States where there is a shortage. Through the State Departments of Agriculture, primary producers have been asked to plant wheat as a substitute for oats in districts where oat seed is not available. The inadequate supply of seed oats is notthe fault of the Government; seasonal conditions have caused the shortage. If. honorable members would do their utmost topersuade primaryproducers to plant substituteCrops, they would be rendering better service to theCommonwealth than by attempting to ridicule the Government’s ‘efforts to meet a difficult situation.
-I point out to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that farmers in Western Australia usually hold a considerable quantity of oats on their farms as a precaution against the season breaking late. In view or the urgent need for oats in the eastern States would the Minister, in the event of Western Australian farmers making oatsavailable to farmers in the eastern States, guarantee the former equivalent stock feed in the form of wheat should they need it?
-Recently the Minister for Transport and I conferred on this matter and decided to give oats for seed priority over wheat in transport from Western Australia to the eastern States, because it is essential that the greatest possible area in the eastern States shall be sown with oats. I now assure the honorable member that wheat to an equivalent value will be supplied to Western Australian farmers in return for oats sent to the eastern States.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware of the likelihood of aluminium houses, which axe considered to be thelast word in prefabricated dwellings, being constructed inEngland? In view of the shortage of other building materials, will the Minister explore every avenue to ascertain the possibility of aluminium houses beingbuilt in the Commonwealth?
-The uses to which aluminium is beingput are wide and varied. I was not aware ofthe position towhich the honorable gentleman has referred, but I think that the Department of Munitions ought to examine his suggestion.
-In view of the fact that vegetable-growersonthenorth coast of New South Wales have alltheir lands ready for sowing, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ensure the availability ofseeds?I assurehim that, despite statementsin the press that vegetable seedis available, growersare unable to get any. I also ask him to try to arrange distribution of the fertilizers needed by vegetable-growers now, instead of awaiting the end of the financial year.
-I have had a consultation with my departmental officers since the right honorable gentleman’s earlier question. I was assured that the position is being investigated and that if there are any anomalies, such as those to which he has referred, they would be rectified. I shall get in touch with the Vegetable Seeds Committee to ensure the doing of everything possible to remedy any delay which may have taken place. If seeds are available - there are scarcities - we shall do everything possible to ensure their distribution. In regard to fertilizers, the needs for vegetable production have first priority, but distribution is controlled by the State Departments of Agriculture. I shall ask the DirectorGeneral of Agriculture to communicate with them to ensure that, where possible, fertilizers shall be made available for the immediate planting of vegetables, because now is theseason and, if plantings are delayed, the results will be disastrous.
– by leave- On the 15th March, 1945, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked the following question: -
In November last I drew attention to the fact that telephonists were prohibited from giving the name of the calling station when trunk-line calls were originated; andthe Postmaster-General in his reply at that time said that this restriction was imposed for security reasons, and would be reviewed in due course. I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he does not now think that the time is opportune to remove this restriction and to revert to normal conditions?
I then replied that I would bring the matter to the attention of the PostmasterGeneral, who has now furnished the following information in reply to the honorable member : -
After consultation with the appropriate authorities concerned, the restriction on the disclosure by departmental telephonists of the names of the originating stations on trunk-line calls was withdrawn on the 26th February, 1945, and this fact was notified in the news columns of the daily press.
If the honorable gentleman has any information concerning any failure to comply with this new instruction and will give it to me, I shall put it before the Postmaster-General.
-I ask theMinister for War Service Homes whether it is correct that a number of war widows have been informed by his department that their application for war service homes cannot be considered because the department does not believe that they are able to assume the instalment obligations? If that is so, does he consider it other than a reflection on Australia that war widows should be in that sub-economic condition? Will he take steps to ensure that the department shall accept some share of financial risk in respect of people who have taken very much greater risks?
-I am not aware whether that is true, but I shall have inquiries made and supply the honorable gentleman with an answer.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping yet reached a decision on the issuance of a regulation to counter the decision of the Newcastle magistrate, at the request of the Newcastle City Council, to close the firm of F. Viggers Limited, which was supplying 4,000 gallons of petrol monthly from its plant to people in the Newcastle district ? I ask that question now because I have received numerous telegrams from meat exporters to whom F. Viggers Limited supplied petrol. In view of the loss that the closing down of this firm will be to the country, can the Minister give any guarantee that the Liquid Fuel Board will make good the 4,000 gallons of petrol a month now supplied by F. Viggers Limited or will he take his courage in his hands and issue a regulation to ensure that that firm shall be able to keep going.
– I have tabled the Minister’s reply to-day. It indicates, first, that he is not prepared to use National Security Regulations to override municipal by-laws.
– One of the aldermen has a grudge against the firm.
– Well, that is the decision. Secondly, the Minister states that he is prepared to help the company to obtain a new site if no financial obligations are imposed on the -Commonwealth. Thirdly, I am sure that whatever adjustments are necessary will be made by the Liquid Fuel Board, which is entitled to grant petrol supplies to motorists in accordance with their registration.
– The Sydney Daily Mirror has published a report from its European correspondent, Mr. Baume, to the effect that certain industrialists in Great Britain aimed to prevent any largescale migration of artisans from Great Britain, and are disseminating propaganda to the effect that Australia’s interest in migration is -only temporary, and that Australian trade unions will make it impossible for migrants to reach Australia, or to obtain jobs if they do reach this country. .What assurance can the Prime Minister give to British artisans who are-contemplating migrating to Australia that the statements in that report are not correct?
– I am not prepared to accept a newspaper’s version on this matter as representing the views of important industrialists in Great Britain. Unless the honorable member can vouch for the accuracy of the report from which he has quoted, his question is not in order
– No, I cannot.
– Then, I suggest that the honorable member’s question is out of order.
Formal Motion FOR Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) an in- .timation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The position of the wheat industry with particular reference to -
The failure of the Government to guarantee an adequate price for the next cro.p;
the failure of the Government to arrange, on account of wheat held in various pools, payments to growers calculated upon the actual value of the wheat; and
the consequent serious effects upon growers’ capacity to carry on; also those aspects of the Government’s wheat policy which have contributed to the present shortage of feed wheat.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
Mi-. McEWEN.- I make this motion because the wheat industry is of such great importance to the nation, and because existing circumstances hold out such dire prospects for those engaged in the industry. Approximately 50,000 Australian families are directly engaged in wheat -production, whilst it is no exaggeration to say that 250,000 Australians are directly dependent upon the industry. Wheat-growing is affected by uncontrollable factors to a greater degree than is any other industry. I refer particularly to seasonal conditions and overseas prices. As nothing can be done about seasonal conditions, the price factor becomes of tremendous importance to those engaged in the industry. To-day, growers in every State are asking to be guaranteed a price of 5s. 2d. a bushel at their sidings in respect of the next crop. Time and again the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has quoted from resolutions, or expressions of opinion, by growers’ organizations or some of their leaders in order to substantiate the Government’s present policy. To such a degree is the Governmentout of touch with the realities of the industry that it is actually offering no more than a guaranteed price of 4s. 3d. for the next crop, whereas the growers through their various organizations have made it plain that they cannot afford to carry on at a price less than 5s. 2d. a bushel. This matter having become the subject of a controversy, one might reasonably expect the Government to carry out an investigation to determine costs of production and the actual needs of the industry. However, the Government has steadfastly refused to undertake any investigation of that kind. In those circumstances, I must accept the price determined by the growers’ own organization, not using a hit-or-miss method, but as the result of careful investigation. That calculation revealed that, under existing conditions, the price required is 5s. 2d. a bushel at sidings. I shall cite some figures to substantiate my contention, not only that the growers urgently need this price, but also that the Government will take no undue financial risk in guaranteeing it. Until, as a matter of necessity, the export of wheat had to be forbidden, substantial quantities were sold at approximately 6s. lid. a bushel.
Figures which have been supplied to mc by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture revealed that in the last few months about 45 cargoes, each averaging on my calculation 9,000 tons, have been sold at a price averaging not less than 6s. 6d. a bushel. Some of them brought as much as 7s. 6d. a bushel. World prices are steadily climbing. Last week, the Canadian Government, which had been supplying wheat to the United Kingdom under the “ mutual aid “ agreement, increased the price by 21 cents a bushel, which is equivalent to ls. 2d. a bushel in Australian currency. As the result of that decision, Canadian growers will receive, in terms of Australian currency, Ss. 2d. a bushel, Port William basis. A few days ago, a cable received from London stated that Prance had purchased large quantities of Canadian wheat and flour, the order being subject to Canada’s commitments to the United Kingdom and Russia. No doubt, the price was not less than the figure for Canadian sales to the United Kingdom. When speaking on this subject last September, I predicted that the Australian Wheat Board would be selling wheat at a price of not less than 6s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who sat at the table of the House, remarked, “ That is ridiculous “. His comment appears in Ilansard. Since then, the Minister’s own figures reveal that at that particular time, the Aus- tralian Wheat Board was selling mally cargoes to the United Kingdom and to various other countries at prices ranging from 6s. 6d. to 7s. 6d. a bushel. I now make another prediction: if the Minister would ask the Australian Wheat Board to estimate the price which would be offered to-day for wheat in Western Australia, the answer would be, “ not less than 6s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b bagged basis “. As the Minister described my last prediction as “ridiculous”, I now invite him to comment on it to-day.
The home-consumption price for wheat was fixed in 193S by the Lyons-Page Government, under the flour tax arrangement, at 5s. 2d. a bushel.
– Excluding wheat for breakfast foods.
– That is true. Under that arrangement, breakfast food was to be sold at export parity, which to-day would be not less than 7s. 6d. a bushel. But the price fixed under National Security Regulations, is 3s. ll£d. a bushel. The Commonwealth Statistician informed me that since the flour tax was imposed by the Lyons-Page Government, the cost of living has increased by 24.4 per cent., and that comparable increases have been made in the basic wage. Bearing in mind to-day’s world values for wheat, I contend that either the home-consumption price should be raised in accordance with the index figure in order to compensate wheatgrowers, or the Government should accept the responsibility of subsidizing wheat-growers, to that degree, in respect of wheat sold for Australian bread. If returns to growers on wheat for home consumption were adjusted in accordance with the higher costs, and in view of world prices, the Government could easily undertake to pay 5s. 2d. a bushel for the next crop without any fear of being out of pocket. Unless the Government does indicate its intention to do so, there will not .be a full planting of wheat during this year, and justice will not be done to the wheat-growers.
The second point which I desire to make is the failure of the Government to pay to wheat-growers that which is due to them on account of wheat which has gone into various pools.
First, I shall touch upon the payments due to growers as the result of existing policy. The figure supplied to me by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture disclosed that No. 5 pool had been sold out, but that growers had not been fully paid. The figures revealed to me - I am unable to get a final calculation - that at least £750,000 is available for further distribution in respect of this pool. The wheat was harvested only a few weeks after the Curtin Government took office. That amount should be paid.
– It will be paid.
– -I have no doubt that it will be paid, but my contention is that the growers, who are already enduring great hardships as the result of drought conditions, require the money now, and should be paid immediately. Although No. 6 pool has been completely realized, the underpayment on non-quota wheat amounts to £787,000. That sum also should be paid to the growers without delay. On non-quota wheat in No. 7 pool, all of which has not been sold, but which could have been sold out if the Minister had not, quite properly, forbidden exports because of local conditions, another £680,000 is due to the growers. That wheat has not been sold because of a ministerial direction. The money, which will eventually be paid, should be paid to the growers now. The total amount outstanding on those three pools1 exceeds £2,000,000.
Turning now to the controversial issue of concessional prices, I claim that the real question for decision is whether the Government, under authority conferred upon it by the National Security Act, should demand from wheat-growers a gesture of generosity to assist other sections of the community. For example, wheat is being sold ‘below its realizable value for stock feed and other purposes. I ask: Should not the Government’s policy of cheap wheat be financed by the Commonwealth itself, the wheat-growers being paid by the Australian Wheat Board the equivalent of the price for which the wheat could have been sold? That issue is clear-cut. There is no room for compromise. Either the wheat-growers or the Government must carry the financial burden of the Government’s cheap wheat “ policy. The stake at issue is £10,280,000. According to figures supplied to me by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in relation to No. 6 pool, the difference between realization under present policy and realization at the export value at the time of sale is 8d. a bushel. That figure allows for the 6d. subsidy and freight subsidies. Applied to 143,000,000 bushels, the figure involved on No. 6 pool is £4,757,770. The same calculation on N,o. 7 pool shows a disparity of ls. 0.35d. on 95,000,000 bushels of wheat, involving an amount of £4,878,267.
– The quantity of wheat in that pool, which was used for stock feed, does not total 95,000,000 bushels.
– My contention is based on figures supplied by the Minister.
– Is the honorable member referring to stock feed?
– No. The difference on stock feed affects the overall realization.
– It does not.
– It is a fallacy to say that a concessional price does not affect the overall realization. That is something which should ‘be understood even by a school-boy. The figures which have been given by the Minister himself show that the concessional price diminishes the overall realization by ls. 0.35d. a bushel on 95,000,000 bushels, making a total of £4,878,000. This, and the o”ther figure which I have given, based on the information supplied to me, add up to £9,636,037.
– I did not give the figure of £9,636,037 to the honorable member.
– No; I made that calculation. As the Minister believes that it is wrong, I draw attention to the fact that the general manager of the Australian Wheat Board has calculated that the disparity in these two pools between the concessional price, and what the wheat was worth for export at the time it was sold, is £10,280,000. I suggest that the Minister should argue the matter out with the general manager of the Australian Wheat Board.
– The general manager of the Australian Wheat Board did not mention the re-assessment of the stockfeed values.
– I submit that there is no scope for argument in this matter. Having first proclaimed that there was nothing involved, and having fought a dogged rearguard action on that statement for a period of months, the Minister has now consented to lift the concessional price to the average of the other sales.
– That is an incorrect statement.
– The Minister has made so many different statements that he will have to work them out for himself. I stress, however, that the general manager of the Australian Wheat Board has calculated that in accordance with the formula announced by the Minister, as he understands it, another £5,600,000 is due to the wheat-growers.
-. - By whom is this money owed to the wheat-growers?
– By the Government, as a matter of equity.
– Did the Government consume the wheat?
– No. The Government expropriated wheat belonging to the growers, but not at a fixed price; then, as a trustee holding that wheat, proceeded under its war-time power to sell it at a low figure not related to either the export or home consumption value, but determined arbitrarily. My argument is that as the Government was acting as a trustee, and chose to sell the wheat at a low price arbitrarily fixed, it has an obligation to make up the difference to the growers.
– That is the reverse of the argument used to justify the imposition of the flour tax.
– The argument in favour of the flour tax was that as the price which wheat would realize was not sufficient to recompense the growers, the Australian public should pay more for flour than would be realized on the world market.
– The case for the imposition of the flour tax was this:
Just as wages which should be paid in Australia are not determined by wages paid in China or any other country, the wages of wheat-growers in this country - that is the return which they receive for their product - cannot be determined by what the Chinese, Japanese or British people can afford to pay for wheat.
– I quite agree, but does the honorable member say that the price that the wheat-grower gets for his product should be determined by the price that wheat brings in China ?
– I say this-
– But does the honorable member say that?
– I shall answer the question in my own way: Here is an industry which is over-producing Australia’s requirements, and must continue to do so. Therefore, it has become dependent on export values. The whole industry is founded upon an anticipated realization which visualizes a home consumption price - for wheat for consumption, by Australian people and not by Australian pigs - and an export value for any surplus produced.
– Which, broadly, is always lower than the home-consumption price; but which, in periods of war or drought or famine in other countries, may be higher, as was the case in 1920.
– If the Prime Minister were to examine the Australian YearBooh figures for the last 50 years, taking ten-year periods, he would find that on no more than a couple of occasions has the export value of wheat been less than the present home price of wheat for human consumption.
– The past cannot be compared with to-day.
– I do not intend to be enticed any farther from my argument. I believe that I have answered adequately the points that have been raised. I say that beyond question there is due to the wheat-growers of this country at least £2,000,000 which will be paid in any case, but which should be paid quickly, and not less than £10,000,000 on account of the concessional price issue.
The second point I wish to make is of desperate importance. I refer to the prevailing policy which has the crazy effect of ensuring that the lower the overall production of wheat, the lower will be the price per bushel, and the higher the overall production of wheat, the higher will be the price per bushel. It is hardly credible that a government should devise a policy which will work out in that way ; yet the policy of this Government is working out exactly on those lines. This year we have produced no more wheat than is needed for home consumption, yet the Minister has announced that that wheat will return to growers on the home consumption level, 4s. 0.6d. at sidings. That is less than the first advance, so that there cannot be any hope of a further advance on the 4s. 1 1/3d. that has been paid. We have built up in this country a demand for wheat for stock feed. I believe that upon return to normal circumstances, in view of the fact that the pig, poultry, and dairying industries have become so dependent upon wheat, their requirements will be approximately equal to our home requirements for human consumption - 40,000,000 bushels. In accordance with the ministerial announcement of policy, the return to growers for stock feed wheat is to be brought up to the average of other sales. If we have a crop of 80,000,000 bushels, half of it will be sold for human consumption, returning to the growers 4s. 0.6d. a bushel, and the other half will be sold for stock feed, the return for which will be brought up to ‘the same level. Therefore, in accordance with the present policy a crop of less than 80,000,000 bushels will not return more to the growers than 4s. 0.6d. a bushel at sidings, but when that production figure is exceeded, the excess wheat will be assured of sale at 7s. a bushel, f.o.b., and every bushel sold at that figure will necessitate an increase of the amount which is to be paid to make up the price of concessional wheat. So, in a bumper season producing say 180,000,000 bushels, growers will get an overall return of more than 5s. a bushel; but the smaller their crop, the smaller will be their return. As sheep-raisers become more dependent upon feed wheat, so the overall realization for the wheat crop decreases. It is a matter of simple arithmetic. Alice found a topsy-turvy world in “Wonderland, but she did not find anything so crazy as this policy, which has the effect of providing the growers with high prices when the crop is heavy and low prices when the crop is light.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will probably direct attention to the subsidy paid on cornsacks. I shall anticipate his argument and explain the true position. To-day a premium of 2d. a bushel is paid to the growers for wheat delivered in bags. Figures which have been supplied by the Minister show that bagged wheat is sold for export by the Government at a premium of 5.6d. a bushel. When the Government of which Mr. Menzies was Prime Minister instituted the first wheat pool, it provided for the payment to growers of a premium of 2d. a bushel for bagged wheat. Figures prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician show that the cost of bagging wheat at that time was 3d. a bushel. To-day, the cost to the growers is slightly less than 4-Jd. a bushel, yet they still receive a premium of only 2d. a bushel. The growers are now worse off by an amount of ltd. a bushel in respect of bagged wheat than they were when the No. 2 wheat pool was established. Assuming that half of the crop is delivered in bags, that would amount to £500,000 on a normal crop of 150,000,000 or 160,000,000 bushels. That is the amount by which growers are worse off annually in respect «of cornsacks, as a result of the policy of the present Government.
– Will the honorable member say what price was received by growers under the Menzies scheme, and what price is received by them now?
– The right honorable gentleman will not enjoy my answer to that question. The Commonwealth YearBoole shows that in August, 1939, when the first wheat pool was established, the price for wheat was at an all-time low level of 2s. Id. a bushel at ports. The guaranteed price for wheat in that pool was 2s. 10£d. a bushel. Therefore, the government of the day assumed a liability of 9id. a bushel on that crop of 210,000,000 bushels. It took a chance on the world market which might have involved it in losses totalling about £8,000,000. How does that ‘position compare with to-day’s position
– The price to-day is 4s- 3d. a bushel, as against 2s. 10d. a bushel in 1939.
– The price paid today is 4s. 3d. a bushel as compared with an export value of 7s. 6d. a bushel. The Government is guaranteeing the growers a price which is 3s. 3d. a bushel less than the wheat is worth. The Menzies Government guaranteed a price which was 9½d. a bushel over the prevailing value of wheat.
– On that basis, in 1939-40 the wheat-growers apparently had no grounds for their agitation against the treatment given to them by the government of the day.
– No. That agitation was natural at a time when wheat prices were at a world’s record low level.
The Government’s policy has largely brought about the present disastrous wheat shortage. I admit that certain factors, such as shortages of man-power, superphosphates and machinery, and seasonal conditions are in the main beyond human control. However, the Government has aggravated the conditions caused by these factors. For instance, when wheat-growers in Western Australia were compensated for not sowing their full licensed acreage, no attempt was made by the Government to increase sowings in the eastern States, where it was within the capacity of growers to handle larger crops. That was the first point of government policy which helped to reduce production. Then the inexcusably foolish “ Scully plan “ was introduced. This deliberately provided that an unprofitable price should be paid for all wheat in excess of a total of 1,000 bags produced on any farm. Next, the Government went to the other end of the scale, and implemented the policy, which I heartily endorse, of increasing consumption by making feed wheat available at low prices in order to stimulate production in other essential primary industries. The whole picture is this: Uncontrollable reduction of wheat production, a deliberate government policy of further reduction, and, to make the pattern completely crazy, a policy of increasing the demand for wheat. Now, when the position has been complicated by a severe drought, the Minister says, “ How can I be blamed for this? It is clearly an act of Providence “. It is not an act of Providence; government policy has inevitably resulted in a disastrous food shortage, and unless there is an extraordinarily opportune break in the drought, millions of sheep will be lost. I implore the Government to study the effects of its policy and to abandon the Scully quota restriction plan. At least 250,000 good Australians, men, women and children, are absolutely dependent for the maintenance of their standard of living on the prosperity of the wheat industry. The existing state of affairs is so serious that even at this late hour the Government should re-examine the position and modify its policy.
.- Listening to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), it appeared to me that, having failed to stir wheat-farmers to march on Canberra, he felt impelled to give a further dissertation on What has become famous as “ the £10,000,000 wheat steal “. Early in his remarks, the honorable gentleman stated that he intended’ to prove the necessity for the price of 5s. 2d. a bushel which had been assessed by certain wheatfarmers, but he completed his speech without revealing the basis of that assessment. Like some .punters at Randwick race-course who try to pick a winner with the use of a ,pin, he merely made a “stab” at a figure which he thought would meet his case. He claimed to have foretold six months ago how the price of wheat would rise. He happened to be right on that occasion, as are those who “ have a bit each way “, and say, “ I told you so “, whatever happens. However, he showed that he had no faith in his prophecy of the price that would be realized, because he added that, should the Government take a certain step, there would be no responsibility on the Treasury to provide a subsidy. According to his theory, the farmers must receive 5s. 2d. f.o.r. if the present scheme continues. If that is assured what is the need for the honorable member’s argument to-day! He should be the last to talk about the Scully scheme having resulted in wheat being taken from the farmer at a price below the cost of production. On the 17 th September, 1940, referring to the price of wheat, he made these remarks -
In these matters, the Country party mem1,ers took a prominent part, hut they had to reconcile what they wanted to give with what was available. The first advance was 2s. lid. less rail freight, and with a subsequent advance involved the Government in £.’44,000,000. He knew the financial resources and obligations of the Government, and that was the greatest amount that could he paid.
When one considers that the average rail freight in Western Australia is approximately 5d. a bushel, one can realise the price which the growers must have received. That action, was supported by the honorable member at a time when the country was preparing to expend approximately £50,000,000 a year for war purposes; yet when the nation has to meet war commitments of approximately £500,000,000 a year, he recommends that the farmers should make a “ blind grab “ at the public purse. He also stated that the pool payments are in arrears. That is one qf the inevitabilities of the endeavour to control the economic policy of this country under war conditions. I can recall a peace period when I was growing wheat - I still am - with the advantage of no great demand on either the internal or the ocean transport system. On many occasions, well over twelve months was required to complete the financial arrangements of a pool. As a member of the Australian Country party, the honorable gentleman was elected to this House to support the principle of organized marketing under grower control. The Australian Wheat Board is so constituted that a majority of its members are men who have been elected by the licensed wheat-growers.
– All of its power has been taken from it by the Minister.
– The merchants controlled the board appointed by the Government supported by the honorable member.
– That is a deliberate untruth.
– The honorable member endeavoured to castigate the Minister because last year he prevented the export of wheat.
– I said that I approved of that action. The honorable member is making the whole of his speech on incorrect statements.
– Since I have been a member of this House, the honorable gentleman has never made a speech consisting of correct statements. I shall welcome the occasion when two of his statements on wheat policy are in agreement. He has just said that the amount necessary to make up the stock-feed price to the average realization of pools Nos. 6 and 7 would be £10,000,000.
– That is correct.
– In September, 1S44, the honorable member said1 this -
A comparison of the estimated returns from wheat which, will be sold in Australia prior to 1845-4fi harvest under the present policy with the valuation of that wheat at (present export value - for I am willing to accept 6s. 6d. as a fair value–will show that in the next eighteen months the wheatgrowers will be the victims of a wheat “ steal “ of £10,000,000.
Yet the honorable member has just said that the £10,000,000 related to pools Nos. 6 and 7 !
– -I then gave an estimate. To-day, I have given the Minister’s exact figure.
– That is merely another prophecy. In a further state. ment two months later, in which he quoted, with approval, remarks by Mr. Teasdale, the honorable gentleman said this -
If the amount to be paid by tire Government to the Wheat Board to bridge the gap between concessional price for stock feed and the average export realization be taken as the correct principle, then the Government will have to pay to the board approximately £6,850,01)0. If, on the other hand, the current realization of wheat sold in the free market east of Suez be taken as a basis, then the Government, to do justice to the growee will need to pay in approximately £9,850,000 on account of the two pools fi and 7.
Five years ago, I sold 2,000 bags of wheat to Louis Dreyfus and Company Limited at 23. a bushel. In the following year, the price of wheat rose to 5s. a bushel, and at that figure I sold wheat to Bunge Proprietary Limited. Am I entitled to say that Louis Dreyfus and Company Limited stole from me 3s. a bushel? Of course not. Yet that, in effect, is the case which the honorable member is endeavouring to establish. I agree that the price for stock feed should be raised to the realization of the pool. But when the Government first fixed the subsidy on stock feed at 6d. a bushel, did the members of the Australian Country party complain that it was insufficient? [Extension of time granted.] No, because at that time the Government was paying considerably more for wheat than the price it was possible to got for it anywhere. The honorable member attacks the Government because of the present wheat shortage in Australia. I admit that the Government has had to look around with a view to importing wheat, but on a former occasion Australia had to do that. The position in 1914 was similar to the present. There was then the dual tragedy of a drought and a war. On that occasion, however, the sole reason for the shortage was the drought. There was no shortage of labour or of superphosphate in 1914, and no restriction or stabilization scheme had been introduced; but, because a year of drought was experienced, Australia had to import wheat. Now, with the nation at war, a shortage of superphosphate for three successive years, a shortage of labour for four years, and a drought for two years consecutively in the best of our wheat country, the Government has been compelled to look around for wheat. This Government has done well to have been able to supply wheat at all, in view of all the circumstances.
The honorable member for Indi also referred to the fact that the Government had ordered a reduction of wheat production in “Western Australia. In an address delivered to a conference of the Primary Producers Association in Western Australia on wheat-marketing problems, Mr. J. S. Teasdale made the following remarks : -
Whilst this position is .pretty serious from the Australia-wide point of view, it is still worse when taken State by State, and particularly so from the Western Australian standpoint. At the end of this season the stocks in this State will probably be about 18 millions (part sold to the United Kingdom and part unsold). This wheat has to be protected, and we have also to be prepared to store the new harvest, say, 28 millions (after allowing for quantity going into millers’ stores).
In view of this position I really feel some much more drastic steps should be taken to curtail acreages, even though such policy varies as between State and State.
Looking at all these facts, does it not appear that the best national policy to fit present circumstances would be to enact (or offer) that, to meet the grave storage problem in Western Australia, and .possibly South Australia, too, farmers should only crop one acre out of four acres allotted on the present stabilization quota.
The conference, to which Mr. Teasdale’s remarks were addressed, unanimously passed a resolution to that effect, and the matter was brought to the notice of the Government. The growers were to be asked to reduce their wheat acreages, not to one-third of their usual allotments, but to one-fourth. The Government regarded that suggestion as too drastic, and a reduction to one-third of the allotted acreage was ordered. The honorable member declared that the Scully wheat scheme was responsible for the reduction, and should therefore be abolished.
– Why did not the Government abolish it?
– I hope that it will never do that. I shall always fight for its retention. Under this stabilization scheme, the farmers of Australia have been permitted to crop 14,000,000 acres in any year since the scheme was introduced by the former Minister for Commerce, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) ; but, because of circumstances over which the present Government has had no control, for instance, the capture of Nauru and Ocean Island by Japan, and because of the necessity for a total war effort on the part of Australia, the farmers have been able to crop only 8,300,000 acres. Therefore, it cannot .be said that the Scully scheme has brought about the reduction of production in this country. The statements submitted by the honorable member for Indi are inaccurate and irresponsible. He has endeavoured to cause dissension amongst those engaged in the wheat industry, but he and his supporters will be regarded by the people a3 political humbugs and hypocrites.
– The shortage of wheat in Australia at present is due largely to two factors. The first is the drought, which began last year; but, more important, and preceding the drought, was the decision of the Government to reduce wheat production by pushing the big grower into insolvency; in other words, by introducing the Scully wheat scheme. In time of war, supplies, aud particularly foodstuffs, are essential, but the shipping problem was so acute that I could bear with the Government in its decision that, in the light of the circumstances experienced at the time of the introduction of the scheme, the acreage of wheat in Western Australia should be reduced. That, to my mind, w.as a common-sense act. For similar reasons, the Government increased the acreage of wheat in Queensland. Last year, although the wheat crop was poor throughout Australia generally, Queensland experienced its biggest yield. Yet the Ministry cannot escape its responsibility for its mishandling of the wheat problem. Condemnation of the Scully scheme’ has come from the present Government itself. It has been compelled to suspend the operation of this iniquitous, one-legged, one-eyed and stupid plan. It is the worst piece of party political manoeuvring which the industry has ever experienced. The industry has been the football of party .politics for a long time, and. still is. The intention of the Government was to divide the growers into two sections, and in that direction it succeeded admirably. The smaller growers, who form about 70 per cent, of the farmers, and who produce about 40 per cent, of the wheat, were to get a favorable price, but the larger growers, who produce the greater proportion of the wheat, were to receive a very low price. In other words, the principle of Mr. J. T. Lang with regard to the “ tall poppies “ was the sole guiding motive of the Minister in his dealings with the wheat industry. Anything that could be done by the Government or this Parliament to abolish the scheme, to forget that we ever had it, and to start afresh would be in the interests of the community. This motion is not concerned with the Scully wheat plan. It deals with an entirely different matter. I remind members of the Australian Country party that not one word which has been said this afternoon could not have been said in the Address-in-Reply debate. Australian Country party members, therefore, lay themselves open to the charge that they are using the wheat industry as a political weapon, and I do not propose to allow them to use it successfully. I was a member of a government which went to the country in 1940 without a wheat policy, and it is no wonder that we lost in every agricultural and wheatgrowing electorate. It was because we went to the country without a wheat policy that we are now in Opposition. When the responsibility rested upon us to do what ought to be done for the wheat-growers, we did not accept it. The price of wheat was very low when war broke Out, but it has been- lower.
– The Y ear-Book does not bear that out.
– I do not care what the Year-Booh says. The price of wheat in 1931 was ls. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. at Port Adelaide for months on end. I was growing wheat then, and I sold my wheat for ls. 2 5/8d. through the compulsory pool.
– What government was in power then?
– A Labour government, but there was not a Labour government in power in 1940. The wheat industry must be taken out of the arena of party politics, but the Scully wheat plan has not taken it out. There can never be satisfaction in the industry so long as the Scully plan is in existence. I have never advocated a compulsory pool nor extremely high prices for wheat. After the 1940 election, my last act as a Minister was to reach an agreement with the six State Premiers, and with the representatives of the wheat-growers, for a price of 3s. 4d. at sidings for a crop of 140,000,000 bushels. That was ls. 2d. better than the price offered by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). How the Wheat Growers Federation ever agreed to such a price I cannot understand. We must remember that, for a time after the war ends, there will be a tremendous demand for wheat in Europe, and in some other parts of the world. Australia may be able to supply a part of that demand, but the extent to which we can do so will depend upon such factors as man-power, fertilizers, agricultural machinery and shipping.
We come now to the flour tax and the home-consumption price. The principle underlying the home-consumption price was that, for such part of the crop as was used in Australia, seeing that we were living in a protected community, the grower should receive a protected price. For the remainder, he was to accept the overseas parity price. If the world parity price exceeded the home-consumption price, the grower was to receive only half of the amount in excess, and the other half would be put aside in a trust fund out of which the -home-consumption price would be paid during periods of low world prices. That principle has now been departed from. I maintain that the wheatgrowers cannot have it both ways. They must either be prepared to accept the world parity ‘price at all times, or accept a stabilization scheme under which they receive something less than the wOrld parity price when that price is high, and something more than world parity price when it is low. Any plan, to succeed, must be based upon the needs of the whole industry, and not upon the needs of only a section of the industry, as is the case with the Scully plan. Moreover, a plan should continue over a period of years, and provide for the sales of surplus wheat to the best advantage for feed or other purposes, as the economic situation requires. At the present time, it is impossible to get agreement at any meeting of wheat-growers on the general principles of a stabilization plan, and until such an agreement is ‘reached we cannot get much further.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I listened with the utmost impatience to the speech of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). My impatience was occasioned by his distorted reasoning and the clap-trap with which he sought to establish a case where, in fact, no case existed. I have the privilege to represent a large electorate within the boundaries of which are situated some of the most extensive wheat-growing areas in Australia. Several wheat-growing districts used to be represented in this House by Australian Country party members. To-day, government supporters represent every wheat-growing electorate which they contested at the last election. They won those seats because the wheatgrowers realized that the Curtin Government was the first one to give them a faildeal ; or, to put it another way, the seats were lost by the Australian Country party because it, although associated with successive governments for 25 years, did nothing for the industry beyond providing a home-consumption price. It did no ebing to give the gro wers security, or to assure them against the loss of markets or the glutting of markets. In the years immediately before the outbreak of war> the growers were .glad to accept ls. 5d. a bushel for their wheat. Members of the Australian Country party were probably dissatisfied with the price, but they ‘did nothing or little to improve it, or to make the industry attractive. Now, member.s of the Australian ‘Country party, in their reckless rush to political oblivion, are willing to use any weapon, fair or foul, any statement, true or false, amy argument, good or bad, in their efforts to justify themselves ; and so to=-day we have the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party advocating a course which represents the height of political dishonesty. I go further, and say that, in the light of his actions in 194l0, the honorable membe’r’s speech to-day brands him as one of the greatest political hypocrites who ever sat in this chamber-.
– I rise to order. I submit that the_ remarks of the honorable member for Hume are unparliamentary and objectionable and should be wi,th: drawn.
Mi-. FCLLER.–I withdraw the wOrd to which exception Haas been taken-, and substitute the word “humbug”. I make that charge in all seriousness, because I have the facts to sup-port toy statements. Let me relate them briefly. The first wheat acquisition scheme of the Menzies Government was based on a price of ‘2s. 6&. a bushel.
To-day, the first advance will be 4s. 3d. a bushel at country sidings, which is equivalent to about 5s. 3d. a bushel at ports. The honorable member for Indi was a Minister in the Government which, in 1940, introduced the first wheat stabilization scheme after the Commonwealth and States had conferred on the subject. That scheme provided for a guaranteed price of 3s.10d. a bushel, f.o.b. terminals, for only a portion of a crop, namely, up to 140,000,000 bushels. To-day, a guaranteed price is paid for the whole of the crop that is harvested. The scheme supported by the honorable member for Indi included a wheat tax, because if the price of the wheat sold was more than 3s. 10d. a bushel, f.o.b., the grower received only a half of the amount in excess of 3s.10d. ; the other half was withheld by the Government and placed in a fund. The honorable member must be aware that to-day wheat-growers receive the full realization for their wheat in the pool; nothing is withheld by the Government. In 1940, the honorable member believed that 3s.10d. a bushel, f.o.b. at terminals, was a fair price to pay to growers ; indeed, he told them that they were being generously treated by the government of the day.
– I did not.
– Yet to-day the honorable member attacks the Curtin Government because it has guaranteed a first payment at a rate equivalent to 5s. 3d. a bushel at terminals. What hypocrisy! The honorable member for Indi said in 1939 that in view of war expenditure amounting to £70,000,000 a year, the then Government’s treatment of wheat-growers was generous, but to-day he claims that they should get twice as much as he was then willing to give to them, notwithstanding that war expenditure has increased considerably since then. On his own argument, growers to-day should not be paid more than a proportion of the amount that he considered fair in 1940. In 1940, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page)presided at a conference of Commonwealth and State representatives at which a scheme for the registration of farms and the licensing of wheat-growers was discussed - a scheme which later was embodied in legislation. The honorable member for Indi apparently supported his Australian
Country party colleagues at that time, but recently he, and other members of that party, have bitterly attacked the scheme, and have blamed the Curtin Government for it. Apparently, they have forgotten that it was originally their scheme before it was modified by the present Government. The government of which the honorable member for Indi was a member established the Australian Wheat Board, on which wheat brokers and flour-millers, but not the wheat-growers, had representation. Today, the honorable member attacks the present Government on the ground that it does not consider the wheat-growers. As evidence of its interest in the wheatgrowers, the present Government reconstituted the Australian Wheat Board by removing the representatives of the wheat merchants, giving to the flour-millers only one representative, and providing that the growers shall have a majority of representatives. In 1940, the honorable member was willing to see the merchants in control of the wheat industry ; to-day, he attacks the present Government because the wheat-growers control their own industry.
– In the honorable member’s own words, that is hypocrisy.
– The honorable member for Indi, who has spoken to-day on the wheat industry, has no backing from those engaged in wheat-growing. Indeed, the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, the leading association of organized wheat-growers, has publicly repudiated him. He, like Mr. Dunstan, the Premier of Victoria, has been told politely that he is not a spokesman for the wheatgrowing industry, and that the federation does not need his assistance because it has close contacts with, and complete confidence in, the present Government. Obviously, the honorable member is not prepared to allow the Australian Wheat Board to continue to control the industry. What is his motive? Does the honorable member speak for the organized wheatgrowers; has he their support for his attack on the present scheme? Certainly not; because the industry desires the continuance of the present stabilization scheme. [Extension of time granted.] The support given to the honorable member, if any, comes from a few disgruntled branches of the Australian Country party. But that is only a part of the story. If the honorable member is trying to strike the first blow in a campaign to wreck the present control of the industry, he can be sure of the applause and support of a section of the community, namely, the wheat merchants and the speculators, who do not desire that the industry shall be organized, or wheatgrowers protected, but want, instead, an “ open go “ similar to that which they had when he was a Minister. If we search for another motive behind the honorable member’s speech to-day we may come to interesting, but damning, conclusions. The wheat-growers recognize the worth to their industry of the present organization. Because they know only too well that Australia has experienced the worst drought in its history, and as wheat production falls in time of drought, they are now planning for a largely increased planting next season. That is the answer to many of the statements made by the honorable member for Indi to-day. He ‘ is peddling his own political ideas on wheat. This House must recognize that he has no backers in the organized wheat industry, and, on his record, the honorable member for Indi will soon have no backers at all, in primary industry or in his own party. He is one of a group of discredited politicians. His only backers are the Premier of Victoria who, in the depth of the depression, refused Victorian wheat-growers a freight concession. Then there are Mr. Nock, a defeated member for Riverina and reject from the Opposition’s last Senate team, and Mr. Cambridge, one of the greatest tories and reactionaries in the New .South “Wales State House, who is now using the Farmers and Settlers Association to further reactionary political interests. Last but far from least, there is Mr. J. S. Teasdale, a wheat merchant from Western Australia, who is anxious to wreck organized marketing for the sake of profit. He was also an Australian Country party reject at the last federal general elections. They are the discredited and defeated men who are sowing dissension in the industry in the hope that, by smashing organized control of the industry, they will smash this
Government and gain a miserable political advantage for themselves.
.- I believe in fair treatment of all our industries, both primary and secondary. I demand fair treatment for the wheatgrowers, and I am satisfied that, under thi3 Government, they are not getting it, notwithstanding the great part that they have played in the development of Australia by the provision of grain for both home consumption and export. Never before in our history has there been an occasion such as the present, when we should be looking to the wheat industry to produce more and more wheat at a reasonable price to feed wartorn Europe as well as ourselves. When one reflects on the devastation of Europe one feels how futile it is to expect its unfortunate inhabitants to grow all the grain they will require in order to make bread which is the staff of life. It is unfortunate therefore that we have in operation the Scully plan compulsorily reducing the production of wheat in Australia. By our participation in Unrra, we have a moral obligation as well as a national obligation to produce more and more wheat, but until the restrictive policy of the Government has been done away with, we shall not be able to feed ourselves and export sufficient wheat to help to rehabilitate Europe. The Scully plan has brought serious consequences to industries which are dependent on wheat-growing, such as the raising of poultry, calves, and pigs.
– What restrictions are there ?
– I remind the honorable gentleman that in Western Australia licenced growers were subsidized not to grow wheat.
– Ancient history !
– It is not. We are suffering the results of that policy to-day.
– That was done at the request of the Australian Country party.
– Facts cannot be wiped out by interjections. The licensed growers in Western Australia were subsidized not to grow wheat. Secondly, the plan provides an unremunerative price for wheat produced in excess of 3,000 bushels on any one farm. I protest against the Scully plan on behalf of breeders of poultry, pigs and calves and the pastoralists in drought-stricken areas who need wheat, to feed their sheep and cattle. The breeders of pigs, calves, and poultry are in a deplorable condition for want of adequate supplies of wheat. More than 1,000,000 head of poultry are to be destroyed in Queensland because they cannot be fed. I have correspondence from poultry-raisers in my electorate who say that, they will have to slaughter 4,000 out of every 5,000 birds, for sale in a glutted market because they cannot obtain adequate supplies of feed. The Australian Association of Poultry Farmers in Sydney recently carried a resolution protesting against the unfair treatment of the poultry industry by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), and strongly criticizing the alteration of the allocation of 13,000,000 bushels of wheat as stock feed. The resolution described his attitude as meeting with the contempt and disgust of poultry-farmers, particularly in view of their industry’s response to the appeal for greater production last year. Since the war the production of poultry and eggs in Australia has more than doubled.
– Does the honorable member endorse that attitude? Does he say that wheat should not be given to pigs and calves and starving sheep, but only to poultry. That is what Mr. Jacobs wanted it kept for.
– The Minister cannot put into my mouth words that he would like me to say. Adequate supplies of wheat ought to be made available not only to poultry-producers, but also to the breeders of pigs and calves and pastoralists, in drought areas. The restrictive policy of the Government has made that impossible. Accordingly I ask the Minister to move heaven and earth to obtain supplies of wheat and other grains from outside Australia to ensure a sufficiency of wheat to all those people who depend on it to keep their stock alive. Stocks of poultry have been progressively reduced because of the failure of supplies of feed. I quote the following from the Poultry Farmer: -
The outlook for poultry-farmers generally, including backyarders, is decidedy gloomy, as the reduced feed supplies will only provide sufficient material to adequately feed onethird of the existing flocks.
Inquiry from competent authorities indicates that there will have to bc a big reduction of the poultry population in Queensland, and this will mean probably the disposal of at least 1,000,000 birds. However, the consensus of opinion is that the poultry industry is definitely in for a very difficult -period, and, apart from the farmers’ initiative at the present time, a lot will depend on how much wheat the Federal Government can supply Queensland with in the later months of the year. The uncertainty of the whole position is most disturbing to both farmers and produce merchants, whilst the poultry market is already overloaded with grades of table poultry not actually required at the moment
The economic condition of dairyfarmers, the breeders of pigs and calves, and poultry-farmers is such that they are unable to increase supplies as the Minister has requested them to do and they then have to destroy their stock because of the shortage of food. They have responded to the best of their ability to his appeal. The production of poultry has been more than doubled, and the production of pigs and calves substantially increased; but the Government, by adhering to its present policy, is letting down these people. They are unable to obtain adequate supplies of wheat. The journal from which I have just quoted incorporates the official organ of the Egg Marketing Board of New South “Wales, and it has stated that over one-third of the poultry in Queensland will have to be reduced owing to the shortage of wheat. There can be no doubt that after this war a very large number of ex-service personnel, including the disabled and those who desire a life in the open, will enter the poultry industry. That was the case after the last war. How can these people enter the industry with any degree of confidence if the existing circumstances are permitted to continue? The industry is being destroyed by the Government.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that the subject-matter of the motion is being made a political football. That is obviously the reason for the motion. I agree with the honorable member for Barker that all that can be said on the matter at this juncture could have been dealt with fully in the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. Obviously, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has raised this matter in order to make political capital out of it. However, such occasions afford the Government the opportunity to refute the propaganda of honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Indi poses as a representative of the wheatgrowers, but the growers’ organizations have completely repudiated him. Mr. Lillic, the president of the Wheat Growers Federation, stated -
In fact the test of sincerity which the federation applies to all members of Parliament has no concern with party labels, but is ba.oed on how a member acts when he or his party is in office and has the power to help growers.
Prior to making that statement Mr. Lillie had pointed out that the honorable member for Indi had failed to help the industry when he was in a position to do so. To-day, however, the honorable member persists in posing as the champion of the industry. He quoted so many figures in the course of his speech that he became entangled in them. His effort in that respect reminded me of the political candidate who vehemently declared, “ Figures cannot lie “, whereupon he was greeted with the reply from an opponent, “ But liars can figure “. I do not propose to detail what the Government has done on behalf of the industry. Its record in that respect speaks for itself, and has won the approval of the growers as a whole. But let us test the sincerity of lue honorable member on this matter. 1 take the following from the Albury Border Mail of the 1st May, 1940:-
So it all comes back to what the wheatgrower has learnt from bitter experience, that the Country party as a fighting organization is impotent.
The Wheatgrower of the 27th November, 1941, stated-
What traitors these Federal Country party representatives have proved themselves to the people .they claim to represent.
Numerous representations to the United Australian party-Country party Federal Government proved the futility of making representation to a party whose aims and objects were and are completely at variance with the aims of the primary producers.
Obviously, the honorable member and his supporters speak only for a political section of the industry backed up by vested interests. I take the following from the Ouyen and North West Express of the 7th February, 1945: -
“POLITICAL FOOTBALL “ AGAIN.
Desperate efforts are being made by members of the Australian Country party to discredit, not only the Scully wheat plan, but also the whole stabilization scheme, and with it orderly marketing, without which the wheat-grower is doomed.
Over a number of years we have seen what portfolio-seeking politicians have done to the wheat industry. The grower has been used as a “ political football “, especially by men such as Mr. McEwen, M.P., and other Australian Country party members. The game is on again - and God help the grower if he takes notice of the propaganda being poured out by these men who, in the past, have sold the industry again and again.
We think that the daily prayer o[ such politicians must be : “ Please God, give the wheat-grower a short memory, and let us forget (publicly) what we did to him in the past “. This sudden concern for the poor wheat-grower is, to put it candidly, stinking hypocrisy. What did Mr. McEwen do for the grower when he had the chance? How much did the growers lose on the price of 3s. lOd. per bushel so graciously given by the Government which these men kept in power? What, indeed, has the Australian Country party ever done for any primary producer? Looking back over its sorry history all one may say is that it wept tears over him when it was out of office - and laughed his genuine need to scorn when it was in office.
Cupidity is an inherent vice in many men; and it is in this appeal to greed that the danger of disruption lies. These propagandists assert that millions have been stolen from the grower under the plan. They give figures to prove their case; but ten minutes’ study of those figures proves that they have been manipulated to serve political ends - by men whoso record shows that they were slowly but surely robbing the wheat-grower of even the barest existence.
The fact to be remembered when one reads the Australian Country party propaganda is that it is merely part of a campaign to discredit the Government. Admittedly, the Government has made many mistakes; but, in the midst of its preoccupation with a fight for Australia’s existence - and with the worst drought the nation has known - it has given the primary producer better treatment than he received from his alleged “ friends “ in normal times.
We repeat that the propaganda is political - in the ugliest sense of the word. It seeks to wreck the Government (for which the Opposition cannot be blamed) ; but, at the same time, it does not scruple to wreck the wheat industry and ruin the grower to attain its end.
There are critical months ahead for the wheatgrower, and it would be well for him to remember the old tag: “I fear the Greeks even when bringing gifts”.
The opinion of the wheat-growers as a whole is that due largely to the help of the present Government the industry has now attained a substantial degree of stability. They are directly represented on the Australian Wheat Board, and they know that they will receive a fair return for their product. A big majority of wheat-growers will ensure that men like the honorable member for Indi shall not wreck the stabilization plan. The real purpose which actuated the honorable member in submitting this motion, was to restore the old order of the open market, and to bring the farmer back into the net of the merchants.
– That is not correct.
– The farmers support the principle of a home-consumption price. The honorable member cannot have it both ways. If farmers receive the equivalent of the export price when the figure exceeds the home-consumption price, they must expect to receive a smaller return when export parity is below the home-consumption price. I am greatly concerned when men, for party political purposes, attempt to exploit the stabilization plan. The Labour Government has treated the Australian wheatgrower very fairly by guaranteeing him a home-consumption price, and. by paying him promptly for his wheat. In the past, the cheques which farmers received for their wheat were not the net payments. They had other charges to meet. But the cheques which growers now receive represent the net payments at the siding, and the farmer is very satisfied with that basis. The Government accepts the risk of storage and the like. Our opponents declare that they speak with one voice, but they are not the mouthpiece of the Australian wheat-growers.
.- 1 support the motion. In fairness to the Government, I admit that certain factors over which it had no control, have contributed to the present serious position in primary production. For example, this drought is the most severe that Australia has known. Undoubtedly,- it is one of the worst within the memory of white men. But there are many factors for which the Government is to blame. One of them is the shortage of superphosphate. After the Japanese captured Nauru, the Government made no worthwhile attempt to obtain adequate supplies of phosphatic rock elsewhere. Large deposits of rock, almost as rich as the Nauru deposits, were available to Australia at a reasonable price.
– Where did the honorable member obtain his information ?
– In Trans-Jordania, there is a large deposit of phosphatic rock. Its phosphoric acid content is only 2 per cent, less than that of the Nauru rock. That fact has been proved by some of the leading authorities in the world.
– Where was the Commonwealth Government to obtain ships to bring the rock from Trans-Jordania to Australia?
– Lower grade rock is now being shipped to Australia from North Africa and the Red Sea region, at a much higher price than that for which the Trans-Jordania rock could be obtained.
– The political party which the honorable member supports, sold the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, which would have been of incalculable benefit to the country now.
– Supporters of the Labour party encouraged the seamen to go on strike so often that it was impossible to work the ships economically. The unions were encouraged to behave in such a way that the government of the day found the position intolerable.
There is another factor for which the Government cannot escape blame. During the last twelve months, horses have been sent from the drought-stricken areas of the Riverina and northern and northwestern Victoria, to favoured areas in South Australia and Gippsland. No forage was available for them.
– The Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, would not assist the Commonwealth to introduce a fodder conservation programme.
– On the advice of the Prices Commissioner, the Commonwealth Government fixed the price of hay. That price was so unremunerative that farmers would not cut hay for forage, other than for their own use. The result is that when horses are brought back from Gippsland or South Australia to the droughtstricken areas, the farmers must feed the animals for a. month before they are able to work, and there is no forage for them. The Government did not realize in time the necessity to import tractors for the purpose of replacing those horses.
– The Government has obtained every tractor that could be shipped here.
– I am aware that, lately, the Government has endeavoured to procure tractors.
– Not lately, but for more than two years.
– The Government is unable to get sufficient tractors. Regardless of the season, tractors will have a tremendous effect on the, quantity of wheat that will be sown this year. There was never a time in history when it was more necessary for Australia to grow a record crop. If the season is poor, Australia will be compelled to import grains, not only for stock-feed, but also for human consumption. The inhabitants of countries which our troops are fighting to liberate will require large quantities of our wheat. During the next few years, the demand for grain will be greater than at any other period in history. For several years, I have condemned the Scully wheat plan, because I contended that restriction of production was not justified. In addition, the payment of two prices for Australian wheat, according to the quantity produced, was politically immoral. The Government has many charges to answer. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) declared that the Government would import grains, but because of shortages elsewhere, this policy has not been practicable. The Government misled many people in that regard and they are very dissatisfied with their treatment.
I consider that the price of flour for home consumption should remain. When export parity exceeds the homeconsumption price, we should not complain. The
Government did the correct thing when it adopted the principle of a homeconsumption price for the flour supply.
– I am glad that we do the right thing sometimes.
– The honorable member is not a member of the Government. If he were a Minister, the Government could not do the right thing.
I agree that the Government is justified in making wheat available at a reasonable price for the production of butter, eggs and meat. Increased production of those commodities is urgently required. But the worst-paid and worsttreated section of the community - the wheat-growers - should not be expected to produce cheap food for other sections who are now receiving higher incomes than the producers of these stock foods. Workers in industry are able to buy cheap food at the expense of the primary producers, who have been the worst-treated section by nature and by governments. It behoves this Government to realize that fact, and if it desires to provide cheap food for the people, it should pay to the primary producers the difference between the price paid by the local consumer and world parity. As I stated, the present serious position cannot be attributed wholely to this Government, but it is to blame for some of the causes. The wheat-growers will blame the Government for their plight, and treat supporters of the Government accordingly at the next elections.
– Everything did not work Out according to the schedule planned by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). During the last fortnight, there has been a desperate underhand move by prominent officials of the Farmers and Settlers Association to organize a march on Canberra. A censure motion was to coincide with a march on Canberra by wheat-growers, but unfortunately for the honorable member, his arrangements did not work out as well as he had expected. In the very near future the honorable member will attend the San Francisco conference, and it was hoped that a censure motion and march on Canberra could be staged before he left. He was to be the “ prima donna “ of the show, because there is no one else on his side of the House so competent as he to discuss wheat matters. There is no wheat grown in the electorate of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), and I do not think that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has sufficient knowledge of wheat to undertake the task.
The speech made by the honorable member for Indi includes his usual tirade of abuse. As one honorable member has said, the honorable member for Indi has told the story of the alleged wheat “ steal “ so often that he almost believes it himself. However, we all recognize that the honorable member is not a fool. He has a most sinister way of presenting half truths to bolster up his arguments. The honorable member for Indi said that I had supplied him with certain figures showing that there had been a loss to the wheatgrowers of approximately £10,000,000. That is only a half truth. The honorable member’s entire argument was exploded by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) in this House last week. I have not deviated from the first statement I made in relation to the sale of wheat for stock feed at a concession price. That statement was accepted by the wheat-growers’ organizations of the Commonwealth. In this matter I had to deal with one of the hardest-headed men in the wheat industry, Mr. H. K. Nock, whom I met, with Mr. Cambridge, in conference in Sydney. When I told Mr. Nock that I intended to obtain the sanction of the Government for the feed wheat scheme he was quite satisfied; but the honorable member for Indi would not accept that basis, and he, together with the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, and other members of the Australian Country party, have endeavoured to make a political football out of the wheat industry by stating that there has been a £10,000,000 “ steal “ by the Commonwealth Government. First, I point out that 70 per cent, of wheat in the No. 6 pool has been paid for at the quota guarantee of over 4s. a bushel, and that in the No. 7 pool, 80 per cent, has been ‘paid for at over 4s. a bushel - that would be approximately 5s. 3d. a bushel f.o.b. At a meeting of the Australian Wheat Board which I attended and at which representatives from all parts of Australia, including Mr. Teasdale, were present, that basis was accepted as just and equitable. Furthermore, at that meeting a request was made to me to send a representative of my department, and to ask the Treasurer to send a representative of his department to confer with the Australian Wheat Board on a basis of payment on the lines indicated. The concessional price for feed wheat was accepted by the wheat industry throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and the action of the honorable member for Indi and the Premier of Victoria has been repudiated by every wheat-grower and wheat-growers’ organization.
– It is not a case of what the wheat-growers will accept for their product, but rather what is the correct remuneration.
– The basis adopted was accepted by the wheat-grower3 as correct. It has never been questioned by wheat-growers’ organizations, and I deplore exceedingly the wanton action of the honorable member for Indi in visiting various districts, and endeavouring to sabotage wheat production when, as the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and other members have emphasized to-day, every bushel is required. I do not recall one statement by the honorable member for Indi urging growers to sow wheat to the fullest extent of their land. The rank and file of the wheatgrowers of Australia have accepted and recognized the Government’s honesty of purpose, and its desire to do the right thing by the industry. That is in marked contrast to the distrust with which they view the Australian Country party. Prior to the last elections members of the Australian Country party, especially the honorable member for Indi, were loud in their promises to the wheatgrowers. They went so far as to suggest that 5s. 2d. a bushel was only chicken feed “ compared with what they would do for the wheat-growers, but the wheat-growers’ organizations made it plain that they would rather accept this Government’s guarantee of 4s. a bushel at sidings than pin any faith upon the lavish promises of the Australian Country party. The first advance of 4s. 3d. a bushel is the highest advance yet paid under the stabilization scheme, and is equivalent to approximately 5s. 3d. a bushel f.o.b., taking into consideration handling costs. The beat that the Australian Country party could offer when its members were on this side of the chamber, and at a time when governments were not hamstrung by war-time restrictions, was 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. which, allowing ls. a bushel for handling costs, was equivalent only to 2s. lOd. a bushel at country sidings. The honorable member for Indi said in this House at the time of the establishment of. the pool -
It must be realized that any excess wheat grown above the 140.000,000-bushels basis does not participate in the guarantee.
That year, the crop amounted to about 153,000,000 bushels. The Labour party inherited the scheme, but did it repudiate the agreement?
– It tried to do so.
– The Labour Government paid the guaranteed price for the full crop of 153,000,000 bushels. The only part of the agreement that it did repudiate was the provision that any return above the guaranteed price of 2s. lOd. a bushel at country sidings was to be divided between the wheat-growers and the Government on a 50-50 basis. The Government has been fair and honest in its dealings with the wheatgrowers.
I have been advised by the “Wheat Industry Stabilization Board that the crop this year will be a record for Australia, in spite of the acts of sabotage which have been committed by the honorable member for Indi. I have just returned from a tour of the northern and north-western wheat-growing areas of New South “Wales, in which I covered a distance of about 1,500 miles during the week-end. I was very pleased to see a record area of land under fallow. The Government will pay. 4s. 3d. a bushel at country sidings for all wheat produced, whether the crop amounts to 200,000,000 bushels or 250,000,000 ‘bushels. I have been engaged in the wheat-growing industry all of my life, and I say without hesitation that never in the history of Australia have the wheat-growers faced a season with a guarantee such as they now have. Therefore, I agree with the statement of the honorable member for Indi that the crop will exceed the total for which a price has been .guaranteed, but I assert that the growers will not receive less than 4s. 3d. a bushel at sidings for any part of their crop. This guarantee will induce the farmers to plant more wheat than they have ever planted before. It was heartening to hear the frank statement of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), with whom I am not often in agreement, that this subject should have been discussed during the debate on the Address-in-Reply, and that it was raised to-day at the decree of the honorable member for Indi merely in order to make a political football of the wheat industry. However, “ the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley “. This was to have been a great day for honorable members opposite, but their hopes did not materialize. Their “ prima donna “ is to go overseas without realizing “ her “ ambition.
.- To-day, I have witnessed the most extraordinary case of amnesia that I have ever seen amongst members of the Labour party. Honorable gentlemen opposite rose one after the other and said that they could not recall anything having been done for the wheat industry by the Australian Country party.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
– by leave - Earlier to-day I was asked for information of a naval engagement between Allied and Japanese forces in the Inland Sea. I have now received the official statement on the action. It is as follows : -
After a day of destructive attacks on the enemy air force in Kyushu the fast Carrier Task Force commanded by Vice-Admiral Marc A. Mitscher moved north-east and on 19th March cast longitude date attacked the principal units of the Japanese Fleet in its home base in the Inland Seas. During these attacks crippling damage was inflicted on the Japanese Fleet and many Japanese aircraft were destroyed.
A preliminary report from Admiral R. A. Spruance, Commander Fifth Fleet, who was present in tactical command of the Fleet Forces engaged shows that the following damage w;i8 inflicted on tin1 enemy during the two days’ lighting: -
Aircraft. - Two hundred shot out of the air, 275 destroyed on the ground, more than 100 damaged in thu first day’s attacks and a large number damaged in thu second day’s attacks..
Ships sunk. - Six small freighters.
Ships damaged. - One or two battleships, two or three aircraft carriers, two light aircraft carriers or escort carriers, two escort carriers, one heavy cruiser, one light cruiser, four destroyers, one submarine, one destroyer escort, seven freighters.
Ground installations. - A large number of installations including hangars, shops, arsenals and oil-storage facilities were destroyed.
Our aircraft losses in combat were extremely light.
The enemy made many air attacks on our forces. None of our ships was lost. One of our ships was seriously damaged and is returning to port under her own power. A few others received minor damage are fully operational.
Silling suspended from 5.57 to S p.m.
Debate resumed from the 9th March (vide page 553) on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, and the Banking Bill”, introduced by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) some days ago, represent, in total, probably the most important domestic measures that will be introduced to this Parliament during its currency. They are extremely important, from the point of view of their supporters as well as of their opponents. I have given a good deal of serious thought to the way in- which I should address myself to them. I do not propose to endeavour to debate both of them to-night. It would be possible to discuss these matters, which have a broad and obvious political significance, in, perhaps, a broad political fashion. From some points of view, that might be a good idea. But the bill itself is full, not only of matters which have a broad political significance, but also of matters which, on the face of them, are technical; and if I refer tonight to technical considerations, with all the tentativeness of an amateur in such matters, it will be simply because I believe that in some of the technical considerations some of the more important aspects of the bill may be found concealed.
The measure professes, on the face of it - and, indeed, was so explained by the Treasurer - to be one that is enlightened and progressive, and designed to give increased security to the people, whereas in fact, carefully analysed - and I propose to-night to submit it to analysis - it is reactionary and unsound, and will increase the insecurity of the people. As explained by the Treasurer, it professes to strengthen the central bank. I shall have occasion later to refer to an observation by the right honorable gentleman on that point. In reality, it weakens the central bank. It offers to protect the currency - indeed, its companion bill says so in terms - but in reality it runs a good chance of destroying the currency. In saying that, I do not mean that the effects of this legislation will be seen immediately, or very drastically. I have a shrewd notion that when these bills have reached the statute-book, it will be remembered that elections are to be held in eighteen months’ time, and there will be a good deal of. “soft pedalling” by some of the advocates of the measures until those elections have passed.
As a good deal of reference will necessarily be made, in the course of my own remarks and in this debate, to the trading banks as a part of the banking structure, I wish to make it clear right away - and I can say this for every honorable member on this side of the House - that I regard the pecuniary interests of the banks and their shareholders as of minor importance in this matter. The most vital element in the trading banking structure, I remind honorable members, is to be found in the depositors in those banks, and the paramount interest in the consideration of banking is the welfare of the Australian people as a whole. Therefore, every banking proposal, such as the one that is now before the Chair, must be tested by asking, not how it will affect bankers, but how it will affect the people.
This bill is an amending, re-enacting and consolidating measure. The Treasurer has adopted the course that is convenient to all of use, of embodying the existing law, so far as it is unchanged, in this bill, so that we may have the whole picture before us. Rut our attention will be directed primarily, not to the old) but to the new provisions of the banking law. Looking at the bill I have found - and I dare say it will agree with the judgment of others - that there are six principal new provisions. The first is the suggested strengthening of the central banking function of the Commonwealth Bank. The second is the abolition of the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank and the substitution of one-man control. The third is the subordination of that one man - the Governor of the bank - to the governnent of the day. The fourth is the establishment of active competition with the trading banks in general banking business. The fifth is the abolition of board control of the note issue. The sixth is the abolition of the currency reserve. There are other matters in the bill. If time permits - which I begin to doubt - I shall say something about one other aspect before I sit down. In broad principle, however, those are the six major matters with which the bill deals by way of new provisions. I propose, for convenience and clarity, to take them in that order. So, I take the first - the suggested strengthening of the central banking function of the Commonwealth Bank. If we are to understand that quite clearly, it will be necessary to refer - very briefly, of course - to some historical matter; because these problems are not to be judged except against the background of the experience we have had in Australia. Every honorable member will agree with that. At the present time we have in Australia, broadly speaking - and I omit some private, semi-banking institutions, such as pastoral companies - banks of three types, namely, the trading banks, the savings banks, and the Commonwealth Bank. The trading banks were established very early in the history of this country on the branch banking system.
– They crashed fairly early, too.
– In 1893 they encountered some difficulties, but not, I am bound to say, as many as they would have encountered had the honorable gentleman been in charge of them.
– They had to appeal to the Government to assist in their rehabilitation.
– The advantage of the branch banking system, as everybody except my friend the Minister for Works will plainly realize, is that it distributes risks and interests, and is utterly distinct from that system of individual banks which was so closely associated with the bank crashes in the United States of America. It is true that in 1893 there was a bank crisis, following upon the breaking of a land boom, and that some banks got into difficulties from which a number of them never emerged. But the crisis of 1893 taught some lessons; and it has to be said for the trading banks of Australia that they learned their lessons and can claim to have had a solid record ever since. They are not beyond criticism. There are criticisms which may be made of them, as, indeed, there are criticisms which may be made of us. But ever since 1893 the trading banks have continued to provide, without any question as to their solvency, a daily service to more and more people in Australia, until to-day, I suppose, they provide a daily service for something over 1,000,000 people in this country; and they have done so - and it is well, in justice to them, that this should be stated - at an uncommonly low rate of profit. In the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, my friend’ the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who was one of its members, said in a special personal memorandum that the profits of the trading banks should not exceed an amount equal to 5 per cent, of shareholders’ funds or 8 per cent, of the capital, whichever was the less. The percentage of profit of the trading banks on shareholders’ funds amounted, in 194’3, to 3.6 per cent., and not since 1930 have those banks earned .profits as high as the rate suggested by the Treasurer in the report of the royal commission.
The next kind of bank that we have in Australia is the savings bank. It has a long history. Except for the failure of the New South Wales Government Savings Bank, that history is untarnished by default or failure. We can go right back to Campbell’s Bank in 1819 for the history of savings banks in Australia, and except for the one instance to which I have referred, we shall find it an unbroken history of improvement and increasing strength. We now have a chain of savings banks all over Australia.
The third kind of bank is the Commonwealth Bank. Because a great deal of “ poppycock “ is talked about the origin of the Commonwealth Bank and what it was designed to do, it is “well that we should be reminded of its origin. The Commonwealth Bank Act of 1911, which established it, set up the Commonwealth Bank primarily as a competitive trading bank. The note issue was not controlled by it, but continued to be controlled by the Treasurer. At that time, most of the supporters of the Commonwealth Bank quite plainly had not in their minds any notion of establishing the Commonwealth Bank as a central bank, but directed their attention to it as an instrument of competitive trading. But whatever .many of his supporters may have thought, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Fisher, indicated that he was looking towards two things. One was, that the bank should ultimately become a bank of banks - that is, the lender of last resort - and the other was that the control of the bank should be entirely nonpolitical. In the course of his notable speech at that time, he said -
While the bank may deal in land securities and other security, it will in time grow to be rather a bank dealing in ordinary bills of exchange and liquid securities. It will ultimately become a bank of banks, rather than a mere money-lending institution.
Later a governor was appointed as the controller of the bank - the late Sir Denison Miller. Shortly after he became governor, he announced in a press interview that he wanted the bank to become like the Bank of England, and be able to stand behind the other banks in a crisis. There we have two statements, one by the founder of the bank in the political sense, and the other by the first governor of the bank, clearly indicating that each of them was looking in the long run towards the development of the Commonwealth Bank, not as a mere competitor in the market of the other banks, but as a future central bank for Australia. This was in line, of course, with the decision of the Brisbane conference of the Labour party in 1908, a conference back to which we must go to find the foundations of the Commonwealth Bank, because that conference passed resolutions on banking, and one of them, it is interesting to recall, was that the bank should be conducted absolutely free from political control.
The early reference to the Commonwealth Bank as being a bank of banks, or a bankers’ bank, were, of course, correct. A central bank is a bankers’ bank in the sense that it is the bank of last resort. It is the controller of the credit structure of the trading banks, and the bank in which the trading banks keep most of their cash. I refer to that fact largely for the purpose of pointing out that the tendency has developed in later years, particularly on the hustings, of saying that the Commonwealth Bank must be converted from a bankers’ bank into a people’s bank.
– Hear, hear !
– -I hear that opinion being echoed most ignorantly from the government benches. There is no antithesis between a banker’s bank and a people’s bank. A strong central bank, that is, a bank which has power to exercise by whatever weapons may be appropriate some authority in the field of credit expansion and credit contraction, exists only to serve the interests of the people. So I line myself alongside the pioneers of this bank in saying-
– What a beauty!
– It did not occur to me that any of the honorable gentlemen opposite were the pioneers of the bank. All that I am conscious of, when reading this bill, is that they are setting out to be its destroyers. As I do not wish to be associated with the destroyers, I line myself with the constructors.
During the first world war, the Commonwealth Bank, which had just been established, had rapid growth. It had intense experience in the financing of government, but nobody would suggest that it was in any sense equipped to be a central bank for Australia. At that time it had not the necessary technique for the task. In some respects it had not the necessary power. There was a good deal of confusion of thought, which has not yet entirely disappeared, about the respective functions of the central and the trading banks. That is not to be wondered at, because central banking is a very modern art, and) to the degree that it is a science, a very modern science. It is as well to recall that fact to mind, when one hears discussion on what the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks should or should not have done during the last depression. I point out that in 1929-30, when the depression commenced, there were very few central banks in the world, and very little was known about central banking functions. In the United States of America major reforms of the federal reserve system occurred in 1935, as the result of depression experience. The Reserve Bank of India was created in 1934. In New Zealand, the reserve bank was established in 1933. Canada’s central bank came to life in 1935, and the Central Bank of Argentina also began business in that year. When we have those dates in mind we shall be forcibly reminded that it was as the result of the depression that the minds of thoughtful men became directed to how far we could strengthen the power to control credit and the efficiency of controlling credit in great modern communities. Much thought was directed to the problem, and it would be odd, indeed, if as the result of that, and the experience in those various countries, we were not immeasurably better equipped to deal with the credit problem to-day than we were in 1929-30. I ask the House to remember that until central banking was well established, individual trading banks followed their own course in credit control, and, as there was no machinery for making that course cohesive, it stands to reason that varying policies would be pursued and that difficulties would arise. At that time the Commonwealth Bank was in no sense adequately equipped for central banking, and many countries were still groping towards this technique. The marvel is, not that mistakes were made during the world depression, but that more mistakes were not made, and that recovery in Australia came as quickly as it did.
In 1920, the control of the note issue was transferred to a board. Up to that time it had been controlled by the Treasurer, but in that year it was transferred to a board, the chairman of which was the governor of the bank, ex officio. In 1924, the first legislative proposal designed to establish central banking in Australia was presented to this Parliament by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page).
– He sabotaged the Commonwealth Bank.
– The Minister may use harsh expressions, but the bill then introduced, and the speech then made, represented the first large, scientific and intelligent attempt in this country to establish central banking. In the bill which was sponsored by the right honorable member for Cowper, a board of directors was substituted for one-man control, and comprehensive central banking powers, including the control of the note issue, were conferred upon the bank. Prom that date we may begin to trace out, not all at once, because the progress was slow, the development of real central banking in this country.
I now ask myself, and also invite honorable members to ask, what should be the chief functions and powers of a central bank in this country. The chief function, as I understand it - and I speak with all the diffidence of a layman on these matters - is the regulation of the volume of credit, including currency. That regulation is designed to achieve, among other things, three results. The first is the stabilization of the internal or domestic value of the currency, which is not merely a matter of stabilizing things as items in accounts, but stabilizing the purchasing power of the people’s money, the people’s savings, the people’s future money. It is, therefore, a task of the first magnitude. The second result is the stabilization of the external value of money, naturally through the exchanges. The third result is the reduction or elimination of sharp variations in the general level of employment and trade activity. If one were asked for a broad statement of the objectives of a central bank, I believe that what I have said would not be an unfair summary. To achieve those results the central bank must be in a position - and I want to emphasize and re-emphasize this throughout my speech - of real strength and real authority. The central bank is not to be simply a servant of some passing movement. It is to be in a position of real strength and real authority. It is not only to be in a position to control the total volume of credit, and so affect the entire economy of the nation, but it must also become the custodian, as it is in Australia, of the nation’s cash reserves, and the nation’s chief monetary adviser. If I may, I emphasize the reference to the nation’s chief monetary adviser. The adviser to any government or to any community should, bo detached, objective and utterly above the storm, because on the skill, honesty and disinterestedness of his advice a great deal will depend. The consideration of these things will show that a central bank, adequately equipped with brains, scientific knowledge and experience, must be in a position to lead banking thought and banking practice. So much for the objectives of the central bank.
We then inquire what instruments the bank can use in order to achieve those objectives, and on that problem it would be idle to pretend that there is unanimity, because central banking is, as I have said, a modern art and science, and there is still room for ample difference of opinion about the value or significance of this instrument or that; but there is fairly common agreement at least that the following are appropriate central banking powers - I am not now referring in particular to Australia, but to countries in general: The control of the note issue, as in Australia; the control of the exchanges, which the central bank has de facto ; the discounting and rediscounting of trade bills; the bank rate; open market operations; lending to the Government; and the holding of deposits from the trading banks. Each of these is a method by which the central bank can hope to influence and, in suitable eases, control, the volume of credit in the country. In Great Britain there is an enormous short-term bill market. We have only to watch the buying and selling of securities on the open market by the central bank to see that it is of their essence that the central bank should be in a highly liquid condition. Let us consider an example of open market operations by a central bank. It desires to put more cash into the general banking system so that advances may be made on a more liberal basis. In other words, it desires to initiate an inflationary movement, to apply a stimulus to trading operations, so it buys securities in the market, and puts cash into circulation. On another occasion it may believe that a boom is developing, and that credit ought to be restricted. It then sells securities for cash, and takes this cash out of the trading system. In order to do that kind of thing a central bank must keep its assets in a highly liquid condition. A trading bank which kept 90 per cent, of its assets in liquid form would not be much of a success as a trading bank. It would fall down on its job, but a central bank which, in normal circumstances, failed to keep its assets 90 per cent, liquid, would be in danger of failing in its duty .as a central bank. I mention that merely to illustrate a fundamental difference between central banking with its sensitive, delicate methods of controlling credit, and the output and inflow of. cash, and a trading hank which establishes more or less permanent relations with its customers and gives to them some degree of security over a term of years.
I believe that the effective weapons of a central bank in Australia would be these - and I am not stating them in order of merit : the bank rate, open market operations, government finance, the leading and advising of the trading banks, and the taking of deposits from the trading banks. The taking of deposits from the trading banks represents one of the real departures in this bill from the legislation of 1924. Of all those operations, I believe that the most important, having regard to the financial circumstances of Australia, is leadership by the Commonwealth Bank in a truly cooperative banking system, in which the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks, accepting a joint responsibility, shall stabilize credit and trade. All those functions may now be exercised by the Commonwealth Bank under the existing law, though special legislation on the subject of deposits may ‘be needed after the National Security Regulations have ceased to operate. I point out, however, that the National Security Regulations have not ceased to operate. This legislation, insofar as it deals with deposits, is anticipating by a long time the termination of. the National Security Regulations. This is essentially a piece of post-war legislation which will not begin to operate until after the war, and the termination of the National Security Regulations. Why it should be brought on at this stage I am, at a loss to understand. If the National Security Regulations cease to operate, and Parliament then decides, or if it decides now in anticipation of such an occurrence, that deposits by trading banks with the central bank are to continue to be compulsory, whether fixed or variable, then no doubt legislation is, or will be, required.
I turn at once to that problem because, as I have said, all the other proper functions of a central bank may already be exercised by the Commonwealth Bank under the powers it now possesses. The real point of departure in this bill is the provision that the trading banks shall continue to make deposits with the central bank, that those deposits will continue to be frozen as against the trading banks, and that, by varying the amount of the cash deposits required from the trading banks, the total volume of credit may be increased or reduced.
The problem of variable deposits is an extremely difficult and important one. For my part, I have had the greatest difficulty in completely clarifying my own mind on this intensely teasing subject. The Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems recommended in paragraph 589 of its report as follows : -
The Commonwealth Parliament should legislate to provide that the Commonwealth Bank Board, with the consent of the Treasurer, may require every trading bank to keep with the Commonwealth Bank a deposit of an amount not less than a percentage, specified in the requisition, of the liability of that bank to its depositors in Australia.
That is very much in line with the practice established by one or two central banks in 1934 and 1935. The next recommendation of the banking commission is -
Each trading bank should bc required to keep on deposit the same percentage. The board should have power at its discretion to vary the percentage from time to time within the limit fixed by the consent of the Treasurer.
The making of deposits by trading banks with the central bank may serve several purposes. Thirty or forty years ago, the central bank in the United States of America took deposits from the trading banks primarily for the protection of the customers of the trading banks. That is not significant now, although it was then. When that is the purpose in view,’ the matter has no real relation to central banking. It is really ancillary to trading banking in the ordinary way, and particularly in the American way. Again, the making of deposits with the central bank might mean very little more than the provision of cheap funds for the central bank, the deposits also representing the cash reserves of the trading banks, other than till money. That was the purpose for which deposits were made with the central bank in Australia before the war. The trading banks normally kept their cash reserves, other than till money, in the Commonwealth Bank. That had nothing to do with the control of credit. The deposits were voluntary and could be withdrawn at will. They formed a part of the cash of the trading banks, and, therefore, were not related to central banking control.
The third system is that in which deposits are taken by the central bank from the trading banks as part and parcel of a scheme consciously designed to regulate credit. The central bank asks for larger or smaller deposits according as it desires to decrease or increase the cash holdings of the trading banks, the idea being that if the central bank takes, say, £5,000,000 from a trading bank, and puts it on fixed deposit with itself, that amount no longer forms a part of the trading cash of the trading bank, which must, therefore, decrease its advances. Thus, the increasing or decreasing of fixed deposits by the trading banks with the central bank may determine the total amount of cash available to the trading banks, and so govern the amount of credit available.
If the control of credit is the dominant purpose of requiring deposits by the trading banks, there seems to be no escape from the system of variable deposits, because it is of the essence of such a scheme that the deposits should be adjusted up or down according to the credit policy of the central bank. The question then arises: is such a system of variable deposits a better .method of achieving credit control than that employed by the Bank of England, which is still the greatest and most successful central bank. It has a remarkable record, and is the oldest central bank in existence. It has developed tremendous skill over the years, and to this moment it exercises no compulsory control whatever in its central banking functions. It operates entirely in co-operation with the trading banks, and it uses principally, as it can in London, the method of the bank rate and open market operations. Thus, we have to ask ourselves whether the system of variable deposits by the trading banks with the central bank is likely to be more effective than the methods employed in London. As to that, I do not believe that any man is qualified to give a dogmatic reply. I do not believe that any one - not even the greatest authorities in the world - can say whether this use of variable deposits is a scientifically accurate way to control credit. It is experimental, and I shall watch its operation with the greatest interest. But let us understand that it really is experimental. Let us understand that it is a crude method, which might produce unexpected results, including the harshest kind of deflation. If the central bank can take by compulsion a large part of the cash reserves of a trading bank and freeze them, the trading bank may he forced to adopt very harsh methods in order to increase the volume of its liquid assets. If we are to have variable deposits - and this is at the heart of whatever reform is contained in the bill - will it he achieved best by some curt compulsion by the Commonwealth Bank without any kind of consultation with the trading banks, or by close and friendly co-operation between the central bank and the trading banks, with the former in a position of acknowledged leadership? “We should think carefully before we introduce methods of authority and compulsion when we have never fully tried out the method of co-operation and leadership which has achieved such amazing results in Great Britain.
– Some day the Bank of England will be improved.
– That may be, but not by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell).
– It will be done by a Labour Government in Great Britain.
– That may happen, because in that country they might get a good Labour government. Even at the risk of being tedious, in order to complete my picture I mention that up to 1924, when legislation was introduced by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), the then Treasurer, most of the trading ‘banks held relatively small balances at the Commonwealth Bank, but after the act of 1924 was passed, all the trading banks in Australia held increasing balances at the Commonwealth Bank. In 1928 the Commonwealth Bank asked the trading banks to keep’ their reserves with it, and ever since 1930 the deposits by the trading banks with the Commonwealth Bank have formed the chief part of their cash in Australia. Up to that phase, the making of those deposits had no relation whatever to credit control; it was done primarily for the convenience of the trading banks. Incidentally, it was a replenishment of funds and a source of profit to the Commonwealth Bank.
I come now to the war period - a period which we should have in close memory - because it provides a contrast between the two methods of approach. Towards the end of 1941 the right honorable, member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), who was then Prime Minister, obtained from the trading banks anundertaking which he read to this House at, the time of the presentation of the budget in 1941. It is recorded in Hansard.
– The trading banks made an offer.
– I do not suppose that even the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) assumes that the arrangement came out of the air. He might at least assume that it was the outcome of a great number of discussions between the then Prime Minister and Treasurer, the Commonwealth Bank, and the trading banks. It is well that we should remind ourselves of the terms of that undertaking ‘before we talk too crudely about compulsion; therefore I shall read the terms of the undertaking given by the trading banks -
The trading hanks have no intention and no desire to make excess profits arising from war conditions.
As a war-time measure and with the object of ensuring that additions to their funds owing to war conditions will not ‘be used to make excess profits or to expand advances in any way contrary to the National interests-
I pause to ask honorable members to compare that with the bill upon which they will soon have to vote - they agree to place all surplus investable funds accruing in their hands on deposit with the Commonwealth Hank as special war-time deposits, and agree to the Commonwealth Bank making appropriate variations in the rate of interest thereon to ensure that no excess war-time profits arise.
To achieve the objects set out above, the trading banks give the following firm undertaking: -
I point out that no opportunity was given for that voluntary scheme to work ; compulsion was at once brought in by the present Government. In the bill, I find no reference whatever to any power in the banks to make advances on overdrafts in accordance with the central bank’s policy, nor do I find any reference whatever to the protection of the depositors with the trading banks. I mention these matters at this stage because it is so easy to treat the volume of war-time deposits in banks as being the property of the banks. Those deposits are not the property of the banks; they are liabilities of the banks. If the depositors who own the rights to those moneys want to withdraw their balances, it seems curious that the bank should answer with an emphatic “No; we have no liability to you in this matter. Your deposits have been frozen by the Commonwealth Bank”. I ask the Treasurer to consider seriously whether there should not be some provision to give protection to the depositors of the banks, who, after all, are the owners, in the broad sense, of the moneys that they have deposited with the banks. I ask him to do that, notwithstanding that the Government has the numbers to carry this bill. The War-time Banking Control Regulations threw overboard the undertaking to which I have referred, and set up a compulsory system. As the result of those regulations, the funds lodged in the special account by the trading banks became frozen funds; the banks could not use them or withdraw them without the permission of the Treasurer.
– Except to use them as treasury-bills, which they did.
– There are no instances of the interest of depositors being specially considered.
– The deposits of the tradingbanks with the central hank would be liabilities of the trading hanks to their depositors.
-That is what I have been pointing out, and I am glad that the right honorable gentleman agrees with me. These moneys are ‘liabilities of the tradingbanks to their depositors. I remind the House that when a bank has liabilities to its depositors, the latter have an old-fashioned prejudice in regard to the discharge of these liabilities when the time for discharge arises. A bank has an interest, on behalf of its depositors, in having some flexibility and in not having its funds frozen ; but under these war-time regulations, these special accounts which I have described as frozen deposits have reached a total of£230,000,000, according to the Treasurer’s statement. This bill, together with the Banking Bill, which also is before the Parliament, proposes to make permanent a system which was designed for purely emergency purposes. There is no time limit in the newbill; apparently, the scheme of compulsory deposits in these special accounts is to go on in perpetuity. Clause18 requires every bank to establish with theCommonwealth Bank a special account; clause 19 transfers to the special account of each bank the amount to the credit of thatbank’s special account under the regulations ; and clause 20 provides that the trading banks shall each month lodge in the special account such amounts as the Commonwealth Bank directs. The fund may be added to from month to month, according to the direction of the Commonwealth Bank. The amount to be directed has a limit placed upon it: it is interesting to discover what that limit is. The amount is not to be such that the amount to the credit of the bank’s special account, after making the new lodgment, exceeds the sum of the original amount transferred, plus any increase of the bank’s assets after the operation of this new law. The net effect of this is that the trading banks are to be confined to their pre-war assets position. Under the regulations they were confined to their pre-war assets position, because any increase of their assets was treated as arising from war-time finance and as a protection to the country against secondary inflation it was provided that any increase of war-time assets must be passed over to the Commonwealth Bank, and rightly so. Under this new, permanent system, there they stand; and any increase may be called upon by way of further lodgment in the special account. The curious thing is that, while the law will confine the trading banks to their pre-war position, the generalbanking department of the Commonwealth Bankwill have no such restriction placed on it; it is to run free. We are told that there is to be competition, and by that I assume that fair competition is intended; yet the first competitive weapon that is forged in this legislation is that no trading bank may expand beyond its 1939 position ; every increase of the volume of business arising from the demands of the business community forbanking accommodation must go to the trading division of the Commonwealth Bank. That seems to be a queer form of fair competition.
-The ultiimate effect will be to destroy the trading banks without any compensation.
– Exactly. This bill professes to attach a safeguard by a provision in clause 21 -
The Special Accounts established by banks under Division 3 of Part II. of the Banking Act 1945, and the accounts established by banks for the purposes of section fifty-two of the Banking Act 1 945, shall not be kept in the General Banking Division. [Extension of time granted.]
Clause 21 says that these special accounts are not to be kept in the general banking division. Well, I have had a look at this clause, and I invite other honorable gentlemen to have a look at it, and I do not profess to know what it means, if it does mean anything. The Treasurer was optimistic enough to tell us that that meant that the money in this general account cannot be used in the general banking business. I find no such language in the clause. It says that the special accounts shall not be kept in the general hanking division, but there is no provision that they shall not he used in the Rural Credits Branch, the Mortgage
Bank Department or the Industrial Department, and, as I hope to point out later, the Industrial Division itself represents about as bold a piece of concealment as thisbill contains. There is the alleged safeguard ! It is much more apparent than it is real. The whole proposal on this point is a striking example of the Government’s desire to perpetuate in Australia, long after the emergencies have passed, what has been epigrammatically styled “ the servile state “, and the particular weapon here is the weapon of slow strangulation of the private banking system in favour of a publicly owned and politically controlled banking system.
It is abundantly clear - at least I hope it will be - that the true function of the central bank in a system in which there are also trading banks can never be satisfactorily performed in an atmosphere of hostility. If any one supposes that in an atmosphere of hostility in which the private hanks and the central bank are at arm’s length any good purpose for Australia can be achieved I beg him to forget it. We can get good results for this country only by the utmost co-operation and understanding. Therefore every endeavour should be made to produce understanding and there should be as little insistence as possible on the weapon of coercion. But. if there is to be coercion and if it is really in the minds of the framers of this bill that the trading bank deposits with the central bank should be used as a flexible means of regulating credit, it is quite clear that the political and, therefore, fluctuating control of the central bank is utterly destructive of the whole scheme. I say by way of warning to my honorable friends on the other side that, though they may think that political control of this bank is a fine thing when they are in office, they will not always be in office. In fact, they will not be in office very long, and I venture to believe that when they, or those who are left of them, are sitting on the left-hand side of the Chair in this chamber, theywill curse the day when they made the central bank a mere fluttering political instrument.
Government members dissenting,
– I see. They rely on us doing the right thing so that for a few years they may do the wrong thing.
I always thought that that was their point ofview.
– The right honorable gentleman is our best frozen asset.
-I notice that the Minister for Information seems a little worried about me. What I am saying means, and perhaps it can be summed up in this way, thatwe need in Australia - and I think, or, at least, hope, that we all can agree on this, for world experience proves it - astrong, well-equipped central bank. The Treasurer said so in a passage which is such a masterpiece of irony that I beg leave to repeat it. It is one of those things which the people will not willingly let die when they hear about it. He said -
The Central Banking functions and powers of the Common wealth Bank are strengthened so as to ensure that the broad lines of its monetary and financial policy will be in harmony with the economic policy of the Government and in the interests of the people of Australia.
I compliment my honorable friend on that. He says that we are to strengthen the central bank by making it our servant, by taking it out of its non-political atmosphere and making it obey the political whim of the moment. Strength in the central bank is essential because the end of the central bank is to produce stability. Weakness has never produced stability. Strength will. Except to mere speculators the stability of the currency does matter. If that needs proof, every budget presented by the Treasurer has said so. Without reasonable stability of the currency there can be no incentive to save money, there can be no reliance placed on social security, the deferred pay and gratuities of fighting men become a mere gamble, life insurances become chancey, and general trade, which is an essential element of general prosperity, becomes a mere matter of gambling in futures. The stability of the currency is of first-class importance to the ordinary men and women of this country, and a strong, independent central bank is of first-class importance to a stabilized currency.
– We may see the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) made Treasurer any day, too.
– We may indeed! From now on, if this bill should be passed, all the delicate adjustments that have to be madeby a central bank charged with this great responsibility will be under the direct control of the Treasurer of the day, whoever he may be, and he, in his turn, will be under the direct control of politicians like ourselves; and I venture to say with a great respect to all honorable members, including myself, that we have not the skill, experience or information necessary for this task. Yet we shall control the Treasurer and the Treasurer will control the bank.
I come now to a short and pleasing task. I intend to quote a passage from an established authority who will be listened to with great respect by members of the Government. That authority is Professor D. B. Copland whose earlier sins appear to have been forgiven. In 1931, my distinguished and able friend wrote a book, What have the Banks Done? in which he said - in the controversies that have taken place in the past eighteen months there is sufficient evidence that political control of the currency would destroy confidence,and abolish reasonable checks to the issue of credit. We can therefore only reap the benefits of a liberal banking policy if the control of the currency he free from political interference.
I hope that most of the members of the House will agree with that. Yet, when this bill has gone through, what will be the position of a Labour Treasurer who goes to meet his party and to whom his party says, as I believe it has said on more than one occasion, “ We want £15,000,000 for this, that or the other thing “. I noticed the other day that my honorable friend the Treasurer, when confronted with such a demand, made an impassioned answer - at least, it appeared to be impassioned in the unofficial press versions - in which he pointed out what the taxation was and what the obligations were for the future and said, in effect, as any good tory might have said, “ I cannot afford it. You cannot have it.” But I wonder what the position will be when he goes before caucus after this bill has become law and receives a demand for £20,000,000. Tempted to say, “ I cannot afford it “, he will have them reply, “ Of course you can. You are now in charge of the Commonwealth Bank.
You can direct it. You are in charge of the note issue”.
– “And the sky is the limit.”.
– Yes, “and the sky is the limit. We have abolished the reserve. There is no restriction on the note issue.”
– The right honorable gentleman is putting ideas into their heads.
– I do not have to put ideas into the head of the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini), because that is his style of finance. That is the very kind of finance that he believes in. If ever there were something that would put us on the slippery path to real continental inflation it would be that kind of thing. That is all I desire to say on the proposal to “ strengthen “ the central bank.
The second proposal is for the abolition of the Bank Board, and that, of course, receives great applause. Yet honorable members know there are great and obvious advantages to the country in having a system of controlling the central bank by a board of directors or a board of governors. Every other country has clearly seen those advantages. I do not know of any democratic country which has one-man control of the central bank. The great advantages of a board are the bringing together of a diversity of experience, the added judgment produced by frank discussion by competent men, the added strength involved in joint responsibility, and the publicity which a board of directors strongly adhering to a view can secure for that view in the event of great conflict of opinion on a central banking problem. Under this bill the governor, one man, will conduct no less than eight institutions : central banking, general hanking, the note issue, the Rural Credits Department, the Mortgage Bank Department, the Industrial Finance Department, housing loans, and the Commonwealth Savings Bank. My only disappointment is that there were not seven instead of eight, because I should then have been reminded of one of Wordsworth’s poems. When one of those institutions had gone under this strange system the others would say, “ One of us in the churchyard lies, but, master, we are seven “. It is interesting to recall that in 1930, a time when a labour government was formerly in office, the then Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, brought in a bill to establish a reserve bank, and provided that it was to be controlled by a board consisting of a governor, two deputy governors, the secretary to the Treasury, and five other directors, “ who are or who have been actively engaged in agriculture, commerce, finance, industry or labour “. It isalso interesting to recall that the royal commission, so far from reporting in favour of the abolition of the Bank Board, reported in favour of continuing the Bank Board. True, the royal commission recommended that the governor should be chairman of the board; and the Treasurer will remember that, although he was not lacking in courage when he wanted to dissent, he did not dissent from that recommendation. At that time he had no quarrel with the board; to-day he proposes to abolish it.
Mr.Curtin. - Why did the Theodore bill fail to pass?
– I feel no occasion to go into that. Does the right honorable gentleman suppose that it failed to pass because it provided for a board of directors; because unless he believes that was the reason why it failed to pass his interjection is a mere interruption. I know perfectly well that the right honorable gentleman would be delighted if I talked about some other bill, because he will find this bill difficult to defend at the bar of public opinion.
The third provision in this bill is quite bluntly for the political control of the governor and, therefore, of the bank. [Further extension of time granted.] Clause 9 provides that the bank must give effect to government policy, but honorable members will observe that the word “ policy “ is not defined. It may apply to matters great or small, and, therefore, it is quite clear that the clause provides for complete political control. Everything is policy, and, therefore, on everything the Treasurer may give a direction to the governor.
Clause 28 sets up an advisory council. It is a purely advisory council. I do not want to rake over the ashes of old controversies; but it is a purely advisory council, and it consists, mark you, of three subordinates of the governor in the bank’s service, and two Treasury officers. Such a body cannot be described as in any sense independent, and, quite clearly, it is mere window-dressing thrown into the bill to make it appear that there is some form of check or authoritative consultation.
– Why does not the governor have a vote in it?
-I take that to be almost a humorous addendum. The governor has no vote, but, after all, he will not be bound by any decision of the advisory council, and as the other members will be under him, the advisory council does not rate very high. In addition, it is interesting to note that most of the senior officers of this bank will be politically appointed, namely, the governor and the deputy governor, the secretary of the Treasury, the additional Treasury representative on the advisory council, the general manager of the Industrial Finance Department, the chairman of the Promotions Appeal Board, and so on. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) interjected that the royal commission had recommended a method which is substantially adopted in clause 9.
– And for which the honorable member for New England voted.
– The royal commission recommended that there should be a method of this kind for reconciling differences, not between the Government and the governor, but between the Government and’ a board of directors. There we have an essential difference. After all, one man, himself dependent for appointment on the government of the day, is not in a strongposition to resist or argue about the instruction of a Treasurer or a government; but a board of directors, consisting of people who are in every other respect independent of the Government, is in a far better position to say, “We think this is wrong. We object to it. We are prepared to argue about it, and, if necessary, to tell the people and Parliament about it “. There is a vital distinction between the recommendation of the royal commission and what appears in the bill. But I go further and say that what appears in the royal commission’s report is itself open to very grave question. I am not prepared to accept a state of affairs in which the Executive, of its own force, is able to override a central bank on matters of great moment. After all, all matters arising will bo great or small. If they be small the Government should not be interfering in the control, and if they be large matters Parliament should attend to them. It is high time that the authority of Parliament was restored. If there is any major conflict between the central bank and the Government, then Parliament should be invited by appropriate means to deal with the matter.
The fourth matter is competition with the trading banks. I suppose that we shall be told that competition between the Commonwealth Bank in its trading capacity and the trading banks is perfectly fair. It cannot be fair. The Commonwealth. Bank will pay no land tax or income tax and it can face losses with equanimity. But, in any event, competition between the trading banks and a bank whose primary function is that of a central bank is quite inconsistent with the atmosphere of wise leadership and co-operation which ought to exist in a banking system. The royal commission, in paragraph 585 of its report, deals with that matter. In view of the lateness of the hour, I shall not read that paragraph, but the commission, in a sentence, said -
One way in which this conformity . . .
That is conformity between the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks - can lie achieved is by co-operation. This requires wise leadership on the part of the Commonwealth Bank and its acceptance by the trading banks.
Wise leadership! Acceptance of cooperation ! - when with all these extra weights 1 to be carried by the trading banks, the Government says that its own central bank is in one of its departments to go into active competition with them. There is another point to which I draw the attention of the Treasurer. The same man will bo controlling both banks. The same governor is responsible for the central bank and the Commonwealth trading bank. To use a fashionable phrase, what sort of a “ split personality “ will this one man need if he is at one and the same time to control the central bank and a trading bank, the interests of which must on many occasions be completely opposed?
– He will not be the only “ split personality “. The secretary of the Treasury will be on the council, and be also adviser to the Treasurer.
– Quite so. The whole essence of the central bank is that it may have to control trading banks. It may decide to sell securities and so reduce their cash or buy securities and increase their cash. In the circumstances it might b’i to the interest of the trading bank to hold more cash, but its duty to the economic system might be to hold less. That, after all, is the business of a central bank, to reconcile the interests of trading banks and their duty to this country; and this unhappy man will have to decide that conflict, which can be resolved only by a strong independent central bank.
– The decision in every case will be unanimous.
– He will need to be a super-man if he can, with satisfaction to every one, occupy two such inconsistent positions at the same time. The royal commission made a recommendation on this matter, and that recommendation, on the face of it, is contrary to the view I have been putting. The commission, in paragraph 577 of its report, states -
We are of opinion that the use of its trading bank activities as an adjunct to central bank policy is in keeping with its central bank functions and is to bc approved.
But if we go back to paragraph 156 of the commission’s report we shall there find explained in much more detail what the commission had in mind. What it had in mind was the using of its trading bank powers as an additional means of controlling the volume of credit, not as a mere competitor in the market for business, but by taking business as it came along in order to help the Commonwealth Bank to perform its central bank function.
The fifth proposal is the abolition of the board control of the note issue, and as the hair goes with the hide I do not need to waste time on this point. The note issue is now to be controlled by the governor of the bank, and, through the means of clause 9 of the bill, by the Treasurer, and through the Treasurer by the caucus, or party meeting of the day; and, if we care to go further back still, Ave might find still other people having authority in the matter.
That brings me to the sixth of the proposals to which I have referred, namely, the abolition of the currency reserve. Here is another interesting example of how the Government has accepted that portion of the royal commission’s recommendation which suits it, and has ignored, or discarded, the rest; because the royal commission recommended the abolition of the currency reserve and the substitution of a note issue limited by law to a fixed maximum, subject to the right of the bank to exceed the maximum by a stated amount with the consent of the Treasurer. What does the Government do? It ignores the safeguard, the proposition that there should be a fixed maximum, with limited flexibility, in the note issue, and seizes eagerly upon the proposition that the currency reserve should be abolished, the effect of that being this: It is hard to conceive that any issue between the governor and the Treasurer on the note issue would not be a matter of policy. It would be hard for my friend the Treasurer to think up a case in which a difference of that kind would not be a difference of policy; and, therefore, this bill places under the political control of the Treasurer the note issue of the country, and utterly and unconditionally abolishes all reserves behind that currency. For a long time we had a currency reserve of 25 per cent, gold, which was later modified to 25 per cent, gold or English sterling. That is how it stands to-day. When this bill has been passed no reserve requirement will be provided. There is nothing whatever on to which any person protecting the currency can seize as a means of defence. Every Treasurer will be utterly and literally defenceless in the presence of those who, in some ignorant clamour, desire to have the note issue expanded for the purpose of meeting some passing whim or political demand.
-Order! The right honorable member has exhausted his further extension of time.
Motion (by Mr. CURTIN - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of thu Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Mr. Menzies concluding his speech without limitation of time.
– I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his courtesy. I now desire to discuss very briefly what reasons there are, or were, for the provision of a currency reserve, because this is a profoundly important matter for Australia. As I see it, there are two principal reasons to which I am disposed to attach weight. The first of them is a psychological reason. The abolition of all reserve provisions, when coupled with untrammelled political control of the currency, might very well produce the most far reaching results. The psychological factor in currency matters is not to be ignored. In Australia we have had painful experience of the effect which a deepseated public psychology can have on the currency, and on the whole economic position. I recall having read in a book by D. H. Robertson, the Cambridge economist, a story which illustrated the psychological factor in the matter of gold. A gold-mine manager in South Africa had a glass eye, and it was a very ferocious glass eye, as artificial eyes sometimes are, and it produced, or helped to . produce, great discipline in the mine, so that pilfering decreased when he was in the vicinity. Before he went on leave he made a practice of taking out the artificial eye, and placing it in a prominent place in his office. The natives, who were employed in the mine, felt that his eye was still on them, and they continued to behave until one day, one of them had enough wit to place an empty cigarette tin over the glass eye so that the men could not be seen, and henceforth a good time was had by all in the manager’s absence.
– That is only a story.
– Yes, it is only a story. I do not suppose that it even happened. But then, the Minister would, by an act of Parliament, abolish not only all sound banking practice - or at least he desires to - but also public psychology. He will not succeed in doing so. I venture to say that whether it is soundly based in financial theory or not, there is a great psychological value for any nation in a backed paper currency.
– Of course there is.
– It was the cigarette tin that “ did it “.
– It must have happened before the war, when empty cigarette tins were available. The second reason is not psychological, but purely practical, and it is mentioned by that very brilliant and progressive writer and thinker, the economist, Lord Keynes, in ‘Treatise on Money. I can quote Keynes in any company on these matters, because if any economist has influenced modern economic thought, it is he.
– That is why he was made a director of the Bank of England.
– Yes, and the honorable member will be interested to know that as a director of the Bank of England, he does not find himself, sitting side by side with a director appointed by the Government. He sits on a board of governors, entirely independent of political control, and the bank enjoys no authority of a kind that the Governmentproposes, in this bill, to grant to the Commonwealth Bank.
– Keynes has turned a few economic somersaults.
– If the Minister persists in interjecting, I shall be obliged to call him “ Chatterini “. Lord Keynes in the second volume of his Treatise on Money wrote -
What is the object of a gold reserve? Partly to provide liquid resources for use in ultimate emergencies . . . partly for merely psychological reasons to promote confidence.
Lord Keynes then explained the “ultimate emergency “ which constitutes practical reasons, by saying that -
The reserve is mainly to meet shortperiod fluctuations in the international balance of indebtedness or, as it used to be called, “ the external drain “.
To cope with these factors, he sees virtue in the fixing of -
A minimum absolute figure for the gold reserve and a maximum absolute figure for the note circulation, both these figures being subject to reasonable revision from time to time and so chosen as to allow a wise discretion to the central bank in its day-to-day and year-to-year policies.
When he speaks of gold, he includes foreign currency; and speaking from our point of view here, he would include English sterling with gold when applying the principles to which he had referred. But this bill ignores all factors both psyelological and practical. It does not profess to say that there shall be a maximum to the note issue or that we shall have a minimum holding of gold or English sterling. It ignores, apparently, the very important fact that this country’s solvency depends primarily on its avoidance of default abroad, and therefore, reserves to meet the external drain are of the first importance. It simply says, without qualification, that there shall be no reserve of. any kind, and the result is that it passes over an unlimited, unconditional control over the note issue to the central bank which, for the first time as a central bank, is to be plunged into the vortex of politics and day-to-day political direction and control.
Earlier I indicated that I should like to say a few words about a seventh matter, and that is the industrial finance proposals contained in this bill, because the more one looks at them, the more one finds how very significant and far reaching they are. The Industrial Finance Department is created by Part X. of the bill, beginning with clause 91. The department is to perform functions which are not defined, ‘but which, one gathers from the Treasurer’s speech, will have something to do with industrial development in Australia, whether by government or by private enterprise. But when we study the powers and resources of the proposed department, we find something which to me is as astonishing as anything I have ever seen in a bill of this kind. ‘Clause 95 provides -
The bank shall have, and may exercise th rough the Industrial finance Department, such powers as are necessary for the exercise of the functions of the Industrial Finance Department under the hist preceding section and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing may, through the Industrial Finance Department (a) lend money; and (b) purchase or otherwise acquire shares and securities and sell or otherwise dispose of shares and securities so purchased or acquired.
Therefore, this new department will be able to lend money and buy and sell shares. It seems to be admirably equipped, for example, to deal with the problem of the nationalization of the interstate airlines, or with the nationalization of anything else which the Government may seek to draw into its net. The powers, as the House will see, are as near as possible unlimited. I turn now to clause 97 to discover what financial resources will be available. Briefly, I find that there is no limit to the financial resources which may be placed at the disposal of this new department. Clause 97 provides that the Treasurer may make advances to the bank for the purposes of the Industrial Finance Department of such amounts and subject to such terms and conditions- as are agreed upon between the Treasurer and the bank. That is as ‘broad as it is long. The Treasurer may make advances to the bank, and clause 9S provides that the bank may make advances to the Industrial Finance Department, which shall not at any time exceed £1,000,000 “. In order to get away from this rather petty conception of money, clause 9S provides also that the savings bank may make advances to the bank for use in the Industrial Finance Department of such amounts and subject to such terms and conditions as the governor determines. This is the first time in the history of Australia when the admirable conservatism of the savings banks which have, by law and by practice, confined their investments to government securities in the past-
– And the land.
– That is so. This is the first time that they have ever been told or directed, because that is what it amounts to, that their money shall be invested in an Industrial Finance Department, the business of which will be to lend money on any or no security, and to buy and sell shares.
– I am reminded of the purchase of Broadcasting Station 2HD Newcastle.
– This seems to be a matter of the ‘greatest possible gravity, and if one can discern in this particular department possibilities of that kind, I believe that when we have an abundance of time to examine all the minute details of the bill, we shall find that this is not the only example of utterly unsound methods being grafted on to institutions which have stood the test of time, not because they were gambling institutions, but because they were secure institutions.
I should like to put it to honorable members and to the people in general in Australia, that we are in grave danger of misunderstanding - dangerously misunderstanding - this whole problem of monetary reform. The depression with all the wretchedness and suffering that it brought, the curious reluctance of the trading banks to inform the public mind on matters of currency - a reluctance that I have never been able to understand - and the somewhat tentative position occupied by the Commonwealth Bank for a number of years - all those things have been emphasized by the apparent phenomenon of war-time finance, and they have conspired to induce in the minds of many people a belief that monetary reform, as such, is the be all and end all of economic reconstruction, and that irrespective of hard work, ingenuity and the encouragement of enterprise and thrift, full employment can be provided without difficulty by central bank action. I do not say that honorable members entertain such a belief, but they know as well as I do that thousands of people in Australia have come to entertain it. Some of our economists in this country are by no means free from blame for this extraordinarily loose and dangerous approach. Therefore, it is. necessary for us to remind ourselves of the fact that a liberal monetary policy - that is, a policy which is intelligent and far seeking and which aims at the full utilization of our resources, human and material - cannot really solve the problem of production and inequitable distribution.
– Or want in the midst of plenty.
– Yes. It cannot do it. I referred a few minutes ago to the Cambridge economist, D. H. Robertson, and I should like to quote a very pregnant passage from his book on Money -
The real economic evils of society - inadequate production and inequitable distribution - lie too deep for any purely monetary ointment to cure. An unwise monetary policy can wreak unmerited hardship and engender unnecessary confusion and waste; not even a wise one can turn, a world which is unjust and poor into a world which is rich and just. The mending of the road over which the produce passes to market is no substitute for the digging and dunging of the fields themselves. N’o tinkering with counters will take us very far towards the discovery of an industrial system which shall supply both adequate incentives to those who venture and plan, and peace of mind to those who sweat and endure.
I believe that that is the truth and the whole truth of this matter, -and that we should do well to bear it in mind.
A certain scepticism has arisen in Australia in the public mind - I do not wonder at it - about opposition to bills. Members of the public have seen ‘bills opposed in Parliament in the past, and after general elections have taken place, they have seen all too frequently these measures left on the statute-book unamended and untouched. Therefore, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, I desire to make quite clear to the House and to the people that when we on this side of the chamber are returned to office, wc shall take prompt steps to restore board control to the Commonwealth Bank, free from political interference, and to secure a complete restoration of parliamentary authority in this matter. In every other respect we shall hold ourselves obliged instantly to review the working of this legislation with the object of bringing it into line with what we believe to be the stable requirements of the people. I make that statement publicly, here and now, because it will be well that when the people of Australia come to pass judgment upon this matter, they should know exactly what is the issue, and where we all stand upon it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. ‘Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mi. BARNARD (Bass) [9.49].- I wish to refer to a matter which I raised earlier to-day, namely, the blackout imposed by the daily press of this country upon the resolution carried at a conference of the Victorian Wheat and Wool-growers Association held in Victoria recently with respect to the Government’s banking proposals. I propose to place on record the number of Victorian newspapers which either ignored this important matter entirely, or published it. in a very abbreviated form. On the 16th March the Melbourne Age published an excellent account of the proceedings of the conference and the resolution that was carried. The Sun Pictorial published one-third of a column in the country edition, but that report was reduced in the city edition to eleven lines, and placed in a very obscure place in the newspaper. The Argus published 2-J inches in its country edition, but nothing at all in the city edition. There is evidence of the subtle propaganda which is being carried on by daily newspapers which are failing to discharge their obligation to the people of this country. We have also seen evidence in widely circulated daily newspapers of misrepresentation of certain legislation. I am speaking now of the mainland press. There were 200 delegates at the conference to which I have referred. It was a most representative gathering, mainly of country people who have a right to have their voices heard. An important resolution carried by that conference surely was of sufficient importance to warrant considerable newspaper space in the daily press which claims to serve the public of this country.
I wish to deal also with the pernicious commercial propaganda which is being indulged in by certain business interests in this country. I have had given to me a letter which was addressed to the relatives of a wing commander in the Royal Australian Air Force, who lost his life recently. The letter was sent from Sydney and is addressed to the relatives of this airman who had died overseas. Inside the envelope is a printed document which purports to be a condolence letter of the type which, no doubt, was forwarded by many friends to the relatives of the deceased airman, expressing sympathy in their bereavement. In addition, there is enclosed a sample “ return thanks “ card printed by a firm at Granville, Sydney, and a form to be filled in should an order for these cards be given. The form asks for the date of the death of the airman, the surname of the deceased, the number of cards required, and sets out the scale of charges. This is a most heartless method of carrying on business. Such firms are playing on the feelings and sympathies of the relatives of men who lost their lives in war service. I do not know what can be done to check this practice, but I believe that something should be done. It is bad enough for a family to suffer a bereavement as a result of the war, without being annoyed by business concerns which are prepared to take advantage of the situation by seeking to dispose of their goods in this way. The practice is contemptible indeed, and I make this very strong protest against it.
.- I desire to bring to the notice of honorable members a matter which I believe to be of outstanding importance to this House and to the . people outside. The matter bears relation to a question which was asked by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) a few days ago. I have just been informed that a motion has been foreshadowed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) in regard to this matter, but having considered the practice of this chamber, I have come to the conclusion that the only way in which this subject can be dealt with - it is a matter of privilege - is by the unsatisfactory method of speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
The position is that privileges of this chamber are being abused steadily by certain honorable members who ask questions designed not to elicit information from
Ministers, but solely to do harm to individuals outside Parliament, and to achieve some political advantage not in any way concerned with the affairs of this House. On the 14th March the honorable member for Swan asked a number of questions of the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral, and some of them, in their very framing, involved most serious and scurrilous allegations against a man who is 11Ot a member of this House, and therefore has not an adequate opportunity to reply to the charges. We should realize that as members of Parliament we enjoy great, privileges which have been won for us over generations. These include the privilege to speak with complete liberty - a privilege so wide that we cannot be “brought to book” for statements that we may make, except by the action of this House itself. It was, however, extraordinary that the Minister representing the Attorney-General, when asked the question to which I have referred, should have deemed it right to say that he would refer the matter to the Department of the Army, and the Security Service,
So that the information may be obtained. That was the first aspect of the matter which struck me as extraordinary. With all respect, I say that it is also extraordinary that the Chair should have permitted such a question to be put.
– The honorable member may not cast a reflection on any action of the Chair.
– I am not reflecting on any action taken by the Chair. This practice may be perfectly valid so far as the forms and procedure of the House are concerned, but I maintain that it is extraordinary because it produces objectionable results. The Minister representing the Attorney-General, in answering to-day the question which I mentioned previously, stated -
Neither service has an)’ information on this matter . … and docs not appear to he a matter for the Commonwealth to make an investigation in relation to the question. It is not proposed to make the investigation suggested.
That should have been the position at the outset. I have no personal interest in Mr. Barclay, but every honorable member with any sense of the responsibility which rests upon him, must join with me in condemning the practice which is developing of honorable members making vile accusations in this chamber against persons outside Parliament, who have no means of securing redress. Once an allegation embodied in a question goes forth, it is very difficult to correct it. I therefore direct attention to the forms of the House with a view to including in them a means of preventing this kind of abuse. The asking of such questions should not be permitted at all. I do not challenge the authority of the Chair; I merely ask that the Standing Orders bc amended so as to give to the Chair power, if it has not that power already, to disallow such questions. Standing Order 92 of this House states, under the headings “ Questions seeking information - questions respecting public business “ -
After Notices have been given Questions may be put to Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs . . .
It is inconceivable that questions such as were asked by the honorable member for Swan could, by any stretch of the imagination, be said to relate to public affairs. On the contrary, they were deliberately designed to attack somebody outside Parliament .for a political purpose. The forms of this House were never intended to permit that to be done. I refer to the Manual of Procedure of Public Business in the House of Commons, 1912 edition, paragraph 57, which contains the following ruling: -
A question addressed to a Minister of the Crown must relate to the public affairs with which he is officially connected or to a matter of administration for which he is responsible.
The 1934 edition of the same manual states, at page 70 -
If a question contains a statement- and a statement can be expressed by innuendo as well as direct- the member asking it must make himself responsible for the accuracy of the statement.
It is further provided that a question may not be asked as to the character or conduct of any person except in his official or public capacity. The following ruling appears on page 71 of the 1934 manual : -
A question making or implying a charge of a personal character may be disallowed.
We are allowing a practice to develop which will bring Parliament into disrepute. I am not the only member of Parliament who has directed attention to this matter. The late Mr. Maurice Blackburn, and the late Sir George Bell, who was Speaker of this House for some years, also directed the attention of the Standing Orders Committee to the growing abuse in this House of putting questions to Ministers which had no relation whatever to the public affairs of the country and which were solely designed to blacken the characters of persons outside Parliament. To ask such questions is contemptible, because any honorable member who does so must know that the victim has no redress. Therefore, the practice should be stopped by Parliament. Both the late Mr. Blackburn and the late .Sir George Bell tried to devise a means of preventing reckless allegations being made at question time either against members of the Parliament or, more important still, against persons outside Parliament. They suggested the promulgation of a new standing order in the following terms: -
Questions regarding the character or conduct of individuals not being Ministers or members of the House can only be asked on notice.
That would go a long way towards stamping out the practice to which I have referred, but it would not go far enough. It would, be more satisfactory if, associated with it, Mr. Speaker had power to prevent publication of such questions. Unfortunately, a large section of the community is prepared to believe that there is truth in such questions once they are published. Honorable members who ask such questions know this to be so, and. they make their attacks behind the shelter of parliamentary privilege. This House must direct its attention to this serious decline in the conduct of honorable members and the consequent decline of parliamentary prestige. I suggest that a committee of privileges be established in this House consisting of Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition. If a complaint be made against an honorable member of having made a scurrilous attack by means of a question asked in . the House, the committee should investigate the matter and, if it should find that a patent abuse of the privileges of the House had occurred, the honorable member concerned should be called upon to substantiate his allegation. I realize that it is important that the liberties of speech of honorable members should not be infringed, except to such a degree as is necessary in the public interest; they should be preserved from the fear that they might be “called to book” as the result of discharging their duties. However, there should be machinery in existence to deal with honorable members who grossly abuseparliamentary privileges. I satisfy myself by drawing attention to what is occurring. Any question put to any Minister which does not relate strictly to the administration of his department, or which reflects upon the personal probity or character of a person outside the Parliament and has no relation whatever to any matter affecting public affairs, should certainlybe disallowed. I urge that the Standing Orders Committee shall meet immediately to evolve a system whereby the abuse to which I have directed attention shall be prevented in the future. [Quorum formed.]
– I raise the matter of press censorship, which, so far as I know, comes under the administration of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). I have never been quite sure as to whether that Minister administers the censorship or the censorship administers him. We may obtain some clarification of the position in due course.
I have had a couple of telephone calls to-day from one of my colleagues in the Senate. The facts, as I understand them, are, first, that in the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day there are two articles by war correspondents, in which critical reference is made to the state of the supply of heavy equipment to the forces in New Guinea. I understand that in Adelaide within the last few days a formation commander on leave, who is a resident of that State when he is at home, was asked by the representative of an Adelaide daily newspaper if he could give some information on the state of the equipment he had seen in that portion of the South-West Pacific Area in which he was serving. I believe that the statement which he gave was the comparatively harmless one that so far as his formation was concerned they had only one tractor, and that on several occasions they had had recourse to borrowing in order to get sufficient machinery. I understand that publication of that statement has been refused, and that the formation commander concerned has ‘been ordered off leave, to report to the lords of creation in Melbourne as to why he should have made such a statement in response to a request. It seems to me that we are up against a position in which a definite attempt is being made to smother up anybody in the forces who is prepared to speak his mind on the lack of equipment in certain areas. With my experience in these matters, I say that there are certain things which ought to remain within the peculiar province of those who are entrusted with the control, command and administration of the Army. But there comes a time when these matters, if not properly administered, must become the subject of political controversy. That controversy has taken place in both Houses of this Parliament during this session. I do not believe that this House will tolerate a state of affairs under which men in the position to either confirm or deny certain allegations are to have their mouths stopped by censorship when a question is directed to them, and are to be carpeted as the result of their having stated what they know to be the truth. I ask the Minister for Information, or whoever is responsible, to ascertain whether any information on the subject can be obtained.I shall be happy to hear from him during the next 24 hours, because I hope to have in my hand sometime on Friday the statement that was refused publication, or at any rate did not appear, and I propose to read it in this House.
. -The honorable gentleman spoke to me early to-day about this matter. It seemed incomprehensible to me that the censorship authorities could allow matter to be published in one State and refuse to allow publication of matter of a similar character in another State. I asked the DirectorGeneral of. my department to ascertain the facts. He assures me that the statement to which the honorable gentleman has referred, and which he hopes to have in his hand in this House on Friday, was never submitted to censorship; consequently, censorship is not in any way responsible for its nonpublication in an Adelaide newspaper.
– Who prevented its publication?
– It may be that the newspaper itself refused to publish the matter. All that I can say is, that my department is not in any way responsible for its non-publication
– Is the honorable gentleman prepared to make further inquiries?
Mi-. CALWELL.- I shall bring the remainder of the honorable gentleman’s statement to the notice of the appropriate Minister, particularly that part in which he said that the soldier concerned was recalled from leave and - if I may interpret him liberally - was disciplined for having made the statement.
– I do not know for what other reason he would bc recalled.
– That is a matter for the administration of the Army. I shall ask the Acting Minister for the Army to furnish a reply to the honorable gentleman upon that aspect of the case. I am certain that there can be no cause for complaint of any misuse of the censorship power by any of my officers because the matter was never referred to the Deputy Director in Adelaide for consideration at any stage.
.- In the last few days, we have read in the newspapers of the reported decision of the Government of the United States of America to curtail by 150,000 tons the supply of meat from that country to Britain, and we have learned from the press the shock with which the news was received by the British people. That shock is not difficult to understand. Through six years of war and privation, they have existed on a very meagre ration, and just at the stage of the war when they might have hoped for an early alleviation in that regard, and were hanging on to see the thing through to the finish, they have been dealt this additional blow. I believe that every true friend of the British people in this country will be distressed to learn that this additional hardship is to be imposed. With characteristic cheerfulness and courage they have existed on a very reduced diet for many years. Now, when our war fortunes have taken a favorable turn, it would appear that the “ one last heave” of which Mr. Churchill spoke will mean one last heave in the tightening of their belts to take in another notch. All Australians who have given expression to loyalty to Great Britain, as we have in this Parliament during recent weeks, cannot allow the occasion to pass without expressing eagerness to do everything that can be done to help the people of Britain in the present situation. If our loyalty is more than lip loyalty, and if the admiration we have expressed for the people of Great Britain over the war years is more than lip admiration, we must do something practical to assist them in their present plight. I accept the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to-day that not all the Britishers in this chamber sit on one side of the House. The object of my remarks is to obtain from the Government an assurance that it will take speedy action in this matter. The people of this country have felt that they have suffered deprivation because certain foodstuffs have been in short supply during the war, but their allowance of butter, meat and eggs is still extremely liberal in comparison with the standards of the people of Great Britain. Whereas the latter have more limited opportunities of obtaining alternative nutritive foods, we in Australia have abundant supplies of cheese, fruit, vegetables, animal fats and sugar. Therefore, by comparison with our kith and kin in the Old Country we live in a land of plenty, and whatever we can spare from our abundant store should be willingly given for their benefit. I have read that, if we were to cut our meat ration by only 5 per cent. it would make an additional 25,000 tons of meat a year available to the people of Great Britain. Anybody who knows the present standards of the people of Great Britain, and who would not agree to that reduction, has no right to claim to be a friend of Great Britain.
There may be a shortage of shipping, and possibly all of the supplies we are prepared to make available could not be immediately shipped to Great Britain, but we hear from time to time about ships leaving these shores without full cargoes. If it be a fact that a request has been made by Great Britain for an increase of the present shipments of foodstuffs, not only should we fully comply with that request, but we should feel humiliated that it has been necessary for Great Britain to make it. We should have regarded it as not only a responsibility, but also a privilege, to fill with foodstuffs for Great Britain all shipping space that has been available during recent months. If the trouble has been due to lack of shipping facilities, we should take action to ensure that there is a speedier turn around of the ships that come to these shores from overseas. Unfortunately, vessels are held up too long in Australian ports because of the difficulty in obtaining men to handle the cargoes, or because there has not been speedy action on the part of the men employed on the wharfs. If the Government cannot get a proper effort from the men now working on the wharfs, it should attempt to obtain the services of men from the fighting forces, or of civilian volunteers. One must withhold judgment regarding the decision of the United States of America, which seems to be ill-timed, until all of the facts are known, but it cannot fail to cause much distress in the minds of the people of Great Britain at a time when they must be strained to the utmost because of the privations they have undergone. If sufficient shipping is available for the transportation of greater supplies of food stuffs than Australia has been sending up to the present, I hope that the Government will give an immediate assurance that Australia will, whatever the cost to itself may be, see that Great Britain is supplied to the full extent of our capacity in the months that lie ahead.
.- The representations made by honorable members will be referred to the appropriate Ministers for investigation, and replies will be furnished later.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Tintinara, South Australia.
Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator the Hon. R. V. Keane) - Report of results of visit by the Minister to the United States of America and Canada (October, 1944-January, 1945).
National Security Act -
National Security (Egg Industry) Regulations - Order - No. 10.
National Security (General) Regulations -Orders -
Prohibited places (0).
Use of land (2).
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders -
Optometrists (Supplementary information).
Registration of optometrists.
House adjourned at 10.26 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Statistics in respect of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth
Bank from its inception (27th September, 1043) to the 28th February, 1945, are as follows: -
n asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n. - On the 16th March, 1945, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. No; but non-members of an organization are paid under Public Service Regulations, which provide scales similar to those of Determination No. 6 of 1933.
– On the 16th March the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The. Public Service Commissioner ‘has supplied the following information: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Army : Housing.
n. - On the 14th March the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked the following question: -
I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, in view of the housing shortage in Queensland, willhe take steps immediately to have private homes now occupied by Army base officers released immediately in order to relieve the position?
The Acting Minister for the Army has advised that under the policy of his department the dehiring of dwellings is accorded the highest priority for attention. Arrangements are already in hand for vacating a private house in Wynnumroad, Norman Park, Brisbane, which was recently the subject of comment in the press. Other dwellings will be vacated wherever, and as soon as, possible. It will be recognized that the implementation of the policy of vacating these premises is governed by the availability of suitably located alternative accommodation and the limitations of manpower and material for constructing new buildings where necessary.
y. - On the 2nd March the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) asked me a question concerning the distribution of bacon in Queensland.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that press reports to the effect that big tonnages of Queensland’s surplus stocks of bacon are being sent to Sydney for civilian consumption at the direction of the Controller of Meat Supplies are incorrect. Queensland has not had a surplus of bacon for some considerable time as her total production of bacon and ham is distributed, in the first instance, to the civilian population and the balance in the form of special packs for service requirements. The only movement of bacon from Queensland to New South Wales comprises a weekly quantity of 10 tons from the Darling Downs Company to its distributors in Sydney. This is portion of a pre-war normal trade, which the Controller of Meat Supplies has allowed to remain.
The further statement that Queensland civilians have received less bacon and ham than residents in the south is only partially correct. For some months past the Queensland civilian population lias received a proportionately larger allocation for civilian trade than the civilian population of New South Wales where, as in the case of Queensland, bacon and ham were not available for civilian use for a considerable period. Steps have already been taken to endeavour to adjust this position in order to ensure an equitable distribution of bacon and ham to civilians in all States of the Commonwealth.
y. - On the 15th March the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) asked the following question : -
Is it a fact that on the 6th March the fi ret bi-weekly issue of the official organ of the Communist party, the Tribune, was published! Further, is it a fact that in its leading article the newspaper told its readers that, with their aid, Sydney would soon have the honour of bringing out the first Communist daily newspaper in the Southern Hemisphere? If so, will the Treasurer say whether the Tribune has received sufficient newsprint to unable it to produce a bi-weekly issue, and whether it has received an assurance from the Government that sufficient newsprint will be forthcoming to produce a daily newspaper?
I desire to inform the honorable member that it has been ascertained from the Minister for Trade and Customs that it is not a fact that the Tribune was published on the 6th March this year for the first time as a bi-weekly newspaper. The fact is that this newspaper was being published twice a week before its suspension in May, 1940, by the Government then in office. It is registered with the Customs Department as a bi-weekly newspaper. Notwithstanding, therefore, that prior to the 6th March it was being published only once a week following the permission given in May, 1943, for resumption of its publication, no offence is being committed against the regulations by the proprietors of the newspaper in now resuming publication twice a week. In order to enable this to be done, the size of the issues will have to be reduced as, since the resumption of publication, the only increases of newsprint allocations which have been granted to the Tribune are those which have had general application. I understand that the Tribune did, in its leading article of the 6th March, tell its readers that Sydney would soon have the honour of bringing out the first Communist daily newspaper in the Southern Hemisphere, but the Minister for Trade end ‘Customs has informed me that it would be an offence against the regulations for the newspaper to publish more often than twice a week without his authority. No such authority has been given nor has the newspaper been given any assurance that sufficient newsprint will be forthcoming to enable it to produce a daily newspaper.
n. - On the 1st March the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked whether I would consider reconstituting the all-party parliamentary committee of ex-servicemen on repatriation.
I desire to inform the honorable member that the joint parliamentary committee to which he referred was not appointed, as stated, to make inquiries into and to report upon repatriation anomalies, but was appointed in 1942, according to the terms of reference, “ to inquire into and report upon the general question of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and the amendments, if any, which the committee recommends as desirable, in the light of the conditions caused by the present war “. Following the submission of the committee’s report which resulted from a very exhaustive inquiry the Government, in 1943, introduced important amendments to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act which greatly liberalized its provisions. It will be recalled that the party to which the honorable member belongs strongly opposed the appointment of a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Repatriation during the debate on the Repatriation Bill in the Senate on the 24th March, 1943. There is, however, a body functioning known as the Parliamentary Ex-Servicemen’s Committee, which is composed of returned soldier members of Parliament. Any representations on behalf of ex-service personnel made to the Government by this and any other organization will receive careful consideration. In view of the foregoing circumstances I am unable to accede to the request of the honorable member for the setting up of a committee as suggested.
N - On the 16th March, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Housing at Rocklea.
asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
y. - This is a matter concerning my department. The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The supply of stoves is not expected to delay occupation of the 115 houses not completed. Should any unforeseen circumstances delay sewerage connexion earth closets’ will, it practicable, be provided temporarily.
y. - On the 16th March, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) referred to the eviction of the firm of F. Viggers Limited from the property occupied by it at Hamilton, New South Wales. He asked if the Minister for Supply and Shipping would take action under National Security Regulations to prevent the eviction taking place. The honorable member also requested that the Minister take steps to ascertain the grounds on which the magistrate had granted the eviction order. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
The eviction of F. Viggers Limited from its present location is being done under an order of a court obtained by the Newcastle City Council on grounds which the magistrate must have considered sufficient. I have indicated already that the loss of production of some 4,000 gallons of shale fuel per month is a matter for regret, and in an endeavour to avoid this loss, I have made personal representations to the New South Wales authority which is not in a position, however, to have the move for eviction stayed.
I do not consider that there are grounds for Commonwealth intervention in the current proceedings taken by the municipality of Newcastle, and because of this, I cannot see my way clear to invoke national security powers.
In the event, however, that F. Viggers Limited sees fit to recommence production on
Kintner site, my department will be prepared to co-operate with the company as far as may be found practicable to that end, on the understanding, of course, that this does not involve the Commonwealth in providing financial assistance,
t asked the Minister for Information, upon notice - .
With reference to the visit of Mr. Frank Goldberg to the United States of America -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Fifteen thousand and five members; aggregate number de-pastured by such members being 00,300,000 sheep, not including one affiliated association whose figures are considerable but unspecified.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
In view of the large over-production of bran and pollard in the Warwick district, will he review the rationing permits in that area, to enable the mills to distribute excess production, and also to enable primary producers to obtain much-needed food for blood stock?
– The rationing of bran and .pollard in any State applies to the State as a whole and not to particular areas within the State. The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock is responsible for the rationing of bran and pollard within the boundaries of the State of Queensland and operates a rationing scheme under authority delegated by the Commonwealth. I shall arrange for the representations of the honorable member to be brought to the notice of the Queensland department concerned.
United Nations Conference on International Organization.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
*’ At Cannon Hill on 22nd February, out of a yarding of 1,700 cattle, 084 were dairy cattle. On 1st March, there were 718 dairy cows in a yarding of 1,900 cattle, in addition, large numbers go direct to canning plants or are disposed of through country saleyards. Good judges ridicule the suggestion that the majority of these dairy cows are culls, pointing out that a big percentage are in their prime and are not the broken-down dairy types usually sent for sale.”?
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Werribee Beef. mr. McEwen asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
y. -No. Beef raised on the farm of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works at Werribee, Victoria, is acceptable for inclusion in packs of canned corned beef for the services provided that the beef has been found on inspection to contain no live cysts and not more than ten dead cysts of Cysticereus Bovis in all the predilection sites.
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minis ter for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What is the price fixed foroats for (a) seed and (b) milling purposes in South Australia ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
War Disposals Commission : Motor Vehicles and Types.
y. - On the l5th March the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) requested that consideration be given to making available for civilian use tyres which are at present fitted to vehicles in military car parks throughout Australia. The honorable member suggested that many of these vehicles were not likely to be required for military purposes and that the tyres would be of great assistance to civilian users, particularly primary producers. The honorable member’s representations have been examined by the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who has supplied thefollowing information : -
Thismatterhasagainbeen discussed with Army authorities who state that surplus Army vehicles arc passed over as quickly as possible to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. Any other military vehicles in car parks and depots arc required (or operational training purposes or are reserve stocks of vehicles required for operational purpose’s. With regard to vehicles passed over by the Department of the Army to the Disposals Commission for sale, every clfort is being made to supply these vehicles to essential users us quickly as possible.It is not economical to remove the tyre equipment from vehicles as this would immobilize the vehicles and require the supply of tyres before such vehicles could be put back again on the road. The Department of the Army, however, frequently examines its holdings of tyres and arranges to return to my department for disposal to essential civilian users all surplus tyres and tubes. To date over 10,000 tyTcs have been made available in this way and disposed of to retreadcrs for reconditioning and resale under releases from Rubber Control.
y. -On 14th March the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy)asked,uponnotice, whether the Attorney-General had seen the photostat of a letter which appeared in a Sydney paper recently indicating that a Lieutenant-Colonel Powell had successfully canvassed u donation from Commercial Steels Limited for the Sane Democracy League. Ho also asked certain further questions about LieutenantColonel Powell and the Sane Democracy League. In reply to the first question, I answered in the negative, and in reply to the other questions I informed him as follows : -
The Attorney-General has no present information as to these matters but the matters are being referred to the Department of the Army and the Security Service so that the information may be obtained.
On thp. following day, the Secretary to the Attorney-General’s Department forwarded to the Secretary, Department of the Army, and the Director-General of Security copies of the question and the interim answer given, and asked those officers if they would let him have such information as they could concerningthe subject-matter of the question in order that a further reply might he furnished to the honorable member. The Secretary, Department of the Army, and the Director-General of Security replied on the 21st March and the 20th MaTch respectively, and from their replies I answerthequestions2to8asfollows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 March 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450321_reps_17_181/>.